Friday, March 28, 2014

Updates and Stuff

I promised a follow up blog on all the products I've been making and using.  So here goes; one, two and three weeks later.

I used this on my 70-year old tub and it worked great.  I've also used it in the kitchen and I'm really diggin' the smell (courtesy of the Dawn) and the bubbles.  Bubbles make me think I'm doing more.  Vinegar alone doesn't give me that same satisfaction.  ;)

A week later and the glass cleaner is still my favorite formula.  Even the oldest has noticed that the solution dries fast and doesn't leave spots... making her job easier.  I also can't say enough about how well it works on my stainless steel appliances and ceramic top stove.  I'm super impressed!  (Just remember to shake it before each use so the cornstarch can do it's job.)
Two weeks ago I stuffed a mason jar with orange peels and filled with vinegar.  I put it in the fridge and left it alone.  Some directions said to leave it out, others said to refrigerate.  I did notice as the vinegar started to absorb into the peels that they looked brownish, not moldy like some said, but not pretty either. (In this current batch I'm leaving the jar out and using cleaning grade vinegar to compare.) When I strained the contents the orange scent covered the vinegar that I'm not too fond of.  I have the first batch in two small spray bottles, full strength.  I have one in the kitchen and one in the bathroom.  When I wipe the bathroom counters off I just use a spray or two and a washcloth destined for the washing machine.  *I'll try it around the toilet after Little Man decides to start using the indoor facilities again.  (It's spring y'all, a man can't be bothered to come indoors.)  ;)

And finally...

I made these 3 jars of home fragrance during a visit to my friends place.  In the jar they smell divine.  Sitting next to them on the warmer, fantastic... in another room... nothing.  Even 2-weeks in the fridge the scent didn't get stronger.  With a few drops of essential oils... not much difference.  But in the crackpot EXCELLENT!  This Lime and Thyme concoction has been in my tiny crock-pot for a couple of days now, just a few hours at a time and I love the smell.  It's not as strong as the diffuser, but sure beats tossing these beautiful jars of goodness out.  I figure I have a weeks worth of scents and when I toss them in the compost pile I won't cringe.  Y'all know I'm cheap and all.  ;)

Monday, March 24, 2014

Body Butter and Bedtime Rub

I've no idea why I made body butter but when I get an itch... 
I should just ignore it.  HA!  
But y'all know I never do.

Since receiving my Young Living kit I've been using essential oils in everything.  I even pulled out my old soap making EOs and started to use those again.  Cause let's face it, I'm cheap and would rather use those in the diffuser since I already have them and hang on to my Young Living supplies like Gollum and his Ring.  
(Hopefully without the same ugly side effects.)  
Maybe I should rethink this.  ;) 

Moving on!  ;)

After using some EOs in my water, my diffuser, diluted for pain relief and adding a bit to coconut oil to calm the kids at night, I decided it was time to break out the big guns and make some body butter.  I've used my friend's homemade body butter over at so I know the stuff is good, but using something once or twice just isn't enough.  

I wanted to try it on everything, because like many of you I have a lotion for just about every body part.  I have them for my hands, my body, my feet, the kids, massaging and when the kids are sick another one for their chest and feet.  I wanted an all purpose that I could just add EOs to when I needed them.

So I used the recipe my friend had, found a few others on Pinterest to compare and headed off to our local Drug Emporium.  (I heart the place, and not just because it's at the end of my street either.)  ;)
They have EVERYTHING!  I was able to get the shea and cocoa butter as well as additional EOs.  I was tempted to buy a second diffuser for the kids room, but the place isn't cheap... I'll have to wait.

I came home with my loot, put the kids to bed and got to work... only to realize I needed a double boiler.  I of course don't have a double boiler. I don't want a double boiler. And I don't care what those crafty folks say I'm not getting one.

So I rigged one out of foil because the glass bowls I have are all too tall for my pans.  ARGH!  
Next time I'll be better prepared.  But foil does work in a pinch. 

Just roll the foil into tubes, lay them on the bottom, add your container(s) full of your equal parts of oils and butters and then fill the pan till the water is half way up the sides of the container(s).  I have a small whisk I could insert inside the wide mouth jars so I could speed up the break down of the cocoa butter.  (The stuff is as hard as a rock when you start.)

Rest assured, the foil did not go to waste.  The oldest had a good time fashioning swans out of them for the twins. 

Afterwards your butter and oils will look like this.  Let it sit for just a few minutes so the jars can cool down a bit before putting in the fridge. 
This is what it looks like straight from the fridge, no fluffing
It has almost a Vaseline feel to it before you whip it.

The directions said to let the mixture cool in the fridge for an hour.  When I tried it an hour later it wouldn't fluff.  I left it in the fridge over night and the next morning I got the results I wanted. "Whip it GOOD!"  ;)

When you whip it it fluffs up nice.  Even the next day it still looks like this.  And yes, I overfilled my jar.  Oops...

This is just one of the batches I made.  I call it Sleepy Time.  It's great for all over yourself and the kids just before bedtime.  *You normally wouldn't add peppermint to a 'calming' lotion, but I only added a few drops for that little bit of cooling.

If you don't have a local supplier of shea and cocoa butter you can always find some online.  If you just don't want to pay the cost then you can always just use coconut oil and olive oil.  I've been using coconut oil for several years now and love it.  It does take getting used to because you have to let it melt in your hands but it can certainly be used straight from the container.  I usually buy a jar for cooking and then set aside a small portion just for my kids when they have rough patches of skin, burns or even mild cases of eczema.  
But if you want to whip it for a creamer feel then just add a little olive oil and your favorite essential oils to spice things up.  
I really like not having to wait for the coconut oil to melt in my hands.  I can just rub my palm across the wide mouth jar and start applying.  This might be my go to formula because I always have these ingredient on hand in my kitchen.

This is the bedtime rub I made for the kids.  It's just a simple mix of about 1/2 C of coconut oil, 1 TBS of olive oil and Young Living's Peace & Calm with Lavender.  I rub this on the bottom of the kids feet as well as any dry spots.  My son has super rough skin and I'm currently treating it with this mix.  Just 4 applications and I'm seeing a marked improvement.  In the past I've used straight coconut oil to help his eczema behind his knees and within a day or two it's gone... so I already know the benefits of coconut oil.
When I pull this little jar out at bedtime I have three sets of feet propped up in my lap in no time.

Body Butter

Ingredients List:

Coconut Oil
Olive Oil
Shea Butter
Cocoa Butter
*Essential Oils of your choice

Directions:   (This is really why you came to the blog. See how I put it at the bottom so you had to look at the whole thing?  So stinkin' clever right?! ;)

Mix equal parts of the coconut and olive oil as well as the shea and cocoa butter, put in a double boiler (or fashion your own) and melt the four ingredients.  
(Do NOT add the EOs yet.)
Once they have melted set them aside to cool for just a few minutes then place them in the fridge.  Some directions say an hour, but I put mine in over night.
When the mixture is cooled use a hand or stand mixer and whip on high (I set it to 8 on my KitchenAid.) and whip for 10-minutes.
Once you see the mixture is peeking you can either put it in separate containers to mix the EOs or add the EOs and continue mixing till everything is well blended.  
Transfer to your container(s) and use.

*I've read that you can use anywhere from 10 to 30 drops of oil... that's a big range.  I just say it's up to you.  I played around with scents till I liked the results.  Everyone is different so have fun.  Little tip though, have coffee grounds or beans close at hand so you can calm those olfactories down.  Otherwise everything will start smelling the same.  ;)

Simple Rub

1/2 Cup Coconut Oil
1 TBS Olive Oil

Mix the ingredients, whip on high for 10-minutes, put in your container to add EOs of your choice or if just one batch then do it with the mixer.
Put it in your container and start using.

*No heating, no cooling!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

She's Cheap Y'all!

Glass Cleaner;
I use it for EVERYTHING.  
Our house is covered in shiny surfaces... not my doing.  
Between what feels like a million windows that are covered in nose, lips and tongue prints... 
(Seriously y'all, isn't 4 too old for that nonsense?)
we have stainless steel appliances. 
Way too many mirrors for this big girl to be comfortable.
A big ole farmhouse dinning table we use 4 to 5 times a day.
And doors... so many, many doors.

I've tried homemade glass cleaners more times then I'd like to mention. 
Okay, at least 4 different formulas that I can think of right off hand.
BUT today, as the oldest hands me an empty bottle of store bought cleaner I realized we were in a seriouse delima.  Either I could made some more or I'd have to take the 3 kids with me to the store... on a Saturday afternoon... when my list is 60 items long.  

So I did the Pinterest thing; oh you know I did!
I found one without ammonia... 'cause I don't have any on hand.
And then one with cornstarch.  I was like, what the heck?
I even researched it.  No one 'officially' seems to know why it's used, but many guess it's the mild abrassive to help scrub the stuff that only kids can manage to get to stick to glass.  
(No details... please.)

So because it was a bit different and I had all the ingredients on hand (the real reason) I tried it.

And I mean I tried it!  

Dinning table, French doors, stove top, stove front, fridge doors, dishwasher front, door frames, door handles, bathroom mirror, faucets, kid's bedroom mirrors, I've not tried on the TVs... cause the cornstarch makes me a bit nervous.  Which is silly seeing as my son uses the living room TV as a launch pad for his toy cars, but whatevah!  I have to make the husband think these things concern me.

So here's my obligatory (that is a word right?) photo with all the ingredients set up to look all fancy and stuff so you'll be sure to pin it and I can get credit for someone else formula.  
I added 2 extra drops of EO so we're good.  ;)

So try it out if you'd like and let me know what you think.  

*NOTE... it's settled in the bottle and the cornstarch has separated so I'm assuming you should shake it before each use.  HEY, maybe I can try it on the TV now? 

Oh wait, the starch is on the bottom.  
Never mind.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Secret Valley (Granddad's Short Story)

William E. Johns

(written early 1930’s)

A lone rider on a big black horse was riding slowly up the trail that led from the south into the little cowtown of Blanco.  The sun was low in the west and the little town was coming to life again.  The rider was tired and hungry and the sight of the town was much relief to him and his horse.

He rode up the dusty street to the hitch rack in the front of the town saloon.  He dismounted, left the horse untied and entered the swinging doors of the saloon.

“Good evening stranger; what will it be, Crow or Lacy?”

“Neither sir, just a cold soft drink and a generous helping to the water bucket. Some hot day I’ll say, and the rode is dry and dusty."
"Rode far?”

“About seventy miles the last two days from San Antonio.”

“Looking for work?”

“Why yes, I’ll take a job if you happen to know of one open around here.”

“Old man Kelly was in here a few minutes before you came looking for a capable man to ride night herd.  There has been lots of rustling in these parts for six months and its being done so slick none of the boys can catch them.  Old man Kelly sent word to Austin to the Ranger Captain but received news that the Rangers had more important work just now.  The old man and his daughter Viola live two miles out on the road to Austin.  They own the EX ranch and some layout if you ask me.”

“I’ll ride out and ask him about the job.”

“Better be careful stranger, them rustlers take a pot shot pretty often at night herders, Jack Perry’s got a bullet scar over his right eye now from a stray bullet in the dark while he was on guard for Kelly.”

“Thanks, but I’ll be on the lookout.”

And with this bit of information the tall stranger paid his bill and left the saloon, mounted his horse and after watering him at the watering trough rode out towards the EX ranch.

The sun was almost down and a little breeze blew up from the south.  A jack rabbit leaped across the road in its hurry to some good hiding place and a coyote yelped its hungry cry in the distant hills.  All this was familiar to the rider as he had grown up along the southern border.

Dark was falling, a bright moon had begun to cast its light over the distant hill along the Colorado River, as the stranger halted his pony at the corral gate, a dog began to bark as the stranger dismounted.

A tall gray haired man of about sixty opened the corral gate and greeted the stranger.

“Hello stranger, come in and feed your horse.  It looks as if he had gone a long ways today, and was in need of a rest.”

“Yes, we’re from San Antonio, rode up here in two days.”

“Pretty good traveling for a horse over the rough roads down that way, but he looks able to stand it.”

They watered and fed the horse and talked of the cattle country for half an hour.

The musical feminine voice of “Come and get it or I’ll throw it away” brought them to the house for supper.

As the stranger entered the kitchen door he came face to face with Viola, the girl spoke a “Good evening”, in a friendly way. 

“My name is Viola Kelly.”

“And you may call me Dick Lanning. I’m from the U-U down near San Antonio.”

At the supper table Dick opened the subject of the job.

“Yes, I can use a good man on the night herd.  Rustling is getting to be a profitable business around here.  I lost seventy head of my prime herd a week ago, all the boys on the job are in need of some rest.”

Viola had been quiet all during the supper; she had been eying this tall handsome, brown eyed young man with the dark curly hair, that called himself Dick Lanning.

“You said you was from the U-U, down near San Antonio.  Well, you look a lot like a Mister Jack Lassiter of the Rangers, from the description I have been given of him.”

With this bit of information Dick’s face reddened and he became very restless.

“Yes mam, I met him once down near the Rio Grande; and we do favor quite a bit." 

“I am sure if we could get him down here for a while that he could break up this gang of rustlers in a very short time, don’t you Mr. Lanning?”

“Yes mam, I’m sure they would be more careful, at least until he left the country.”

“But they say Mr. Lassiter never gives up a job until it is finished, and how he can handle a six gun.  I’ve heard he could shoot all six of the hearts out of six of hearts, at five hundred feet.”

Dick could stand it no longer, he was anxious to start his work and help this rosy cheek girl with the big blue eyes and hair like the princess of some fairy tale.  Beyond her tall slender figure she had the grace of a real true westerner.

After all he was glad his captain had detailed him to this Kelly job, and he vowed there at the table that he would do his best to bring this rustling to an end.

“Well Mr. Kelly when do I start on my new job?”

"We’ll get a good twenty four hours rest and begin at sundown tomorrow.  I think that will be best, as I have already sent two of the boys over in the river valley to guard the beef herd. 
I’m sure after the last big raid they will wait another week or so before pulling another raid.”

Supper was over, Dick bid them a good evening and was shown his bed.  He did not go right to sleep but lay there and thought of Viola and wandered how anyone could have the heart to steal from a girl like her.

“Must be some low breed of Mexes, to pull a wolly like that.”  He muttered.

He wondered if she would have said all those nice things about Mr. Lassiter had she known the secret.

When finally he did fall to sleep he dreamed of fighting rustlers and riding herd on a bunch of his boss’s prime steers.

When he awoke the sun was high in the heavens, he hurried and dressed then went to attend to his horse, as was his custom before he ate himself.

He had reached the barn door when voices in a low conversation reached him.  He listened as he crept closer to the stall from which the voices came.

“I tell you Slim, it’s too risky to pull that deal since the old man has hired this new guy.  He may be ace high, but that fellow never came from no U-U down near San Antonio.  I happen to know that there ain’t but one ranch in the state by that brand and its up near Abilene.  You and the rest of the gang can go on with the deal but count me out.”

“Oh! Say you’ll lay down on the job, well you little dried up horn toad.  I guess you have forgot the orders the boss give us over at the Secret Valley about the first one that laid down on the job.  You wouldn’t last very long after you quit the job and you are as deep in this as any of us and if this Lanning jasper ain’t just a wadly out looking for a job the boss’ll put the snug rope on him and plenty tight to hold him.  Now had you rather go on with the deal or face Pete’s fast draw?”

“I guess I’ll finish the job, but it’s risky with this bird on night herd.  Did you hear what the old man said about his two pearl handled forty fours? That sounds lots like that ranger jasper;Jack Lassiter.”

With this the conversation stopped and Dick backed up a few steps and came up whistling so they wouldn’t be suspicious of his eaves dropping.

They met in front of the barn door, the two eyed Dick from head to toe.  One was tall and slim with a hook nose and close set eyes that reminded Dick of a sneaky coyote.  The other was a short well-built youth not over twenty seven, smooth shaven and neat in appearance, with big blue eyes and a well-shaped nose.  The tall one was the first to speak,

“Morning stranger; my handles Jack Perry and my buddy here is Clell Wheeler.”

“I’m Dick Lanning off the U-U down south.”

“Got a job with the man yet, are does he mean to let me and Clell do all of this blooming night herding?”

“Yes, I go on the job at sundown if the rustlers let me live that long.”  He grinned at the two and went about caring for his horse.

“Better be careful I got a scar over my eye now from a pot shot them rustlers took at me a while back and they shoot to hit.”  The tall fellow warned him.

“So do I.”  Dick informed them and they disappeared towards the bunk house.

Dick had slept longer than he intended and when he got to the house dinner was ready.  Viola was in the kitchen busy with the dishes and did not see Dick as he walked up to the door and stopped to look in.  She was humming an old love song and in a nice humor as she went about her work.

“Good morning Miss Viola.”

She looked up and smiled.

"Please, just Viola I don’t like the handle of Miss very much, all the boys working for Dad call me Viola and I think I like it better that way.”

He sat down where she prepared him a plate and ate the steak and gravy with compliments of her good cooking. 

The rest had eaten and went back to their work, he found to his surprise that he had slept twelve hours.

She joked him about being a good sleeper, but had she known how long he lay awake that night thinking of her compliments about Jack Lassiter, she probably wouldn’t mention his sleeping so late.

It was an even one o’clock when he finished his lunch and left the table.

“Dad went to town this morning and said he wouldn’t be back before late in the evening and I am going over in the north range this evening and look over the heard for a little ride in the open.  Would you care to go and kinda learn the lay of things over there, Mr. Lanning?”

“Yes I’d be pleased to go along.”

It was after two o’clock before they mounted their horses and rode out of the corral north. 

They talked of the hills along the Colorado and of the green valleys and before they had reached the north range Viola was talking of Jack Lassiter and picturing him as some heroic knight.

“Now mam I wonder if you would say these nice things to Mr. Lassiter?”

She looked at him as if she was surprised at his frank question.

“Not jealous are you?”  She teased him.

“Why not?  Us poor cow waddies haven’t a chance any more with the women.  There’s always some heroic knight that rides in and corrals the fair princess, then flees to some distant place.”

They both laughed at this remark and let it drop at that.

But Dick was hoping this time he would be the heroic knight and Viola the fair princess.

They reached the north range at mid-afternoon and found the cattle grazing in a little valley near a stream of clear cold water that glittered like silver, as it wound its way across the little green meadow.

Viola was the first to mention the mysterious way the cattle were disappearing and admitted that it looked a lot like some of the boys working for her dad had a hand in it. 

“Yes mam it does look kinda suspicious but it’s not so far to the border and they could very easily slip in here and drive off a hundred head and be back across the line before the cattle would be missed.”

“I do hope you will be careful Mr. Lanning and not get shot like Jack Perry did.”

But Dick had his own opinion about Mister Perry, although he did not tell Viola.

“I’m going to do my best to stop this rusting.”  Dick informed her.

It was late in the afternoon when they reached home and Mr. Kelly had returned from town.

He met them at the door with a catalog for Viola and a letter for Dick, the letter was postmarked Blanco, Texas.  Dick opened it and to his surprise read its warning message.

Mr. Jack Lassiter;

You may be fooling the old man and his daughter by the new name, but not fooling us.  So you better make your little visit short and ride on, this place don’t need any rangers at all. 


The Rustlers

Dick folded it and put it in his pocket.  Viola prepared their supper and Dick rode off at sundown in high spirits.  Viola had bid him a good evening and wished him good luck, but the letter was troubling him.  What if she should find out who he really was, could he ever explain to her why he must go under a different name?

But now that the rustlers knew him why should he keep his identity a secret from her any longer.

I’ll tell her in the morning and try to explain that it was my orders to keep my identity a secret.

It was good dark when he reached the herd and they had begun to bed down for the night.  He was glad of this for it would be a much easier matter to watch them bedded down than if they were milling around and discontented.  He had the favor of a full moon and clear sky.

All went off nicely the first night; nothing happened except the usual low of cow or the yelp of a coyote in search of its mate.

It was so quiet and peaceful that Dick was almost sure something would happen.

He got home early the next morning and was in bed before eight o’clock.  At two o’clock he was up and eating.

Viola asked him all sorts of questions and he answered them the best he could.

She rode part of the way with him as he went back to the herd late that evening.

Dick finally picked up enough courage to open the subject of his assumed name.

“Miss Kelly, there is something I want to tell you if you promise you will try to forgive me for it.”
“Why I’ll do my very best, but I can’t imagine what it could be.”

“Well mam, I’m sure sorry but it was my orders to keep my name a secret, but as the rustlers are wise to me, I see no reason to keep it any longer.  I am Jack Lassiter.”

With this news Viola blushed a little and told him, as she rode off, that she had known it all along.

So she really meant those nice things she had said about Mr. Lassiter.  His mind was in a whirl, his heart was filled with joy and he felt as if he could whip a herd of rustlers.

All went smooth until midnight.  He always rode around the herd at that hour.

As he was looking over a herd that was moving slowly off to themselves and wondering why they were getting off so far from the main herd, a bullet hummed close over his head.  He whipped out his own gun and fired in the direction of the flash.  There was a curse and howl of pain.

Two more guns fired from opposite directions and both bullets missed his head by a small margin.

He rode to the south as a flash shot up in that direction.  The gun flashed again and he fired in return.  He thought he saw something fall but was not sure.  He road on for fifty yards and came upon a man lying face down in the leaves.  He dismounted and rolled the man over, his lip quivered and his eyes opened, he tried to smile but could not.

“Ranger fellow, I’m done for, but I want to cash in clean and try to square myself before I go.”

It was not until he had spoken these words that the ranger recognized him as the little fellow that had tried to resist this raid in the stall at the EX ranch, the day after his arrival there.

“Yes go on.” The ranger encouraged him.

“The prime herd is in Secret Valley, twenty miles south of there you will come upon an old cow trail that crosses Crow Creek two miles below the San Marcus road crossing.”

He faltered and closed his eyes as if he was passing on, but determined to tell all he began again.

“Ride south on that trail until you come to two big cottonwood trees on the left, one on each side of a ravine that leads off the hills.  There is a about (A full sentence missing where page fell apart)… you will ride into a blind canyon known as Secret Valley.  But be careful for Slim and Arizona Pete are sure to be there and they are bad men.  Tell the Boss and Viola that I tried to square myself before I cashed in.”

The ranger promised but the young man never heard him for he had passed on to a new range.

The rest of the rustlers fled after the fight started so the rest of the night was quite.

At the first rays of dawn the ranger started for home.  He reached the ranch as the sun crept over the eastern hills.

He told them of the young man lying out there dead and of his confession.

All Viola could say was, “Poor boy, he seemed like a good kid.”

After breakfast the ranger mounted and rode south in search of the rest of the gang.

It was later the second evening, after he had left that Viola was looking down the road that lead from the south.  In the distance she could see a rider coming that would surely be the tall, smiling, curly haired ranger.  (A full sentence missing where page fell apart)…the gang and they were safe in jail in Austin.

He smiled as he dismounted and started for the house, Viola met him halfway to the house.

“Well you made it Mr…er Lassiter, I knew you would.”

“Yes and now I’ve come back to see if you would say again those nice things you said about Mr. Lassiter.”

And she did.