Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Crockpot Coffee Kitchen Soap--Tutorial

This is one of my favorite handmade soaps.  It works great for onion and garlic smells on your hands.  You can buy most of the ingredients at your local grocery store.

This process takes a while, but it is worth the end result.  I got 16 slices of soap and 4 decent size (but not pretty) soap balls.


Cold coffee
Olive Oil
Palm Oil
Coconut Oil
Ground coffee (not instant)
Almond or Castor oil
Lye* (see notes)


Crockpot (I use a crockpot from a garage sale that is just for soap making)
Stainless steel spoon (not aluminum!) -you can use a wooden spoon, just don't use it for food when you are done
Glass jar for mixing lye
Wooden skewer for mixing lye
Postal or kitchen scale that weighs in 1/10th of ounce increments
Phenoolphthalein or litmus strips (in the pool supply aisle)
Soap Mold (I use a pringles can!)
Stick blender (helpful but not necessary)


Weigh 12 oz. of cold coffee into a glass jar.  Weigh 4.8 oz. of lye into a small jar or bowl.  Slowly add lye into coffee (DO NOT add the coffee to the lye, it will erupt and can cause burns!), stirring with a wooden skewer.  DO NOT breathe the fumes.  This is going to get HOT!  Stir until all of the lye is dissolved.  Set aside.

Weigh 18 oz. of olive oil, 8 oz. of coconut oil and 6 ounces of palm oil into your crockpot.  I add each oil seperately and then reset the scale.

Turn the crockpot on high to melt the oils.
When the oils are melted, pour in the lye mixture and stir to incorporate.

Stir with the spoon constantly without splashing until mixture resembles thick set pudding.  This will take approx. 15-30 min. depending on the temperature of your oils.  If you have a stick blender, pulse in short bursts, alternating with stirring, you should reach the proper consistency in about 5-8 min. with a stick blender.

Once you have reached this stage (called trace), you put the lid on the crockpot and let it cook.  Check back in about 10  minutes.  The outsides should be boiling and it should start to look like a gel.

Stir and put the lid back on for another 5-10 minutes.  I like to check and stir every 5-10 minutes.  After about 15 minutes your soap should resemble applesauce, it will be gelled and chunky looking.
applesauce stage

close-up of applesauce stage, with a drop of phenolphthalein
(the red means it is not neutral)

Keep stirring and checking your soap, it will start to get smoother and will eventually resemble mashed potatoes.  Once it has reached this stage, take a small amount and cool it on a plate.  Rub it between your fingers, it should feel waxy.  Check the ph to see if it is neutral.  Continue cooking until the soap tests neutral on the plate. Usually it takes about 30 minutes of total cooking time (after you reach trace),  I will usually finish my soap after 30 min. even if I am not quite sure it is neutral.  You can check the finished soap to be sure it is neutral, and if it is not, all you have to do is let it cure for a week or two.
mashed potato stage
Once your soap is ready, add 2 tbsp. almond or castor oil and 2 tbsp. ground coffee  and  mix well.  I like to leave it a little swirled.
Place the finished soap into the mold of your choice.  I find it is best to put some soap in then tap the mold a few times to pack it in and repeat until full.  I had some soap leftover so I scooped it onto a plate and formed it into balls as it cooled (these are not pretty, but they still function).
Let soap cool completely and remove from mold.  In this case, I just tear the container off from the soap.

Slice soap into approx. 1/2" slices.  Enjoy clean and fresh smelling hands!


-This is NOT a child friendly project, lye is dangerous stuff.  Use caution and common sense.  I always made soap when my kids were younger, they knew they were not allowed in the kitchen when mom was making yucky stuff!
-Lye is a form of drain cleaner and can be found at many hardware stores and home improvement centers.  Read the labels to make sure you have 100% lye.
-Wear gloves when handling the lye.
-You can check your soap with phenolphthalein or litmus strips when it is done, it should be neutral. 
-Leave your bars out to air dry, flipping them over every day, for a week and they will be harder and store longer.
-If you want a plain soap, use water instead of the coffee and leave out the ground coffee.  You could add essential oil with the almond oil right before you mold your soap, just use about 1 tsp. of your favorite scent. 
-You could also make this other scents like lavender or peppermint and add 2 Tbsp. lavender or peppermint leaves.
-This is one of my favorite hostess gifts with a handmade dishcloth.

Friday, February 18, 2011

A peek at my pantry

Over the years we have moved a lot!  We have lived in a lot of small places where I have had to be very creative with my pantry storage.  Our current house is HUGE for us, especially square footage wise, but it still seriously lacks in good storage, in fact, I am pretty sure the 1000 sq. ft. mobile home we lived in for several years had almost as much usable storage space.

Because of all the food allergies in our family and the fact that I make almost everything from scratch, pantry storage is one of the most important spaces wherever we live.  This house has a large open kitchen and dining room, but the cupboards are narrow and don't hold much, so other than one spice cupboard, we have no food stored in the cupboards.  Instead, when we were moving in, we were blessed with to rather large bookcase that I immediately knew what I was going to do with them.

They were almost the same size and the shelf spacing was almost identical, so I screwed them together and gave them a paint job.  We had a long, unused wall in our kitchen that became their home.  This is my main pantry storage.

Notice my little coffee bar off to one side.

I started out with assorted jar, containers, etc... and slowly collected the glass jars.  I asked for jars for birthdays, Christmas, any excuse I could think of to add to my collection.  The jars were less than $5 a piece, so it was not too much to ask for from family.
I have labels done for all the big jars and will hopefully finish my labels for the smaller jars soon.  The jars hold all of my baking supplies, mixes, pastas, nuts, cereal, etc...   When we get in from grocery shopping we fill up any jars that need filling right away.  Just eliminating all the packaging makes such a big difference.  My spices, which I buy bulk, are all in the quart or half gallon canning jars, along with all my spice mixtures that I make myself (apple pie spice, taco seasoning, Italian seasoning, etc....).

Whatever extra we have, plus all of our boxed and canned goods are stored in a little closet at the top of our stairs.  This closet also holds my aprons, shopping bags, broom and mop.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Floral Candle Party Favors

We are in full party planning mode around here, we have SIX big parties that we are hosting over the next several months.  Parties mean lots of decorations and party favors!

Here is one I am considering:

Floral Candle Party Favors


~Candles (in your choice of size)
~Assorted flower petals or silk flowers to take apart
~Mini brads (from the scrapbooking section)
~Ribbon (optional)

Use the brads to hold the flower petals in place on the candle.  It helps to push slowly or sometimes they start to bend. 

You can layer many petals for a single flower, or use tiny flowers to rim the bottom of the candle. 
Cut circles of paper or cardstock and glue to the bottom of candle with a special message.

~These make great last minute hostess gifts (just keep the supplies on hand and you can put one together in less than five minutes!)

~Give to a friend who needs a little encouragement.

~A great wedding favor with the names and dates on the bottom.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Rose Soap Leaves

A little mid-winter pick-me-up to remind us that spring is around the corner.

Rose Soap Petals

~Rose petals from silk roses (You can buy them already cut, or cut the petals off from the flowers yourself)
~Melt and Pour clear glycerine soap (available at most craft stores)
~Fragrance oil (optional)

Cut 6 ounces of soap into 1" chunks.

Place soap chunks into microwave safe container and melt according to package instructions.  Mine took about 1 minute. Stir in a few drops of fragrance oil, if desired.

Use tweezers to dip rose petals into melted soap.

Let soap drip off petal and then place on waxed paper or parchment paper to dry.

When leaves are cool, peel off from paper. 

To Use:
Use one petal to wash hands.  There is just enough soap on each petal to get your hands nice and clean.  Dispose of used petal or save to be coated and re-used again.

*These make a great favor for baby or bridal showers.

*Keep a few leaves in a baggie in your purse to have on hand in case someplace is out ( many public restrooms never seem to have soap).

*Tuck a package of these in a gift basket for a new mom or sick friend.

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Few of My Favorite Things

This is a new topic that I hope to be adding to on a regular basis.  It will be  place for me to share products, websites, and other things that I use and love.

I know I always find it helpful when people share things that really work for them, or places where they get inspired. 

So here is my first favorite thing:

This site is amazing!  Ana is a mom who builds incredible furniture and shares the plans with everyone for free!  I mean, this woman built her own house in Alaska!

There are plans for everything from dining room tables to couches (yes, a couch!) to doll furniture to picnic tables in every size.  Many of her plans are "knock-offs" of expensive furniture brands like Pottery Barn, West Elm etc... So if you love the look, but can't afford the prices, you can build your own and finish it to match your decor.

I have already built a few things from her plans:
 Rustic Farmhouse Table Plans
Rustic Farmhouse Table and Bench

Modular Bookcase Plans
Modular bookcase

I have several other things on my "to build" list as soon as soon as the weather is nice enough to get outside and cut some wood. 

When you have finished your furniture, you can even share it on the brag blog so that the whole world can see what you have accomplished.  :)

I hope you are inspired to build something special for your home today!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Honey Lemon Throat Drops

"A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down." ~Mary Poppins

These soothing throat drops not only soothe the throat, the lemon helps clear up the phlegm and open the passageways.  There is no corn syrup, artifical colors or additives which makes them great for kids or anyone with allergies.  They are easy to make with just a few simple kitchen ingredients.

Honey Lemon Throat Drops

2 C. sugar
1/2 C. honey
3/4 C. water
juice of 1/2 lemon
1-2 Zinc tablets, crushed (optional)
1-2 Vitamin C tablets, crushed (optional)

Butter an 8"x8" pan. Set aside.

Place sugar, honey and water in medium saucepan. Place pan over medium heat.  Cook and stir until mixture boils, stirring constantly to dissolve the sugar. 

Turn the heat down to med.-low and continue to lightly boil , stirring occasionally until a candy thermometer reads 285 degrees (soft crack). Approx. 20 minutes total.

Remove from heat, stir in lemon juice. Add zinc and Vitamin C (if desired), letting mixture cool for 1-2 minutes. 

Pour into prepared pan.  Cool for 10 minutes, score top of mixture.  If not cool enough to score, wait a few minutes and try again.

Cool completely.  Break into pieces using score lines. 

You can wrap pieces individually or store in a baggie or other container until ready to use.

Store in a cool dark place.

Superstition and Fear

"All your works praise you, LORD;
your faithful people extol you.
They tell of the glory of your kingdom
and speak of your might,
so that all people may know of your mighty acts
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom." Psalm 145:10-12

Superstition and fear-mongering have no place in the Christian life! If you claim to believe in Jesus you should recognize He is sovereign and holy!

As Christians we are called to spread hope, joy and peace! Not fear and doom, or belief in luck (good or bad), jinxes or any other man-made idea (including horoscopes).

What we talk about, read about, and yes, even post of facebook is a reflection of what is going on in our hearts. It is the window to the world of what we truly believe. If we are spreading fear and gloom, then we are not walking in the light. And even though we live in a fallen and sometimes scary world, we are to spread the hope that comes from knowing that Jesus has overcome the world!

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

"If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth." 1 john 1:6

"You, LORD, have abandoned your people, the descendants of Jacob. They are full of superstitions from the East; they practice divination like the Philistines and embrace pagan customs." Isaiah 2:6

"To the LORD your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it." Deut. 10:14

" You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world." 1 John 4:4

" Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead." Deut. 18:10-11

"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." 2 Timothy 1:7 ( KJV)

“Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.
“As long as the earth endures,
seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat,
summer and winter,
day and night
will never cease.” Genesis 8:21-22

~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~  

~This morning when I got on Facebook my heart was grieved by the amount of things posted that dealt with superstitions, horoscopes and articles proclaiming doom and gloom on the earth by people who claim to love Jesus.  I know for some, it was probably just a lack of forethought before they posted, but we are still accountable for our actions.  If we are the only Jesus that some people see, what are we showing them? 

I know I will probably offend some and I am sure I will receive some unhappy email, but this is something that God has laid very heavy on my heart.  I am not perfect nor am I claiming to be.  Sometimes God opens our eyes to a truth that must be proclaimed.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Elderberry Syrup for Immunity

This is the sight we woke up to this morning!

It was a beautiful sight, everything covered in a fresh layer of white, the trees blanketed with a thick and clinging snow. 

Unfortunately, with all the beauty that winter can offer, it also ushers in cold and flu season.  Lately it seems like everyone I know has had sick kids with fevers, coughs, and stomach bugs.  Since hibernating till spring is really not an option, we have to do our best to keep our immune systems functioning the best that we can.

A couple of years ago I was introduced to Elderberry Syrup.  It is purported to boost you immune system because of it's high levels of anti-oxidants and bioflavinoids.  It is all natural, safe for children* and easy to make and while I cannot make any claims for what it does, I know that we have not gotten significantly sick in the last few flu seasons which have been particularly bad around us.

Elderberry Syrup

1/2 C. dried elderberries
2 tsp. ginger powder (or a 1" chunk of fresh ginger)
2 cinnamon sticks
1 echinacea tea bag
2 C. water
1 C. honey (preferably raw, local honey)

Place everything but the honey in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over med. heat.  Simmer 5 minutes.

Strain liquid into the honey and mix well.

Take 1 tsp. for children or 1 Tbsp. for adults once a day to boost your immunity.  You can take it every 2-3 hours if you are feeling like you might be catching something.  You can also use the "syrup" on pancakes or place it in juice or yogurt. 

*Because of the raw honey I would not give this to an infant or toddler without first checking with your pediatrician! 
~Store syrup in the refrigerator, it will last several weeks.

~This makes a nice addition to a care package for a sick friend.

~You can buy dried elderberries from many herb shops and natural food stores, or you can order them online from here.

~I use echinacea tea that is available at any grocery store, it contains more than just straight echinacea, but I like the flavor.  You could use 1 Tbsp. of dried echinacea if you have some on hand.

Over the next week or so, I will be sharing some other favorite homemade remedies from the kitchen.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Best Bruschetta and a Winner

Bruschetta is a favorite around our house, especially when made with homemade french bread and homemade mozzarella cheese.  In fact, it is one of the most requested appetizers when we have guests.

First, slice a loaf of french bread into thin slices.  Arrange on a cookie sheet and brush with olive oil or spritz with cooking spray.

Bake the bread at 400 degrees until lightly toasted.  Remove from oven and rub the cut side of a clove of garlic over each slice.

Thinly slice your tomatoes, mozzarella and fresh basil.  Mix equal parts of good balsamic vinegar*, olive oil; add salt and pepper to taste.

Layer the tomatoes and cheese on each bread slice, sprinkle basil over top.  Drizzle with balsamic dressing.

*The secret to this recipe is the balsamic vinegar.  DO NOT use the cheap store bought stuff, it is just too bitter.  Look for a good quality balsamic from Modena, Italy, preferably aged at least 10 years.  I found some at a local farm/country store but have also seen it at wineries and gourmet stores.


The winner of the vinyl wall scripture is:  Mrs. H!  Please contact me and let me know the exact size of your wall scripture you would like as well as a mailing address!

Mrs. H said...

What a beautiful arrangement! The only scripture I've got on my walls are vintage plaques & pictures that I've found in thrift stores. I would LOVE to update our living room with something like this! :)

Thank you to everyone who entered and joined the group on facebook.  Look for more giveaways, including some just for those on the facebook page.