Sunday, September 25, 2011

Our Honey Home

This year we've become apiarists, also known as beekeepers.
I can say "we" because I do play a part in our bee activities, however, I've never actually taken apart the hive or anything. I leave that to my big strong man.

The Big Strong Man

I am quite proud of our first year's fruits. We got about 45 pounds of honey and a whopping 1 WHOLE POUND of beeswax (the wax is my area of labor.) And if you know a thing or two about beeswax, you know that this stuff is the second most expensive wax on the market. We're talkin' big money... but I'm not selling it this year, so no money. We have sold a little bit of our honey though, mostly to our new insurance agent. :) It's mighty tasty stuff.

This is a 2 pound bottle and an 8 oz bottle, and some lovely wax.

I just had to share how much fun we've had this summer with our bees. Sadly, my second-most fun part is not documented with pictures because Carter wouldn't let me take any. He was stung by his eye and the resulting puffing-up of the whole right side of his face was quite amusing, to say the least. I had to make this my second-favorite part because I don't want to give off the impression that my husband's suffering is the most amusing thing in my life, just second-most. ;)

I'd have to say that my most favorite part has been my wax.

And for the sake of Pinterest, I will explain how to get you from comb to cube.
If you're not going to be doing this any time soon, or ever in your life, you can just skip down to below the picture. :)

Take your honey comb and place in a pan or crock pot with water (depending on how much wax you have, you'll need more or less water.) Warm up to about 180 degrees (do not get above 200 degrees). when you see that all the wax is melted, take off heat. Now with a mesh strainer of some kind, scoop off all of the yuckies floating on the top of the wax. you won't be able to get all of it, but just get the majority. Leave wax to harden on top of the water.

Once the wax is hard you can lift it off the water (see how all the honey that was in the comb sunk down to the bottom? Beautiful separation!) Once you have all your wax (I had a couple "plates" of wax from different honey harvests) melt them down again (no water.) Once they're melted, strain through a piece of muslin into a bowl. Now you can pour this beautiful pure and clean wax into small molds, or leave as a large piece of wax from your bowl.

*NOTE* whatever you are using as your final mold, use silicone, or a plastic that is designed specifically for use with beeswax, so the wax will pop out easily. I use a silicone muffin "tin". This stuff sticks and will never ever come off. Also, for this reason do not use your regular crockpot, pan, mesh strainer, or bowl. Once you use them for beeswax, you won't get them back to regular kitchen clean. I bought a crockpot at Savers only for beeswax processing.

It doesn't look like much, but it does take some labor to get it looking like this. Isn't it B-E-A-UTIFUL?!

My intention is to use some of this in lotion bars for Christmas (which, of course, I will document and post at a later date.) I also have a lot of recipes for lip balm and some other goodies. Bring on moist and supple skin! Woot Woot!

Honey, especially raw, local honey, is so very very good for you. And bees are amazing! Talk about all things as a witness that there is a divine creator. The more you learn about them, the more you want to know. Awesome awesome.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Domestic Goddess Dress Up: Making Liquid Soap

This tutorial is a little different, mainly because what I did may not work for you.. it's quite a fickle project. But not to worry! The product you get will be hand soap just the same, and quite possibly better than mine.

This is a great project for people with super sensitive skin who have only found bar soaps that are gentle enough for them, and we all know how much we hate bar soap. It gets dirty and all cracked and slips out of your hands. No good. This soap can be used as a sink-side hand soap or as a body wash.

It's SUPER easy and well worth the time. I always make sure that the time I put onto my projects is worth the money saved, and this most definitely is.

What you need:

A large pot, a jar for extra soap shavings, containers for storing soap, a spoon for stirring, measuring cups and spoons, a grater and bowl, a soap container with hand pump, glycerine, and a bar of soap. Some of these things are not in this lovely picture.

1 Cup of Bar of soap - Any brand should work, I've heard Yardley's works really well but I've never even heard of that brand and as you all know I love my Mrs. Meyers, so that's what I used.

1 TBS of Glycerin - you can get this at any pharmacy. I got mine at Target and they keep it behind the counter, so you'll just have to ask if you don't see it on the isles. One bottle will last you AGES.

10 Cups of Water

And there's your ingredients.


First, shave your bar of soap with a small grater ( I bought a special "soap grater" and am now wondering why I did, it's not like the soap gets it dirty and unsafe for using with food...)

Isn't it so cute and curly?
Note: Mrs. Meyers bar soaps are quite a bit bigger than the regular size, so how much you get out of your bar will vary. I got about 4 cups of shavings, compacted. I put the extra soap in a jar for next time.

In a large pot, combine water, soap flakes and glycerin. Turn on medium-low and stir until soap dissolves. This happens fast, just a minute or two. Let the soap cool completely and use a funnel to pour into your soap container. That's it! Unless....

Your soap is still looking really watery. This happened to me, so, being the over-doer I am, I doubled the recipe (except the water.) I put another cup of soap and another tablespoon of glycerin. This helped a little bit, but not nearly enough, so I went to bed and let it sit overnight, giving it a chance to cool and thicken up. And in the morning.. it had only thickened up a little bit. So, I went to the trusty worldwide web and found another thing I could do. Blend.

And I blended.

And it worked. (insert another praise for the extremely versatile Vitamix, haha)

It thickened right up in about 2 minutes. It's still a bit runny, but it's works great, and in the couple weeks since I made my soap it has gotten thicker still.

You can see in this picture that it's still quite runny, this is right after I made it. Now it's much much thicker, almost to "store bought" consistency.

Now, following the recipe I did, it said that I would get about 2 quarts of soap.... I ended up with more than 4. Good thing I had containers on hand (you need to as well.) So really, I used half of my soap (about $2) and 2 tbs. of glycerine... (maybe 20 cents?) and got 4 QUARTS of hand soap. That will last us quite a while, talk about savings!

Next time I think I will cut down on the amount of water I use and see if that makes much of a difference. But that won't be for a while, I've got soap coming out of my ears.

And the last wonderful thing about this project... the cleanup. Everything is all soapy already, so you just have to rinse and dry! Ta da! I hope you try and like this great project. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Domestic Goddess Dress Up

As promised: Homemade dish soap!

I must tell you, this has been a life saver for my dish washer.
Once upon a time there was a dishwasher that was average, to say the least. It required a lot of love to work correctly and get it's dishes clean. Until one day, it just couldn't keep up with all the hard water that was building up on it's basket and spinner. Try as it might, it couldn't keep all that lime from getting on the glasses and fogging them up. And the glasses kept getting worse and worse.
Until one glorious day, fairy housekeeper decided to try not just cleaning the little dishwasher, but using a soap that would help keep it lime-free!

Is everyone excited?! I am!



2 cups Super Washing Soda
2 cups Borax
1 cup Kosher Salt
2-12 oz. containers of LemiShine

Use White Vinegar as a rinse aid. Just put in your "JetDry" dispenser. If you don't have one of those just dump in the bottom of the washer, or in the cup with the soap and watch it bubble. :) I have white vinegar in my rinse aid dispenser and I put a little extra in the detergent cup for good measure.

Borax, Super Washing Soda and Lemishine will all be in the laundry/dish soap isle. Kosher Salt will be in the baking isle.

Now, the original recipe I had called for 2 cups of LemiShine and one 12 oz. container holds only 1 1/2 cups so I had to go back and get another container and decided to dump the whole thing in because our water is SO bad. After I added the second container it made all the difference. If you don't have very hard water, you probably won't need as much.
Use a heaping tablespoon with each wash. I just use a spoon that is going onto the dishwasher, not an actual tablespoon, and I separate that amount into the pre-wash and wash cups.

Mix all ingredients together in large bowl. Because of the citric acid in the LemiShine, everything sticks together and becomes as hard as a rock. The best thing to do is keep it in the mixing bowl on your counter for a day or two and stir it a few times a day. Doing this will help it stick together in smaller clumps and not become a big rock in the container. After those couple days you can put it into a big container.

Another solution would be getting a few ice trays, measuring out serving sizes into each little cup and letting it harden onto serving-size cubes, then put those in a big container and using one clump per wash. I think I will try this next time.

You see the huge clumps? Yeah, those are from me getting too excited about putting it in the container and then having it harden up and THEN I had to use my husband's screwdriver to break it up and get it out. Save yourself the headache and just leave it in the bowl to stir.

In the final container.

Now, working up to using the fabulous soap, you need to prep your dishwasher.
Taking a close look at my washer, I noticed that everything (including baskets) were covered in lime. So, taking a page out of Mrs. Meyer's cleaning book aka My New Cleaning Bible, first, I took white vinegar and a cleaning toothbrush and cleaned around the soap cup and the along the bottom of the door (those places had a lot of buildup from soap) then, I ran two wash cycles to clean it through. The first one I just put about a cup of white vinegar and ran it empty on hot wash, for the second I used another cup of vinegar and some CLR (Lime Away works the same.) You may not need two cycles, but I decided to take abrasive action. I recommend running a plain vinegar cycle maybe once or twice a month for upkeep.

If you aren't yet acquainted with Mrs. Meyer's and her wonderfully amazing cleaning methods and products, you need to check her out.

Once I was satisfied with the cleanliness of my washer, I started using my new soap with amazing results!

I love before and after pictures, so here they are!



Now take a look at this, as if just lime wasn't bad enough, the washer would leave crusted soap on most of the dishes, which means that I would have to wash all the dishes by hand after scraping, rinsing, and going through the washer. So, instead of being a time-saver, the washer was just backing up my dish washing production.

You can't tell, but this is an action shot.
I should mention that I always run my washer on heavy cycle and I no longer use the heat dry, I just let it drip dry.

BEAUTIFUL! It almost brings me to tears. ;)

So, after fighting the battle for so long, the war has been won!

Stay tuned for the next Domestic Goddess Dress Up post: Turning one bar of hand soap into over 3 liters of liquid soap! Amazing and thrifty!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Christmas Project Preview

Here's a sneak peek at two of my Christmas projects I'm working on. I'm pretty excited about them.

What super heroes wouldn't want their logos to be this cool? Are they called logos?...
I'm actually quite proud of these creations, they're just felt and pure talent. Tee hee hee.

And stay tuned as I transform these (fairly hideous) second-hand picture frames into something awesome. (actually, one is for me :)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Playing Domestic Goddess Dress Up

The other day I thought to myself "my poor blog is so sad and lonely, I should cheer it up with a lovely post." However, it sat for a while more before I took some initiative. Because that thought wasn't so much "the other day" and it was "the other month."

In celebration of Labor Day, this morning we got up at a reasonable hour and went berry picking in Mapleton, Ut. This berry farm is so delightful, I could go there every other day. It's called McBride's Briar Patch for those who would like to have a fun little outing.
Now, I've been picking raspberries a time or two and have come to expect lots of mud and thorns. But not so! Every row has grass in-between so.. no mud! Hallelujah! As for thorns, you can wear gloves if you would like, but they do have several varieties of raspberries, at least one of which doesn't have may thorns (so I was told by my Dad who was picking off those bushes.) I didn't have gloves and picked the thorny variety and only got a little scratched, you know the kind of scratch that makes you itch a little.

Anyway, there's my plug for this quaint little farm of happiness. Here are the pictures I got of Will having a ball, but I didn't get any pictures of him actually picking and eating berries along the row with Carter... however that did happen.

Now it may look like I let Will pick up this random apple off the ground and eat it, however... I didn't let him actually eat it, jut pretend eat it. He's catching onto pretend play and I'm loving it.

Now to the berries!
Aren't they b-e-a-utiful?! It only took us about an hour to pick 5 pounds ($3 per pound) and that includes "running after Will" time.

Any time I get berries for that swell price, it's freezer jam time. And to make this post even better, I've decided to do a tutorial. And to make it even better than THAT, I have a new AMAZING product to tell the whole world about.

It's called ULTRA GEL. Yes, not the most enticing food product name... however is magnificent.

For those of you outside of Utah, it would be easiest to order it online from their website. For those in Utah, you can find it in the canning section of Harmons and the Bosch kitchen centers. I've heard you can find it at Macey's on occasion too. It's a Utah-based company, that's why there's more availability here.
It is a modified food starch that can be used to thicken hot and cold foods. Like thickening soups, gravies, etc.
But (one of) my favorite thing about using Ultra Gel in freezer jam is that it cuts the amount of sugar in more than HALF. That's right, your read correctly. MORE than HALF.
Another wonderful thing worth mentioning: you don't have mix with water and bring to a boil, like you do with fruit pectin. Which equals less dishes to clean up!

With Sure Gel you use 3 cups smashed fruit and 4 cups of sugar.
With Ultra Gel you use 4 cups smashed fruit and 2 cups of sugar.
Amazing right?

So, on to the tutorial..
P.S. I do everything in my Vitamix (another product I am passionate about... and this tutorial may just make you want one:)
If you don't have a super blender, you'll have to smash your fruit in a bowl, then transfer into your mixing bowl.

Rinse your fruit (it can be any fruit you'd use for jam) You'll have to take the tops off strawberries (unless you have a Vitamix, then you can put it all in there and it will blend it all up and you won't even notice!)

Blend or crush your fruit as much as wanted. (in the Vitamix you can let it blend just a few seconds longer to crush the seeds into tiny bits so it's not the typical "super seedy" raspberry/blackberry/whatever seedy berry jam.) It'll end up being similar to fig newton filling with those crushed seeds.

Add your sugar and lemon juice. Blend.

Add Ultra Gel. You want to add this very slowly so you don't get clumps of it, this is especially important if you're mixing by hand. In a blender just add a bit at a time until it's all in there. You'll see it start to thicken immediately and you'll have to turn up the power on your blender to keep it swirling on top. You can see a little wisp of white swirling in the second picture, that's my amazing action shot of the gel being mixed in. :)

Disclaimer: in these pictures the lid is off of my Vitamix while it is running, the Vitamix company warns you never EVER to do this.. so don't ever do it and blame something bad happening on me. :)

Let the jam sit for 5 minutes and let it gel completely.

Pour into containers (more neatly than this picture, it's hard to pour with one hand and take a picture with the other)


Now how easy was THAT?!
From 5 pounds of berries I got 15 - 8 oz. jars. Perfect for gifts!

Stay tuned for my next Domestic Goddess Dress Up Post: Homemade Dish Soap - and how much better it is than store bought!

*UPDATE* Here is a list of places Ultra Gel is available, but the list for Utah isn't complete.