About Me

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As a daughter, granddaughter (still...at my age!), wife, mom, grammy, lover of God and life, it has become my mission in life to encourage others. The purpose of this blog is to introduce the reader to the sustainable life through organic recipes, gardening tips, cleaning and organizing methods, Spiritual help, and anything else which may encourage you in your journey to wholeness--body, soul, and spirit.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Keep Moving!

I have a confession to make.  For the last few weeks, I have been secretly working out.  And it feels pretty good.  Actually, since my diagnosis of fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome around five years ago, I have hated exercise and would prefer to curl up with a good book or the computer.

But this year is different.  A half century birthday and the realization that life is short.  The idea that exercise is linked with health.  A daughter's wedding in a month.  The perfect storm of motivational, ah, stuff.  To top it off, the marrying daughter (daughter #2) just lost about a hundred pounds and looks terrific.  Daughter #1 with three kids just moved in for 9 weeks and happens to be working toward a black belt, just received a 4.0 in her Bachelor's program in Nutrition Science, and is interested in becoming a Fitness Instructor.  What a great time to start, with all of this motivation and encouragement and assistance in the house!

So...off I go.  Started with some weight lifting assistance from daughter #1 and her husband, and some fitness walks.  Continued with a free week-long membership at a local health club, but it was a little expensive for the year (sadly) so the next step was to look for a goal.  Daughter #1 recommended a program called the "Couch to 5K" which takes couch potatoes (like me) and trains them (us) in 9 weeks to run a 5K race...I love the idea!  I used to run when I was in my 30's and it was pretty nice.  Don't know if I can still do it, but I am willing to try.  Honestly, I don't even care about speed, just getting moving and losing some more weight would be pretty nice.  To sweeten the deal, a local race will be held on July 21, so maybe I will join!  The race raises funds for a worthy cause, and is run in memory of a friend's grandson who died suddenly just a few years ago, so it is very meaningful.  It really is the only race I am interested in running...I am not much of a competitor by nature!

How do you keep moving?  What is your motivation?  It would be great to hear some inspirational stories and support others out there who are doing the same thing!


Friday, April 27, 2012

A New Venture...a personal journey

Shepherd's Harvest Goats Milk Soap, all packaged up and ready to go!
Bees Wax rolled candles...I thought they came out kind of spiffy!

A few months ago I made a decision.  The reasons were difficult and complicated, but the bottom line was that I needed to leave my job.  In our current economy, it felt as if I was being terribly irresponsible--a loser, even.  Imagine my surprise, then, when several coworkers immediately offered to act as references should I apply for another position elsewhere!  The reason they gave was that the position I was in was so difficult that they did not expect that anyone would be able to do that job, and last.  So now I am out of work, with no unemployment to fall back on, in a rough economy...sink or swim time!

A good friend asked me a few weeks ago, "If you could do anything at all that you wanted to do right now, what would it be?" My answer?  Make Shepherd's Harvest a viable business.  But I wonder...in this economy...

So, I have decided to try.  Still looking for a job, hoping for some temporary work, but at the same time I am making some all-natural products in hopes that people will want them, at a reasonable price.  This blog will occasionally chronicle my progress, sometimes giving some successes and failures (let's be real here!), but mostly you will see the same encouragement--recipes, organic and sustainable information, etc.--you have seen over the last several weeks.

Sooooo...off I go!  Yesterday I made candles, and the day before that I made a lot of soap.  A family member is making handmade dish cloths.  I ordered ingredients to make all-natural deodorant which I think I can offer for a very reasonable price--aluminum is in regular antiperspirant and is not good for you.  All natural lip balm is also a possibility....we'll see.  Can you help out?  There is a poll on the side bar of the blog, a little market research if you will.  Let me know what you would be interested in purchasing, if you were to purchase all-natural products.

If you would like to know more about Shepherd's Harvest, there is a facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ShepherdsHarvest.

What new venture have you been thinking about?  Let me know if you are thinking about trying something new!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Heirloom vs. Organic...what does it all mean?

This morning I am taking a family member to a medical appointment, so this is a "re-run" of an earlier blog...one of my favorites, that took some research.  If you already read it, I'll have something new Friday.  Otherwise, enjoy and be sure to comment if you have any questions!

Heirloom vs. Organic...what does it all mean?

A Really, Really Basic Primer

As an organic veggie gardener, for the last few years I have jumped on the "heirloom" bandwagon.  Here's the thing...it is confusing.  REALLY confusing!  There are organic seeds which are hybrid but not heirloom, nonorganic heirloom, organic hybrids, nonorganic hybrid, open pollinated...oh my!!!!

So I did a little research, and wanted to put together a primer of sorts with a few terms, boiled down to simple and reasonable definitions for simple and reasonable people (like me!).  The fact is, there are several definitions, so these are the sort of "consensus" definitions:

Open Pollinated

The basic principle of open pollination is simple...if you grow a seed, gather the seeds from the mature fruit or vegetable and replant them, you will grow exactly the same fruit or vegetable the following year.  Brandywine tomatoes are a great example of an open pollinated plant.  Sounds simple, right?  It is--except for bees.  They like to complicate things by buzzing around and cross pollinating and making new varieties!  Ah, well.  Unfortunately there are also man-made plants which do not open pollinate, because their seeds are sterile (see hybrid).

Heirloom

Heirloom fruits and vegetables generally meet 3 criteria:
  1. They are old.  Age varies by definition, but one generally agreed-upon definition is that the breed is older than 1951.  Some are ancient, and no one is quite sure when they came about.  Spelt is a good example of an "old" grain, it is older than wheat!
  2. They are open-pollinated.
  3. They have pleasing taste and texture...kind of like those great-tasting veggies and fruits grandma ate!

Hybrid

 Hybrids are generally bred for a particular quality by a nursery or individual.  Qualities may include size, disease resistance, color, production quality or quantity, or taste.  Often the seeds are "sterile," that is, they will not germinate, because they are mutations.

Organic

Not chemically treated in any way--soil or leaves.  Most states have an organic certification process which is quite rigorous and expensive.  (Having worked on an organic raw dairy farm, I was quite aware of the process, but I digress!)

Hope that helps!  Please comment back if you have any questions.  Are there any other terms you are confused about?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Nontoxic, non-chemical homemade bug spray!

It is pouring out this morning.  It rained yesterday too.  Seeing the rain makes me glad, because we have had a drought lately and I was beginning to wonder about the garden and the lawn, and how we would water things this year if there was no break in the weather.  Last year at around this time, there was a flood that blocked off our street for a few hours as the water washed up over the bridge in the road, and a drought seems inappropriate here in April!

It is also warm.  Warmth and rain tend to breed mosquitoes.  Typically, Americans use any of several commercially available brands to repel mosquitoes, spraying chemicals on their skin.  The most effective commercially available chemical is DEET, or N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide.  DEET was developed by the military for jungle warfare during World War II to protect troops against malaria, and the bottom line is that DEET is toxic--to humans, animals, and the environment.  (For information on the toxicity of DEET, see the following link: http://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/ntp/htdocs/Chem_Background/ExSumPdf/DEET.pdf.)  To evaluate the use of DEET or other insect repellents, it is important to weight the risk of diseases and reactions to insect bites against the toxic effects of the substances you apply to your skin.  In our area, West Nile Virus/Eastern Equine Encephalitis are possible diseases transmitted by mosquitoes, so repellent is important for those of us who love the outdoors.

BUT...did you know that there are natural repellents you can use to keep away mosquitoes?  Several essential oils have been used to repel mosquitoes, black flies, and other insects.  Some documentation is available, but as with other natural remedies, there are not a lot of wealthy chemical companies jumping on the research bandwagon...so it ends up being a bit spotty and not as scientific as I would like.  (If nothing else, I will always tell you the truth about this stuff!)

SO...what works?  Here is a rundown, and a possible recipe:

  • Tea Tree Oil--I have personally used Tea Tree with great success.  
    • Pros--extremely effective in repelling all kinds of insects.  I rubbed the essential oil directly on my skin.
    • Cons--also repels people!  It smells a bit like gasoline, and can be very off-putting if 100% form is used.  My husband had an asthma attack from the strong scent.  Not cool.
  • Lemongrass (http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/med-aro/factsheets/LEMONGRASS.html)--Have not used this, but read that it works well in the far east against malarial mosquitos when applied directly from the base of the plant.  Essential oil would be the best method elsewhere, as the plant can only be grown where it is warm.
    •  Pros--smells wonderful.
    • Cons--don't know of any, not sure how well it works because I have not used it!
  • Peppermint Oil (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/524811.stm)
    • Pros--"studies have shown" (see above link) that peppermint oil not only repels, but kills larvae of malarial mosquitoes.
    • Cons--possible irritant--always "spot test" your skin and "sniff test" to ensure that you will not have a reaction.
  • Catnip
    • Pros--has been found to be more effective than DEET in repelling mosquitoes (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/08/010828075659.htm), can be used in a low dose.
    • Cons--may attract neighborhood cats!  Seriously, I don't know enough about this one to evaluate any negative effects...careful of sensitivity to skin, as with the others.
These were the top four that I found.  Some others I have seen include rosemary, cedarwood, sage, lavender, vanilla, cider vinegar, witch hazel and ethyl alcohol (like vodka!).

To make Bug Repellent, simply choose an essential oil (or a combination), and combine it with a carrier, pour into a spray bottle, and spray it on your skin.  Possible carriers include witch hazel, ethyl alcohol, and oils--olive, vegetable, or mineral.  You should use 1 part of essential oil to 10-20 parts of carrier oil.  I am going to try this one, this summer.

Bug Repellent Recipe


1/2 oz each of 2 essential oils (for a total of 1 oz essential oil)
10 oz witch hazel

Pour into an appropriate size spray bottle, and shake.  Use as needed.

So...where to purchase essential oils?  Here is a source!  They have organic essential oils, and their prices are pretty reasonable.  They are a sponsor, and I have visited their store and checked them out, and love their products:

Mountain Rose Herbs. A herbs, health and harmony c


Organic, safe, bug spray.  That, along with taking a few measures such as planting insect-repelling plants (like marigolds) and eliminating standing water will help us to keep away the pests and enjoy the outdoors.  Bring on the summer!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Recipe...Citrus Beet Salad with Greens and Feta

Citrus Beet Salad with Greens and Feta is shown on the right.  This was the lovely spread at Mom's house at Easter Dinner!

Last summer, some friends who run an organic farm had an overabundance (and I mean OVERABUNDANCE) of beets, and every time I visited their farm, they offered me the opportunity to poach as many beets as I could pick from their garden.  I was thrilled...sort of.  As a child, I hated beets.  They were cold slippery red things that came out of a can, with a sort of nondescript horrible texture that I could not seem to slip past my tongue down my throat.  In short, they made me gag.

So, what to do with all these...beets?  After enlisting the help of several beet-literate friends and trying several recipes, I am now a beet convert!  Truth be told, I actually LOOK for fresh beets at the co-op when I do my shopping now....I have come a long way!

Do you have weird memories of beets, too?  Take my advice, they are worth trying as an adult, but eat them fresh, roasted.  You will not regret it!  I like the idea of using the entire beet, greens and all, in a recipe.  The greens are nutritious and taste wonderful.   

So here is an original recipe, which can be eaten hot or cold.  You can take it to a picnic or eat it over baby greens for lunch.  It is super-versatile, and tastes absolutely delicious.  Prepare it ahead of time, and eat it all week.  Enjoy!

Citrus Beet Salad with Greens and Feta

Serves 8

Ingredients:
8 medium or 12 small fresh beets with greens
3 T olive oil
3/4 c water
3/4 c orange juice
2T balsamic vinegar 
1T honey
sea salt
freshly ground pepper
1 c feta cheese

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Scrub beets, chop off tops and bottoms, and cut into 1" cubes.  Place in a single layer with 1 1/2 T olive oil and water and roast for 45 minutes or until tender.  While the beets are roasting, wash greens and chop.  Heat remaining 1 1/2 T olive oil in a wok or large frying pan, and stir fry greens until tender-crisp, about 2 minutes.  Immediately remove from heat.  When the beets are finished roasting, drain liquid, and pour beets into a bowl with honey, orange juice and balsamic vinegar and toss well.  Toss occasionally, marinating for at least 1 hour.  Drain most of the liquid, toss with greens, sprinkle feta on top and serve.  You can either reheat, serve at room temperature, or chill and eat as a salad.

Nutrition Facts

8 Servings
Amount Per Serving
  Calories                     168.4
  Total Fat                    9.3 g
              Saturated Fat            3.5 g
              Polyunsaturated Fat 0.6 g
              Monounsaturated Fat4.6 g
  Cholesterol                16.7 mg
  Sodium                      317.5 mg
  Potassium                  493.3 mg
  Total Carbohydrate   17.7 g
              Dietary Fiber             3.7 g
              Sugars                       12.6 g
  Protein                       4.9 g
  Vitamin A                 8.9 %
  Vitamin B-12            5.3 %
  Vitamin B-6             9.0 %
  Vitamin C                 25.2 %
  Vitamin D                 0.0 %
  Vitamin E                  5.6 %
  Calcium                     12.0 %
  Copper                      5.9 %
  Folate                        36.3 %
  Iron                           7.2 %
  Magnesium                9.4 %
  Manganese                21.8 %
  Niacin                        3.4 %
  Pantothenic Acid     4.3 %
  Phosphorus                11.7 %
  Riboflavin                 13.2 %
  Selenium                   5.4 %
  Thiamin                     6.5 %
  Zinc                           6.7 %


*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Raw, Local Honey...Does it work as a "cure" for allergies?


Sniffle.  Sniffle.  Sneeze.  Cough.

Allergies can be miserable.  If you are like me, you love spring and fall, but not what they do to your sinuses.  Several years ago, someone told me that if you take 1 teaspoon of raw, unfiltered, local honey per day; your allergies will be cured.  I was skeptical.  At the time I was on my third oral medication in addition to a steroidal nasal spray, steroid inhaler, and emergency inhaler for allergies...needless to say, I was willing to try anything!

So, I tried it.  No magic there.  After a few weeks, I noticed that the allergies were a tiny bit better...so I stopped using the steroid inhaler.  By the end of the summer, most of my symptoms were gone, but that was pretty normal.  I stopped using the oral medication and the nasal spray.

Fall came around.  The allergies started up again, but just a little milder this time.  I decided to eschew the oral medicine and only used the nasal spray.  It worked.  The following spring, When the allergy symptoms began, I started taking honey, and they vanished completely!  It seemed to be a cumulative effect, over  a long period of time. 

But the bottom line, at least for me, was that I THREW AWAY THREE MEDICATIONS.  Yay!  The key, I am told, is that the honey should be raw and unfiltered, so that the pollen and enzymes are still intact in the honey; and that it be local, so that local allergens are present in the "processed" product.

Is this scientific?  No.  Not many studies have been performed on the use of local honey as a remedy for allergies.  Most large-scale studies are expensive.  Drug companies have money, and probably are not interested in spending it on "home" remedies! 

The best way to know whether this works for you is to try it.  Some cautions:
  • If you are highly allergic to pollen or bees, check with your doctor FIRST.
  • Children under the age of 1 should NEVER have honey.  In up to 13% of honey samples, a small amount of Clostridium botulinum was found.  This can cause infant botulism, a rare but sometimes fatal reaction.  DO NOT take chances with this!  In our family, we do not give honey to children under 2, even though it is technically safe to do so.
PAY ATTENTION to the cautionary notes before you try raw honey.  Our family has found it effective in alleviating allergies...my son-in-law, my daughter, my husband, and I all have found relief using local honey.

If you have tried local honey, please comment!  What was your dosage, what were the results, and how quickly (or slowly) did it work?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Organic Food...on a budget.

A few years ago, when I realized the connection between my fibromyalgia and the food I was eating, stuff I was putting on my body and chemicals I was using to clean my house--I decided to "go organic" as much as possible.  The biggest problem was the cost...it can be huge!  What to do?  Over time, I came up with some tips for buying organic foods on a budget.  With a little effort, you can eat reasonably for close to the same amount that you would spend on conventional food.

Here are some ideas I found to be very helpful...

Lifestyle changes:
  • Eat less meat.  Organic meat is EXPENSIVE...no two ways about it.  If you eat less, you enjoy it more and spend less.
  • Reduce your consumption of packaged food.  Packaged organics can get a little pricey.  They also use a lot of sodium, which is not good for you.  If you make food ahead (see my recipe for kale chips) you will have far more control over what you take into your body.
Where to shop:
  • My first stop is (I am on the east coast of the USA) a store called OCEAN STATE JOB LOT, which purchases surplus food and other items ("lots") and resells them for a huge discount.  Often you can find organic packaged foods at stores of this type.  Some of my recent finds are Bob's Red Mill organic bread flour, organic olive oil, Newman's Own organic snacks (chips, and my favorite Newman-O's), and a whole lot of canned beans and soups.
  • Farmer's Markets--NOFA (Northeast Organic Farming Association) and other organic organizations often list farmer's markets on their state chapter websites.  Best place to find super fresh, farm picked produce.
  • Find an alternative or natural foods co-operative in your area.  In Wakefield, RI, I belonged to the Alternative Food Cooperative and shopped there for around 25 years!  Here in CT, I belong to the Willimantic Food Co-op, which has an incredible selection of organic produce...yum! Want to know where to find a co-op near you?  Try this link:  http://www.coopdirectory.org/directory.htm.  It will take you to a directory of co-ops all over the United States.
  • Trader Joe's--All I can say is...if you have one near you, it is a fantastic place to find great prices on organic and sustainably produced food!  I miss the RI Trader Joe's...it was one of my favorite places to shop.
  • The grocery store.  Look for sales and compare prices.  Some organic companies are beginning to compete.  This is good news in a large grocery store!
  • Your local health food store...occasionally, if you are a regular customer, small health food stores will allow you to order goods when they place their regular order--so if you like a particular shampoo or hair color, ask if they can order it for you.  This way they will not need to stock it.
What to buy:
  • Produce--prioritize your organics so that produce is at the top of the list.  Raw, unprocessed foods are the most likely to retain pesticides and nonorganic compounds--so make produce your TOP organic priority.
  • Other food items should be your second priority, because you are ingesting them.  If you can purchase SOME organic food, it is better than none--do not think that just because you are not eating ALL organics, you are not helping your body!
  • Shampoos, soaps, and cleaning products do not necessarily need to be organic, but watch for non-toxic cleaners like Mrs. Meyers, Seventh Generation, and Method (see Method vs. Mrs. Meyers...some of my favorite non-toxic cleaners!)  For shampoo and conditioner, try a few different brands until you find the one you like--I always avoid products with sulfates.  For soap, of course I use my homemade goat's milk soap (see blog part 1, 2, and 3 for instructions), but you can often purchase a good cold process or liquid soap which is non-toxic.
How to purchase:
  • Herbs--always buy your herbs in the bulk section of a co-op, if possible.  You will save a ton!  Here's why:  You only purchase a tiny amount, in a small plastic bag...and that is all you pay for.  You purchase by weight.  Nothing is wasted, and you don't end up pulling a 20-year-old bottle of cumin out of the cupboard.  Totally worth it!
  • ALWAYS look at the "specials" and "clearance" items on endcaps of health food stores and co-ops...they are often a treasure trove of bargains!  I have purchased elderberry syrup for a coworker to help with her cold, as well as other vitamins and supplements, tea, and kitchen gadgets.  This is my favorite section of the store!
  • Only purchase what you know you will eat.  Common sense, I know, but seriously...you don't want your food to go to waste!

These were just a few tips and tricks I have picked up over the years...at a later time I will give a few ideas about how to shop for bulk products, green bags, etc., but that is enough for now.  Too much information at once can be overwhelming!!!!!

Have a great week.  Where will you shop for your organic and sustainable food?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Making Soap...Part 3...An Easy Way and Supplies!

Some soap that I packaged Wednesday this week--Christmas Spice, Baby Lavender, and Sage Lemongrass!
If you have been reading along and are interested in making soap and have children or do not want to be bothered with lye and the danger involved, there is another option...melt and pour.  All you do is purchase a "melt and pour" base of your choice, melt it in the microwave or a slow cooker or on the stove, add fragrance, and mold.  Voila!  Soap made simple!

There you have it...anyone, literally, can make soap.

Now...you ask...Where and how can I purchase supplies to make soap?

There are many, many sources; and the whole process can be somewhat confusing when you are new to the process (and even if you are not!).  Here are some Internet sources and links (in the interest of full disclosure, I will let you know that I am an affiliate with some of the suppliers, and your purchases help support this blog!):

Melt-and-Pour, Oils, and Fragrance:

For reasonably-priced supplies, including a few fragrances and melt and pour bases, try Candlewic (I have an order being shipped from this company at this very moment!): Candlewic.com - Popular melt and pour bases, essential oils, natural additives, soap dyes, and molds.

Another source for wonderfully rich ingredients is From Nature with Love

 

 Goat's Milk:

There are a few possible sources for goat's milk:  a local farm or farmers market, OR you can try a health food store.  If you are able to find "past sale date" goat's milk, that will work just fine as long as it is not sour or rancid.
 

Lye (Sodium Hydroxide):

I have purchased lye from Tractor Supply Company--they carry Roebic 100% lye.
Another great source is a soap supply company called Brambleberry.  They have excellent ingredients and lots of great resources for soap making!
 
By the way, I still have some soap for sale, if you are interested, feel free to contact me at sustainablesandy@mail.com and I will let you know more about pricing and payment.  As I gear up for the farmer's market season, I am more than happy to share what I have so that I can purchase more supplies, and I do ship my soaps! 
 
...so will you try your hand at soaping?  If so, what kind of soap will you try making?  Melt-and-pour, or old-fashioned cold process?
 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Making Soap...Part 2


Yesterday, I told you about various ingredients involved in the "cold press" process of soap-making.  Today, I will give you a recipe!  

Before you begin, make sure you have the following items on hand:
  • Food Scale
  • Stick blender (this is the type with a covered blade so it does not splash)
  • 2 large, deep metal (preferably stainless) pots--stock pots work well
  • 2 metal utensils for scooping and stirring
  • Rubber gloves
  • Goggles

A Simple Goat's Milk Soap Recipe

40 oz Olive Oil (not extra virgin, pomace is fine.)
12 oz. coconut or palm oil
17 oz. frozen goat’s milk
7.1 oz lye
Pour lye into frozen milk and stir until dissolved.  
Melt oils until coconut is just melted.  
Take temp of the lye and the oils, and do not mix until they are within 10º of each other...they should be approximately 100 - 110º 

Mix with stick blender until it reaches trace.
When comes to trace, add fragrance.  
Pour into 4 lb. lined box 


Tomorrow...part 3!  Where to find all of the supplies.  I am working on that one...was hoping to have it together today, but no such luck.  Tomorrow I promise:  supplies, where to find them online, and simple clickable links to find everything!  


Have a great day!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Sustainable Lifestyle...Making Soap


Finished soap with the soap mold, hand made by a friend.

A while back, I started getting together with an artist friend and making goat’s milk soap.  She has goats, and I had been wanting to make soap for a while, and it was a wonderful learning experience!  Since I picked up the last of our soap, and some molds so I can make more, it reminded me that it is a great process to familiarize oneself with, so I wanted to tell you about it.

We used a process which is centuries old, called “cold process” to make the soap.  It sounded a little scary at first, because it involves a chemical called sodium hydroxide, also known as lye.  Lye causes severe burns if it comes in contact with skin…definitely NOT nice stuff!  BUT…necessary for a process called saponification…that is they process by which soap hardens into a substance which lathers when you rub it on your skin or a washcloth with water.  Lye originated when folks noticed a yellowish substance which formed when ash came into contact with water, it sudsed and hardened a bit when dry.  Old-fashioned soap-making methods used water and a lot of ash to make lye, but the amount of sodium hydroxide was imprecise and sometimes the soap burned the skin or would not saponify properly.  Now, pure lye is available, so it can be measured very precisely and the exact amount needed can be used.  This prevents burning of the skin, and ensures exactly the amount needed is used for saponification.

OK, now that we have spoken a bit about the chemistry of soap, what else is used?  Oil, oil, and more oil!  Oils which are solid at room temperature are melted and mixed, and other oils are liquid at room temperature.  Different oils contain properties which have varying effects on the skin and soap properties.  Olive oil and shea butter are great skin softeners, palm oil helps soap last longer (makes it harder), and a small amount of tea tree oil can help with healing from skin conditions and ward off mosquitoes.  Other oils have different properties for softening or conditioning skin, hardening or softening soap, and treating various skin conditioners…the right blend is a matter of economics (some are expensive), practicality (what is available), and personal needs and desires.

Two more ingredients remain for cold process soap—liquid and fragrance. 

The liquid is used to dissolve the lye, and it is absolutely critical that it be right—otherwise there can be an explosion and chemical burns.  Powdered or chunk lye is added to liquid—not the other way around.  Ever.  The liquid can be water, but we use goat’s milk.  Often goat’s milk soap is dark brown—ours is sort of a light caramel color…this is because we keep the goat’s milk nearly frozen so that it does not burn when the lye is added.  The chemical reaction heats the liquid—so gloves, goggles, and long sleeves are used.

Next, the mixed and measured oils are added to the lye mixture and mixed…and mixed…and mixed…until the whole thing looks like pudding.

Then fragrance is added…my favorite part!  We have found some wonderful (and strange) fragrances for soaps!  Sage Lemongrass and Christmas Spice are my favorites.  Once we were sent a “rice” scent as a free sample…it was weird!  Flowery scents are not my favorites, but some folks like them, and I just found a scent called “energy” that I love!

Finally, the soap mixture is poured into a mold, covered, and left until it is just hard enough to slice into bars.  Once it is sliced, it must cure for at approximately two weeks.
Some soap with our original packaging, at Christmas time!

Interested in making soap?  Later today or tomorrow I will post further information, with recipes and suppliers…stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

"Try them, you'll like them" Kale Chips!


YAAAAYYYY!!!!  Kale chips!  Grammy made kale chips!  Believe it or not, this was ACTUALLY the scene in my house when I made these the night before Easter.  My grandchildren LOVE these.  I like them better than just about any other snack food, and find them extremely satisfying.  We had company that night, and the kids visiting liked them.  Packed with Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Potassium, these are super-nutritious snacks.  The only negative is that they are high in sodium, but if you reduce the Tamari and/or substitute low sodium soy sauce, you can reduce the amount of sodium in the recipe.

All I can say is...like the old Alka-Selzer commercial, "Try it, you'll like it!"  (but without the heartburn!).

Oriental Kale Chips

 These chips are an original recipe, and have a wonderful oriental smoky flavor which is very addicting!  The plus is that kale is a super nutritious food which contains tons of antioxidants—it is one of my favorite go-to foods for snacking…just try them!  (Of course, I use organic ingredients!)

2 bunches of Kale
1 T Dark Sesame Oil
3 T Tamari Sauce

1 T Balsamic Vinegar
½ c (or more) Sesame Seeds
(Optional:  add some Red Thai Curry for a little heat)

Directions
Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  Oil 2-4 large baking sheets.  Wash and dry kale.  Cut stems off kale.  Mix together Sesame oil, tamari sauce, Balsamic, and sesame seeds in a very large bowl.  Sesame seeds should make a paste, add more seeds if mixture is not “pasty” enough.  Mash kale leaves into sesame mixture so that the sesame seeds coat the leaves, then lay leaves in a single layer on the baking sheets.  Bake for 20-40 minutes, flipping the leaves every 10 minutes, until dry and crisp, be careful not to burn them.  Store in an airtight container until ready to serve.

Nutrition Information

10 Servings
 Amount Per Serving
  Calories         67.4
  Total Fat        5.1 g
              Saturated Fat            0.7 g
              Polyunsaturated Fat 2.2 g
              Monounsaturated Fat 1.9 g
  Cholesterol    0.0 mg
  Sodium          311.4 mg
  Potassium      134.1 mg
  Total Carbohydrate   4.2 g
              Dietary Fiber 1.7 g
              Sugars           0.5 g
  Protein           2.6 g
  Vitamin A     106.3 %
  Vitamin B-12 0.0 %
  Vitamin B-6 6.1 %
  Vitamin C     26.7 %
  Vitamin D     0.0 %
  Vitamin E      2.7 %
  Calcium         9.9 %
  Copper          18.1 %
  Folate            3.3 %
  Iron               8.5 %
  Magnesium    8.6 %
  Manganese    18.3 %
  Niacin            3.7 %
  Pantothenic Acid     0.4 %
  Phosphorus   6.3 %
  Riboflavin     3.1 %
  Selenium       1.1 %
  Thiamin         5.4 %
  Zinc               4.5 %

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Sustainable Marriage

My grandparents, Kathryn and William.  I remember celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary.  This is their wedding picture!

My parents...just celebrated their 50th anniversary in October.

My husband, Ernie, and I, in our wedding attire!  We recently celebrated our 33rd wedding anniversary.
In our family, sustainable marriage is a tradition.  Ernie and I are blessed to be part of a line of strong and faithful marriages which is generations long.  Ern's maternal grandparents and my maternal grandparents lived to see their 50th wedding anniversaries.  My parents just celebrated theirs, and Ern's parents have been married 54 years.  We have been married 33 years.  One of our daughters celebrates 12 years this month.  But we never take this for granted, for we understand how rare this is.  We have seen the toll divorce takes on a family, literally every day.  Our own grandchildren feel this pain, and we ache for them.  

So what makes a marriage last?  It takes TWO people, working together.  If both have the same goal, it makes all the difference in the world.  Shared goals...such as raising children, pleasing each other, pleasing God, and working on projects as a couple go a long way toward giving marriage purpose and vitality; particularly when two people have very different personalities!  What else helps?  Read on...

Several years ago, Ernie and I attended a “Sweetheart Dinner” around Valentine’s Day at our church.  It was for couples from all walks of life, all stages of relationship.  At each Sweetheart Dinner there was a speaker.  This particular year, the speaker asked us to break into groups and write aspects of marriage on poster paper.

Our group was assigned a topic that had to do with “Enduring” or lasting relationships.  Our task was to write a list of important ways in which couples keep a relationship precious and enduring over the long haul.  Ernie and I looked around us…we had been married for 27 years, and were by FAR the youngest marriage in the group…what a great opportunity for learning! 

The advice was amazingly simple:
  • Say I love you to each other every day.
  • Kiss
  • Pray together
  • Hug a lot
  • Never go to bed angry
  • Always kiss each other good night
  • Kiss each other good morning, too!

There were several others, but those six pieces of advice were the most repeated and prioritized items on the list.  Pay attention to them, and if you are married, live by them.  The couples in our group (other than us) had been married between 35 and 55 years!  And they were all in love, deeply in love.  It was inspiring.

It has been over six years since that dinner.  One of the couples in our group is in heaven now, Everett and Gloria.  They were the couple who offered the advice to “kiss each other in the morning, too!” 

Over our bed now hangs a sign, “Kiss me in the morning too.”  We never forgot that advice.

“Love never fails.” This Scripture from 1 Corinthians in the Bible is read at many weddings.  True love is from God, and this is the love that verse is speaking about.  Human love often fails—UNLESS it is nurtured, encouraged, and given time and effort.  These are the things which make a sustainable marriage. 

May your most precious earthly relationship endure.  That is my prayer, and encouragement for you today.  Are you following the “enduring” advice listed above?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Composting...Where Do I Begin?

Our family has started composting many times…we have been successful, and other times failed miserably.  Sometimes success means you learn from your failures, and move on!  So…our most spectacular failure happened after we moved into our current home.  I wanted a compost pile.  When we last owned a home, we had a very successful garden and compost pile, and the thought of duplicating those efforts was pretty exciting!  Simple, right?  Wrong.  What we ended up with, as they say, was a failure to communicate.  There were people in my home (I never mention guilty parties by name here) who were not quite on board with how compost works, and what we ended up with was a HUGE pile of dog poop, dry leaves and sticks…all in a large yellow-painted metal frame.  Oops!

So, last year I decided to start all over again.  Across the street there was a yard sale, where they were giving away old pallets.  I collected several pallets and power washed them, and Ernie and I tied them together to make a large, 4-sided container.  Next, I researched compost…what can and cannot be composted…made a sign, and attached it to the compost pile so that everyone in our home would know what can and cannot be composted.  The concept is good!  We are moving slowly in the right direction.

Here is what our compost bin looks like, with the front section open:

It should also be mentioned that there are many commercial compost bins which speed up the composting process.  They tend to be expensive (mine was free), but I am told they speed up the composting process.  My suggestion if you are interested in trying one is to go to Job Lot first—they almost always have them at much lower prices than hardware and garden stores.

So, what can and cannot be composted?  First, you want to make sure you know just how much of a “purist” you are in terms of how organic your compost is.  In our case, we use organic lawn care, so anything from the lawn is ok (leaves, grass clippings).  Most of my produce is organic, so we go ahead and throw household produce in, even though some of it may not necessarily be organic—the amounts of chemicals and pesticides are so small as to be negligible or broken down in the heating process by the time the composting process is complete, so we don’t worry about the fact that some of what goes in may not be purely organic.  Most of it is.

The “basics” of composting are as follows (this is the totally nonscientific version):  You need some green matter (vegetable cuttings or grass clippings), some brown or dry matter (dryer lint, paper, or fall leaves), and oxygen.  A good combination produces heat, which breaks down the raw material and turns it into soil.  Some types of composting involve worms, which digest the raw material and eliminate it in the form of nitrogen-rich manure.  For the outdoor, pallet-type compost “bin” we were using, heat composting is the primary process; although worms tend to be located at the bottom of the pile. 

When composting, always try to add some green and dry matter at the same time, and turn your pile with a pitchfork every few weeks.  If you build a pallet container for your compost, it might be helpful to keep one side open or make it easy to untie so that you can swing it open to turn the compost to oxygenate it. 

That’s it.  Keep an eye on it, and when it is ready, use it.  I have spoken to some people who like to have two piles going—one actively being filled and one which is being used for soil.  It seems to be a well-thought-out solution, particularly for folks who have large amounts of land.

Our Compost sign is located below…how do you compost?  Just starting out?  Been doing it for years?  Comments are welcome!


IN THE COMPOST?

 
YES
NO
Cow or horse poop
Pet poop (e.g., dog or cat poop, soiled cat litter)
Might contain parasites, bacteria, germs, pathogens, and viruses harmful to humans
Toilet paper or paper towel rolls

Clean paper

Coffee grounds and filters

Cotton or Wool rags
(not polyester or other cloth)

Dryer lint

Eggshells
Dairy products (e.g., butter, milk, sour cream, yogurt) and eggs
Create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies
Wood Stove ashes
(Wood only, not plastic or other yucky stuff)
Coal or charcoal ash
Might contain substances harmful to plants
Fruits and vegetables
Fats, grease, lard, or oils
Create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies
Meat or fish bones and scraps
Create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies
Grass clippings
Yard Trimmings
Black walnut tree leaves or twigs
Release substances that might be harmful to plants
Diseased or insect-ridden plants
Diseases or insects might survive and be transferred back to other plants
Yard trimmings treated with chemical pesticides
Might kill beneficial composting organisms
Hair and fur

Hay and straw

Houseplants

Leaves

Nutshells

Sawdust

Shredded Newspaper

Teabags

Wood Chips



Sunday, April 8, 2012

Don't Miss It...


And then as they looked closer, they saw that the stone, which was a very large one, had been rolled back. So they went into the tomb and saw a young man in a white robe sitting on the right-hand side, and they were simply astonished. But he said to them, “There is no need to be astonished. He has risen; he is not here. Look, here is the place where they laid him. But now go and tell his disciples, and Peter, that he will be in Galilee before you. You will see him there just as he told you.”
~Mark 16:6-7 (J.B. Phillips New Testament Bible)

What always struck me is that this passage says, "go and tell his disciples, and Peter..." Peter missed it.  Jesus rose from the dead, and he missed it.  He was not even considered a disciple when it happened.  He had denied Jesus the night before he was brutally tortured and killed, even verbally abusing a young girl who innocently asked him if he knew Jesus! (Mark 14:66-72) Later, Jesus Himself gently restored Peter, reminding him three times to "feed my sheep" (John 21:17).

Sometimes I miss out.  I choose good things, but not the best.  Maybe not even good things...

A few days ago, this page spoke of a carpenter I met a long time ago who changed my life forever.  Thankfully, I now know that even when I don't make perfect choices, there is a Perfect One who forgives me.  Every time.  The thing is, I don't deserve it.  But you know what?  I don't want to miss a thing.  How about you?

Have a loving and blessed Resurrection Day...

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Chickie Deviled Eggs

Wondering what to do with all those leftover hardboiled eggs?  Here's an idea, and it is pretty simple!
Ingredients:
6 hard boiled eggs
2 1/2 T Mayonnaise--reduced fat with olive oil
1 T Dijon Mustard
1/4 t sea salt
fresh ground pepper to taste
black peppercorns
1 small carrot

Directions:
Peel and cut the top and bottom off each hard boiled egg, and carefully scoop out the yolk.  Set each egg large-side down.  Mash the yolks with the other ingredients together with a fork and whip with the fork until smooth.  Spoon the yolk into a Ziploc or other small sandwich bag, and cut a small hole in the corner.  Squeeze the mixture into each egg, leaving a small amount peeking out of the top for the head of the chick.  Place the top cut piece on the chick heads, then place peppercorns on the eyes and trim carrot into tiny wedges for beaks and feet.

Nutrition Facts
6 Servings

Amount Per Serving
  Calories         91.3
  Total Fat        7.0 g
              Saturated Fat            1.6 g
              Polyunsaturated Fat 1.1 g
              Monounsaturated Fat2.8 g
  Cholesterol    214.1 mg
  Sodium          161.6 mg
  Potassium      63.0 mg
  Total Carbohydrate   1.4 g
              Dietary Fiber 0.0 g
              Sugars           0.4 g
  Protein           6.3 g
  Vitamin A     5.6 %
  Vitamin B-12 9.3 %
  Vitamin B-6 3.0 %
  Vitamin C     0.0 %
  Vitamin D     0.0 %
  Vitamin E      2.6 %
  Calcium         2.5 %
  Copper          0.3 %
  Folate            5.5 %
  Iron   3.3 %
  Magnesium    1.3 %
  Manganese    0.7 %
  Niacin            0.2 %
  Pantothenic Acid     7.0 %
  Phosphorus     8.6 %
  Riboflavin     15.1 %
  Selenium       22.0 %
  Thiamin         2.2 %
  Zinc               3.5 %

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.



Easter Dinner


Our Easter table will be at my mom's house this year, and will include both of my daughters and their families, my sister and her husband, and, of course, my parents and us--at least 16 people in all!  To accomplish a delicious meal for a crowd without overwhelming my precious mom, we will all pitch in.  This morning, I thought I would share some of the recipes with you.  I have written them as separate blogs so that they will be searchable.  It will take a little time to pull together the nutrition information, so I will be posting them throughout the day.

Here’s how it works out for us…

Mom is making the ham.  She is the best cook of all, and taught us that choosing the finest ingredients is the key to good cooking.  Growing up, we always ate wonderfully delicious and nutritious food—lean steaks, rice, salads, a wide variety of vegetables—all this taught us to experiment and taste many different foods.  She chose a wonderful, high quality ham, and will glaze it with something yummy…I have no idea what, so that will not appear on the blog!

My oldest daughter Alyssa has a bachelor’s degree in Food Science and Nutrition, and is working toward a black belt in Muay Thai martial arts.  Her sense of taste and nutrition is inherited and learned!  She is an incredible cook, and very versatile.  She can handle anything from a crock pot to a skillet with ease.  Her husband, Nic, is a Chief in the Navy who loves to make comfort food for a crowd—with a twist.  He is addicted to kitchen gadgets, when they were registering for their wedding, he and I made a trip to Wickford Gourmet to register!

My younger daughter Kim is a pastry chef extraordinaire.  Her specialty is beautiful and tasty desserts.  She recently lost around 100 lb (!) so she only indulges on holidays now—her daily fare includes delicious Spanish food and rice dishes. 

As you know, my specialty is organic food.  Vegetable dishes and bread are my favorites, with super fresh ingredients and interesting flavor combinations. 

Here is our Easter Menu (several recipes will be included on the blog if you scroll down)

Appetizers:
Assorted Crackers and artisan cheeses
Kale Chips

Dinner:
Glazed Ham
Nic’s special Mashed Potatoes
Sea Salt Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with Lemon and Rosemary
Zesty Carrots
Beet Salad with greens and feta cheese
Homemade Artisan Bread--white with spelt

Dessert:
Chocolate Bunny Cake