Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Lotion Bars and Lip Balm

Making lotion bars and Lip Balm

I love body lotions! I have very dry skin, especially in the winter, and love applying a thick lotion to moisturize and make my skin feel smooth. 
But after doing some research and learning about all the harmful chemicals in the lotions and creams available at the store, I knew I had to find an alternative. 

For several years I've been using coconut oil - I whip it in my Bosch mixer for 10 minutes or so, which makes it soft and fluffy,I add a little vitamin E oil also, and put it in jars. I use this every day and love it!! 

But for a product that is REALLY thick, I've been making lotion bars. 
Coconut Oil
Shea Butter
Bees Wax

Use equal parts - I used 1 cup of each, which makes 12 lotion bars.

Melt the bees wax over a low heat. I keep cans from cooking for this type of project. Then you can throw the can away or keep it for the next time. Really cuts down on the mess and clean up.
When wax is melted, add the shea butter and let that melt, then add the coconut oil. I stir it gently with the handle of a wooden spoon (that is used just for these projects). When this is all melted together, I take it off the heat and add an essential oil. I added Sweet Orange to this batch. But this step is optional. Without the essential oil, you get the wonderful bees wax/shea butter scent!
Pour the mixture into molds - I use a silicone muffin pan (that I got for 50 cents at a yard sale) for my lotion bars. They pop out very easily and it cleans up nicely. 

They don't take long to set up.

These bars are wonderful on my dry, cracked feet and other areas that tend to be VERY dry in winter. 
***Before going to the beach last year, I made a batch of these and added zinc oxide before pouring into the pan. I used these bars on my younger kids who tend to get sunburned at the beach. rubbing the bar on their faces turned them white (their niece said they looked like ghosts), but it kept the sunburn away!***

Using the very same ingredients, you can also make lip balm. 
I used 1 Tbsp of each, mixed the same way as I did for the lotion bars, and using a medicine dropper (again, I keep this one just for this project), fill empty lip balm containers.

 I love these better than any store-bought lip balm.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Bookshelf Stairs

My *very* handy son, Jesse, created this for my Christmas present this year. 
Everyone gave their input on which books to choose, and it took several days to whittle the list down to 13 books. 


Jesse did such a great job and I am so proud of him and so thrilled with my gift!!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Hamburger Rocks and Canning Apples

I tried something new this week - dehydrating hamburger. Not only have I not done this before, but I had never even heard of this being done!
I came across an article with instructions, and thought 
"What a great idea!"

Our family was given 1/2 a deer on Saturday, so I was determined to try my hand at this. 
Sunday, Colton processed the meat, placed it in a big pot full of salt water to soak overnight.
Monday morning I started in on the meat.

I kept a couple roasts, but the rest I ground into hamburger.

I had 13lbs of ground meat.
Brown the meat

When no pink remains, drain the grease, and rinse meat thoroughly to rinse any leftover grease off. Grease will go rancid, ruining the meat.
Place back in the pan, heating on a lower setting to steam off the water. At this point, add your spices, if you choose. I added salt, pepper, and onion powder.
Spoon onto drying racks. I have never used the fruit leather sheets that came with my dehydrator, but I'm glad I kept them! I used these to keep the smaller pieces of meat from falling through the holes in the trays.

I don't have enough sheets for all my trays, so I took the rest of the trays out.

I set the dial to 145 degrees, and left them in there for about 16 hours.
And this is the finished product!
 I did about half of the meat on Monday, and, dried, it filled one 1/2 gallon jar, and almost 1/2 of another.
This will keep for years on the shelf.
To rehydrate, add 2 cups of boiling water to one cup meat. Let sit for 15-30 minutes, until the meat soaks up the water.
This meat can be used in any dish that you would normally put ground meat in.

Meanwhile, while I was preparing the meat, Cheyenne and Delanie were coring, peeling, and slicing apples to can.

After slicing, the apples went into cold water, with lemon juice added to keep them from browning.

Blanch the apples by adding them (about 8 cups at a time) to boiling water and letting them boil for about 5 minutes.
After this step, I put them in a pot in a slow oven to keep them hot until I'm done blanching all the apples.

Then I can them. I prefer canning plain apples, instead of apple pie filling. This way, I can use them throughout the year in recipes other than pie.

Oh, and I also finished dehydrating the last of our cayenne peppers.
Aren't they pretty? 

Monday, April 30, 2012

17-year Cicadas

In Blue Ridge, VA, it's the year for the 17-year cicadas to emerge from the ground.
They crawl up out of the ground, where they've been for the last 17 years. They break, crawl, push, out of their shells or casings, climb or fly (yes, they have wings with orange veins) into the trees, where they live until they mate, and they lay their eggs in the limbs. Apparently, they can be detrimental to trees, because they bore into the wood to lay their eggs.
Once the eggs hatch, the larva drop from the trees onto the ground, bore down in the soil, and hibernate for the next 17 years. Then, the cycle begins again.
About 1 1/2 weeks ago, we noticed holes every in our yard.
Then, we started finding empty shells everywhere. And once we started looking for them, we'd find dozens of them!
This morning, we found them on our trees. One tree was covered with them, but they were on several different trees.

Above is one emerging from it's shell.
They are white when they come out of their shells or casings, but then their color turns to black, with red eyes. YUCK!

The kids gathered them up in buckets to give to the chickens.

And, YES, the chickens love them!!

Friday, January 13, 2012


    Do you have a wood-burning fireplace or wood stove? For several years I have been making fire starters, and have found them invaluable! What does a fire starter look like? Well, it's not pretty - a cardboard toilet paper tube stuffed with dryer lint which has been soaked in melted wax.
    Jesse told me the other day that we were getting low on fire starters, so as I began my bread making this morning - four loaves to sell, four for the family, plus 2 pans of rolls -I put a pot of wax on the stove to melt in order to make fire starters. I keep an old coffee can in a closet, and add bits of wax to it:

  • ends of candles
  • broken crayons
  • bits of birthday candles
  • old, yucky candles that friends would never burn so they give them to me
Here's a handy tip: to easily get the wax out of a candle holder, put the holder in the freezer for several hours. This works for all type of candles and holders - jar candles, taper candles, votives, tea light. After several hours (I usually forget about them so they may stay there for days), take it out and tap it on the counter. The wax will usually just pop out in one piece. You may need to poke a knife around the edges. And if the opening is smaller than the bottom of the container, you will have to poke the candle in the middle with a sharp knife and it will usually split in two or three pieces. 

When the can is full, I put the can full of wax in a pot of water on the burner. It can take several hours for the wax to melt completely, especially if there are big pieces of wax. 

Another tip: Never throw away your dryer lint! Even if you don't make firestarters, lint is very flammable (which is why you should regularly clean out your dryer vent tube). It can be used to start fires, is great in your compost pile, and in the Springtime, birds will use it in their nests. 

When the wax is melted, add the dryer lint, gently pushing it down into the wax (I use a plastic fork for this) until the lint is stuffed in there. Then, holding a toilet paper tube over the can, pick up globs of soaked lint (using the fork) and put them into the tube. This can be tricky, because the lint can just fall through back into the can. I hold the tube sideways to do this. Then, using the fork, I push down on the lint (against the side of the tube) so the excess wax will run back into the can. All of that wax would harden in the tube, but, well, let's face it - I am CHEAP! And I want to make it stretch as far as I can!
I keep some paper towels on the counter next to the stove, and when I finish with a tube, I lay it on the paper towels. I let them sit on the counter for a few hours, until they are completely dry, then put them in a bag or bucket and they'll last forever.

To use it, place it under the fireplace grate, or on the bottom of the fireplace or woodstove, add your kindling and wood, and light the edges of the tube. It will burn for 15 minutes or so, enough time for the wood to catch completely.

Now, let me make something clear, this is a messy business. By the time I'm finished, I have wax on my hands, my stove, and in the pot of water - which is why I should be looking for an old pot at yard sales to use just for this! 

And if I can figure out how to add pictures to this, I'll post some!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Wonder of Orange Peels

This time of year, we eat more oranges than any other time, I think. Usually, oranges are not in our budget. But we always put them in the toes of the children's stockings, so we buy for that, and some years, we have been blessed with a gift of oranges.
    As I was laying orange peels out on cookies sheets and cooling racks earlier this morning, I thought I needed to share about the joy of orange peels. 
We always lay them out to dry, this usually takes a couple of days. Then they can be stored in ziplock bags or glass jars - my preferable method of storage - they look so pretty! I also do this with lemon and lime peels.

   Place a few peels in a small pot of water on the stove and simmer. It will fill your home with a wonderful smell. Add a little cinnamon, allspice, and/or cloves, to increase the wonderful odors. I remember as a little girl, when my mom peeled an orange, she would put the peels right on the electric stove burner, and turn it on low. 
Or you can use the dried peels when brewing tea. I love tea, and keep a coffee maker on the counter just for tea. Orange peels add so much flavor to all kinds of teas. 

A friend treated me to Red Rooibos Spice Chai Tea from http://www.bulkherbstore.com/.
Some of the best tea I've ever tasted, but clearly not in my budget. So, I did what I always do - searched online for a recipe to make it myself. All of the ingredients are listed on the package, making it easier to replicate. 
Here is what I came up with - not as good as Shosanna's, but close:
Red Rooibos Spice Chai Tea
1/2 lb Red Rooibos tea (organic can be found on Amazon fairly cheaply)
10 cinnamon sticks (broken or chipped using a coffee grinder)
1/4-1/2 cup cardamom pods
18 bay leaves
1/4-1/2 cup black peppercorns (I use 1/2 cup)
1/4-1/2 cup whole cloves
1 cup dried orange peel
3/4 cup (or more) fennel seeds
dried ginger root

Mix everything together. Use 1/8 cup in coffee filter for 1 pot, or a teaspoonful in a tea ball. Lots of folks serve it with milk or cream. This tea can be made more or less spicy, depending on your tastes.

I make it in my tea maker (coffee maker), and when the pot is empty, I run another pot of water through the same tea. I found I can make three pots using the same batch, although the third is a little weaker.

I buy many of my whole spices in bulk online. I usually find the best deals on Amazon.

So don't throw those peels away - they are so useful!!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Rejoicing in Spring

Our family is rejoicing in Spring! After an unusually long winter for SW Virginia, we are loving the warm temperatures, having the windows open, and being able to enjoy the outdoors!
My older boys are currently putting a new roof on the house, something that we've needed to do for a long time now! And a tree house was begun last week.

I am planning gardens, hoping to increase our garden spaces this year, and will begin planting this week.

Our chickens are laying well, again, and I'm thrilled to report that we have enough eggs to feed our family, plus extra to sell. I'm enjoying making some 'egg' money, and will be interested to see how much profit I make after buying feed. I also may be selling my bread in the near future, as someone inquired recently about that.

Rejoicing in Spring!