That’s It! Lotion Bars: Shea Butter Beeswax & Coconut Oil

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Looking for a simple but luxurious handmade gift idea? This tutorial for three ingredient lotion bars is simple to make, useful, a splurge to buy and great gift for everyone. This craft also marks my first beeswax product, from my backyard hives – another precious gift from my favorite pollinators.

Three Ingredient (That’s it!) Lotion Bars

Ingredients & Equipment

  • Equal parts by weight Shea Butter, Beeswax and Coconut oil
  • Slow cooker and liner
  • Muffin papers and pan
  • Ladle, paper towel/newspaper

Optional

  • Space in fridge for muffin pan to cool
  • Wooden takeout chopsticks to stir
  • Ice cube trays, soap or candy molds, milk cartons, PVC pipe mold etc
  • Vitamin E oil
  • Essential oils, lavender buds or oatmeal

Melt all three of the main ingredients (shea butter, beeswax and coconut oil) in a slow cooker on high. Be sure to use a liner for easy clean up. The Coconut Oil and Shea Butter will melt first and the Beeswax will follow soon after. Stir if you are so inclined.

You could also do this in a double boiler but not directly on a burner as beeswax may catch fire (confession – one time I knowingly rendered my beeswax on an open flame, no fire still not smart).

For this batch, I used ¾ pound of each. Why 0.75? Because that is how much coconut oil I had on hand. This made about 20 round bars and 20 small bees. Some of bees were a tad fragile but the little broken bits work just fine for me.

Place one or two muffin papers in each muffin space (what do you call them?) in the pan. Imagine the mini-muffins too!

Once the ingredients are melted, you are ready to fill the molds. Layer paper towel under the slow cooker and muffin tin to catch dribbles. Then using a ladle fill the muffin mold about 2/3 to 3/4 full. You can then let it cool at room temp or in the fridge (faster, ~ 10-20 minutes) or outside if it is winter.

Once cool and solid remove from the pan, line with new papers and ladle the next batch. I left them in the finished bars in the papers until I was ready to package them up, placed on plates lined with paper towel.

I also had a small bee candy mold that I used to make adorable lotion bees. I tried spraying the mold with non-stick cooking spray and also without – didn’t seem to make a difference. For any lotion bars that are funny shaped or broken or many just bits on the rim of the muffin pan, put it back into the slower cooker and re-melt.

Wrap them up in a small box, lined paper, dish, glass jar etc. I packaged mine up in pairs using vellum envelops, labels, bakers twine, glue stick and some finishing flare. Two important things to note 1) these begin to melt quickly in your hands (that is what makes them lotion bars) so don’t handle them too much 2) whatever you wrap them in should resist oil (e.g. parchment paper, wax paper, plastic wrap) or it will just soak through. Now give the gift of soothed skin.

Don’t believe me? Other great sites to reinforce –

PS  If you want to use essential oils, let the filled muffin pan sit for a few minutes at room temp to start to cool but not solidify. Then mix in a tiny drop of oil, stir with a tooth pick and then put in fridge. I found that the smell dissipated with the higher heat, but play around to see what works. If adding texture such as lavender buds or oatmeal, do so very sparingly.

Citrus Wreath – Homemade Holiday DIY

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These wreaths would be great in any season but there something about citrus and the Holiday season – remember oranges for Christmas gifts in Little House? Or is it hope for sunny days? Regardless, they are easy to create, beautiful in their simplicity, yet present opportunities for making it your own. Mix and match citrus, use other fruits, add ribbon, burlap, twin or other organic add-ons like star anise, dried eucalyptus, bay leaves, cinnamon sticks. No special crafty skills required, just some citrus, patience, pins and hot glue! Play around with the dried fruit and make other decorations too. See a few other ways I used them below. These wreaths are perfect for my Christmas theme this year – gold, white and orange.

Supplies

  • Foam wreath (I used rounded and the flat versions, rounded was easier but both worked fine) 12 – 16 inches
  • Citrus: oranges, lemons, could also use limes and grapefruit; about 12 – 14 oranges and 6-8 lemons (this varies with size, cutting etc – buy more than you think and just eat the extra)
  • Metal straight pins
  • Hot glue gun and sticks
  • Fabric for wrapping wreath, such a linen or a pretty holiday print or burlap
  • Ribbon, for decorating if you want and for making the hanger
  • Other bits and bobbles
  • Options: glitter spray, orange essential oils

Instructions

  1. Slice the fruit about 3/8 inch. I have a mandolin which made this infinitely easier, especially when making multiples but not required. Just try to get them uniform'”ish”. I did use my zester and grated the top and bottom before slicing as I didn’t want to use the ends in the wreaths but having all this citrus zest on hand (fridge, freezer or dried) is handy.
  2. Dry, either in the oven or dehydrator. I tried the oven but found it took a while a few burnt a tad (still used, added some deeper color) and I could do more slices in the dehydrator, in the same amount of time. For the oven, use the drying function on it if you have it or as low heat as possible (150 F) for ~ 3 hours, flip them part way through.
  3. Let the slices cool off so that they dry all the way and do not mold. You do not want crispy critters though.
  4. Prepare the wreath by wrapping in fabric strips. I torn mine into about 2 inch wide strips. Pin the tails down and wrap tightly.
  5. Add the ribbon loop for hanging. Use about 6 inches, wrap around the frame or glue onto the back, turn under any raw cut edges. Nothing fancy hear. I also use twine for one and wire would work too.
  6. Begin to pin down the first layer of orange slices. I made the first layer flat, no overlapping and then layered on more as I went, this time overlapping to hide pins. I also used the hot glue gun to tack things down. You can use the slices that might have not been as perfect on the bottom or tucked under. I loosely sorted my slices by sizes so I could find the ‘perfect’ slice quicker. Not sure it made a difference but satisfied my tendencies.
  7. Just keep applying slices until you are happy with results. Now you can add the extras if you want. I kept it simple and just glued down a few star anise for shape and smell. They also are hiding a few exposed pin heads.
  8. I freshened up the fragrance with some sweet orange essential oil. To mail, pack lying flat, wrap with tissue.

DIY Dried Citrus Tree

Use a foam cone, wrap the first 3 inches or so of the base with fabric (a la trunk) and then apply the orange slices with pins and hot glue starting at the bottom and working up. I sprayed some gold glitter on for fanciness sake.

Simple wreath : String dried slices on a piece of twin, pull tight forming a circle. You could also make a garland, or mix in other items like pinecones, dried apples, leaves, cinnamon etc.

Inspired by a recent Better Homes and Garden idea.

Glittering Golden Birthday Party Ideas

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We hosted a 40th 29th birthday for a dear friend, D, who is all things glittering and gold. With a fall party, creating the golden decorations started the house off nicely for holiday decorating, building up from Thanksgiving through the New Year. In a few weeks, the Christmas tree will be up and all in gold, with perhaps some orange accents, but there is still time to finalize [last year’s theme =red and gray].  All of these ideas are simple, great for beginners and would work well for weddings, anniversaries, holidays  and just because. Try out other metallic colors, such as copper, themes such as Pretty in Pink or all shades of blue or yellow for a baby shower.

Supplies

  • Craft paint and brushes
  • Spray paint and spray glitter
  • Mod Podge or glue
  • Pinecones
  • Feathers
  • Twigs
  • Random things that are crying out for a gold paint job
  • Mini pumpkins or decorative gourds, real or real fake
  • Vacuum, because you are going to have glitter all up in your house.

Decoration Ideas

  • Great glittering gold gourd name cards!!! AKA gold and glitter painted mini pumpkins in orange and white. Paint the top, bottom or whole thing. Dress up with ribbon and simple stamped name tags.

  • Simple sparkly table runner DIY
  • Pinecones spray painted with two different metallic golds and also spray glitter over some white ones from last year ( I <3 pinecones). You can also just put glitter on the tips of a natural brown pinecone, using glue and a paint brush. Put them in baskets, purposefully arranged, in apothecary jars, bowls or glue on some wire and hang.

  • Golden birds – in expensive or thrift shop ceramic birds ( or unicorns or whatever) spray painted and/or coated in ModPodge and glitter.

  • Golden bird cage and candle stick holders – again, just spray painted objects on hand or from a thrift shop. I put a tea cup and air plant inside the bird cage. It was a little large for the table but is now featured in side, versus buried in garage.

  • Gold dipped feathers – each hand painted, one of kind, tucked in with the gold branches. You could also work this into folded napkins. Black feathers with gold paint turned out great as well. And I am sure any paint color would work. For these I used acrylic craft paint, brushes and for glitter ModPodge. Get sturdy feathers, not fluffy downy ones. For a few I dipped into paint but thenhad to brush off the excess. For most painted using various brushes and two tones of gold.

  • Gold initial – I scored an already gold painted D, but it would be easy to paint a letter from a craft store.

  • Glittering votive made from jars, tea lights and boring glass votives. Apply ModPodge where you want glitter and go for it. I applied glitter to the outside of the cheap tea lights and then put them in the votives, easy way to dress up and not permanent.

  • Gold Christmas ornaments, such as stars, balls etc
  • Gold and/or glittery twigs – watch at the holidays for premade versions on great sales, or make your own a la nature.

Aerial Shot

Action shot with plenty of things are that supposed to be in a perfectly positioned blog photo J, like me, a random coffee mug, misplaced paper napkins and messy counters. You can see just a bit of the Middle Eastern food we had catered by Project Feast though.

Beaded Statement Necklace – H&M Makeover

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I always keep my eyes peeled for statement necklaces, I suppose you could say they are my ‘thing’. Jazzing up basic objects does not have to be complicated or require much beyond glue, courage and some bits and baubles. This beaded necklace took me all of about an hour to make, longer for glue to try and cost probably less than $10. I picked up the silver necklace at H&M about 2 years ago and the seed beads I have had for years, a yard sale treasure scored by my mother.

Instructions

  • Choose you jewelry item to shazzam up. Make sure it is clean and make any needed repairs to the chains, clasps etc. This necklace has a smooth front but the back side has a slight indent/recess making it perfect to fill; hence, I actually wear this necklace backwards. Oh well! I am the only one that knows the clasp is on the other side.
  • Initially my plan was to place cut-to-fit fabric scraps and epoxy in each of the shapes but decided to go with supplies on hand. Enter my big bag o’beads. Such vibrant colors! With a black summer patio party dress in mind, I narrowed down my colors and decided to go for regal red and purple theme, with tan, dark brown and maroon accents.

  • I filled the shape with clear craft glue, but epoxy, clear nail polish and other clear drying substances would work as well. You just need something to fix the beads to the jewelry shape.
  • Using tweezers, toothpicks, pins, patience and a steady hand, I began to randomly place the beads into the shape. I kept some on the string while placing for ease and also turned some on their side or stacked a few on top for interest and dimension. No rules about color placement but I tried to make each shape feature a different color but all have some of each present. Complete one shape at a time.
  • I put a thin layer of clear glue over the top to ensure that all the beads were secure. Let it dry!

  • Wear, enjoy and bask in the pride (and likely a few compliments) that you will experience.

 

Plum Dandy Fruit Galette Recipe

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This easy three plum galette graced our late summer table and will likely make a fall comeback as a pear version. Galette is a Frenchie word describing a variety of flat freeform flakey, crusty desserts. Crusts can be made with puff pasty or pie crust or somewhere in between. I always have a box of puff pastry on hand from baked brie with honey and garlic (self, why no blog post?); top pie crusts, empanadas, beef wellington (on my list!) and caramelized onion tart.

Don’t worry if it is not perfectly rectangular or round or the rolled edges are a bit wonky – call it rustic and take its photo. See below. You can also make them individual portions, like this Bon Appetite idea, using a knife or cookie cutter. Key with puff pastry is working fast so it doesn’t warm up to much. You could also make puff pastry from scratch – never attempted, best left for LeCB chef extraordinaires.

I promise I am done with plum recipes for the year. Pin this away for next year or for inspiration with whatever is seasonal.

Plum Fruit Galette

Ingredients

  • Approx. 1 lb of plums, I used three colors for flare! Or apples, pears, berries etc.
  • 1 sheet of prepared puff pastry, defrost according to package, about 14 ounces, but this doesn’t need to be exact
  • 1-3 tablespoons of honey for drizzling
  • Fresh thyme or rosemary or basil or mint – depending on your taste and fruit.
  • Sea Salt
  • 1 T Olive oil
  • Optional; beaten egg white with water or cream to brush on edges to help brown
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F
  2. Slice and pit the plums into wedges, not to thick but about the same size.
  3. Unfold/roll the puff pastry sheet onto a piece of parchment paper on the counter. Fold or roll over the edges all the way around OR run a knife around the edge about ½ inch in, without cutting through. This will allow it to ‘puff’ up and make a border. It never works all that well for me.
  4. Brush the pastry with the olive oil, lay down the plum slices. Top with herbs and drizzle with honey. You can warm the honey up a tad so it drizzles easier and faster.
  5. Bake 25-35 minutes until brown and fruit is soften with some carmelization. Suggest rotating the pan part way through if your edges are browning up equally.
  6. Sprinkle with salt sparingly before serving. Goes great with ice cream! (but what really doesn’t…)

You can make a lot of modifications to this recipe, could spread jam lightly on the pastry instead of olive oil and pair with a different fruit or savory item, add spices like nutmeg or cinnamon. Sprinkle with sugar, play around with herbs etc. Enjoy!

Other Plum Ideas:

 

Dried Plums : To Crack or Not to Crack

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Crack, definitely crack (it’s not whack) your plums before placing them in the dehydrator. But first, please accept the fact that dried plums are not prunes. They are amazing; no weird texture or strong taste. Drying is an excellent way to preserve a bumper crop of plums for the long winter months. Sweet bites!

What is cracking? Basically, blanching but also known as checking. The intention is to break down the touch skins with a waxy-like coating to make for faster dehydration. Cracking is achieved by dipping or placing the whole fruit (such as plums, prunes, grapes, figs, cherries) into boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds then place, run under or dip into cold water to stop any cooking. You might do this same thing when making tomato sauce and removing the skins. You do not need to or probably want to remove the skins for making sweet little dried plums. Cracking shortened drying time by at least 8 hours, for a total drying time of about 20 hours for plum halves.

Here is a pile of cracked/checked plums from the backyard destined for the Snackmaster

Other tip for drying plums (that I did not do) is to place them skin side down for easier removal. In addition, you can pretreat the fruit with lemon juice. I did not this time around to no apparent detriment.

Can you spot the uncracked plums?

Other Plum Ideas:

Tart Plum Pie Filling

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This year was a bumper backyard plum year. I still have plum butter and savory plum sauce left in the pantry, so in search of new recipes that use a lot of plum, stumbled across pie filling idea at the Local Kitchen blog. Thank you for the inspiration! Here is my execution of this easy preserved pie filling – hot water bath canning is optional. I think it will freeze wonderfully and I put a jar into my fridge for almost immediate use. Too tarty? Add sugar to your liking when ready to bake the pie. This will vary with plum variety etc. I used mostly sugar plums, but a few Italian and also yellow egg (I think).

Tart Plum with Cardamom Pie

Filling:

  • 7 lbs plums cleaned up and chopped (remove pits, stems, keep the skin!), very forgiving if a little over or a little under; use any kind
  • 1 lemon for zest and juice
  • 2 cups granulated sugar, love organic!
  • ½ tsp ground cardamom, could also use cinnamon and nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt

Crust

  • Premade pie crusts, top and bottom
  • 1 tablespoon cream or half & Half
  • 1 tablespoon sugar and two pinches of cardamom
  • Or make you own J

You will also need some cornstarch or thickener [e.g. ClearJel] to use when ready to bake the pie. I did not add before canning, although you can add ClearJel at this point, but not cornstarch. Just make a note on your label what you did or did not do.

Instructions – Filling

  1. Combine your prepped plums and sugar. Add them to the sugar as you chop to help keep their color and start the maceration process. I had the luxury of time and let mine macerate (such a on odd word on the tongue) overnight in the fridge. Try to let them mingle for at least an hour.
  2. Add lemon zest, ground cardamom and salt to macerated sugary plums. Mix to coat. Keep letting sit around if you have time. The longer it macerates the more syrupy/liquid.
  3. Get all your stuff ready if planning to can the filling [jars, lids, hot water etc]. Quart jars are the right size to make a full size pie.
  4. Pour off the syrupy liquid into a large non-reactive pot. Bring to a rolling boil for 3-4 minutes. It will start foaming, so be sure to skim the foam off.
  5. Add the plums. And bring again to a boil. Reduce the heat and let simmer for 15-20 minutes. The goal is soft fruit and a more thick consistency.
  6. When you are ready to fill the jars, keep it at a simmer and use a funnel to fill jars. Leaving an 1 inch of headspace. Seems like a lot but trust me you need it.
  7. Remove the bubbles and all the other proper canning techniques. Process in hot water bath for 30 minutes.
  8. OR you could freeze in quart bags/containers. This will make somewhere between 3-4 quarters so you might have a funny little bit left.

Pie!

  1. I am a believer in pre-made pie crusts – sorry if that lets you down. Buy a high quality, preferable organic pie crust and follow their directions. I am just not awesome at homemade pie crusts, unless doing hand pies or “rustic” versions [read: ugly]
  2. Heat up pie filling in a sauce pan and if you need to thicken it with cornstarch or other thickener like Clear Jel. Now is time to sweeten, adjust any spices etc. I also hade a few random plums on the counter that I chopped up really small and tossed into the filling while heating.
  3. I baked it with a double crust (bottom and top). Before putting in the oven coat the top crust with a little bit of cream and sprinkle with some cardamom and sugar. Make a few slits and bake at 425 for about 45 minutes. Halfway through you will need to cover the edges with tinfoil so they do not burn.
  4. If possible let it cool before serving. If you just can’t wait [like me], it will be a bit runny but still amazing with some ice cream or whipped cream!

Enjoy this easy canning recipe! I will be trying with other fruits as well – pear anyone?

Pots of Potatoes : Container Gardening

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I did an experiment this year, planting some organic potatoes I had purchased that had sprouted eyes. Nothing to lose as though would be composted otherwise and not at risk of growing some weird GMO capsule, I put my sprouted potatoes in pots, and covered with dirt. Once the plants starting growing, I just covered up most the green leafy plant, repeating this until recently when the plants began to die back. When growing potatoes be careful to not over water and caution with free planting in a bed, you might have potatoes forever, they are harder to harvest and you risk slicing them with a shovel. Planting in a pot was really easy. I haven’t harvested them all, I could feel around in the dirt a few are still pretty small but so far, I have recouped at least the same number I planted and NO they aren’t the same ones. [sheesh!] I’d call it a win. Here’s an alliteration with more details -

Potato Process in Pictures

Sprouted potatoes, not all ended up growing

Big pot, layer of dirt and chicken supervision

Also planted them in a green ceramic pot, sprout/eye side up.

No, you do not need to use a cage for the plants, these are in the pots to keep the chickens out. They love digging up anything I just plant.

Now just wait…. And cover most of green plant with dirt. Wait. Cover. Water every now and then.

Viola! Not too shabby, although in total, not near as many potatoes as with real seedling potatoes. If it is potato planting time and I have some on my counter with eyes I will put them in the ground, but likely add in some official seedlings for greater yield. I am expecting about 3-5 lbs from about 1 lb of seedlings. Have you experimented with potatoes? There are so many ways to grow them….

 

 

No Bake Almond Apricot Chocolate Cookies

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Thank you Martha S. for the sweet treat inspiration and no-bake revival. I made a few tweaks just to be different and use up some items in the pantry. These no bake cookies are delicious and probably a touch better for you from a macrolevel but so good you will want to eat more than a responsible portion…. Enjoy!

Apricot Chocolate No Bake Treats

Ingredients

  • 1 cup almond butter (smooth or crunchy)1/3 cup honey (more or less depending on how sweet you are)
  • 1 stick unsalted butter (less if your almond butter has lots of oil or is more liquidy)
  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats, uncooked
  • ½ cup toasted almond slivers or chopped bits, reserve a tablespoon for topping
  • 1 heaping cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • Generous ¾ cup chopped dried apricots, figs, strawberries, cranberries or other favorite dried fruit; reserve some to sprinkle on top
  • ½ tsp coarse sea salt

Ingredients are flexible as this isn’t a precision recipe. Experiment!

Instructions

  • Toast the almonds. I use slivers, put them in the large saucepan you will eventually use for recipe, turn up the heat and stirred around until aromatic and lightly browned. Pour almonds into a bowl and set aside. You can also toast in the oven.
  • Prepare your pans, if making bars. Line bottom and sides of a 7 x 11 or 8 x 8 pan with large sheet of parchment paper. You could also make these as drop cookies. Still use a piece of parchment paper on cookie sheet so that the treats are easy to move once cool.
  • Melt honey and almond butter over medium heat. Stir often.
  • Turn down the heat and begin adding handfuls of chocolate chips to the mix, stirring to melt.
  • Start to add butter in tablespoon increments. Stop when it seems fluid enough to mix in salt, oats, almonds and apricots. You can add remaining as you go if it feels to thick.
  • Pour or scoop mixture into prepared pan and press out evenly or drop by spoonfuls onto cookie sheets. Top with reserved almonds and apricots. Chill for at least an hour.

  • Enjoy! These little bites are quite satisfying.

 

Easy Twine Wrapped Pot DIY

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All you need is sixty minutes, some sisal rope/twine, plastic pot liners and a hot glue gun to create these simple, inexpensive and eye-catching pots. Each pot cost less than $3.50 each and if you are able to recycle items around your home the cost would be even less. I used cuttings from plants I already own. Philodendron and spider plants are easy to propagate. Of course, you can adapt this method for all sorts of pots and containers. Try wrapping twine or rope around terracotta pots, tin cans, glass jars etc. From here you have yourself some beautiful vases, planters, pots or standalone deco items. I am also experimenting with making ‘rope’ or ‘yarn’ from scrap fabric. Have fun, try not to burn yourself with hot glue and share your results with me in the comments!

Set of Three Wrapped Pots – Supplies

  • 8 inch plastic plant saucers
  • 100 feet 48 lb ½ inch sisal rope
  • Hot Glue Gun/Sticks
  • Indoor plants/soil
  • Scissors
  • Sixty Minutes

Instructions:

  • If your plant saucer has a lip, you can trim this off with scissors if you like. I did them both ways and it turned out just fine but I think cutting it off is easier and was less likely to create gaps around the top. You can also trim the plastic saucers to a custom height.
  • Decide if you want to cover the base of the pot. I covered the base on one of the three but not the others, in part because I would have needed more rope and it is not visible in the area I am using.
  • Do NOT plant the saucers first, like I did. ……. I dilly dallied around and need to pot the plants and couldn’t quite decide how to spruce up the bathroom initially. It made the process a bit more challenging but I still made it in an hour.
  • If wrapping the bottom, trace out a pattern on some paper and then start wrapping up the rope gluing a lot in the beginning and then less, little dabs every few inches until the circle of rope is one rope wrap larger than then the base. I put some additional glue all over the top to hold together and then stuck the sauce down on top. Now keep wrapping and gluing intermittently all the way up the pot.

  • To wrap the sides, glue down the end of the rope to the pot then start wrapping. I overlapped the rope slightly when all the way around the first time to hide the start. I glued a lot more at the base to get is secure so that I could wrap it tighter and quicker going up. Do not overdo the glue, you don’t need every inch attached. Wrap and glue. Wrap and glue.
  • To end the wrapping I overlapped about a ¼ inch and then cut a 3 -4 inch tail and tucked it down into the pot, gluing it inside. You could also tuck it under itself or just stop when wrapped and cover the end with some buttons or other doo dads.

Done!

 

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