A Whole Lotta Makin’ Goin’ On!

I’m back, and it feels great being back!  The soaping supplies have been lonely, meditating on the meaning of life while we’ve canned the mid-summer harvest and celebrated the first of two birthdays.  The kittens I’ve been featuring in every blog post have found their forever homes, including the Momma cat.  This does, of course, include the one that adopted me.  And because I thought it might be a good idea for that kitten – I named her Lily – to have a companion besides the big cats, we also rescued a kitten from the pound, named Severus.  Harry Potter fans will understand.

The first party revealed that the Polish dill pickles are the most popular pickles to date.  I took a quart of them, it wasn’t a huge party, and the jar got wiped out completely.  So, we made sure that we got in two more batches of them.  Here’s the first of those two.

Picture of Polish dill pickles
Polish dill pickles. Some kind of awesome good!

Since then, the hubby has requested watermelon rind pickles.  I had never tasted them, nor had I ever made them.  I was always taught, “Never eat the rind.  It’ll make you sick.”  But, willing to try anything once, I found a recipe for cinnamon watermelon rind pickles and started the process.  They’re not quite my thing, but they’re pretty good.  We harvested another watermelon this week, and we’re going to try another trick with the pickles this go-around.

Last night, I finished the scarf for my older daughter’s birthday present, and tomorrow, my younger daughter is going to help me make a muslin bag to store it in.  She’s really excited about this!

Now that that is wrapped up and in my “done” pile, I have a scarf in process that’ll go to Scarves in the Port City for their ministry to homeless people.  Since I tend to have two projects going at any one time, it became time to start a shawl for a wedding I’m attending in October.  Oh, this is absolutely gorgeous!  Well, it will be, I’m sure.  I chose a black mohair and wool blend lace yarn with tiny multicolored sequins woven through.  It’ll be warm, and the sequins give it a festive look and offset the severity of the red-black color blocking I’d have otherwise.  I’ve started it and unraveled it twice now; this is my first time with knitting lace.

Of course, you’d think I’m nuts, trying to get any yarn work done with two kittens in the house.  You’ve seen Lily already, but I haven’t shown Severus off, yet.  Here he is.  He’s a rescue from the local animal shelter, and isn’t he just absolutely beautiful?  With silky fur and the most lovable disposition, he’s the most perfect companion to me and to Lily.  I thought Lily should have a companion to play with (since the big cats aren’t into playing with kittens), and I couldn’t have chosen better.  She’s half his size, but certainly the more dominant kitten. 

Severus, my black cat
Severus at the vet doing kitty corsage

And here are the two of them this afternoon, napping together.  Lily sleeps in the middle; definitely my kitten.

Kittens sleeping
Lily and Severus recharging

So, for you readers who aren’t into Harry Potter, you may be wondering what the story behind the names is.  In the series, Lily is Harry’s mom, and it was Severus Snape, Professor of Potions at Hogwarts, who revealed to Lily why she was different; they were themselves at Hogwarts together.  I can’t say much more without a spoiler alert.  Severus is depicted as being dark:  Black hair, dark robes, stern (severe) demeanor.  Plus, there’s just something about a black cat being named for a wizard.  There’s a wicked part of me that’d love to train Severus to perch on my shoulder; then at Halloween, I could go around with the girls in my black cape with a black cat perched on my shoulder, freaking out superstitious people.  No, I won’t do that, because no amount of fun is worth putting my sweet boy at risk, but it’s still fun to think about.

Stay tuned for peeks at the soaps that are new for your pleasure and restocked for those of you who have your faves.  Hint:  Sweet Cinnamon & Clove beer soap is back!


I Never Thought This Would be Me

Pinterest can be my worst enemy.  Pictures of lovely architecture, House Beautiful-worthy living rooms free of clutter and toys.  Clever organizational tools put together from thrift store finds.  And all this from home educating moms of seven kids who seem to be able to do it all.  Seriously, Pinterest is not the website for the insecure.

Our living room is cluttered – painfully cluttered.  The girls don’t seem to understand the basic concept of “pick up after yourself when you’re done.”  It gets cleaned about three times a year.  Other than that, though, I think we are doing well.  I never really expected to be doing anything like homesteading. but over the weekend, I was told that I am enviable.  OK.  That’s pretty nice, though I never expected to be.

We had another weekend of glorious productivity.  It started with restocking these beer soaps.  On the left (the greyish green) is all natural basil and lime.  Essential oils of Thai basil and lime blend together in this delightful blend with notes of licorice, pepper, and lime.  The tan soap is Sweet Cinnamon & Clove.  This was the first beer soap I ever made, and these bars go quickly.

beer soaps
This weekend’s soaps – Basil & Lime and Sweet Cinnamon & Clove

These are just a few of the cucumbers that came out of our garden.  We ended up harvesting about twelve pounds of cucumbers, all of which became delicious bread & butter and dill pickles.

Picture of cucumbers
Cucumbers fresh from the garden
picture of pickles
Bread & Butter pickles

After the cucumber harvest, my youngest daughter and I harvested the first batch of basil for homemade pesto.  This was so fabulous on chicken and pasta, topped with home-grown tomatoes!

Homemade Pesto

A friend of ours hooked us up with a lime basil plant.  I thought, What in the world am I going to do with this?  I was looking up basil recipes online and saw one for strawberry basil popsicles.  A local indie popsicle business makes something similar, and I thought the lime take on the basil would be delightful with the strawberry.  I blended in a bit of vanilla yogurt, and wow!!!  It’s like a virgin strawberry daiquiri on a stick!

picture of popsicle
Strawberry Lime Basil popsicle

And no weekend would be complete without a visit to the kittens.  Momma Cat is doing great, and my kitty co-parent/friend and I were both surprised to discover that she tested negative for FIV, Feline Leukemia, and worms, which is quite miraculous, considering that she was a completely outdoor cat until three weeks ago.  The girls and I placed a few kittens on the bed to give the tiniest one of the litter a chance to nurse without “the chubbies” pushing her out of the way.

Kitten pic
Worn out kitten. I love her little face!
kitten pic
My sweet girl. She stays in motion, which is why the picture is blurry

I don’t consider myself as that enviable.  I am simply a woman who enjoys playing in the kitchen when I’m not making soap or enjoying kittens.  Cooking, like soapmaking, is sweet alchemy – taking a variety of different ingredients and putting them together in fun, creative ways to make something new.  It’s even more enjoyable when I can make something completely new to me, stretching my skills.

The next post will contain suggestions for making DIY easier and doable.  I’m not selfish with my recipes, as most of them come from outside sources.  Comment if there’s one you’d like.

Our Highly Productive Weekend

Some weekends are just made for indulging in all sorts of hobbies and fun, with added points for making a home homier.  While the girls were gone last week, I spent a few hours making the curtains for the back sliding glass door.  This project had been on my radar for at least two years with a couple of agendas:  One, I wanted to get rid of the horrendous vertical blinds that had been slowly falling apart, slat by slat, since we moved into this house six years ago.  Two, I wanted to find a fashionable way to block drafts in the winter and the hot morning sun in the summer.  I think I’ve met my goal, don’t you?  I love how they let in diffused light!

New tropical curtains
The festive, tropical curtains now hanging in my dinette
Close-up of curtains and valence
The curtains with their box valence. My chairs are upholstered in this same striped print.

I tripped across a small sniglet of coconut cream in my fridge, and I really didn’t feel like keeping it in there, nor did I want to throw it out.  Plus, for a few minutes, I was bored, so I decided to toss that coconut cream into a small batch of soap.  Gorgeous, n’est-ce pas?  Beautifully swirled with Mad Oils micas with a base of blushing Bazooka Jo pink and swirls of Grape Nehi and Silverfin Blue, this soap is scented with a dupe of SunRipened Raspberry for a fun, fresh, summery finish.

Sun-Warmed Raspberry soap
Sun-Warmed Raspberry Soap with coconut cream. Rich and luxurious? Oh yeah!!!

With our bumper crop of pickling cucumbers coming in now, kindly augmented by one of hubby’s customers giving him five more, it was time to work some magic.  Magic, however, had to allow for the fact that I don’t have any space cool enough to ferment pickles, so I have to make adjustments.  In addition to restocking our cranberry mustard (the dark red stuff), my youngest daughter and I put up 8 pints of Polish dill pickles.  They look and smell delicious, but the recipe says we have to let them cure for 4-6 weeks.  WEEKS!!!  How ever are we going to be able to wait to dig into these?

Jars of food
Jars of homemade cranberry mustard and Polish dill pickles

Hannah, my youngest, decided she wanted to make a mermaid soap for her Grandma, complete with mica.  It turned out so pretty!  She opted for Lemon Grove scent, her Grandparents’ favorite.

Mermaid soap
My daughter’s special mermaid soap

Visiting this sweet girl, her siblings, and her mom topped off our weekend.  This little one has the sweetest face.  Her sister is my next kitten, but she was buried in a kitten pile nursing.  I have to wait another FOUR weeks before I can adopt the adorable little furball.  And who doesn’t like looking at cute kitten pictures?  Instant happiness!

Two-week-old calico kitten. Her sister is my next kitten.

What made your weekend great?  We’d love for you to share it in the comments.