Saturday, December 30, 2006

Just have a minute!

Well, our snicky snack night was a great success - I'll post pictures in a day or so.  Just wanted to check in to remind you that there is still time to suggest names for my new soaps and perhaps win some free soap!  You can read more about it here.

I have also been cleaning out some of my books which include gardening, crafts, poultry care, cookbooks, herbs, natural healing and more....some were mine and some my Mom owned.  I put them on half. com and you can find them here. When I put up new herb or gardening books, I'll make mention of it here in my blog.

I have been busy chasing cows, I mean taking early morning walks with Josiah - very BRISK walks!  I'll write more about that next week also. I have also been making salves and lip balms - something I really enjoy doing!

I hope you have all been enjoying family time and making great memories - I plan on doing so for just a few more days. I have enjoyed this time with my boys playing games and snuggling up for reading or a movie and doing things with Grandma (who just turned 80!...whoo hoo MOM!!!).

Have a safe New Year celebration and I pray that God will bless each one of you in the coming year!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Did Mary Know?

Dear Readers,

I will be taking a break for the next 4 or 5 days to spend time with my boys.  Feel free to wander through the archives :) I wanted to leave you with some thoughts about the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Did you know that Mary was probably only about 12 or 13 when the angel appeared to her - yet her answer showed such meek submission to God's desire to use her.  She had to have known what this would cost....her reputation, the reputation of her family, the loss of Joseph and perhaps even the loss of her own life - stoning an adulterous woman was not unusual at that time.

Surely Mary was familiar with the scriptures - don't you think she knew what Isaiah foretold about the Savior - the humiliation, the beating, the scourging....the crucifixion - it was all prophesied.  Imagine, if  you will for a moment, holding that new and helpless little baby and knowing these things were in His future. As much as her mother's heart had a desire to protect Him, save Him....the prophecies must be save her and all of mankind.  She had to be ferociously protective of that helpless Babe...could we be as obedient as Mary was?  I can't imagine the joy and heartache combined....and to live that way as you raised your child....always knowing.....knowing you could do nothing to save Him because God had ordained it all....what obedience...what submission....I stand amazed at Mary....

One of my favorite Christmas songs was written by Mark Lowry and it is entitled "Mary Did You Know?". Here are the lyrics to that song:

Mary did you know that your baby boy would some day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you've delivered, will soon deliver you.

Mary did you know that your baby boy would give sight to a blind man?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when your kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God.

Oh Mary did you know---

The blind will see, the deaf will hear,  the dead will live again.
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, the praises of the lamb---.

Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven's perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you're holding is the great--I--- AM---.

May your Christmas celebration be centered on Christ, may God bless you through this season and the next year as you strive to make Jesus the center of your home in all things.

Merry Christmas!

Cheri a/k/a The Tennessee Farmgirl

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Snicky Snack Night...

Tonight I want to share about another of our Christmas traditions...affectionately named Snicky Snack Night. (Although I don't remember how we came up with this name... I am pretty sure it involved a child under the age of three!) This takes place on Christmas Eve. If you are here to read about lots of healthy foods for the holidays then you have come to the wrong blog tonightSurprised  I can't even remember when this tradition started - but OBVIOUSLY it was before we became aware that we needed to eat a more natural, organic and healthy diet.  We have modified this "meal" a bit to accomodate our way of eating now but as you will see there is plenty of unhealthy stuff going on the table that night ...(Warning!! Danger Will Robinson! Danger!)  Since this only happens a few times a year I am not going to get my britches in a twist about the menu....

Snicky Snack night is a big family event - my Mom comes and a dear lady named Pam (Whom my family adopted about 13 years ago) will be there too.  We turn on all the Christmas lights (tree, window, swags, etc.) and light all the candles (lots and lots of candles!) We start a "snicky snack" smorgasboard  that goes all evening.  Once everyone has their plate filled (at least the first one) we spread a picnic blanket on the floor for the kids to eat on while the adults settle into the chairs and the couch. Then we start the movie "It's a Wonderful Life".  We eat and watch until everyone is filled.  This is one of our favorite family movies and the boys are not allowed to watch it until Christmas Eve.

Here is the menu - which is traditionally the same each year.  We have chips with onion dip and jalapeno bean dip, my Mom brings her famous cheeseball, there is a selection of cheese and crackers and some chevre or cream cheese covered with my hot blackberry jam also served with crackers.  There will be sweet and sour meatballs, angel eggs,  bar-b-q sausages, chicken nuggets both plain and tossed with my killer wing sauce, fried cheese sticks, mini quiches, small bagel pizzas, old fashioned pound cake, 6 or 8 types of Christmas cookies, spiced cider, egg nog and sweet tea.  (I know, I now feel like you have entered the Twilight Zone... or perhaps I have been assimilated by the horrible normal American junk food industry!) 

Let me share a bit how we are slowly making this a healthier night (please note that I did NOT say healthy....I said healthier).  We no longer buy our meatballs but make them with our own meat, the sausages are no longer "Lil Smokies" but turkey sausage cut into disks, the eggs are now home grown eggs.  The cheeses, when possible, are home made.

The fried cheese sticks...don't know if I will ever master that one.  The bagel pizzas will be homemade once I have mastered the art of bagel making (this is on my list for this next year) and the quiches will be also - just need to learn to make them in that cute little miniature size.

The pound cake, favorite Christmas cookies and drinks - I have no plans to change those - they are old family favorites and we like them just the way they are - sugar included! Snicky Snack night happens twice a year in our family - Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. (This way I only have to buy the junky stuff once and can split it between the two nights!) I figure eating this way twice a year isn't going to kill my boys and if I suggested banning it ....well....mutiny comes to mind! (Warning to Moms:  just about the time they come down from the sugar high from Christmas Eve - it is time to do it again on New Year's Eve....hopefully they will be normal by the time school starts againWink!)

Once the movie is over and the tummies are filled, we play board games until eyelids get droopy.  Then off to bed for the kidletts while I get things ready for morning.  Breakfast on Christmas morning will involve fresh squeezed orange juice and home made cinnamon rolls with buttercream frosting - served warm from the oven - yummy!  This will tide them over until our big meal a little after 1:00 pm.

This night is one that the boys look forward to for months...the atmosphere, the soft lights, the good food, friends and family, fun, games, movies....truth be told, I look forward to it a great deal myself!

Oh, just so you don't think I slave away all day on Christmas Eve - the week before each child is responsible for helping prepare a portion of the meal to put in the freezer.  For instance, this year Jeremy is taking care of the sausages and onion dip, Josiah will be doing bean dip and meat balls, and so on -  this way by Christmas Eve almost everything is ready - it just needs to be warmed up - which makes for a relaxing day for me too!  We eat on good paper plates (trays actually with lots of compartments) so clean up is easy that night.

I encourage you to think about starting your own Snicky Snack night - pick your favorite foods, pick a silly name ( or feel free to use ours!) plan some special things to do and spend the day and evening together....just having fun!

These are the things that memories are made of....I know that my boys will probably continue this tradition in their own homes and will always look back on this special time with such joy! I know that I will also!


Friday, December 15, 2006

The Tradition of the Straws

Each year I purchase a Christ centered Christmas book to add to our collection.  Beginning with the evening we finish decorating for Christmas, I read a book out loud to the boys after dinner. I do this through the Christmas season.  Many years ago I found a little book called The Last Straw by Paula Palangi.  I believe it is out of print now which is a shame.  Although there were aspects of the story that I was not pleased with,  this book has impacted our family more than any other Christmas book.  This book introduced us to the Tradition of the Straws.  This is far and away my boys favorite Christmas tradition!

You do not need the book to add this to your celebration of Christmas...let me share with you what it is all will need a tray, some straw, a manger and a baby.  This is the concept....Jesus is coming!  We must prepare a place for him and we will do that by loving and serving each other for His sake.  Beginning the fist night, the names of all the family members are written an scraps of paper and placed in a bowl.  Each person draws a name, checking to make sure they have not drawn their own. This name must be kept secret! The goal for the next week is to secretly do acts of loving kindness for that person without getting caught.  For each secret act of love, you may place a straw in the manger.  The idea is to build a soft and comfortable bed made from love for the Christ child who will arrive on Christmas Eve.


This is a picture of our manger.  Josiah made it several years ago.  The book actually came with a heavy cardboard manger in the back to punch out and put together but after many years, no amount of tape could hold it together.  So, Josiah blessed us with this wooden one and I will always treasure it!

As you can see we have been busy filling the manger this season.  Each week, the names go back in the bowl and everyone draws again.  Parents will need to help younger ones with ideas and sometimes with practical help.  I have kept many a boy busy so his brother didn't get "caught in the act". And often you will have to turn a blind eye so a little one can bless you with an act of love!

Because we do not have network T.V., cable or satellite, and we aren’t in the stores a lot, (and I throw all of those gift catalogs in the trash as soon as they arrive....they tend to give my boys a terrible case of I want-itis!) my children are not exposed to all the brainwashing that goes on trying to sell them the latest useless toy. But their focus still tended to be on “what will I get” instead of “what can I give”. The manger certainly helped to realign their priorities. Bickering seemed to take a back seat to loving kindness - everyone was thinking of the Christ child and how they could serve Him through kindness to others.

It is amazing how this simple tradition changed our focus and the atmosphere in our home. Sometimes a child will find their bed made, their chores done or their laundry folded. I have found dishwashers emptied, or filled, clothes folded, my bed turned down with a cookie left on the pillow, a wildflower in a vase on the kitchen windowsill,  animals cared for and the list goes on. Arguments stop before they really start and everyone seems to be thinking of others first.

Secret acts done for neighbors, church members and others outside our family circle earn fatter straws, or multiple straws. Hands are constantly testing the manger - is it soft enough for Jesus? On Christmas Eve day the pace for loving acts really picks up….who will place the last straw?

On Christmas Eve, if the boys determine that the bed is ready, they must search for the baby, just as the Wise Men searched for the Christ child.  Whoever finds Him gets to place Him lovingly in the manger that was filled with hundreds of straws, each one representing an act of love to others.

My prayer for you this season is that you too find the Christ child who was born crucified for you.

Merry Christmas!

And the answer is.....

Liquid Soap!  The label also touts it as "natural" and with healing aloe vera. Let's look at the ingredients again:

Water, Sodium C14-16, Olefin, Sulfonate, Lauramide DEA, Glycol Stearate, Sodium Chloride, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Citric Acid, Fragrance, DMDM Hydantoin, Polyquaternium-7, Aloe Barbadensis Gel, Tetrasodium EDTA, Glycerin, Silk Peptide, Hydrolyzed Silk Protein.
Ok, realistically, how many natural things do you see?  Remember dear readers, that your skin is your body's largest organ and it is your first line of defense against germs.  What you put ON your skin goes INTO your body and bloodstream.   
And if you are using liquid soap, I hope it is not may just be asking for future problems.  Applying antibiotics to your skin multiple times a day is an excellent way for your body to build up a resistance to certain antibiotics. The oils in your skin, along with REAL soap and water are all the protection you need to keep germs at bay!
Tonight I'll share the Tradition of the Straws!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Rabbit Trails and my first Puzzle for you!

Today I have random thoughts about different things so please be patient with me while I chase down a few rabbit trails!

I went to town today to get some shelves. I was amazed at the level of noise in this store...must we be assulted by noise from giant T.V.s hanging from the ceiling each one hawking wares?  It is one store I tend to enter and exit as quickly as possible....and by the is impossible to see ANYTHING that has to do with the real Christmas season in this store! Although my cashier said "Merry Christmas" before I did....ssshhhhhhhh...don't tell anyone!

I am a southern woman.  I have a light southern accent - not as heavy as it used to be (15 years in Florida took a toll and left all but my youngest without accents poor things!).  I want to know why my children still have a problem with my 16 year old says that I do not pronounce the word tire correctly...tire....rhymes with's the problem?  He also thinks some of my expressions are a bit strange, although all my friends use them,...well, at least my southern friends...for instance "I'm going to go to town" of course that would be pronounced "Ahm fixin ta goadda town" in the south (we ARE in the south aren't we?) ..."that picture is cattywampus"..."This room is completely  discomboobulated" ...and my Gramma's favorite "Don't strain your pizzle" - which strangely is applied to said 16 year old more frequently than other children. However, he certainly doesn't mind my down-home southern cooking. 

What is it about southern cooking?  Is it because it  is an "event" for us southern women?  It means more than filling tummys, it is about home, hearth, family, creating a cozy atmosphere, memories - a meal is an event in a southern home no matter how simple.  People who know nothing about me, have never met me, but taste my cooking immediately ask me if I'm is that?  I do not always serve fried chicken, or sweet taters, or cornbread or...hhmmmm...better stop there!  Does yankee cooking taste different? How is it different?  Having lived all of my life in the south (except for a few years on the west coast) I don't know that I have ever had a meal fixed up north....but I don't think I have ever heard anyone say they LOVE yankee cooking...while I hear lots of people say they LOVE southern cooking...I hope one of ya'll can explain that to me!

I am getting some wonderful names for the new soaps from those of you entering the contest!  Keep them can read about it here.  I will announce the winner the first of the year!

I heard from a sweet cusomter about one of my salves...this is what she says:

I also want to tell you what a blessing your Aches Away salve has been for me ... I have been struggling with major soreness in my elbow area, either a result of turning 50 (!!) or from all the canning I did this past season.  I receive so much relief after I use the salve.  If you ever need a testimonial -- let me do it for you!

 Thank you so much for the encouragement, emails like this make my day!  And in response to a post I wrote on Red Clover, I received this email:

By the way, after reading your red clover post, I collected and dried a small jar-full of blossoms this summer for tea. I have used it extensively since the summer (but am almost out!) and am definitely a believer in its usefulness; I think it has aided in warding off a number of colds and sore throats (had a cup last night!). Hopefully I'll get my family to use it, too, in time.

Notes like this encourage me to continue to blog and share about the goodness of God who gave us these wonderful plants.  And I am thrilled to know that ya'll are learning and trying and seeing that God has indeed provided plants for our healing. Thanks so much!

I wanted to clear up some confusion about my Medicinal Herb Course.  I was asked the following question in email:

Never having taken an on-line class before, I have a question as to how all this works. 
Is it  time limited kind of thing, meaning, is the class conducted during a regular schedule or is it something that can be taken anytime...say, after Christmas!

I am sorry if I presented this in a confusing way.  This course is an E-book that you download.  You then read and study the book and we begin a mentoring process.  There are no online meetings, forums, etc.  It will be just you and me one on one.  As you try making the different herbal remedies, I will be there, through email, to guide you in the process.  As you study the herbs and have questions, I will be there to answer them or find the answers if I don't know them (and believe me I don't know all the answers!)   The mentoring process will begin after you download the book and continue for 30 days - email as often as you wish and ask as many questions as you wish.  As a bonus, if you purchase the class in December, your mentoring time will be automatically extended until the end of January.  If you are interested in reading more about this course or beginning your own herbal study you can do that here.  It would make a great Christmas gift for young ladies interested in learning how to care for their future families!

I have been getting some excellent questions from those of you who have started the Medicinal Herb Course.  I am impressed with the thoughtfulness and the knowledge that some of you already have...keep those questions coming!

My sister-in-love sent me a link to the most amazing little video I have seen - perhaps ever.  Go here and PLEASE someone tell me how he did that!

Just last week I was working in the kitchen (why am I ALWAYS in the kitchen!) watching the beautiful snow flurries.  Today it was 62 out ...where is winter?  I hope it gets colder by Christmas...which is hurtling towards us way to fast...although my 8 year old has been counting the days (minutes...hours....) for almost 2 months now and insists it is taking way to long. Knowing Elijah, I am not sure if he is looking forward most to the snicky snack night, the family game time, the presents or the foodSurprised

Here is the puzzle I mentioned in the title.  I have listed the ingredients on a label.  You tell me if you know what it is...I will be doing this periodically in the hopes of pointing out how "chemically saturated" our society is becoming...and we don't even think about it anymore.  Here we go:

Water, Sodium C14-16, Olefin, Sulfonate, Lauramide DEA, Glycol Stearate, Sodium Chloride, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Citric Acid, Fragrance, DMDM Hydantoin, Polyquaternium-7, Aloe Barbadensis Gel, Tetrasodium EDTA, Glycerin, Silk Peptide, Hydrolyzed Silk Protein.

If you think you know what this is, please leave a comment!  I know that I certainly don't want ANY of that in my body (well except for item #13)!

Well, enough rambling for now....I still have  a few family traditions that I want to share...snicky snack night and The Tradition of the Straws are two of them. I'll do that in the next few days. Thanks for bearing with me this evening.

Sweet dreams ya'll!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Gingerbread traditions!

My friend Julie wrote requesting a recipe for a "made from scratch" gingerbread house. My boys wanted to do something different this year (have a taffy pull!) so we will not be making a gingerbread house but I thought I would share last year's adventure with you as well as the tried and true recipe.  I have used this recipe since I made the first house with my oldest son almost 20 years ago!   


This is Josiah, creating the template for our house.  My recipe came from an old cookbook of my Mom's...Good Cookies by Annette Laslett Ross and Jean Adams Disney.  In fact, many of our favorite Christmas cookies come from this book.  It was published in England and only cost $1.00 for the hardback copy so you can imagine how old this is!

You will need to cut 2 identical roof pieces (rectangles), 2 identical sides (squares with triangular tops), 2 identical rectangles for front and back and 4 chimney pieces....(4 identical rectangles with two of them being notched on the bottom so it will sit on the peak of the roof).  Your templates need to be cut to scale so that all pieces will fit together. Josiah cut them out of freezer paper so that we could lay them on our dough and cut precisely.  (Hint!  Use a pizza cutter to cut them out - not a knife.  Also, roll the dough out on the baking sheet.... - this way you will not distort the shapes either by cutting or moving!) Cut windows and doors where you wish.

Now for the recipe!

Gingerbread Cookie House

1 cup shortening, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup molasses, 1 tsp. vanilla,  5 cups sifted all-purpose flour, 1 tsp. baking soda, 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 2 tsps. ginger

Cream shortening and sugar.  Stir in molasses and vanilla.  Sift dry ingredients and add, mixing well.  Work dough with hands to blend thoroughly.  Divide dough in thirds.  Roll dough out 1/4 inch thick directly on the baking sheet.  Lay pattern of house on dough, cuting through doors and windows, but do not lift them from place.  Remove trimmings and save.  Use excess dough, rolled out 1/4 inch thick to cut Christmas trees or snowmen for decorating.  Bake at 375 degrees 12 to 15 minutes or just until lightly browned.  While hot, retrace outline of windows and doors and if necessary, trim house edges to straighten.  Cool on baking sheets, lifting out windows and doors.   Assemble, using Decorative Icing to hold sides together.  The icing becomes hard and will keep indefinitely.  Join these first (sides, front and back) and let set.  When firm, attach roof, one side at a time then the chimney and door.  When frosting is firm, decorate with your choice of candies, sprinkles etc.

Decorative Icing                                                                                                    

2 egg whites, 1/8 tsp. cream of tartar, 2 tsp. water, 2 1/2 to 3 cups sifted powdered sugar

Beat egg whites, cream of tartar and water until frothy; gradually add powdered sugar.  Beat until mixture holds soft peaks.  Tint as desired with food coloring, dividing for more than one color.  Use to frost house and also to decorate scene in which house is set.  Use inverted ice cream cones for fir trees.  Icing may be put through decorating tube to form trim-lines on house, roof, windows and doors.

Here, Jeremy and Josiah are putting the front, back and sides together...the secret?  Lots and lots and lots of decorative icing!  And also...hold it in place for a couple of minutes until the icing begins to set.  Another hint: keep a damp paper towel over the bowl holding the icing so it doesn't begin to harden in the bowl (speaking from experienceSurprised)


We saved our windows to decorate with (The boys made signs for the back that said JOY!) We also covered the cookie sheet with a thin layer of icing (think snow!) and decorated with candies.  They made a path from Jelly Belly beans in browns and grays - sort of like cobblestone.. they used ice cream cones turned upside down for trees, gumdrops and toothpicks made a swing set, a shrubbery hedge was also made out of gumdrops...turn the kids loose in the candy aisle and they will find all types of things to decorate with!

Here they are getting ready to put the roof on...please pardon my messy kitchen but now you will be completely prepared for what you are about to get into...making a gingerbread house in not a tidy project!


And here is the finished project!  We used shredded wheat for a thatched roof, ribbon candy and candy canes for a fence, gum drops topped with jelly beans for lamp posts, white ribbon candy for smoke in the is amazing what uses you can find for candy!  And my littlest one is a firm believer in the "more must mean better" philosophy of I am sure you can tell!

We did the template making, baking and assembly in one day then let it rest overnight to make sure everything had hardened completely.  The next day was devoted to decorating...and they used most of the day to do it.  I suggest having a crock-pot meal that day since your kitchen, if it is as small as mine, will be unusable!

We did eat some of this house...but most of it ended up feeding birds and other woodland creatures....oh, but the memories we made.....just priceless!  It was worth every penny! I highly recommend you making and decorating a house at least once in your children's lives.

My prayer is that you are taking the time to make Christmas memories with your children this season of Christ's birth!

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Soap Tools and Contests!

I wanted to try to answer a bunch of email in this I want to share some of my favorite soap "tools" with you. I get lots of questions from ya'll about making soap - I will try to address these periodically in this blog.  Several of you have asked me to write an e-book on soapmaking...I'm working on it Smile  It is great that so many of you are wanting to try soapmaking.  It is a very easy thing to do and if you will make soap for your family it will be one more step towards self-sufficiency and healthy living. 

Buying the proper equipement for soapmaking is not expensive. In this picture you will see a 4 cup glass 

measuring cup, two stainless steel spoons, spatula, thermometer, gloves and a stainless steel pan.  You probably already have the measuring cup and gloves.  I use this pan for soapmaking only - I think I bought it at a Carolina Pottery for about $10.  The spoons probably came from the same place at $2 or $3 each.  The thermometer is also used only for soapmaking.  Sorry, don't remember how much it was.  I use a stainless steel bowl for the lye and water mix and I actually have two thermometers - one for the oil mix and one for the lye mix.

Next comes my favorite soap making tool - the stick blender.  Before I became enlightened about stick blenders, I did all of my stirring by hand - hours and hours of stirring, especially if I was making Castille.  It took FOREVER to trace and my shoulder always ached something awful for days (old injury!).  The stick blender must be one of the greatest inventions of all time - and I have never used it for food!  I am sure it has a food use but I couldn't begin to tell you what to do with it outside of soapmaking!  You can pick up a stick blender at garage sales for about $5.

As far as I am concerned, I wouldn't want to make soap without turns soapmaking into a delight (instead of a chore!)

My next favorite tool is my cutter.  I used to make my soap in a 10 lb. block.  I then needed to cut that block into 3 logs and then cut the logs into bars.  Let me tell you, I am a lousy cutter.  I want them to look handcut and all, since they are, but my  bars came out so catty-wampus that many of them were not marketable.  So.... a short time ago I purchased a log mold - this thing is huge - 35 inches long - and holds about 10 lbs. of soap, perhaps a little more.

Once the soap has gone through the initial saponification process it is ready to turn out of the mold to be cut and cured.  I turn the soap out of my  mold and I slide the log into the cutter and cut to the desired thickness - much more uniform bars - still hand cut and still not completely uniform but definitely marketable!  Here is a picture of my new cutter.  It has streamlined the cutting process!

You can see the cutter resting on the top of the mold.  There is a place to slide the blade into the mold for cutting. My soaps may vary slightly in thickness but at least they aren't catty-wampus anymore.

My last favorite tool is my curing rack.  My rack is just a set of shelves available at Sams, Lowes, etc.  There is nothing special about it at all.  I think the reason that I like it so much is that it represents completed work - something Moms see little of at times.  Goes back to that saying that cleaning house with youngsters underfoot is akin to shoveling snow in the middle of a blizzard - you don't get much accomplished although you work very hard.

I can look at this rack and see much accomplishment - and I enjoy the colors, the order and of course the wonderful smells!  It scents the entire room!  I am particularly excited about some of these batches of soap because they are new recipes.  I am in the middle of doubling my line of soaps.  I have made the same 10 soaps for years now. I probably started out with 2 or 3 varieties and then occasionally added one here and there.  I added my shampoo bar after a few years and then a couple of other soaps and got so busy with other aspects of life that I just stopped being creative with my craft.  I have been inspired lately by new needs in my own family.  Jeremy has reached the age where he needs to shave - it has bothered me to see him using shaving the ingredients and if you are familiar with my blog at all you will understand!  So, I want to make him an old fashioned shaving soap.  I actually want to offer him 2 scents - Bay Rum (made with real Bay essential Oil and real rum - no fragrance oils chemicals), and a comfrey based shaving soap that is scented with lavender essential oil....I plan on adding bentonite clay to these to help the razor glide easily over the skin.

I have also wanted to make a soap that would compliment my Aches Away Salve - and I wanted to add emu oil to it.  Emu oil is wonderful for arthritic pains, sore muscles and tendons etc.  I will be adding it to my salve in the future.  I also wanted to create some scents just for men and their needs....a scent for those who love to fish (anise is attractive to fish) and another for those who like to hunt...something to mask the human scent.  And then some soaps for the working man....something to help those hands get clean at the end of the day and yet have a masculine smell....and then of course I wanted to make some soaps just for fun!

 This is how my curing rack looks at this moment.  The bowls on top hold the bits of soap that are cut off when cleaning up the mold.  I mash them together and make soap balls to be used around our home or to give as samples.  The boxes hold batches of soap ready to be added to the shelves where we have soap ready to sell or mail to customers.  The first batch on the top left is a batch of Baby's Breath...pure castille scent and made only with olive oil.  The second shelf holds my Tangerine moisturizing soap on the left and on the right is a new creation...chocolate and mint...think Peppermint Patty - made with peppermint essential oil and real chocolate!

On the third shelf left is a batch of my wonderful shampoo bar and on the right is a new recipe that is a mixture of essential oils from various flowers - truly smells like a bouquet!

Continuing on is a batch of my Rosemary and Mint on the left - definitely my favorite and my best selling soap.  On the right is a new batch of Double Mint - made with both peppermint and spearmint essential oils - invigorating!

Next shelf contains a  batch of Patchouli Soap.  I will make this as long as I have children in the teen is a wonderful treatment for acne - and great for those of us with oily skin.

The last shelf contains a mix of delight and horror!  The batch on the left is a coffee scented batch made with real coffee.  I am not a coffee drinker but I love the smell of coffee grounds.  This soap was made because I have had so many customers request it! 

The batch on the right is my worst failure ever!  I have had batches lightly seize in the pan - only if I use Rose Geranium essential oil.  I have had some come out funny looking, have had ash develop etc.  But I have never had a true seize like this - when I added the fine oils and essential oils at light trace, the soap turned almost solid in the pan - I stirred as best I could and went ahead and placed it in the mold  but when I took it out the next day I had lye pockets - something I have never had before!  What a mess!  That is why you see butcher paper and paper towells under the rack - to catch the drips....yuck!!!  I am looking into what I can do to salvage this mess - laundry soap is one solution. on to the contests!  I am looking for help in naming some of these soaps!  I would like anyone interested to submit their suggestions of names for the coffee batch and the chocolate/mint batch.  My boys and I will pick our favorite out of all the names submitted (although we will not be obligated to use that name when we market the soap). Each winner will receive a bar of the soap they named and one other bar of their choice

I hope that you creative people will be able to help us pick names and I hope this will also bring some of you lurkers out of "lurk" mode.  The contest will run till the end of this month and the winners will be announced shortly after the first of the year.  You can leave your suggestions in the comment area or you may email them to!

Have fun!

Christmas Crafts

Each year we dedicate a week in December to Christmas crafts and baking.  This is a time for the boys to express themselves in a variety of ways, create handcrafted presents for family and friends and learn new cooking skills.  They look forward to this busy week. They have put their hands to drawing, woodworking, beading, sculpey creations and more in past years!  This gives them a chance to explore new forms of art and find out what hidden talents God may have blessed them with.

All year long we save (recycle!) things to use during that week.  We have a small game/craft closet that we keep our treasures in.  I thought I would share a few things we made last year - perhaps some of you might be interested in trying these with your children this Christmas.

The first thing we made last year was a Christmas Angel.  She can be made two ways.  With a gold halo which doubles as a hanger for the Christmas tree or as  you see here - with feet so she can stand on her own!  Have you guessed what she is made from?  A recycled light bulb! 

First you spray paint the light bulb - we used ivory. (please do this outside so you don't breathe the fumes!)  Once dry, you could spray again with a glitter, we have used gold.  Use a wooden heart, painted gold, for her feet.  You can find these at any craft store.  A pretty bow glued to her front, add some eyes and a mouth and some doll hair (hot glued in place!).  The last thing we did was to make a bow out of sheer ribbon for her wings.  Isn't she cute?  Some of my boys have wondered if we could make an entire nativity scene out of recycled light bulbs....perhaps if we were more gifted in free hand painting!

This next little guy was my favorite!  We used an old light bulb once again to make a snowman!  This time we spray painted the bulb ivory (you could use white) and let it dry.  We then painted it with clear paint mixed with gold glitter.  We painted the part of the bulb that you screw into the socket black (think stocking cap!)  Add black feet (the heart again!) a scarf around his neck, his eyes, mouth, heart and a "carrot" nose...isn't he adorable!

I encourage you Moms and Dads to spend some "creative" time with your children this holiday season - whether it is simply "crayon time" or you begin to try more intricate things...what you are really doing is creating memories with your children and knitting heartstrings together.  I know that it is hard to eek this time out during the holidays but these are times that your little ones (and not so little ones) will never forget!

I will continue to share with ya'll some of our favorite Christmas memory makers as the season unfolds!

Tomorrow I will share more tips about soapmaking and announce my first ever contest!!

Monday, December 4, 2006

Herbs for the Herb Course.....

Just a quick note - several people have either commented or emailed me asking where to get the herbs used in my Medicinal Herb Course  if they don't have them....I recommend Mountain Rose Herbs...there is a link on the right under the heading of "Where I Shop" which will take you to their home page.  It is imperative for your herbs to be organic if you are using them for medicinal purposes - Mountain Rose offers an organic,  high quality is where I shop if I need something I am not growing! I will add this information to the original post, I apologize for not including it in the first place.


Saturday, December 2, 2006

My herb course is online!!

Finally!! My herb course is available online and I am very excited about teaching this way! Actually, it has been ready for awhile on my end but there has been a problem with my host. I have been hearing the "we are working on it" mantra for weeks now and finally they have given me a "work around". Once they get their side fixed, the ordering process may change a bit. But for now, once payment is confirmed, you will be sent an email with a password to get to the download area. So....let me tell you about this course! You can find it here!

My Medicinal Herb Course is a simple, easy way to learn about making herbal remedies at home. This course covers ten common herbs: Calendula, Chamomile, Comfrey, Feverfew, Horehound, Lavender, Lemon Balm, Mullein, Plantain and Red Clover. You will learn how to grow them, how to harvest them, when to harvest them and what parts to harvest for medicinal purposes. You will learn their Latin names, their family names and their herbal fact you will learn the definitions of all of the most common herbal properties. You will see a color photo of each of these ten herbs to help you more easily identify them. You will then learn how these ten herbs can be used to make herbal remedies.

We will go over, in detail, how to make the following herbal remedies...a water infusion, a decoction, a hot oil infusion, a cold oil infusion, a syrup, a compress, a poultice, a salve and a tincture. I also included a copy of the sheet I use when I am learning about a new herb. There are over 50 pages of material in this course!

But here is the most exciting part! When you purchase this course, you will receive a special email address so that I can mentor you for 30 days after purchase! You can email me as much as you wish, as often as you wish, and ask as many questions as you wish about making herbal remedies (I will not be speaking to personal health issues) goal is for you to be comfortable and knowledgable about making herbal remedies that will safely and effectively treat you and your family. I will be there to "walk with you" as you begin this lifelong journey with herbs.

And another exciting thing....because we are into the Christmas season and all the busyness that it entails, I have decided that anyone who purchases this course at any time in December will have their 30 day email support extended to the end of January! Shop early and take advantage of this extended support time!

If you have not gathered and dried the herbs this course covers, I recommend Mountain Rose Herbs. It is vital that your herbs be organic if you are using them for medicinal purposes. Mountain Rose offers a high quality, organic product. It is where I shop for those herbs that I am not yet growing myself. You will find a link to the right under the heading "Where I Shop" following this link you will be helping to support our small family farm and the ministry we have in our community and online.

I have kept this course simple so that you are not overwhelmed. The instructions are easy to follow and very straight forward. The information on each herb is detailed and includes all necessary warnings and contra-indications. Of course, if you have questions, just email me. If I don't know the answer, I will tell you so and I will do my best to find it and get back to you as quickly as possible. This is the same course I have taught here on the farm for years and I have received a great amount of favorable feedback. I would also like your feedback - it helps me to clarify questions and continue to improve the course.

I have also tried to keep the introductory cost of this class reasonably priced at $25.00. I have not seen anything like it anywhere for less....and I have not seen the email support offered either, unless it involved hundreds of dollars.

My heart is to teach... I want my course to be affordable for all and to be presented in a way that makes it easy to obtain, easy to learn and easy to implement in your own life. I hope I have accomplished all of this. I hope you will let me know if I have and where I need to improve, if I have missed my goal. I believe that by walking with you for awhile you will gain the confidence to continue the journey alone.

So...Come!! Join me on the journey!!!!
NOTE: Just a quick note - several people have either commented or emailed me asking where to get the herbs used in my Medicinal Herb Course  if they don't have them….I recommend Mountain Rose Herbs…there is a link on the right under the heading of "Where I Shop" which will take you to their home page.  It is imperative for your herbs to be organic if you are using them for medicinal purposes - Mountain Rose offers an organic,  high quality product… is where I shop if I need something I am not growing! I will add this information to the original post, I apologize for not including it in the first place.

Why I have a passion to teach about herbs.....

I guess you all know by now that I LOVE herbs.  I love to cook with them, clean with them and use them to keep our bodies healthy.  Often I am asked today I'd like to share a bit about why.

I have been studying and using herbs for half my life now (yikes!  I just dated myself!)  After studying most subjects for 25 years you would have a pretty good grasp on it whether it be a foreign langauge, history, philosophy or something else.  In fact most people would call you an expert and you would, perhaps, have lots of letters after your name.  I, however, can not claim to have those letters or be worthy of the title expert.  The study of herbs is so vast, varied and complicated that I don't think three lifetimes would be enough to "know it all".

I would like to share with you some of what I have learned.  In the study of herbs, I see the hand of God at ever turn.  Remember that God placed man, and woman, in a garden to live.  I think that is very significant.  They were told to tend the garden and they were also given all that they needed.  God, being omniscient, had created plants not just for food but for medicine as well so that when sin entered the world and sickness arrived, His people would not be at a loss.

I believe, personally, that there is a plant to treat every disease.  I believe that God, being perfect, left nothing out.  Perhaps we have not found them all.  Perhaps because of mans' arrogance, his belief that he does not need God and his desire to live a life free from accountability, God has prevented man from discovering them.  We frail humans are so desirous of a "quick fix" ...we want instant gratification even in our health care.  I cannot tell you how many people I talk to who would rather take a pill than brew a cup of herbal tea.  The tea takes too much time and is too much trouble!

I have the heart of a teacher.  I am happy to sell you my products but I would so much rather teach you about them, light a fire in your heart so that you can walk this path, delight in God's gifts and live healthier....without me!  I know that not everyone will care to learn...and that is fine.  I hope, if that is the case, that you will avoid the corporately produced products that offer almost no benefit and purchase from small family owned farms.  In this way you will be supporting small farmers, such as myself, and the small farm with your dollars so to speak.  One of the reasons why I have a website is because government regulations in TN prevent me from making a living from the farm in many areas.  KS Milkmaid has written a wonderful series on the small farm crisis and you can read about it here.  There truly is a crisis...but I will touch on that another day.

Through herbs I have been given many ministry opportunites.  I teach classes here on the farm and I do a lot of public speaking throughout the year...sometimes to small groups and often to hundreds of people.    I have the ability to present Christ to people in a format that they are interested in hearing.  I have been invited there because they want to hear and to learn.  It is an awesome opportunity and responsibility.  I always pray that my words will be His words, that I might touch hearts and spirits as well as teach minds.  Here is where my passion teach about something that I believe God has given us, yet the enemy has stolen. By educating others, by sharing my knowledge and my faith at the same time, I have the awesome ability and responsibility to touch lives for Christ's sake.  Doors open, relationships develop and I have the ability to speak into people's lives and share the gospel.  What a privilege!  No wonder I am passionate!  In my own small wy, I am trying to reclaim ground that the enemy has stolen.

Why would the enemy care about herbs?  Because when we are whole and healthy we are much more effective warriors for God's kingdom here on earth.  It is hard to fight a battle when you are continually walking in sickness.  If Satan can use the benefits of herbs to promote  the vileness of the New Age movement, then most Christians will be turned off to the benefits of herbs.  At the same time, how many people who are simply desiring to find health, are lured into pagan beliefs?  Visit your local "health food store" and you will be hit slap in the face with it!  Yes, the enemy is definitely interested in herbs!

I am also passionate about herbs because I know they work.  I have 25 years of experience to prove it. They have worked for me and I know that they will work for you.  I delight when someone writes to share how one of my products is that same delight in homeschooling when you see the light bulb go off over your little one's head...they got it!!  People are amazed at how well herbs work.  I think many people order my products hoping they will work but not really believing that they will....thus the amazement!  I must confess that at times we are still amazed.  Josiah had his face scratched badly by one of the Pyrs last night.  It didn't break the skin but it raised a nasty red welt.  He covered it with healing salve at bed time and in the morning he was anxious to show me that it had completely disappeared!  He was amazed at how quickly it healed.

I so appreciate when ya'll do write to share.  Sometimes I learn new things about my own products!  For instance, a customer wrote asking if my healing salve would work on a diaper rash.  Since I don't have babies in diapers anymore, I had never tried it but assured her that it would be safe to use. Here is the response I received:

"Yes, the salve did help the diaper rash and it didn't hurt him when I put it on (unlike the screams when I tried to use a tube of white diaper ointment).  It also kept the area coated, so nothing else could touch his skin.  The rash was better in 24 hrs, gone in 48. "

Imagine my delight to learn of a new use for my healing salve!  I have had several simiilar reports in the last year.  To know that the products my family are using, and that I make available to the public, are helping others is immensely satisfying!

I received this note from another customer about my healing salve last week:

"I've been wanting to write you for awhile to tell you what great results we've seen with your Healing Salve.  I really wish I had taken before and after pictures!  One of my little guys has a terrible time with his hands chapping so bad that they crack open and hurt him terribly.  (Of course, being outside doing chores doesn't help any - but that's part of life on the farm.)  We ordered your salve a while back, but I didn't think to try that till just the other day.  Before bed, I coated the backs of his hands with Healing Salve and wrapped them loosely - they were covered with scabs from the bleeding and were bright red.  What we saw when we unwrapped them was almost miraculous!  Most all of the redness was gone - only a couple of small patches where the chapping was the worst.  Best of all, he said that they didn't hurt anymore!  After another night of the same treatment, all the redness was gone and most of the scabs were softened and cleared up.  What a blessing your salve has been!  Now, when his hands begin to look red, I just wrap them before bed and they look wonderful again in the morning.  We love our life on the farm and the boys love working outside - even in bad weather - but that little guys hands were really beginning to bother me.  I am so thankful that we found your salve.  Thanks so much for making it available."

How could notes like this not fuel my passion?  To know that something I created for my own children is helping other children...I am so blessed and humbled at the same time.  And all of the glory belongs to Him, for he is the Creator of the plants.  It was His wisdom, His love for us and His mercy and grace to provide these wonderful healing plants to ease the problems in our lives. 

Yes, I am passionate, for Him and for His creation!


Friday, December 1, 2006

Gift baskets!

I have been working hard this week to get pictures up on my website of the gift baskets I sell.  Last year my good friend Julie encouraged me to put some of my all natural products together in gift baskets.  I thought this was a wonderful idea and wanted to create some baskets that were affordable for most people. It seems like so many sites that sell gift baskets are out of my reach financially... how frustrating!  I wanted to create baskets that were pretty, filled with healthy, natural products and were affordable!  With Julie's artistic eye and some coaching, I was able to accomplish this - thanks Julie!

I spoke at a large festival early this year and presented my gift baskets for the  first time....I was thrilled at the response!  I was also surprised.  My most inexpensive

gift, Garden in a Cup is only $10.  I was sure I would sell out of those quickly. Although it did sell very well, I did not sell out.  

The De-Stress baskets sold the quickest.  It is apparent that most of us are either living with stress or know someone who is stressed.  I wonder how much of that is because the American lifestyle seems to consist of always being on the go - to busy to relax and enjoy God's blessings!  I hope this basket will help people cope with the stress in their lives.

My most expensive basket, the Luxury Spa Basket sold out within the first few hours!  This really surprised me. One customer purchased two - one for each of her sisters.....she then came back about an hour later and decided to get one for herself...she told me it had been a rough week and she was going to pamper herselfSmile

You will find other baskets on my website here. I will also create custom baskets - these are the most fun!  This started when a customer wanted to change the contents of a wrapped basket at the festival.  When you have a long line of customers waiting, it is not the best time to be creating something new but we did our best to meet her need and she was thrilled.  This then led to customers asking if we could customize baskets if they ordered in advance.  I must confess that this is one of my favorite things to do!  I guess it helps to serve as a creative outlet for me!  It blesses me to create something that I know will bless someone else!

And then for those who just can't seem to make up their mind....I created Gift Certificates!  These can be emailed to you for those last minute (oops! I forgot!) gifts or sent by snail mail either to you or to the recipient of the gift. Although I have listed three denominations of Gift Certificates, I would be happy to make one in whatever amount you choose...just email me to let me know.

I want to thank all of my readers who are so faithful to visit my blog and who make such delightful customers.  Your loyalty helps to keep the farmstead going for myself and my boys.  I have developed some personal friendships along the way and for these I am most grateful.  I appreciate your comments and encouragement to continue writing.  It seems that when I begin to wonder if it is worth the time invested to share of our lives, I receive an email telling me how someone was encouraged or was able to take something I wrote about and apply it to their lives....I can not put into words how much this blesses me!

It is not always easy to lay bare our faults and failures and I appreciate those of you who have shared how you pray for my family - this I appreciate most of all!



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