To observe, enjoy and create in everyday life

In the Kitchen This Week

This last week or so I have been able to bake quite a bit. I usually bake something yummy for our Friday night church gathering, and then over the weekend my son Alex and I like to try a new recipes. And of course, there are the staple items that get baked throughout the week: breads, granola, etc. Although I could certainly consider cookies staple items! 
For cookies this week, I baked up a batch of Amish Sugar Cookies found on Our Simple Homestead's site. These really are the best sugar cookies! We have been making them for a few years now, and I love how simple they are to whip up. My son Alex and I had found a recipe for Madeleine's on King Arthur Flour's site. This is a cookie that he and I had been wanting to try and bake for awhile. They were surprisingly simple to make and so delicious! We both thought that the sugar dusted ones were better than the chocolate dipped ones. So, next time we would skip the step of dipping the Madeleines in chocolate. I did use the leftover chocolate to frost the sugar cookies. Now that was yummy! Either of these cookies are a perfect match with a cup of coffee or tea.
One more recipe to share with you is my granola. Granola is such an easy breakfast cereal to make at home. There are probably a thousand permutations of granola and a million more recipes to pair with that. But it really is quite simple...add what you like and omit what you don't like.  Granola is much like soup. I never make the same batch twice. And while no two batches are the same, I do follow the same formula each time I make it. In a large bowl, I place 3 cups rolled oats, a 3 cup mixture of nuts and seeds and 1 cup of melted fat and sweetener (for 7 cups total). You can add any combination of nuts and seeds to your granola: almonds (chopped/slivered/etc.), shaved coconut, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, really whatever you want or have on hand. Once you have these all tossed in a bowl, you need to add some sweetener and fats. Again, here is where you can use what is in your pantry or what you prefer. You can use butter, coconut oil, or a light liquid oil (like canola or safflower). If you use a solid fat, you will need to melt it first in order to incorporate it into the granola. For a sweetener, I typically use a combination of honey and maple syrup. I add 1/2 cup of a fat melted with 1/2 cup of a sweetener. I will heat these together in the microwave or on the stove top before adding to the oat mixture. Other things you can add to your granola would be a dash of salt, cinnamon and/or vanilla. All of this gets stirred together and poured out on a large jelly roll pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour, stirring every 15 minutes. But again. the temperature really can flex. If you have something else baking in the oven at 375, throw in the sheet of granola with it. Just stir it more frequently and know that it won't take as long to bake. Pull the granola out when it is toasted to a color brown you like. Let it sit on the counter to cool and then store in an air tight container. If you like dried fruit in your granola, stir that in before storing it in the container. If you are looking for something beside cookies to give to friends and neighbors this Christmas, homemade granola would be a good choice. Just make sure to save some for yourself!

Here's a simplified example of the granola I make:
3 cups rolled oats
3 cups total nuts/seeds
1/2 cup fat, melted (butter, coconut oil or light liquid oil)
1/2 cup sweetener (honey or maple syrup)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt

Stir dry ingredients together. Add in liquid ingredients and stir to incorporate. Pour granola onto a large baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees, stirring every 15 minutes. Granola will bake for about an hour, or until desired color is reached. Allow to cool on baking sheet before storing in a container.

What have you been baking in your kitchen this week?

A Weird Obsession

One of the very first natural body products I tried to make was deodorant. About ten years ago, I was on a kick to make more of my own things, and I had read that the aluminum used in anti-perspirants was potentially unhealthy. Plus, there was the money saving factor that came into play with making my own body products. So I thought I would give it a try. But in my attempt to find a homemade deodorant that worked, I failed many, many times. There were numerous times I would dash home in a stinky emergency to reapply whatever failed concoction I had used that morning.
I had become obsessed. I read about and/or tried so many recipes found in books or online in an attempt to find an easy-to-make, inexpensive, kind-to-my-skin deodorant. Some recipes called for ingredients that were just too costly or plain weird. The strangest one I ran across had you soaking grass clippings in vodka to make a homemade chlorophyll infusion...this is one I did not try. The other issue with homemade deodorants is that most rely heavily on baking soda for odor absorption. Many people, myself included, have really negative skin reactions to baking soda. Others sources swore that all you needed was a little witch hazel or a small smear of coconut oil to provide some deodorizing power. I am not quite sure who these folks are, but I needed a little more oomph than that. 
After all of these trials, I thought maybe it wasn't possible to find a homemade deodorant that really worked for me. I thought instead I could find a store bought deodorant that didn't contain aluminum. But again, many of these either did not control the stink factor, included too much of the rash causing baking soda, or were crazy expensive. So I went back to the drawing board. 
Finally a few years ago, I stumbled across multiple deodorant recipes on Wellness Mama's site and noticed her coconut oil based recipe. It used simple ingredients, was inexpensive, and I thought I could play with the amounts of corn starch and baking soda to keep it skin friendly. Her version called for equal parts baking soda and corn starch, but I knew that would be too much for my skin. Instead I cut back the baking soda to half the amount and increased the corn starch. 
I made up a small batch of the deodorant and crossed my fingers. And what do you worked! I did not break out in any skin rashes, I didn't get stinky and I didn't spend a lot of money or time making it. I have worn this deodorant for many years now. And even on the hottest summer days, it has not failed me. So in case you are on a quest to make more of your own products, want to save some money, or are as strangely obsessed with making your own deodorant as I was...I thought I would share this with you.

Coconut Oil Deodorant (based on this recipe)

6 Tablespoons melted coconut oil
2 to 3 Tablespoons baking soda
4 to 5 Tablespoons corn starch -- Essentially you want your combination of baking soda and corn starch to equal 7 Tablespoons
10 to 15 drops essential oils (if you choose)

Stir these ingredients all together in a small jar. Set the jar in the fridge initially to help the deodorant set up. After it sets, I have just kept it in my bathroom. Use a small, pea-size amount under each arm.

That's it. Pretty simple, huh?

Some additional notes about using homemade deodorant.  In other words, let me pass on more that I have learned in my ten plus years of trying to find a suitable deodorant:
  • Some people have zero rash causing issues with baking soda. And when that is the case, they simply put a little poof of baking soda under their arms and away they go.
  • When you move from anti-perspirants to either store bought or homemade deodorants...there is a transition period. I would recommend making this switch during a cooler time of the year (like now)...not the summer. 
  • If you don't feel like making your own deodorant, we did find that Jason's Tea Tree Deodorant worked quite well and did not contain any baking soda. This is the brand that two of the guys in our family use and like.
  • Coconut oil stays solid at temperatures below 72 degrees. So when the temperatures are warmer, this deodorant will not be as solid. You can move it to the fridge for the summer months if you choose. I haven't had it turn to a soupy mess, so I haven't bothered moving it out of our bathroom. 
  • The longer I have used this homemade deodorant, the more baking soda I can add to the recipe. But I still do not feel that I need as much as the original recipe states. The amount I have included here, seems to do the trick. 
Have you ever considered making your own body products? If so, which ones?

Sweater Progress

This last month I have found quite a bit of time for knitting, quilting and reading. Having the boys back in school has freed up some of my time during the week. I move through my household tasks faster and have fewer daytime meals to make, so that leaves a bit more time for me to sit and sew or knit. I did find myself ripping out some rows again from my sweater. I did not read the directions well enough when beginning on the short rows for the shoulder shaping, so it was totally my fault. But I made good progress regardless. I am about four rows shy of finishing the front body and will just have the shoulder shaping on the back of the sweater to do before I start the sleeves. I can't believe how well it is moving along.
Our little kitten Cookie was spayed this month (which is why she has a cone on in the pic above), and it has not slowed down her interest in my yarn stash or knitting needles. Lately when I come home from running errands, we have found balls of yarn unwound throughout the house. She also sits on the back of the couch while I knit and tries to grab or bite my knitting needles. It's cute the first few times, but then gets a tad frustrating. Thankfully kittens are not much different from toddlers....they are easily redirected to something else that will hold their attention so you can get back to doing what you were doing.
When I met up with my friend Heather from Quilts on the Fly for our monthly quilting day, I had decided to bring along a blue and white snowflake quilt I had started a few years back. All of the pieces had been cut and a few blocks were pieced as well. The quilt had originally been destined for my mother-in-law, but I ended up making a different quilt for her. I have decided to finish this quilt and keep it for a winter throw. It's funny to sit at our dining room table, looking out the window at the fall sunshine and imagine that in a couple of months it will be cold enough to really need a warm quilt. I have three more blocks to piece and then I will be able to pull the top together. It should go quickly from there.
I read a few different books this month. The first was a fiction book based on a true event in history my friend had recommended. The Golden Hour by Beatriz Williams is a book about, "The stories of two unforgettable women thread together in this extraordinary epic of espionage, sacrifice, human love, and human courage, set against a shocking true crime . . . and the rise and fall of a legendary royal couple." Typically I like historical fiction and books that go back and forth between who is narrating and what time period the story is in, but this one didn't seem to meld all of that together well enough. I did like the twist at the end, but overall it wasn't a huge hit for me.
A book I am currently reading is Strangers Tend to Tell Me Things by Amy Dickinson. Dickinson's book is a memoir recommended to me by Tracy of Garden Cook Eat Repeat. I love to read memoirs. I love how they are a peek into other people's lives, different time periods, and often take a look at what we might consider an ordinary life but preserve it for others to read. From reading some reviews online, I know that this book will take a sad turn when the author discusses the grief experienced when her mother passed away but I am not to that point yet. It may be a timely read for me as the mothers of two of my friends passed away this last month. Maybe reading about someone else's experience with grief and the loss of a parent will help me understand a little more what my friends are experiencing right now, or know how to be the friend they need during this. 
And just for fun, and because I LOVE all things Laura Ingalls Wilder, I am reading The Little House Cookbook: Frontier Foods from Laura Ingalls Wilder's Classic Stories by Barbara M. Walker. This is an enjoyable book to flip through. I don't know that I will make any of the recipes from it (I have no current plans to hunt Mallard ducks or starlings), but it is interesting none the less. I love the combination of history, excerpts and illustrations from the Little House books and the recipes. If I make a few, I will be sure to let you know!
Here is where I leave you. How has your fall season treated you? Have you found more time for making things with your hands or reading? I hope you have!

Linking with Ginny's monthly Yarn Along