Let There Be Light

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A few months back, my girls and I were thrilled to read “Hand-Dipped Beeswax Candles” by Amber Ek in Taproot Issue 7 :: Gather.  The notion of making our very own candles seemed like such fun!  The article drummed up memories from my past when I use to make my own hand-dipped candles in middle school while working as a volunteer at Midway Village, an amazing museum with a Victorian village.  I remember the experience with such fondness and I wanted my girls to indulge in the experience as well.

So, last Tuesday we ventured to the stove, and with a whole lot of adult supervision, we crafted four pillar candles that later lit our Thanksgiving table.  We had such fun that I’m sure candle-making will become an annual crafting experience in our home.

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The Library

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With the school year now in full swing, my girls needed a bit of space for all of that reading and writing goodness coming their way.  And to be perfectly honest with all of you, mama needed a bit of cleaning and organizing to take place for fear that soon the entire house would become over run with toys.  So, we decided to move a great many toys to the basement playroom, and move a whole lot of books into the upstairs playroom…creating ourselves our very own library.  Complete with comfy reading chairs and all.

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I must say, this space has become a new fav in our house.  From reading books while nestled in their most-beloved chairs, to practicing math problems on their very own chalkboard, these girls are all set for many months of learning fun.  And the best part of it all, is that not a single dollar was spent.  Just a little elbow grease and strong lifting here, a touch of shuffling and organizing there, accented with just a tiny bit of creativity and we were all set.  Now that makes this mama very, very happy.

Eczema-Friendly Soap

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A member of our family has been struggling with eczema for a very long time, so I began researching natural remedies for this ailment.  In my research, I found that coconut-based products help to moisturize the dry skin of eczema, and many essential oils are found to relief many of eczema’s symptoms.  Now please remember, I am by no means a medical professional, but this soap (which has only been in use a few days now), seems to be helping to give some relief.

Eczema-Friendly Soap 

2 pounds Melt and Pour Soap Base (I use this Goat’s Milk Soap Base.)

1/4 cup organic coconut oil

2 teaspoons fresh chopped lavender

2 teaspoons fresh chopped rosemary

5 drops cedarwood essential oil

10 drops patchouli essential oil

5 drops clary sage essential oil

5 drops tea tree essential oil

10 drops lavender essential oil

5 drops rosemary essential oil

a shallow pot or saucepan

a glass bowl

wooden spoon

soap molds (You can purchase these at your local craft store or here.)

Fill the pot or saucepan half full with water.  Bring to a simmer.  Place the glass bowl in the pot of water to create a double boiler of sorts.  Place the melt and pour soap base in the glass bowl, along with the coconut oil.  Stir the base and coconut oil with a wooden spoon until it melts.  Remove the bowl from the heat and mix in the fresh herbs.  Then add the essential oils and stir.  Allow the mixture to cool just slightly (enough to thicken the mixture just a bit).  Pour into your molds.  Allow to rest until completely cool.  Remove the soap from the molds.  Enjoy!

From Scratch

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In our family’s attempt to make as much as we possibly can here in our home, there are those weeks that go by when we are in the midst of a creating whirlwind, and suddenly I look at the calendar and it’s Wednesday.  This is one of those weeks.  Oh boy.

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There have been baskets and baskets of beans harvested from the garden, more than we could ever eat at this time.  So, this weekend we rinsed, cut and froze most of our harvested beans to set aside for the winter months.

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We are to that point in the growing season where some of our plants have gone to seed.  So this weekend, entrenched in vines and leaves of green, we pulled out arugula and collected the seed pods for late fall planting.  Then replanted carrots and beets for fall harvest.

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I opened my linen closet last Friday to a cavernous black hole, completely void of any form of soap, lotion or shave oil.  The girls and I got to work and rounded out the weekend with a fresh batch of lotion (I use the recipe from this book.) and shave oil (my recipe can be found here), and a new eczema-friendly soap concoction.  (The recipe for this soap to come soon.)

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And last but not least, there is the fermentation frenzy that has taken over our house the last two weeks.  I don’t often become overly obsessed with much, but oh my, I think I may just be in love with Sandor Katz, his book The Art of Fermentation, and all of the nutritional benefits fermenting has to offer.  I gave this book to my husband last summer for his birthday, to aid him in his beer-making endeavors.  But I now find myself huddled with my morning coffee, spilling over the pages of this book, completely enraptured by the content.

Amidst the fermenting madness is fresh made yogurt, milk kefir, water kefir, and kombucha.  The constant growing process of it all is just amazing, and the wonderful probiotics offered naturally in these foods is simply mind boggling.  I have so much more to learn, but I am sure enjoying the entire process along the way.

I hope all of you are enjoying a wonderful start to your week!

Bathroom Redo

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I recently completed a decoration redo of our main bathroom, and I must say, although it took me awhile to complete, I am quite happy with the results.  The decor is definitely inspired by the natural elements, specifically a beautiful piece of wood from my father-in-law.

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The photograph project was pretty easy, it just took some time to allow for drying between layers.

1.  I first spread a very thin layer of Modge Podge on the back side of a black and white photograph.  I carefully smoothed out the picture, mounting it in the center of the piece of wood.

2.  Then using a sponge applicator, I applied two very thin layers of Modge Podge to the top of photograph (also covering the entire piece of wood).  I allowed 30 minutes of drying time between coats.

3.  I then took a very fine grit sand paper and roughed up the edges of the photograph.

4.  Next I repeated Steps 2 and 3 four more times.

5.  I finished off the project by applying 5 thin coats of Modge Podge to the entire piece of wood.  (Allowing 30 minutes of drying time in between each coat.)

Drawing Fun

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Ever since our February trip to the Northwoods, and my visit to this fabulous antique mall, I have had some lovely vintage fabric sitting on my shelf, just begging to be fashioned into some type of lovely.

Inspired by the “Felt Pencil Roll” in The Creative Family by Amanda Blake Soule, I made some adjustments to the pattern and created a lovely crayon/colored pencil roll for a brand new “Big Sister” friend of ours.

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A Bit More

IMG_1030We had so much fun dyeing Easter eggs over the weekend, I decided to hop on the natural dye agent train and go for a real ride.  I had one skein of wool left after I finished  making the woolens in this post, and a few left over beets from dyeing eggs.  I decided I would try to dye the wool yarn.  Here’s what I did…

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Put the following ingredients in a large stainless steel pot:

4 large beets, peeled and chopped

16 cups water

4 cups white vinegar

Bring the ingredients to a boil.  Let it slow boil for about 20 minutes.  Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the yarn.  (I tied off the skein a bit more too.  I didn’t want it to get tangled while it “cooked.”)

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Then remove the pot from the heat, cover and let it rest overnight.  (Yes, just leave those beets in there…It’s fine.)  Rinse the yarn 2-3 times in luke warm water.

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Allow to dry completely on a drying rack.

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Just Go With It

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Yes, it is March 27th.  Yes, it is Spring.  Yes, we are completely snow-covered and freezing.  I’ve decided I need to move to the positive of this situation instead of dwelling on the negative.  So, woolens it is.  Why not sit under a quilt, with a mug of steaming hot coffee and crochet with a bit of lovely wool.  And that’s just what I did.

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The yarn is from this farm in Wisconsin.  They can be found at the weekly farmers’ market in Madison, and they normally have their yarn for sale at their booth.  (If you have never visited the Dane County Farmers’ Market, you must go!  It is absolutely amazing…no matter the season…it’s year round and awesome!)

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This is me embracing the frigid March temps.  I’m just going with it.

Please Pass the Butter

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Butter.  Who doesn’t love its creamy sweetness, with the hint of salt, as it melts over a hot roll or freshly baked muffin?

During my substitute teaching stitch, my oldest daughter and I had to leave the house quite early, and our normal routine of homemade granola or pancakes for breakfast was not really a feasible option.  We needed something fast, easy and delish.

So on Sunday afternoon, I whipped up a batch of muffins (I used this recipe). Then I froze the muffins so that I could pull out two the night before, allow them to defrost overnight, and then we had yummy muffins to eat in the car on our way to school.  But what is a good muffin without butter?

This is quite possibly the easiest way to make homemade butter.  Think elementary school when we all took turns shaking a baby food jar filled with cream until the butter formed.  Same idea.

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Simply pour some whipping cream in a glass bowl, and then mix it on high with an elective mixer.

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You need to beat it past the point of whipped cream phase.  You will start to notice a separation in the mixture.

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Once there is a clear separation between the butter solids and watery substance, place the butter in a fine mesh strainer or in butter muslin until all of the moisture has been drained.

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I like to then mix in a bit of salt.  And you are set to go!

Be sure to keep your homemade butter in a sealed glass container in your fridge.  It will stay good for about 5 days.

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So Fresh and So Clean

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Amid the hustle and hustle of the past few weeks, I ran to the linen closet to grab a bar of soap and some lotion and found the shelves that normally house these items to be completely bare.  So, we spent much of our St. Patrick’s Day afternoon making some new soap, lotion and deodorant.

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I used my favorite lotion recipe from this amazing book, but instead using olive oil as I normally do, I used a cold-pressed organic grape seed oil.  It ended up making a much lighter lotion, which I really like.

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A friend of mine steered me towards this great homemade deodorant recipe, and after wearing it in a multitude of situations, I have found it to work wonderfully!  In fact, I would even venture to say it works better than my organic store-bought deodorant.

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And last but not least on our to-do list: soap.  I created this recipe after researching those essential oils known for their anti-bacterial properties.  I hope you enjoy this soap as much as we do!

Making of a Home’s Anti-Bacterial Soap

2 pounds Melt and Pour Soap Base (I use this Goat’s Milk Soap Base.)

1/2 cup palm oil

4 eye droppers of Vitamin E oil

20 drops clove essential oil

20 drops lemon essential oil

10 drops rosemary essential oil

8 drops eucalyptus essential oil

5 drops cinnamon essential oil

5 drops tea tree essential oil

a shallow pot or saucepan

a glass bowl

wooden spoon

soap molds (You can purchase these at your local craft store or here.)

Fill the pot or saucepan half full with water.  Bring to a simmer.  Place the glass bowl in the pot of water to create a double boiler of sorts.  Place the melt and pour soap base, palm oil and the vitamin E oil in the glass bowl.  Stir with a wooden spoon until it melts.  Remove the bowl from the heat and add the essential oils and stir.  Allow the mixture to cool slightly (enough to thicken the mixture just a bit).  Pour into your molds.  Allow to rest until completely cool.  Remove the soap from the molds.  Allow the soaps to cure for about two weeks before you use them.

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