Gift Bag — Easy Peasy!!

wpid-2013-01-23_12-54-42_989.jpgI needed a pretty gift bag this morning for a little gift I wanted to give my friend this morning, but I didn’t have one in my stash. What I DID have were a couple of pieces¬†of 81/2 x 11 inch felt and a really cool button!! Well…I have a LOT of cool buttons, thanks to my daughter and to the many garage sales I go to.

I folded the felt in half, matching the short sides and then sewed 1/2 inch seams on each side. I trimmed about 1/2 inch off the top of the red felt bag. I suppose you could probably do that before you sew the edges, but why make anything easy? ūüôā

Then I made a gusset on each side, like you do when making bags. I made mine pretty squatty.

I put the brown felt bag inside the red felt bag and turned down the top edge. I added the cute button, and – WHALLAH a bag is born. Just perfect for my little gift. All done in about 10 minutes. SCORE!!

My friend will love it, I’m sure of it.

Do you have a little craft that you’d like to share? Send a link in the comment!! We would love to see what you’re up to!

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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 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


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?

Stocking Stuffers – Homemade Lotion Bars

I love making gifts and putting together little bags to give away at the holidays. I have been experimenting with the different oils I have in my cupboard. It’s kind of sad: I hoard oils like I hoard fabric.

Recently I’ve been looking at different lotion bar recipes and they all seem fairly consistent. Most of them are equal parts of Beeswax, Coconut Oil and another oil like Olive Oil. Melt all these together and pour in to some kind of mold. Easy, and worth doing!!

My first batch, I made with leftover oils. I had a ¬†lot of little clumps of oils – not really enough to do much in soap, but too much to throw away. So, I decided to use up my”Left-Over” oils. I weighed them all and made sure that I had equal parts of beeswax, coconut and the rest of the oils added up to an equal part as well.

I like those bars, but I think the ratio of beeswax is too high. I didn’t like the waxy feel on my hands. Today, I tweaked the recipe a little. I came up with:


wpid-2012-12-21_14-24-01_507.jpg6 oz. beeswax

 12 oz. coconut oil

 3 oz. shea butter

3 oz. avocado oil 

3 oz. aloe oil

I put¬†¬†the beeswax on to melt, as it usually takes a while. You want to make sure you use a double boiler or some variation there of. I’ve never had a double boiler in my life so I get kind of creative when I do this. Basically, just put a smaller pot inside a larger pot. You just don’t want your oils to take the brunt of the direct flame.

Then once it was melted I added the other oils. When all of that melted I took it off the burner and added 1 TBLS of essential oil blend called Serenity (from Wellington Fragrance). I probably could have upped the essential oils a bit, but I don’t like things that smelly. I like a hint of fragrance.



Once all of that is melted and the essential oils stirred in well, pour¬†carefully into prepared molds. Today I¬†used a block mold from Mountain Majestic Sage¬†and a little silicone mold. I can’t remember where I got that.

Some people use cupcake liners, some people use ice cube trays, some people use soap molds. Whatever you use, let it harden for a while. You want to make sure that the bars are hard and no longer warm before you rem

ove them from the molds. It’s worth the patience it takes.

Once the lotion has hardened and is no longer warm, remove from the molds carefully. I think it would be helpful to stick these in the fridge for a bit to get colder. It would make cutting the bars a lot easier.

I use wax paper to wrap these in. Add a label and a pretty ribbon and whallah! Christmas present!

I’ve already used some – just to see how I like it. I have no patience.¬†I love it. I just have to wipe off the palms of my hands after applying the lotion. I’m a fan of the lesser amount of beeswax!!

Linked up to the following blogs–check them out!

logo_Sundae2Love that Junkwrap-up-party2 tater tots and jello

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

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 Рlike 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!

Pine Tar Soap

If you’ve read my blog very much, you know that I love making soap. I love the cold process method the most and once I learned (thanks to my friend Becky) how to do basic soap, I’ve had a blast thinking about oil and herb combinations. It’s been fun to learn how wonderful nature is to provide us with ingredients to help our bodies heal!

A year or so ago, my son was having some skin issues that were kind of¬†embarrassing¬†to him and uncomfortable. On one of his fingers, he had a rash that just kept getting worse. It looked a lot like an eczema-type rash, and I learned that a lot of doctors recommend pine tar soap for eczema and psoriasis. Of course, I started looking for recipes for this pine tar soap! A lot of people use their favorite soap recipes and just add the pine tar in with the fats. Almost everything I read said that in order ¬†to be effective, pine tar should be 20 to 25% of the ingredients. There were a lot of posts reporting that people shy away from making pine tar because it’s kind of hard to make. (I didn’t read those posts until after I had already made my batch! Go me!)

Whenever my son’s finger flares up, he uses my Pine Tar Soap. It’s been helpful to him. He told me that after a couple of days, his finger usually is back to normal. ¬†Personally, I’ve used this soap when I’ve had allergic reactions. (You may remember that post some time ago when I reacted to the kitties I fostered?) My soap felt wonderful on those pesky rashes!!

There are a few things to keep in mind when making Pine Tar Soap:

  • in order to be helpful to the skin, pine tar should be 20-25% of the oils
  • do NOT use a stick blender
  • using essential oils for fragrance is kind of wasted…pine tar is a very strong and pretty overpowering scent
  • do NOT use a stick blender
  • even though the soap has a very strong scent, it’s not so bad when you use it…it kind of smells fresh and clean with a hint of pine
  • do NOT use a stick blender
  • it sets up really fast
  • do NOT use a stick blender

Here is my Pine Tar Soap Recipe. Remember: Do NOT use a stick blender! You will be sorry! If you don’t want to make your own, you can email me at, or you can go to Life Thyme Botanicals¬†and order from them. (They carry my soaps.)

For a 4 pound batch:

9.14 oz. coconut oil

27.4 oz. olive oil

9.14 oz. pine tar

10 oz. distilled water

5.1 oz lye

1 tbls castor oil

If you’ve never made homemade soap before, here are some great resources for you.

  • Soap Making Resource: He has GREAT tutorials that are very basic and easy to follow. You can also buy a lot of oils, botanical colorants and essential oils from him. He’s fairly new on the scene, but I like doing business with him. He has some GREAT molds!
  • Mountain Majestic Sage: This is one of the sites that I stumbled upon years ago. They have tons of resources, supplies at great prices and a lot of information. There is a lye calculator on this site that I use to make sure I have a good lye to fat ratio, because while I love chemistry, I really hate math and don’t want to have to figure the calculations out myself.
  • Miller Soap:¬†Kathy Miller (no relation) devoted a lot of time to teaching people like me how to make homemade soap. She also has wonderful soaps for sale. She is so creative and her soaps are just plain beautiful! Lots of recipes and lots of advice.

Certainly let me know if you make the soap or if you use the soap. I’d love to know what you all think! Enjoy!!


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