Trying Out Hot Process Soap Making

I love making soap, I haven’t been doing it long so haven’t tried many different ways or scents. Today I am trying out making hot process soap for the first time. My Mother-in-law is coming down tomorrow and most of this batch is for her, I am going to pull out a little to make some vanilla scented soap for myself. I ordered some vanilla soap scent but haven’t made soap since it arrived. I did turn some of my previous soap into liquid soap for hand washing and added the vanilla to it. I will probably try a different kind next time, this is not quite the vanilla scent that I am looking for, but it isn’t bad either. My Mother-in-law requested clove scented, so I am excited to see how that turns out. She is vegetarian so I do not use any animal oils in soaps for her, castille soap can be pricey to make (not nearly as pricey as it is to buy) and I do make that sometimes too. But for an everyday soap and one that you can make laundry soap out of, price is a factor as well. So I have made lard soap for us, and it works great and is super inexpensive to make, but the idea of rubbing the fat of a pig all over my skin….well it grosses me out. So I was thinking one day, vegetable shortening is about the same consistency as lard and about the same price, why not try that?  It works great! But hey I don’t really care what color it is. This will make a pretty big batch for me, I usually keep mine pretty small since I still have to store them, and cold process had to cure for 6 weeks. I am using my silicone loaf pan for some of it and the rest I will make in Pringles cans. My poor children, the things I make them eat for my love of soap making. Plus I love the little circle shaped soap they make. 

 Vegetable Shortening Soap

3 lbs Vegetable Shortening

1 lb Coconut Oil

7 3/4 oz lye

18 oz water

Melt Shortening and oil in crock pot. Once it is melted add lye to water ( please use extreme caution, if you have never made soap before please use a complete tutorial of how to make  soap and use lye safely, this is a recipe only) Add mixture to crock pot, blend with stick blender until trace. Cook until non – caustic, I will be using the tongue test. Then add scents or extras, put into molds.

You can make this without the coconut oil just use a lye calculator to adjust oil to lye ratio. I just liked the idea of adding some in this time, last time I did straight shortening.

The biggest problem I have run into is my crock pot runs to high of temperature even on low, once I put it on keep warm it seems to be working much better, so hopefully I haven’t ruined this batch. On low it just kept bubbling and expanding and I was constantly having to stir it, which none of the sites I saw really talked about, one said you might have to stir but it sounded like maybe once or twice, not all the time, and it was making a big mess.


School BBQ and Snickerdoodles

Today was the school BBQ, and with Rebel’s food issues I always find it easier to just pack us a lunch. It is a fun time to go and have lunch at school with your kids, we get to eat outside on the grass or in the lunch room and there is a book fair going on at the same time. How it usually works (and this year was no exception) I meet up with the kids, we hit the book fair and then head outside to eat and they completely ignore me and read books. This year Monkey got to go with me, of course it didn’t even start till an hour after his lunch time and all he wanted to do was run around and play on the playground. But he still managed to do great for the most part. Here they are ignoring me and reading, don’t get me wrong I love they love to read, but maybe add some books for adults so I have something to read too?

Princess and Rebel ignoring me at school BBQ
Princess and Rebel ignoring me at school BBQ

For a treat Monkey and I made some sugar free cookies to take with us to the BBQ. Since it was a last minute decision I needed something really quick, and preferably something that didn’t make a ton. I try to keep a box or 2 of sugar free cake mix around for just these times, I decided to make sugar free snickerdoodle cake mix cookies. These do not taste exactly like regular snickerdoodle cookies, they are sweeter and missing that cream of tarter bite. But for something that can be whipped up and done baking in about 30 minutes or less, they are great. There are recipes all over the web for how to use a cake mix and turn it into something else,  I have done the cookies a few times with different flavors, chocolate is probably my favorite, they turn out like brownie cookies. Yum! Back to snickerdoodles!

Sugar Free Snickerdoodle Cake Mix Cookies

1 Pkg sugar free vanilla cake mix

1/4 cup oil

2 eggs

Combine above ingredients into a dough.

Mix 2 Tblspn powdered Fructose and 1 tsp cinnamon in a small bowl

I use a 1 oz cookie scoop to measure dough, make into a ball and roll in cinnamon mixture, place on a greased cookie sheet and bake for 8 minutes at 350 degrees.

getting ready to mix
getting ready to mix
packing them up for BBQ
packing them up for BBQ

They were a  huge hit!

Now to cool down and rest…for maybe 10 min if I am lucky.


My Special Boy

All of my children are special, they all have ups and downs, they all have challenges and successes, they all hold a very private and dear spot in my heart, mind and soul, I love each one of them equally. But my Rebel, he faces a few more challenges than most kids, he has a few more things to deal with everyday than most. I have to be honest, I really don’t understand him, I try my best, counselors tell me I am doing a great job, that I am very intuitive to his needs. Some days I feel I do ok, others, like today, I just don’t know what to do. First some background, Rebel has been different since he was a baby. He has always been fussy, temperamental, but what always worried me was his violent outburst. He would throw temper tantrums over silly things, like all toddlers do, but his were different, he was violent, he hit at me, kicked at me, tried to bite me. We tried all the normal things, ignore it, put him in time out, we even tried spanking him, none of it helped. As he got a little older I tried to put him in his room, he would destroy it!  One of the things that really made me realize these are not normal tantrums was that he was completely out of control, nothing I did could help him once he was in the “red zone” he would even destroy some of his favorite things. I spent many hours crying, not knowing what to do. Finally in first grade a teacher suggested we have him evaluated for ADHD. Come to find out not only did he have ADHD but he also has ODD (oppositional defiance disorder) He started seeing a counselor and because I didn’t feel safe when he had an episode we did opt for medication. It took us a while to find a medication combination we felt comfortable with and that works for him, we have an amazing doctor who doesn’t just push drugs. And we keep him at a low enough dose that he still has to learn to control himself, he isn’t a zombie. Our goal has always been and will remain to be getting him off the medication and I pray some day we will get there.

Princess & Rebel 1st day of school after the summer he was diagnosed as allergic to sucrose.
Princess & Rebel 1st day of school after the summer he was diagnosed as allergic to sucrose.
Rebel and Princess 1st day of school 2 years later.

In my gut I knew there was more to it still, something still wasn’t right with him, not to mention he would only sleep 4-6 hours a night and had huge dark, dark circles under his eyes. I had tried elimination diets with him, taken out gluten, dairy, food dyes and sugar. Nothing seemed to be making a difference. A nurse called me to give me results of a sleep study (which showed no problems) and asked me some questions, does he get headaches? does his stomach hurt? constipation? along with others. Pretty much every answer was yes. She said they would like to run a test for Fructose sensitivity. I had never heard of such a thing, didn’t even know it was possible. But of course it is rare, and so the test is only done in a few labs and takes 3 hours, so the wait list is long. It took us 2 months to get in. During that time I was doing my own testing at home. I didn’t know the difference then between Fructose, Sucrose or Dextrose. So I took him off of it all. And I was meticulous. Things I never thought of (and so had given him on other sugar testing) had sugars in them. It took about 3 days for it to all get out of his body, and then I had this new boy! Now don’t get me wrong, he still has ADHD and ODD, but since the constant headaches and stomach pains were gone, he could get some sleep and he was much improved. Because I am not perfect, we made some slip ups and accidentally gave him some foods that contained sugar, we learned it takes about 24 hours for the sugar to affect him, but then the migraine, and stomach cramps last for about 2 days as his body gets rid of it. We also learned he does not have a problem with Fructose (or single chain sugars) just with Sucrose (or double chain sugars.) He can have limited amounts of sugar alcohol, honey and real maple syrup, but since it all depends on what else he has eaten we tend to avoid them. And when  I say limited, I mean a half serving about once a week, so not really worth it. Therefore, we can’t really eat any per-packaged food, there are a few, but not many. I even have to watch canned and frozen veggies!  He can eat some breads, if they basically only have enough sugar to activate the yeast, which is funny because it seems to be the cheap “marshmallow” bread that he can tolerate, the more expensive “whole grain, wholesome”” breads have more sugar and it can’t eat them. I used to try and make all his bread, but with everything else I have to make and do, I struggled to keep up, and right now it is something I am letting go.

However because of our food challenges I discovered an amazing and inexpensive crock pot refried  beans recipe that we make probably every 2 weeks, (only only that far apart because it makes so much that we can eat it a few times between making it) It is super easy, non fat, vegan and amazing! As a matter of fact I need to go get it started now for dinner tonight! We are having burritos, I also use it as just a side dish, in tacos, as a base to make a yummy thick chili and I have heard but not tried it myself, you can use it as a sandwich filling too.

Crock Pot Refried Beans

Crockpot “Refried” Beans

 from Pennies & Pancakes

*Makes about 16 cups


2 lbs pinto beans

1 large onion, chopped

4 Tbsp. jarred minced garlic

* Up to 2 1/2 Tbsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

2 tsp cumin

10 cups hot water

* You can use as little as 1 Tbsp of salt. It all depends on how you like your beans.


Rinse the beans in a colander. Pick out any bad beans.

Combine all the ingredients in the crockpot. Remove any floating beans. Cover, and cook on HIGH for 4 hours and on LOW for 2 hours.

Uncover, and remove extra liquid. Leave enough liquid to reach the desired consistency when the beans are mashed. (We like our beans somewhere between the very liquidy restaurant style beans, and the canned version of refried beans.)

Mash beans with a potato masher to desired consistency.

Serve warm. Store in air-tight containers in the refrigerator and use within 2 weeks, or freeze in ziplock bags for later use.

Grumpys and Planning

Wow! Unfortuntly today has been more about surviving than thriving. Rebel (Captian decided he liked Rebel better and truthfully it fits him better) caught a stomach bug over the weekend and was still not feeling well this morning. Princess got a blister on her heel, that had popped and she was having an extra hard time leaving me today, so she was crying and not wanting to go to school. UGH! I had Princess soak her foot in warm water with tea tree oil, then bandaged it. Since, it was such a hard day for her to leave me, she has her dragonfly “tattoo” and my dragonfly necklace and there were still tears at drop off. It breaks my heart, I just want to grab her up and take her home, even though I know I can’t.

Monkey is teething, which makes him sensitive and micheveous. If he doesn’t get what he wants he throws a tantrum, even outside didn’t make him completely happy, he gets into things he knows he isn’t supposed to touch. My usual bag of tricks are not making him happy, oh joy!

My plan was to work on some planning for next school year. I would like to put together a daily calendar notebook for Princess and a tot book for Monkey. There are many examples online and some great free downloads. I just need to decide which I want to use or if I want to do a mix. Some things others put in a notebook, I can just do on my calendar board since I will only be doing it with Princess. However, I want this notebook to be something she can do for a few minutes on her own while I am busy with Monkey. Sometimes we will do them together to give Monkey something while I am working with Princess hence, his tot school notebook.

Some of my favorite sites that I am looking at for their notebooks are:

Confessions of a Homeschooler

Homeschool Creations


Tot Time Notebook @ 1+1+1=1

In an attempt to make tonight easier for dinner, I did throw a lamb roast in the crock pot. I loosely followed a recipe from Emeril Lagasse, Rosemary and Garlic Roast Leg of Lamb. I forgot the lemon juice and since I was using the crock pot I added a little white wine in the bottom, plus I didn’t roast the veggies, I made garlic mashed potatoes instead. I think it turned out really well. The kids…well…more for me and Jeremy.

Ready for a better day tomorrow!


Swings and Tools

I am so excited! I was able to get the kids a swing set from the Buy Nothing Project! If you don’t know about it I highly recommend you look for it in your area. Of course when you get something used and free I didn’t expect perfection, it is missing the see-saw part. Do I care, not at all! It also didn’t have instructions but, it was pretty straight forward. 


The kids were so excited, they may never come inside this summer! We did replace one of the swings with a toddler one for Monkey (which we already had but hadn’t been able to use because we didn’t have a tree in a good location that was big enough.) 


Monkey really wanted to help put the swing together but wasn’t quite big enough. Now I would not recommend this for most toddlers but I knew Monkey would be able to be safe plus, I was right next to him the whole time. I grabbed a bunch of bolts and nuts and a couple screwdrivers, put them in his sensory tub and let him explore! He loved it and it passed the time till the swing set was ready. 


Heading back outside to thrive in the sun!


Chores and Cookies

My house was in shambles after packing and unpacking, a 24 hour stomach bug hitting. I needed to clean, but I needed every one to help. I made up this chore game a couple years ago and it works well, but it can be slow. I take a cup for each area I want cleaned. This time I did living room, dining room, school room, bath room, bed room and other. On little slips of paper I write a specific chore in that room such as clean toilet, organize book shelf, sweep and in other things like wipe light switches. I also throw in a few 15 minute breaks and Stop every one make their bed. You will notice kitchen isn’t an option, Jeremy chose to deep clean the kitchen and I help when someone draws a chore they still struggle with and check to make sure things are done. Each cup is numbered 1-6, the kids roll a dice and choose a slip from that number cup. When a cup is empty I just assign its number to another cup.  


As a treat for all their hard work, I made some sugar-free oatmeal, peanut butter, chocolate chip cookies! When I was growing up my parents made these (not sugar-free) but I have lost the recipe. Britney and I played around tweeting recipes for awhile before we came up with these, they are darn close,  but  not perfect!  


Super Duper Oatmeal Cookies (sugar free)

3/4 cup softened butter

1 cup stevia

1/2 cup agave

1/4 cup water


1tsp vanilla

1cup flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

 3 Tbsn Peanut Butter

1tsp cinnamon

3 cups oatmeal

1 cup sugar free chocolate chips*

Cream butter, stevia, agave, water, egg and vanilla until fluffy. Mix in rest of ingredients. Bake at 350 for 8 minutes.

Makes about 3 1/2 dozen

*so far they only place I have found that carry these so far is Walmart or online.

Find your way to thrive!


Failure and Success!

Our camping adventure was an epic failure. Since we had decided at the last minute (a week before Memorial Day ) we were to late to reserve a spot. We chose to try and get a spot at a national park that was first come first serve. First, we hit way more traffic then we anticipated, then we finally, after about 3 hours, made it to the campground which was completely full. We looked at some other campgrounds but again all full. Finally at 8pm we found a spot that was available for just the one night. We got the tent set up, in the rain, beds made and by 10pm every one in bed. Once we laid down and tried to sleep my muscles we all so sore I started cramping with no room to move. By 2am I had not slept and our air mattress deflated. Jeremy and I moved to the car with the shivering dogs, finally got a couple hours sleep. All I wanted by that pint was to go home. We woke up at 6 am had a quick breakfast packed up and came home. 

Yesterday we spent recovering and sleeping. However we made plans with Britney and Monkey to go to the zoo today. So we got up, ate yummy breakfast burritos, packed a picnic lunch and off we went.  


We saw elephants and tigers and monkeys, a tortoise and jelly fish, plus lots more! 


Of course we played in the kid’s zone! 

      On our way home we stopped at a garage sale and found a Dora power wheels for Monkey that we are going to re make into a Batmobile for his birthday. I will post about the project. 

Now dinner and a movie!  

Packing Up

Today has been crazy getting packed up the weekend. We realized the camping boxes were not as organized as I thought so basically had to pull everything out and repack them. Then we still had to go grocery shopping, I had planned spaghetti for a dinner because I know in the past I found a jarred sauce that didn’t have sugar, but either they changed the recipe or I was just blind today. So I had to add in making a quick sauce before we go. I had also planned on making some cookies to take with us, but not sure I will have time to make them.

We are trying out a new campfire popcorn that I found, I am excited to try it because with Captain’s sugar allergy we can’t do s’mores but have found that popcorn is fun over the fire (or camp stove) but, jiffy pop is so expensive and not as healthy as making your own. Here is what we are trying:

Campfire Popcorn Satchels

Campfire Popcorn Satchels
David Tsay
Hands-On Time 5 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Serves 1


2 tablespoons popcorn kernels
2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
aluminum foil


  1. Place the popcorn and oil on an 18-inch square of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Seal the edges to form a loose pouch, leaving room for the kernels to pop. Tie a corner of the pouch to a stick with a piece of string. Shake over a fire until popped.

Also here is the hammock that we got and so far we love it, easy to set up and very comfortable. As a matter of fact Captain finds it very calming and actually did all his homework in it last night without giving me any problems at all. And that is a miracle in itself!

Equip Travel Hammock, Blue

Three hours left before we leave, still have to finish packing up and making sure everything is ready for the house sitter, so she can find all the chicken food and everything else 🙂

I will tell you all about our adventures when we get back so till then have a great weekend!


Swinging and Nature Walk

Sleeping last night was not much better, I am so tired I just want to curl up and take a nap. On the other hand I am so excited for this weekend, by this time tomorrow we will be packing up the car, filling coolers and as soon as kids are out of school heading to the mountains.

We did some testing of the new hammock before we take it camping. I have the feeling I will be needing to pick up a couple more over the course of the summer. Captain and Princess were arguing over who got to take a nap in it first after school. Princess got her turn, but Captain was the one that actually did fall asleep and take a nap, and for the kid who has trouble sleeping that was quite the triumph. It was super simple to hang up, the knots were already tied all you had to do was put the rope around a tree and clip the metal clip. I meant to take some pictures, but got caught up in setting it up and testing it out. I did get some this morning of Monkey, although he didn’t like to lay down (that might me he had to take a nap) he loved sitting in it and swinging back and forth.

Monkey swinging in the hammock.
Monkey swinging in the hammock.

Today also as part of tot school Monkey and I played a new game. I have seen this on several sites, I have no idea who the first one to come up with it is to credit them. It is a simple game using a paper towel holder, the kind with a post that stands up, and cheap shower curtain rings.

photo 1

I loved how careful he was playing with this, he would slide the rings all the way to the bottom, not just let them drop. He also discovered the smaller pole and put a few rings on to it. Although he was not really happy with me when he was finished and i wanted to put the rings back into the basket. He took the basket and put it away on the shelf where it belongs but wanted to keep the rings on the stand. Monkey was very proud of his hard work.

After I showed him the hammock, there was no way our outdoor loving boy was ready to go back inside! Instead we went on a nature walk, talking about all the colors that are out and blooming right now. We saw red, white and yellow roses, green shiny leaves, orange poppies and gray rocks. Then to our surprise we saw the apple tree was starting to get the small apples on it. We also found some that had fallen off the tree and explored them, along with a few leave that we were not as careful with as we should have been and came off in our hand. Monkey was so excited to see the tiny apples starting to grow, later in summer and fall it is one of his favorite things to go into the yard and pick an apple off the tree and eat it.

photo 4photo 5

Besides the usual coloring, blocks and stickers that was most of our day at tot school.

Soon it is off to pick up the big kids from school and head to music lessons! I am excited about that because there is a nice used book store right by lessons and I want to make sure everyone has some reading material for camping.

Do something today that makes you thrive!