Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Into Another Year

2016 has started out with a bang. Seems like everyone I know is being slammed in some way, mostly by grave illnesses and issues with family members.  For me, it's my Dad. The situation has me so stressed I won't bore you with the details. I will just say that my husband and I will never do to the young people of our family what my father is doing to my sister and me. Never. And that's my polite vent.

Elsewhere, I managed to cook up my first batch of hot process soap. It was a six pound batch using tallow, lard, olive oil, coconut oil, and shea butter. I scented it with patchouli essential oil right before I spooned it into my mold. The soap turned out beautifully. It smells so good! I couldn't find a large enough slow cooker so I made a double boiler by using my water bath canner and inserting a 12 quart stainless steel pot inside it. A cast iron trivet raised the 12 quart pot off the bottom of the larger pot, and I added water in the larger canner pot to halfway up the sides of the 12 quart pot. I mixed the lye water out in the garage. As the outdoor temperature was so cold it didn't take long for the lye to cool. I was sure to wear my heavy duty rubber gloves and my "Imperator Furiosa" safety glasses. While the lye cooled in the garage, I melted my fats and oils in the 12 quart pot. When the fats and oils and lye water were the same temperature (100°F), I stirred the lye water slowly into the fats and oils and "cooked" the mixture in the water bath, stirring every half hour. After three hours I checked the pH. Soap that is meant for use on skin should be between 8.0 and 10.0 pH. My batch registered 8.5 on my digital pH meter so I removed it from the water bath and spooned the soap (it was pretty thick) into my freezer paper lined plastic bin mold. I let the soap sit overnight and cut it into bars the following morning before stacking the bars on a shelf to store. That batch is going to last us a long time. I can't wait to make some more.

I'm also cutting out the template pieces for the different blocks for Ed's Hobo Quilt. I have some nice 10" fabric squares to use for it. As ever, a project's preparation takes longer than the project does to actually put together.

This Mercury Retrograde is a doozy. In our spare moments both Tom and I have been shoveling out the house getting down to bare necessities. We've made three trips to local thrift stores so far and I have to say the house is looking much less cluttered.  I got out my Feng Shui book and am working my way room by room through the house. I found a poster advertising a fish vendor in the back of our closet so I bought a frame for it and hung it in the wealth and prosperity section of our bathroom (where, unfortunately, the toilet is located), but I think I'm going to have to move it because since I hung it on the wall we've been having to spend money left and right for unexpected expenses. I'm sure our "wealth" is now going down the toilet because certain persons in the house refuse to keep the toilet lid down and the drains closed. I'll hang the picture in another room's wealth and prosperity area and see if our "money drain" stops.

It's amazing how Feng Shui decorating really does work. I discovered that the main Love and Marriage area of our house is in the garage. What a mess! I cleaned up the garage as best I could and I bought a sign of what I consider to be the happiest kiss ever to hang out there. I'm not sure I put it in the right corner although for sure my marriage is much improved. The one thing I've learned about Feng Shui is that you must make changes slowly and remember what you did because often your results happen quickly and dramatically, and if the results send you bad fortune, you can quickly reverse the change you made. Whew! Believe me, that's important to remember. (Note: if you are looking for a new job, try spiffing up your career and wealth and prosperity areas!) I am also working on our Health and Family areas since I am feeling very stressed dealing with my Dad.

I have a neat little history book for you. It's called Stalag Wisconsin by Betty Cowley. It relates the story of WWII prisoner-of-war camps in Wisconsin. It is interesting that there is actually not a lot of information available on this topic because (if I read the book right) much of the information was deliberately destroyed by the Army after the War. Local newspapers of the time cooperated with the Army by severely limiting news of the camps, and recollections in the book are mostly from people who were just children at the time. I have not finished the book, but so far my favorite recollection relates the tale of an American soldier who was one of only sixteen survivors in his group of over 275 men that were at the Battle of the Bulge. When he returned home he was very angry to find German prisoners of war having a good time in a local tavern together with their guards! Well, the American soldier went home, loaded his M1 carbine, returned to the tavern and told the locals to git. He then proceeded to march the prisoners of war AND their guards back to the camp, whereupon he gave the camp commander a piece of his mind. In short, there were no more tavern visits by prisoners of war and the entire camp was closed not long after! Great little book.

I've ordered some seeds and seed starting supplies, and I'm looking forward to getting the garden going. Lara is looking forward to going to the market again this year, too. I have to find time to take my market scale down to Merrill to get certified by the State, and I want to get another small table and some produce baskets to improve our display.  I am hopeful that we will have a good year. Growing time is rapidly approaching.

Well, I guess that's about all for now. I hope your life is going well. Be safe and take care!