Thursday, May 29, 2008

Soap Making trials

Yes, soapmaking has its trial. Even after making soaps for 6 years without having to use a recipe because I've done it so many times it has become more of a pattern of movement, sometimes things just don't go right. Apparently, I made the mistake of leaving the lid off one of the buckets which allowed moisture to seep into the granules of powder. As the photo shows, these little granules refused to dissolve into the mixture. This was a problem. You see, when making soap, part of the process involves using lye. This sounds horrifying, I know, but indeed one cannot have soap with out it. Lye is a VERY caustic chemical but the process known as saponification reduces it to a state of usefulness and makes it harmless. (soapmaking 101).
I deduced that if I removed the moisture from the powder, it would become flaky and powdery again so I put it in the oven in a pot on a very low setting.

I use a jar to scoop it out and even it was stuck in the glob so hard I couldn't get it out! Several hours later I checked on the experiment only to find out that my hypothesis was incorrect! The powder actually turned liquid! At that point, I just decided to put it away and deal with it tomorrow (which is always a good way to deal with stress, right!?)

I continued making the batch of soap that I had begun in the first place. Olive oil is one of the 6 oils I put into the soap. This makes for a beautiful, rich, bubbly bar of soap. Each ingredient must be carefully weighed and combined in the proper order to ensure the saponification process.

Once the ingredients are combined, they are vigorously blended together. Here I am using what is commonly referred to as a stick blender. Usually these are used for making milkshakes, but they also are indispensable when making soap! I blend until "trace" which is a thickened state.
Once I add whatever fragrance and color I want, I pour it into the molds and let it set overnight. This batch is Plumeria.

Next I cut each bar by hand and set it on the shelf for 6 weeks to allow it to cure. After that time it is ready to sell. So this is what it takes to keep my family and friends clean and smelling nice! This is my creative expression which I love to express, so more than anything it is a labor of love!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Knitter Almighty

My daughter says that I look like that in this photo. It's hard to see what I am doing, but I am trying to knit those socks one more time. Last time I tried, they got too big so I made them into baby hats instead!

So far so good.

While we sent the horses out for a run in the arena, I knitted!

Image has recovered from his injury to his leg and is back to his old self again.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The old shall become as new

A couple of years ago, Gus and I bought a 100 yr. old house with the dubious idea of renovating it. Notice I did not use the word "restore". That would be because the house was so far past its original design that it would have cost us more money than we had to invest in it. As can be seen in the photo below, two dormer rooms were added to the attic space and a small porch on the side was enclosed to create an additional room. Yes, it is an investment. Real estate of course is usually an increasing commodity and that is true for our little corner of the Pacific Northwest. Lots of folks move up here to get away from the city life down in San Francisco. Little did we know actually what we were in for! We wound up having to rip out 8 ft. false ceilings to reveal the lovely 10ft. ceilings that hid beneath. We tore out the red shag carpet to discover beautiful Douglas fir floors underneath so we had those refinished. One of the upstairs bedrooms bounced like a trampoline when we walked across the floor so we (Gus, actually, I cannot take any glory for myself here!) had to re-enforce the floor with huge beams the size of Goliath's forearms underneath. We decided to keep the old windows instead of replacing them because we felt that the house would retain much more of its character if we didn't remuddle it any further than it already had been. We have a guy in our neighborhood that restores old windows so he re-built them so that they function as they were originally intended. After working like dogs for several long months with the help of some very talented and loyal friends, we were able to call it home.

We even had to re-enforce the foundation.

This photo was taken 2 yrs. later. We still have a ways to go on "finishing" the project, but we are making progress. At least now it looks gorgeous from the street!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Memorial Day & my Dad

So.... where is the sunshine???? According to the weather man, we are supposed to have some sun this weekend but I woke up this morning to drizzly skies and clouds.... hmm. With plans to take 6 teens down to the campsite, this could spell disaster! Can you just imagine being locked in a small trailer with six teens???? Doesn't sound too appealing to me either! As we gather around the breakfast table this morning nibbling on Jo's freshly made cinnamon rolls, we are contemplating our plans for the 3 day weekend. Do we stay home to work on the never-ending house projects or do we just go for it, head down to the camp to see how it goes with the weather? I decided to go with whatever decision is made, so I will stay upstairs in my chamber while awaiting the final decision.
So with that aside, this Memorial Day weekend I will remind myself why it is that we even celebrate this holiday. Many have given years of their lives in service, others have paid the ultimate price and lost their own lives in order that mine would be better. My own father being one of those whose life was spared, yet scarred in ways that none of us will ever be able to comprehend. The images and experiences of war are not easily forgotten by those who are lucky enough to make it home to their families after serving in the military. Those are the wounds that take a life time to heal.

Dad, I am thankful for your willingness to spend your youthful years defending the principles that were so dear to your heart. The scars that marred your heart and your mind will always be there, but I honor you for the diligence you have displayed over the years to work through it. Life hasn't always been easy for you in your struggle. You have made some bad choices that have had some far reaching consequences, yet you have remained solid. You have stood the test of time, you have not folded. You have not given in to the temptation of quitting. Always there, always near the line, but never crossed. You have shown me how to persevere through those times when life is hard, when the breach in the wall of the dam is seeping, ready to burst. I pray that the God of peace will guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus as you reach toward the prize set before you.

Reebs wrote this for you:

When I feel a cool breeze graze my skin and play gently with my hair,
I think.
When I look at the blue sky with birds flying high, I know.
These are the things we share.
Your eyes have seen these things and your skin felt this same breeze.
I am standing free
You were in chains, with the weight of hatred scarring your body.
I am standing free
You ate the food of nightmares and still carry the effects.
I am standing free
You felt the blow of hatred and fascism.
I am standing free
You watched as your friends fell, the victims of terrible horrors.
I am standing free
You spent weeks in black misery with only your heartbeat to remind you that you were still alive
I am standing free
Your eyes forever scarred, the image of murder imprinted on the inside of your eyelids.
I am standing free
It is these things we share, the blue of the sky, the same color over Germany.
A cool breeze, so free and unconfined, the same in a prison camp.
I am standing free,
Thank you

Thursday, May 22, 2008


For the last few weeks I have been trying to improve my eating habits . With all the talk of healthy heart eating, no carbs, low fat, low sodium diets, I wanted to see for myself how I would feel if I ate just a little bit better. The first thing I did was cut meat out of my diet. (Sorry, TJ & Mark! I love your cows and your organic beef, but....) I have a few friends that are vegetarians so I wanted to see if this would make a difference in how I felt. It's been 3 weeks and so far I feel great. I don't miss it too much. There are so many meat substitutes available that make it easier to eliminate the real thing from the table. I had some vegan sausage the other day mixed in with my stir fry and it was actually pretty good. (though I never liked real sausage, anyway!)
The next thing I cut out was coffee. I have done this umpteen times over the years only to ever so slowly invite it back in! I didn't have too much trouble with that until about 3 days later I began to notice this small ache toward the back of my head. This would be the dreaded no-coffee headache. I was surprised that it took a few days for that to happen. I do have Chai latte's every now and again in addition to Yerba Matte' tea, so I don't strictly have myself weaned from caffeine but I figured that this was a good starting point. Once the headache cleared, the no-coffee rule certainly helped my attitude. I feel much less anxiety than I did. The next hurdle to tackle is the sugar. This one is a bit harder for me as I have not just a sugar tooth but several sugar teeth. I think I get this trait from my mother! She enjoys a good sweet roll as much as I do! I haven't really done that well with this dietary change. Seems like every time I moderate my intake, there's a baby shower to attend with a delicious ice cream filled cake, or a Pampered Chef house warming party with gooey, rich caramel brownies or some other such occasion that requires my indulgence. Once I get the other vices under control I will work harder on the sugar thing.
With the price of diesel fuel reaching a milestone of $5 here in Humboldt I try to do most of my errands on foot. I love to walk and town isn't that big, so I walk just about everywhere I can.
The days of indulgence are gone along with my youth. My mom told me I wouldn't be able to eat that way forever with out consequences and of course mom is usually right. I think the days of moderation are here now. Our health is so fragile, yet so wonderful that I don't want to abuse what the Good Lord has given me. I have seen first hand what it is like to lose your good health and I am not ready or willing to have any of that in my life! So I shall try to do a little better everyday by respecting this gift of good health. And through this act of worship, showing God how appreciative I am for all He has given me for His glory.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Slang Language

Slang phrases can be dangerous. Yesterday I used the term "smart alec" when referring to my son, WM. After posting, I looked up the term "smart alec" to see if I spelled it correctly. Turns out I did, but my curiosity to determine the origin of the term lead me to a startling awareness. The phrase "smart alec" comes from the antics of a man named Alec Hoag who among other things was a cheat and a thief. Among his cohorts in crime were two police officers who offered him protection and a beautiful temptress named Melinda who acted as the bait. The woman would lure victims into her chamber which was constructed with a secret panel in the wall. The victim would remove his garments, lay them across the chair, while the gal would draw the bed curtain. Hoag would then open the secret panel hidden behind the curtain to gain access to the victim's personal items tucked away in his cloak. The woman would then give a prearranged signal such as a cough or a sneeze and Hoag would begin wildly pounding on the door of the chamber pretending to be a husband returning home early from a business trip! The victim would be encouraged to hurriedly retreat through an open window to avoid detection! Hoag lost the protection of his police cohorts because he avoided payment a few too many times. After repeated run-ins with the law, precinct officers dubbed him "Smart Alec." Eventually the gig was up and Hoag was arrested.

How on earth could a boy as solid as this ever be identified by his mother as being a "smart alec?"
My apologies, WM. I am proud of the young man that you have become and are yet to be.

So, moral of the story is............. be careful what slang words you use unless you understand where they came from!
I often uttered the word schmuck when someone would cut me off in traffic while driving or when my patience grew thin in any number of different situations until my DIL told me what it meant! Now I just try to be patient and not call people names at all!
(which is a better idea all together!).

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

It's Summertime!

This is a welcoming sight.
This means that summer is indeed here.
Officially that doesn't happen until June 21 st.
But for our family, seeing this trailer down at the campsite in SoHum (which is short for Southern Humboldt for those of you who are new to reading this post!) means that it is officially summer for us!

Each year we move our traveling home down to the Redwoods so that we can indulge ourselves in the warm summer like weather that seems to evade the northern parts of the county. When the fog remains as thick as a wool blanket for a good part of the summer months over the coastal cities, the inland valleys receive an abundance of sun for most of that time. So being the sunseeker that I am, I seek and I find. And I find it in SoHum.

Of course, set up takes some time. Seems like Gus winds up doing most of the hard work! The ground is not always level since there isn't a concrete slab or anything fancy like that. Sometimes finding a level spot isn't easy. It's kind of like moving furniture around in the living takes a few tries before you settle in on just the right set up. So after several repositioning attempts and Gus' eternal patience with me, we got it settled. Did I forget to mention how hot it was?

WM had the pleasure of setting up his tent. I had great fun telling him stories of how hard it was to set up a tent in the "old days." Tents that were made of 1/4 inch canvas that weighed about a hundred pounds, poles with no labels on them that had to be snapped together in just the right order to get the thing erect! I can still see the sweat pouring off of my father's face after wrestling with our old family tent for what seemed to be hours! I had to remind WM how easy he has it with these poles with elastic in them that only require a few minutes to put in place. He asked me if I had to walk for miles in the snow barefoot to get to school, too! Smart alec! (is that even spelled right!?).

And my job was to direct the entire ordeal from my chair. It had to look good as well as be level guys, come on!

But in the end, isn't this worth all that sweat and hard effort? We think so and I'm sure they appreciate it too!

Monday, May 19, 2008

A Holiday for Who

Little Mr. as we fondly call him had his first birthday last week.
As I have mentioned in previous posts, this fella is the cutest little guy this side of the sun. From the moment he was able, he began smiling and hasn't stopped since. He brings so much joy to our

Reebs & Jo made him his very own cupcake. Since he hasn't had much sugar before, he hardly knew what to do with it.

MMMM! this stuff is pretty good.

Can I have some more!!???!?!

Happy birthday, Sweet Grandson!

Monday, May 12, 2008

The days go by......

...most of the time much too quickly. Here it is the middle of May already with summer just around the corner and I am still fighting my winter pudge. I keep telling myself that summer doesn't really start here in Humboldt until July so I still have plenty of time. I just don't know how long I am going to be able to say that. I am trying to get back into good shape so that I can keep up with everyone in my household. Everyone seems to be going in a different direction while I try to not only keep up with them, but also try to pick up after them. Ugh. I get so sick of it. This is just going to be a short rant, but for crying out loud, who do they think will pick up after them when they leave home?? Their spouse? Roommate? (Do you remember your mother saying the same thing?).

Last time we went camping I took a picture of the campsite because I thought that it looked just like home...stuff everywhere. I wanted to forget about it and not stress over it but then this mother-thing takes over. That little voice that tells me that I am responsible for making healthy, functioning, productive citizens out of these people and that time is running out! I don't have that many years left to train them before they move out and grow up. So sometimes I panic about that..... then I nag.... then nobody wants to be around me because they think that I am in a bad mood. But actually I am just panicking. Worried that they will grow up to be slobs. Or worse yet, what if their spouses blame me for their bad habits?!
So that's it. One mother's rant a day after Mother's day. I'm done. I know that as their father and I raise them up that they will be fine. I think it's just the gaps in that training that I wonder about......

Sunday, May 11, 2008


My page would be empty, my world would be a mess
If it weren't for your influence and your tender caress.

My heart would be cold, my slate would be bare
If it weren't for your touch and your never-ending care.

You call me and write me to brighten my days,
You've helped me succeed in so many ways.

I love you and miss you more than you could ever know,
But now it's getting late and to bed I must go.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Emo moment

How is it possible that my emotions are so fickle?? I have known for months that I had to find a new home for Hero, yet now that I have accomplished that goal my heart is somewhat torn. I keep telling myself that he is only a dog, not my child, or that other people have suffered greater losses than this and I am being absolutely ridiculous to get emotional over a dog. Yet somehow the tears come anyway. When I greet my Lab, Tilly, in the morning, I miss Hero's over-the-top jumping up and down with muddy paws against my clean jeans. I have phantom sightings of him throughout the day as I go about my daily routines only to discover that it is one of my 4 cats slinking around me. You see, Hero used to follow me wherever I went. He had that terrier nose poked into whatever I happen to be doing. If I was edging the lawn, Hero was next to me chewing the blades of grass as if to participate in the process. If I was digging weeds, he was busy trying to discover what it was that I was searching for. He was quite the little companion. So I guess it's no wonder that I miss his beady little black eyes staring up at me in wonderment. He had personality. I know that I did the right thing by finding him a new home and I know that he will be loved very much by his new owner. It is these assurances that give my heart the comfort I need for this silly ache that I feel. Tilly misses him too. She seems less interested in things as Hero was her constant companion. I got a follow up email from Hero's new owner and he informs me that his new buddy is doing absolutely perfect! He now enjoys that companionship that once belonged to me and is now warming his lonely heart.
O.k. I'm done. Enough. I am over it. Move on. Move past. Yeh, right.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

A New Home for Hero

Thank you, Cameron, for adopting Hero! And thank you to all of you who responded to my post about this little dog. For over a year now I have been looking for just the right person to adopt Hero and this kind person is the one that we have been waiting for. Since Hero is an active dog, he needed someone who likes to get out of doors and play. Seems like this is exactly what his new owner wanted in a dog, too.

So after meeting each other, checking each other out, they got along perfectly. Hero gave him a good licking on the face as soon as he met him! Great ending to a great story. This just goes to show that with a little perseverance and tenacity, a good outcome can happen. Over one hundred people linked over from Craig’slist to read the blog. Thank you again for all the inquiries!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Humboldt Dunes

This past weekend we cast aside the honey-do list to enjoy one of Humboldt's finest natural wonders, known as the Lamphere-Christiansen Dunes up near Mad River. I was first made aware of this flowing landscape of sand a few years ago while attending a biology field trip .

I couldn't believe all the beautiful little wildflowers that nestled in among the grasses along the trail.

Dunes that spread out across the ocean's edge greeted us as we ascended the first hill. The forest that can be seen in the background is actually being slowly covered in sand as these dunes are moving at a rate of about 10 ft. a year in some areas.

Mere words cannot describe nor cheap photographs capture the intense beauty of this landscape. I was filled with awe and wonder as we hiked the few miles of trails with our guide and docent, Tamar. Along with our wildflower expert, we were joined by an entymologist (bugs) and a mammalogist from HSU. Between the three of these informative individuals, we had a wealth of knowledge that just couldn't be grasped in the few short hours that we were out there. And the weather was absolutely perfect! What a great way to spend a Saturday morning!

A Calypso orchid. It is hard to tell, but this flower is only a few inches tall.

This is a Humboldt Wallflower. It is listed as an endangered species. The seed pods can be seen
on the lower parts of the stem.

This is a beach pea.

This is a shot of what a dune looks like as it slowly encompasses the shrubs and trees that lie in its path. In perspective, this dune is about 20 ft. high and moving over the greenery and the trails at a very rapid rate.

This is a dune flower of some sort, I can't remember the name at this moment. Most of the flowers were beach, sand or dune something or other.

Sunday, May 04, 2008


Mount Shasta is a beautiful place. I guess if you have to go away on business, this is an awesome place to go.

Seth enjoyed hikes along the manzanita lined trails, skipping stones on the lake, collecting various lichens and mosses, and just running through the trails while the cold mountain air rustled through the treetops. This is one of the great joys of homeschooling. Time away from the books
just isn't on the weekends. Anytime during the week, we can escape the routine to catch up on some recreation.

The bees buzzed around us sampling the abundant nectar of the manzanita blossoms.

The weather and the landscape made the entire experience worth every inconvenience of having to drive the winding, twisting path of Hwy. 36 to get there.

Friday, May 02, 2008


My son has two of these red eared slider turtles as pets. They live in a tank in my sunroom (much to my dislike because they stink, plain and simple). Said son convinced mom and dad that he had to have these critters for his 9th birthday and he is now 15, so he has had them for quite some time. Peanut and Nugget are their names. When we first got them they were no bigger than a quarter. Now they are as big as this photo shows. For a while we had 5 or 6 of these fellas, but some of them escaped. I thought it would be fun to put them in the goldfish pond in the backyard to let them have some freedom and some frolicking. Well, I made the mistake of turning my back on them for a few moments only to return to find them missing. I found two of the four that I place in the pond, the other two were never seen again! Turtles are not as slow as we are lead to believe! I think they made their way down to the river so that they could have eternal freedom. Eventually, two more escaped by climbing out of the tank. We now just have these two. One time Gus left them out in the sun too long and he thought that Peanut had dried up. So he put the turtle up to his face to see if he could feel it breathing or some such thing, and the turtle bit him on his bottom lip and wouldn't let go! How I wish I was home to see that one. He had a blood blister on his lip for about a week. I am hoping to convince the guys that these reptilian companions of theirs are in desperate need of a pond as they have seriously outgrown their tank. Hopefully we can make a pond that they cannot escape out of!
For a few days this week I went out of town with Gus for a conference. We went over to Mount Shasta. I am posting this photo of turtles, because this is what I felt like the whole time. It seems that my schedule is wearing me out quit a bit which I didn't really realize until I escaped it for awhile with some recreation. I think I slept most of the time I was there! I did get out to take a few short hikes along some beautiful trails, but most of the time I sat around the Resort reading and relaxing. I had a great time while Gus had to attend those boring, but necessary conference sessions. Good times. I will post some photos of Mount Shasta soon.