I haven’t been here in a while. A big part of the “why” is that I had surgery on my hand and it’s difficult to type.

Another big part is the whole holiday thing. It’s not that I was incredibly busy, but the holidays were even more of a letdown than usual.

I moved back to New England so I could spend the depressing days if Merry-makin with my family. As you can probably guess, none of my family joined us for Christmas.

But I did get some great work done! I perfected my canna-caramel recipe! They absolutely love being made into chocolates! Creamy, buttery caramel, wrapped in dark chocolate. My friends can’t get enough!

Last, but definitely not least, I slipped on my doorstep in a snowstorm and crushed my ankle and foot. No, nothing broken! But I mangled the soft tissue. I have bruises on my bruises. So I’m pretty much just lying here on the couch with three cats as companions.

Hope your holidays were better than mine. Or at least less painful!

Thanksgiving blues

Thanksgiving is tough for me. I still cook my chunky butt off, but I no longer feel the joy. This  year I couldn’t even taste the food. If I can’t taste the food there’s definitely something wrong! 

I have reason to dislike Thanksgiving day. It’s not the date, I don’t even remember what the date was. But it was Thanksgiving day when my husband didn’t wake up. I snuck out of bed early and started to make something special for him. He loved  cornbread dressing. I (personally) hate the stuff, but he’d had a stroke a couple weeks earlier and was finally at home with me. I’d brought him home the night before Thanksgiving. So I was going to make exactly what he wanted. 

At 11 am I realized he still wasn’t up. I thought perhaps he was having some trouble getting out of the bed on his own. I went into the bedroom and shook him. He didn’t budge. Then I realized his body was hot! I tried to wake him again. I rushed to the phone and called 911 and Pat’s niece. She arrived just as the ambulance was pulling away. We drove to the hospital and they allowed us both into the treatment room with him. 

He had a fever of 103. Over the past two weeks they had completely missed the infection in his heart. It had caused the original stroke. Now the race was on to kill the infection. 

To make a long story short, after four different hospitals, a double valve replacement in his heart and three severe brain bleeds my husband finally succumbed to his illness on January 8, 2011. I’d spent Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year in the hospital alone with him. I’d put up the tree and had whispered to him (though he never answered) that I would keep the tree up until he came home. I finally gave in some time in August and took it down. 

So if I take a few days off during the holidays please try to understand that I’m having a hard time. And thank you for taking the time to read this. 

The Long and Endless Road

Learning is a passion for me. I love trying new things. So I add things to my list of “things I want to do” all the time and I take the time to try them! The latest few have been pretty fun for me. I’ve learned to spin wool, make soap, make hand creams and added to my herbal knowledge in the last year. That’s a lot! On top of that, I bought a farm house and moved from Florida to Maine.

Funny, the things I’ve learned in the last year I do every day. I work on the health and body products in some way every day and I spin to take a break. I can’t possibly tell you how much I’m enjoying my life at this point!

The beginning of this entry has meandered off point! I was going to tell you about my mishap with the hand cream I made yesterday. Or rather, the hand cream I tried to make yesterday. I measured carefully, heated everything and blended it together. But it didn’t emulsify! I had a beautiful cream with spots of oil all through it! I’ve tried several different things to get it “together”. I even reheated the entire thing and tried to blend it again. It didn’t work. I ended up with a layer of ricotta cheese (not really, just looks like it. . . a lot!) and a layer of milk. And no, there was no milk in it. So some of the oils did stay in the water. 

Today I melted it down completely and put it to chill so I could separate out the solids (oils) from the liquids. The water still looked like milk, but I got to decisive layers that could be separated. The oils are now wrapped in paper towel in the refrigerator. It should be all set to remelt at some point after I manage to get through Thanksgiving. 

OMG! I’d forgotten that tomorrow is Thanksgiving! But then, that’s another story. 

The methods to my madness

Part 1: Tinctures

Did I say “madness”? Ok, so maybe it’s just my unique slant on the world. Maybe it’s eccentricity. Or maybe I’m just a silly old woman who believes in spirituality and natural  remedies. It’s probably that I’m just goofy. Either way, I knew eventually I’d have to get down to some recipes. Well, they aren’t exactly recipes. They are a guide to making things that help. You should be able to follow it and get stuff made. I’m not trying to stonewall you by keeping my recipes to myself (My mother did that. I have 40 cousins all asking why their food doesn’t taste like my mother’s did even though they use her recipes. I guess she had the last laugh!)

So, where was I? Oh yes, methods! There are several different ways to get herbs into creams, lotions and foods. The first I’ll discuss is a tincture.

There are lots of things you can make a tincture with. First you need to choose the herb you plan to use. Sometimes the herb dictates the carrier (oil, alcohol or water) but most work well in any of them.  I think we’ll start with horehound.

Horehound is an herb that’s been used for ages as a cough, sore throat and cold remedy. Perhaps you remember horehound cough drops from your childhood. They may have been called “Old Fashioned Cough Drops”. They had a strong, minty flavor that nipped at the inside of your mouth and made it feel cold when you breathed in. 

You can buy horehound on Amazon, or you can grow it yourself! The particular plant/herb is White Horehound. It can be used fresh or dried. I’ve used it both ways and haven’t noticed much of a difference.

Since you’re going to be ingesting these we’ll use either water or good old booze to make our tincture. I’m going to be cooking these into a hard candy, so instead of using booze (probably high proof vodka or everclear) I’ll use water. I use mason jars for my tinctures. They have nice tight tops and can be heated or chilled. 

I use soft stems, leaves and flowers of horehound in my tincture. And we’re going to infuse it in water. There are two ways to do this. Either way you fill the jar with the horehound. Next you decide whether you’re going to make this today or later this week.

Today? Pour boiling water over the herbs and let it sit for a couple of hours to really steep. Yup, you’ve got it. We’ve made a tea! Teas are fast and easy tinctures and can be drank as is or used in recipes. 

If you’re making this later you can just pour cold water over it, cover it tight and place it in the refrigerator. It can sit there for up to two weeks, but is ready to use after 4 days. 

When making horehound cough drops you need to decide what level of medicinal you’d like. The cough drops work pretty well on their own, but a bit of cannabis helps without causing a big high.

Cannabis tinctures are a bit more involved. First you need to decarboxylate your herbs. Decarboxylation (and I know it’s probably spelled wrong, but spell check hates this word!) is easy, but it will make your entire house smell like a Cheech & Chong movie.

Set your oven on 200 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Break up your herbs and separate them so they’re pretty spread out. Clumps won’t decarboxylate as well. (I should tell you that I don’t use buds for this. Trimmings are a lot easier to use and really work rather well.) I sometimes use a coffee grinder to cut up the herbs, but I’ve found that it makes it very difficult to strain when using glycerin as my carrier. So I suggest you just let it be as it is, but break it into smaller pieces. OK, now place it into the oven for 40 minutes. Yep, that’s it! See, decarboxylation might sound difficult, but it’s really pretty easy!

Next put your herb into a mason jar (See, they keep coming up, and that will continue.) Pour vegetable glycerin over the herb until it’s just covered. You do not want this to come to the top of the jar! If it does, use a bigger jar!

The next step is the most tedious, waiting! Place the jar into a crock pot. Place the cover on and turn it to low. Now leave it alone for at least 6 hours. Overnight is good too. It won’t burn in the crock pot (unless the thermostat in the pot is broken) and it shouldn’t boil over. 

When you take it out pour it into a strainer that’s been lined with cheese cloth. Let it sit for several hours to strain through. You can gently squeeze the cheese cloth  at the end of the time, but don’t force the herb through the cloth. You want that dark green to remain liquid.

And if you’re planning to use some of that herb for yourself, the left over cannabis is sweet and can be used to make or added to and steeped as tea. It’s usually pretty potent still, though you need to use about a tablespoon or two for each cup. 

The next tincture we won’t be using at all after this because there’s just no use for it in the horehound cough drops. It’s an alcohol tincture. 

Prepare your herb by chopping  and or decarboxylating it. Use your own judgement on that. Next stuff it into a mason jar just like you did the other herbs. Next pour high proof vodka or Everclear over the herbs to cover them. Cover the jar and place in a cool, dark place for at least 4 weeks. This tincture can be strained and placed in a bottle with a dropper for dosing. (Remember, if you’re using cannabis it takes up to two hours for it to “kick in”. Always start with a small dose and wait for at least two hours before taking more. There’s nothing worse than a bad high!)

The last tincture is made with an oil carrier. This can be made exactly like the glycerin OR the alcohol tincture. Please note: if you aren’t using an edible oil please don’t use this in your food! Tinctures made in olive oil can be used for cooking. I often use a basil infused oil in my sauces and my husband loves to dip bread in rosemary and garlic infused oil. Herbs infused in sweet almond oil can be used in creams, salves, lotions and soaps. Actually, anything infused in olive or other vegetable oils can also be used in creams, salves, lotions and soaps. If it’s fat or oil you can make it into a topical.

OK folks, that’s it for today. In the next few days I’ll give you some instructions on how to make those cough drops. Hmm, now that I think about it, I’m out of them. Might be time to make more!

Should anyone ask. . .

Should anyone ask if homemade lotions and creams can be frozen, the answer is no! Of course, I learned that the hard way too!

I’d made some hand cream for a woman I know. I put it in my car and headed over to her house, but she wasn’t home. Since I was on my way to Houlton I thought I’d stop on my way back home. I did take the time to send her a text before I left, but didn’t receive a reply. She finally answered when I was just leaving Houlton. She said she was headed into Houlton and couldn’t meet with me. 

I got home and left the bag with her lotions right there on the car seat. In fact, I left it there for several days! By the time I finally met up with her the cream had separated big time! It was still white, but it looked more like ricotta than hand cream. 

Should anyone ask if you can save a cream like that, the answer is yes! I blended it again with my new handy dandy immersion blender. It took some doing. It wasn’t easy to blend because it was already pretty thick. On the other hand, I didn’t have to beat it for 10 minutes like I usually do.

So over all it wasn’t too bad. And I saved 4  3 oz volume containers of Borage oil cream. That’s about $80 worth of product. Definitely worth the extra work.

By the way, the whole “should anyone ask” thing? Please, feel free to ask. Knowing what you’re interested in will help me write what you want to read. 

Hope everyone is having a wonderful night. 

A long, great day out

Wow, I’m tired! But what a great day!

We left early for Millinocket. It’s about a 45 minute drive. After taking care of a quick stop at the hospital we stopped for lunch. I had a pastrami sandwich that was amazing. We met some nice people in the pizza parlor. I love that people actually sit down and talk with you just for the sake of being there. 

From there we picked up a few things at the Save a Lot store. Love that place! Then we hit the road for Lincoln. I needed to get a stuffed animal for my neighbor’s son’s birthday. Walmart made the most sense, so we headed further south just for that. It was such a nice ride! The stuffies were on sale for $4.98, so I grabbed two. I also got a replacement for the one piece of equipment anyone who makes soaps and creams needs; an immersion blender. Mine broke a couple days ago. I could still make it work, but had to hold the two halves of it separately. It was a pain in the you-know-what! Replacing it makes me happy. I’m glad I made enough yesterday to buy some groceries and that stupid blender! 

OK, so I didn’t do much hedge witchery today! But I made it so it will be better to do so tomorrow! I need to make more Borage oil lotion bars and get some photos done for the website. I put up three new products earlier today without photos. I know! Not the way to do business. I swear, I’ll get it done tomorrow. 

Farmers market

Today was the big market at Micmac Farms in Caribou. I made and sold 21 loaves of bread. That was great!

I brought all my soaps, lotions and creams, some of my sculpted cameos and a couple of Christmas decorations I’d made. And I sold a bit of everything!

I brought three containers of Borage oil cream. I didn’t expect to sell any, but I wanted to get a few samples out there to see how people like it. I opened one and made up 8 half ounce samples and handed them out to women my age or older after asking if they had arthritis in their hands. I spoke about the benefits of Borage oil, handed them a free sample, asking only that they try it. One woman returned about 20 minutes after I gave her the sample asking for the larger jar. She told me her hands felt better than they had in a long time. She was funny, as she came over, calling,”it works! It works!”

Yep! That was the high point of my day.

I missed my BLOG!!!!!

Yesterday I got up, spun, made shaving soap (don’t ask, it was a disaster! And yes, I’ll get to it eventually.)I waited until 11 for my neighbor to be ready to go for groceries. 

I should tell you, shopping these days is a chore rather than a pleasure. Up here in The County (Yup, they really call it that!) shopping means going to at least three different stores. First you hit the Dollar Tree for all the things you can get for a buck that won’t be all that different from the things you’d have to pay $5 for elsewhere.

After running through a good $20 at the Dollar Tree you head over to Walmart. The Walmart here isn’t a Super Walmart. There’s one row of fresh foods, a couple rows of freezers and three or four more rows with food. And they’re short rows! I was terribly surprised that they had Thanksgiving turkeys! 

After Walmart it’s time to hit the actual grocery store. There are a couple of good ones to choose from and there are days when you need to go to both to hit the sales. Between Walmart and the grocery store I can expect to spend at least $300 so I don’t need to keep going to town (30 minute drive) every few days. 

Once every month or so I make the sacrificial grocery drive to Bangor (hour and a half, give or take) to go to the BIG Walmart Super Store. Don’t even ask what I spend there! But what I save is worth the drive. 

Yeah, yesterday ended up being a shopping day. I got home exhausted, put away groceries,made a beef stew and went to bed!

Sorry I missed writing my blog!

Oh, the soap. . . Perhaps a picture will suffice. Lets just say that adding milks to soap makes it really creamy, but it turns the soap dark. 

Steve says shaving soap that looks like poo probably won’t sell well.

Head cold, continued

So. . . I made horehound cough drops. And to add an extra measure of “make me feel better” I added a small dose of glycerine based cannabis tincture to the finished, still hot and syrupy cough drops. Tiny gummy bear molds did a great job of pretending to be cough drop molds.

The dose was so small you’d need to eat a dozen to get high, but that’s the way I like it. I want the medical benefits of marijuana without being high.

They were amazing! They cleared my sinuses and soothed my throat. Ya gotta love it when a recipe works out just right!