What Do We Value?

Last weekend, a replica of an historic covered bridge was destroyed by an arsonist. I live in Madison County Iowa, the home of several historic covered bridges and they’re kind of a big deal here. This bridge was actually a replica of one that had been destroyed by arson about a decade or so ago. Our law enforcement community has made two arrests and I’m sure they are continuing their investigation.

While I am deeply saddened by the Cedar Bridge burning, this has made me even more painfully aware of how much our society values things over people. Everyday I work with victims of sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect, domestic violence. The perpetrators of these crimes seldom see much for jail time. Slaps on the wrist are quite common. Meanwhile their victims are stripped of their innocence, their dignity, their sense of worth and sometimes their long-term well being.

I often wonder how a society that values things over people can possibly endure. When a person who cheats on taxes receives more prison time than a person who rapes his child isn’t there something wrong? When a person who burns a bridge receives more jail time than someone who perpetrates domestic violence for years on his partner and his children does, it cements the notion that children are not valued, women are not valued. Things are valued.

When I hear that it will cost a million dollars to rebuild a replicated bridge, I wonder how far that million dollars would go in this county to provide desperately needed mental health services.

I do think people need to be held accountable for what they do. Please don’t hear otherwise. I’m proud of the law enforcement community for their quick and thorough response to this crime. They’re pretty amazing! (I may be a little biased.)

I am very conflicted though. I have read through many many posts and comments seeing rage and hate and desire to see just punishment. A seventeen year old and a twenty five year sentence. Tomorrow I’ll be face to face I’m sure with any number of perpetrators from whom I need to protect a precious child and there will be no outcry and no sentencing and my heart will continue to question our priorities.

Happy Valentines Day or Singles Awareness Day…whichever suits

Today is the day of obligatory and goofy demonstrations of proclaimed love. “Be Mine” stuck on all shades of pink and red are all over the place. Flower stores are booming and the chocolate factories? Well, Willy Wonka hits it big time today. No figures are in just yet.

I’m married and have been for a billion years. We’re not romantic. I will not get flowers on this day or chocolates.

What I do get, though, is a man who throughout the year is faithful to me and to his kids. I get a man who has worked two jobs most of our married life, who makes sure my car has oil in it and who leaves the porch light on when I come home later than he.

That trumps chocolates any day of the year.

On this day of smoochy, fluffy love stuff, I do want to make a point, though. If you’re going to tell someone that you love them, say it like you mean it. Say, “I love you.”

Try it.

It means so much more than “Love ya.” Because “Love ya,” if you think about it comes with a bit less commitment.

I just think that if you’re going to make a statement about love, make the complete statement. Be completely invested. Be totally in. All the way.

I love you.

Those words coming from your lips should make a difference to whomever the target may be

So go ahead. Try it.

I. Love. You.

Coffee Soap Tutorial

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I love making soap. There. I said it.

Again.

I really do like making soap, and I enjoy learning how to do new things. So, years ago, when my friend Becky helped me learn this art form or science or craft…whatever you want to call it, I was opened to a world of new ideas! It has been very satisfying to me.

There are a couple of recipes I have developed that are mainstays in my home. Coffee soap is one that I have used for years. This soap is wonderful to have in the kitchen or  the bathroom. When I first learned the recipe, the blogger touted that it would take smells out like magic. Smells like onion, gas, etc. Well, I believed her, but my husband didn’t, until the day he was changing the fuel filter on the car and ended up getting soaked with gas.

I asked him if he wanted the soap, and he scoffed politely and explained he had his favorite leprechaun soap and that would do.

Well, it didn’t do. He still reeked of gas.

He then asked me for my coffee soap, which I gladly shared, and we were both surprised at how well it worked. The gas smell vanished.

I tried not to gloat.

I always have a bar next to my sink. I love how it works for cleaning my hands from working in the garden to peeling onions. It’s easy on my skin, and the coffee grounds in the soap make a great exfoliate.

If you have never made cold process soaps before, you may want to read up on the process. I learned from sites like Kathy Miller’s Soap Making Site, Mountain Majestic Sage and Soapmaking Resource. These sites offer so much wisdom and many many tutorials that are far superior to mine. 😉

But let’s get started, shall we?

Ingredients:

  • 18 oz. olive oil
  • 1 cup coffee beans (broken up a bit)
  • 6 oz. Soybean Oil (Crisco is mostly soybean oil!)
  • 9 oz. coconut oil
  • 4.5 oz. lye
  • 12.3 oz very strong brewed coffee that is cold. Do not use hot coffee.
  • 1/2 tsp. ground walnut hull (optional)
  • 1 tbls. coffee grounds

Step One: Infuse Coffee into the Olive Oil

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There are a couple ways of doing this. One is for people who live life without planning ahead a lot. Like, if you wake up on a Saturday and decide that you’re going to make coffee soap, then you’ll want to put about a cup of coffee beans that are broken up a bit into the olive oil you’ll use for your soap. Put the oil and coffee beans either in a crock pot or in a stainless steel pot on the stove. Make sure it’s on low heat. Let the oil heat and you’re done when it looks like your oils are the color of really really dark coffee.

Personally, I like to put the oil and coffee  in a crock pot on a Friday night and let it heat through the night on low. Then I know most of the goody is out of the coffee beans by morning!

Sometimes people who are good at planning will decide that they are going to make coffee soap in a couple of weeks, and so they put the oil and coffee beans in a quart jar and let them sit covered for a couple of weeks. I’ve heard that works well, too.

When the oil appears dark, just strain the coffee beans out of the oil.

Step 2: Mix lye solution

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Weigh out 12.3 oz of COLD strong coffee (I triple brew mine) into a mason jar or other strong glass jar.

Carefully and slowly pour the lye into the coffee. Remember to stir carefully. Many people wear goggles and plastic gloves. It’s a great idea to think of safety!!!

I usually leave the jar in the kitchen sink or at least in a bowl so that if the glass cracks or if there is a spill, no one will get injured. I always crack my kitchen window a bit as well. There is nothing good about breathing lye solution!

Lye is serious business, but with safety precautions, there is no need to be afraid to try your hand at making cold process soaps!

Step 3: Melt your oils!

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Weigh out all of your oils. In a stainless steel pan, melt the oils on low heat. Some people use a double boiler. I do not have one, so I just use low heat. I’ve never had problems with this.  Be sure that you use a nice stainless steel or enamel pan. Aluminum reacts with lye and you will have a mess on your hands if you use aluminum. Once your oils have melted, remove from heat.

Step 4: Wait

Now is the time you can do laundry, or vacuum the living room, or read to your children or watch a movie or weed flowers. This takes a while. The oils and the lye need to cool. There are some folk who believe that the oils and lye need to be at certain temperatures before you mix them.

Meh.

Here’s what I do. When I am able to put my hand comfortably on the containers of the lye and oils, they are cool enough to mix. Give them a good hour or hour and a half, though before you do this, because the containers will be very hot right away.

Step 5: Mix the lye into the oil.

Pour the lye CAREFULLY into the oils. I use a stainless steel whisk to mix the oils and lye. Very carefully stir the mixture until the oil and lye are completely mixed. Please remember that this mixture is very caustic. You will want to protect your skin and your eyes. Many people wear rubber gloves and goggles during this step.

Once the oils and lye are well mixed, I usually switch to a stick blender. You don’t need a stick blender, of course, but it speeds up te process considerably.

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Whether you use a stick blender or good old fashioned elbow grease, the mixture needs to be constantly stirred at this stage. You will see the amazing saponification process happening right before your very eyes! You will continue to stir until it gets thick. Kind of like when you know pudding is ready.

This is called “trace”.

Step 6: Add coffee grounds and black walnut powder.

Stir with your whisk to make sure the powder and the grounds are completely mixed throughout the soap. Your mixture should be a pretty dark color.

Step 7: Pour soap into prepared molds.

011I bought this wooden mold from Soap Making Resource and my dear husband has also made some for me. This particular mold holds 2 pounds of oils. Some people use shoe boxes, Velveeta boxes, empty milk cartons, round pvc pipe,  etc.   Whatever you use, you will want to line your mold with either wax paper, freezer paper or plastic wrap. I personally like the papers because they don’t get as wrinkly, and you can cut them to size more easily. Whatever you choose, make sure that your mold is lined, or you will have difficulty getting the soap out of your mold.

To make the soaps all fancy schmancy, you can add some coffee beans to the top of the soaps if you want.

Step 8: Insulate your mold.

I simply put a lid on my mold and then wrap the mold in a towel. I put it on the counter where it shouldn’t be bothered.

Step 9: Wait. Again.

Usually, once the soap is wrapped up, it will go through another process of remelting. This is important in the chemical process of saponification, I think. If you keep it good and insulated, the curing process is much shorter I’ve found. It’s really hard for me to leave it be, but if you can do it, I think you’ll be happier with your soap.

After 12 hours or so, you will want to check on your soap. If it is hard, it’s time to remove it from the mold. If it is not, wrap it back up and wait some more. Some people are able to wait 24 hours to check on their soaps. I’ve never met someone like that, but I’ve heard they do exist.

Step 10: Cut the soap in to bars and then wait some more.

Once you remove the soap from the mold, carefully cut the soap into the size of bar you want. Put the bars in a place where they can cure. I usually have mine cure about 2 to 3 weeks. Some wait much longer than that. Curing the bars does a couple of things. 1. The longer the bars cure, the harder they usually become because the water evaporates, and 2. curing completes the saponification process, which is what chemically converts the lye and fats into soap!

You may want to read this page, Soap Testing for Safety. It’s a great resource. Basically, you want to make sure that there is no free lye in your soaps.

Lye will hurt you.

Some people do the ‘tongue test’. They put their tongue on the soap and if it ‘bites’ they know that it’s not ready. Others use Phenolphthalein. When I’ve used this, I usually scratch the surface of the soap and then place a drop of the phenolphthalein on that spot. If it is clear or a very light pink, the soap is okay for use. If it is a dark pink, there is still excess lye and should cure some more.

Step 11: Lather Up!!

Good luck with your soap making. Please let me know how it works for you!! Leave me a link in the comment section to your blog! I LOVE to see what others are up to!

I linked this post to the following blogs! Check them out!

52 Mantles Frugal by choice

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Almost done stuff!

It seems my whole life is one big project that is in the process of getting completed! We have our undone house, I have a couple of undone quilts, undone reports for work. You know, the usual. I’m kind of glad that I keep this blog, though, because it does journal that occassionally I DO finish something.

Today, though, I’m going to spotlight a few of my undone projects.

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Orange Cleaner

This is all over Pinterest right now, and since I love using vinegar for my cleaning solution, I thought I’d give this a go. I just stuffed orange rinds in a mason jar and filled with vinegar. I love the antique lid. I found a bunch of those at a garage sale!!

Most of the posts I’ve read say to let it sit for a couple of weeks. It’s so bright and cheery on my counter these gloomy winter days!

I’ve had the orange rinds soaking for a couple of days now, and had to take a sniff today. There is still a fairly strong vinegar odor or fragrance…however you would describe it, but I can already smell the orange. Lovely.

Extracting the orange this way would certainly be a lot cheaper than buying orange essential oil. Some of the bloggers I’ve read use any citrus rind.

I am adding lemons, limes and grapefruit to my shopping list.

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I found this incredibly soft yarn at Hancocks Fabrics last week when I was there for buttons. Didn’t really find the buttons I liked, but I DID find this beautiful yarn from Bernat. It’s called ‘Pipsqueak’, and I’ve got to admit that while I was holding this yarn, I felt compelled to stroke it and sing “Soft Kitty”.                                                  

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This is one of those yarns that makes it incredibly hard to see your stitches, so I decided to do just a simple double crochet stitch throughout the blanket. The soft purples, lavenders and greens are varigated, so I really don’t need any fancy schmancy stitches to make this wonderful.

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I’m just on the third row so far,  and am really happy with how it is turning out. It is so soft! I will post a tutorial later. I just thought I’d give you a look see!

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Placemats

I found this placemat during one of my Goodwill shopping days. It was too nice to pass up, although I doubt I would ever use this as a placemat. I WOULD like to make this in to a purse, though. I haven’t figured it out completely, but the idea is swirling around in my head. I probably won’t get to that until I get the floor laid in my craft room, but that will be a few days yet, so I’m not holding my breath.

 

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Aquarium

My husband gave me a 55 gallon aquarium for Christmas. Right now I have a little 10 gallon one that I enjoy in my living room; this little guy is one of my favorites. He just

 gets so excited when it’s time to eat! His aquarium mates are beautiful glofish, but I couldn’t get a non blurry picture of them!

I am researching and learning more than I ever knew about fish and how to take care of them. Once we get our family room done (it’s almost there!) I will build the stand for the big ole thing and then we’ll get started on our aquarium journey. I’ve heard it’s addicting. I’m hoping by the end of February I will be ready to buy fish!

 Take a minute to let me know what you’re up to. Leave a comment in down below and put a link to YOUR favorite project! I love seeing what other people are doing that is creative!! I get so inspired!

Sanitize Without Hurting Your Health

Seems like everyone is getting hit with this horrid flu bug this year. Along with a sick house comes the need to clean and sanitize to get rid of the nasties. Before you reach for chlorine bleach and other horrid ‘cleaning’ products, do some research on how nasty they are for you. You may be amazed that what you thought was healthy cleaning, is in fact putting your family’s health in greater danger!

I quit using bleach and other harsh cleaners and cleaning sprays years ago. When I started using white vinegar and essential oils such as tea tree oil, I felt better, and it seemed that my family’s health responded in a positive way.

ImageHere’s what I do:

  • get a nice spray bottle
  • put in a cup of white vinegar
  • 1 capful tea tree essential oil
  • between 1 tsp and 1 tbls. lemongrass essential oil (this makes everything smell wonderful)
  • a drop or two of Dawn dish soap
  • fill the bottle with clean water

You will probably want to shake this every time you use it, because the oils separate. In a sick house, you will want to wash down everything in sight. I just cringe when I hear people say they are going to clean with bleach and spray cleaners!! Those chemicals are just so bad for a body!!

For more cleaning tips using vinegar, go to Vinegar Tips.

Stay Well!

A Flexible Day

One of the drawbacks of my job is that I must often work long, late hours. Like everyone, our budgets are tight where I work and overtime is not allowed. So, unless we want to donate hours and hours and hours of time, we need to flex our time during our pay periods. This is one of the parts of my job that I love. Taking some time off during the week seems to go a lot farther in reducing stress for me than having a weekend!

Today is one of those lovely days. I’m sitting here in my pajamas and it’s almost 10 in the morning! :::sigh::: While I don’t really have a to do list, there are a couple of things I’d like to do today: I already made ciabatta bread for supper tonight, and I want to finish the vests I started for my son. Doesn’t that sound like a wonderful day??

Yes. I think so too.

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You’ve probably seen this recipe all over Pinterest. I know I found it some time ago, but I do love this bread as a side for homemade

Basically, you just put 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon yeast, 2 cups of water and 4 cups of flour and mix. Put it in a covered bowl for 8 to 12 hours. Then put on a baking sheet and bake in a hot oven. soup. I found the recipe first on http://www.lifehackers.com. They have all kinds of wonderful great ideas!

Can’t get much easier than that! Some people have been putting this recipe in a cast iron dutch oven, and I can’t find mine. Who loses a cast iron dutch oven. Good grief. But I DID find a stainless steel roasting pot in the very back of my cabinet, so I’m going to try that.

I’ll let you know how that turns out.

After getting that set aside, I realized that to really make the bread special, I needed a soup to go with it. Here’s what I came up with for today:

wpid-2013-01-17_12-58-00_669.jpgI browned a pound of ground beef seasoned with garlic powder, cayenne powder, chili powder, hot paprika, onion a little salt and some pepper. I like stuff hot, so I go a little overboard on the cayenne, chili and paprika! I drained the hamburger, then put the meat in the crock pot and to that I added 1/4 cup spelt, 1/4 cup split peas, 1/4 cup barley and 1/2 cup of brown rice. Then I added hot water and a can of tomatoes with green chilis. I chopped up a bunch of carrots and then added frozen green beans, corn and peas mix. I took a little out for lunch. It’s yummy.

Back to the time off during the week. Please be kind to yourself. Give yourself a break. Find some time that you can just relax and enjoy your thoughts. Pretty please?

 

Those Who Go Before Us

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I ran across this cartoon on Facebook, and it touched me. (I have no clue to whom the credits are due.) Memories of those wonderful people who have gone on before me, waft in and out of my mind throughout the year, but during the Christmas season, it seems like there is just this barrage of memories that assault me. So many of the traditions we follow each year have threads of these precious folk woven through them.

Through this barrage of memories, it could be easy to get wrapped up in the sadness and stay in that dream world.

Traditions – if we let them – can serve as a type of Balm for healing, I think. Remembering what those precious folk taught us and meant to us and lived for can spur us on to continue on, live in joy, keep the faith. Traditions can also keep us trapped in the past. I guess it’s important to learn when to embrace tradition and when to let go and begin new ones.

May your Christmas past be a Balm of healing memories so that your  Christmas present is joyful and strong and you make way for your Christmas future!!

What traditions do you have that bring peace to you at Christmas?

Thoughtful Thursday – Broken Needles

I recently purchased a new sewing machine and I LOVE it! One of the features that caught my eye when I was looking at different reviews was this machine’s ability to sew through thick layers of fabric. I clicked the purchase button!

I’ve been pretty pleased with my sewing machine, but soon started breaking needles when sewing through the thicker fabrics. Like LOTS of needles. I have to admit that I wondered if I made a mistake in choosing this particular machine, thinking that perhaps someone exaggerated a bit. It works great for the most part, though, so I thought that I would have to just give up my idea of sewing bags made out of denim and other thicker fabrics. Certainly not the end of the world, but disappointing none the less.

I had an epiphany last week, though, that makes a lot of sense. I made a bag from reclaimed jeans and rag rug. (Yes, you WILL see pictures.) No broken needles. I spent the day gusseting and seaming to my heart’s content – until I broke two needles. I didn’t understand how I had spent all day sewing through layers of denim and rag rug with no issues only to start breaking and bending needles again. What had changed?

Turns out that when the needles break I am usually trying to sew fast. I am a little impatient. Which is why I can never figure out knitting…it takes too long, but sometimes I get distracted and tend to push too much fabric too fast. (Who am I kidding? I’m distracted all the time!). This is a no brainer, I know, but as long as I keep the speed to a steady pace, the machine does fine.

And this is when I had the epiphany…something usually breaks in ME when I spend the days rushing through trying to push many different layers through as quickly as possible. Something (or someone) will take the brunt of my crazy busy days and that stress will weaken or even break something important in me.

That made me think about my life a bit. Slow and steady wins the race, sometimes. I need to prioritize and make some decisions about what is truly important in my life. I need to also understand that I am human. Very human.

And humans have limitations.

I cannot be everything to everyone and I am pretty powerless to change a lot of things – like adding more hours to a day or more days to a week. I need to operate how I was made to operate, and not try to push so much through at a time, and I think when I accomplish this, I will find real freedom.

Because I will be operating the way I was made to operate and it turns out that I’m a human being – not a human doing.

Thoughtful Thursday (A Plan and Encouragement)

I love writing. I always have.

I used to write letters all the time. I think I kept USPS from the brink of bankruptcy, actually. Something happened, though, when my son died that made letter writing difficult; I’m sure some psychologist somewhere would be able to explain why to me, but after Ben’s death, letter writing was just not on my radar.

Although I never did recoup my letter writing fervor, I continued writing using newsletters and blogs as my venue. Then I became a social worker. Naturally through the course of my job, I write days and days and days worth of reports and I’ve got to admit, that type of writing and the focus of the work I do seem to suck the creative side of my brain right out of my head.

And a lop-sided head means no joy for me.

A couple of years ago, I made an effort to bring some creativity back in my life. I realized that to go through life seeing ugly things and working with crisis and drama and trauma every single day all the time without an end in sight was not good. You’ve seen a lot of what I’ve been crafting and thinking about crafting throughout these last  months.

That has been good, but not quite enough.

I need to write.

I want to show (off) my crafts and crafty-ideas.

I’ve decided that I’m going to try to organize my blogging attempts to 1) be more consistent in posting, and 2) be more organized in how I post. I need a little more consistency and organization in my life!

Welcome, Thoughtful Thursday! On Thursdays I will post writings that are more thoughtful, encouraging and spiritual. I am usually mulling over ideas throughout the week, and it would benefit me to write those ideas down. Maybe someone might get encouraged by it. Maybe not. But I have given you a head’s up!

I love hearing from readers! Let me know what YOU’RE thinking and up to!

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