Homemade Dog Shampoo for Sensitive Skin

When I fell in love with my dog Usha, I was fostering her because she had a doggie cold. Even though she was under the weather, it never affected her cheerful personality and exuberant energy. This girl loves to play. And play, and play. To Usha’s great pleasure, there’s an amazing dog park near us, and right next to the French Broad River to boot. Nothing like a great romp with friends, followed by a swim!

It’s dirty and fun, and watching dogs play is better than any t.v. show I’ve ever seen. Swimming all the time gave Usha some itchy skin though, which only got worse when I’d wash her with regular shampoo.

In my desire to make as much of my own products as possible, I came up with this recipe for her, which has been amazing. It’s mild, soothing, easy to make, and works great.

DIY Oatmeal Dog Shampoo

1 cup Oatmeal Water (directions below)

1 cup Apple Cider Vinegar

1 cup Castile Soap (I used Dr. Bronners lavender scent because I love the smell, and fleas don’t)

To make oatmeal water, put 1 cup rolled oats (old fashioned or quick cook) in a bowl and add about a cup and a third water. Let this sit at least 8 hours, overnight is what I did. Strain the water from the oatmeal, you can use a coffee filter, tea strainer, cheese cloth,whatever you have that’ll get the job done. 

 I strained directly into my storage container, which is a 33 oz. seltzer water bottle. Add your cup of vinegar and soap to the water, cap it and shake well, and you’re good to go!

It really does work wonderfully. Just a few tips: It’s not a high suds soap, but a little does go a long way. I also choose to store mine in the fridge, I don’t know if this is exactly necessary, but I know it can’t hurt. And give it a good shake before use, the ingredients will separate over time.

Bath time on the porch. 🙂

If you use it, or have a recipe that you prefer, I want to hear about it!

Happy bubbles,


(Originally published 10/23/12)

Easy Citrus Vinegar All-Purpose Cleaner

Today’s modern home is loaded with toxic and polluting substances designed to make domestic life easier. In the US, 1 in 3 people suffer from allergies, asthma, sinusitis or bronchitis (US National Center for Health Statistics). Treatment for these conditions should include reducing synthetic chemicals in the home environment. 

This cleaner is ridiculously easy to make, and works gently and effectively in every way you’d need it too, except maybe windows. It’ll clean them, but the citrus oil will leave streaks.

I know this recipe isn’t a new one, but in my opinion, if your only going to make one cleaner from scratch to replace something store bought and full of chemicals, this one should be it. 

Happy Scrubbing! 

(Originally published 2/20/13)

Measurement Units Conversion Guide for Cooking, Baking, and More

I’m a huge tinkerer. I love experimenting, with recipes I eat and recipes for homemade cleaners and beauty products. Sometimes it is really confusing and time consuming to figure out and compare different recipes from different authors. It seems everyone has her own favorite measurement units. Cups, ounces, milliliters, teaspoons, tablespoons and drops… Yipes! For easier orientation here is conversion list for units frequently used in homemade recipes:

  • 1 oz. = 30 ml
  • 1 oz. = 6 teaspoon
  • 1 oz. = 2 tablespoon
  • 1 oz. = 1/8 cup
  • 1 oz. = 456 drop
  • 100 ml = 3.38 oz.
  • 100 ml = 0.42 cup
  • 100 ml = 7 tablespoon
  • 100 ml = 20 teaspoon
  • 1 ml = 15 drop
  • 1 cup = 8 oz.
  • 1 cup = 237 ml
  • 1 cup = 16 tablespoon
  • 1 cup = 48 teaspoon
  • 1 cup = 3648 drop
  • 1 tablespoon = ½ oz.
  • 1 tablespoon = 14.78 ml
  • 1 tablespoon = 1/16 cup
  • 1 tablespoon = 3 teaspoon
  • 1 tablespoon = 228 drop
  • 1 teaspoon = 1/6 oz.
  • 1 teaspoon = 4.93 ml
  • 1 teaspoon = 1/50 cup
  • 1 teaspoon = 1/3 tablespoon
  • 1 teaspoon = 76 drop
  • 100 drop = 0.22 oz.
  • 100 drop = 6.49 ml
  • 100 drop = 0.027 cup
  • 100 drop = 0.44 tablespoon
  • 100 drop = 1.3 teaspoon

This list has saved me a million headaches, I hope it helps you out as well!

(Originally published 11/27/14)

Roasted Cabbage w/ Poached Egg

Cabbage and I have never been great chums. I have many clothes-pin-to-the-nose memories of both my mother and grandmother boiling huge pots of cabbage at New Year’s. Besides the atrocious smell, I can’t stand mushy vegetables, so it’s no surprise that cole slaw has been my preparation of choice when it comes to cabbage. Still, I like to experiment with my veggies, and I thought I’d share my formula for roasting a whole head of cabbage.

I started playing with this because roasted Brussels sprouts make me deliriously happy. And hey, big cabbages turn out delicious too!

Tonight I started with this lovely savoy cabbage.

Cut the head into quarters.

This was a pretty small head, so it fit nicely on my toaster oven pan. Turn the root ends out since those are denser, this allows them to get more heat.

Next, drizzle the wedges with your favorite oil, I used a good olive.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and then with a square of aluminum foil, cover the center of the wedges to protect the looser leaves from burning.

Bake at 350° for about 30 minutes, and check. You’re looking for the stem to be nice and tender, I like to still have a bit of crunch, just pull it out when it gets to the doneness that you like. There’s not an exact science here, because cabbage can vary in size, looseness, etc.

This is what mine looked like when I declared it done.

You have yourself a tasty side dish or light dinner.

My favorite pairing with these wedges are poached eggs.

The yolk makes a nice sauce and is a pretty yummy meal. 


(Originally posted on 10/11/12)

Homemade Laundry Detergent Concentrate

I have been making my own laundry detergent for a couple years now.  I started for three reasons: one, I love to make useful things- two, I couldn’t resist the fact that it would save me SO much money- and three, I have always had easily irritated skin, and making my own detergent is a good way to monitor if anything makes me itch, and tweak my recipe accordingly.

Every recipe I’ve found and tried has worked well for me, and the changing of recipes I’ve done has been to up the cleaning power, and change the bar soap to a glycerine bar for my sensitive skin. Oh yeah, and I also ditched most of the water so I didn’t have to lug up and down the stairs a 5 gallon bucket of backache.

So it occurred to me that I was adding a completely useless amount of water, because instead of adding a cup of detergent, I could just leave out most of the water and add a quarter of a cup instead. After all, this is pretty much how they sell it in the stores these days, less water, less detergent.

And guess what, it’s amazing! It works beautifully, and I get to think of myself as a genius, win-win!

Here is the recipe that I use:

Laundry Detergent Concentrate Recipe

  • 1 bar of Glycerin or Castile soap, shaved
  • 8 cups of hot water to melt the soap
  • 1 cup of borax
  • 2 cups of washing soda
  • 1 cup of baking soda

Here’s what to do:

Grate the soap into a saucepan. You can use either a box grater or a food processor for this. It’s not a good idea to use the same grater that you use for the cheddar, get yourself a separate tool at a thrift store or a yard sale.

Add 4 cups of hot water to the pan.  Simmer on low until the soap melts completely into the water.

Add the other 4 cups of water, borax, washing soda and baking soda to the pot. Simmer on low until it dissolves with the soap.

(Here’s where the other recipes want you to add this mixture to 3 or 4 more gallons of water. Silly water adders.)

Let the soap cool overnight. It turns into a thick, gooey gel. At this point, I bust out my hand mixer and give it a wiz, it works well to emulsify everything back together and I’ve found it stays that way, and all I have to do is give it a little stir with my measuring cup every now and then. Use 1/4 to 1/3 cup of this homemade laundry detergent per load of laundry.

Since I have switched to this less water method, I have also simplified my storage method. I use one of my older 8 quart pots to warm and mix the soap, and I decided there was no reason to put it into a different container. I have a lid for this pot, and if I use it for my storage container, I can bring it back up and set it right on the stove to brew a new batch when it’s empty.

I *love* making my own detergent. It’s easy, it’s nice to my mother earth, and it’s cheap, cheap, cheap. I hope you give it a try, and if you try this recipe, let me know how it goes for you! I love hearing folks’ stories about product independence!

Happy cleaning!

(originally published 8/13/12)

Blackberry Lime Jam – Low Sugar

I am of the opinion that lime, in almost all cases is far superior in flavor to lemon when it comes to canning fruits. I love how it brightens up flavors, and whatever fruity-limey concoction I’ve put on my toast or oatmeal in the morning puts me in mind of eating sunshine. I also feel like most jam recipes have way too much sugar. I know there has to be a certain amount of sugar and acid in order to be properly preserved, but the research I’ve done has told me that the 1:1 ratio of fruit to sugar found in most recipes is kind of overkill.

Not only is it healthier to find a way to preserve with less sugar, but it’s tastier as well. You can taste the fruit more, and frees up those extra sugar grams for something else. Like broccoli. Or ice cream.

Blackberry Lime Jam

6-7 cups blackberries

Zest and juice from one lime -or the equivalent of 2 TBS of juice

2 cups white sugar

1 cup honey (from your local beekeeper!)
2 1/2 TBS pectin -If you’re using a box, this is about half a packet

Put your clean berries in a saucepan, mix your pectin into the sugar and pour over your berries stirring gently so the berries start macerating. Zest in your lime and squeeze in the juice. Sorry about the graininess of this next picture, I was experimenting with a setting on my camera, and forgot to take a regular picture when I was done.

Turn the heat on medium, and start cooking down your fruit. If you’ve ever made jam before, this is the point where you’ll wonder if it will ever stop looking like syrup and thicken up. Have faith, just when you start to panic because the fruit keeps sliding right off your spoon instead of the nice coating that means you’re at a gel, it’ll gel.

It is at *this* point that I add my cup of honey. I do this because I don’t want to cook out all the good stuff that’s in my local, raw honey. I realize that the water bath probably kills all the good stuff anyway, but since it doesn’t change the nice gel of the jam to add it later, I figure it doesn’t really hurt any to cook it a little bit less.

Your jam is done! Turn off your heat, skim any foam that’s bubbled up, and ladle your jam into warm, sterilized jars.

For me, this made five half pint jars. With blackberries it’s often a toss-up for how much jam you’ll get. My berries were wild gleaned, and wild berries are often not as juicy as the big fat ones you buy to plant in your garden. How many jars you get depends on the juiciness of your berries is what I’m saying.

Add the jars to your canner -or large pot- making sure the water covers your jars by at least an inch. Once your water comes back up to a boil, set your timer for 10 minutes. After ten minutes remove your jars and let them cool for a couple hours and check your seals. Any that didn’t seal stick in the fridge for immediate nomming, or you could freeze it. Don’t freeze until your jar is completely cool though, or you might be cleaning up a sticky freezer mess.

Label and date your jars! I’m often guilty of not doing this right away, and regretting it later. When you’re in the height of canning season, making new things all the time it’s easy to forget what’s what. Especially if you’re doing many of the same type of thing.

Yum! It’s really so easy, and a thousand times better than anything you can buy in a store.

Happy Jamming!

(Originally published 7/24/12)

How To: Easy Peel Hard Boiled Eggs (really!)

With 8 chickens for only 3 humans, there is never a shortage of fresh eggs at our house. I can cook eggs in a ton of delicious ways. There was one way that frustratingly eluded me: hard-boiled, and all the things you can make with them.

Fresh eggs are notoriously difficult to peel, because the membrane under the shell has not had weeks of time to thin and separate that grocery store eggs have. Friends on the chicken circuit have given much advise, which I will outline for you here.

1.) Separate a however many you need and put them in the back of the fridge for a few weeks, and then boil as usual. -That takes way more planning than I’m capable of, and also seems to me to put shame to the point of fresh eggs anyway.

2.) Put a tablespoon of baking soda in the boiling water. (Variations- 2 Tbsp; equal amounts baking soda and vinegar) This doesn’t work. The many times I was desperate enough to try it, I guess I could say that sometimes the peels came off easier, but I was always left with lots of wasted whites, and pock-marked, sad looking eggs okay for egg salad, but that’s about it.

3.) Baking eggs. Yes, that’s right, on a baking sheet, in the oven. This actually worked okay. The original email I got about this suggested 350 degrees for 30 minutes. This was way too long for my oven, with tweaking I ended up at 300 for about 22 minutes, and directly into ice water to stop cooking. The eggs peeled pretty easily, but only in comparison to boiling in baking soda water. I remember grocery store eggs coming off in lovely large pieces of easy. I wanted that again.

About a month ago, I was chopping up some broccoli for the steamer, and next to me were the eggs I had gathered that afternoon. On a whim I rinsed off my eggs, and set them in the steamer basket while I finished my broccoli. I steamed them for ten minutes, then dropped them in cold water. After they’d cooled off enough to handle, I peeled on, and hot damn! It peeled like eggs peel in my fantasies. Don’t judge. However, what I had was a perfect soft boiled egg. I was onto something, but I needed a longer cook time.

The next day I steamed for 18 minutes and dunked them in ice water. Perfect! I made beautiful deviled eggs for the first time in years.


Now I am sure I’m not the first person to do this. Now that I do it all the time, I wonder how it took so long to think of this. I steam everything, why not eggs? I just want to make sure I’m not the last person to cook their eggs this way. Try it, fresh or store bought, you’ll never go back, I promise.

I know everyone has their families famous deviled egg recipe, so I’m not going to go there. In fact I couldn’t anyway, since I don’t follow one. But I thought I’d share my method, which is mood and ratio based.

I mash up my yolks with mayo, and then add other ingredients to what sounds good at the time. If I want a bit of sweet in there, I’ll put in a tsp. of sweet relish. My rule being, if I put in sweet, there has to be hot to balance, so if I put in sweet relish, I’ll add some form of heat, in sauce form, or if they’re in season, minced peppers. Sometime I just feel simple, and go with dill and vinegar etc. When I have my filling right, I put it into a zip top bag and snip off the corner to pipe into the eggs. This is just easier for me, because I always mess up spooning it in. It’s hard to mess up a deviled egg, but I do have fun trying!

Happy steaming!

(Originally published on 7/5/12)