Makin’ Soap/Savin’ money

So, the other day I had the opportunity to watch my friend make soap from scratch using the cold-process method.  This means that she takes fats (i.e. coconut oil, palm oil, vegetable oil), combines them with lye/water mixture, and saponification (the process by which soap is made) occurs.  Fascinated by the process, but not brave enough to work with lye, I looked at different ways to make homemade soap.

One method, which I can’t wait to try, is called hand-milled soap.  You buy a plain white bar of soap (and it MUST say soap on the package, otherwise it’s actually detergent!), you grate it up, mix it with a little water, add your own ingredients such as essential oils, etc., and then pour it into molds.  It is ready to use pretty much as soon as it cools, unlike cold-process soap which takes several weeks to properly cure.  Plus, you don’t have to deal with lye.  I mean, after all, I am a person who frequently falls down stairs and trips over her own feet.  Handling a caustic chemical probably isn’t the best decision for me!

Anyway, the other method I looked into was how to make your own liquid soap.  Since I had everything I needed to make this (soap and water), I decided to go with that.  So, here’s what you do:

How to make Liquid Soap

Now, I did not want to funk up my blender with soap bits, so I put the soap/water mix into a big Pyrex bowl, which I had set in a larger pot 1/2 filled with water on the stove (homemade double boiler).  To mix it up, I used the drink mixer attachment on my hand mixer.  You don’t want to try and do this with a spoon because it will take FOREVER for the soap to dissolve.  The only downside to using the mixer is that the soap mixture does get pretty sudsy, though this resolves a bit after it cools and rests.  My only mistake was not using a spatula to clean the sides of the bowl while I was mixing, thus, little annoying unmelted soap bits remained, so I seriously doubt it would work well in a pump!  BUT, that’s operator error.  Another thing you can do is grate the soap, then mix it with a cup or two of water and let it sit overnight to soften the soap really well so it will blend better.

Here’s my pictorial for y’all:

First, gather thy ingredients and supplies.  The soap is in the little plastic bowl.  I used 5 drops of tea tree and about 8 drops of tangerine oil, added at the last stage of the process, when the soap is completely dissolved and all water has been added.

Get your double boiler readyI used low heat.

Here is the soap after I have blended it just a bit.  You can see that it is still not well-dissolved, so back to the mixer for me.

The end product.  It will have the consistency of yogurt/pudding.  You don’t want it so thick it won’t work in the pump though.  After I stuck my hand in it, I realized there was still more clumps.  Boo hoo!

So there you go, yet another way to save some money!

Christmas in…September?

I don’t know what it is this year, but I’ve been thinking about Christmas (and looking forward to it) since August.  So much so that I have once again volunteered to host Christmas at my house again, even begging people to come.  What kind of whacko WANTS to host Christmas, with all of the cleaning, mess, and chaos?  Well, I guess that whacko would be ME.

So what is it that’s so alluring about Christmas?  Well, I guess it would have to be that many of my happiest memories happened at Christmas.  Like the time I got the Barbie when I was about 3 or 4 that had the ‘magic’ solution that would perm her hair.  I remember my eyes going wide as Barbie’s lovely long blond locks shrunk and curled up into an Afro so tight, it could have rivaled Roberta Flack.  Or the year Great Uncle I.B. pulled out his false teeth, and I clearly remember my revulsion.  Or maybe just being at Mamaw and Papaw’s, with Mamaw’s tree in the corner, adorned with handmade ornaments and the house being so full of people there wasn’t anywhere to go.  Or, the year that my mom put up the biggest Christmas tree I had seen (besides one in, oh, Times Square) and it was piled with glass ornaments, all in shades of gold, white, or iridescent pearl.  Coincidentally, that was also the year she nearly stabbed out her eye with one of the branches, and had to wear a huge eyepatch all holiday.  And, the year of the big ice storm in the 80’s that knocked out power for days, and all there was to do was sit in the living room under a blanket and listen to the sound of ice pellets bounce off of the roof. ,

I look forward to most everything about Christmas.  Some of my favorite things are; the food (duh), baking, looking at Christmas lights (even in the rain), wrapping presents, playing Santa, getting to see everyone in one place, and decorating my SIX Christmas trees.  I especially love Christmas lights.  The bright fuschia ones, for whatever reason, just about make me drool.  I don’t use any all-white lights on my trees; I love the rainbow of colored lights.

Can you remember the Christmas trees you had growing up?  I can.  For years, we had a “White Trash” tree, that is, one with a multitude of colored lights and nine zillion ornaments in nine zillion shapes and sizes.  I call ’em White Trash trees because it seems that MOST trees you see nowadays all have the white lights with cutesy coordinated ornaments.  Not mine, honey! I have TWO White Trash trees and they are adorned with about 400 ornaments each, some of which really aren’t even official ornaments, just cool stuff I stick in it.  Like the plastic uber-tacky Nativity scene with plastic donkeys and the tiny, plastic, molded little baby Jesus.  I can’t bring myself to get rid of it.  Or, the clothespin reindeer with googly eyes that my Mamaw probably made in the 70’s, or, the funky gold-glittered bird made out of clothespins that takes up a good 1/16th of the tree.  I also have two vintage aluminum trees (one is the ‘pompom’ variety), which I haven’t put out in a while due to my children consistently trying to rip the aluminum from the branches.

Anyway, I am ready for the madness and joy of the season!  Are you?

All good things…

…as they say, must come to an end.

I have never written a chicken obituary/memorial before, but I figured that I owe one to this particular bird.  The other day, as we were coming home, Jason spotted a familiar chicken that we all know and love….in the middle of the road.  Quite flat, actually.  I am glad I did not see it.

It was not THE Wayward Jones, but rather her sister, who apparently, even though she was warned of the dangers of hitchhiking and living loosely, still ventured too close to the road.  I COULD mention the age-old joke here…but out of respect, I won’t theorize why the chicken crossed the road.  Actually, now I suppose we’ll never know.  Anyway, Ms. Jones was interred September 17th, 2010.  Casseroles, chicken scratch, and donations to P.A.R.C. (Persons Against Runaway Chickens) will be accepted.

In other news, it is finally cooling down enough that I have made progress around the farm.  Tonight, we have been working on adding a top to the chicken yard.  A couple of weeks ago, I found the headless body of one of my barred Rock hens, which is indicative of a raccoon murder.  Let me say here that I do not like raccoons.  Sure, they may look all cute and fuzzy, what with their little people-like hands, thick fluffy coat, and ringed tail.  But behind their mask lies a cold-blooded serial killer.  Let’s not mince words here.  I won’t go into detail about what I would like to do to the ‘coon, lest you think I am just a cruel person.  So, to avoid further bloodshed, particularly for the ‘coon, we are putting a ‘lid’ on the outdoor run out of wire.

I have been lazy in my garden.  I haven’t pulled weeds in weeks and haven’t really cared to.  Jason made the comment the other day, “Nice bed of Bermuda you’re growing here.”  I couldn’t argue.  If I were TRYING to grow Bermuda, it couldn’t have looked much better than the thick, jungle carpet that has now dominated my old lettuce patch.  BUT, now is the time to plant, so I hope to take new pics and show you what will be in store for winter.  I am planning on having a really kick-butt winter garden this year, mainly by really utilizing row covers and my chenilles.

In farmhouse news, it’s really nothing new.  Please, please, please, if you do repairs on your house, have them (or do them) professionally.  And for crying out loud, please don’t use the cheapest parts you can buy.  Our poor heat pump/blower was apparently brought over on the Ark, and probably the same model used by the ancient Egyptians.  Ok, maybe those time periods don’t coincide.  Whatever, you get the picture.  Our kitchen faucet is leaky, the kitchen sink is made out of white plastic (what masochist picked THAT out???) and the supposedly new septic tank is overflowing.  Not complaining, just venting.  Anyhoo, it boils down to I am about to have to spend a good chunk o’ change to have a new heatpump installed, so that we don’t freeze to death this year.  I mean, last year, our house was at 58 degrees.  I’m sorry, but I don’t care to live in a meat locker.  Thank the Good Lord for all my quilts.  I looked like some sort of strange chrysalis all winter last year, wrapped in about 14 quilts, along with thermal underwear, a full set of clothes and 2 layers of socks.  I didn’t go anywhere without my throng of quilts.  THIS YEAR (I’m pulling a total Scarlett O’Hara here), with God as my witness, I will not freeze again!  We are going to insulate the house.  I hope they blow 5 feet of insulation in the attic.  I want so much insulation, it is scraping the rafters.  I want so much that it is spilling out of every vent and pore of this house.  I can’t say enough about good insulation.

I think I will end my post here.  Hopefully, next go ’round I will have some sort of interesting pictures for you all.