96. Soap and Christmas

2015 christmas treeChristmas around here is uproarious. With 6-9 young adults and two dogs coming and going, games and food are constantly on the table, or in the case of the dogs, on the floor (for a split second.)In a rebellious moment, I decided to eschew all the traditional Christmas tree decorations and simply use the Chinese lantern (Physalis alkekengi) skeletons from the plants originating with a gift our niece gave me 3 years ago, plus pine cones, and birds. Thankfully, the ‘kids’ did most of the placement, so I didn’t have to climb those ladders.

The dishwasher and clotheswashers are in full throttle. Sauna and steam room likewise. Space heaters and seasonal lights, too.  We all use much more energy than little ol’ D and I use when we’re here alone.

The whole point of Christmas is to spend time together as a family. Over the years, we’ve reduced our commercial footprint to nearly nil. Now, we each contribute a small, often hand-made gift to each other’s stocking. Each year, I’m impressed anew with the thought and originality of each person’s contribution.hemlock with jack-o-lantern plant

I’ve long wanted to learn to make soap, and a short lecture at our local botanical garden got me started. I managed to make three kinds of soap (Skin Rx hockey puck, eucalyptus, and calendula/borage), some beard balm and beard oil, and foot soak for the stockings, and it was fun!

To make cold-process soap, the basic ingredients are lye, water, and oils. There are plenty of recipes online, and it’s important to learn about the process before you make a batch, because the lye can be dangerous, the proportions of oils to lye vary depending on the oils used, and the additives must be added at a certain stage. My goals are to use organic and vegan ingredients as far as possible.

I’m most proud of my hockey puck soap (so Canadian) – it’s got activated charcoal and a luffa sponge that I grew myself (seeds from West Coast Seeds.) Activated charcoal is often used in face masques to detoxify skin and scour out bacteria.

This is what the Miriam Sponge Gourd (loofa) looks like:loofah Collage

And here are my proportions for Hockey Puck Skin Rx soap (basic recipe courtesy of Lexi, the teacher):

19 oz olive oil (pomace), 15 oz palm oil, 8 oz coconut oil, 3 oz sweet almond oil, 6.1 oz lye (NaOH), 14.9 oz distilled water, 1 oz lemon grass oil, 1.5 oz activated charcoal, 1 loofa sponge

I lined a 3″ pvc pipe, 12″ long, with baking parchment paper, taped plastic to the bottom, inserted the loofa, and poured the batter all around (beaten to a light trace – you will learn about this when you research.) After 72 hours, the soap had dried enough to shrink it, allowing me to slide it out of the tube. I cut it with the paper still on, which helped to hold it together, using a sharp filetting knife.

For another stocking gift, I used some old (clean) socks to corral soap nuts, which are actually the husks of nuts grown in India (purchased at The Soap Dispensary in Vancouver, BC, Canada, also available at many online soap-making suppliers.) They create a lather, and the little packets should wash 6-8 loads of laundry.soap nuts

And, just to give you a little giggle, here is the floor below our poor Charlie Brown bush-found hemlock (I requested a fir), 4 days after we installed it:dropping hemlock needles Thanks for reading, and Happy Gnu Year.

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90. My Happy Place – Mothers’ Day

Yesterday was Mothers’ Day. Our family has declared that both Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day are Hallmark holidays. Nevertheless, I decided to only do activities that I love, activities that take me to my peaceful zone.

The sun wakes me every morning. bedroom sunrise

I started with my usual cup of tea, made for me by my sweetie – did I ever tell you how much I love tea? (Oh, and how much I love my sweetie?)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen, I went out to the garden to pick an early season tussie-mussie. As I wander in the garden, I see plants that remind me of people I appreciate and cherish. The old ranch rhubarb brings memories of my parents and grandparents.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe medicinal garden brings back the fun experience of designing it with our daughter, who declared she didn’t want a bouquet of roses like her fellow university graduates. Rather, to really commemorate her graduation, she wanted me to buy plants and seeds for the medicinal garden, and then she planted them with me.pondEvery area of the yard reminds me of our 33 WWOOFers over three summers. They have left their mark in the most beautiful ways.patio with hammock

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIrises came to the garden from my friend, Cathy. Peonies were a gift from my father and brother for my birthday two years ago.birthday peonies

And, I could go on and on. Suffice to say that a day spent in the garden, even weeding, or hiking in the forest, gets my serotonin happening big time.

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bird at feederBirds are singing. The sun is shining. D is making dinner while I lay in the hammock, reading.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter dinner, a card game and a movie (Driving Lessons), with both a foot rub and a hand rub! And finally to bed, in sheets that have been laundered and hung on the line – wow! The best smell in the world, and I feel so content, so lucky. bedroom at nightIt IS the small things that give pleasure and meaning in my day. Ahhh!reflected sunset

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85. Easy Christmas Colour

When asked if I’ve started decorating the house for Christmas, I said I hadn’t given it much thought. I’m a little less enthusiastic about doing it when I don’t have company.christmas decor 2

But then I realized that our year-round decor colours are red and green, anyway, so I’ve got an unintentional start. (The vintage chesterfield and chairs belonged to my parents. When we received them about 20 years ago, they had been left outside to become a village for mice, so we had them stripped and recovered in green velour.)christmas decor 1

I threw together a poinsettia wreath with five 2″ poinsettias and some bright green lichen that I collected a few years ago.poinsettia wreath

Dug out 29 years’ worth of annual Santa photos. christmas furniture

The “kids” played a trick on me on Santa photography day last year. They staged a reproduction of the photo from 1989, dressing in similar clothes and mimicking the poses, body language and facial expressions from their younger selves. They and their (must-remain-anonymous) friends were rushing around and giggling for a while “backstage,” until I began to suspect the subterfuge and busted them. Screen Shot 2014-12-01 at 2.27.13 PMSanta photo then and nowAnd so I guess I have started decorating. And, it was fun, even though I have no company right now.

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66. Christmas at This Green House

 

this green house in snowhydrangea and holly

After my little rant about not decorating for the blog, but just for us, D and I cut back some weed alder we planned to take to the green waste site. I decided to bring it into the house for solstice, on its way to the green waste, and it became our Christmas tree!deciduous christmas tree

I think it’s fitting that it’s in the dining room, because our loved ones will be sitting and supping under that tree, and they are, after all, our best gifts, at this time of the year or any other.fire and trees

Add some lights, birds and cones, and the usual collection of 6-pointed snowflakes (my most popular blog post ever on This Green Life.) Whenever guests come to visit around this time of year, we force them to cut us a new snowflake before we’ll give them sustenance. We have the most beautiful art flakes (and don’t accuse me of being an art flake myself!)bird on wire

red bird on alder branch Xmas

 

night lights

Mother Nature came along to help festify the decor outside.grapevine star in snow

garden gate in snow

house in snow

 

As Goldilocks once said, “It’s JUUUST right.”stairs in snow

baby food jar candles

Merry Christmas and Hoppy Gnu Yarrrrr to you and your dear ones.

 

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65. A Beachy Christmas

suitcases and railingBook club was at Anna’s this week.shell decorations

Anna is one talented woman. Her home/B&B has a flavour all its own, characterized by “beach.”driftwood post in kitchenannas bathroomJPG

So Anna’s hand-made Christmas decorations are all beach inspired, natch!mussel shell star

Anna uses driftwood and shells she’s collected herself.beachy trees

mussel star2

 

beach decoration Collage

I could hardly focus on the amazing book club food or even the book (Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand) because my eyes kept wandering to another glorious treasure.dining room light

And, after it was all over, Anna gave us each a handmade beach candle.shell candle

driftwood railingBook Lovers of Gibsons (BLOGS) thank you, Anna!

 

 

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