Saturday, March 15, 2014

I Make It Myself: Soap

I made soap with two friends today and they said, "you're going to write this down, right?" 

So here is my "I make it myself" post about soap making.  Nothing fancy here, you can find several well-done videos of the process, but I will tell you how I do it.

First I clean all dishes out of my sink and move all food, salt and pepper shakers, appliances, etc. to the other end of the counter so that I have a large clear area to work in. 

What you will need:

A large bowl, a small bowl, a plastic bucket, a large pot, a large spoon with long handle, a plastic long-handled spatula, a digital scale, a stick blender, goggles, gloves, and a mold of some sort.  I also keep an instant-read thermometer handy in case I want to check the oil and lye temps. 

You will need a soap recipe and the ingredients associated with that recipe.  I like recipes that don't call for a gazillion ingredients, so I am not continually running out of this obscure oil but still have plenty of this other oil. You should know, in soap-making, that the oils are not interchangeable.  If you are out of something, you cannot just substitute another.  This is chemistry, not cooking.

If you google recipes,  you can find many, many soap-making recipes.

Here is the soap recipe we used today:

16 oz Olive Oil
16 oz Palm Oil
16 oz Coconut Oil
15.8 oz frozen goat milk (or distilled water)
6.9 oz sodium hydroxide lye

Here's the recipe I used for the shampoo bars I am making in the pictures. 

I have another basic homemade soap recipe that I use when I have collected sufficient lard from my bacon rendering. 

Let's get started.

Measure everything carefully!  If you are off by .1 of an oz, it is no big deal, but overall inaccuracy can lead to all kinds of issues!  

Measure your frozen goat milk or distilled water into the LARGE bowl.  Freezing the milk keeps the chemical reaction from the lye from getting too hot and keeps the milk from curdling.

THEN PUT ON GOGGLES AND GLOVES and wear long sleeves!  

Measure lye into the OTHER SMALL metal bowl. I bought this lye from, great prices, expensive shipping.   I believe you can use "Roebic" lye which is available at some local hardware stores.  Make sure it says 100% lye.

Note picture is wrong type of lye!  Buy SODIUM Hydroxide.

Pour LYE INTO/ONTO FROZEN MILK a little at a time, stirring to melt milk and dissolve lye. I usually go outside to do this because the smell can get overpowering inside.  
Set aside where no-one or nothing can get into it. 

NOTE:  DO NOT pour liquid into lye!  Pour lye into liquid.  

Measure your oils into plastic container.   I zero out the scale after adding each oil. Microwave enough to melt solid oils - about 1 - 2 minutes in my microwave.  Oils and lye mixture should be within 10º  of each other (about 90-100º each).  You can also put the oils in your pot and melt on the stove.

Pour oils into a tall metal pot (I find this prevents splashing out) and then slowly add lye mixture and stir with metal spoon.  Begin using fully-submerged stick blender to mix until mixture reaches "trace" (pudding like consistency).  This should take 15 min to 1/2 hour with the stick blender, longer if something is wrong. :)   In this picture I kept the oils and lye in the plastic container because the shampoo bar recipe uses less ingredients and I wanted to make sure the blender was fully submerged.  It still splashed quite a bit.  Keep your goggles and gloves on!   No one cares how goofy you look, it beats burns and blindness.

This is serious trace!  I realize now that I was sent the wrong type of lye, that's why this picture is chunky.  I'll try to take a different picture next time I make soap.   

I figured out why this is like this.  I had the wrong kind of lye!

Once you reach trace, you can add your fragrance oils or essential oil for scent.  Mix in well with the stick blender.  I have lots of scents....and hopefully lots of sense too.

Pour into lined molds or silicone molds.  

 I found these nifty silicone loaf pans on Amazon.  You can also get long ones, specifically for soap making through essential depot (for 3x the price + shipping....I am not so into this that I can't just use bread loaf pans. ) I also have wooden soap molds that I line with freezer paper.  

Put plastic wrap over the top and wrap in an old towel or blanket to keep it warm.  

Cut into bars after it sets up, after about 24 hours.  You should put your gloves back on for this as it is not cured yet and can be quite stingy to the skin.

Line up cut bars in a box or on a shelf a little distance apart from one another to saponify. The chemical process is NOT done yet!  After about 4 weeks, your soap will be ready to use.  

Clean up your mess.  

I try to keep all of my dangerous lye-laden utensils confined to a single paper towel.  Then that is all I have to clean up.  I wash all of my pots, utensils, bowls and buckets in my empty sink with my gloves and goggles still on.  I do wipe down my counter carefully, but at least I know that my mess was pretty confined to that paper towel.

 Well, that's it!  

UPDATE!  (same-day update):  The reason my soap didn't set up was because Brambleberry sent me a POTASSIUM hydroxide bottle with my order of 5 SODIUM hydroxide bottles! I didn't realize it until I looked at my lye label to write this blog to remember where I had purchased it.  Potassium Hydroxide is used for liquid soap (more complicated) and Sodium Hydroxide is used for making bar soap.  

Monday, March 10, 2014

I Make It Myself: Elderberry Syrup

For several years now, I have been buying "Berry Well" elderberry syrup from I saw their price going up each cold season (and I see now that it is out of stock!) and ordered another brand from Vitacost.  I noticed that taking the syrup at any sign of sickness either keeps me from getting sick at all, or at least cuts the length of the illness dramatically (could be other factors, I suppose, but I have noticed a difference with taking elderberry.) 

A few years ago, I made Very Berry Tincture (from but I just could not stand the alcohol taste so I did not take it faithfully.  I still have the mix of herbs left, so I may try to make it again as I made the syrup. 

I bought organic elderberries through Amazon.  $12 for a whole pound. 

I found a recipe online to make the syrup, but as usual, I made my own adjustments.  Here's the recipe I found: 

This is what I used: 

4 c. water

1 c organic dried elderberries
2 - 1" chunks of ginger root, sliced into pieces
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp whole cloves
1 c raw honey

Pour water into a pot with berries, ginger, cinnamon and cloves.  Simmer on the stovetop for 1 hour.  Let cool and pour through a sieve.  I also put the berries through a food mill, because I didn't like the idea of wasting any of that goodness.  I think it also added a little thickness.  After everything is cool and processed, add the honey.  

This made over 24 oz of Elderberry syrup.  

If you do the rough math:

$6 for 1 c. berries.
$8 for 1 c. honey.
$4 for herbs.
= $18 for the equivalent of 3 - 8oz bottles.
= $6 per bottle.

You can find straight-up Elderberry syrup on Vitacost for about $8 a bottle.
If you want added goodness, like bee propolis and raw cider vinegar, like in Berry Well, it will cost you $22.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

I Make It Myself: Mayonnaise

Another, "I make it myself" opportunity came up more quickly than I thought.  I make salad dressing for my husband (oh, there's another one...) and I needed more mayonnaise for the recipe, so tonight I made mayonnaise.  It is so easy and cheap to make, never will I spend nigh $4 for a jar of it again.

I know this is not new for many of you, but it hasn't been on my blog, so here goes.

I got my recipe from my Fanny Farmer cookbook, but I made a few alterations.

You will need: 
1 c. olive oil
1 egg (preferably fresh from your own chicken)
1/4 t. salt
1/2 t. dry mustard
1 1/2 T. vinegar or lemon juice

In a food processor place:
egg, salt, dry mustard, about 1/4 c. of the olive oil  

Turn on the processor and leave it going. 

SLOWLY drizzle in 3/4 cup more olive oil in a very thin stream (do not get impatient and dump it all in at once at any point!) 

Keep drizzling.....

I know your hand is getting tired, but don't dump the oil in, just KEEP DRIZZLING!

Once you have drizzled in the last drip of oil, you should have a nice creamy emulsion.

Now with processor still going, add 1 1/2 T. vinegar or lemon juice (I prefer the vinegar flavor). You can also add more salt if you like. 

Voila' Mayonaisse!  This will keep as long as the egg would keep in your fridge.  Since I am using a fresh, fresh egg, I would consider it good for a month, but it doesn't last that long anyway.  

Sunday, March 2, 2014

I Make It Myself: Deodorant

I got a private message this week asking me how I make my own bread.

I got a private message about 3 weeks ago asking how I make my own soap.

I got a message about a month ago asking me for my recipe to make my own mayonnaise.

So, I decided to start a new blog series called: I make it myself.  I don't know how consistently I will post, but I hope to write the posts as people ask me whatever it is I am currently making myself.

Yesterday I ran out of deodorant and was scraping the last of it out of my container this morning, so I said, I MUST make some more deodorant today!  So, even though no one asked, I will write about making your own deodorant.

I started making my own deodorant because I read somewhere about the connection between aluminum and Alzheimers and breast cancer.  It got me to thinking about smearing aluminum in my armpit every day, maybe several times a day since puberty.  That would be already about 35 years now!

So I googled how to make my own deodorant.

I found: A Sonoma Garden

I have adjusted the recipe somewhat.  I use less baking soda because it can scratch the skin and leave a rash.  Some people prefer to use all organic ingredients. You can use also arrowroot instead of corn starch.  I am cheap, so I am currently just using corn starch, but I will probably switch eventually.

Homemade Deodorant

3 T. shea butter
2 T. cocoa butter, grated fine (a micro-planer works well.  I grate a bunch into a plastic container for future use.)
1 t. olive oil or coconut oil (for a softer, spreadable texture. Omit for jamming into a "bar" dispenser.)
2 1/2 T. baking soda
2 T. corn starch or arrowroot
5-10 drops of vitamin E (or 2 gel caps squeezed in)
3 probiotic pill-powder (open capsule and mix in)
1/4 t. essential oil of your choice for fragrance (I am currently using fragrance oils because it is what I have.)

All these amounts are rough.  I grate the cocoa butter fine; I mush the shea butter into a tablespoon; both I would consider heaping tablespoons.  Melt butters and oil in a glass bowl or measuring cup in microwave (or on stove), add baking soda and corn starch.  Stir until completely combined. When no longer hot to the touch, add vitamin E, probiotic, and scented oil. Makes about 1/4 pint.  Put in fridge to set up, then keep on shelf at room temp for easy application.  I take about a dime size amount and smear it on with my fingers after I shower.  I do know some friends who make it harder (probably with more cocoa butter) and mash it into an old deodorant container to apply.)

Keeps me smelling.....or rather NOT smelling all day long, even without reapplication!  Aluminum deodorants never worked so well.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

My Grandma

This is what I spoke at my Grandmother's funeral held on January 21st, 2014.

Mildred Wotherspoon was born on January 12, 1911. 

She passed away on January 15, 2014, 2 days after her 103rd birthday. 

My mother and Mildred Wotherspoon were half sisters.  Mildred’s father, Layton Willis, married his second wife, Hazel Heaton and Hazel gave birth prematurely to my mother, Harriet, on April 11, 1943.  Hazel passed away two days later.

Single men did not raise children on their own in those days and Mildred told him, “I will raise her with my own children.”  Mildred was 4 months pregnant with William when my mother was born.  In just a few months, she was basically raising twins.  Layton died when my mother was just 12 years old. 

When my mother married, Mildred gave my mother half of the property that was their father’s and my mother and father built their home right next to Gram and Pop.

That is the same house that I live in now and I have lived in my whole life. 

For most of our school years, my brother Paul and I would go over to visit my grandmother before catching the school bus. We originally started because the bus turned around and came back up our street. Gram could see the bus go by from her window and we could go out and catch it on the way back. Even as we grew older and  caught the bus down the road, we continued to visit her before school.  I believe we visited her several times a week before school until we were driving there in our own cars.

Mildred also visited my mother every Saturday morning and once my mom was no longer working due to her MS, Gram visited her every day.  The signal to Gram that mom was up and awake was lifting the kitchen shade which tells you how close we live.  I remember clearly them sitting at the kitchen table and drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes together.  

Another thing that Mildred had the grandchildren do was brush her hair.  She would call up some evenings and ask if we could come over.   She would sit on the floor in front of the couch and watch Lawrence Welk while we sat behind her and brushed her hair. She would give us each a dime when we were done. 

Mildred was somewhat of a “hot sketch,” a term she would use to describe a somewhat forthright, comedic person that she admired.  I understand she was quite fresh in her youth, telling us a few sneaky stories from her childhood.  She would go out dancing with her friends at Rhodes on the Pawtuxet and that is where she met my grandfather.  

She loved to dance and probably was line-dancing into her 80’s.  When she couldn’t dance anymore she started swimming.  She made many friends along with each of these activities, creating friendships that lasted a lifetime, quite literally, as she outlived her friends.

Mildred was an attentive friend.  She loved to visit and call her friends and relatives. She never forgot even the minor details of your life - if you were going away, or were sick, or what your work schedule was, or your birthday, or anniversary.  She would not hesitate to call and ask how you were feeling or how was your trip. 

Or she might call you up and TRICK YOU into coming over on your birthday to butter your nose! That was one day we would try to avoid going to her house before school, on our birthday.  We were sure to be assaulted and we were confident that this once-a-year “greasing” was going to aggravate our acne.

Assault was to be expected from Grandma.  A kissing assault.  Babies, toddlers, and teens alike were expected to lean over for a kiss firmly planted on their cheek and rebukes of “NO HAIR!”  I am confident that I spent half of my childhood looking like a boy because Gram would nag me to “get that hair cut!” and mom would take me to go get a nice page-boy cut.  

Cookies could be obtained in exchange for kisses only, but you were guaranteed a cookie any time you went over there, if you asked politely and gave Nana a kiss.  I believe that some of my children cleverly visited Nana of their own accord to get a cookie.  I don’t think Nana minded, as she valued the visit and the kiss far above her cookies.   

Respect and love for family was paramount to my Grandma and this was a quality she instilled in her children, and her children’s children, and her children’s children’s children. That is a legacy worth leaving.  

Each person was expected to hug and kiss Gram upon entering and exiting any family gathering.  Every member of our family will kiss and hug each other in greeting and departure without even thinking about it.  Gram has trained us from our youth.  

Certain acts of respect and politeness were expected from both young and old.  Items taken out were to be put away.  Dishes used were to be washed. Permission should be asked before touching, using or eating anything that was not yours, even if it was a dish of candy on the table or a teddy bear on the bed.  And always say, “thank you.”

Despite these expectations, Gram was far from hard.  She was a joker, not silly but cleverly funny.  Even days before she died, during a “Facetime” chat with my brother, Paul, she looked at him talking to her on the little screen of my iPhone and quipped, “Hm, he hasn’t put on much weight,”  and later, “he still has quite a bit of hair.” 

Even outsiders could see the family allegiance to this great woman.  My husband, in our dating and early married days, remarked to me how impressed he was at the other grandchildren, primarily teenagers at that time, that were consistently at her home.  The boys would stop by with their girlfriends who quickly became equally committed to Grandma Spoon.  Her commitment to this family ran deep and this family has honored her by carrying it through to her great grandchildren who routinely visited her up until her death.  

Pop called Mildred, “the Wheel.”  I am not sure exactly what this meant, except that it was usually part of the expression, “go ask The Wheel”, so I recognized that she was somehow in charge.  I realize now that she was truly, The Wheel, the captain at the helm of this ship, steering us on a steady course all of her days and beyond.   

Saturday, December 21, 2013

What I am doing for my Lyme Disease

I tested positive for Lyme Disease...probably in 2010.  I wasn't taking notes then.

Similar symptoms occurred in the summer of 2011 but more severe.  Feeling far-out dizzy, feverish, etc.  I pulled a tick off of my neck at the end of April and noticed it was full meaning it had been attached for a while.  Months later, my neck was itchy, but there was no visible rash.  It was July and I took my temp and it was about 99º.  2 days later, I went to the Walk-in with a fever of 101º and told the doctor I suspected Lyme.  I was put on Doxy.  6 days later the doctor called me and said my Lyme was negative BUT I was positive for Babesia, another tick-borne illness.  This required different treatment.  

I won't bore you with all the nitty-gritty details, the purpose of this note is to tell you what I am doing and why.

Fast-forward May 2013, I am feeling "Lymie" again.  Temperature of 99º, foggy-brain, and achey joints.  I went to a doctor and he prescribed Doxy but my Lyme test came back negative again (or at least not higher than it would be from my previous infection.) 

It seems like nearly every spring, I feel Lymish, have a negative test, go searching for some other cause, and waste a lot of money on dead ends.  Spring 2013 I had severe hip pain (interestingly, the area of my first tick-bite in 2010.)  I had it x-rayed and aside from minor arthritis, nothing.  The doctor asked me if I wanted a muscle relaxant.  Um, no thanks.  I did go to a chiropractor who straightened me out after about 2 visits....but I also simultaneously started the Buhner Lyme Protocol.  See, I told you I would get to my point. 

I confess I am an herbal-medicine skeptic.  I did research each of the herbs he recommends and found that each definitely have qualities that would address Lyme symptoms.  Also, he seemed honest about the success-rate feedback he receives.  I figured it was worth the $ investment to give it a try.  I have used it for over 6 months and saw definite improvement.  I have been slacking off lately and have seen some symptoms returning.  

This is what I have been using from the Buhner protocol and the research on each herbal supplement. You cannot believe everything on the internet, of course, but most herbal and medical websites gave these as listed properties of the herbs.  I ordered all of my supplements from Vitacost (and if you haven't ever ordered from them, you can use my link and you will get $10 off and I will too): 

1. Resveratrol (japanese knotweed) - anti-oxidant , anti-aging, heart health 
Vitacost Trans-Resveratrol with CoQ10 - 250 mg/ 100 mg - 60 Capsules

2. Astragalus - immune booster
Vitacost Astragalus Root -- 1500 mg per serving- 100 Capsules

3. Alpha lipoic acid - anti-oxidant, fatty acid, repairs nerve damage, restores brain function
Vitacost Alpha Lipoic Acid & Acetyl L-Carnitine HCl -- 1,600 mg per serving - 60 Capsules

4. Eleuthero root - ginseng- energy, memory, endurance
Vitacost Eleuthero Root (Eleutherococcus senticosus) -- 1000 mg per serving - 120 Capsules

5. Cat's Claw - antibiotic properties, reduces inflammation
Vitacost Cat's Claw {Uña de Gato} -- 500 mg - 300 Capsules

I stopped taking the Resveratrol after I finished the 60 caps because it is the most expensive of the herbs. (Correction, I took it for 4 months, so that would be 2 bottles).  $25 verses the $5-$10 for the others.  I will probably re-order it again since it has other health benefits:

Anyway, like I said, it was worth the relatively small monetary investment to feel healthy again and it has worked for me.  Purely anecdotal, I know, but I suppose if enough people have success from it, it then becomes more tested and proven. 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Kate Larsen's REAL Bread Stuffing

So, about 2 years ago we celebrated Thanksgiving with our church.  I agreed to roast a turkey to contribute and since our family was attending, I made all the other standards that we would have had at home as well.  I showed up with my quaint corning-ware dish of homemade stuffing (dressing, really, it wasn't stuffed in the turkey) and left it with the kitchen "staff".  They had made giant aluminum foil trays of stuffing for the over 100 people attending, and so mine was set aside.  Later on, the "head chef" said, "hey, that was really good stuffing.  Is that parsley?  We decided not to put it out.  Do you mind if we bring some home?"

2 years later, bump into "head chef" during fellowship after church, "Hey Amy, are you making that stuffing again this year?"

After many rave reviews and since many folks think Stove-Top and Pepperidge Farm are how stuffing is made, I thought I would share my step-mother's grandmother's recipe for REAL stuffing.

I remember my step-mother, Rose, making this recipe with me when I was a young girl, but I don't think it was until I had been married for about 15 years that I actually asked for the recipe.  

To start, lay out your bread to stiffen/stale.  I do not use white bread, or at least not all white bread.  I save and freeze bread ends or any bread that will not be used, like that last hamburger roll or the end of the loaf that is no longer fresh.  This year, I had bought some rolls from Walmart that were day-old cheap and was going to use for dinner, but made my own from scratch instead.  So those were cut in half and put out to stale for stuffing.  I just leave it out overnight on my counter.  

Next, I cut the bread into cubes and place in very large bowl.  I know the recipe says to moisten into balls, but I found that the seasonings, egg, etc didn't mix as well with the bread and it was too dense that way, so I cut into 1-inch cubes instead.  

Add to the bread crumbs:  
1 medium onion, chopped fine
1 stalk celery, chopped fine 
Fresh Parsley, chopped fine (I used a WHOLE bunch, this is a key ingredient) 
Fresh or dried Thyme (6-8 stalks or 1/2 t. dried)
1 1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper (I probably used more)
3 eggs 
Broth to moisten bread (1 -2 cups, but add gradually)

Mix well....clean hands work best! 

Try adding 1 lb sausage if you like.  I parboiled and broke into tiny pieces before adding to the above.

Stuff into turkey or bake in a large casserole dish for about 30-40 min. (cover for about 1/2 the time then uncover to brown the top....I didn't do that this time, but I think it tastes better that way.)

Enjoy!  (I forgot to take a picture before we ate some!)

Here's just the recipe without pics:

Kate Larsen's Bread Stuffing

About 1 loaf of stale bread (different kinds of breads will do)
1 medium onion, chopped fine
1 stalk of celery, chopped fine
1 full bunch of fresh Parsley, chopped fine
6-8 stalks of fresh Thyme (or 1/2 t. dried)
1 1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper (or more)
3-4 eggs, enough to bind
water or broth - about 1-2 cups
1 lb sausage, parboiled (optional)

Put bread out to stiffen, about 2 hours. Cut bread into cubes and place in large bowl.  Add remaining ingredients except broth/water.  Mix with hands adding a little broth at a time to moisten.  You don't want it soaking.  Place into turkey just before roasting, or put into casserole dish and bake for 30-40 minutes. 

As you can see from the hand-written recipe, credits go to my step-mother, Rosemary Rainer Chesser, and her grandmother, Kate Larsen!