Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Project-a-Palooza; Project TWO ~ Colourful Découpage

Project-a-palooza rolls on with the next phase, and that is playing with lovely colourful patterns. The video explains the goal, while also simultaneously showing how easy it is to block out a playing toddler. You even get a glimpse of my offspring as he movie-bombs me.

Here are some of the progress pics so far:

So fun! Lots of detail work tho. I'll post more pics soon! :)

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Project-a-Palooza; Project ONE; Luxurious Lip Balm

I’m in project mode. I shouldn’t be. I should be finishing my latest book, but no. I have gone all crafty, and I have several projects lined up as if there's another personality inside me who's even more obnoxiously belligerent and mischievous than I already am. 

Technically; the first project was really the gown for the book cover of the manuscript I"m supposed to be finishing, but since I’m not releasing yet, so I can’t go around flaunting pics. I didn’t take many anyway. Here’s a sneak preview though:

Lots of sumptuous, velvety drama here.

The first official project for Project-a-Palooza is making some lip balm.

I know, it’s a small project, but I wanted some lip balm with a bit of a fresh tingle, made with all the crunchy organic foo-fooness that is required in the Pacific Northwest. 

So here goes. Finding the ingredients for these things is fairly simple online. I found mine at a homesteading store in Southeast Portland, because yes, there’s a homesteading store in Southeast Portland. They have pretty much everything the crunchy granola PNW person would need, from seeds and eggs, to cheese cultures and soap-making supplies; it’s a DIYer’s dream. It even has a hipstery logo. It's awesome. It's called the Portland Homestead Supply Company

What you need for this quick project: 

Shae Butter, Coconut Oil, Beeswax, Vitamin E (liquid preferably), Organic Raw Honey, and your favourite Essential Oil.

I recommend the following ones from the ones that I have:

Lemon-lavender (mix), Peppermint, DōTerra’s On-Guard (great for fighting a cold), or what I used; DōTerra’s Slim & Sassy – because putting a weight-loss booster in your lip balm RULES (and because it lovely, is safe for consumption, and when applied topically, provides a refreshing tingle). But the essential oil(s) you use is wholly up to you—just make sure that they’re safe for consumption, they’re not ‘hot’ oils, which means that some oils, like Cinnamon, for example, in its concentrated state, can actually cause irritation, so use with care.

The quantities in this recipe comfortably fill six of these little tins when all is said and done.

In a double boiler (in my case, I filled about two fingers of water into one of my sauce pots, and then inserted a metal bowl over that), add the Shae Butter, the Beeswax and the Coconut Oil. Cook it on medium so it doesn't heat too quickly.

I let them melt together. They each melt at different rates. I added the vitamin E and half of the essential oil at this stage.

When it was fully melted, I swirled the spoon of honey into the emulsion until all of the honey had dissolved into the mix.

The amount of essential oils you add is entirely up to you. I say 10 drops minimum. I personally added 22 drops. Ten at this stage, and then two drops in each container after I poured the blend into the tins. I stirred them with a toothpick while they were still hot.

Be sure to mix it well before and while you pour it into the tins. 

Once poured, let them cool. And voila. A smooth, moisturizing, healing lip balm in less than fifteen minutes. Pop a label on these and they make lovely gifts for your friends and family.

And that concludes project numero uno for Project-a-Palooza 2016. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

A cool and rainy day (after face-melting heat)

Things have been fairly quiet at Johanesen Cottage these past weeks. As the anxiety disorder makes me even more hermit-like than ever, I am spending most of my time in the house, taking care of my son.  He was allowed to attend preschool two or three times a week before it closed for the summer, to see if he’d like it, and he LOVED it. That’s my boy. He asks every day, now that preschool is over, when he can go back to ‘the school building’. 

He will be enrolled officially in September. I’m not sure I’m really accepting how much he’s grown already. I still want him to be my baby. He will be 40 and be my baby.

Fascinated by yellow buses, like his mom.
He was allowed to climb aboard while
the bus waited for its big-kid passengers.
It’s a slow day today. We ate some leftover clam chowder I made the day before yesterday, for lunch. After 90 and 100 degree days, we are now enjoying 46 degree temps and heavy rainfall. Just the kind of day for chowdah.

My off-the-cuff Chowder recipe (amounts may vary a bit since I cook by the seat of my pants, you can adjust liquids as needed for your desired thickness—I like it to be thick, but not stand-your-spoon-up-in-it thick)

  • Three medium leeks chopped fine and cleaned well. (I use leeks because I’m Belgian and I love leek. But most recipes you’ll find will call for onions and that’s fine too).
  • One large carrot diced into tiny cubes.
  • Four 6.5 ounce cans of cherry stone clams from Trader Joe’s, diced up to small pieces
  • Three tablespoons of butter.
  • ½ cup flour
  • ~2 cups of water/stock
  • ~2 cups of milk
  • ~one cup heavy cream
  • A spash of white wine
  • Two Idaho potatoes cut into one inch cubes.
  • Coriander and thyme (to your tastes)
  • Salt 
  • Black pepper

Melt butter on medium until the sizzle goes silent.  Toss in the leeks and stir until transparent.
Add carrots. Stir in the flour until everything is coated. Deglaze with the liquid from the canned clams. All 4. Then add water/stock. Add wine (just a splash). Add in the clams and the potatoes.
Add milk and spices. Taste first, the liquid from the clams can be salty, so you should always taste before adding salt. Add pepper to taste. Let cook for an hour on low.  Add heavy cream abefore serving. Add some cilantro or parsley to taste. Garnish with a dash of paprika.

My garden is growing. My radishes have bolted because of the strange weather. I just went outside between rain showers to take some pictures of the progress.

Walla Walla onions are coming along nicely.
The little root is swelling already.

The potato-tire stack has grown!
I'll be adding one more tire in a few weeks.

I like my garlic. 

The radishes have bolted!
The flowers are cute though.


Gandules! I got some hard-to-find things to grow for my puerto-rican cooking.

Strawberries are doing well

Our little carved bear guards the back door.

There is something deeply soothing and satisfying, watching your garden grow. The only major failures so far are the bolted radishes and the celery seedlings that were gobbled up by something. The carrots are coming back from their first attack by nibbling somethings or other.

I've managed the slugs, and whenever I find them, they are the perfect treat to give the newest members of the Johanesen Cottage household; the little chickens!

I’ve wanted chickens for a long time, but my husband has been kind of a major brat about it, worried that they would be eaten by predators and whatnot. But this mother’s day he relented and got me a little coop for four hens. You could not imagine my delight, I know that sounds stupid. 

Ever since I lived at my sister's farm in Estacada, I have been in love with the layers. We had chickens at our stable, but they just roamed free and at mice, and laid eggs randomly about the place to be stepped on when they rotted.  My sister got me a horde of chicks to raise for eggs, and oh, I loved them. It was only when she brought in the cornish cross meat chickens that I started to dislike having chickens. They ruined everything, they were SO GROSS.

My little coop: 

So I went out first thing and picked up two chicks to begin with: The first two I got are Silver-Laced Wyandotes. They will look like this:

Miss Chicken McFluffyPuffButt

They looked like this when I brought them home: 

But they look like this right now:
Their names are Bea and Emmaline. Not quite sure which one is which.

I got two Ameraucanas this weekend. Cadence and Mellie. They are still eensy and super cute!

They will look something like this:

They live in a little coop which will soon have a large run attached to it for their pecking around purposes. Hopefully in a few months we will have beautiful blue-green eggs and soft tan ones with rich yolks. The big girls already eat just about anything. They're great for my potato peelings and old lettuce, as well as the slugs that dare slime their way onto one of my garden bales. They are great composters, and when I much out their space I will pile it up for future garden fertilizing.

Otherwise, Johanesen Cottage is trying to get through this crazy spring.

Mother's day flowers

My window box. Trying a new experiement
to keep things alive in it.
 Alex has been fully potty trained for a few months already. I had some pull-ups and diapers left over from his diaper days. So I took three or four and tore them apart, shaking all the crystal powder and cotton lining into a bowl. It didn't amount to much, it seemed; until I filled the bowl with water. The stuff expanded to multiple times its original size. So I blended that with a planting soil, and lined my flower box with an old shower curtain, filled it up and planted sedums and a seathrift in there.  Normally it dries out super fast and I just can't keep up with the watering. I'm hoping with this water-retaining crystal stuff in there, it will create a lovely sedum garden overflowing from it, with a seathrift for colour and texture. Time will tell!

Sedum flower explosion in the hot-poker pot.

I love sedum. I steal them from everywhere.
Many of my pots are just collections from my
klepto habit.
The chimney of my repurposed cracked
chiminea is still going strong.

And the bottom half of my chiminea,
although cracked, has served beautifully
as a sedum pot. I just put a piece of
wire mesh over the mouth and filled it with soil.
The sedum are being barfed out of it. LOL

This is just a chill day today. Nothing glamourous. 

Alex is playing in the blankets and ruining the bed.

Sweet bratty boy.

A ghost! 

Two more pics before the rain starts

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Fun with monsters & essential oils

Many moms know, kids are full of surprises. One of those is the active imagination that comes along soon into toddlerhood. Alex has provided no shortage of amusements and surprises so far.

When toddlers reach a certain age, some of them may develop a sudden fear of sleeping in the dark, or of being in their rooms alone. Often, when asked why, they will blame it on an infestation of monsters. This fear is very real to them. Dismissing it can often make it worse.

There are plenty of ways of approaching the problem, but there is one solution that is not only fun, it supports their imagination, and helps them overcome their fear in a creative way. It is also a safe and pleasant solution; and that is to whip up a batch of ‘monster repellent’ using a recipe of essential oils that is formulated to help soothe and calm them before bedtime.

Essential Oils are becoming a household resource for an array of health and home solutions. So why not use them to calm an anxious child in a fun way?

Start with a 16-ounce food-grade glass spray bottle. These can be found at natural grocers, and a variety of other sources, including Amazon. Glass is recommended when using pure essential oils. I also recommend you seek out and find the highest-quality, high-purity essential oils for this project. We can’t be too careful when our children are involved—so we strongly recommend you find a reputable, safe source. I recommend dōTerra essential oils.

Begin with the recipe. Blend the following in your spray bottle:
  • 20 drops Vetiver
  • 8 drops Lavender
  • 8 drops Ylang Ylang
  • 8 drops Roman Chamomile
  • 4 drops Frankincense
  • 4 drops Clary Sage
  • 2 drops Marjoram

Fill the difference with purified water. Close tightly, wipe down the bottle and set it aside.
Measure the desired size of your label. Apply your craftiness, and starting with your child’s particular category of nemesis (monster, ghosts, etc), create a colourful label for the bottle. It can say: MONSTER REPELLENT or GO AWAY GHOST! You are also welcome to download the design featured on this post by clicking HERE. This label is 3” x 6” and fits the bottle nicely. You just need to print it on a matte photo paper, trim it down to your desired size, and then with some rubber cement, affix it to the bottle. Let it dry. You can also take it one step further and put a layer of clear tape or contact paper over it so it doesn’t fade or smudge.

Pretty cute. Smells nice too.

Using the Spray:

Shake the bottle vigorously before use in order to emulsify the oils and water. Quickly and lightly spray the child’s pillow and bedding a few minutes before bedtime so the water can evaporate. You can also go through the motions and pretend-spray where the child thinks the monsters are hiding; like in the closet, under the bed, etc. Spraying curtains will also prevent outdoor monsters from coming in, I’ve heard. The fresh scent of aromatic oils will assure the child that you have actually applied a remedy, and the application of these particular essential oils will also help soothe and calm your child before bedtime.

You may also allow your children to help spray down the room, participation will reinforce their confidence that this spray is working, and assist in further calming, soothing and reassuring them.

So if your little one has a fear of monsters or witches, goblins, ghosts or ghouls, there’s a solution for that (pardon the pun). J

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Straw Bale Goodness & Monster High Doll

Now onto good things, and let us leave the bad things behind us. I’ve been throwing myself into new things. The doll project (I’ve paused in painting because my anxiety has made my hands shaky and the quality of work is suffering). This is what I have so far painting wise. It will require refining

I have to refine the smoothness of the irises, and add detail, lines etc. She also lacks
eyelashes and whatnot. But this is layer 2. There are a few more layers to go.
When my hands steady themselves.

. Now onto the great garden experiment.

We live at about 1200 feet in a rain foresty part of the Mount Hood Wilderness. We are only a few steps away from the Sandy river, which is a lovely background rush that we enjoy.  There are lots of trees. It's dark.  However a few years ago, our neighbour hacked down the trees in his back lot, and made a garden, opening up the area in our back yard.  Then our septic died and we had to have it redone, leaving our back yard a moonscape. It's been kind of messy back there for a while.

Well, I've always wanted a garden. The soil here is mostly volcanic sand from the last lahar from Mt. Hood's eruption 200 or so years ago. The soil has difficulty holding organics. Planting things just for an ornamental garden is a challenge. My dream of a lush English garden will not come to be here. Ony natives really thrive. And some really scraggly grasses. We get trillium, and oregon grape and ferns, and in summer, foxglove pops up everywhere. The neighbour brought in tons of manure and compost and tilled up his garden into a lovely fertile patch. But he still has issues with the shorter growing season because of the elevation and location.

I read an article on straw-bale gardening, and for a few years now, I've talked about it.  My hubby decided it was time I got my garden (he still says no to chickens though). So we went out and bought six bales to start with. We also put some tires my sister left here to use for garlic and potatoes.

Here's the garden as it stands: 

I will be adding herbs in pots as the growing season progresses. I have rosemary
as of now. I'm hoping this one will live. Hubby got me some hazelnut/filbert shell
much to make the ground around it nice and dry and mud free. I love it.
We need to clean up the moonscape still, throw away the old grill and trim
the wild grass. But the garden is a start. 
I've dedicated one tire bed to garlic. I loves my garlic.  The other tire bed is only
half constructed, and I will be breaking it down to start the potatoes.

I wil add a tire and soil every few weeks to keep the plant growing upwards, adding
depth to the space where the potatoes grow. In late summer, I shoudl be able to
remove the tires and harvest the potatoes all the way down to the ground.
The seeds I planted are quicky coming up.
I think I overdid it in the radish department. 
So excited to see these little guys grow.

My green onions are coming up too! So cute.

Peas are coming up. The strings are at the ready for them to climb on.

Pretty little baby radish. :D
This year is the great experiment. If this works, we'll add to the bales next year, and add more crops. I've already planted the carrots, cauliflower, cabbage, onions of a few varieties, garlic, leek, asparagus (that won't likely yield until next year). There are other seeds waiting their turn. I'm hoping this won't be destroyed by opportunistic raccons or deer. So far, they seem to be doing well. :)


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