Special Offer - 20% off Coupon Code

Good Morning! So today is my birthday...I will not share how many this is heehee! BUT! I will share a coupon code because of this occasion :) Use code "LFN201" at checkout to recieve 20% off your order. Good until Feb. 29th.

Click Here to Visit My Etsy Shop!

Special Offer - FREE Shipping Coupon Code

Valentine's special this week only. Use coupon code "FREESHIP11" and get free shipping on any items in my shop! Feb. 13th-17th. Domestic shipping only.

Click Here to Visit My Etsy Shop!

A trip to the City / Chocolaterie Stam

So it's that blah time of year here in the midwest.  We were spoiled by an unseasonably warm January, some days almost to the 70's!  And now that the REAL winter is here I am getting cabin fever. 
So I have been keeping busy with creating some new products. And the highlight of my February so far was a quick trip to the city yesterday. A trip to see my sister and to take her some wonderful soap and lip balm geft sets I made to sell in her shop, Chocolaterie Stam.

The gorgeous gift set that I designed specifically for my sister's chocolate store.  Chocolaterie Stam is located in Papillion, NE in the Shadow Lake shopping center. 

My sister Suzi and I.

My sister and her family spent 5 years living in Germany and during that time fell in love with the European chocolates.  Stam chocolates originated in Amsterdam in the early 1900's at the hand of Jacobus Stam. Jocobus's great-grandson, Ton Stam, decided American would appreciate these fine chocolates.  I think he was right :)  They are the most wonderful chocolates I could have ever dreamed of!  Fresh cream and nut filled bonbons is something that American chocolate companies just don't make. 

 My soaps on display.  I searched high and low for just the right packaging to be worthy of this splendid store.

Not only is this store elegant, but it has such a comfortable and inviting atmosphere. 

A full case of decadent bonbons!

These chocolate mice are a favorite in my family.  They come in white, milk, and dark chocolate.  So cute and yummy :)

Aahhhh Gelato!!  What is gelato you say?  It's the Italian's version of ice cream.  I wouldn't even call it ice cream, it's in a league of it's own. Gelato has less butterfat, therefore is less solidly frozen and melts in the mouth faster. Gelato has a much higher density than ice cream, no air is whipped into gelato like traditional ice creams. And lastly, because it is less solidly frozen, gelato’s taste is further enhanced as it melts in the mouth.  And with flavors like "Turtle Cheesecake", "Coffee Crunch", and "Yellow Cake Batter" (my favorite) you don't want to miss a bit  that glorious taste!

So if you happen to be in the Omaha area, be sure to stop in to Chocolaterie Stam.  Your Valentine will be "yours" forever with a gift from this shop.  You will thank me, I promise!!

Soap Making 101 - Part 3

Welcome to the last post of my Soap Making 101 series.
If you missed my last two posts, here they are:

Part 1 - Supplies / Ingredients
Part 2 - Recipe and instructions for Unscented Soap

Today I would like to give you a small summary of:
  • How to use natural ingredients to color and scent you soap
  • How to use a Lye calculator to make your own recipes
  • Links to sites with many recipes / tips and tricks

Coloring and Scenting the natural way:

I started my soap journey just as a hobby,  so I didn't really want to sink too much money into it. But after my first batch was such a success, I wanted to try the different kinds I had seen.  So instead of buying all sorts of coloring and fragrance oils I found the recipes that used all natural ingredients.  It was later on that I learned how much better these options are for you.

I love this list of natural coloring options.  These types of natural dyes have been used for centuries.  Mostly from dark colored vegetables and leaves, these are all gentle with no harmful effects.
Some of these are added in as juice (like carrot juice in my soap above) in place of the water in your recipe, some are powdered that is added in toward the end (like cocoa powder).

A list of natural ingredients to color you soaps.

So onto scenting your soap. There is something about stepping into the shower with a really good smelling soap!  So my next goal was to find a natural way to scent my soap. 
Most of the oils have rich earthy smell, and that is good on it's own.  And Using cocoa butter will give your soap a chocolate smell.  But if you are wanting stronger and more exotic smells to your soap, you will need to use some kind of fragrance.  I try to only use essential oils as they are all natural. 

Generally you will use scent at 2% of your ounces of oils in your soap. 
For example:  The soap recipe I have given you is 44 oz of oils.  2% of that is .88 ounces (weighed).  Around 2 Tbs.
Here is a great link to calculate how much essential oil to use in your soap recipe.  Just plug in the numbers and it will do the rest. Wonderful to have!
Essential oil/ fragrance oil Calculator

Here is a site with some wonderful articles outlining just what essential oils are and how to safely use them.

But mostly, don't be afraid to be inventive.  So many natural things can made wonderful add ins to your soaps.  Spices, flowers, oatmeal, coffee grounds, just to name a few.

Start making your own recipes:

There is a HUGE amount of info that I could share with you here.  I will just summarize a bit. 

SOAPONIFICATION:  is the name given to the chemical reaction that occurs when a oil or fat is mixed with a strong alkali ( in our case is lye). The products of the reaction are two: soap and glycerin

Each kind of oil or fat has what is called a SAP (saponification)value. This SAP value tells you how much lye to use to completely soaponify the fat.   This calculation leads to a balanced reaction and will produce a mild soap with no lye left over.  Whew!!!

I am not going to share all the SAP values of all the oils/fats or the calculation to use.  If you are a beginner I'm sure you won't want to do it that way yet. 
So, here is a link to a fool proof way to make your own recipes.  Just like the fragrance calculator above, just plug in how much oils/fats you want to use and it will give you the amount of water and lye you will need. 

I also use this when trying out someone else's recipe just to check and make sure the calculations where done correctly.
Lye calculator

List of helpful links:


Supplies / ingredients

So there we have it!  I hope that you all enjoy my 101 series this month. 

I am working on beginner crochet tutorials for next month's series! I will also have more simple home cooking posts as well. 

See you then!

Soap Making 101 - Part 2

Welcome back everyone!  This is part 2 in my soap making series. 
 If you missed part 1 click HERE. I went over what supplies/ ingredients you need and where to find them.

So today I will have the recipe again and show you the magic of soap making!

This is a basic soap recipe that is great for any member of the family, especially those with sensitive skin.
18 oz Olive Oil 
11 oz Coconut Oil
11 oz  Palm  Oil      
4 oz Shea Butter    
13 oz water
6.2 oz Lye

One of the most important things you need to remember is that the recipe is in weighed ounces, not measured.  A digital scale with an ounces options is necessary here.  Postal scales work perfectly.
The scale should also have a TARE button for easier weighing.  The tare button cancels out the weight of your container before you add your ingredient so you get a true reading. 

For example:  My glass measuring cup weighs 18.6, I push the TARE button and it zeros it out.  I usually put my stainless steel pan right on here and push the TARE button each time I add a new ingredient. 

Here are my oils and shea butter all weighed and warming on the stove. All of the more solid ingredients need to be completely melted down.   Slow and low will keep it from overheating and reduces the time needed to cool it back down.

I weighed my lye and COLD water in two SEPARATE containers. 
Always add your lye to your water! 
Never water to the lye. I should be mixing as I add but I only had two hands at the time :)   Mix until your lye is dissolved.  It will look a little cloudy at first. 

Both have their thermometers and are ready to sit and cool.  My water/lye solution usually heats up to around 150 degrees or so.  I try to keep my oils from getting too warm, right now it's at 125 degrees.

Both need to cool down to around 100-110 degrees.  Some people say lower, but I have never had a problem with these temperatures on this recipe.

Ready to mix!

Slowly add the lye water to the oils. Again, I should have the mixer on but still missing that 3rd arm today- not where did I put that!?!   You can see how the mixture is getting combined and turning opaque.

I mix on low speed to start.  Then go from high to low intermittently. 

This is after about 5 min. of mixing.  It's starting to look like pudding but still isn't thick enough yet.
One of the things that I used to worry about is a little thing called TRACE. 

TRACE-   Your soap is ready to pour in your mold when you see this. A trace in your soap means you can see the line left behind when moving your blender around in the mixture.  I also take it to mean that when you lift your blender out you can heap up your soap into thick piles.  A little like making meringue. 

FALSE TRACE- Be careful of the false trace.   If you think your soap is ready, take a little time and stir the soap without the blender on.  Sometimes is only looks ready until you stir it down a bit.  Keep mixing until it is continually thick. This can be anywhere from 10-30 min.

Here is a video of what trace will look like.  My first time posting a video by the way, I hope I don't make you too dizzy.  OH, and please excuse BARNEY in the background, I didn't realize my camera would pick up sounds so easily!  haha!!

Alright!  Now the hard part is done and your almost there :)  Pour your soap into your prepared mold.  For a look at how to line a mold like this just click HERE.

Smooth out the top.  I like to add a little bit of pretty to the top of my soaps with a knife. 


Lid on.  If you mold doesn't have a lid you should find something to cover it that won't touch the soap.  I then cover up my soap with about 3-4 old thick towels.  Store in a safe place where is won't be disturbed.

You will need to keep a watch on your soap for the next step.  This is the time where your soap will heat up and go through the GEL phase.  .  The soap will start to heat up in the middle first and turn a bit more translucent and gel like.  It will slowly spread to the edges. (I wish I would have caught a picture sooner) The picture on the left shows that the gel has almost spread all the way.  The last picture shows the finished gel all the way to the edges. 
Uncover after this and sit it in a safe place to cool.  I usually leave it overnight. 

The next day you can tear off the freezer paper.  If you soap is still a little soft I would wait another day or so.  It will get harder. 
Cut your soap with a knife or other sharp utensil into your desired thickness.  I get around 13-14 (4 oz) bars with this recipe. 
Your soap IS NOT ready to use yet.  There is still too much lye present in the soap and will irritate your skin.  Soap should sit and dry, or CURE, for at least 4-5 weeks. 
Some soap makers use the "tongue test" when they suspect their soap might be ready.  Take a wet finger to the soap and then touch the tip of your tongue.  If it burns at all, the soap is not ready yet and needs to dry longer. 

SO!  There we have it.  I hope my instructions are easy to follow.  And I do hope that if you have been wanting to try your hand at soap making that this gets you going. 

If you have and questions or concerns I would be more than happy to try and help.
I would love to hear your stories and see pictures of your soaps too!

Next week I will have info for you on how to use natural colors and scents in your soaps,  how to use a lye calculator to invent your own recipes, and maybe some other goodies thrown in there.


Are you ready for Part 3?  Click HERE :)

Soap Making 101 - Part 1

I am so excited to be finally getting to this series!  Like I said in my "New Year" post, I will be posting a 101 tutorial series each month.  These posts will be a series of in depth tutorials, usually having to do with self sufficient living. 

So onto my first series.  Soap Making 101!  I aim to show you just how easy it is to make a basic soap that you and your family will love!

 In the next 3 weeks I will break it down into 3 separate posts:
  1. What supplies and ingredients you will need.  Where you can find them, maybe at home, in your nearest stores and/or websites where you can order them.  I will go over safety information as well. 
  2. A basic recipe for unscented soap.  Step by step instructions on how to make your soap complete with pictures. 
  3. Here I will go more in depth on different ingredients can be used for you soaps like:  oils, butters, fragrances, essential oils, and other add ins. I will also give you  links to many useful soap making sites.  Tips, recipes, and a lye calculator to be able to make your own recipes.

First lets go over the SUPPLIES you will need.  I'm sure you can find most of these in your kitchen.  Some people don't like to use the same items for cooking that they do for soap making.  And you can have your own separate stash for this, but most will be fine if you wash them. I will warn you about the ones that shouldn't be used for both. 

* Never use aluminum items, lye reacts violently with it.  Glass, ceramic, and stainless steel are the best choices for all supplies.

  •  2 cooking thermometers.  I use the metal one for the oils and the glass one for the lye solution. 
  • Two or three mixing utensils.  Stainless steel spoons are the best.  You can use wooden, but reserve it just for soap making, it can absorb lye and not be completely cleaned.  Rubber spatulas are the same way, they will also be slowly eaten away by the lye so they won't last long. 
  • Glass measuring cups.  I have two, one to weigh water and one to weigh out the lye. 

I would think all of these items can be either found in your home or at your local stores.

  • One STAINLESS STEEL PAN.  No aluminum, Teflon coated or anything that doesn't have the words "stainless steel" on the bottom just to be safe.  Your big chain store will have them. An average size sauce pan will be sufficient for this recipe.  
  • DIGITAL scale.  All ingredients will be weighed not measured.  I found this one in the postal section of Walmart for about  $15-$20.  Here are some more that are a bit pricey and one that that is $28.50.   http://www.thesage.com/catalog/Scales.html
  • STICK BLENDER.  Another item you should reserve just for soap making.  Your best friend in your modern soap making adventure.  Hand stirring can take 3 hours or longer, a stick blender cuts it down to about 20-30 min.  So with that in mind you need a stick blender that can last that long.  I have gone through a few (blew fuses with cheap ones) and found the best one is this model.  Hamilton Beach 59780R. This one is around $35 found at Walmart or online here on Amazon.  If you can't find this one, you can try others.  It should be one that has a least 2 speeds (these will be higher wattage) and try to find one that has a sealed shaft.  Ones that aren't sealed will whip air into your soap, you don't want that!

  • SOAP MOLD - this is the kind I use.  You can do a search for "wooden soap mold" and find many many kinds.  I would show you a link to where I got mine but he no longer makes them.   Mine is 3" deep, 13" long and 3 1/2" wide.  You can also you many household containers around this size, just line them with freezer paper. 
  • FREEZER PAPER - not wax paper, it needs to be thick
  • Tape and scissors to cut and tape your paper into your mold
Follow this link for an easy way to line your soap mold.

Last but not least would be SAFETY GEAR.  Working with lye can be risky.  It is a very strong base that will burn you on contact.  Here are some safety precautions and gear you should have.
  1. Rubber gloves
  2. Goggles
  3. Long sleeve shirt, apron
  4. Vinegar - is an acid that will help neutralize lye on skin and surfaces
*If you are working at home you are probably going to be in the kitchen.  Start with a clean kitchen, (hard for me sometimes haha!) no food or other items you could possibly contaminate unknowingly.  I also never let my kids in the kitchen when I am making soap.  Even a small splatter in an eye could have terrible consequences.  

I hope all that didn't scare you. Really it is not that terrible.  I have gotten lye granules and the raw soap on my hands numerous time and it just itched and burned a little.  I put a little vinegar on it and it was fine. 

So now onto the INGREDIENTS.

Your basic soap recipe will be as follows:
(I will have this again in the next part of the series)

18 oz Olive Oil 
11 oz Coconut Oil
11 oz  Palm  Oil      
4 oz Shea Butter    
13 oz water
6.2 oz Lye

Where to find your ingredients

The only ingredient I have been able to find in my local big chain stores is the Olive oil.  They have many kinds to choose from.  If you are wanting a higher quality, keep in mind you are going to get what you pay for, but they will all work nicely for your soap.

You may be able to find this in you local store, it comes under the name LouAna.  I have not been able to find it here in Iowa.  Health food stores may also have virgin coconut oil that will be more expensive.  Here are two soap making sites that sell Coconut oil.  MMS and The Soap Dish .

I have never heard of anyone finding this in a store.  I have to buy these online.  MMS and The Soap Dish also have Palm oil under the same section as the coconut oil.

This is the same senario as the Palm oil, see above.

Distilled/softened water is best.  If you have hard water I advise using distilled water as the lye does not dissolve as easily in  hard water. 

A few years back you could by lye in any store.  It was marketed as a drain cleaner.  People also use lye to make Meth so all lye has been taken off of most store's shelves.  I get my lye from a local Amish store, don't ask me why they can sell it, but I'm glad they are able to.  You may be able to ask a local store if they can order it for you.  For the rest of you, you will have to go online.  Most soap supply sites will sell it, but you have to buy other soap making ingredients at the same time.  The soap dish is a great site as you can buy you palm, coconut and shea butter there too.  They have small quantity options which I loved when I was just starting out. 

Those are just a few options.  Go ahead and do a search online and you may find better prices, there are MANY site out there.  Fun to look through too :)

So there is the very beginning folks.  I thought I would give you this up front so you may have time to gather your supplies before the soap making tutorial.

Ready for Part 2?  Click HERE


New Year, New Focus

Happy New Year 2012!

photo credit creativity103

Happy New Year to you all!  I always get so excited for the new year, don’t you?  I see it as a wonderful opportunity to start anew.  I don’t always have great big resolutions like some may, but I still like the feeling of a fresh new year with endless possibilities.
I also see it as a good time to reflect on the past year.  I am so thrilled that I finally have found a good opportunity to create and share.  Two things that I love to do.  I love creating my soaps, lip balms and other new products that will be coming soon.  Do what you love and you never work a day in your life, right? So far so good :)
 I am so thrilled to be sharing my products and my lifestyle experiences with you all.   I don’t see myself as a schooled expert in any field, but actual know-how beats any book smart person in my world.  (book knowledge will always have a pertinent place however, I am just referring to those who only regurgitate knowledge that has been feed to them)  But I worry that our world is headed in a terrible direction.  People without any actual “hands on experience” in taking care of themselves and their families are going to be in dire straights.  But that is a whole other can of worms that I won’t delve into today J
So on a more positive note,  I would like to share with you my more focused direction of my blog.  For the past year I have posted tips, tutorials, family moments, and info on my products.  Mostly all in the healthy/green style of living.  Nothing too in depth, just a few tidbits here and there. 

I want my blog to be more about simple, back to basics living.  I have found if I get too many  ideas running around in my head I tend to shut down.  Ever happen to you? haha!  I am going to have a more laid out plan for the blog, for my whole online life really, to be able to streamline my thoughts and stay sane!

So here are my ideas I have been scratching down on bits of paper lately.

First off, I am going to go by a monthly schedule rather than weekly.  Here is a few things that you can expect to see each month.

  • A 101 series.  By that I mean a series of tutorials for the month focusing on one big topic.  For example:  This month will be "Soap Making 101".  I will break down the process of making your own soap into a few blog posts all month long.  (It's already the 4th I should get that up soon huh?)
  • Simple Foods Tutorials.  Homecooking at it's most simple.  You will be able to find tutorials on basics cooking that many of us were never taught growing up. Nothing fancy...no Bananas Foster here (although it is really good!)  For example:  Making your own bread, noodles, yogurt, granola bars, ect. 
  • Sewing Tutorials.  I will have a 101 series on this as well.  But mostly you will find easy to follow sewing posts.  I will have a main focus of reusing to create new in this section.  Say maybe, turning an old pair of jeans into a purse.  I did that recently, so cute! 
  • Simply Clean.  Info on my most studied category!  I will have all posts about natural products, mine and others, to show you and to tell you about my research.   Whether it be soaps and such for the bath or for sanitizing your kitchen counters, I hope to show you how just a few natural ingredients can do it all. 
  • Frugal Living.  I love thrift stores, garage sales, or even finding new uses for things in my own home!  We live in a very fragile economy and a more "basics" type lifestyle could help anyone these days.  I am not so much of an expert on budgets, so you won't find much about cash flow here, but more of how to spend less and still have your needs filled. 
  • Self Sufficient How To.  I don't claim to know it all about self sufficient living, but I think I have a few things up my sleeve that could help you all.  I would include topics that don't have a place in say the sewing or cooking sections.  Topics like:  canning and preserving foods, gardening, fruit trees, raising animals, butchering chickens/rabbits, cleaning fish ect.  I am learning more all the time so I should be able to have much to share!
  • Farm Life.  Posts about my family and our everyday experiences of raising 4 kids and farm life. I realize that most people have never visited a real farm.  No, I'm not talking about a pumpkin patch at Halloween or Christmas tree farm.  A real Midwest farm complete with dirt, mud (which usually contains some kind of animal in it) and sweat.  No charming cute little farm house with a white picket fence, although I do think my house is nice and I would LOVE some white fence!  I like to post how we really live and share some work, fun times and otherwise with you all. 
  • Etsy Items.  Last but not least.  I never wanted this blog to be only about promoting my etsy shop and the things I sell.  That is for my facebook page. But I want to share my sales and such on here too.  I also will be highlighting the ingredients in my products and the benefits to your health.  I can have more "in depth" posts here on a blog.  Also will be comparisons to commercial products, like soaps, shampoos, ect.  And what their ingredients are and how they affect you.  No biases, just facts gathered from research.
I have a new look for my product line so I will be changing my banner here to match.  I should have new category labels in my sidebar and at the top soon as well.  Hopefully all will result in a more organized and user friendly blog for you to read. 
So there we have it.  It's not set in stone however, I may tweak it here and there.  I would like to post once or twice a week with an in depth post on these subjects.   I hope you enjoy your time here and find something useful on my blog.  And don't be shy, join right in an give some comments or ask questions!  I always love to read what you are thinking :)

Wishing you all a happy and healthy NEW YEAR!