Saturday, February 15, 2014

Use it up and Wear it out Candles

I used to throw away that little bit of wax left from the end of candles without thinking about it. This project was part of my goal this year of more homemade and less store bought (even though I'm working with the leftovers from my favorite local candle makers). I also hate to waste things!

The amount of scrap left over from the candles was not insignificant!

I'm sure there's a better method to this...

After saving the ends of candles for a few weeks, this is what I'm left with. They're not the prettiest candles - they're slightly grey and dingy from the soot of being previously burned. And I didn't bother scrubbing out the candle holders. I would not give these away as gifts. But for my own use, they're brilliant! I'm happy I was able to make use of something I had previously just thrown away.

I'm linking to:
 Homestead Barn Hop

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Last Minute Flower Seed Valentines

My daughter's school is all hippiefied and doesn't want candy for Valentine's day. I'm not too heartbroken. Last year I spent quite a bit of money, just to contribute to tooth decay. Not this year. 

I mixed up some gel food coloring with Elmer's glue to make garden friendly paint

We each decorated the hearts and had a lot of fun

Next we glued on several seeds from cheap seed packs.

Marigolds, sunflowers, morning glories, zinnias...

Never say never, but I spent a grand total of about 3 bucks on this project, other than what we just had laying around the house (food coloring, glue, paper). And it made the whole family happy. Why would I spend a bunch of money on crummy valentines cards that just get rummaged through and tossed when the candy is gone?

Homemade Anti-Chafing Cream

Maybe this is a weird post for the dead of winter, but I ran out of my homemade anti-chafing cream and made a fresh batch today. I thought I'd share what works for me:

Smooth, moisturizing, and powdery finish. I use it on the stray pimple now and then, too.

I have sensitive skin and tend to get irritated spots in the summer where skin rubs together or on sweaty clothes (underwires!!) I'll spare the details, but I think we can all conjure the inner thigh discomfort of walking a mile in a skirt on a sweaty day. If you're not skinny, that is. 

You could go buy that Monistat chafe gel, if you wanted to spend a whole lot of money, and rub chemicals and silicone on your skin. But this is what I've put together. I used to use coconut oil, but I like almond oil better on my skin. The lavender is antibacterial and smells nice. The corn starch could be replaced with arrowroot powder, I just didn't have any.

It's just sweet almond oil, corn starch and lavender oil

Mix them all together.

It's a little like cookie icing

The end result goes on smooth, soaks in and leaves a powdery finish. I *love* this cream and basically throw it on anywhere that gets sweaty/rashy. Especially under my boobs. There, I said it.

Homemade Anti-Chafing Cream
1 cup corn starch
1/2 cup sweet almond oil
40 drops lavender oil

I'm linking to:
 Homestead Barn Hop

Friday, February 7, 2014

Squirreling Away Butternut Squash Soup

We're soup people, and we love to have a big stash of quart sized bags all lined up pretty in our deep freezer to choose from. On a night we don't feel like cooking, we'll eat a chunk of bread and grab a couple of bags downstairs. As we eat, I'm a little jealous of the asparagus cream he's chosen, and he's eying my chicken tortilla. 

Our soup rations in the deep freezer are dwindling, which means it's time for our garden to get back to work! Too bad our garden beds looked like this, before we got an additional 6 inches of snow:

 There's garlic somewhere under all that snow!

 I'm trying to envision end of August tomatoes here.

We've been doing our best to eat up our bumper crop of butternut squash, and while we're overwhelmed with the quantity, we are not in the least ungrateful. This squash has been eaten simply roasted with a bit of butter and brown sugar, made into hearty soups and comforting sweet breads. 

Today we all stayed home due to the snow, and I made a big batch of simple puréed veggie soup.
It turned out so smooth, flavorful, and tasted wonderful with a chunk of Beer Bread

I started by roasting de-seeded squash in the oven with an inch or so of water.

This is what's left after scooping the flesh from the skins

Diced onions, carrots and celery and simmered them in 3 cups bone broth and 3 cups water

Puréed the veggies before adding the mashed butternut squash, then added one oz. of my preserved garden basil/oregano/garlic in oil

It's a good start to a long year of preserving our food, God willing.

Today's Butternut Squash Batch:

3 cups Turkey stock
Enough water to get a good consistency. I started with 3 cups and kept adding here and there
1 bag carrots
5 stalks celery
4 small white onions
2 large squash, 2 small
1oz pesto with no nuts
Salt to taste

I'm linking to:

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Catching a Fireplace Squirrel the Stupid Way

So, we had a visitor. He landed with a THUD in our fireplace a few days ago, and I thought it was a bird who was able to fly back out. He seemed to fly straight back up and we didn't hear a peep since. Until this morning. 

A quick google search told me to climb onto the roof to run a length of rope down the chimney for him to climb up. Yeah... not happening. We considered borrowing a small live animal trap from a friend, but I wanted to start a toasty fire yesterday! 

The squirrel was probably hungry, dehydrated and tired, because he let us catch him very easily. I placed a cardboard box with a stale piece of bread and peanut butter into the fireplace and we waited.

Excuse the crummy iPhone photo. See the small box on the left in the fireplace? Mr squirrel is climbing the grate on the upper right hand side.

The squirrel got curious and went into the box. To our surprise, he stayed in the box while my husband grabbed my favorite funky retro blanket that some great aunt crocheted 30 years ago. The squirrel barely made a fuss while we covered up the box and tossed it outside - he must have been pretty worn out from his ordeal.

Out ran the squirrel to his freedom into more than a foot of snow. That got our hearts pumping this morning! But seriously, don't do what we did. I'm shocked we don't have a squirrel loose in the house at the moment.

Have you had any exciting visitors this winter?

I'm linking to:

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Thankful for Snow Days

I'm thankful for the smell of warm beer bread on a cold night...

Which turned into an amazing breakfast before yesterday's storm, toasted and slathered with honey butter.

I'm thankful for all our firewood (chopped from our old storm toppled trees) in case we lose power.

Today I'm thankful for my husband staying home and safe for the storm.

 I'm thankful for a peaceful household, filled with my two favorite people tonight.

I'm thankful for our outing (five minute walk) last night in the snow storm...

For friends worth shuffling through foot deep snow for.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Honeycomb Socks

One of my goals at the beginning of the year was to read at least one book a month (last month I read three), and to knit at least one pair of socks every month. It's part of my grand scheme to hold on to what's left of my brains, and to make more/buy less. This pattern in these colors reminds me of honey comb (mmm, homesteading dreams)

Here's January's socks:

Toe up knee high socks - perfect size for my five year old!

She loves them and wouldn't take them off, even when she got way overheated.

Even on a smaller scale, knee high socks are an exercise in patience.

The bright colors and the honeycomb-like pattern have me itching for spring. I can't wait to see those bees buzzing around my flowers!

I'm linking to:

Homemade Deodorant for Delicate Armpits

After making my own deodorant last month and raving about it to my mom, she asked me to make her some. I had about 1/2 a container's worth left over from my batch, so I gave it to her to try out. Unfortunately, after a week of use she suddenly developed an itchy rash! 

Uh oh... I know I fudged with the ingredients a bit by using scented baby powder instead of corn starch, and probably used too much essential oil perfume. I've also read that baking soda can be irritating.

 But it's been working great for me! And might I say, my armpit hair is quite luxurious these days.

How I changed the recipe for my mom's delicate armpits:

I started off by eliminating the essential oil perfume. I know anything strongly scented can be irritating, so I thought about what I had available to substitute. I remembered that I had leaves in the freezer from our chocolate-mint plant that we had planned to use for tea. Perfect!

I warmed up coconut oil and cocoa butter (to help the deodorant stay a bit more solid) on the stove and steeped the chocolate-mint leaves. I instantly regretted not saving some of the mint for a cup of tea!

After the oil was smelling really good (I'm talking Andes mints, here) I took it off the burner and pressed all the oil out of the leaves.

Once the oil had cooled, I added just a splash of sweet almond oil and then stirred in plain corn starch. This mixture is so light and fluffy compared to the slightly oily/gritty texture of my first deodorant.

I nuked it just a bit so it would pour easily and poured it in an old, cleaned out deodorant tube.

If I had been a little more patient while pouring, it would have been prettier with no bubbles, but oh well.

Here's what I did this time:

5 parts Coconut Oil
1 part Cocoa Butter
Chocolate-Mint leaves (or other garden herbs), steeped and removed
Splash Sweet Almond Oil
After steeping, measure out 6 tablespoons of the prepared oils
1/2 cup Corn Starch

Slather it on and enjoy! My one day trial (from a bit of extra) confirms this batch is awesome and has a very nice, subtle fragrance.

I'm linking to:
 Homestead Barn Hop

Saturday, February 1, 2014

A Look Back at January

This is the first of twelve posts to keep track of what I'd hoped to accomplish each month this year to keep myself accountable. This involved things like reading more, knitting more, more homemade and expanding the garden and getting healthier.

What I read:
War Brides by Helen Bryan
The Preacher's Bride by Jody Hedlund
Things I Learned from Knitting by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

Yes, I chick-lit it up. Next month I'll probably do the same.

What I knitted:
January socks: Knee high toe up socks for little girl. Pattern adapted from Circle Socks


Hibernating this month, but our seeds arrived!

Well being:
Got Kiddo in a great preschool
Quit a terrible job
Will be starting a new job in early February


Started keeping a daily journal to keep track of chores

Started some major de-cluttering and working to keep the house in better shape

Getting healthier:
Whoops. Things have been stressful, y'all.