Soap, soap and other stuff!

As I mentioned in my last post I am enjoying soap-making….rather too much. I have made alot using different recipes. It is now becoming too much to make in the kitchen so my craft room has been taken over. I would like to think I can do well enough to sell some at the markets but we will see – it was clear I would need better equipment so I finally caved in and bought a few molds and have been trying to source the cheapest places for ingredients but the extra work I have been doing recently has meant I can have spare money to buy yummy oils etc.

My painting/craft table at present

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The pink slab in front is a Rose Clay Facial Soap which I have high hopes for in the battle against  wrinkles and aging skin :) It has olive, coconut, apricot, jojoba and castor oils in – I added frankinsense and rose essences. The purpley / blue soap in the molds is lavender, a problem with keeping everything natural is learning about and sourcing the right colourings – this was hoped to be more purple.

I have alot to learn!! When I made my first batch of lavender soap I naively thought you could just chuck all sorts of pretty florally things in soap, you can’t! I put lavender on top and it went grey, the lye affects flora in soaps, apparently grinding dry lavender buds first works better. I wanted petals, some people have them on soaps and they guard the secret of “HOW….?” very closely but I did read you could do so with rebatching – grating a cured soap, melting it down and pouring it in molds. I added too much water so it’s taking forever to dry and this is very rustic in appearance but for my own use it will be fine. This is an area I would like to learn more about because it’s just too pretty not to. To me this is what lady soap should be like!

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An old shelf has come in handy for curing and storing, these all have to sit for at least a month.

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There are the calendula and lavender ones I showed early on, the musk and apricot which looks like Russian Fudge, Gardenia, Patchouli and a lovely blend of oils, A Cedarwood and Juniper Berry for men which smells gorgeous (coloured with spirlulina which disappointedly changed to a very muted green, and a mountain of Coffee Hand Scrub which I made double the amount for Roger and it turned out to be an awful lot lol

I also made the most divine night cream full of luscious oils….olive, sweet almond, jojoba, apricot and cocoa butter. I created it myself and it’s beautiful but I didn’t write down the amounts I used which was dumb! This is better than anything else I have ever made or bought, my very own fountain of youth in a jar!!!  I now just have to remember how I made it.

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Soap wrapped in lace and ribbon and a jar of my special cream is a nice pressy for my best friend for her birthday I thought!

 

 

9 days till Spring!!

Winter is nearly over and in 9 days time it will officially be Spring. In past years I have disliked winter intensely but this year I have loved it…there has been much to do inside. I have also been working quite alot which wasn’t expected but welcome for the extra money. 

Garden: 

We are just gearing up for the garden now. Seed raising potatoes are laid out in the basement and the first lot will go in tomorrow…then will start the morning and evening rituals of covering to protect from frosts then removing during the day. Potatoes need to go in early here because once the weather gets a bit warmer we have a bug that chews the new shoots and does something to the starch content preventing them from growing. Carrots and beetroot have been planted as well as broccoli and cabbage seedlings. Tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, cucumbers etc will all be started off in the wee greenhouse. Roger bought a dismantled second hand greenhouse as a second one for the bottom garden but is a bit befuddled as to how to put it back together right now :) We are still harvesting leeks, silverbeet, spinach, lettuce, beetroot, carrots, oinions and broccoli from the winter garden and garlic has been planted. All the fruit and berries were pruned over winter and are ready to go!

Kitchen:

We still have a good supply of stored produce. The pumpkins have started to shows signs of deterioration so have been been picking those out and cutting up to freeze. We still have a large amount of stored food and have had smoothies made with berries and frozen fruit throughout winter, lots of soups and stews made with both frozen and fresh vegetables, have loved being able to have heaps of salads with fresh vegetables from the garden and spiced beetroot, pickled cucumbers and onions, peppers in olive oil etc. We didn’t have extras for many months but have noticed the past month we have desired more so have made crumbles with bottled peaches, apricots and plums and berry clafouti, our favourite. We are still using dried herbs from last summer.

Pauline aka The Contented Crafter kindly sent me some milk and water kefir grains and some kombucha so I have been using those and am hoping not to kill these ones. Thanks Pauline, right now they are still very healthy!

Neither the kitchen or the garden have been exciting enough to photograph at any time this month :)

Home:

I bought these lovely things at a garage sale for only 50 cents each. The bowls are a little irregular which I really liked, the plate is handpainted…all very cute!

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I have gone crazy soap making which needs a post of it’s own I will do tomorrow. I have been trying different recipes and am hoping to get good enough to sell some at the local market for Christmas. Time will tell……! I clearly need to find an outlet for what has become an obsession.

Roger comes home home ever so often with a big grin on face saying he found something today…he works on a farm which has alot of history and finds old draughthorse shoes, old bottles etc….treasures. He came home last week and told me to guess what he found. 

“A bird’s nest? A horse shoe?…..” “Nope, nope” he says “it starts with a B and you will never guess!!” No, I couldn’t, so he proudly produces it.

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My husband was standing in our lounge with this – it’s a BOMB! Hadn’t had it checked, assumed it would be fine and brought it home as another collectible. It’s gone now! Taken by the police to check it and I very much doubt we will ever see it again unfortunately. It’s an old training one from WW2. He didn’t trust that I was right in saying it needed to be checked so called a mate down – who admired it quickly then backed off even quicker saying it’s something? was still in tact and it needed to be checked!

This is Mittens standing at his access to the house, the kitchen window. The front door is often open but he likes to enter this way and will pull all sorts of desperate faces while he waits…next to the open door.

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And this is both Syd and Mittens blissed out in the evenings taking up all the furniture :)

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I hope those of you ending summer are enjoying some beautiful weather and plentiful harvests and those of you in the Southern hemisphere are enjoying your planning…and warmer days!

Projects and Happy Mail :)

I seem to be forever posting this past two weeks….nothing for months then too many.

The first thing I need to do is say “THANK YOU so much” to the dear, sweet blogging friend (who wishes to remain nameless) who trolled my site to get a link for a family member’s lavender farm and sent these as a most lovely gift. I am not sure what I did to deserve such a pressy but what a gorgeous surprise, I am truly touched. Big,big hugs to you know who you are :)

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I finished the bird house and Roger added a couple of old wood and cast iron handrails around it. These had been lying around for years.

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I am still working on these and will show before and afters when finished. Loving the map drawers :)

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Last weekend we went to a couple of garage sales. One was a tumbly down old garage full of boxes and old crates of all sorts of man stuff. But I did see some boxes I needed. Roger filled them with junk handy stuff to have and asked for a price. Only $10 for the lot. See the one in the bottom corner, it ended up in the basement and I need to find it, it’s fantastic (if you love old boxes)

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Emptied, scrubbed and dried, my new SOAP MOLDS!!!!!! What joy, they are on their way to being filled as we speak.

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In one of the boxes was a long chain which Roger knew I had been looking for to go with this plate I picked up years ago for just a few cents. It had holes in the sides, no use for much but being pretty but I did get an idea off Pinterest last year.

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A bird feeder :)

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 Funny thing which I must add just while I am here before I forget. Does anyone else look at the search engine part their stats to see what leads people to their site? Most find it through searching for Tumeric to  Whten Teeth…thousands. But one last week got me ” Rubbing soap on legs descise drugrunners”. Mmmm!!!!

Apricot and Musk Soap…Experience is a great teacher!

What started out as Green Tea and Gardenia Soap ended up being something quite different…! But before I ramble about how this happened I will tell you about the new recipe I tried that I am really happy with even though it will be another 3 weeks before I can try it. Jessie, aka Rabid Little Hippy commented on my first soap post that I might like to look up The Greening of Gavin‘s site for lots of good soap info. She was right I did like it :) For a start he has a great recipe, you can find here for a very economical soap containing Olive, coconut, grapeseed and sunflower oils. Secondly he tells how he got into selling it which is what I would like to do because now I obsess over soap making and all it’s possibilities and ideally some sort of small market (if I ever get good enough)would be really nice to offload what I can see is going to become a problem hobby otherwise :) and thirdly, he has a fantastic blog!!!! His soap recipe provided the nicest textured soap from the three I have tried, it’s very economical, it also came to trace the fastest of the three – this was quick to make.

Lessons learned: I wanted to make a small batch to trial the recipe. I had read you can get a nice pale green colour seeping green tea bags in boiling water and using that as the water content. My plan was to scent with gardenia oil. Didn’t check what teabags I grabbed and it was black tea…which actually makes a beautiful brown. I had to rethink what would go nicely with this new unplanned colour and rushed through my box choosing an apricot/musk blend. I had read that cheap oils would lose their smell and possibly be synthetic rather than natural essential oils but forgot all this as I grabbed up one of the cheapy bottles I had. It used a whole bottle with only a light scent.

Message to self….check everything twice before you rush in, concentrate, because if you can’t do that you shouldn’t be working with lye Wendy.

Anyhow, what I ended up with was the most delicious looking soap that looks just like Russian Fudge that smells lovely but not lovely enough.

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DIY Beeswax Food Wraps

Sometimes you see an idea that is so brilliant, so simple, so economical and you have to try it… this is one and gleaned from My Healthy green Family. Her post is so much more colourful than mine with alot more info and also some good comments so I urge you, if you are interested in making these, to check our her post :)

My husband is a big user of clingfilm for his lunches and other options have not proved successful. He will take his food packages out on the farm to eat through the day putting the wrap in his pocket when finished, it’s easy for him. I don’t know how many containers he has lost over the years (or lids) when I have tried to get him to use other things. Paper “doesn’t keep bread fresh enough” apparently and rips.

I was rapt to see these and made them today. Simple. The beeswax is cheap to buy from bee owners (I bought these for 50c a block and used 2 1/2) but now we have our own if hubby is happy with these it will be very good. When I started making them and told him he could trial them tomorrow he spoke in that lovely tone men use when humouring their ladies but he had to admit when I was finished they look a good, practical, healthier option.

Preheat oven to 150 deg C. Cut clean cotton cloth (old sheeting is fine) into desired sizes. I had 6 old cotton serviettes I used to trial them – the same colour as the beeswax which was an unfortunate choice to photograph.IMG_3842

Place on baking tray and grate the beeswax onto it, sprinkling it to fully cover.IMG_3843

Place tray in cover for just a few minutes, the beeswax will melt into a fine liquid that will seep down into fabric.

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Use a pastry brush to spread onto areas not quite covered enough if it bubbles. Hang to cool and dry on a clothes airer (just takes few minutes)

Done!

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 Wipeable, waterproof, airtight cloths that can be cleaned in hot soapy water by hand and will last a few months.

Footnote: These got a big thumbs up from my husband who declared “They work brilliant!”

Growing, storing and Using Pumpkins

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Pumpkins would have to be one of the cheapest and easiest vegetable we grow, though they do spread out taking up alot of room they are great for those areas not alot else can be grown in. This past Spring we planted them on a pile of compost created over winter and on top of an area of lawn that allowed for plenty of growth. Pumpkin scraps and seeds are just thrown on top as we discard them, they don’t really need starting in pots and alot of TLC babying them along.

The only problem we ever experience with them may be powdery mildew which is (usually) easily fixed with milk sprays. Homegrown pumpkin is so much better than store bought, they are hardy both in growing and storage. We harvest after the plants have died off and we leave most of them to get a couple of good frosts…this gives a deep dark orange flesh and a rich, sweet flavour. Pumpkins should be harvested with a two cm stem on the fruit and stored, not touching each other, in a cool and dark airy place. They generally last up to 9 months but do need to be checked.

This week I have been going through our stored pumpkins and removing any that are showing signs of deterioration. Offending areas can be cut out and the rest used. Any excess can be just cut and frozen raw in bags. They won’t lose flavour but the texture is affected, they break down quicker on cooking.

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I also cook pumpkin in salted water and mash it, freezing the puree in 1 cup quantities to use for baking. I also tend to make vegetarian lasagne, or a mixture of beef and vegetable, when I have the pumpkin already cooked and on hand to use.

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In New Zealand pumpkin is used alot as a vegetable, eaten either roasted, boiled or mashed. My son’s new wife is from Indiana, USA, and she was surprised by this, telling me her family have bought pumpkins to hollow out for Halloween but the flesh has always been thrown away !! We don’t really celebrate Halloween here but pumpkin is a common fresh vegetable in meals. Canned pumpkin has never made the shelves in supermarkets here (as far as I know).

I have tried roasting pumpkin seeds a few times but have never got them quite right, I don’t know that I will try again. Pumpkin flowers, like zucchini, are delicious fried in batter and both the vegetable and the flower can end up on a platter of Beer Battered Tempura Vegetables.

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We also use pumpkin, often leftover roasted, in vegetable quiches. Our absolute favourite though is this Pumpkin and Silverbeet Quiche

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Though Roger isn’t much of a soup eater I could live on it. Pumpkin soup with a little bacon, Pumpkin and Sweet Potato and Roast Pumpkin and Carrot soups are all very yummy but my favourite is the Spicy Pumpkin and Lentil.

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Pumpkin and Vegetable Bake (a terrible photo I have forgotten to sort!) and variations on Pumpkin Chickpea Patties are both good!! We also enjoy Roast pumpkin Hummus.

A recipe for Pumpkin Walnut and Raisin Bread here

Two things I still have not tried is the famous pumpkin pie and these yummy looking pumpkin pancakes at the wonderful Chocolate Covered Katie site.

Pumpkin, Walnut and Raisin Loaf

I just ended a three month baking hiatus and this was a yummy way to end it :) I will put the original site I got the recipe from but I did change it just a little, increasing the amount of butter, walnuts, raisins and spice and I made the method easier. Served hot with butter it’s very delicious, on day 3 it still has a nice and moist texture.

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4 oz (100 g) butter

1 1/3 cups sugar

2 eggs,

1/4 cup water

1 cup pumpkin puree

1 2/3 cup flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/3 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1 cup walnuts

3/4 cup raisins or sultanas

Preheat oven to 350 (180) deg and prepare 1 large or 2 small loaf pans.

Soften butter and cream with sugar. Add eggs and beat, add pumpkin puree and water and beat well. Add sifted dry ingredients – the flour, spices, salt, baking powder and soda. Fold in the walnuts and raisins, pour into tins and bake a large one 55 – 60 minutes, smaller ones around 35 – 40 minutes.

The original recipe was found at About.com – submitted by Diana Rattray