Monday, April 28, 2014

Chicken Chuckles

The puppy loved to watch the chicks 
Ok, we have only had chickens for a little over a year, but in that time we have had more than a few chuckles over their antics.  Considering how dark the world is I thought that everyone else could enjoy a chuckle too.

Captain, a normally rather dignified rooster
Captain is one of our two roosters.  He is not the alpha rooster though. When we were working on the upgrades to the coop, we took out the wire under roosts.  Well, he was ready for bed and was going to hop on the roosts.  He missed.  He fell down through the hole in the floor.  He made this hilarious squaaaaawk.  No kidding it was hilarious.  Imagine a dignified rooster that is all of a sudden in a surprised condition.  So I went into the house for dinner, and I was telling my folks what had happened.  Of course, I had to replicate the squawk.  My mom just about fell out of her chair she laughed so hard.  Even my sister said that I had done a perfect imitation of the squawk.  I don't know whether I should be offended or appreciative of that comment.
Goldy and Mama

After our first chick hatched , I was working on the coop upgrades.  I was in the coop measuring for several of the modifications.  And of course, I had to watch the chick just a little bit. ;)  Well, while the I was in there the chicken was awake and walking around in the nest boxes a little bit.  All of the sudden, She reaches up and starts pecking at her mother's bright red wattles.  I even managed to catch a picture.

They will just walk all over you  ;) 

My mom loved to play with the chicks.  She would pick them up and play with them.  The purpose was to make sure that they were comfortable with human contact and were able to deal with being picked up.  They would literally walk all over her.

I hope that you all have a wonderful week!

I am linking with the following blogs:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Monday, April 21, 2014

Camera Strap #2

New Camera Strap
I have needed another camera strap for when my first strap is is the laundry.  Living in the south, laundering the camera strap is definitely important.  I also am letting my brother borrow my camera and he thought that my other strap was a little too girly. 
The raw strip of gauze

I wanted to do a very simple strap that would be gender neutral so that I have a strap for my husband to be comfortable using.  I had some cotton cheesecloth and I thought that it would work nicely.  It is a wonderful light-weight material that is fairly strong.  This is not your standard cheesecloth from the grocery store.  It is about twice the weight of the grocery store variety.

To begin with, I ripped an eight inch strip from the selvage side of my material.  Ripping may sound like it would be problematic, but it actually ensures that the line will be straight.  It is pretty easy to do if you start with a small cut at one end.    
Pinned & ready to sew
After I got the material prepared, I pinned a double folded seam into the length of the material.  I fold once and then fold again and then pin.  This particular technique means that I won't have to worry about the edges raveling.  Since I sewed the material into a tube shape I didn't want to have to worry about the seam coming out after a couple of washes.

After sewing the seam, I made sure that all of the edges were caught in the seam.  After pulling all of the pins out of the seam, I rearranged the fabric to lie flat with the seam in the middle.
Rings sewed into the ends

In order to attach the strap to the camera  and the strap, I use large key rings.  I sewed a loop around the key ring folding the rough edge under to get a smooth finish.  This keeps the ends from raveling.  After this all that you need is to put clips on each of the key rings to attach to the camera body.

I hope that you had fun reading through this.  If you are interested in making your own camera strap, I hope that this will help.  If you have any questions please feel free to message me or leave a comment.  I check my comments frequently and I will do my best to answer any question that you might have.

I am linking with the following blogs:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Whipped Body Butter DIY

Whipped  Body Butter
Body butter is very expensive in most stores for the weight.  And while there are some tricks to making your own it is not impossible or even terribly difficult.  I use a variety of oils in my body butter, some of which are a little harder to find.  I also use one infused oil.

Melted oils and butters
The infused oil that I use in comfrey oil.  To make an infused oil start by drying the herbs that you wish to infuse into your oil.  If you do not dry the plant matter, you could easily end up with mold in your oil from the water content.  This is most definitely not the desired result.  Next you need you submerse your dried plant matter in oil.  My usual choice for this is olive oil.  Olive oil is readily available and fairly inexpensive.  I usually employ a gentle heat at this point to expedite the process, but it is not necessary.  You can let your oil sit and steep for several weeks shaking the oil periodically.  After the oil has reached the desired strength / color, it is very simple to strain out the plant matter.  A coffee filter in a sieve will work nicely.  You now have an infused oil to use.  This process works for flavor, color & plant properties.

Thickened oils
The first step of making your body butter is to measure all of your oils and melt them gently and slowly.  This is especially important in the case of shea butter which can become grainy if melted too quickly or to too high a temperature.  You can do this in a jar in a pan of boiling water or in short bursts in your microwave.  I stir well to mix the oils thoroughly before placing in the refrigerator.  The purpose of the refrigeration is to bring the temperature down to room temperature a little more quickly.  The recipe I use is one that I developed and includes the following oils and butters: Coconut oil, Mango Butter, Shea Butter, Hemp oil, Grapeseed oil, Comfrey infused Olive oil, Vitamin E.

First whipping of the oil
The next step is to use your whisk on your mixer to beat some air into you cooled oil mixture.  I like to beat the first time when the oils have collected a fairly good sized rim of cooled oil in the bowl.  I usually go three rounds of cooling and beating.  I also make sure that I scrape the bowls sides very well before I start beating each time to make sure that all of the mixture stays combined.

Each time I beat the oils until the color is uniform.  This is especially important on the first round of beating.  I also beat the oils until the texture starts to thin just a bit.  When this hint of thinning occurs I stop beating and return to the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes.  The third time of beating is usually sufficient to reach firm peaks when the beater is lifted out of the mixture.  At this point the body butter can either be piped or spooned into your desired container.

I am linking with the following blogs:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Wedding Cake Half & Half

The finished cake
I was asked to make a wedding cake for a young lady who had seen my last wedding cake made August a year and a half ago.  The bride and I met several times to make sure that I knew exactly what the couple wanted their wedding cake to be, including meeting with the groom as well once.  They chose a simple yellow cake with caramel filling topped with cream cheese icing.  They asked about doing camo on one side with a wedding dress on the other.  I convinced them that anything that we might use to get a camo look would not taste good.  We all agreed that taste was the most important factor. So they decided to go with the look of a log on one side and wedding dress on the other.
The Base for the cake

I had several people question whether it would look funny, but I was able to show them several examples of various aspects of the cake idea.  I spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out the best way to accomplish the look of bark without having to pipe it at the location.  I knew that I would only have a limited amount of time to put the cake together and decorate it.  I didn't want to have the wedding finish and not have the cake finished.
Pinecones from modeling chocolate

I started by getting the base for the cake.  My brother lost a lot of trees to a tornado 2 years ago.  Those tree trunks have been stacked in a pile and have had time to dry.  I asked one of my brothers to cut a slice off of the end of one log and he very sweetly agreed to do so.  I tried to use a belt sander to smooth it out and broke 2 belts due to moisture.  After buying a new belt for the belt sander, my husband very sweetly agreed to sand it for me.  After he finished sanding the top and bottom smooth, I used Danish oil and put multiple coats on the wood.  Unfortunately it didn't dry an much as I would have hoped.  I compensated by covering the top with a layer of plastic wrap.
First layer of the "bark"

My first steps for the actual cake was to make the chocolate "bark."  I took my chocolate to my parents house.  My mom has a granite counter top and I knew it would make a difference.  I melted the dark and milk chocolate on two sides of the same plate.  This allowed me to mix the two without loosing the color difference.  I used a small icing spatula to spread the chocolate in strips in a large piece of parchment paper.  By the time I had the paper filled up, the first one I placed were already cool and ready to pull off the paper.  This gave me thin strips of narrow chocolate.

While I was at my folks house I also made some modeling chocolate.  Fir this I also needed the granite counter tops.  I will post on this soon.  I used the modeling chocolate to make the pinecones for decorating the tree side of the cake.  I will post on these with the modeling chocolate.  

Cake topper made from chocolate
              The couple also needed a topper for the cake.  I thought it would work with the design of the cake to make it look somewhat like initials carved in the side of a tree.  I started by melting a couple of ounces of chocolate and pouring them into a heart shaped cookie cutter that I had lined with parchment paper to make removal easier.  After I had a good base I carved out two channels in the back of the heart and inserted trimmed skewers to be used for placing the topper on the cake.  I then poured more melted chocolate over the back to make the skewers secure.  After the chocolate cooled I used a piping bag to pipe chocolate around the edges a little at a time, after each addition I sprinkled finely shaved chocolate over the fresh chocolate.  I repeated this all the way around the edge and on the back side.  After all of this had cooled I used straight dark chocolate to "carve" the initials of the couple and the wedding date.                                    
Close-up of tree side
I spent two days baking the the different layers, giving them a light coat of icing to keep the crumbs from mixing with the final icing coat.  I then wrapped them tightly in plastic wrap before freezing them.  When Friday came around I pulled out the layers and filled them and iced them.  I did not stack them because I knew that I would be delivering the cake on my own and I didn't want to worry about ruining it.  I put each layer in a box and put them in the fridge until Saturday morning.

Saturday morning I loaded everything up and took the cake and everything I thought I might need for decorating the cake and took it all to the location.  Once I arrived I started by placing the wood on the table and covering it with plastic wrap.  I started stacking the layers.  I had already placed the posts the night before so it was just a matter of stacking them.  I did however decide to stack the layers offset.  Since the layers were 6", 8" and 10" I decided to give myself a little more room on the front side to decorate.
Tree side of the cake

As soon as I got all of the layers stacked, I got started on the decorating.  I started with the tree side of the cake.  I placed a layer of the chocolate 'bark" all the way around the side of the cake on all three layers.  Once the first layer was in place I started adding the second layer.  I used a piping bag to pipe a thin line down the center of the pieces of chocolate before placing the pieces offset from the first layer.  After the "bark" was all in place I piped some of the filling on the top of each layer and dragged a toothpick through the filling to simulate tree rings.  Then I placed the pinecones on the side.

To cover the dividing line between the two sides, I planned to use a fondant drape.  I took the fondant and the rolling pin with me so that the fondant would not dry out.  I laid out wax paper on the table.  I kneaded the fondant until it was smooth, then I rolled it out on the wax paper.  I rolled out a 4" wide strip that was long enough to go from the middle of the cake all the way down the side.  I crimped it down the length before placing it on the side of the cake like a drape.

Close-up of gown side pearls
After I finished the wood side, I placed the topper in the center of the top layer.  I placed the pinecones on one side and the gumpaste flowers that I had made around the base to hide the support skewers.  I used my piping bag to place a string design on the top edge of each layer.  After all of the piping was finished, I started placing sugar pearls.  I started with a short row at the top of each set of strings.  Next I place little groups of three all over the sides and top of the dress side layers.

Last but not least I added a row or icing pearls at the base of each layer.  I used the cream cheese for the dress side and I used the filling for the tree side.
Close-up of fondant divider

The cake received rave reviews from those at the reception.  And of course that totally follows my theory of what is important in any cake including a wedding cake.  If it doesn't taste good it is not worth making.  As usual I made the cakes and icing from scratch.

I am linking with the following blogs:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

Friday, April 11, 2014

More Flowers

Wild Johnny-Jump-Ups
I have been super busy with making a wedding cake this week.  I will post it next week.  In the mean time I thought I would share some more flowers with you.  I love this time of year mainly because of the flowers.

Grape Hyacinths 

White Daffodils & Pink Tulips

Apple Blossoms
 So here is a variety of beautiful blooms for your enjoyment.
Peach Blossoms

Red Tulips

Have a wonderful weekend!

I am linking with the following blogs:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Soapy Update

New batch Musical Lemon Lavender
I wanted to give you an updated view of several of my soaps.  I have made slight changes in several of my soaps.
New Batch Lavender Bliss
I ran out of my Lavender Bliss during my daughters fundraiser for American Heritage Girls.  It was great to sell so much soap, but it was difficult to get the soap made in time for me to deliver the orders.  I have changed this recipe just a tad.  I have added silk and also used zinc oxide to dress up this recipe as well.
Close-Up Chamomile Soother
 I also ran out of the Chamomile Soother.  I made the new recipe with silk and added the chamomile tea after I had the soap to trace.  I also added a bit of chamomile powder to the uncolored portion.
Chamomile Soother
I love the new soaps and I am thrilled with the way that these soap designs turned out.   I still have a lot of soap to make to rebuild my stock, but I am also looking forward to trying some new recipes, including a shampoo bar made with henna.  I also am looking forward to making some summer soaps.  I have plans for 5 or 6 new soaps in the next several months.  I look forward to sharing them with you as I make them.

I am linking with the following blogs:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Friday, April 4, 2014

Spring Beauty

                                      Fruit tree flowers
For those of you living where it is still cold and winter is still hanging on, I thought I would give you some pictures to brighten you day.  As someone who just moved south a few years ago, I remember how much I longed for the sight of flowers.


               A touch of purple
Weeping Cherry

                               A touch of white


                  A touch of yellow


                        A touch of pink

And no I am not trying to gloat.  But my sister-in-law just got 3 feet of snow on Monday and I am sure that she will appreciate a little pop of spring to get her through until spring arrives for her and for the rest of you with winter still hanging on.  So to all of you out there have a wonderful weekend and hang in there, spring is coming.

I am linking with the following blogs: