Home Updates

Alongside the frenetic harvest and preservation activity that I’m driven to in the autumn, is also a focus on home improvement. 

When we begin to think about closing up the doors and windows, my mind turns to creating a simple and calming space to spend the next two seasons. The first step is always clearing out the accumulated layers of dust and haphazardly strewn bags of drying herbs or seeds. 

Then, I start to see the faded, scratched, and in need of repair. The house list is very long, but we’ve begun! 

Some things I’ve done for our home recently are:

Scrubbed and varnished the front door.

Gathered all the mismatched and stained dishtowels and rags (and one linen napkin) and dyed them blue. They’re a royal blue but the photo on the right shows them lighter. I included a pair of nearly white faded jeans in the load as well.

Tidied our very small front step entry. I swept the steps for the first time in ages, composted the old doormat and ordered a new one. I also removed the random bricks and empty plant pots that had gathered.

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Convenient Flatbread

There’s no meal I love more than some sort of legumes served with flatbread. Black bean soup or red beans and rice with corn tortillas, dosas (bonus: legume flatbread!) and dhal, Ethiopian injera with lentils… you get the idea! 

There are many I haven’t quite managed to replace since going gluten and dairy free a few years ago, including chapati, pita and naan. I tried a gluten free naan recipe over the summer and it was dry and we didn’t really eat it.

Last week I tried again, after making dhal and not having time for dosas. I found a ‘paleo naan’ recipe that avoided gluten free flour and we made it two days in a row. Our neighbour even requested the recipe after Honey shared some with her as they sat talking on our stoops (front steps for British readers). The recipe needs to be doubled for two people because we got 1.5 medium pancake sized pieces from my first batch. 

While it won’t taste like naan to you if you’ve had gluten-filled naan recently, it’s worth making!

  • It’s delicious
  • It’s quick to make
  • It’s versatile 
  • It’s supple and absorbent when using to sop up food 

The recipe from My Heart Beets calls for a 1:1:2 ratio of almond flour: tapioca flour: coconut milk.

  • I made coconut milk by power blending shredded coconut and water instead of opening a can. 
  • I added a sprinkle of yeast, onion seeds, and minced garlic. 
  • I also used smoked salt flakes for added depth.

Elderberry Harvest

On my walk home from work on Monday, I noticed that the elderberries were perfectly ripe. Since I had time and the berries were dry in the beautiful sunshine, I searched in my backpack for something to collect them in. Finding a gallon-ish size ziploc, I filled up the bag. 

As I removed the berries from the stems, I began loading batches into the dehydrator. I had planned on using some fresh that night for syrup but it took all evening to remove the foraged berries so I dehydrated all 2.75 pints worth. 

After dehydrating, I ended up with 3 cups, or 266g! I did a quick price check at the place I’d otherwise have to purchase dry elderberries and 266g charged at £3 for 50g would have cost me over £15. Considering the tree I foraged from is still dripping with berries, so both bird and human needs are met, that is a win in my books! 
The recipe I use is by Wellness Mama available here. In the past, the syrups (mostly the rose hip because the elderberry is Too Good to use slowly) I’ve made have spoiled because I use regular honey instead of raw honey. I’ve read that putting in 2 Tbs in a batch helps, so that’s my plan from now on. 

Vintage Crochet Garter

A good friend of mine is getting married today! For her hen night, I made her a vintage crochet garter with a ribbon in her favourite colour. It was a down to the wire gift, blocking it the night before and only weaving in the elastic (an improvement learned from making my sister’s crochet garter 9 years ago) and ribbon 30 minutes or so before we were due to leave. I had forgotten how long it takes to work on something so tiny. It is definitely a labour of love. 

  

Last Minute Flower Barrette 

We were due to leave for wedding #1 of the summer at 6pm. At 5:40pm, my wife started changing into the clothes she’d wear and I only had to pull my hair together. 

I planned on a bun that would withstand an evening of dancing. As I added the bobby pins I felt that something was missing and my thoughts landed on the flower that had fallen off the wreath, sitting forlorn on the stairs for the 3rd or 4th week. At 5:50pm, I dug out a barrette to sacrifice, my hot gluegun, dashed downstairs-grabbing the flower on the way down- pulled out a power converter  (my hot glue gun is ‘American’), plugged  the glue gun in and made myself a hairpiece. 

After my hair reached bun length, I should have known it was only a matter of time before I’d feel the need for a cardigan-matching flower for special occasions. 

 

Soapmaking, Take 1

It’s been on my summer bucket list for years, and now I can finally tick it off: soapmaking! 

Over the past few gardening seasons, I’ve dried and tucked away herbs for soapmaking, and began growing calendula last year for the same reason.
I told my parents that I’d probably buy soapmaking supplies with the money they sent me at Christmas, but then I used it for an indoor trampoline.
On reflection, I was a bit intimidated to try soapmaking alone, so when a sisterfriend said she was going to make soap, I was excited for her and gushed about it always being at the top of my to-try list. She suggested we try it together so we set a date and gathered our supplies. On Sunday, we met at hers, layered on the safety gear and gave it a go. 

1. It was much calmer than I had anticipated considering the warnings all over the internet. I had expected the lye to splatter and spit, but it didn’t even splash or ‘jump’. One helpful tip I read somewhere suggested to mix the lye into the water while the bowl was sitting in the kitchen sink, so we did that. 

2. We made a hot process and a cold process (led by the recipes we found and wanted to try) and I’m so glad it turned out that way because now they’re both my foundation for further experimentation. I don’t feel ‘tied’ or more familiar with one over the other. 

3. We started the hot process and as the lye solution cooled down, started weighing and melting the oils for the cold process. The cooking stage of the hot process is really where things slow down: as I stirred and stirred the hot process, she brought the cold process to trace and poured it into the molds! I saved juice cartons but we used lined loaf tins for better structure and portability. 

4. The hot process was a lard-free goatmilk soap that we scented with lavender essential oils and decorated with lavender flowers, and the cold was an olive oil blend from Little House in the Suburbs that we scented (essential oil) and topped with rosemary. The plant matter was gathered and dried from my garden. We ran both recipes through Brambleberry’s lye calculator. 

5. Next batch, I’ll infuse the oils and consider teas and other liquida. 

6. I don’t know yet how they’ve turned out, but I am so hooked. Making soap fits perfectly into the state change crafts /activities I love: take some liquids and a powder you shouldn’t ever touch, and create something that’s good for your skin. Win!

Some terrible, soapy puns I held back from the title:

Not going to lye, I’m hooked on soap.
Block out some time, I’ve a solid love for soapmaking.
Straight talk & clean speaking: adventures in soaping.
(Not sorry) 

Forgotten Photo Friday: Handmade, Sugar-free Chocolate Bars

Over the past year, Honey has reduced the amount of sugar she eats and now noticed that chocolate bars taste different to her. For Christmas, I chose a day when she would be away all day and late into the evening and made her chocolate.

I wanted to use a recipe that would create a hard chocolate that did not need to be refrigerated, was tempered (and thus shiny!), and sweetened with honey. I found the perfect recipe on Living Healthy with Chocolate. I used the silicone moulds we used to make our lotion bars for a nice chunky mouthful of chocolate.

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Crochet Unicorn

One day at work, a group of us ended up getting into a conversation about unicorns. A colleague said something that we all responded to and the conversation amused me as I reflected on it later. I love my workplace. 

I decided to make one colleague his own pet unicorn because I thought it would make him laugh and smile. I searched for yarn in my stash that would work. Finding the right colours in the same thickness was the challenge, but I finally hit on it. I used this pattern and brought the happy unicorn in to the office on the following Monday. 

Making the unicorn reminded me of how much I love making small surprises for people. With the backlog of crafting I feel I have, I had forgotten that. 

Yoga Bolster

Honey has gotten into crocheting amigurumi gifts and ordered a very large amount of poly-fill stuffing. We received a delivery of a 5 kilo box, in fact! I was getting tired of moving it out of the way to do yoga and wanted the spare room to go back together in a peaceful way after we painted it, so I used that as motivation to use some of the stuffing.

Handmade Yoga Bolster | Riotflower's Realm

I made a yoga bolster. Most bolsters I saw for sale were around 28 inches long but I wanted to have all of my neck and the bottom of my spine on at the same time, so I made ours 32 inches long. I cut fabric 32 by 28 inches, sewed it into a tube, found a pot lid to trace that would fit the ends, and traced that for the end fabric. Stuffing the bolster definitely took the longest. I used just under 2 large bags of filling and stuffed it while watching a movie one night and about an hour (at least?) on the next day. It’s dense, it’s solid, it’s heavy, and it’s perfect. I have enjoyed just laying on the bolster on my back and opening up my shoulders and chest gently with gravity. I am going to use the same fabric I used for my yoga mat bag to make a matching removable bolster cover.