Monday, April 30, 2012

What is 'Hotdish'??

 Hamburger 'Hotdish' and Broccoli

Oh I know, it's not very cosmopolitan to call it 'hotdish,' for now everyone says 'casserole.' I'm not sure why that's supposed to be better, but...

When I was growing up, anything that was a mixture of food and wasn't cereal was called 'hotdish.' We ate a lot of hotdish because it was cheap. (My parents lived through the Great Depression, which resulted in a lifestyle of frugality.) Living on a farm, we usually had beef in the freezer. So any combination of ground beef, rice, noodles, celery, onion, tomatoes, peppers, and usually a can of some poison soup (the most extravagant ingredient)...was called hotdish.  It filled us up. That was the objective.

 So even today, one of my 'emergency' dinners is 'hotdish.' I almost always have cooked basmati rice in the refrigerator and an assortment of peppers and olives, so it's easy to throw something edible together in a few minutes. Although I never use poison soup, I sometimes use a plain yogurt to hold things together. In this case, I didn't use any. I might use yogurt if I were using canned chicken breast rather than ground beef as the base. Sometimes I use a jar of canned tomatoes. It all depends.

Note: My mother would not have used the olives, the Liquid Aminos, the Worcestershire sauce, or the Cayenne. Scandinavian cooking, at least that which I grew up eating, does not tax the taste buds. Personally, I enjoy the more flavorful additions in the recipe below.

Emergency 'Hotdish' Dinner - Recipe:

Ground beef
Garlic, minced
Onion, diced
Peppers (various), diced
Celery, thinly sliced
Worcestershire sauce (enough to taste good)
Bragg's Liquid Aminos (enough to taste good but not enough to give me a headache)
Cayenne pepper to taste
Salt and Black Pepper to taste
Sliced Kalamata olives (or black olives or whatever olives you have on hand)
Cooked rice (or cooked noodles or cooked spaghetti or...)

In a little olive oil, brown the ground beef, garlic, onion, peppers, celery in a skillet on Med-Hi.
Add some Worcestershire sauce, Bragg's Liquid Aminos, stirring and tasting (PLEASE use a different spoon for each taste. I shudder to think of anyone putting that spoon in twice. Ewwwww!) Sprinkle on a generous dusting of cayenne, salt, and pepper. Slice kalamatas or black olives and add to mixture. Stir in a couple cups of cooked rice.  Cover and turn burner to low, heating thoroughly.

Serve with Tarragon/Garlic Broccoli, Angela's new recipe.

Broccoli with Tarragon and Garlic

Steam a couple heads of broccoli. Sprinkle with some Tarragon flakes and garlic powder. Place in skillet that has a couple T. olive oil in it. Actually, this link takes you to her official recipe. I'm sure I'm using more olive oil than she calls for. Check it out. She has a lot of good recipes there.


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Friday, April 27, 2012

How to Make Homemade Vegan Soap

If you've never made homemade soap, I thought you might like to see a sequence of photos that would help you understand what is involved in getting a bar of soap out of some oils, lye, and distilled water.

A couple years ago, a friend offered to hold a little class for a handful of us who were interested in making soap. The first thing she told us was that no one under 16 was allowed to be in the class or wandering within our work area. I've kept that as a rule. Another couple rules that I never break are:

Be mindful of what you're doing! Lye is dangerous. It can cause severe burns and blindness if not handled carefully and mindfully! This is one time you definitely cannot afford distractions.

Never mix the lye and water in the same area where my dogs or cats (or kids, of course) are. I always mix my lye and water in the basement and wait until the fumes have completely dissipated  before I bring it upstairs to use in the kitchen. It is also a good idea to keep your pets gated out of the area in which you are going to work, just in case there's a spill.

Never walk away from oils that are melting in a pan on the stove. No one needs a house fire.

Some of the equipment you see in the photo above are among the essentials:

  • Good rubber gloves
  • Safety Glasses.  Spills and splashes have been known to occur.
  • A Wire Whisk
  • A good rubber scraper
  • A stick blender
Not shown above are:

  • Stainless Steel Pots (needed for melting oils, for holding lye water, for cooking the soap, etc.)
  • Measuring spoons
  • A good digital scale

Measuring the lye. ALWAYS wear rubber gloves and safety glasses when handling the lye bottle, the bowl of lye, and the lye water while and after mixing. Also, always pour the lye into the distilled water, rather than the other way around.

Melting the solids. Above you see the solid oils melting over a low burner. As soon as almost all of the oil has been melted, I remove the pan from the burner and let the heat of the oils melt the remaining solid.

After all the oils have been measured out and the solid oils are melting, then is the time that I pulverize any botanicals I'll be using in my recipe.

 I also get the natural colorant and the essential oils and/or fragrance oils measured and ready to go.

Some colorants need to be infused. Some can be added at trace. In the photo above, (a different recipe), olive oil had been infused with the colorant in a small crockpot for a couple hours. Then I let it sit overnight before putting it in a cheesecloth-lined strainer, trying to keep as much particulate out as possible.

Back to our recipe. In this photo, the oils have all been combined and the lye water has been added and I'm beginning to blend them with the stick blender. It's a handy little tool. I hear that in days past Great Great Grandma used to simply stand all day and stir. YIKES. Not for me.

The colorant and the botanical are close at hand so I can add them at trace. Trace is what it's called when the soap has thickened to the point of a thinnish pudding.

The soap has been brought 'to trace' and I'm whisking in the natural colorant. Some colorants are added at trace, some are added to the oils at the beginning. It all depends upon the recipe and the colorant used.

In this case, I am using a fragrance oil to scent this soap. This fragrance oil has a high enough flash point (the point at which the scent will burn off) that I don't need to worry about losing it during the cooking process*

*There are different methods of soapmaking, among them, these three:

Cold Process: The soap has been brought to trace, all the colorant and scenting oils have been mixed in, and the soap has been poured into the mold. The soap stays in the mold for 26 hours before it's cut into bars. Cold Process takes the longest to cure, for it's curing (going through the saponification process) at room temperature. Any of my cold process soaps are cured for 4-6 weeks minimum.

     Saponification: Think of the oils and the lye water as enemies equally matched (that's where exact measurement of oils and lye and distilled water comes in!). During saponification, all the lye soldiers fight with all the oil soldiers and they completely cancel each other out. By the time saponification is complete, there are no lye soldiers and there are no oil soldiers. There is only soap. (Yes, I homeschooled for many years and I can hear myself saying stuff like this to my kids.) It's like hydrogen, oxygen, and water. oh nevermind. (Thank you, Bethany, water was a good example, but I'm stuck on those lye and oil soldiers.)

Hot Process: After bringing to trace, the soap is cooked in the oven where it goes through the saponification process BEFORE it is put into the mold. In hot process, fragrance oils and essential oils are sometimes added after the cook.

Cold Process Oven Process: This is when after the soap is brought to trace, all botanicals, colorants, and essential oils have been stirred in, and the soap is poured into the mold - just like in Cold Process, BUT, now it goes into the oven for a specified temp and time and then the oven is turned off and the soap finishes curing in the oven as the oven cools down.

I've got my mold lined and ready. My dear hubby made me three soap molds to my specifications. Two of them have removable partitions so that I can make smaller batches of soap - as needed. Also the ends are removable. That really helps in getting the soap out of the mold! I line the wood molds with freezer paper, shiny side up. Works beautifully!

This is the [hot process] soap after it has cooked. I test it to make sure the pH isn't too high. Some people use pH-testing drops, but I do the tongue test. So far, it's been just right and I've not zapped my tongue - ever. But I have noticed that I have no sense of taste anymore. (JUST KIDDING.)

The soap at this stage is like semi-melted ice cream in consistency. I stir it, then scoop it into the wood mold. It' s good idea to smack the mold against the counter a few times as you're adding the soap, so that all the corners of the mold get filled. At this point, the soap is starting to set up, so it's important to work FAST.

The soap after having been scooped into the mold. It will remain there overnight, and in the morning I will cut it into bars and set them on the drying/curing racks. There they will be turned 90 degrees every day for a few weeks.

Last is the labeling and shipping. So there you have it!

Why handcrafted soaps? Because they don't have all the nasty chemicals that many soaps have, they lather nicely without drying your skin, and only natural ingredients are used. Each of my soaps comes with a label that lists the ingredients. I never ever use animal products or artificial colorants. All my oils are top quality and my soaps are scented with essential oils and/or a good quality fragrance oil. They also last a looooong time! Setting your bar of soap on a slotted soap dish, keeping it out of the water and letting it dry between uses will extend the soap life.

I hope this little tutorial has answered some of your questions about homemade soap.

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'French Lilac & Lavender'
Natural, Handcrafted Vegan Soap
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This post may be linked to one or more of the following: Mop it Up Monday  and Get in My Tummy and  Cure for the Common Monday and  Clever Chicks Blog Hop and  Barn Charm and  The Marketplace  and  Mix it up Monday and Make it Pretty Monday and    Making the World Cuter Mondays and Make the Scene Monday and  Something I Whipped Up Monday and  Motivate Me Monday and  Making Monday Marvelous and Get Your Craft On and Efforts and Assets and   You're Gonna Love it Tuesday and Creative Showcase and Memories by the Mile and Crafty Texas Girls and  Tweak it Tuesday and  Coastal Charm Tuesday and  Take a Look Tuesday and  Tasty Tuesday  and Love Bakes Good Cakes and Mom on TimeOut  and Adorned from Above and Wildcrafting Wednesday and   Cast Party Wednesday and  We Did it Wednesday  and All Things With Purpose and Home & Garden Thursday and It's a Party at Creative Princess and Artsy Corner Thursday  and The Girl Creative, Thursday and  Creative Things Thursday and Be Inspired and Time Travel Thursday and Thrifty Things Friday  and  Friday Fences and  Thursday's Inspiration and  The Self-sufficient Home Acre and  I'm Lovin' it Thursday and Creative Things Thursday and   Mandatory Mooch   and Foodie Friends Friday and Freedom Fridays and From the Farm and   Anything Blue Friday and Junkin' Joe and  Serenity Saturday and Get Schooled Saturday  and Inspiration Friday(ThursNite) and Vintage Inspiration Friday and Photo Friday and Share Your Creativity and   A Favorite Thing Saturday and Sunny Simple Sunday and Sunlit Sunday and  Market Yourself Monday and  Saturday Nite Special

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Where are the Kids?

 My husband and his brothers and cousins
in the 1950s
My husband is on the front, right
He's the same guy who's pictured with Glenniewennie on a post a couple days ago.

It wasn't that long ago that one could drive through a neighborhood and see the kids in the neighborhood all playing together. In fact, that was my reality back in the '50s and '60s. I had a neighbor girl (our closest neighbor, who lived 1/4 mile down the road) who also had a horse. We would go riding together in the pasture. Sometimes she would come to our place and we'd set up bales in the pole barn and jump our horses over them. I can remember the smell of the hay and the horses, especially on a rainy, sultry August day in the early 1960s. It was heaven to a kid.

That was the same neighbor girl who would ride bike with me down the road to the RR bridge to watch the train go by. We'd have the school bus driver drop us off at the end of our road (saving us about an hour bus ride) and run to our homes, get our bikes, and hurry to the RR bridge. It was a wood plank arched bridge, and the planks extended past the railing. We would climb out onto those planks and sit on the very ends of the planks to better see the Blueberry Train (you DO know I'm almost an antique, don't you!) go under the bridge. The conductor would stick his head out the window and wave at us, as did the guys standing at the end of the caboose.

 Caboose at Logan Mill Lodge, Westby
Kevin's cousin rode in this many times when he was a kid.

There were other neighbors further down the road with whom I often built forts and went swimming at the swimming hole in the cow pasture. We had a thick rope attached to the branch of a tree and would grab the rope and take a run, then drop into the water. It was the greatest fun, even though we spent  several minutes picking leeches off our legs afterwards.

We builts rafts.

We catapulted ourselves across the creek with young trees.

We camped out under the stars. No tent, just blankets.

We climbed trees.

We played cops and robbers, cowboys and indians.

Kids were always outdoors.

Now we drive through neighborhoods and never see kids outdoors. In town or in the country.

Where are the kids?


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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Project Glass - Google - Henry

My sister sent me this YouTube video the other day. In case you're also among the few on the planet who've not yet seen it, I thought I'd post it. It's pretty interesting...and a bit scary! If we think people are distracted now with texting, just imagine this!

Then I found this one. And with all the grief I'm having trying to upload photos in this new Blogger format, I figure that if I had the Google glasses, this video would most likely represent my experience.

Henry, getting the final bugs worked out of 'Project Glass'


Don't miss out on the 20% off sale - on all my handcrafted soaps - just in time for Mother's Day! Sale running through May 4th. Order early to avoid disappointment.

'Vintage Leather'
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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Springtime Yellow of charge.

...and don't miss out on the 20% off sale - on all my handcrafted soaps - just in time for Mother's Day! Sale running through May 4th. Order early to avoid disappointment. Even more cheer.

Not free, but a really good deal. :-)

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Monday, April 23, 2012

20% off - Mother's Day Sale

Curing/Drying Racks

Click through to Homemade Soap'n'Such and take advantage of this great sale running now through Friday, May 4th. All of our soaps are made with the finest quality base oils, botanicals, essential and fragrance oils. Only natural colorants are used, and our soaps contain no animal products. 

Each soap description lists the ingredients, and each soap comes wrapped in a label that lists ingredients used, and is enclosed in a clear cello bag.

Most orders are shipped USPS Priority Mail. Single bars are shipped USPS First Class. Shipping prices and categories are listed on the sidebar at Homemade Soap'n'Such.

Check it out! (and be sure to order early to avoid disappointment.)

P.S. Please pass the word along to your friends!

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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Happy Birthday, Glenniewennie and Queen Elizabeth

Glenn (AKA Glenniewennie to his pals)
and Grandpa

Two Years Old Today!
Birthday party coming soon.

 And another birthday to someone
who's just a tad older than 2
(birthday girl and her mama)

 What a young beauty
She certainly inherited the best genes

evidently not from her gr-gr grandma

Happy Birthday to Queen Elizabeth, for whom I have such great admiration. Duty, honor, country seem to sum up her life of service to the United Kingdom. Who would want to take on the huge responsibility she did at such a young age, only 26 years old, when her father died and she ascended the throne.

Official Title: "Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith." 

And as my friend Beth would say, 'You'll never find that name on a coffee mug!'
And probably not 'Glenniewennie' either. :-)

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Friday, April 20, 2012

St. Cuthbert Gospel

 What I'd like to know is why they get to handle this without wearing gloves.

The following article is from the

 "A seventh-century gospel discovered in a saint's coffin more than 900 years ago, and the oldest European book to survive fully intact, has been acquired by the British Library for £9m.

The manuscript copy of the Gospel of St John, called the St Cuthbert Gospel, was produced in the north-east of England in the late seventh century and placed in the saint's coffin on the island of Lindisfarne, probably in 698.

His remains were carried to the mainland when the monks and people of the island fled Viking invaders, and ended up in Durham where the coffin was opened in 1104 and the gospel discovered.

Cuthbert's body was reburied in the Norman cathedral there and became a focal point for pilgrims.

'It is undoubtedly one of the world's most important books,' said Scot McKendrick, head of history and classics at the British Library.


'Most people who know about books know about the St Cuthbert Gospel. The staggering fact is that we don't have a European book that looks as it did when it was made before this. It's quite astonishing.'

According to the British Library, which has had the gospel on long-term loan since 1979 and exhibited it regularly, it will be displayed open temporarily after conservationists and curators deemed it safe to do so.

The manuscript features an original red leather binding in excellent condition and is the only surviving "high status" manuscript from this period of British history to retain its original appearance both inside and out.


In 2010, the library was approached by auction house Christie's, which was acting on behalf of the gospel's owner, the Society of Jesus (British Province), or Jesuits.

The library was given first option to purchase the manuscript, which was valued at £9m.

Scot said that Jesuits came into possession of the prized artefact in the middle of the 18th century. The Earl of Lichfield gave it to a priest who in turn passed it to Jesuits living in Europe. They later brought it to Stonyhurst, north-west England, which explains why it was formerly known as the Stonyhurst Gospel.

Little is known of the manuscript's whereabouts between 1104 and the 1700s, although academics assume it was kept in Durham for much of that time.


Half of the price of the gospel came from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, established in 1980 to safeguard works of art and wildlife havens for the nation. Other funding came from the Art Fund, Garfield Weston Foundation and the Foyle Foundation, as well as donations from unnamed charitable trusts and individuals.

The book will be displayed to the public in London and the north-east after a formal partnership was agreed between the British Library, Durham University and Durham Cathedral.

Durham Cathedral photo

The British Library has opened a special display exploring the creation, travels and "near-miraculous" survival of the gospel across 13 centuries. It has also been digitised* and made freely available online."  - Article from the, April 17, 2012

*From the British Library Digitised Manuscripts, St. Cuthbert's Gospel
which is found on the British Library Medieval and Earlier Manuscripts BLOG. 

And now, just a little selection of text from the British Library Digitised Manuscripts page which ought to lure you over to their site for more!

"Binding: original, late-7th-century binding, described in Brown, The Stonyhurst Gospel of Saint John, pp. 13–23, 45–55 (technical description of the binding by Roger Powell and Peter Waters). The boards are of the same size as the leaves, almost certainly of birch, about 2.5 mm thick and cut on the quarter. Shallow slots were cut in both faces of the boards from the holes to the back edges to accommodate the thread, which was made of flax and with an S-twist. There were neither thongs or cords; thread alone joins the boards to the sections, and the sections to each other. Covered in leather (either goat- or sheep-skin), stained a deep crimson on the outer surface, and about 1 mm thick. The leather was stuck to the board and moulded over the foundations of the design while it was still damp. The decoration of the boards was enriched by tooling and colouring lines on the surface, with the tip of a fine folder or a stylus. The upper board is decorated with a rectangular frame, with interlace patterns in the upper and lower fields and a larger central field containing a chalice from which stems project, terminating in a leaf or bud and four fruits. The lines of the upper board are filled in bright yellow, pale yellow and blue-grey. The lower board has a rectangular panel containing two step-pattern crosses, constructed on a grid, with the lines filled alternately with bright yellow and blue-grey."

And isn't that the coolest thing!!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

'Apple Peel'
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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Back in Blogland

Plum Tree

Our poor little plum tree. It is not pretty, parts of it have had to be cut off and it looks ridiculous, but I've never had the heart to take it down. And look how it rewards us every spring! Such delicate little pink blossoms that will give us plums that eventually fall to the ground so that Misty can eat them and get the runs. Oh well.

So here I am, back in blogland. It's been a loooooooooooooong time! Ugh! What an ordeal it was to get everything restored on my laptop after the hard drive crashed about a week ago! After three separate and long sessions with three Carbonite tech people and a computer wiz in Cameron, it was discovered that my files wouldn't restore properly because something deep in the innards of my computer wouldn't allow it to happen. It threw it into 'error' mode, and once that happened, it corrupted something. At least that's what the final Carbonite guy told me. Once the genius discovered that and remedied the situation, my files backed up in only about 12 hours. Yes, twelve hours! It could have something to do with the fact that there were 105 GB that needed restoring. That's what happens when you upload multiple camera cards, file them by month, then resize, crop, etc. and file them again by subject.

I'd be interested in knowing how you back up photo files. Is there anything stable, that doesn't deteriorate or get corrupted after a while? If so, that's probably what I need to do. I can't tell you the last time I printed photos.

I did a little cleaning out last night, i.e. getting 20,000 emails and 7,000 unread emails deleted from my Inbox. That cleared up 14.9 GB of space right there. I'm determined to be better about cleaning it out periodically, like maybe every night.

Maple Seeds. How have we never before noticed that they're so red?
or maybe they're just much redder this year?

Early Girl tomatoes, before second transplant

Last night I re-transplanted the Early Girls. They're looking pretty good. Of course, they look just like the photo above except that the stems are buried and only the leaves show above the soil line. I hope they can get nice, thick stems and survive until June 2 or so, when I can set them out in the garden.

My sweet doggie, who hates to go outdoors
 And honestly, I feel just about as motivated as he does today. That huge dog loves it when I lie on the floor and use his belly as a pillow.

Today, my daughter told me that she had read the following, 'Keep only what you find useful or beautiful.' Now that I've cleaned out my Inbox, I need to start on the house. Bridger and Misty, Lionel and Tuppence can relax. I find them all to be both useful and beautiful!

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