A Melissa Garden

My dear friend Robin gave me a most lovely birthday gift at church this past Sunday:  a Melissa garden.

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What is a Melissa garden? The name “Melissa” is of Greek origin and means “honeybee”. This container garden features herbs of the same name and of course, a miniature bee hive figurine. The herbs are Lemon Balm, Bee Balm, and Peppermint. I can harvest them to make a refreshing tea. How amazing is that?!

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Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) – on the left side of the planter – is a “seasonal delight to be enjoyed while the weather is mild and the plant is green.” I hope it lasts all summer long! Kansas weather isn’t known for its mildness, so I may need to bring my little garden indoors eventually, once the heat and humidity arrive.

Peppermint (in the center) is a refreshing addition to many dishes and drinks. It’s also useful in banishing a headache or freshening one’s breath. Perhaps I ought to feed a handful to Etta Pooka daily. She has terrible dog breath!

Bee balm is the leafy plant behind the bee hive figurine. It will produce flowers as it grows, which are as edible as its leaves. The flowers are noted for their fragrance and attract bees.

One of these days, probably when The House Project is finished, Some Postman will build an herb garden for me. We chose the location already; he will use stone taken from the old fireplace to build a raised bed. I look forward to growing my favorites basil and lavender in it, and now I’ll have a Melissa garden to add to it!

Thank you, Robin! Your gift is lovely and perfect!

The Best Laid Plans…

Last Friday, after I declared my goal of writing three times per week, beginning with this week, Some Postman came home from delivering the mail and told me that he would be taking the week off in order to replace the roof. My job is to assist him in whatever capacity I am able, mostly handing him shingles, trimming them to fit (tin snips are similar to dressmaker’s shears, but quite a lot bigger for my wee paws to manage!), fetching the tape measure after it slides off the roof, etc. Since I will be up on the house top much of the time, I have set aside my blogging goals until next week. Any time I have free from my roofing obligations will be spent in the kitchen, preparing food we can simply reheat for meals. (That is exactly what I’m doing right now, while Some Postman is up above, removing shingles.)

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We finished up the south side of the steepest peak this morning. Looks good, doesn’t it? The rest of the roof won’t be as difficult, so it should go a little faster. We are hoping and praying that it won’t rain this week!

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If it works out, I’ll compose some outfit posts this week, but I don’t anticipate having the time or energy for it. Back to the kitchen for me now – the eggs are about done boiling, and the quinoa is ready. Laters!

Simple Made-At-Home Beauty and Cleaning Products

One day last week, I decided to ignore the cold, snowy day outside by making some homemade beauty and cleaning products in my nice warm kitchen.

 

 

Deodorant

This was the third time I’ve made deodorant, using two different recipes. Something in the second recipe I tried irritated my skin, so I scraped that batch out of my recycled store-bought deodorant tube and refilled it with this one. I prefer the first recipe I used last summer, so that’s the one I’m sticking with.

  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch or arrowroot powder
  • 2 Tbsp baking soda
  • 8-10 drops essential oils (I use tea tree, eucalyptus & lavender)

Melt the coconut oil in a glass dish in the microwave (takes about 30 seconds). Add everything else and mix well. Pour into recycled deodorant tube. Store in a cool place.

I think I need to find a different grade of coconut oil with a higher melting point to use in this recipe. This one is solid at 76°, but as soon as the deodorant touches my skin, it melts, making a drippy mess on the container. And I have to use my fingers to rub it in before it drizzles down my sides. Not a huge problem, but coconut oil with a higher melting point would help. Also, in the warmer months, I’ll store it in the fridge.

Hair Spray

 For the life of me, I can’t remember where I found the directions for making hair spray. It was someone’s blog, I’m pretty sure. Unfortunately, I didn’t bookmark it, nor did I pin it on Pinterest:  I wrote it in my little notebook labeled “Naturally Clean Recipes”. And so I cannot give credit where credit is due to any of the recipes seen in this post. They came from all over the web…blogs, business websites, how-to sites. Google any of these things, and you’ll find a plethora of information!

At any rate, back to the hair spray. When I go see my favorite hairdresser, I always request that she “go easy on the sauce” because I dislike how hairspray makes me itch and cough and give me “helmet hair”. Living in Kansas requires a gal to use some kind of product to keep her tresses from standing on end from the ever-present Kansa wind, however. When I saw this recipe for homemade hair spray, I thought I’d give it a shot:

  • 1 cup distilled water
  • 4 tsp white sugar
  • 6-8 drops essential oil, if desired (I used lavender)

Heat water in pan to boiling. Add sugar and stir to dissolve. Remove from heat. Cool to room temp. Add essential oil. Pour into spray bottle. Spritz on hair.

I’ve been using this concoction almost every day for the past week, and I must say that it’s quite effective! The best part is that it doesn’t make me itch or cough. Surprisingly enough, it does not leave my hair sticky or ultra helmet-like. A bit crunchy, but nothing a comb can’t go through easily. I’ve noticed that the next morning, my hair is still more or less holding its shape from the day before when I use this spray. Regular hair spray always made my hair go all wonky the next morning, even after brushing out my hair. I do wonder if my sweet hair spray will attract buggies come warm weather, but I guess we shall just have to wait and see about that. It’s still stinkin’ rotten cold around here now.

Body Wash

 When I shower, I prefer to use my homemade bar soap over body wash, but a friend of mine is interested in making her own wash, so I thought I would experiment with this and let her know how it goes. I’d also like to adapt it to make a doggy wash for Etta Pooka.

This isn’t a precise recipe, but rather basic directions:

Pour equal amounts liquid castile soap and aloe vera gel (not juice) into a recycled body wash or shampoo bottle. Add a small amount of moisturizing oil such as sweet almond oil. Poke a Vitamin E capsule with a needle and squeeze the oil into the bottle. Add several drops essential oils, if desired. Shake well before using.

Well. Hmmm…. Let’s just say I am not impressed. This stuff doesn’t suds up at all. It feels nice enough on my skin, but even after squirting a huge amount into my pouf, it just smeared around rather than lathering. My guess is that there is too much aloe vera gel in the equation. I’ve got one other body wash recipe in my notebook that I’ll try.

Laundry Soap

 I’ve been making my own laundry soap for quite some time now, and have posted about it on this blog before. You can read about it here. The only difference is that now I turn baking soda into washing soda using the stove top method. It’s faster and uses less propane. Simply heat the baking soda in a sauce pan on low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to break up lumps. You’ll be able to tell when the change has occurred because the soda will look more like fine sand. It’s kind of cool to watch it “boil”, too. Also, instead of grating the Fels Naptha by hand, risking the inclusion of knuckle skin in the soap, I use a hand-crank Salad Shooter type grater thing I found at a thrift store. Much less painful!

Brown Sugar Body Scrub

 This is another product that I have made previously. It smells delicious, but don’t eat it! It makes your skin feel very soft, too. Just be very careful when using it, because it will make your tub extremely slippery. Use a bath mat or something secure to stand upon. (I stood on a wash cloth.) Otherwise, you may slip and fall, injuring yourself, requiring someone to drive you to the ER. In the words of Sheldon Cooper, “for want of 99-cent adhesive ducks, we both might die in a fiery car crash.”

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup almond oil
  • 1 tsp Vitamin E oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp honey

Mix well and store in a tightly sealed container. To use, apply to skin in the shower and rinse off. Gently towel dry, being careful not to rub off the silky softness.

Other recipes in my notebook of Naturally Clean Recipes that I  will make someday in the future include shampoo, conditioner and lip balm. I have tried making dish soap, but it didn’t work very well, so those recipes have been torn from the notebook. All of my bar soap recipes are kept in a different book. I may or may not continue to make all of these products myself. Sometimes it is nice to specialize in a few and purchase or trade with someone who makes other things. It’s always good to support other artisans!

 

 

My Favorite Kitchen Gadgets – Can Opener

We still have the heavy, clunky electric can opener that was given to us at a wedding shower waaaay back in 1989. It still works. Drat. But I was ready for a new one, so I got one anyway. I wanted something less bulky, easy to use and inexpensive. When I saw this cute little Hamilton Beach rechargeable unit, I simply had to have it! It wasn’t the cheapest unit available, but it was reasonably priced at under $20.

I call this my little kitchen robot, because he does the work of opening cans pretty much all by himself. Just attach him to a can, press down and watch him go!

Isn’t that fun? I could open cans all day long! There is an old-fashioned hand-operated can opener in my utensil drawer, but the beauty of this little guy is that he’ll still open cans even if the power is out, for quite some time before he runs out of steam. Over time, I’m sure he’ll need to be plugged in more often, but so far he’s needed charging about once a month. The cutting lever is removable for easy cleaning, too.

My little kitchen robot came from Walmart: you can learn more about the product here. I’m sure it is available for purchase at many stores, but I found it at Target and on Amazon as well. Walmart does have the best price on it. This post was not sponsored by any of the companies mentioned, nor was I paid by anyone for my opinion.

A Bit of Progress in the Master Bedroom

It certainly took long enough, but we finally have real curtains on the windows in our master bedroom. No more beach towels! I never did find the fabric that existed in my imagination; one piece came close, but it would have been quite expensive. My goal was to find something simple, affordable, machine washable and at least similar to my imaginary curtains. It would have been nice to make the curtains myself, but store-bought was certainly an option. To keep it affordable, I ended up getting store-bought.

Walmart and Hobby Lobby ultimately had what I was looking for. The side panels in chocolate brown are Walmart’s cheapo brand Mainstays; the swirly brown sheers in the center are some generic made-in-China for Hobby Lobby. I bought three pairs of the solid panels (they came with tie-backs) and the last three sheers on the peg. Since there are three windows in the bedroom, I put together three different looks, and Some Postman and I chose the one we liked best. Brown panels only, with tie-backs; swirly sheers only; and brown panels with a sheer in the middle. Thankfully, we both liked the same option…otherwise, we’d have had to ask Pooka Dog to cast her vote.

The winning option:

The rods also came from Walmart; they are Better Homes and Gardens. I like the little leaf accents at the ends.

Eventually, we will get the window frames stained and trimmed. And there will be trim along the bottom of the wall. Those are cool-weather projects. Right now, while it’s still warm, Some Postman is building a new side porch. Oh, I can’t wait to deck out that room!

Other than new bedroom furniture, which we will get….someday…, the master bedroom needs artwork and accents. I’ve got fabric chosen for some throw pillows to toss on the bed (next week’s project), and I’ve looked at all kinds of pretty wall art at Hobby Lobby and Target. For now, I placed wall decals above my dresser. I’d originally bought these to put on the sewing room walls, but since those walls are already full, I put them in the bedroom. They may not stay forever, but for now they look nice. There’s also some wall art behind the door, above the mirror. My daughter gave it to me for Christmas a couple of years ago. It’s been waiting all this time for a wall to hang upon!

Slowly but surely, this room is shaping into the cozy sanctuary that I’ve always hoped we would have. I’m taking my time because I want to be sure it’s just how we want it. No settling for stuff that’s just “okay” – it needs to be very close to what we have in mind. After all, Some Postman and I plan to live in this house until we croak, so it needs to be a place we love!

Shopping for Curtains

We moved back into our master bedroom a couple of months ago, and I still have beach towels covering the windows. It’s time to put some real curtains up! So I went fabric shopping…with absolutely no luck at all. It turns out that the shade of dark brown in my bedding set is a very unusual one. The only fabric that matched it perfectly was a camouflage print! Oh no, there will NOT be camo curtains in my bedroom!

Saturday morning was spent gandering at every window treatment online, searching for an affordable option that comes close to what I had in mind…with absolutely no luck, again. I’m beginning to think we’re going to have to stick with beach towels…

At any rate, while at JoAnn’s Fabrics, I purchased my new best friend. Well, she will be my new best friend when it comes to sewing!

She’s still in the box, sadly. I think she’ll be getting out today, however. She needs a name, don’t you think? Let’s see…she looks like a Betsy to me. Or Bessy? Like Dressy Bessy… No, I like Betsy better. Betsy she is!

This is the comfortable yet not-slobbish outfit I wore while out shopping for Betsy and the non-existent curtain fabric:

Hanes t-shirt – Walmart
Rafaella skirt – thrifted
Born BOC sandals – Vanderbuilt’s
I don’t wear shirts tucked in very often due to my short waist and poochy tummy, but this skirt has pretty ribbon trim that begged to be allowed to show.

My Favorite Kitchen Gadgets – Ice Cream Maker

We have an old-fashioned ice cream maker – the kind with the wooden barrel that you fill with ice and rock salt and the metal canister and noisy motor that spins the paddle. But when Some Postman saw this Cuisinart soft serve ice cream maker, he just had to have it! An added bonus was that we got it FREE with our credit card points.

I learned an interesting lesson using this machine last night….if you forget to put in the freezer canister, it makes a really big mess. It’s a good thing I had to plug it in next to the bathroom sink (Some Postman was fixing an electrical outlet so I had no power at the kitchen counter where I usually put this thing.) The really nice thing about this machine is that no ice is required – just keep the canister in the deep freeze all the time and it’s ready to go at a moment’s notice! As you can see, we don’t keep sprinkles or toppings in the little compartments at the top, but I did test it out once. When you press down on one of the levers on the side, the toppings are supposed to go down that clear plastic thingy and mix with the ice cream as you pull down the handle in front. It works – sort of – as long as you use tiny toppings. But since that means more parts to clean, and because we don’t really care for toppings, I just leave those empty.

There’s a super-easy ice cream recipe that I’ve modified for using with the Cuisinart soft serve ice cream maker (it only makes about a quart of ice cream). This is pretty much the only recipe I’ve ever used for this machine, although it did come with a booklet full of recipes.

1/2 can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups half and half
1 tsp vanilla

Mix together; chill in refrigerator about an hour before pouring into ice cream freezer.

Last night, I subbed vanilla almond milk and 2 egg yolks for the half and half, since my tummy has been balking at dairy products lately. And I switched up the flavoring with a combination of vanilla, butterscotch and almond extracts. Mmm…yummy! I’ve added diced peaches to the mix before (decrease half and half by the amount of peaches you’re adding), as well as added some chocolate syrup. It’s pretty easy to adapt for different flavors.

Look at that frosty sweetness swirling around!