Saturday, February 14, 2009

Polka Dots and Pigeons

C had a nightmare that woke him from his nap today. After an hour, he still hadn't really recovered, so we ran bogus errands just because being out in the rain under a polka dot umbrella made him smile.

As a bonus, there was a bright white pigeon hanging out by the car. It didn't even fly away when we approached.



This morning, we made soap.

A little backstory:

Some years ago, I was obsessed with making candles. In the midst of melting things and trying to clean up after having not used the proper tools, I thought that perhaps soap might be a better option. I went to the craft store, picked up whatever melt-and-pour soap base, bought some cutsie soap molds and added food coloring or crayon or whatever and made soap. They were kind of cute in a bowl by our bathroom sink and served their purpose well enough.

The two pounds of soap base made up a gajillion little novelty-sized soaps and it took us quite awhile to work through them all. We never used them as bath soaps and I didn't make any more when we finally ran out.

Cut to last year, when we really started paying attention to the stuff we put into and on our bodies. Thanks to asthma, I have a lot of trouble with synthetic fragrances and that cuts out a lot of store-bought soaps right off the bat. The decision to cut SLS from everything we brought into the house nixed just about everything else.

I did find a really awesome sandlewood soap, but the only place I've seen it is a tiny Indian grocers on the far side of town. And, well, an hour is a hecka long drive for a .59 bar of soap.

R asked why I didn't just make us some soap, since it was something I knew how to do. I hadn't realized that he'd actually liked the soaps I'd made before...

But once the bug was in my ear, I was all for it. I went to the craft store only to discover that the melt-and-pour soap bases I can get locally is pretty crappy stuff. All of the good stuff has been skimmed out and chemicals put in instead. Yuck.

An exhaustive web search led my to Wisteria Lane. I love that they not only discose everything that's in their soap bases, but they also have a ton of options, good prices and are really easy to work with.

My first go, I ordered hemp oil and goat's milk bases. We loved them so much that I immediately ordered more of both the hemp oil and goat's milk, and tried the cococa butter and olive oil bases, too. Those four bases gave me six soaps that I fell in love with.

I sold some on Etsy and gave a bunch away as gifts. Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Oddly, my favorite of all the soaps (hemp oil with white tea and lemongrass) has been the only one other people didn't care for. The exfoliant is too big.


After Christmas gift-giving, we were down to one bar of my soap and a few small bars of store-bought 'natural' soaps. I was good and used the store-bought stuff, but my skin regrets it. My face is broken out and my knees and elbows are all dry and scaley. Gross. I was really excited to order more stuff from Wisteria Lane, and was thrilled that it arrived last night. (UPS makes deliveries after 8pm - who knew?)

So, this morning, we made soap.

I had one pound of hemp oil base, so I made the hemp oil with white tea and lemongrass. With the large exfoliant, since it's for us. And I tried a new base, the exfoliating nuts and cream. Oh my goodness... The nut base has such a light yummy scent and felt so good in my hand. I decided to make it a honey soap, which gave it a really nice pale caramel coloring. It looked and smelled so good, I wanted to eat it.

I ended up pouring both soaps 'hot', so that most of the exfoliant drops out of suspension into it's own layer. I'm fond of them that way.

Honey nut soap in the pan:


Hemp soap in the pan:


Setting: (The muffin pan makes for a soap that fits nicely in the hand.)


Finished soaps:



- Kiza

Friday, February 13, 2009

Beef and Veggie Soup

Tonight's dinner - Beef and Veggie soup


I love this soup, because it's so incredibly simple to make. I always just use what I have on hand, and it always turns out great.

I will admit right off the bat that tonight's soup was the prepackaged, super simple, I've-got-a-baby-on-my-hip-and-one-free-hand version. The branch of the organic veggie co-op that we use is still on hiatus, so everything was store bought this go.

Tonight's soup used:
Beef (pre-cut since I was one-handed)
Beef broth
Green beans (snapped in half)

Onion powder (since R is allergic to fresh onion)
Garlic powder (fresh cloves are difficult to work with one-handed)
Cajun seasoning

Easy-peasy directions:
I browned the meat in a large pot, with a splash of beef broth, and added the spices in amounts that smelled yummy. As soon as the meat was cooked, I poured in the rest of the beef broth. Added carrots, mushrooms and corn. I snapped the green beans in half and added those, then topped off with enough water that it looked like soup.

When I have time and have them in the house, I'll add either potatoes or barley to make this a heartier soup. It's yummy served with fresh bakery bread.

We served four adult-sized bowls, picked out a bunch of veggies for C and still had plenty to put away for lunches.

- Kiza

Palm Oil, Turning the World on it's Ear

Generally speaking, I'm the one who introduces soap box issues into our lives. But the world was turned on it's ear last night by a trip to the zoo, a sheet of paper, and a casual question.

We took C to the zoo last week - his second trip - and he loved it so much I didn't think he was ever going to want to leave. One of my favorite parts was dropping by the orangutans. We missed it on our first trip.

At first, the habitat appeared empty, but then we realized that a large male (Doc, as I recall), a female (Kelly) and a baby (Solaris) were tucked off in a corner. There was a glass viewing wall on that side and we went over so C could see what was going on. Doc sat with his back to us for a bit, then ambled over to the playground type thing in the middle of the habitat. He grabbed a thick rope, which snapped from it's supports when he put it's weight on it and then, as though he were embarassed about it, went to go hide in the back where no one could see him. Kelly, who had been cuddling with the baby, got up and went to check out the snapped rope. She tugged on it to untangle it (her problem solving skills leaving R open-mouthed) and eventually left it and followed Doc wherever he'd gone. Solaris followed her throughout.

The little nook where we were had information on all six of the zoo's orangutans (only three are out at a time) and I was tickled to see that the baby was six years old and always with his mother as he's still nursing. That made me happy.

Before we left, I picked up an information sheet. C started getting fussy so I tucked it away without reading it. By the time we got home six-or-so hours later, I'd forgotten about it.

R found it last night and sat down on the couch to read it. After a little while, he asked if we ever used palm oil. As far as I know we never have, but I almost picked some up for a project last week.

R told me that, according to the fact sheet I'd picked up, harvesting of palm oil is one of the largest dangers to orangutans. He seemed really bothered by it.


No palm oil for us, thanks.

A photo of Kelly, 29, checking out the broken rope and her still-nursing son Solaris, 6.


- Kiza