Archive for the ‘soap’ Category

The Chickens That Almost Were

Sunday, March 23rd, 2008

We seem to be stuck in a weather pattern around here – rainy one day, windy and cold the next. This has been going on for a couple of weeks and, according to the long term weather forecast, will continue for the foreseeable future. Bernie pretty much decided to ignore the rain and worked on clearing out a spot for his new work shop. We found a small company that will construct a barn shed for him for less than he could build it himself. They’re also going to build a small garden shed for me. Yay!

Bernie and Eddie took down a couple of locust trees last week that were starting to die. One of them had a hollow spot in the middle and was full of carpenter ants. When he cut and stacked that wood, word quickly spread throughout the feathered friends network, and we had flocks of birds hanging around the woodpile and eating ants for a few days. We saw several baby woodpeckers enjoying the hassle free meal too. Too cute.

I was two seconds away from ordering 25 one day old chicks this week. I had filled out the on-line order form, entered a credit card number, and had my finger poised above the “Order Now” button, when I decided I really better check with Bernie first. Naturally, he had to go and apply a little logic to the situation (such as mentioning the small fact that we don’t have the fence up yet, let alone the chicken coop). In my defense, the chicks have to stay inside in a brood box for at least three weeks, and I figured that was plenty of time to get everything ready for them before they head outside. Bernie didn’t quite see it that way, and in the end I decided not to hit the “Order Now” button on the website. I swear, he can be such a buzz kill sometimes.

I was in a soaping mood and made several new soaps this week. Here’s a picture of three of them:

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Left – Lemongrass and Rosemary essential oil blend
Middle – Shea Butter, Olive Oil, Coconut Oil and Safflower Oil unscented soap for Bernie
Right – Asian Garden, which is a Shea Butter, Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, and Safflower Oil soap with a heavenly, exotic floral scent

Oh, and for those of you who have asked, the Honeycomb soap is up for sale on the website now.

I also made a new soap for girls I named Fairy Dust Soap. It’s a glycerin soap with hot pink body glitter in it and is lightly scented with Dreamcicle fragrance. I made this one especially for my niece to give as Easter gifts to a few of the kids’ friends. She really seemed to like it. I’ll post a couple of pictures below, but they don’t show off the sparkle very well. If you want larger, more sparkly pictures, you can see them on my Etsy shop page:

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I also took a picture of a couple of them packaged up:

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And yes, I did indeed write another poem to include with this soap. Just when you were certain my creative genius could not get any more awesome, I bring you this jewel:

Fairy Dust Soap

Wash with me and sparkle,
With all your hopes and dreams.
I am made of magic,
Sprinkled with Fairy Wings.

As you bathe and lather,
Dream of dancing on the stars.
You can rise above the heavens,
You will certainly go far.

This Fairy Dust will clean you,
And bring you lots of smiles.
So bathe with me each evening,
We’ll share the magic for a while.

Yes, yes, I know. I should really stick to just making soap. But I am forever hopeful that a young child will appreciate my poetic talent or, at the very least, be so excited about sparkly soap that she doesn’t laugh at my lack of it.

This week promises to be much the same as last, with regard to weather. Bernie is determined to continue working on the fence, even if it does rain a bit. I think he realizes he can only put me off for so long from getting my chickens. I made up a little chicken song and have been singing it to him all day. Poor Bernie. He probably wants me to get chickens soon in the hopes that I’ll aggravate them instead of him. I’m pretty sure I have enough aggravation in me to go around though.

Bee Free,
Penny

The Soapinator

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

I mentioned to my wonderful husband that I would like him to make me a soap mold that would hold about twice as many as my current mold holds. On one particularly cold and windy day, he went outside to work for a while, and came in a short while later with this:

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I’m sure you can tell, but I tilted it on it’s side so you can get an idea of what the inside looks like. Bernie dubbed it “The Soapinator”. I couldn’t wait to put it to the test.

I whipped up a batch scented with a Lavender L’Occitane type fragrance last night. The Soapinator easily held the 8.75 pound batch of soap I poured into it! Here’s a picture of it, filled with soap and topped with the lid he made for it:

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I could hardly wait to unmold the soap today and cut the bars. The Soapinator did great – and I ended up with 27 bars! It would have been 28, but I cut a little off each end to use as tester bars. My soap didn’t turn out as I had envisioned. It was supposed to be white soap with lavender swirls, topped with white soap shavings and a thin layer of the lavender on top to just barely coat the shavings. Well, the white turned rather beige, the lavender turned rather plum, and the lavender over the shavings is too thick. I still think it turned out OK – just not quite what I had in mind. I’m going to name it Lavender Breeze. Here’s a picture of the whole batch:

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As a bonus – you can also see the yellow walls of the kitchen in most of these pictures! To be fair, the colors are a little off. I used my camera with no flash. The soap is more purple than the picture shows – and the walls are a brighter yellow, if that’s at all possible.

Bernie stood by to watch as I sliced each bars. He made some interesting observations about the swirls. For example, he commented that these two look a bit like ape faces:

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He also found faces in all of these:

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Unfortunately none look like the Virgin Mary or Elvis. We won’t be getting rich off EBay with this batch. Darnit.

I wonder what, if anything, you see in these? It’s sort of like an ink blot test. Only whatever you see will be interpretted as meaning you are insane. But wait…. that’s exactly how the ink blot test works. So I guess it really is an ink blot test and you really are insane.

Bernie has close to 3/4 of the fence posts in now. He’s also taken down several trees that were dead and threatening to fall in the path of the fence. Once he takes down a tree, he also saws it up for firewood and stacks it, and then shreds the small left over brances. All of this takes a fair amount of time. I’m sure he will be happier than I am when that fence is finally finished!

On another note, we just finished our 6th month living on the homestead. Can you believe it’s been that long? I can’t. Bernie is getting as bad as I am about leaving this place. In the last two weeks he has only left this place twice. And he wasn’t happy about either of them. I’m fairly certain the neighbors will begin to think of us as those crazy people that live in the middle of the woods that no one ever sees. But I’m not so sure that’s such a bad thing.

Bee Free,
Penny

Open for Business!

Sunday, February 3rd, 2008

It’s official. I’ve got my soap on a website for sale. I got several requests to have my soap available for sale by Valentine’s Day, so I decided to go ahead and list them on Etsy. I’m still adding stuff, but you can look and start ordering now, if you please. http://pennylanebath.etsy.com

Here’s a couple of tips you may appreciate:

– When you checkout, mention Back to Basic Living in the comments box and get a 10% discount
– I am forced to enter a flat rate for shipping each item. If you order more than 3 items, add a note in the comments box that you want me to calculate shipping for you and go ahead and place the order, but do not pay the bill when it arrives in your inbox. I’ll see if I can get a better shipping rate for you. Wait until I calculate your shipping for the least expensive rate and personally email you with the final bill.
– I have to pay a minimal fee for each item I list (that means a fee for every bar of soap) so I only listed two of each. If the item displays zero available, or not as many as you would like, just email me and I will list more if I have them. basicliving@backtobasicliving.com
– I am only accepting PayPal right now until I get my business account set up at the bank. You do not have to have a PayPal account to send a payment. Follow the instructions when you get your bill and you can send payment without an account. If, however, you would like to pay by check, put a note in the comments box and go ahead and check out. I’ll email you with some instructions.

OK, I think that’s it. Thanks for the nudge I needed to get the soap up for sale!

Bee Free – and Bee Clean 😉
Penny

Finless and Fancy Free

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

I had my fin removed yesterday. The only painful part was the 50,000 times he stuck me with a needle to deaden my mouth. There was no way pain was going to sneak through all the Novocaine he shot in there. My entire head was numb by the time he got started. I won’t give you all the gory details, but you can imagine just how pleasant it is to see items entering your mouth that look and sound like the tools your husband uses while working on a car engine. Finally, Dr. Specialist announced “There it is! I see your fin. I wish I could take a picture for you to put on your blog.” I had a moment of absolute horror as I wondered if he had actually read my blog, but then decided he was just a little techno-savvy and being chatty. Otherwise I am certain he would have commented on my wonderful drawing. He sewed in six stitches and I was on my merry way.

So the fin is gone and other than a few minutes of discomfort as the Novocaine wore off, I’m really feeling just fine. So fine, in fact, that I actually made another batch of soap today. My niece called to inform me that she loves my soap, but her husband doesn’t care for all the girly smells. So I decided to make a batch especially for him. I used my mold that makes over sized bars again – and this time I colored it black and stirred in white confetti soap. Then I used the blender to whip up a bit of the soap that I had removed before adding the black color and spread a layer of white topping on the black soap. I know how it’s supposed to look, but I have no idea how it will actually turn out. I scented it with a fragrance oil that smells like Polo Sport for Men. I’ll cut it tomorrow and if it turns out half way decent, I’ll post a picture here. Since “Polo Sport for Men” is taken, I’m calling this one Troy because, well, it was inspired by Troy. I am so darn creative.

Lobby Day at our Capitol went really well and we spoke to as many representatives as we could pin down. We’re writing the ones we missed and Bernie will be back down there a few more times this session. They may not vote the way we want them to, but certainly they won’t vote before knowing how we feel about it.

Between shuttling me to the dentist and trying to keep up with things around here, Bernie’s been chipping ice off the driveway. We have a fairly steep hill just before you get to the house that was covered in ice and getting a bit scary to maneuver. For my daily outing, I took the Trail Blazer down to check mail and was quite pleased with the job he did on the driveway. I don’t mind excitement, but that driveway was getting just a little more exciting than I like. It’s fine now and he finished it just in time for it to start snowing again. Hopefully it’s just a flurry. But I don’t trust Old Man Winter. You may remember we ended up with eight inches of snow after predicted flurries last year.

We’re still plugging along on the homestead. The ground is too frozen to put in fence posts right now. Bernie still has some trees to deal with that fell during various storms this winter. We’ll just add that to the never ending list of things that keep us busy and happy around here.

Bee Free,
Penny

Everyone’s a Critic

Friday, January 18th, 2008

I know y’all think I’m kidding, but I really do receive a lot of email pointing out any mistakes I make in my blogs or simply commenting on what a dufus I can be. In all honesty, I know that it is done in jest or with a sincere effort to be helpful, and being the good natured person I am, I take it how it was intended.

After my last post, my dear sister wrote to inform me I had made three spelling/grammar errors in my blog. No “Hey – great blog. Oh by the way you misspelled something” just “I found three errors in your blog”. Thanks, sis. I fixed them.

And then here’s the love letter My Dear John sent me:

“If that dentist isn’t any better at drawing I don’t think he’b b my first choice for removing a fin .

Either that U ain’t much better at drawing then he is”

I love you too, My Dear John. (Note to sister – the spelling errors are his, not mine)

And speaking of being a critic, here’s your chance to critique the latest soap I made. It’s quite a bit different than any I’ve made before and it didn’t turn out exactly as I had envisioned, but I think it’s OK. I’d just love to hear what you have to say about it. It’s honey scented with a chocolate center and chocolate shavings on top. I call it “Bee My Honey” – being as it’s for Valentine’s day and all.

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Here’s a close up of one with the heart in it:

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These bars are larger than I usually make. They measure about 3 and 1/2 inches wide by 3 and 1/2 inches tall (not including the shavings). So what do y’all think? I was a little disappointed in the shavings. I cut them with a carrot peeler and I think they are a little too short and a little too thin.

We’re heading to Richmond for Lobby Day weekend tomorrow. I’m sure I’ll be fine when I get there, but I’m kind of dreading it right now. Going to Richmond means I have to leave our homestead for a few days. I don’t like leaving our homestead. But I also don’t like the legislature being in session and not being aware of where I stand on things that many of them tend to take lightly – my pesky little rights, for example. So we’re heading to Richmond until Monday.

Until then, keep those emails coming! Let me know what you think of the soap. I’ll answer when we return.

Bee Free,
Penny

PS – I do love to get your emails. There is also a comment feature to each blog entry if you are interested in sharing what you have to say with the blogosphere. (Note to sister – blogosphere does not show up in the dictionary)

Thank You Each for Your Sincere Concern

Thursday, January 17th, 2008

Prior to today, the most amount of email I’ve gotten in response to this blog concerned soap making and butter churning. But certainly the post yesterday on my fin has gotten the attention of many of you. I really appreciate all the concern and well wishes. I’ll post a few of the comments I received below, so that you can see how much my blogger friends love me and are concerned for my well being:

1 – “I always knew you were special, but I had no idea you are half fish”
2 – “Sharks have fins toooooooo!”
3 – “Will you join the circus now?”

I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture. And speaking of pictures, I drew one to help explain my fin:

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I swear to you, this is a very close duplicate of the picture the specialist actually drew for me. I am not lying. At any rate – that Homer Simpson looking thing is actually all the root openings at the top of my tooth. The fin is that thin line coming out of the top of one of those roots. Apparently it is almost microscopic, but for some reason Dr. Specialist is convinced he will see it when he slices my gum open and be able to remove it. I asked him if there is any chance he will cut a nerve and I will have facial paralysis the rest of my life. Do you know what he said to me? He said “There is always that risk, but it is very rare”. VERY RARE??? That’s exactly what he told me about having a freaking fin in the first place!!! Great.

So now you know all I know about my fin. And my fin and I are just fine for now. After next week, my fin will be nothing but a memory and I will be able to smile about it – that is if my face isn’t paralyzed from the surgery.

It’s been snowing here all day long. I would guess we have about 3 – 4 inches now. I took some pictures earlier – they appear kind of hazy because it was snowing like crazy when I took them. Oh – and they were taken out a window because, as you know, I don’t do snow. I put them up on the website and will add more as the day progresses. Check them out!

OK, I’ve got to go start making some soap for Valentine’s day. Just wanted to check in with y’all and express my appreciation for all the warm thoughts and wishes and concern for my fin. I can sure feel the love.

Bee Free,
Penny

The Skinny on Making Soap and Churning Butter

Saturday, November 24th, 2007

I’ve had several people contact me about how to make soap and about the butter churner I bought off of EBay. I’ve been answering each individually, but this morning there were two seperate emails with the same question, so I thought it might be a good idea to give some info here on those questions.

First – the butter churner. When I started looking for a butter churner, I had three things in mind: 1) I wanted a hand crank churner 2) I wanted a glass churner and 3) I wanted a Dazey Churner. I really had no particular reasons for this, other than I wanted glass so I could see what is happening when I churn,I wanted a Dazey because that’s really the only old, glass churner I’ve really ever heard about, and I wanted a hand crank because you know, being all into getting self sufficient and everything, I didn’t want it to depend on electricity. I paid $50 for it. Here’s a picture:

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She’s a beauty and cranks out some really awesome butter. I highly recommend her. Only she’s not for sale. But I highly recommend one of her siblings.

As for soap making, I never bought a book on the subject. I never even thought about making soap until I started reading about other people having fun making soap. I can’t stand when people have fun without me, so I decided I needed to get in on it. I started looking all over the internet and finding out about making soap. Two excellent resources are the Soap Making forum on HomesteadingToday and Mullers Lane Farm. And, of course, I have a page up on the Back to Basic Living website with step by step instructions and a basic soap recipe for beginners.

I found the most difficult part of soap making was finding the lye needed. After ordering from several places, I found Ace Hardware had the best deal – I order it by the case.

If you have other questions about butter churning or soap making, please don’t hesitate to ask. I’m no expert, but I can either answer your question, or point you to someone who can.

Speaking of soap, here are a couple of pictures of my Sinfully Decadant Chocolate soap with swirls:

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Ah – just gorgeous! This next picture is the same batch, but I ran out of the chocoate swirl. I think it came out really pretty, but I wanted more chocolate swirl:

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OK – time to go cook up a couple of nice steaks for supper. Bernie bought Live Free or Die Hard and we’re going to watch it tonight while we eat. It’s not Movie Saturday or anything, but we like to be spontaneous and adventurous on occasion. This is about as spontaneous and adventurous as it gets around here. Woo hoo!

Live Free,
Penny

Thanksgiving Ramblings

Friday, November 23rd, 2007

Hope you each had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We sure did. Tex and Charlotte spent the day with us and we ate a huge meal. Afterwards the guys went out and shot their guns a while and Charlotte joined them to test out her new 9MM. I stayed in the house with my buddy Bobo, as he is terrified of loud noises. Bobo ate a fair amount too, and we spent a little time trying to figure out whose belly was bigger, his or mine. In the end, he won – but I assured him it looks good on him. He looked a little hurt, but I gave him another piece of turkey and he seemed to get over it pretty quick. I would LOVE to have a dog like Bobo. He’s really smart, well mannered, and fun to be around – and most of all he seems to really like me.

I took a couple of days off work for Thanksgiving, so I have a gloriously long weekend. It’s been wonderful. Bernie has been on a perpetual long weekend since he quit his job, but he works so hard around here I’m afraid he doesn’t feel like he’s on vacation. He does take a break from most of his outside work and spend time with me when I take vacation though. He’s been working on getting all his guns cleaned while I putter around the house. Today I made a really nice batch of Sinfully Decadent Chocolate soap. Wow, it smells wonderful – almost as good as the home made chocolate cake I made for Thanksgiving. I may have to put a warning sign on it that it’s not edible. I tried my hand at swirling it again, so we’ll see how it turns out.

It’s Friday night and we all know that means it’s Pizza-Beer-and-a-Movie-Night here on the homestead. Yee Haw! Even the cats are excited – and they hate pizza, beer, and our taste in movies.

Bee Free,
Penny

I’d Like to Think This Wasn’t By Accident

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

Well, I cut my Coffee Soap today. Remember that I was convinced it was globbed instead of swirled? Well, guess what? It’s swirled!!! Or maybe more like marbled – but none-the-less, it’s not globbed. Look!

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And even though it’s made with coffee, I added cocoa for the swirl, and now it smells just like a brownie!

I’d like to think I knew what I was doing, but the truth is, I think I was just lucky. But that’s pretty much how my life goes. I just plunge ahead and bumble along and some how things work out. I guess that’s because I’m just too hopeful to imagine it ending any other way. Bernie and I are both like that.

I guess there’s truth in the old saying “Ignorance is bliss”. We are ignorant, and we are blissful. There are worse things to be.

Bee Free,
Penny

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Sunday, October 21st, 2007

Well, this has been a weekend full of just about everything. To make a long story short….

I got a lot of good stuff accomplished. I made two nice batches of cold processed soap – an Orange Cranberry Holiday soap and a Honey Oatmeal soap. Both turned out really nice and full of moisturizing oils. I also made lip balm and filled over 100 tubes. And I started a batch of prison wine.

The bad and the ugly stuff all happened today. We went down to winterize our bee hives and found that two of them had died within the past month. When I say “died”, I mean deader than a door nail. We were so shocked and disappointed. There were fine last month when we robbed honey and fine two months ago when the Dept. of Ag. guy came out to inspect them. I wrote all about it on The Bee Buzz if you are interested in reading about it. We are now down to three hives – half of what we started with this year. I could just cry.

So, in a nutshell, that was our weekend. I suppose we always have to take the good with the bad. Being out here on our homestead makes even the worse day a little more tolerable. We have so much to be thankful for that it’s really hard to throw a pity party when little things go wrong.

On the upside, while we were working in the apiary we had a couple neighbor ladies from down the road stop by. They were both very friendly and we stood and talked to them quite a while. They told us of a man down the road that also raises bees, and they’re going to hook us up with him. One of them owns the chicken farm across the street with her husband and she said they’ll certainly work out something with us so we can get chicken poop for fertilizer! The other one said her husband rides a motorcycle and they’d love to ride with us sometime.

There’s always a silver lining – even when you have to peel back a few layers to find it!

Bee Free,
Penny