Homemade Laundry Soap

When I was at home this summer, my Mom was on the homemade laundry soap bandwagon.  I tried some of it and liked it, so decided to join in the fun.

Here are the ingredients:

1 Box of Super Washing Soda 3 lb. 7 oz.
1 Box of Borax 4 lbs 12 oz. size
1 Box of Pure Baking Soda 4 lb.
3 bars of Fels-Naptha 5.5 oz. or you could also use Ivory soap
1 container of Oxy-Clean 1.3 lb
*optional: Purex Crystals 28 oz. for scent (or you could use Downy unstoppables )

Note: I did get the Purex Crystals in a fairly neutral scent.

The Ingredients!

The Ingredients!

First I cut up the soap into chunks and ground it with my blender. I have the world’s worst blender, so this wasn’t as easy as it seemed and I had to do it in little batches. Next time, I’d add some of the baking soda to keep it from sticking so much. I also will use my food processor.  No way I was grating all that by hand!

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After grinding up the soap, I took it all outside and poured all ingredients into a big box, layering each ingredient by thirds to make later mixing easier. Then it’s stir, stir, stir. Try not to breathe in the dust. Wear a mask if you need to!

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The final result is a huge box of laundry soap. I put a 1/8 cup scoop into the box and that is all you need for a load of laundry. For front loaders, just put the soap on top of the laundry.  It takes out dirt, garden stains, garage stains and best of all:   this soap takes out doggy smell from dog bedding!  I still use Tide for my good clothes, but for everything else, especially towels and sheets, this soap is perfect.  I have enough to last me a very long time and I spent about $25.  Not bad!


Potato Tower Update!

Houston, we have potatoes!

So, the tatie tower was a moderate success.  I’m not sure I rightly remember how many potatoes I planted in the tower, but from the harvest, it looks like I got at least 3 potatoes for one planted. Next year I will try to remember to fertilize more, although I did use Miracle Gro soil and lots of compost.  I can remember digging up potatoes as a kid, but don’t remember how many we planted.  I looked it up and you should get three regular size potatoes and some smaller ones for each seed planted, so I think we did OK.  I have lots of mini potatoes, for which I know you pay a mint in the grocery store!

I didn’t plant that many to begin with, not being sure what I was doing and how the layers would work. Next time, I can plant more layers within the tower and space the sets further apart. I think that will make a big difference in yield.  This was a live-and-learn experiment for sure!

All in all, a pretty exciting evening digging through the dirt and finding these little golden gems.  I plan to cook them with some green beans and smoked sausage here in a day or two.  What fun! We will plant two more towers next year, just to see what happens and try some purple potatoes.  It was a pretty stress-free growing method (read: I did nothing but water when it didn’t rain).  We did have a nice little black snake baby living under the tower. He was very confused when we took away his roof.  I’m glad he had a safe warm place to grow up. As long as he stays out of the house, ha ha!

Potato Harvest 1  The Potato Tower goes down!

Potato Harvest 2

What we saw as we took apart the straw and dirt.

Lots of dirty gems!

Lots of dirty gems!

Rinsed off and waiting for a skillet.

Rinsed off and waiting for a skillet.





Bacon, Cheese Dog Cookies

I just bought this cute dog treat cookbook to bake some healthy treats for Charlotte, keeping in mind my effort to be as wheat, corn and soy-free as possible. We have learned so much about canine nutrition from my sister who is a Veterinary Acupuncturist and practices Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine.  Charlotte is turning three this week and we feel like her diet is as fresh, healthy and grain-free as we can make it.  Below is the first recipe I baked from this new cookbook “Organic Dog Biscuit Cookbook” by the Bubba Rose Biscuit Company.

photo(5)How can you resist this cute book?

The recipes are extensive and it was hard to choose the first one to try.  I decided on something simple that had a limited number of ingredients.  The biscuits call for rice flour and oat flour. I found rice flour at Safeway and knew I could make my own oat flour by buzzing some old-fashioned rolled oats in my food processor.  For each cup of oat flour, I ground 1.25 cups of rolled oats.  I filled the house with the lovely smell of cooking bacon and proceeded to bake the cookies.

I have some cute cooky cutters just for dog biscuits.

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This dough is thick and a bit chunky with the bits of bacon and the cheese shreds. I found that the dog bone shape cutter worked the best, as a smoother dough would better show the patterns of the fire hydrant, paw and house.  Bone-shaped biscuits are classic!

photo 2I rolled the dough with rice flour dusting the work surface and pin. It is sticky, but did roll out nicely.  Roll to about 1/4″ thick and cut the bone shapes closely.  I re-rolled the scraps and cut more shapes once, then got lazy and just baked the scraps for the final pan of cookies.  I gave away the nice cookies to friends. Charlotte doesn’t care!

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You can place the cookies and bake them fairly close together, as they don’t puff up much at all. I baked them for about 20-22 minutes and they really smelled good.

OK I admit it. I tasted one.  It was bland, but actually rather like a salt-free bacon cheese cracker.

Charlotte’s review: Two Paws Up!

photo 5The recipe from Page 96:  The Country Club

6 slices cooked bacon

1 1/2 cups oat flour

1 1/2 cups brown rice flour

1/2 cup shredded low-fat cheddar cheese

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

1/2 cup rolled oats (Old-fashioned, not instant kind)

1 egg

1/3 cup water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cook bacon, then finely grind in a food processor.

Combine all ingredients (except water) in a large bowl.  Add water slowly and mix until a dough forms. If too dry, add more water; too wet, add a bit more flour.  You may not need all the water if you reach a good consistency first.

Roll out on a lightly floured (with rice flour to keep it wheat-free) surface to 1/4″ thickness. Use a cooky cutter or knife to cut shapes. Line a cooky sheet with parchment paper (or spray a pan with cooking spray, if you prefer) and place cookies on sheet. They can be rather close together.  Bake 22-27 minutes or until golden brown (my oven was more in the 20-22 minute range. You might want to check them early).  Transfer and let cool completely on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

I also froze a box of these cookies for future eating and sharing, since they have bacon and cheese and would not keep indefinitely.

These cookies will keep all tails waggin’ in your house, for sure!


Running along the C & O Canal – Dickerson, MD

A diary of runs/walks along the C & O Canal in Maryland.

We started running the C & O Canal last Fall when our daughter joined the high school cross country team. After finishing track season, we decided to continue our adventures by going to a different location each time. So far, we have been to Point of Rocks, MD, Brunswick and today, Dickerson Conservation Park. It was hot today and we loaded up on bug spray, but what a great view of wildlife and nature. I saw a lovely huge heron, lots of turtles and fish, heard woodpeckers and frogs and enjoyed the play of light and shadows on bright green algae on the water.

I took lessons in Chi Running a few weeks ago. While I’m not up to long distances (ok, really, any distance), I use the techniques for walking and walk/run. My legs feel great, my knees don’t hurt and I walk faster than my teenager can! My local teacher was fantastic: Mark Lawrence of Self-Propel and he conducts clinics during the year. Check out his website or find him on his Facebook page!

Today’s trip to Dickerson was an adventure just getting there, as the roads got smaller, windier and bumpier. Eventually we parked and found the canal.  We went to the right along the water, but after a couple of miles did end up behind a Power Plant, which reminded me of spy movies and made one start looking for bodies in the water.  We saw the kayak practice area where kayakers can practice their white water skills (like you see on the Olympics). Naturally, I had to look it up and found the Dickerson Whitewater Course. It was pretty cool to see! It’s run by the power plant.  Who knew one could practice that locally? I was happy to have learned something new today.

Below is a map of the entire Canal trail system and some photos from the Dickerson trip.We stepped down a side trail to go to the river and what a nice view!

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C&O Canal Park Map


Beautiful and he (or she) was completely unimpressed by the little Beagle staring across the canal. He knew he was much bigger than she!

Beautiful and he (or she) was completely unimpressed by the little Beagle staring across the canal. He knew he was much bigger than she!


Charlotte overlooking the Potomac River early in the morning.

Charlotte overlooking the Potomac River early in the morning.


What the heck are Maultaschen? Literally it translates from German to “mouth purses.”  Originally from Swabia in southern Germany, this dish is a meat and spinach filled noodle, similar to ravioli.  A meat-and-spinach-filled little purse of happiness for your supper!

Quoted from Wikipedia (which we all know is totally correct):

In Swabia, Maultaschen are the traditional dish associated with the Lenten commemoration of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. During Lent, Catholics and other Christians are encouraged to refrain from eating meat. However, in a moment of German irony and humour, Maultaschen are associated with these days because the meat in the dish is concealed under the pasta dough and cannot be seen by God. Among the anecdotal stories regarding the origin of the dish, one claims that Maultaschen were created by the Cistercianmonks of Maulbronn Abbey for that purpose.[3] Indeed, a Swabian German nickname for the dish, Herrgottsbescheißerle, means “Little cheaters on God”.

The original recipe involves creating pasta by hand and rolling it out or using a pasta machine. Eh. I have not got that much time. So I did a little cheating of my own and used Wonton wrappers. It worked like a treat! We have Nasoya brand in our Safeway locally. I bought the square ones, but any shape will do.

I found a recipe on this website, but modified it a bit for my own tastes and for efficiency. If you don’t plan to make the pasta yourself, just skip right to the filling part and follow my steps.

Pasta Recipe

3 eggs
pinch of salt
for each egg, half an eggshell of water
360-400g wheat flour

Mix eggs with salt and water. Sift flour into a bowl and make a well in the middle. Break the eggs into it and blend all the ingredients together. Take out of the bowl and then knead the dough on a board until air pockets can be seen when the dough is cut. You can knead by hand or with a mixer.

Depending on the flour, if the dough is too thick add a little water or an egg white. The dough shouldn’t be too soft. Form a ball and place on a board. Cover with a cloth and leave to rest. Now you can prepare the filling.

Filling Recipe

400g fresh spinach (About 2 cups, cut small)
20g diced bacon (1/2 oz.)
20g butter (1/2 oz.)
1 small onion, finely chopped (or, use a shallot)
3-4 stale rolls, crusts removed (I used three slices of whole-wheat sandwich bread)
150g ham or cold meat, diced (I skipped this)
250g ground meat (pork or beef) (About a cup)
2-3 eggs (I used two)
a pinch of salt, pepper and nutmeg
boiling saltwater or meat broth (6 cups chicken or beef broth)

Clean the spinach well, wash and blanch it briefly in boiling saltwater. Rinse with cold water, let it drain and chop coarsley. Braise the bacon in butter for a couple of minutes, add the chopped onion and spinach and braise for a couple more minutes. Soak the stale rolls in water until soft. Squeeze out the excess water and chop the rolls into pieces.

In a large bowl mix the above prepared ingredients with ham and ground meat. Add the eggs and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. If you like your filling to be more like ravioli, process the meat mixture in your food processor for a few pulses. I didn’t do this step and found the filling to be tasty, but I think I would like the texture better when finely ground.

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First, soak two slices of bread in a little milk. We use Almond milk in our house, but any milk will do. Put just enough milk on the bread to soak, but not to swim.

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Cook the ground meat and onions along with the seasonings and bacon.  Cook until the meat is no longer pink.

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Let the meat mixture cool and taste for salt. Add in soaked bread and eggs (I used two) and mix really well by hand, squeezing the mixture together to form a paste. At this point, you could grind it in the food processor to make the mixture smoother. Add a little water, as needed, so the mixture is thick, but not dry.

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Next, get your mise en place ready. That’s fancy wording for lay out everything you need.  You will need: a cutting board, knife, beaten egg and pastry brush, wonton wrappers opened and covered with a damp towel, baking tray lined with waxed paper or parchment and a towel for wiping your fingers. It may seem a bit neurotic to lay everything out, but believe me, it makes your life easier if you have everything to hand and a landing place for your filled pillows of goodness.

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I made two at the time, once I got the hang of it. My supervisor is a friend’s dog we were dogsittiing. Yes, he is very dirty after all the playing in the yard and hikes we took with him! He approved of my methods.


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Fill the pillow with a scant teaspoon of meat filling. Yes, that is teaspoon! If you put too much in, the pillow will just explode and you’ll have noodle and meat filling floating around separately in your soup later.  Brush three edges of the won ton with egg and then fold over the wrapper so the edges meet perfectly. Press the edges all the way around, ensuring there  are no air pockets around the meat. Go ahead and squash away – you can’t hurt it.  After you fill the won ton, place it onto the baking sheet so it’s not touching another Maultasche.  They will stick together if you let them touch now.

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Continue to fill, egg wash, wrap and place the Maultaschen until you have used all the meat filling and your tray is filled to bursting with your lovely pillows.

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At this point, you can place the tray in the freezer and freeze the pillows until solid, then place them in a Ziploc freezer bag and store for up to 3 months.

If you want to eat your Maultaschen right away, heat up six cups of chicken broth with 1 teaspoon of dried thyme in a large pot.  Once it comes to the boil, drop in the Maultaschen one at the time, stirring after each addition. You will be able to cook about half the recipe at once. Fill the pot with Maultaschen until there is enough for your needed servings, but don’t overcrowd the pot.

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Cook for 8-10 minutes, or until the noodles are tender. Take one out after 8 minutes and test it.  Add salt and pepper to your liking.

I served it in a soup bowl with plenty of the broth. I also added some fresh spinach to the bottom of my bowl before adding the Maultaschen and soup, to make a hearty supper.

Lass es dir schmecken! (bon appétit!)

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The Death Star

For my birthday this year, I wanted something very simple:  a compost tumbler. I know that seems like a lame thing to want for your birthday, but when you have a few birthdays under your belt, it is easier to ask for things that are practical.  I asked for my sister’s recommendation and she has the Lifetime 50 gallon one. You can get that on Amazon through this link: Compost Tumbler

photo 1 Ok this is a lot of parts and pieces. Two cups of coffee and two people. One to read the instructions, one to be the assembly guru.

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The Death Star comes together! Of course, at this point, I was humming the song in my head for the rest of the day.

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Final assembly. I need to find a Star Wars bumper sticker for it.  I filled it with the pea plants and shells I pulled out from my last pea harvest this week.  It was getting really hot and the peas were delicious, but getting really big and starchy.

photo 4 First deposit into the tumbler. I unearthed my kitchen counter compost pail, only to find that it was missing the charcoal filter housing. An excuse to buy a new one! I ordered this cute one from Amazon (are you seeing a purchasing pattern here? Yep, my favorite place to armchair shop is definitely Amazon).  Click on the picture to link to the product.

Compost Bin

Potato Tower

I saw this idea on Pintrest (my favorite place to waste time online!) and had to try it for myself this year.  First, I started out with some Miracle Gro garden soil, a bag of seed potatoes from Southern States, some fence wire we had left over, a length of PVC pipe that will be as tall as your fence wire and a bale of straw. Any kind of wire will do, but be sure the gague is not too wide, so the contents will stay in.

A few days before you are ready to plant the potatoes, follow the directions on the bag and cut them into pieces with one or two eyes (sprouts) per piece. Leave them out on a tray in a cool, dry place covered with a towel to keep out the light. Allow a skin to form over the cut pieces.  Any pieces that turn mouldy or look green, throw away. (see picture with the potato sets in my hands below).

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Start by creating a good-diameter circle of fence and wire it together. Then attach it to the ground with a few tent stakes or bent pieces of wire just to secure it.   With a helper, create a nest of straw in the bottom and hold the PVC pipe in the center. You can even stick it into the ground a bit to get it to stay, if you are working alone.  Inside the ‘nest’ place some soil in a thick layer (2-3″) and then plant your first round of potatoes, eyes facing outward toward the fence.

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After you set your potatoes into the soil, cover them thickly with soil to ensure no light gets to them (light turns potatoes green and that is toxic and inedible).  Place a thick layer of straw over the soil (4″ or so) and create a nest in that straw layer. Repeat the soil/potato seed/soil/straw layers until you use up your potato seeds. End with a thick layer of soil and straw.

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The job is much more fun and goes quickly if you have a really cute Beagle helper!

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When you are done, water your tower through the PVC pipe and thoroughly wet the tower.  I didn’t water again after this, because we got regular rainstorms. If you don’t get much rain, you may want to water weekly until the potatoes sprout. You can put your hand inside and feel the soil, but be sure to close up the hole so no light gets in.

Here is the finished tower:

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This was created back in April. Now it’s July and the potatoes have sprouted and are looking great! My garden is embarassingly weedy and I am waiting for it to cool off a bit before I go tackle that craziness.


When I was a kid, we had rows and rows of potatoes in the garden. I remember my job was to pick off the potato bugs (ugh!). My Grandmother used to take out a bowl with water or flat beer and go out and pick them off and drop them in the bowl. If it was beer, she said, at least they would die happy.

The potato vines will die back in the Fall when they are ready. I’ll update when we harvest!

Happy Gardening