Click here to learn more about my “55 Things” series and here to view previous posts in this series.
With Valentines Day just around the corner I thought I would share my secret candy recipe with you. Up until this point it is only a secret because I have not told it to anyone so now my secret will be out.
If you are a chocolate lover like me then you probably get excited when you hear or read reports about the health benefits of chocolate (cocoa) – right up to the point that they add something like “but all that sugar (and potentially other ingredients) in that candy bar are still bad for you so be sure not to eat too much”. 😦 What a let down!
So I decided to make my own chocolates using what I believed to be better ingredients.
Here’s my recipe:
1/2 cup dark cocoa
1/2 cup raw honey
1/2 cup cold processed coconut oil
Since coconut oil has a melting point of 76 degrees F (24 C) I put the whole jar in a bowl of hot tap water to melt. I then measure the amount of liquid oil I need and pour it into a bowl. I add the cocoa and honey and stir until they are combined. The mixture will be smooth and as the coconut oil cools it will become firmer. I line a pan or plate with wax paper and drop by teaspoon on the wax paper. I then pop them in the frig or freezer for a while. Once they are set I remove them from the wax paper and store them in a dish with a lid in the frig (because coconut oil melts at 76 degrees room temperature might be too warm for them).
To change it up a bit raisins, dried cranberries, coconut or chopped nut can be mixed in.
I won’t make any claims about these being healthy but if you research the ingredients you can draw your own conclusions. I will tell you that they are rich in flavor and have a creamy texture that melts in your mouth. Yum!!! I also find that just one is enough to give me my chocolate fix.
I haven’t really given them a name but the first time I made them my husband told me they looked like turds so I told him they would be “the best s**t he ever ate”. 🙂
It seems so long ago that I wrote about buying a loom to make hairpin lace. It was certainly before all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season and it wasn’t until after Christmas that I figured out how to use the loom.
For my first project I chose this infinity scarf. The link to the pattern has a detailed video which includes both making the hairpin lace and constructing the scarf. I used a different type of yarn so my results are different from the one created in the video. I took a few photos during the process to give you an idea of how this works.
To create hairpin lace the yarn is looped around the pegs of the loom and each loop is secured in place by a crochet stitch. On this loom both the top and bottom cross bars are removable and there are holes at various distances so the hairpin lace can be made different widths.
At first I found it quite awkward using both the loom and the crochet hook but after a while I was able to get into a rhythm and it went quite quickly from there.
To remove the lace from the loom I only had to remove the bottom cross bar then slide the lace off of the pegs. While this piece has about 30 loops on each side, the scarf I made had four strips like this each with 240 loops on each side.
After I had all four strips made, I joined them together by slipping five loops of one strip though five loops of a second strip then slipping the next five loops of the first strip though those five loops. This process was repeated though the entire length of the strips and created the braided or rope-like appearance. I didn’t get any photos of that process but it can be viewed in the above video. The edges were finished by slipping five loops of the strip over the next five loops of the same strip and repeating the process along the entire edge.
This is the finished scarf. I like the braided effect and can see this process being used to make an afghan, poncho or ear warmer. In fact I have decided to make an ear warmer using this design.
This design is one of many ways that hairpin lace can be used, and from the beautiful, intricate items I am seeing made with it, I would guess this is probably one the easier method of using it.
Now for a couple of bonus photos.
My sister KC, the one that has been teaching me how to sew, made me this really cute hat for my birthday.
She also made matching bandanas for the dogs. LOL. Her fabric choices were perfect.
If you look closely you can see the white fabric has red barns, windmills, chickens and sunflowers – it’s like this fabric was made for me. The yellow print is filled with honey bees. She knows me well!
What do you think of pets dressed to match their people?
Welcome friends! I thought I would give you fair warning that this post turned out to be quite lengthy, so you might want to grab a cup, glass or bottle of your favorite beverage to enjoy as you share in our pre-Christmas and Christmas activities.
O Christmas Tree
I had intended to include several photos documenting the cutting of our 2019 Christmas tree as I have done in past years. Regrettably, it was not meant to be. Although I snapped many pictures as we ventured out to the farm and cut our tree, it seems they are trapped on my cameras SD card. When I put the card in the computer the photo program seems to search for them but then freezes up and refuses to retrieve any photos. Fortunately upon buying a new SD card I am able to once again take pictures and load them onto my computer, so it is only those few that I will not be able to share.
Even though I cannot access those photos, I felt it was important to document this event since part of the purpose of this blog is to journal our activities. This is our fourth year of cutting a Christmas Tree from our farm. The trees we have been cutting are either Norway Spruce or Blue Spruce that we planted as when they were 12 – 18 inch seedlings in 2012. When we planted the young trees it was not our intention to grow our own Christmas Trees but this has since become our tradition.
It was Sunday, December 15, when we headed out to the farm to cut our preselected Christmas Tree. The temperature was hovering around freezing, and though the sun was shining bright as we walked out the door, the clouds quickly moved in and produced a brief snow squall. By the time we got to the farm, about 5 minutes later, there was a thin layer of snow blanketing the driveway, and setting the Christmas-like mood. The snow subsided as quickly as it had appeared and eventually the sun reappeared and melted the snow away.
After going to the barn to retrieve a saw we headed to the south-west corner of the property. The tree we had chosen was in a line of trees that were planted near the west property line to separate our property from the neighbors to the west. It is a lovey blue spruce that is slightly over four feet tall. We will plant a tree to replace this one in the spring.
I won’t bore you with the details of setting up the tree and decorating it since it all went smoothly and within a couple of hours the task was complete.
Made With Love
As in past years, I spent the month before Christmas making gifts. Since I have been working on increasing my sewing skills lately I decided to make aprons for the girls. This may seem an odd gift since only one out of four of them likes to cook, but I decided to personalize them.
The first two were made from a pattern that I bought several years ago and have never used. The second two were made out of worn out blue jeans, using this tutorial. I learned new sewing skills while making each of the patterns – the first involved hand basting a seam before sewing it in place and top stitching (that actually turned out pretty well). The second pattern involved making a ruffle and bias tape. On the last one I got very bold and changed the design from a ruffle and bias tape trim to a cut flannel, rag-type, trim. I was very pleased with the way they all turned out.
It was then time to personalize them – I wanted to capture each of the girls attitude for cooking.
The first was Tina who simply does not like cooking. She laughed when she saw it and agreed that described her.
This one was for Kara, who doesn’t like to cook, but calls me often with cooking questions. I’m always happy to get those calls. She too laughed when she saw the words and realized it was an apron.
The third one was for Hanna. While she may cook occasionally she is more likely to spend time painting, so I decided to make hers a painters apron. The old blue jeans that I used already had some paint stains on them and I added some more splotches with fabric paint.
The last one was for Lindell. She is the only one that seems to enjoy cooking and has recently told me about some of the meals she has made. When she tried on her apron she smiled and said “I love that it has pockets!”
The other big project that I made as a gift was a afghan that I crocheted. This was one of those situations where you might think “everything happens for a reason” or as I prefer to think “God was working behind the scenes”.
I started crocheting this afghan around Thanksgiving time simply because I found a stitch pattern that I wanted to try. I really had no plan for what I was making or what I would do with it. I began with alternating rows of red and blue yarn but when I ran out of the blue yarn the piece was not really big enough to be anything. I went to my yarn stash and found that I had enough of the gray and green yarn to at least double the size of this project. When I finished the gray and green section the afghan would have been a good size for a child, but since I didn’t much care for the color pattern and I didn’t have any children in mind to give it too, I decided to add a third section to make it large enough for an adult. I again went to my yarn stash and found that I had enough black and orange yarn to make a third section.
It was about this time that my husband asked me who I was making it for. “I don’t know,” was my answer, but I began to think about what to do with it. I realized that in the past I have made blankets for all of my daughters except Tina, so I thought I would give it to her. I wasn’t sure if she would like the colors but I was sure she would like wrapping herself in it as she tends to be chilly a lot.
It was two days before Christmas that we learned that we would be having an unexpected guest for Christmas. My father-in-law accepted my husbands invitation to join us for the day. That evening as I finished crocheting and began weaving in the ends I decided to give him the afghan.
Food and Family
Our guests would start arriving around noon so I spent most of Christmas morning in the kitchen preparing our meal. The turkey went into the oven at 8:00 am, then potatoes were peeled, celery and onions were sautéed for the stuffing and frosting was made then the cake was frosted. Meanwhile my husband vacuumed and tidied things up, started a fire in the fireplace and asked if there was anything he could do to help me.
Lindell and Brycen were the first to arrive, so I recruited Brycen to decorate the birthday cake for Jesus. Despite never having decorated a cake before he was eager to help. He completed this task with enthusiasm and I was grateful for the help. I didn’t get any pictures of the cake but I will say – Great job Brycen!
Other guests arrived shortly after. Another picture I didn’t get was Aunt Donna in her Christmas Tree tiara, but in the background of the picture below you can see the comfy-looking elf slippers she put on after removing her shoes. She brought two trays of mini cheese cakes announcing that one tray was made with amaretto. My first thought was “Oh, I’ll have to try that.” My second thought was “that explains the tiara”. LOL! I’m just kidding Aunt Donna doesn’t need to be under the influence of alcohol to do fun and crazy things.
Even before we ate we got Jackson and Addy busy opening gifts. I didn’t make anything for them this year, instead my husband and I spent a few hours perusing toy isles to pick out some gifts.
For Jackson, who has a mechanical mind and is always trying to figure out how things work, we bought this truck/racetrack set. The truck has a horn that blows and a key, that when turned, makes the sound of an engine starting and the headlights come on. It also came with race cars and tools to take the truck part. Once the truck is taken apart the race track is stored inside but we didn’t get it taken apart to see the race track while they were here.
For Addy I picked out a stuffed kitty. I remembered how much she loved Peanut the cat when she met him at our Halloween party, and since her mom said I could not get her a real kitty a stuffed on would have to do.
By far the best gift we received was having the family all together. When the girls were growing up we spent so much time together and never realized how much we would miss each other when they went their separate ways. Nowadays though they keep in close contact through a “sister chat” having them all together happens but once or twice a year.
I am not sure which one of them mentioned having a “sister photo” taken but when they were ready to pose I was ready with my camera. I snapped several photos and when I looked at this picture I wondered what they were all looking at to my left. Then I remembered that Brycen was standing next to me and after I took several photos he said. “now it’s my turn.” Apparently they all looked at him while I stole another photo.
I had the girls put on their aprons and pose again.
Then I handed over my camera and joined the girls. After this picture was taken I said, “now that you are all dressed for doing dishes…” and we all had a good laugh. Actually by this time my husband had many of the dishes already washed up.
Having both of our fathers there was such a blessing. Just like with the girls, the time spent with my dad has become less as the years go by, and the time the girls get to spend with their grandfather is even more rare. Isn’t it true that the more rare something is the more we value it? This was a day to cherish!
Having my Father-In-Law with us to celebrate was truely an amazing gift. This is the first time since we have been together that we have spent a Christmas with him, and I felt honored that at 86 years old he would make the two and a half hour drive from Ohio to celebrate this day with the family.
It had been many years since he had seen the girls and this was the first time he met Jackson and Addy.
When I gave dad his Christmas gift he told me I didn’t have to give him anything. “I wanted to,” I replied. When he said he would open it later, I had to insist that he open it now. He was pleased when he realized that it was an afghan and said he would use it to cover up with in his easy chair. I could relate to this as I have an afghan, that my mom made for me about 30 years ago, that I use to cover up with when I kick back in my recliner for a nap. Dad also marveled that I had made the afghan and asked how long it took. As he was leaving our house to travel home he told me “I can’t wait to use it.” 🙂
Christmas 2019 was a blessed day. As we celebrated the gift of the Christ Child our home was fill with laughter and love.
If you have stayed with me to the end of this very wordy post I thank you, and we wish you many blessings in the New Year.
This post goes hand in hand with my post about Filtering Bees Wax and may bee helpful for anyone considering making their own balms, salves, furniture polish or anything else that uses bees wax. If you have never considered it, you might wonder why you would want to make your own skin care products with so many commercially made products available. The answer is ingredients. Have you ever looked at the ingredients in the skin care products you use. If not, I challenge you to do so. If you took up that challenge, I also challenge you to find out what those ingredients are and if there are any health risks associated with their use. Here is a website that may help https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/. When you make your own products you have total control over the ingredients and thus can make healthier choices.
I am not going to teach you to make your own products because it’s been already been done. There are hundreds, or more likely thousands, of recipes, tutorials and videos on the web that will teach you how to do it. The one thing I am going to teach you is a trick that I have not seen mentioned in any of them. I often come across recipes online calling for bees wax pastilles (small flakes or beads of wax). Other times I see instructions telling me to grate the bees wax block using a cheese grater. This gives you pieces similar in size to pastilles. Since bees wax is very hard it also may give you bloody knuckles (ouch!).
Now if you have shopped for bees wax you may have found that pastilles are more costly than blocks of bees wax, and if you are processing bees wax from your own hives then you are certainly not going to want to purchase pastilles anyway.
Let me save you the aggravation and potential scars that result from trying to grate bees wax.
Here is the method I use –
There are a few things you will need:
A scale (I use my digital kitchen scale)
A zip lock bag
First make sure the ingredients for the recipe you are using are measured by weight rather than volume. If you find a recipe that you like that lists ingredients in teaspoons or tablespoons convert it to weights using the same proportions of each ingredient. For example if a recipe calls for one tablespoon of bees wax and three tablespoons of coconut oil you could use 1 ounce of bees wax and three ounces of coconut oil (if you would like to convert ounces to grams click here). Not only will this make using bees wax easier, it will give you more accurate measurements.
Now that you have done the hard part (math) I will tell you the secret to getting a block of wax into small pieces to so you can measure small amounts. Put the bees wax block in plastic a zip lock bag then put it in the freezer. Leave it in the freezer for a couple of hours or until it is really frozen. Take it out of the freezer, make sure the bag is closed tightly and does not have a lot of air in it. Place it on a hard surface (I usually take it outside and put it on the deck). Now smash it with a hammer (many times if needed). The bees wax will shatter into smaller pieces that you can weight to get the amount you need.
When measuring your ingredient start with weighing the bees wax. If your pieces weigh a little bit over the amount required then adjust your other ingredients accordingly Using the above example if your bees wax weighted 1.2 ounces you would need 3.6 ounces of coconut oil.
Thanks for reading and if you have questions please leave them in the comments section below.
Simply put Lacto Fermentation is a process that uses salt water also know as brine to ferment vegetables. For a more detailed explanation you can click here. Sauerkraut and pickles are probably the most commonly lacto fermented foods here in the USA. However not all pickles are made using lacto fermentation and although sauerkraut may be made using this process it is often pasteurized (canned) thus killing the probiotics and depleting the nutritional benefits of fementing.
Getting It Right
As I mentioned in my last post I have done some fermenting in the past. Sometimes they turned out good and sometimes they did not, so recently when I was reading about lacto fermentation I was mentally taking notes to see what I may need to do differently.
After reading this article , choosing the right type of salt seemed like something that could be a key to getting it right. In the past I had used either pickling salt or kosher salt. I had thought that they were pure salt and varied only in texture. I did not realize that they may have anticaking agents added which may effect the fermentation process. It is also worth pointing out that some sea salts may have anticaking agents added.
When we visited our local health food store and I asked the sales person about salt she showed me the three varieties that they carry. They included Celtic Sea Salt, Himalayan Pink Salt, and a product called Pure Salt. She told me she had used each of these salts and all of them work great for fermenting foods. I chose Himalayan Pink.
Water was another concern. I knew that I must use water that was not chlorinated for making the brine but what I had not thought about was the water I was using to clean the vegetables. I had been using our tap water (which is chlorinated) to clean my vegetables and probably killed off some or all of the healthy bacteria that was present. I have since started using filtered water to clean my vegetables.
The last decision I made was to only do small batches. Although I have fermenting crocks, (2 gallon and 5 gallon) for a couple of reasons fermenting in quart and pint size canning jars seems to be a better option. Since it is just my husband and I at home we are not likely to eat two gallons (or more) worth of sauerkraut (or any other vegetable ferment) before it passes it’s prime. Additionally if I ferment a smaller amount and for some reason it goes bad I only wasted that small amount. Even if I want to do larger amounts it seems wise to use the canning jars as they are easier to store in the refrigerator and I could gift them to family or friends.
Since we still have some home grown garlic on hand I decided to start with fermenting a jar of garlic. As you can see in the photo above I used a wide mouth pint size canning jar. I (kind of) followed this recipe. I actually had to chuckle when I read their instructions for peeling garlic cloves. If you have been following my blog for a while you probably already know that I highly recommend using these silicone tube garlic peelers.
I peeled enough garlic to fill my jar leaving about 1/2 inch of space at the top. I mixed two tablespoons of Himalayan Pink salt with one quart of non- chlorinated water and stirred it until all of the salt was dissolved. I the poured enough of the salt-water (brine) over the garlic to cover the cloves. Since the garlic cloves floated up and some parts were no longer covered with brine I needed to weigh them down. I had a smaller jar that nested nicely inside the wide mouth jar. Perfect! I then slipped a jelly bag over both jars and secured it with a rubber band to keep fruit flies out. Any clean cloth would have worked for this purpose I just happened to have a jelly bag. I then stored the extra brine in my refrigerator in case I needed to add more or to use for my next batch.
I left the jar of garlic sitting on the counter in the kitchen for about 10 days. I checked it every couple of days, by tasting it, to see if it was ready to be moved to the refrigerator where the fermentation process would be slowed down significantly. I determined it was ready when the garlic had developed a milder and a somewhat sweeter flavor and the brine was infused with the garlic flavor. The cloves had begun to soften but still had some crunch to them. Determining when the vegetables are ready really is subjective – if you like the flavor and texture then they are ready. 🙂 To refrigerate them I removed the jelly bag and small jar. Then I capped them with a regular canning jar lid.
Eating Fermented Garlic
We are now enjoying eating fermented garlic. In fact the jar is more than half gone. It has a pickled garlic flavor. I try to include a couple of cloves in our diet each day. Our home grown garlic has a stronger (hotter) flavor than any garlic that we have found commercially available and even fermented it has retained some of it’s heat. My husband, who will often eat raw cloves of garlic despite tears coming to his eyes as he chews it up, will eat a few whole cloves of the fermented garlic as a side dish with his lunch or dinner. I, on the other hand, prefer to slice the cloves and add them to a salad or a sandwich or throw a few slices on top of my spaghetti. However we decide to eat them it is important to keep them raw in order to reap the benefits of the probiotics.
Sauerkraut! I originally planned to include it in this post but since this post is getting long I will dedicate a separate post to sauerkraut.
Have you ever eaten pickled garlic? Do you have a favorite fermented vegetable or recipe you would like to share?