Friday, January 23, 2015


We made soap. It started as an idea for fun and frugal Christmas presents, but there's no going back for me, I'm hooked.

The recipe came from the internet, but the real lore came from my good friend Jen of Two Trees Soap who gave me a full, chaotic, hilarious day-long soap-making tutorial in exchange for some negligible housework which I still haven't delivered...yep, she's a generous girl! The tutorial was invaluable as Jen has been making soap her whole life. She proved that making soap is about as complicated as making cookies, and yet the product is beyond beautiful. Jen comes from a soapy family: sister Anna sells gorgeous soap online at Roots Soap Co. and brother Evagrius is making soap in this unlikely corner of Italy, apparently. 

I used the essential oils I had on hand and botanicals from my kitchen: lavender and oatmeal, anise and ground cloves. I also made my first goof. Apparently clove essential oil melts your soap! However, I used such a tiny amount and mixed it with such panicky quickness that no harm was done.

My soap is a standard blend of coconut oil, tallow (rendered beef fat), and olive oil. I melted it together on the woodstove, then slowly drizzled a carefully-measured water and lye mixture while stirring. This second part happened at night as I didn't want my kids anywhere near the lye. But the boys helped me cut and mold the warm, fragrant soap by hand, a tactile pleasure indeed! 

I have a feeling this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship! 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Yuletide Crafting

It's the most wonderful time of the year! House explosion!

Now that gifts have been given I'm free to expose the chaos and fun of yuletide crafting.

In order they are: as-yet-not-ironed tweed aviator hat with bear ears. A tobacco pouch for papa's Christmas pipe tobacco (the boys tell me I've made quite a few of these over the years. What?) Christmas gnomes for Christmas stockings.

Hugh's gnome is also in league with the tooth fairy, since we've discovered that the traditional under-the-pillow method doesn't work. He left a message, carefully printed and adorably misspelled: Tooth Fairy where are you? My tooth has been under my pillow for weeks. I need some money.

(Aw shucks, tooth fairy, you're breaking my heart!)

So Hugh's gnome took the precious little tooth under his care, and Hugh has been well compensated for his patience.

Monday, December 1, 2014


There's a little bit of exciting construction going on. Will knocked down the roof of the dilapidated outbuilding which we variously called the Future Study, the Summer Kitchen, and the Garbage Shed. There were two afternoons of very exciting demolition with a chainsaw and a crowbar. As soon as it was down the boys fell on it with small crowbars and carried all the pieces up to the bonfire....hundreds of trips. I turned a blind eye to the rusty nails sticking out of everything and refused to think about it.

Then Will cut a large car-sized doorway in the front, and now he is in the process of raising a second story, with some timely and much appreciated help from his brother Jon. (Anybody needing a skilled arborist? Jon is starting a business in Peterborough, ON. Trinity Tree Care. Check it out.)

One of the aspects of Will's fatherhood that I most appreciate and love to watch in action is his love of physical work and the quiet companionship this gives the boys. No coercion, no bribery, no "hey dad, look at me!" I'm always amazed at how much work Will gets out of his sons without having to say a word about it. It's just a thing they do. As someone with no work ethic myself, just a frenzied compulsion to PUSH ON when I need to get something done, steady hard work leaves me in awe. 

Meanwhile, indoors, things are getting cozy...I'm arranging and rearranging surfaces to adapt to the new Christmas crafting that is taking over the house. I'm dying to show it off, but I fear that most of my readers are also recipients of these top secret projects....

So I'll just wish you a bright and beautiful Advent!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Creme de la Creme

Will's cream separator arrived. I absolutely love heavy, metal, industrial equipment. This one is bright red and made in Russia, which I find curiously awesome. (The bowl of cabbage in the background is unrelated to the creme separator. A different project.) 

We processed a lot of apples this fall too, but I don't know what happened to it all. Did we really eat that much apple product? Scary thought!

apple peeling in progress

And just to add to the feeling of general chaos....