There Is Such A Thing As Free Lunch!

I’ve always wondered how I would do stranded in the middle of nowhere with no food for days on end. I never did learn proper foraging skills (bad Girl Scout!) even though I know some wild plants are edible. I just don’t really know what any of them look like. Luckily, you can’t browse too many urban homesteading websites or read too many books without coming across a section on edible weeds. And then you can google pictures of those weeds. Thanks to modern technology, I’m about to eat weeds!  Totally free lunch. 

The other day this little plant I thought was clover grew little yellow flowers. Umm…. I have clover everywhere because, well, I planted it. And it spreads like wildfire. So when my pot with last years lettuce started growing this clover look-alike, I paid no notice-until the yellow flowers popped up. I had to know if I should pull it since it was growing next to my volunteer lettuce from last year’s bolting. 

Turns out, it’s just wood sorrel. 

Turns out, that’s edible. 

Even better, it’s really good!

Sorrel growing next to volunteer cut-and-come-again lettuce

When someone says something is “lemony” they almost always mean it “tastes like dirt with a lemon flavor” to me. Or maybe that’s just my experience with lemon herbal teas! This stuff actually tastes like a squirt of lemon juice!  I was shocked when I chewed up that first leaf. So, it’s going into tonight’s salad along with some of that volunteer lettuce. Totally free greens for my salad!! Didn’t plant it or water it or tend to it in any  way. I love free lunch!

I wonder if the wild violets in the back yard taste as good…

Getting Soapy

Getting Soapy

In my efforts to eliminate icky chemicals in my home and on my body and become more self sufficient, I’ve decided to make soap. So, being me, I started to research because the only thing I actually knew about soapmaking was that I would need fat and lye. I think this knowledge came from some social studies discussion in elementary school about why people didn’t wash themselves but once a week on Sundays umpteen years ago. But it could have been something my great-grandmothers told me in passing as a child too…who knows? 

So I googled (I think it’s neat that when I started school that wasn’t even a word and now it’s a real verb) “soap making supplies” and got awfully confused. The top hits were all about melt and pour bases and the fun add-in bits. I’m an over achiever. I haven’t made cake from a box since I was 12, so why on earth would I want to skip the fun steps in making soap? I want to start from the beginning! 

Five google pages later I figure out that the soap I’m talking about making is called Cold Process Soap. New Google search with all the right words. I looked at all these web sites and got really really tired. I wanted a kit. Somebody please sell me everything I need to make some soap in one box under one price so I can get moving on this project! 

Enter Bramble Berry. Their Natural Soap for Beginners Kit came with everything I needed to start except a stick blender and a spatula. I ordered those on Amazon. Oh, and the kit had free shipping. Shipping oils is expensive! I already had a kitchen scale and gloves, so I looked into ordering the rest of the supplies individually but that shipping charge made the scale free. I ordered the kit. 

The reason I like this kit so much is that it comes with extra of everything except oil, fragrance and colorant. So for my second loaf of soap I only have to order those things. I’m still working on making those decisions, but I do know after round one, there will be more soap made in this house. 

Soaping is so easy! Here are some tips that aren’t in the instructions:

If you don’t mix your lye water outdoors, the range hood works wonders for sucking up the fumes. Mine is recirculating, but I’m short so it blew the fumes over my head. 

If you don’t or can’t go outside, or use the rangehood, put the bowl as far away as you can while still safely stirring. The fumes didn’t seem to have any odor but I sure started coughing when I got a whiff. 

Expect to not be able to move your lye bowl without oven mitts for at least half an hour. My lye got to 175 degrees F using cold water from the fridge which is set to 36 degrees. That bowl was straight from the microwave hot just from the reaction.   And it took forever to cool down. I had a full 30 minute break. Next time I’ll probably start my lye then measure everything else out while I wait for it to cool. 

Now if you have children or nosy cats, this may not be an option, but I let my soaping pot, stick blender and spatula hang out for a couple days and used the soap left on them to clean them. I figured it was safer to stick my finger in the stick blender head to wipe out the soap chunk once the saponification process was complete. Those blades are sharp so I didn’t want to risk a burn through a nicked glove-or ruin my gloves by poking holes in them. I feel obligated to mention that when you stick your finger in a blender head, make sure it is not plugged in, just in case. I got the Cuisinart with the detachable head. It’s pretty awesome. And I don’t have to worry about getting water in the motor while cleaning-totally worth the extra $20. 

When I get my next batch of oils, I’ll put up a full post on the process! 

The Bramble Berry link is not an affiliate link and they have no idea I posted about their products but they made my life a little easier so I’m a fan. I did not receive any compensation for mentioning their product, I just enjoyed my experience with it. 

Phone upgrade time!

I finally upgraded my iPhone 5s. The poor thing’s battery was shot and the system was starting to freak out and no longer ran smoothly so when Verizon offered to give me oodles of money for my old phone to upgrade to the newest, I decided to take it. I had actually been waiting for the iPhone 7 to come out so I could take advantage of a price decrease on the 6s since it was no longer the newest technology, but it turned out with the trade in promotion, getting the 7 was a much better deal. I’m going to give you my thoughts on the fancy new phone here. 

Likes

Touch ID-if you’ve had the iPhone 6 or 6s, this is nothing new, but it’s a feature I really like especially since the passcode has been expanded to 6 numbers. It’s super fast to open your locked phone. 

Night Shift-I was first introduced to a feature like this in the Oyster reading app. The screen slowly reduces the blue light emitted so your sleep patterns are less impacted by after dark phone use. The Oyster app used shades of red, iPhone is using yellow. It’s not as good, but it is system wide and much easier on my eyes this evening. I don’t know if this feature is new the 7, but I like it. 

Hey Siri-I like being able to yell at my phone while driving to get Siri to call or text people for me. I don’t have to reach into the cup holder or dig around in the front seat or my bag to get to my phone. Now if they could get Siri to better understand my hodgepodge of accents so she got all the words right, it would be close to my favorite feature. 

Apple Pay-I haven’t actually been able to use Apple Pay at the store yet but as more stores pick up the technology, Apple Pay will make up for my new phone case not having a slot for my debit card. Digging around for my wallet is not fun and my phone has a dedicated pouch on the inside of my bag that’s so much easier to reach. Better yet, Apple Pay is approved using my fingerprint through Touch ID so I don’t have to enter any long passwords. Life made simple folks. My finger on my phone while I hold it next to the cash register is as secure as it gets these days. More sanitary than passing around cards and cash too. I mean, does anybody ever think to sanitize their credit cards besides me? 

Swipe right for camera-This is great. I can’t tell you how many times I managed to miss the little camera icon to take a quick picture and by the time I got my finger in the right place the photo op was over. PS the pictures are clear. Really good camera on this phone. It’s not going to replace my DSLR any time soon, but perfect for snapshots. 

Dislikes

Apple products are pretty intuitive so I have a hard time really disliking anything, but some subtle differences in iOS 10 are annoying. My music quick button has its own page now. I used to just swipe up and click play; now I swipe up and right and click play. More work? Why? What was wrong with the old layout? But that’s probably just me. I’m the girl with all the folders on my home screen so I only have 1 page of apps. 

It’s a big phone. I resisted upgrading when my old phone first started going bananas because the phones are all so big. I can no longer have my phone securely in my back pocket. The extra screen space is nice and all and yes, there are bigger phones out there, but my hands are small and portability without a clip of some sort is no longer hands free and I’ve never had good luck with clips staying on the waist band of my pants-most of which do not have belt loops. 

The Health app still doesn’t sync with my Fitbit. Hello Apple, fix this!

They moved the power button-iPhone 6 and 6s users are used to this by now but since my power button has been on the top for the last 5 or so years, it’s a little confusing for me and I keep accidentally pressing it. The volume buttons take up more room on the left side too so I’ve been accidentally squeezing those as well. It’s going to take some getting used to. 

Other Notables

No dedicated headphone jack-I haven’t used the headphone jack since I got my LG Tones Bluetooth headset and a Bluetooth stereo for my car, so this is not an issue for me, but others might find the inability to charge the device while listening to music or talking with the wired headphones very inconvenient. 

Water resistant, not waterproof-I’m just glad if somebody dumps their drink over or my phone slips out of my hand during a bath I no longer have to seal it in rice and pray it still works afterward. I have no desire to use it underwater and if I want an underwater photo, I have an Olympus camera for that. 

There you have it folks! The iPhone 7 is mostly user friendly and is definitely a worthwhile purchase if you have an older iPhone to trade in right now. I suspect that since there weren’t that many new features, the great trade in deal was sponsored by Apple to drive sales, but that’s just fine by me. 

Sunday Confessional-I’ve never had my nails done

I’ve always loved the look of manicured nails. All the pretty colors and even some fun designs make me smile. In fact, no matter how natural my lifestyle gets, I’ll probably always be obsessed with the perfectly polished manicure. 

There’s a little hitch in that obsession though: I absolutely cannot keep nail polish on my nails for more than 24 hours. If I manage to not bump, scrape or otherwise destroy the polish before it dries, it chips as soon as it dries. It drives me insane! Top coats, quick-dry drops, nothing helped. I gave up for a while, but working in a professional office setting it is expected that you have clean, tidy nails even if they aren’t polished. Mine are thin, so they always look dirty except for the 20 minutes immediately after I get out of the shower. They also break if you look at them wrong so they stay uneven. Not very professional. I had to do something about this and having never been into a nail salon, I wasn’t about to take up the $30-$60 a week habit. 

Enter press-on nails. These are always too long for me. I like my nail to stop at the end of my finger. I was not able to find a company that sold simple press-on or glue-on nails short enough until I met ImPress. These are flexible and they can’t chip because the color goes all the way through. You can cut the plain ones too. I thought I had a fix. One day I realized my nails were getting thinner and really bad ridges. My left thumb nail was actually growing into a W and splitting.  I nearly cried. Now what?

Hello gel. I broke down and got an LED gel polish kit.  No lie, this stuff lasts 10 days and I have no extra ridges. Added bonus: nobody believes I have never had my nails professionally done. I get pretty nails and look the part of the professional without the high price tag. I spent about $100 on the kit and a few polish colors but I haven’t needed anything to keep my nails polished for over a year and my bottles are nowhere near empty. It’s been worth it to get the professional look I need and it keeps my wallet happy. 

My First Time with Castile Soap

In my search to lead a less chemical-laden life, I came across Castile soap. So of course, I had to try it. But I was skeptical because if this soap is so great, why aren’t people still using it? I’m pretty sure now the answer lies in lye and soap residue, but while my skin freaks out over some of the new fangled personal care products on the market, it seems to be ok with the classics. Then I had to find the stuff. 

Sticker shock! $14.99 for a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s that was smaller than my $4 Olay! Now I really had to try it so I could determine if it was worth it to learn how to make the stuff. No way was this going to fit in the budget for that price. I bought the small bottle of unscented which hurt my bulk-loving heart, but gave me peace in knowing that if this new relationship didn’t work out, I wasn’t stuck with a big bottle of soap I wasn’t going to use. 

The instructions on the Dr. Bronner’s bottle start with Dilute! Dilute! Ok! Awesome, this tiny bottle should last a while!  And dilute I did. I pulled out a smaller squeeze bottle and filled it with half soap and half water. Then I added some yummy grapefruit essential oil to the bottle to wake me up in the morning.  Of course, I labeled it with my BFF label maker and plopped the bottle in the shower. 

Good Morning! I popped my smelly self into the shower for a test drive and squirted the soap onto my trusty pouf. It ran through…I started scrubbing anyway. Now Dr. Bronner’s specifically states the ingredients and separately notes that there are no foaming agents in their soap, but the lather was amazing!  I finished up and toweled off. I have to admit, Skin so Soft has nothing on this stuff. My skin had been dry and itchy for days and I had been avoiding soaping any unnecessary body parts, but I came out of that shower smelling clean, feeling moisturized and best of all, not itchy. I believe this soap is a keeper and now I’ll be figuring out how to make my own.