Category Archives: homemade

Working With Bees Wax Blocks

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 hammer
  • A zip lock bag
  • A freezer

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.

 

 

 

Lacto Fermentation – Pickled Garlic

What Is Lacto Fermentation

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.

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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.

My Process

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.

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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.

Next Up

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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Walk In The Park And Gathering Vitamin C

 

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Rose Hips

While walking at Columbus County Park last Friday with my sisters I couldn’t help but notice the thousands of bright red rose hips still clinging tightly to the wild rose bushes. “I’m coming back to pick rose hips.” I announced. I just couldn’t stand to see all that vitamin C going to waste – especially during flu season.

So when my sister J.B. called me on Sunday and wanted to come visit I asked if she wanted to go pick rose hips. The weather was great and she agreed to go.

Columbus County Park is an old farm/homestead that was granted by the previous owners to the county for use as a public park. What a grand gift it was. It is over 400 acres some wooded – some meadow, with a deep valley that the Belle River runs through. The main walking path is a 2.5 mile loop that tracks through the woods, down into the valley, along the river, back up the hill, along the neighboring farm field and back up through the woods. There are other paths throughout the park – some designated for horseback riding and others for mountain biking. There are areas for fishing and canoe launces along the river. There are areas designated for hunting. There is a sledding hill, a play scape, and a lodge with a pavilion that can be rented for events.

On Sunday we took the main path down into the valley and along the river where the rose bushes were waiting. We stopped and picked rose hips for at least 1/2 hour before finishing the loop. Sadly I forgot to take picture while we were picking (the photo above is of our rose bush at the farm and was taken around the time of our first frost last fall). I did, however, remember to get out my camera as we ascended the hill. The first three pictures (below) are taken from the same vantage point. The first photo is the path that lay ahead. The second photo was the view as I turned to my left, and the third photo is looking back where we had come from.

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This last photo was take once we were at the top of the hill. The fence and pine trees on the left separate the park from the neighboring farm filed.

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As we picked rose hips we drew the attention of other walkers. Some inquired as to what we were picking and why. Perhaps you too are wondering why I wanted to pick rose hips.

Before I answer let me make this clear: I am not a Doctor. Nothing that you read here should be taken as medical advice. If you are sick you should seek help from a medical professional. You should check with your medical professional before using any type of medication or herbal supplement.

Rose hips are known to contain high amounts of vitamin C. You can check out this article from web md for more information. Vitamin C is said to be a great aid in the prevention of colds and flu, however if you read the web md article you will realize that vitamin C  is destroyed when heated and quickly diminishes during storage. While rose hips have other beneficial properties that can withstand heating, processing and storage, it is the vitamin C that I want to capture. My solution is to make rose hip tincture. Simply put tinctures are made by soaking herbs in alcohol to extract the beneficial properties of the herb.

Here is how I made the tincture. After cleaning the rose hips I crushed them and put them in a pint-size jar. I then fill the jar with Everclear. Vodka or brandy can also be used for making tinctures but Everclear has a higher alcohol content and is said to  extract more of the beneficial properties. I covered the jar with a tight fitting lid and gave it a good shake before storing it in a dark space where it will sit for at least two weeks. The instructions say I should shake it every day, but I do it as often as I remember when walking past. After at least two weeks (probably longer) I will strain the rose hips out and we will use the remaining liquid (tincture) as needed this winter to help ward off the bad guys (cold and flu bugs).

Rose hip tincture is not the only weapons in my flu fighting arsenal. It stands along side of elder flower tincture, that I like to make into syrup by mixing it with our raw honey, and hot pepper juice – a recipe I found here.

I have been grateful for the mild winter we have been having thus far, but it seems that change is in the air as the snow storm that arrived today brought along much colder temperatures. Brrrr!

How about you? Has your winter been good thus far? Do you have any special recipes you use to prevent or treat colds or the flu? I would love to hear from you.

Thank you for reading and be well. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sharing Christmas With You

Christmas 2019 was filled with blessings. Let me share some our Christmas with you.

Gifts

Gift giving,  especially buying lots of commercially made gifts, is not the focus of our Christmas.  If you read my previous post about homemade gifts you know that I have been working on making gifts since just after Thanksgiving. That certainly wasn’t too soon to start because I didn’t actually finish up until the afternoon of December 24th. Whew! That was cutting it close! and I didn’t even have time to bake any Christmas cookies this year.

This year since all of our daughters are living in their own homes or apartments I decided to crochet them each a doily. I have several doilies, that were made by my mother, grandmother and my husband’s grandmother, that I treasure. I have them on dressers, book cases, our entertainment center, and our dinning room table. I think they add a touch of class. I also think it is not something that my girls were going to buy for themselves.

As I mentioned I finished up the last one out of four on Christmas Eve and I only snapped a couple of quick photos as I was pressing them because I still had wrapping to do.

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The other thing I have been working on for at least as long is making candles. Actually making bees wax candles is something I have been trying to get right for quite a while now. Bees wax seems to be incredibly finicky and will not burn or melt properly if it does not have the right wick.

I spent the month doing candle trials with bees wax, bees wax blended with coconut oil, bees wax blended with tallow and some that were plain tallow and using different types and sizes of wicks that were recommended for bees wax candles. I was able to find a  few combinations that burned well, but in  no way have I mastered the art of making bees wax candles. (If I ever do I will blog about it.)

As gifts I gave votive candles in a candle holder with an inspirational message attached.

 

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The message was one of these two quotes:

Learn to light a candle in the darkest moments of someone’s life. Be the light that helps others see; it is what gives life its deepest significance.”

Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

Matthew 5:16

The Weather

Having a white Christmas here in Michigan is hit or miss. Last year on Christmas Eve we had a snow storm. We woke on Christmas morning to a world that was blanketed in the white fluffy stuff. It was picturesque. We had the “White Christmas” that everyone is said to “dream of”. The snow that fell made driving treacherous. I heard accounts from people who were out in it. They said driving took two to three times longer than normal to get where they were going. It also created a lot of work. My husband spent last Christmas morning plowing and shoveling snow – first at the farm, then bringing the tractor home to clear parking spots for our guests. He also did some plowing for (much grateful) neighbors along the way. As it drew closer to time for our guests to arrive I received phone calls from my aunt and one of my daughters who had started out and ran into blinding snow squalls. These hazardous driving conditions prompted their decisions to stay home and safe.

This year we celebrated Christmas without snow. It was a chilly day with temperatures hovering around the freezing point. The ground was brown, the trees barren, and the skies mostly gray, but we did not have the extra work involved in clearing snow and travel conditions were good for our guests. I was not at all disappointed that we did not have a white Christmas.

Food

I spent Christmas morning preparing our meal. The menu included a fresh fruit platter, cheeses and crackers, smoked salmon (my husband smoked it the night before) and olive mixtures for appetizers. The main meal was tossed salad, lasagna and garlic bread. For dessert we had pumpkin pie, (Aunt Donna’s) cheese cake and birthday cake (for Jesus). Not necessarily a traditional Christmas meal of turkey or ham but very much a hit with all of our guests.

Guests

On Christmas Eve we were extremely disappointed to learn that my Father-In-Law was not up to making the 2 1/2 hour trip to spend time with us on Christmas Day even though my husband was going to pick him up and bring him here. Thankfully everyone else we were expecting made it. Our guests included my Dad, Aunt Donna, all four of our girls and 2 sons-in-law and of course our two grandbabies 🙂

After we ate we gathered in the living room where we opened gifts, talked, laughed, played, shared memories and created special moments that have now become more precious memories.

One funny thing that sticks in my mind was Kara and Lindell shouting “CAMO CORN” in unison as they each realized at the exact same moment that the bucket of caramel covered popcorn that they had received as gifts was not called Caramel Corn. Nor was it Camel Corn as they thought they had heard someone else say. It was indeed called Camo Corn. LOL!!!

 

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There were precious moments spending time with our two little miracle grandbabies. Jackson who is now two and a half was born at just 26 weeks and spent his first 4 months of life outside the womb in a neonatal intensive care unit. He under went eye surgery before he ever came home from the hospital and when he came home he was still on oxygen and being tube fed. He had surgery to repair two hernia’s when he was about six months old and at this time the surgeon discovered that his appendix was tangled in the hernia, so he had his appendix removed at that time as well. It was only after that surgery that Jackson began eating better and gaining weight and was eventually weaned off the feeding tube.

Each time I spend time with this little guy I am awed by how far he has come after having such a rough start to life. Although Jackson has not yet begun to speak he is learning sign language. When they were here on Thanksgiving his dad was holding Jackson and  I threw him a kiss from across the room. His dad showed Jackson how to throw a kiss back to me. We each repeated the action several times. As I stopped and began having a conversation with someone else Jackson signed “more”. When his dad asked “more what?” Jackson leaned in and kissed his dad. Precious moments!

Jackson seems to have an innate curiosity about the world and how things work. He notices little things and studies things as if trying to figure them out. On Christmas we spent time looking at the Christmas lights that hang from our mantle. He would touch one and I would say the color, then he would touch another and I would say the color –  then I would say a color and he would look for a light that was that color. He also took an interest in some of the tree ornaments that were hanging at his eye level. Together we looked at them but learned not to pull on them.

When it was time to open presents Jackson started with a gift from Aunt Donna. He took the paper off the box and I removed the gift from the brown card board box. It was a set of 4 wooden puzzles. They were bound together in a plastic wrapper. When Jackson saw them his face lit up. His Mom prompted he to say “thank you” and he signed “thank you”. Then quickly signed “please” indicating that he wanted to play with the puzzles. My husband sliced open the plastic so we could get out one of the puzzles. Jackson removed all of the pieces from the puzzle then began picking up each piece and studying it, then fitting it back into it’s proper place. Later he and he dad spent time playing with the farm set (tractor, cow, horse, corral) that my husband and I picked out for him.

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His little sister Addy is now almost 14 months old. It was not Ken and Tina’s plan to have another baby while Jackson still needed so much attention, but God often has plans that differ from we humans. Addy’s entry into the world was much smoother than Jackson’s but only with the aid of much medical intervention. The special prenatal care Tina received allowed her to carry Addy to the date that the doctors had planned her C-section. While it was not a full-term pregnancy she was only a few weeks premature and her development has been normal.

On Christmas day I heard Addy say both “mama” and “dada”.  We will be working on “grandma” soon. LOL! While Addy spent some time playing with toys, her activities more so involved being on the move. She busied herself by quickly crawling in whatever direction she was facing. I wanted to give her the freedom to explore but not allow her to get into trouble in our non-baby proof house, so when she took off crawling I would follow along behind her on all 4’s. When she noticed that I was there she would stop long enough to turn and give me a “what the heck are you doing?” look. Then she would quickly be on her way. When she reached  a point where I felt she was getting close to trouble I would lift her up and turn her around. Each time I would pick her up she would loudly voice her objection (scream), but once set down she would be happily on her way.

Tina had brought along the sweater and hat that I had made for Addy’s birthday so I could get pictures of her wearing them. When we put the sweater on I was delighted to see that it was a perfect fit. Tina sat Addy on the beanbag and so we could get pictures. I then placed the hat on her head, but before anyone had time to snap a picture Addy had removed the hat. I thought the hat looked very cute on her but I have no proof because each of the several times I put it on her she immediately removed it before we could get a photo. Oh well – I decided I would at least like a photo of her standing up wearing the sweater. She is still wobbly on her feet unless she is supported so I held her up. As soon as her feet touched the ground it was like her legs became springs. She began bouncing up and down as fast as she could and continued bouncing for a good couple of minutes while I held her trying to get her to stand. This little girl’s antics had everyone in the room laughing and I never did get the picture I wanted. (I think her mom got it on video though.) I really don’t see a career in modeling in her future. LOL!!!

Though our time together lasted only a few hours it was a lovely day packed with Christmas blessings. I hope you enjoyed reading about it. ♥

 

 

Loom Knitting

If you have become frustrated by attempts to learn to knit, or crochet or even if you haven’t tried to knit or crochet but would like to learn to craft yarns into lovely things like hats, scarves and even afghans, loom knitting might be the answer.

I come from a crafty family – my grandmother, my mom and my mom’s older sister Ruth had all seemingly mastered the arts of knitting and crocheting among other things. My Mom’s younger sister Donna and my sister KC both do beautiful cross stitch and KC is sharing her skills in sewing by teaching any of us who want to learn – my sister JB and cousin Abbey now sew as well. Apparently despite attempts by Grandma, Aunt Ruth and Mom to pass on the art of crocheting to their offspring, it seems that I am the only one who was able to pick up the craft.

Recently my sister, KC, picked up a set of round knitting looms and found a video tutorial (linked below) for making hats. She discovered how quick and easy it was and decided we (sisters) should get together for a hat making day. It was a few weeks before we could schedule a time to all get together and in the mean time KC had made several hats on her loom. She also taught her grandson (I think he is 8 years old) how to make hats on the loom and he was planning to make them for several of his friends at school and his teacher. One day when visiting my dad KC was telling him about the craft and since he seemed interested she bought him a set of looms and a couple skeins of yarn. He called me that evening to tell me that he completed his first hat. 🙂

Last Thursday was hat day. The group included sisters KC and JB, along with my cousin Laurie, her daughter Abbey and Aunt Donna. Six of us in all and all having various experience with attempting to crochet. It was fun to listen to their stories of have they had tried to learn the craft.

“I can make a long chain,” Aunt Donna said “but never was able to turn.”

Laurie told us how patient Aunt Ruth was when trying to teach her, but how she ended up tearing it out to try again, and again, and again…

KC and JB agreed that Mom was “not so patient” when trying to teach them and they too had to undo the work over and over and over…

While Mom taught me the basics, how to make a chain, how to turn, and how to make a single crochet, I have mostly taught myself. It’s taken a lot of practice, a lot of trial and error, and A LOT of frogging, I have used stitch diagrams and nowadays I use online tutorials and videos. Learning to crochet is not easy.

Loom knitting on the other hand is pretty easy to learn. We spent about 4 hours together on Thursday. KC did most of the teaching and I helped when I could. We probably spent as much time talking and laughing as we did knitting and we took a lunch break, but by the time we left everyone had at least half of a hat finished. KC forwarded the video link to everyone so they would be able to view it if they had questions about how to finish their project.

If all of these people, who have struggled with learning to crochet, can pick up loom knitting so easily I figure it must be worth sharing. Below is the video link for the hat making tutorial. The second link has a chart for making different size hats.

I decided to include a third link which is a finger knitting tutorial. Finger knitting is much like loom knitting only using the fingers on your hand rather than a loom with pegs. If you are curious about loom knitting but aren’t ready to run out and buy a loom you might want grab some yarn and try finger knitting.

Thanks for reading and Happy Crafting! 🙂

 

 

 

http://www.loomahat.com/how-many-rows/