10 Things I Wouldn’t Do Again in my Garden: Number One


Number One: I would never plant ditch lilies again!

Back in the day I received a bunch of day lilies from a friend and given my financial state, I was especially grateful for the gift. I planted them in a thin line along the perimeter of my garden, thinking they would be a nice border. My idea was to create a flowing stream of lilies. It was very pretty. For the first two or three years.


And then they multiplied.

IMG_2581Like a lot.

I had more lilies than I knew what to do with, so I dug up a bunch and thought I’d make an attempt to  extend my line of ditch lilies to create a backdrop of the garden that ran along the sidewalk. I really don’t know what I was thinking, but that year it looked GREAT!

What happened the following year still doesn’t make sense to me, but I have named it “The Year of the Ditch Lily” because it was THAT year that those lilies multiplied like rabbits. I had ditch lilies coming up everywhere. What had previously been a nice flowing stream of lilies throughout my garden was now gorging swell nearly overtaking everything I ever planted. I dug up tons of these lilies, shared them with friends, loaded some in our ditch where they could happily reproduce unfettered and some were, sadly placed in my compost. When these efforts didn’t work to control the lily population, I dropped the R-bomb on them (Roundup) and placed a layer of cardboard followed by landscape fabric and river rock.

IMG_0005That was about 5 years ago. I STILL have lilies that have poked their heads through! They are tough.

So, I guess I really should not say I’d NEVER plant ditch lilies again. I mean. I love them. I do love their tenaciousness and I love the orange flower they poke up. I also love the way the leaves gracefully dance in the breeze. I have just started putting them where I don’t mind their procreation efforts. ❤




A Great Day Planned


blog 011So, it’s six o’clock on a Saturday morning. I’m waiting for my coffee to get done and I’m planning a GREAT day!! I am GOING to complete my craft room. It’s got to happen, because I just can’t stand this:

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anymore!! Plus I have blankets for three precious babes to get done, and I can’t possibly work when I have no room to do so.

Okay, who am I kidding? I know I have family reading this blog and they might call me out if I try to make people think I’m some great housekeeper or something. The last picture is how my craft room always looks, which is why I decided to change it. I have GREAT organizational skills. I do. They just usually lie latent somewhere under a pile of fabric.

I didn’t take a before picture of my craft room, because, well…I would be horrified to have all that public. 🙂 But, what I CAN tell you is that the whole wall of shelving I put up a couple of years ago held a LOT of stuff. Seriously. See picture number 2 and picture number 3. All of that is from one wall of shelves.

I’ve been contemplating how I could make this little room work better for me. Then I realized that my husband has been hoarding our old kitchen/bathroom cupboards out in the garage. So, I gave it my best shot, and explained my plan. And wouldn’t you know, the man braved the cold and dug out the cupboards from the garage! Here’s the beginning:

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We took the hodge podge assortment of cupboards I had available to me and hung them on the wall. Some were hung the normal way, and then some we hung horizontally. No matter what combination we came up with, we always had an uneven top. So I have an idea for that, too. (You’ll have to wait and see.)

Please notice the pretty laminate flooring my dear husband finished up for me as well as the nice trim!!  He did that the day the kids and I went to the movies. It’s better that way, trust me.

When I was trying to figure out how to make better use of my craft room, I realized that one of the issues I have is that I have craft ADHD. While some people quilt, or sew or crochet or craft, I do everything  and seldom finish anything. The table that I used in my sewing room might one day have sewing stuff the next day have glue or on some days both!

So, I got another idea. I know my husband wishes I would get ideas that didn’t involve him, but this idea is really a good one, I think.

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While digging through the garage, we found a corner cupboard that was in good shape, so we brought that into the house and installed it in the opposite side of the room. Under that corner cupboard, I have asked my husband to put in a triangle piece of plywood to serve as my table. He doesn’t think it will look good, but I have another idea. 😉 But that will probably be next weekend. Anyway, that will serve as my sewing table.

I haven’t decided how I will do the craft table, but it will be on the other side of the room. Hopefully, by organizing this way, I will be able to keep major mess to a minimum.  Quit laughing.

Today’s agenda:

  1. Sand cupboards
  2. Spray paint inside of cupboards to seal them up.
  3. Paint outside of cupboards
  4. Paint trim.
  5. Pass out from physical labor.

My hope for you is that you are able to shed the stress from the week, too!! What’s on YOUR agenda today?

You might want to check out these link parties! GREAT ideas on them!

Little House in the Suburbs

Frugal by choice

Coffee Soap Tutorial



I love making soap. There. I said it.


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?


  • 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


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



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!


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.


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.


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


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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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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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.


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?


Snow Days! (Pudding, Bath Fizzies and Aromatherapy)


We live out in the county in the middle of Iowa. When there is a blizzard, we can be pretty sure that we will be snowed in for a little bit. I have always enjoyed the snow days. Back when we homeschooled, snow days were those that my husband would have to spend the evenings in town, since he is an emergency worker. On those days, the kids would play for hours outside, coming in for homemade hot cocoa, snow ice cream and homemade pudding! I loved them!!

Today, we’re in the middle of a blizzard. I’ve been busy. It’s just Abe and me at home, since the others are all grown up, but we are sticking to some traditions. He’s not going out to play in the snow today, but we did have some homemade chocolate pudding!! I came up with a great recipe today! Creamy, yummy goodness!!

Chocolate Pudding2012-12-20_11-51-48_425

4 cups of milk

2 eggs

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup cocoa

1/4 cup corn starch

2 tbls butter

Add the 2 eggs to the milk and beat with a whisk until frothy and eggs completely whipped            into the milk. Set aside. In a sauce pan, add dry ingredients and mix well.  Add the milk and      egg mixture slowly, stirring carefully with a whisk. Turn the heat on to medium heat. Whisk the mixture continuously until it has thickened then add the butter and whisk until it has mixed through the pudding well. Pour in to bowls.

We like to eat it hot because it’s so yummy!!

So with full, warm tummies we go about our business, Abe and I.  He to work on his music and me to play with my crafts. I wanted to make some aromatherapy products for gifts this year, so I’ve been looking through the Internet and Pinning to my heart’s content! I found a Bath Fizzies recipe from Martha Stewart. So far, I have been very happy with them.

2012-12-20_11-10-51_360 Bath Fizzies (From Martha’s site)

 “1.Sift 1 3/4 cup baking soda, 1 cup citric acid, and 2 cups cornstarch through a sieve to remove chunks.    To make different tints, fill small spritzer bottles with water and add about 6 drops of food coloring to each.

2. Pour 1 cup of powdered mixture into a glass bowl. Lightly spritz, stirring after each spritz, until powder is desired color. Add water slowly, so mixture does not fizz. If mixing two tints, alternate colors as you spritz. Check the consistency of powder with your fingers; when it can be tightly packed or shaped, stop spritzing (this may take a little while).

3. Select an essential oil. Add 5 drops if it’s one of the stronger scents (peppermint, lavender), 6 if it’s a weaker one (lemon, grapefruit). Mix well. Firmly pack mixture into small baking molds. We used 1/4 cup for each fizzy, which is good for one bath. Allow mixture to set for 2 hours, then pop out carefully. Repeat with different tints for remaining powder.”

I read that some people were having difficulty getting their Fizzies from crumbling when they removed them from the molds. I found that the bigger molds worked the best (I used a bundt cup cake pan). The fizzies I made in smaller cutsie molds fell apart easily. Here’s what to keep in mind:

  1. Pack the mixture in tight. I used my hands, and then used a glass and pressed on the mixture even more.
  2. Use about 1/4 cup of mixture in each bundt cupcake hole. Perfect size for one bath.
  3. I think the 6 drops of essential oil per one cup of mixture works great.
  4. I found that the mixture that stayed in the molds longer had more trouble coming out of the molds.

Another aromatherapy project I worked on today is roll on massage oil. I have been reading a lot about aromatherapy. There are tons of websites available that talk about how to blend essential oils. One book I particularly like is500 Formulas for Aromatherapy: Mixing Essential Oils for Every Use by Carol Schiller and David Schiller. I borrowed it from my sister. I should buy my own so she can have hers back!

I purchased some glass roll-on 1/3 oz empty fragrance perfume essential oil bottles from eBay, and filled them with a carrier oil mixed2012-12-20_09-55-57_669 with an essential oil blend. Life Thyme Botanicals is a great place to buy your essential oils. The owner is knowledgeable and will be able to assist you in your quest for great essential oils! (She’s also my sister!)

I mixed up 120 ml of sunflower oil and 120 drops of an essential oil blend that contains Lavender, Rosemary, Ylang Ylang, Orange, Lemon, and Lime essential oils. This particular blend I bought from Wellington Fragrance is called Serenity. The good thing is that my house smells lovely, and the beautiful calming fragrance of this is wafting through my home.


The bad thing is that AFTER I did all the mixing and pouring into the tiny little vials and cleaning up all the spilled oils…I learned that sunflower oil isn’t probably the best carrier oil to use. It doesn’t soak in to the skin as easily as other oils…but it still has some good properties to the skin, so I’m not going to do a redo.

It will still be lovely. Just oily.

As I sit here writing, the wind is howling and while I’m nice and cozy in my home, I hope that those who must be out today are safe. I am thankful for the men and women who are bound to be out in the middle of these kinds of storms so that we have emergency services, electricity and heat and other essential services. May you be blessed with a warm bed tonight.

I pinned this on:

52 Mantles