Vegan Soap Recipe No. 2

During this time of uncertainty, I have found myself falling back upon activities and projects that brought me happiness in the past.  One particular task that seems to always give me a sense of peace is soap-making.  There is something about the slow process, the circular motion of mixing, and the smells of oils wafting throughout the kitchen that puts my mind at ease.

What I look forward to most is that hopefully by the time this batch of soap is cured, we will be out of the quarantine and basking in the summer sunlight with our friends and family members.

This go-round I decided to try throwing a new fat into the mix…shea butter.  I love the smooth, creamy texture the shea butter gave to this soap and I cannot wait to see how it feels on the skin! I also wanted to try to bring some summer love to this batch, so I sprinkled some dried calendula pedals (from last year’s garden) onto the top of the soap before curing.

I hope you enjoy this recipe, and I look forward to sharing more at-home projects with you throughout this strange time in our world’s history.  Be safe and be well, friends.

Vegan Soap Recipe No. 2

5 cups distilled water

12 oz lye

10 cups organic unrefined coconut oil

2 cups //ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=qf_sp_asin_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=makofahom-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=B07S9H5BYG&asins=B07S9H5BYG&linkId=fd80223b29de721b03c43d397b4e75a5&show_border=false&link_opens_in_new_window=true&price_color=333333&title_color=0066c0&bg_color=ffffff” data-wplink-url-error=”true”>organic shea butter

Essential oils of your choosing (if desired)

Brazilian clay of your choosing (if desired) (I used yellow Brazilian clay in this particular batch.)

*Before you get started, please know that making soap with lye can be very dangerous.  You MUST be sure you are wearing proper gloves and eyewear at all times, and you must be in a well ventilated room!  

Step 1:  In a large stainless steel bowl, carefully stir the lye into the distilled water.  Stir continuously until all the lye is dissolved.  (This mixture can rise in temperature to almost 200 degrees, so again, proceed with caution.)  Allow the lye-water mixture to cool to 75 degrees.  This can often take several hours.

Step 2:  Warm the coconut oil and shea butter in a stock pot until it becomes liquid.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool to 80-85 degrees.

Step 3:  In a very slow and steady stream, carefully add the coconut oil and shea butter to the lye-water mixture while stirring constantly.

Step 4:  Once all the coconut oil and shea butter has been added, I use an immersion blender to get the soap to reach trace phase (the consistency of a thick honey).

Optional Step:  If adding essential oils, blend the oils in at this time.  And if adding clay for coloring your soap:  mix a tablespoon of clay with .25-.50 mL of your chosen essential oil.  Partially mix the clay into the soap mixture so it streaks.

Step 5:  Pour mixture into soap molds.  Cover with plastic.  I then place lots of old beach towels on top of the plastic wrap to help insulate the soap.

Step 6:  Allow your soap to remain insulted for 3-4 days.  Then remove the soap from the molds, cut the soap (if necessary), and place on a cooling rack.

Step 7:  Allow your soap to cure on the cooling rack for at least 2 months before using.

10 Years

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This year marked a pretty big milestone in the Fagan house.  This Thanksgiving was our tenth year hosting our favorite of all holidays.  We love Thanksgiving because it is a time to truly appreciate family, without the distraction of gifts and other commercial nonsense, and to simply feast upon Rumi’s words to “today, let us swim wildly, joyously in gratitude.”

This year I tried to fully embrace these words, because even though the people who physically sit around our table have changed drastically these last few years, there is still so much for which our hearts can be thankful.  It can be so easy to focus on Loss and fall into his grip because it often feels as if he is just waiting there at the ready to close his fingers around us.  But instead, this year I chose to reflect upon all the joy that has filled our dining room over the course of the past ten years.  Change and loss are definite parts of life, but on this day of thanksgiving, I chose to allow myself to be filled with joy, and love, and gratitude.  For it is all about perspective isn’t it?  Choosing a positive lens through which to look at the world can be so powerful and life changing.

Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream

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After finding my family’s old ice cream maker in my dad’s basement a few weeks back, I decided it was time to test it out again after over 25 years.  The ice cream maker still worked great, and I was so happy to be able to find an excuse to make homemade ice cream in the middle of winter 🙂

Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream

3 cups organic half and half

1 cup organic heavy whipping cream

1 cup organic sugar

8 organic egg yolks

2 teaspoons organic vanilla extract

Place the half & half and whipping cream in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently.  Mix the sugar into the egg yolks.  Once the half & half and whipping cream have reached a simmer, temper the eggs with the mixture.  Continue to stir the custard mixture over medium heat for 5-8 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to sit for 30 minutes.  Add the vanilla extract and refrigerate until cool.  Pour into an ice cream maker and follow the manufacture’s instructions.  Enjoy!

Variations:

Chocolate Ice Cream:  Add 1 1/2 cups organic cocoa powder to the cream mixture and then simmer.

Pistachio Ice Cream:  Replace the organic vanilla extract with organic almond extract.  Then add 1 1/2 cups chopped pistachios once the mixture is cooled.

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Social

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My girls and I have found a new love:  ceramics.  We happened upon a class that had some open seats and immediately we knew it was a match made in Heaven.

A common misconception of homeschooled-children is that they lack socialization.  My experience (be it only a brief one and a half years so far) has illustrated to me that the exact opposite is actually true.  Not only do my girls interact with children their own age while at homeschool co-op, through sports and camps, and during their involvement in scouts, homeschooling allows time for my girls to interact with those much younger and older than them.  My girls love helping out with the little bitty ones when they are at the YMCA or at co-op, and they also cherish the moments they get to spend with residents of their great grandmother’s retirement community.

Our new-found ceramics class has also offered my girls a wonderful opportunity to, not only learn a wide array of artistic techniques, but also interact with a lovely group of ladies of an older generation.  My girls love listening to their stories, and watching their experienced hands craft the most beautiful pieces of art.  Our time spent in the studio on Tuesdays with these women is definitely a life experience for which I am so very grateful.

Old Becomes New

A few years back I shared with you my love of all things old:  books, clothes, music and furniture.  I love that in nourishing vintage items, we can breath life into them and make the old become new.

My husband’s grandmother recently got some new digs, and she was unable to fit all of her furniture in her new place.  I was thrilled when she asked if I could use them for something.  Yes, please.

It’s amazing what a bit of paint and some clearance fabric can do!  The only downside of this project is that now I have the itch…and I want to do oh so much more 🙂

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I Stand at the Ready

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Thoughts from yesterday:

I am sitting outside of my northern Illinois home, in a tank top and shorts. Sweat trickles down my back and my hands ache from the garden work I have done. It is just 11:30 am. In February.

While working in my garden, many thoughts swirl through my mind. Why am I able to work in my garden right now? Why is the sun so warm upon my skin as I sit here on my deck, less than one week post-Valentine’s day? Why are there already green lilies breaking the surface of the soil in my garden beds? Why are their insects crawling and flying about? Am I terrified by this extreme weather streak in February?

The answer to that last question is, yes. There was record-breaking snow on the East coast this week, torrential rain in the West, and balmy weather in the northern Midwest. A definite climate shift is upon us.

Now, the way I see it, I have two choices: Option one is that I can allow myself to become paralyzed with the fear of what is to come. I can fear for the future of my children, and allow that anxiety to cripple me into inaction. Option two:  I can use the gifts God has given me and leap into action. I can strap on my garden boots and stand at the ready to teacher my own children, and others, the skills they need to grow their own food in a world of changing environmental factors. I can help them to see these changes with optimistic eyes, not ones clouded with fear. I can equip them in the ways they can help themselves in times of trouble, and also how to reach out and use their talents to help others in need.

Recently, I have found myself looking to St. Francis of Assisi for wisdom and motivation to help guide me on my journey. Today I came upon this passage, and I believe it will become motto in days to come:

Lord, help me live this day, quietly, easily. To lean upon Thy great strength, trustfully, restfully. To wait for the unfolding of Thy will, patiently, serenely. To meet others, peacefully, joyously. To face tomorrow, confidently, courageously.

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The Apothecary

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About a year ago, my husband bought me this fabulous piece of furniture for a late birthday present.  I had been eyeing it for a couple years at a great local shop, and I knew exactly what I would use it for if ever I was lucky enough to take it home with me.  So, when it finally made its way across the threshold and in the confines of my house, I immediately went to work at crafting my vision: my very own apothecary cabinet.

Since establishing my apothecary cabinet in my kitchen, I have experimented with a slew of tonics, tinctures, and the like.  One of my most recent favorites is my “Homemade Refreshing Face Mask.”  This mask is made with bentonite clay, known for its healing and detoxifying properties.  To this clay, I add some invigorating organic non-alcohol witch hazel with aloe vera, and frankincense essential oil, which in my option is one of the best oils you can use on the regular.

So this weekend, pamper yourself with this treat 🙂

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Homemade Refreshing Face Mask

In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons bentonite clay, 1 drop Frankincense, and enough witch hazel to form a paste.  Mix slowly until a paste forms.  With your fingers, smooth the clay over your face, being sure to avoid your eyes.  Allow the mask to rest on your face for 5-8 minutes.  Wash off with warm water.

 

From Dawn to Dusk

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One of my favorite times of the year arrived this week!  In the wee hours of Monday morning, we began pouring over our 2017 seed catalog (We order our seeds and transplants from The Seed Savers Exchange, based in Iowa.) and envisioning what it is we want our garden to look like this year.  Now that the girls are older, they too have taken on an added interest in this task and our day was filled with talk of which herbs would grow best inside their cinder block garden boarder, and whether or not we want to skip growing cucumbers again this summer.  (My girls no longer eat pickles.  Say what?!?)

We normally peruse the seed catalogs in February because this seems to be an especially difficult month to get through for us.  So dark.  So very cold.  This year, however, proved to be a bit strange in that this particular February day was unseasonably balmy.  So, we packed up our seed-browsing-paraphenalia and headed to the backyard.  There we started a nice fire and continued our quest for garden goodness outdoors, well into the evening.  Such an incredibly nice treat.

A Subtle Shift

It seems that at each turn of the season I feel the need to start anew.  I think this has become even more of a necessity now that I stay home and homeschool my girls.  Because our home is where we work, play and educate, there is a more constant need to refresh, even if it is just a subtle shift.

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As a means of bridging our transition between summer and fall, the girls and I have been trying to bring in fresh flowers each day from our garden.  It is a true blessing to have this beautiful, natural color in our sights as the mercury begins to dip.

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A quick family room face lift has also helped usher in this new season.  It’s amazing what a fresh coat of paint can do to change the entire mood of a room.

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As I mentioned a few weeks back, we have an abundance of home-grown pumpkins, so those gorgeous orbs are finding their way into many indoor and outdoor arrangements, as well as into many new recipes.

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Our reading material has also been refreshed.  With a little help from Ms. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has whisked our whole family away to a magical land each evening.

And after the girls are asleep, Glennon Doyle Melton’s Love Warrior fills my heart in a way no other book has.  As I wrote about here, when my mom was ill, her book Carry On, Warrior shone a light on my experience that helped me through those most difficult, excruciating months of my life.  But I believe her new novel, although raw and often emotionally difficult to get through, is giving me the tools I need to make it through the next fifty years of my life by imparting me with a whole new outlook on life, love, truth-telling and grace.

I hope each of you feels refreshed as you enter this new season, ready to embark upon many new fall adventures.

 

 

Craft and Science

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img_3209 img_3212img_3233 img_3303 img_3302 img_3272Last Sunday, we gathered with friends in our late summer garden for some fermentation fun.  My husband (and his trusty brewmaster side kick) concocted a nice autumnal nut brown ale, while I worked with some of the other littles on cabbage sauerkraut.

I just love the craft and science behind fermentation.  I love the look of amazement that crosses their faces when I tell kids they are working with millions of living organisms when they ferment.  I also adore the slow and deliberate pace of fermenting.  The fact that the process cannot be rushed is what pulls me in the most to this craft.  We are all so rushed in our daily lives, that at times it is just so therapeutic to slow down, gather with friends, and enjoy that slow gait together.