"Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things."

Friday, April 30, 2010

Giveaway WInner!

It's time to choose a big winner for the soap giveaway. I know the suspense is just killing you. (All 20 of my readers.) I entered one of these little giveaways yesterday on a bloggety-blog and I was the 6098th entry. Uh, your odds are slightly better here...


Anyway... A random number generator seems so anti-climatic when there are so few names, so I just had Averie choose the name out of a bowl. Pretty high-tech.

And the winner is... [drumroll, please]

(sorry the video is so dark. Would it have killed me to open a window?)

video

Yay Sally! Way to go. Averie thought you were "Sally" from her favorite movie "Cars". She kept saying that she wanted Lightning McQueen to win next. I just sent you a facebook message with the details. Congratulations!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Gruesome Tale: Survival of the Fittest

Yesterday after Brandon came home from work we were sitting in the kitchen chatting when he suddenly stopped mid-sentence and took a double-take at Averie's noisy roll playing scenario.

She was making loud growling and chomping noises over the top of our conversation, but that was nothing out of the ordinary.

This is what her animals were doing on the bench right next to me:



That poor giraffe must have done something really bad. Even the rhino and impala have it in for him. I was, as usual, totally oblivious to the carnage. I wonder what else slips by me?
Averie was suddenly a little embarrassed by all the attention.



Maybe we should take it easy with the "Planet Earth" documentary nights.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Artsy Water

I took Mason to swimming lessons again on Saturday. He is doing so well! After three times of taking swimming lessons he is finally swimming independently in the deep water. (Though still somewhat briefly.) I'm so proud of him!


I didn't get any good pictures of the accomplishment because of the light reflection from the huge windows opposite me in the pool room.

The water was so gorgeous though and I kept snapping picture after picture of the colors reflecting off the surface of the water. Look how cool:







The colors and swirls look so abstract. I'm tempted to paint something based on these. Definitely inspiring.

Soap Lessons and Ten Reasons I Love Soap

This weekend my sister-in-law, Melissa came over to learn how to make soap. We made a batch of oatmeal almond, and then she made another batch which we divided in half at trace and scented half with "Edward" and half with "Polynesian Red" and added poppy seeds.


The "split" batch we poured into milk cartons for a mold. I'm excited to see how they turn out. I'll post a link HERE to her blog if she posts pictures.


My house has the most intoxicating almond scent upstairs now. I have to make a batch for myself, purely for the smell. It's been making me hungry for something almond flavored though...

Here are the almond oatmeal bars. A-MAZ-ING smell! (They are also included in the options for the giveaway.)



So people keep asking, "Why soap?" Well, here are some reasons I love making cold-process soap:

1. It's incredibly moisturizing. More than Dove, or "moisturizing" body wash, or anything else I have tried. I've never been a bar soap person, but I will probably never go back.

2. Lather! And without any detergent. (The coconut oil is what gives it the super lather.)
3. I know what's in it. Have you ever read the ingredients for soap or body wash from the store? It's mostly detergent and chemicals. None of it actually has soap anymore, and most doesn't even contain glycerin. Some of those chemicals and additives are really bad for you. And they dry out your skin. (See #1)

4. It smells heavenly, mostly because I can choose any scent I like. Or I can choose to leave out the fragrance entirely. But I think one of the fun parts is choosing the scents.

5. It's really fun to make. I feel like a mad scientist or chemist or something. It's just technical enough to keep me on my toes without being overly complicated. I'm finding that soap-making is actually quite addictive. It's also fun to teach, share, trade and GIVEAWAY (hint hint).


6. This one is debatable, but I'm going to say it anyway: it's economical. Sure, you can add all the fancy oils and fragrances and make a batch of soap that costs upwards of 2-3-4 dollars a bar, but you can also make it with any oils you have around and a couple bucks worth of lye. The batches we made yesterday averaged just over $ .50 per bar. You couldn't come close to that in the stores when you consider the quality.

7. I know how to make soap. How cool is that? Definitely a plus for the provident living thing.

8. It's good, strong soap, and stands up to the "man" test. Glycerin soap is nice, but it doesn't quite have the cleaning power of real soap. (It's a little strong for the kids to use without supervision and it stings like crazy if you get it in your eyes.) It also tingles in cuts or broken skin, but that's just a sign that the soap is doing its job.

9. It's another creative outlet. One that is a bit more constructive than some of my endeavors. I have stayed up late more than one night planning the next batch of soap.
I know. I have some problems... I'm working on it...

10. We will never, ever run out of soap again. : )

Friday, April 23, 2010

Speed Stacks

It turns out I'm not the only one in the family that knows how to properly obsess over something. Mason has a new obsession.

Mason and Ellorie have been learning a new "sport" in P.E. at school called "speed stacking" or "cup stacking". Okay, it's technically not a sport in any traditional sense, but it is competitive and promotes eye-hand coordination. Mason is obsessed. Click HERE to see what it's supposed to look like.

He went through my cupboards the first day after getting home from school and pulled out all the cups in the house. Didn't really work. The best bet was some plastic disposable cups that Averie kept filling with water and dumping all over the floor. There were literally cups laying all over the house and momma wasn't too happy. He spent the best part of the weekend stacking the plastic cups until a few of them broke and there were no longer twelve identical cups in the house. Then he started looking online for a set of his own "speed stacks". We found that they are kinda expensive. He has been saving his money for a while, but he didn't quite have enough.

We gave him the option of digging rocks out of the lawn to earn money. He filled ELEVEN buckets full of rocks, earning him the remaining needed cash for his beloved cups. Man, that kid has tenacity. I need to find the same motivation to get him to keep his bedroom clean, and we'll be in good shape.

After several days of talking and thinking about nothing else, we concluded that he was serious about this "Speed Stacks" thing. We found a good deal online and ordered the set. He happily turned over all his hard-earned dollars.

It arrived Wednesday, but he had to have his room clean before opening it (I'm such a mean mom), so he didn't get to open the package until Thursday. After only 24 hours of practicing this is what he can do (keep in mind he's still a beginner) :

This one is called the Cycle

video

And the shorter 3-6-3

video


Ellorie, Averie, and even Brandon have been trying their hand at stacking. Here is Ellorie demonstrating the beginning 3-3-3:

video

I have to admit it's more intriguing than I originally thought. I can definitely see the draw. Mason got up at the crack of dawn this morning to practice before school, and he was practicing well after he should have been in bed tonight. We'll have to post some videos in a few weeks to see his improvement. It's actually kinda fun.

If you want to see some REALLY impressive stacking, head over to youtube and watch some more pros. It's pretty amazing.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Springing into Spring

It's true that spring is slow to come around these parts, but I think it's safe to say that it's finally here. It may snow again once or twice, but once it's time to cut the grass and plant the garden, we move outdoors.

I've seen lots o' blogs boasting of beautiful tulips in bloom, but ours are just starting out. I love tulips. I bought a bunch last fall that are still in my basement because the ground froze solid before I had a chance to get them in. Oh well. Next year.


Brandon is finally done with the dreaded "tax season" and we are immensely enjoying his presence around here. He hasn't had much of a chance to relax though.

Friday he fertilized the lawn. Saturday he went and got two big loads of manure and spread it in the garden. Monday he tilled it all in, set up the watering system, and got it all ready for planting.

Today I'm planting the cold weather seeds. Peas, onion starts, lettuces, swiss chard, spinach, celery (never tried it before), carrots, beets, cabbage, and brussel sprouts. If this baby will ever let me put him down and if Averie will stay out of the road. And those are pretty big "ifs". Gardening this summer may prove to be a little more difficult than last year. We'll see.

It's a big garden. (40 feet by 60 feet) Any bigger and we'd have to call ourselves farmers. It's hard to appreciate the scale in these pictures, but it is really, really large.

Here's a close up of Brandon's ingenious watering system. It worked wonderfully last year.


The kids love, love, LOVE being out in the sunshine. Rocket is also overjoyed to have so many playmates and so much attention.


Rylan even tolerates sitting in the shade, though he really dislikes the wind. He smiles for the attention of his sisters as they pass by.

Yay for spring!!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Spearmint Eucalyptus Exfoliating Bar

Yes, more soap. I think I have two more batches to go, so you'll just have to bear with me...


This time I wanted to add something exfoliating into the batch. After some research I selected poppy seeds, mostly for their low cost and high availability. I added 3 Tablespoons to my normal size batch. This is the "olive oil" recipe I used for the lavender soap.


The fragrance is "Spearmint Eucalyptus", and I used the recommendation for a "strong" scent, but it isn't very strong. I would have added at least another quarter ounce. Next time I'll use 1.7 or 1.8 ounce. I DO really like the scent though. It's lightly minty without being overpowering. The eucalyptus and spearmint go really nicely together. It has a very fresh and clean smell to it.


This fragrance also accelerated the trace, which means it set up really, really fast once I poured in the fragrance oil. It was a little lumpy on the top because it's a lot harder to pour out smooth soap once it starts to thicken. Imagine really thick instant pudding. (You can kind of see the lumps in the picture.) If I would have waited 30 seconds more it would have been a disaster. But it turned out just about perfectly.


And I think the poppy seeds are quite pretty.


I can't wait to try all these fun new soaps!



And by the way: my soap "giveaway" is still open if you want one of these beauties. Click HERE for details. You have until April 30th to enter.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Swimming Lessons

We decided to get a jump on swimming lessons this year for Mason instead of waiting for summer. He is loving the longer classes (one hour) and tiny class sizes (3 kids). He gets lots and lots of attention. That also means he has to work harder. He is absolutely exhausted at the end of the hour, but he's learning a lot.

The last two summers of swimming lessons have been very unproductive. This place seems to be better for him. He's learning all kinds of cool strokes, swimming laps, and practicing diving into the pool for races. (I'm not a swimmer, I have no idea what these things are called.) He's still mainly using the kick board to swim, but in only two lessons he has greatly improved.



My camera ran out of batteries after these two shots, but I'll get more next week.

Go, Mason, go!

What would you do?

I had a ton of broccoli from the food co-op today. I whipped up a huge vat of broccoli cheese soup for the masses. Mmmm. It smelled so tasty, and everyone was starving and ready to dig in. I went to dish up the first bowl and discovered this:

Pepper?

no, didn't put in the pepper yet.

Uh...


Bugs?

yup. Lots of 'em. Maybe 30.

I'm assuming they are from the organic broccoli.

It's like two gallons of soup. Such a waste.

Everyone is starving, whining, crying for dinner.

Maybe if I just....

No.

It might not be so bad if I just...

No. That's so gross.

Call me a spoiled, wasteful American, but...

Would you eat it?

I know I probably eat little bugs like that all the time without knowing, but...

I can't.

Such a waste.

Looks like we're having breakfast for dinner.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Three Months



Rylan continues to grow like a weed. He is three months (and a week) old now. His favorite past times include:

kicking his feet (constantly),
cooing and gooing at anyone that will talk in his general direction,
smiling at Momma,
giggling at Daddy,
watching his musical toys,
snuggling,
sticking out his tongue at Mason,
watching his wild sisters play horsies,
scratching his face (he is grounded indefinitely from his hands),
and generally being the center of attention.
He is such a fun, happy boy. We just can't get enough of him.

Averie is just the teensiest bit jealous of all the attention Rylan gets. She loves him, but is a tad demanding when she feels she is being slighted in the least. While I was taking pictures of Rylan she said, "Momma, take my pictures too!" and she would get really close to the camera. Such a cutie. Love that smile:
My little sprouts are growing like weeds as well:

I'm looking forward to starting the garden.

Lots of good things. After three months of long, cold winter as a "single" parent (tax season), I'm so excited to have some sunshine and some help with the kids. Happy tax day!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Helper

Rylan's skin has been really dry and scratchy. And he has the baby acne that my kids always get. It doesn't help that he claws himself to a bloody pulp every time he figures out how to get the socks off his little hands. Being a baby is a tough job.



Averie is sympathetic to his plight. She was just trying to help him out a bit this afternoon by applying a heavy application of baby lotion to her little brother's head.



Thanks, Averie. What would we do without your help?



Averie was unavailable for comments. In her defense though, she did a pretty good job. It could have been a whole lot worse.


p.s. two new recipes on the cooking blog.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Splendid Soap

It has to be unhealthy to obsess over things the way I do, but I just can't help it. I've been dreaming of soap again at nights. Thinking about new forms, things I can add, combinations of fragrances and oils. It's unhealthy I tell you. I've been just dying to make more soap, and finally just dove in.

My friend Shatzi came over yesterday and I helped her make a batch of Coconut Lime Verbena. I was a little afraid of this fragrance oil because of the soap monster that erupted from the mold last time I used that oil. But that was my very first batch, and I've learned a lot since then. I got all of my supplies from Majestic Mountain Sage again, and I've been reading up on cold process soap, so I feel a lot more comfortable changing up recipes.

I'm quite a seasoned soap maker now. (ha ha ha)

Okay, not really, but I feel like I sorta know what I'm doing now.

I didn't take any decent pictures, but you can refer to the lavender soap I made with my mom last week if you want details. Pretty much the same process and a similar recipe. We used avocado oil instead of olive oil, and changed the fragrance oil to half of the "coconut lime verbena", and half "lime essential oil, expressed" and I think it drastically improved the smell. (It smells much more like the coconut lime verbena from B&BW.) It was smooth and beautiful and turned out about perfectly.

And then...

The creative side of my brain took over my body...

As it has been known to do...

From time to time...

And I shirked my household responsibilities for the rest of the afternoon...

And made...

(you guessed it)

More soap.

And it seems I have a very difficult time restraining myself to sticking to a recipe. It needed to be pretty. It was screaming for something fun and funky. And my first original soap recipe was born.

I made a scrumptious batch I like to call Cocoa Berry Swirl. My own invention, and I have to say I'm pretty proud of the way it turned out. My family is pretty sick of me talking about my yummy, pretty, soap. But it is SO yummy and pretty. I can't wait to use it. See for yourself:


Cool, huh! I still can't get over how well it turned out. And it smells amazing. Okay, I'm going to stop gushing over my soapmaking prowess, and tell about how it was made.

I followed the basic recipe using coconut oil, lard, canola oil, avocado oil, lye and distilled water.


When the soap started to trace I mixed in the fragrance called Polynesian Red. It's a blend of pomegranate with a bit of pineapple, red grapefruit, green apple, mango and moss. I really like the fragrance. But I thought it would be nice with chocolate too. I mean, doesn't chocolate make everything better?

So then I removed 2 cups of the soap mixture while it was still at a thin trace and mixed it with 4 Tablespoons of cocoa powder.

Then I poured the uncolored soap into the mold and drizzled the chocolate mixture onto the plain. I didn't get pictures while it was in the bowl. I had to hurry before the soap hardened.



Then I took a chopstick and marbled the two colors together.

And this morning I cut it into bars. I LOVE IT! It has a yummy, berry-ey, slightly fruity smell, with a hint of chocolate. But more importantly, it's cool-looking. Okay. I'm done gushing.


And if YOU want one of these pretty bars and haven't entered "the giveaway" yet, click HERE to read the details. Deadline is April 30th.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Spring Break + Snow Day = Idaho

I was all revved up for the kids to go back to school yesterday so I could finally get the house put back together after spring break.

No dice.

6 am the phone rings telling us that school has been cancelled due to extreme weather. That means snow. Lots of snow. Super.

And not that I have anything against snow. It was actually a beautiful, sunny, day with clean, crisp snow all over the ground. But I'm just wondering why they call it "spring" break.

I mean, why not wait a month when it sort of resembles spring outside? Who knows.

Does this look like spring to you?


Ellorie had the time of her life rolling around in the snow with Rocket. Mason went along with it too. Averie played inside. She doesn't like being cold. Or being mauled by the dogs.

But she did color this cute picture she calls, "Two Wolves". I think it's darling.


I had a big ol' pot of soup cooking in the crock pot, and had big baking and cleaning plans for the day. But at about 9 am the power suddenly went out. And never returned. We were without power for almost eight hours.

We have no
water,
stove,
lights,
phone,
heat,
flushing toilets,
internet,
or anything else when the power goes out.

So much for baking and cleaning. Kinda hard to mop the floor and do laundry without water. I eventually cranked up the gas camping stove to save my soup. I used up what remained of the propane though, and it really started me thinking...

What if the power would have been out for much longer than one day? Sure, we have tons of food storage, but what good is a 50 pound sack of beans without water and heat to cook them with? How cold would our house become in a week without a furnace? What happens after all the stored water is gone and we can't get anything out of our well? How do I cook things after all the propane is gone? We don't have a fire place here, or even fire wood to start a fire outdoors if it came to that. It's really hard to store more than a couple weeks worth of fuel and water.

It's amazing how just a few hours without power makes us realize how completely we depend upon it. And suddenly that manual well pump moves up on the priority list.

On a positive note, the power came back on just before dinner. The soup was delicious, we were all warm and safe, and it really was a pretty fun day. The toilets could finally be flushed, laundry could be started, dishes done, floor vacuumed, things cleaned up. The furnace kicked on and warmed up the house, the phone and internet were once again connected to the outside world, and the stove kept the soup warm, then the refrigerator kept it cold. And I counted and continue to count my blessings.

I know that electricity is certainly not a necessity in life, though we may think it to be so. But I still feel very blessed that I have so many comforts and conveniences in my day-to-day life. I would have been a lousy pioneer.




p.s. Don't forget to enter the giveaway from yesterday's post if you haven't already! Deadline is April 30th.