Tuesday, July 22, 2014

One Of Those Days

I am having one of those hard days.  Those days where you absolutely just have too much to do, a teething baby who won't let you put him down, a tightly wound little boy who is so frustrated that I can't understand what he's trying to tell me, a little girl who I had to send outside because I couldn't stand listening to her whimper and cry anymore that her brothers are mean and won't let her play with them and an increasingly defiant almost eight year old who doesn't want to do anything I ask him to do.  That's not to mention the church calling things I need to do, the soap I need to make (by the way, a big thank you to all my customers who are so loving a patient.  You guys are the best!) and a long list of other things that have been put on the back burner but are creeping up on me because they just have to be done at some point.  Yet here I am.  The baby is finally taking a nap and I have two free hands that I can actually use to do something productive like do the dishes or fold Mt. Laundry.  But that's not what I want to do.  It's what I should do but not what I want to do.

Right now I just want to go lay on the couch and go to sleep.  Or, paint the sunflowers you see in the above picture.  Since the kids are around and would probably want to paint too (and I just can't handle that right now), then maybe actually do some work on the book I started writing at the beginning of this month.  Or, and you might think this silly, uninterrupted organization and cleaning.  You know, being able to clean or organize ONE THING without being interrupted or distracted, only then to forget about it, leaving it half unfinished.  Did you know I like cleanliness and order?  Yep. I do.  Which is why I should probably go clean something.  But no, I'm procrastinating because I just really need a break right now.  And maybe a really yummy salad made from the beautiful vegetables I saw at the farmer's market last Friday.  That's where I found these beautiful sunflowers and I've been in the mood to paint ever since.

So . . . I will let Princess back inside and go get baby up from his nap (which was way too short).  Then maybe, just maybe I'll get to do something relaxing soon.  Something quiet.  Oh, I do still have that chicken story to tell you.  My hands are just needed right now to pick up Baby H.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Everything is Awesome!

 "Everything is awesome
Everything is cool when you're part of a team
Everything is awesome when we're living our dream."

Well, if you haven't guessed by now, our home has been invaded by The Lego Movie.  To be honest, I think it's a fantastic movie that was so well written and a nice change from the questionable messages of Frozen.  

Anyway, we've been pretty busy as you probably have guessed.  The pictures are not in exact order.  I love the above picture so that's why I put it first.  It pretty much sums up Tank's personality.
 We were very blessed to be able to spend the 4th of July weekend at my Sister-in-law's house.  We had a lot of fun with fireworks, swimming and spending time with family. 
 "Oooo fire!"
 We also got to bring one of my nephews home with us.  He kind of bounced back and forth between us and Grandma/Papa's house.  On one of the days we decided to go to the lake and hang out.  Everyone got in the water and had a blast.
And last but not least, a picture of the moon.  A few days ago there was a super moon so I decided I would try and take pictures again.  It was kind of trial and error.  I really wish I could take a class on how to do stuff with my camera.  I know just enough to know what it can do but can't remember how to get it to do it.  Well this shot was taken when I managed to get it off of full auto and I could work with the brightness.  Then I worked with it in Photoshop (something I am actually VERY knowledgeable at) and came up with this.  If possible, look at it on a big screen.  It's pretty amazing.

OK, well everything really has been awesome, at least the important things.  I have a chicken story to tell you but I'll save that for another post.  For now, keep smiling everyone.  :-)

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Princess Ballerina

Well as I promised on facebook, here's the blog post.  There isn't too much to say except that I'm proud of my little Princess and how well she did in her first recital.  Thursdays were her favorite day of the week this past school year because it meant dance class.  This girl loves to dance and sing and make music.  These pictures (and video) were taken during the dress rehearsal, the morning of the recital.  We got there just a tad early so I could take pictures.  You know, cuz that's what I do.  This is by far my favorite picture of Princess.  I love the little overhead lighting with a dark stage background. 
The little ballerinas gabbing it up before the rehearsal starts.
Some action shots . . .
This one is another one of my favorites.  She's doing her pose perfectly and enjoying every minute of it.
Watching the teacher . . .
Final pose.

Here's a video of the dress rehearsal.  Sorry about my under-the-breath comment to the person who stands in front of me while I'm taping.  She was just doing her job :-)   Also, I will be making this video private in about a week or so.  So if you would like to watch it, do it now. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

What is Sodium Hydroxide?

What is Sodium Hydroxide?  This is a question I get asked about a lot when it comes to my soap.  I get asked this at craft shows when customers read my ingredients list and I get asked this ALL THE TIME on my etsy shop.  When people are looking for an all natural soap and they see the words "sodium hydroxide," many go into a panic.  How in the world can my soap be natural if I list a chemical in my ingredients?  So I'm writing this post in an effort to inform and clarify a few things, and also because I love science and am fascinated my the chemical reaction the takes place when you make soap.  Also, I've found that when I explain the process to people, they become just as fascinated by it as I am and become more appreciative of the wonderful creation of my natural soaps.

So, what is Sodium Hydroxide?  Well, the common name for it is Lye.  Now I know that conjures up images of old grandmas stirring for hours over a hot soap kettle, only to end up with a product that burns the skin.  Well, while that may at one point been the method of soap making, the process has come a very long way.  Now, if you do your job right, you end up with a mild soaps that contains no lye after the curing process is complete.
(photo credit: http://historyinphotos.blogspot.com/2014/03/frank-hohenberger.html) 

But what, you might ask, is lye?  Well I'm glad you asked.  Lye is made when you mix wood ash with water.  The resulting concoction is a caustic substance called lye.  This particular lye is potassium hydroxide which is also used in soap making.  The lye that I use is sodium hydroxide and is made from a solution of salt and water that has undergone electrolysis.  Both potassium hydroxide and sodium hydroxide are used in similar ways in the soap making process.

So do I make my own lye?  No.  I buy it because it is in a much safer and stable form then anything I could try to make on my own.  Plus, I don't have that much wood ash to be able to sustain my soap making business.

Can you make soap without lye?  Nope!  Lye is the one, essential ingredient that you simply can not make soap without (well, aside from the oil).  As I mentioned before, the process of making soap is a big chemical reaction.  First you have the chemical reaction of mixing your lye with a liquid like water, Aloe Vera juice or a milk.  Then you have the chemical reaction of mixing your lye solution with your oils.  Here's a diagram.
(credit:  http://chemistry.about.com/library/weekly/blsapon.htm)

The products of mixing sodium hydroxide with a fat are glycerol (Glycerin) and soap.  Glycerin is very good for your skin and is a humectant, drawing moisture to your skin.  As long as your lye solution is correct, there should be no left over sodium hydroxide in your soap once the chemical reaction takes place.  Since I always superfat my formulas, I ensure that all the sodium hydroxide is used up in the process.  Supperfatting is the process of adding extra fats and oils to your formula so that there is more fat and oil in the mixture then the lye can react with.

If all the lye gets used up in making the soap, why do I list it in my ingredients list on my soap labels?  Well, because I want to be honest.  I do use a chemical while making my soap and even though there isn't any in the final product, I did use it.  This is going to sound harsh, but I feel that if a soap maker does NOT list it in their ingredients, they are not being honest.  Even if a soap maker is using a pre-made soap base, they should still be listing all of the ingredients.

Are my products gentle on the skin and good for those with sensitivities?  Absolutely!  When people have a reaction to soap it is generally to commercial soaps that are stripped of their natural glycerin and moisture.  This is in fact the reason why I began making soaps in the first place.  I suffer from eczema and so do some of my children.  My homemade soaps are gentle on our skin and don't irritate it like many other soaps do.  This is also why I began making my Oatmeal Goat Milk soap which is both dye free and fragrance free with soothing goat milk and oatmeal.  Bottom line is, I stand by my product.  I will defend it.  I make good soap.

So, for good soap, you need lye (sodium hydroxide).  You can't make soap without it.  It's that important and nothing to be afraid of.


Thursday, June 5, 2014

Last Day of School!

 Well the 2013-2014 school year is officially done!  Or will be at 12:45 today.  Princess had a wonderful first year of school and is so excited to be a big first grader and Golf Boy is going to be in the third grade.  Tank's in the picture too because he finished his first session of speech.  They have all grown and learned so much.  I thought it would be fun to put up first day and last day pictures for comparison. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Smell of Blessed: Strawberry Scones

You know, I think I have an emotional attachment to smells.  Different smells trigger memories and emotions for me, more then the actual taste of something.  Whenever I smell granola baking in my oven I am overcome with feelings of gratitude for blessings that I have.  Whenever I smell a fresh crisp morning with it's moist dew, I feel at home and at peace.  Well, the smell of strawberry scones does something very similar for me.  When the smell of strawberry scones fills my home, not only do I feel just how much I am blessed, but life feels good.  Fresh strawberries, cream, a touch of sweetness . . . it's like heaven.  

Perhaps the smell of strawberry scones is so powerful to me because the first time I discovered this recipe, we were just coming out of a rough spot.  Bryce had been out of work for a really long time and he had finally just gotten a job that was providing well for our family.  It took us such a long time to relax when his paychecks started coming in.  We had been so used to going without some of the nicer things and you know what, that was ok.  Well, one day I finally let myself splurge a little bit and I bought some strawberries.  I went to one of those strawberry stands that are scattered around the central valley and I bought a big flat of them to make some strawberry jam.  I worked all day cleaning, mashing and cooking the strawberries, then filling and sealing up all the goodness into those little jars.  At the end, I had just a little bit left over so I put them aside for the next morning's breakfast.  Well later that evening with the smell of strawberry jam still lingering in the air I thought how good the jam would taste on some scones.  I love scones -as long as they aren't dried out.  One thought led to another am I decided to search for a recipe for strawberry scones.  Well, I found one!  I then made it the very next morning.  Delicious!  And the smell . . . ahhhh.  Life was good.

Well this evening, as I was cleaning the kitchen, I kept glancing at the baskets of strawberries on my counter.  I bought them a few days ago for my kids, expecting them to be gobbled up in an hour, but there they still sat, only half eaten.  How oblivious kids can be sometimes, or how easy it is for them to forget how those precious strawberries were once a luxury that was passed aside in favor of something else that was a little more economical.  But they are kids and I don't really expect them to remember.  I don't want them to remember.  Ok, maybe remember enough to be able to appreciate what we try to provide for them, and to not waste it.  But I guess that's something I still need to teach them.  Anyway, in the spirit of thrift (I'm currently reciting the phrase in my mind:  Use it up!  Wear it out!  Make do! Or do without!) and not wanting those delicious strawberries to go to waste, I made scones.  They will be tomorrow's breakfast.

And now, just in case you want to make them too, here's the recipe.

Strawberry Scones
2 cups flour (you can use wheat flour -it tastes good as half white, half wheat) (plus more for kneading)
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
4 TBS slightly softened butter (I've used shortening before with good results)
3/4 cup milk or cream (I've used rehydrated powdered milk and it was still good)
1/2 cup chopped fresh strawberries

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Mix flour, baking powder and sugar.  Cut in the butter with a pastry blender.  Stir in the milk and strawberries until blended.  Put dough on a floured surface and gently knead into a soft ball.  (It should be very moist but not stick to your hands because of the outside dusting of flour.)  Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a pre-heated baking stone.  Flatten out to about 1 and 1/2 inches thick.  Slice the dough with an "X" on the top.  You don't have to cut all the way through, just the top.  Bake for 15-20 minutes.  Cool.

Note:  If you use a baking sheet with parchment paper, it will take a little bit longer then if using the stone but both ways turn out just fine.  Final cooking time was closer to 20 minutes.  Cook the scones only until the center no longer feels "doughy."  Think of it as a giant biscuit.  You don't want to ever cook it.


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Endings and Beginnings

Things have been busy lately.  It's close to the end of the school year, Princess's dance class is wrapping up, I had been busy preparing for a craft show (which wasn't as great as I was hoping, but hey, I got a lot of work done that I would of procrastinated on so it's good.)  Bryce was gone . . . a lot.  It was everything I could do just to make sure the basics were taken care of.  Food, homework, hugs, prayers.  Laundry got washed, sometimes folded but rarely put away and if you were to come over unexpected, be prepared for a very dirty floor that was maybe swept a couple of days ago and mopped . . . I can't remember last.  Oh and if you happened to also need to use our bathroom, please remember that I live with some yucky boys, one of them only newly potty trained (HOORAY!!!)

But now, everything seems to be ending . . . except the laundry.  That's never ending.

You know, a little while ago Bryce and I were having one of our late night discussions.  We have those periodically.  They are never planned and just sort of happen.  I cherish them.  We talk about what's going on, what's wonderful and what's frustrating.  We talk about our hopes and dreams.  We do this a lot.  I think by constantly talking about our dreams together, it keeps them fresh in our minds so that we are always working together towards those goals.  Anyway, we were both pretty frustrated.  It was a hopeful frustration if that makes sense.  We both felt we needed a change.  We could feel a change coming and while it's frustrating to wait sometimes, we've both come to trust in Heavenly Father's timing.  We have seen time and time again in our lives how things have been perfectly lined up to work perfectly to bless us.  Sometimes it has taken months or even a year/years.  So, we had faith that a change would come and that we wouldn't feel stagnant anymore.  So then what is ending?

The kids get out of school in eight school days.  Tank has finished his first series of speech therapy and I couldn't be more proud of how he has worked so hard to learn to speak.  Dance class is almost done.  I'm done making soap for a while because I have a decent inventory.  And Bryce's work let him go.

With all of these endings and changes, I feel peace.  The biggest stress that our family has been trying to work through is gone.  Things are moving again.  Yes Bryce has to find another job soon and yes it might be difficult considering he's trying to make a career change.  But you know what? It's going to be ok.  This isn't a fake, plastered smile on my face trying to make the best of it.  I really, truly know that it's going to be ok.  Bryce and I probably seem like the happiest and most optimistic people considering what has just happened.  We are so hopeful though.  This is a new adventure.  Things are being lined up for us and something great is about to happen.  I just know it.

Oh, and I got glasses.  That's an ending to my youthful eyes and not so great.  But it also IS great because my eye doctor thinks that I won't have to wear them in a few years.  I am only slightly far sighted and the glasses are just supposed to relieve some of my stress induced eye strain.  Speaking of eye strain, it's late and these eyes of mine need some sleep.  Tomorrow is a new, wonderful day.  Oh, and it's also Memorial Day.  Remember all those soldiers who believed in something so much that they were willing to put their lives on the line.  We live in the greatest country on the Earth and so much of it is because of soldiers who sacrificed for us.  Memorial Day is a great reminder that freedom isn't free and that we need to cherish it and fight with all we have to keep it.

P.S.  In my search for some old Cliff Lake pictures that I then remembered were lost in a hard drive crash, I came across this gem.  This is titled, "Self Portrait" by Golf Boy when he was very little, maybe two years old.  He was always an early riser and one day he found my camera and had all kinds of fun.
 OK, time for bed.  Hopefully our other early riser, Baby H, will decide to sleep in.  One can dream.