A link to our Shop

At times we have to choose between the path that is conventional and the path that is not. In today's world that once worn path that our great grandparents traveled is so overgrown and forgotten that it barely exists. Our goal is to reforge that forgotten path and make it new again.

The Family Eggers

The Family Eggers

Monday, November 19, 2012


 I have been making cold process soap for a little while now.  It is something Joe started several years ago and he got me hooked on it.  We are most definitely a "bar soap" family and in the movement away from chemicals we don't need to be putting on our bodies (found in many commercial cosmetics, including soaps) we exclusively use homemade soap.  That being said, I do use fragrance oils, but I am picky about my sources.  Of course there are soap brands that are nice and green, and many people make and sell wonderful soap (farmer's markets and even online) but why pay someone else for something I can and like to do?

Soap can be made so many ways, using a variety of ingredients/additives, colorants, scents and molds.  Up until last week I was only doing the cold process soap method and scenting with fragrant oils.  Read about hot process soap here.  I did a few batches with oxide colorant that turned out nicely and added another level of difficulty to the process.  My favorite mold is a wooden one Joe made.

My favorite recipe:
40gm castor oil  
320gm coconut oil
320gm palm oil
320gm olive oil

This a very general description of my soap making process:  I run my oil amounts through a lye calculator to find out how much water and lye* is needed.  Every fragrance oil and essential oil is different.  The amount used can vary widely so I like to check with my source to find the maximum percent I can safely use in soap.  Most of the time I use 2 fl.oz. of fragrance oil in my above recipe. 

*A special note on lye.  Lye is dangerous!  It can burn your skin.  Imagine the damage it can do internally if you inhale the fumes - horrible.  If you make soap do your research and be careful with lye.  Keep children and pets away when making soap and store lye and other soap making supplies out of reach.  Always add lye to water, never the reverse!  When I make soap I wear goggle and gloves.  White vinegar should be used to neutralize lye when cleaning all equipment and surfaces.  I like to rinse my hands in vinegar when I am all done just for good measure.  Ever take chemistry lab?  Remember that a strong base is just as powerful as a strong acid.  The word "acid" sounds scarier, but a strong base is just as dangerous.  When you make soap imagine you are in a lab working with a strong base...because you are!  Skin protection, ventilation, goggles!

With cold process soap you add lye to water and there will be a chemical reaction, producing a lot of heat and fumes.  Be cautious.  Separately, you heat the oils/fats/butters until they are blended.  When the lye mixture has cooled and the oils are melted they should be the same temperature.  Use of an ice bath to reach even temperature is common.  Most instructions say the ideal temperature is somewhere between 100 and 115 degrees F.  The two pots should be identical temperatures for best results.  Add the lye mixture to the oils slowly and beat with a stick blender or by hand.  The first few times Joe made soap he used a spoon to stir, but it took a long time.  Stick blenders can usually be found thrift stores.  We have worn out a few and have two right now, none of which we bought new.  Blend the mixture until trace, that's when it thickens like pudding.  Add scent and color and pour into molds.  For my wooden mold, I have to line it with a plastic bag or it will not come out of the mold.  Cover the mold and let the soap set for 24 hours.  It is still volatile at this point.  During the next 24 hours your soap will go through a gel phase where it continues to heat up, becomes transparent and then opaque again.  It will harden and you will be able to un-mold and slice it into bars.  Lay the bars out on paper and flip every few days.  Cold process soap needs to cure for about a month.  During this time the bars will harden significantly.

Another safety note:  I use a lot of kitchen equipment to make soap.  I don't use any of my soap making equipment for food preparation.  If you decide to make soap have a separate set of bowls, crock pot, spoons, pots, etc. that you use only for soap making.  Most of my equipment came from thrift stores, including the silicone loaf mold in the photo.  Keep soap making equipment in a separate location like a tote in the garage or basement.

My soaping supplies

Four fragrances from left to right: orange clove, witchy, monkey farts & bubble gum.  Monkey farts is colorant free.

Scented with chocolate fragrance oil, colored with coffee it looks and smells like cake!


Last week I tried hot process soap for the first time.  It is very similar to cold process but you don't have to worry about temperatures so much because you are cooking the soap.  Another difference is that your soap is ready to use as soon as it is hard (the next day is fine).  You don't have to let it cure.  As soon as it is finished cooking, it is not volatile.  I put my oils in a crock pot, did the lye thing as normal and added the lye/water to the oils in the crock pot.  Stick blend to trace and put the crock pot on low, covered.  I kept a watchful eye as I have heard hot process soap can "volcano".  I did not stir until the soap was uniformly transparent - done.  It took about an hour to cook.  You can see the photos below on how that transformation went.  I don't have a photo of the soap just after trace but it was all opaque like what you see in the middle of the first photo.  Once it is transparent, stir, add scent and place in mold to harden.  This was a shampoo bar so I added essential oils of rosemary and peppermint.  The next day I took the soap out of the mold and sliced it into bars using a chef knife.  It was ready to use right after slicing but hardened over the next few days.      

Hot Process Soap, cooking in a crock pot.

Soap is done cooking, ready to have scent added.

Soap in a silicone bread loaf mold for 24 hours (or until hardened).

Soap sliced into bars using a chef knife.

Several batches of soap curing on paper (hot process on left row).

Second batch of hot process soap, sandalwood scented and colored with paprika.


Ginger.  It's a wonderful root that many say can help with nausea, colds, headaches, and even arthritis.  For myself, I ate crystallized ginger when nauseous (in the car) and it did seem to help.  Joe had the flu not long ago and when he was almost ready to eat food again I made ginger honey and ginger tea for him.  He was able to eat soup after having ginger tea as it soothed his nausea.  Joe was running a slight fever still and I like to think the warming effect of ginger tea and ginger honey I kept shoving at him kicked the fever up and out.
 Ginger tea is easy to make.  Grate fresh ginger and place it in a reusable tea ball or bag.  You could also grate and dry ginger for later use, reducing the time it takes to prepare the tea - helpful if you are making the ginger tea for yourself when you are sick.  Steep the ginger and add honey if you like.  

Ginger honey or ginger jam is almost as easy to make as tea.  Grate fresh ginger and place it in a saucepan.  Add enough honey just to cover the ginger.  Simmer 5-10 minutes, remove from heat and add a small amount of arrowroot powder to thicken the syrup to more of a jam consistency.  This is very good on toast.  The idea for ginger jam was one of the many helpful tips I picked up at the Mother Earth News Fair in September (thank you, Rosemary Gladstar!).    

 The most recent adventure with ginger was an attempt at crystallized ginger.  There are a million recipes online for crystallized or candied ginger.  This is what I did: peel and slice 1 pound of ginger.  Place ginger in a saucepan and cover with water, boil and reduce to simmer 10 minutes then strain.  Repeat this.  Place the ginger back into the saucepan with 4 cups water and 4 cups sugar.  Bring to a boil.  I let it cook on high for about 30 minutes.  Strain (keep syrup) and place ginger on parchment paper.  Toss with sugar and allow to dry.  Store in a sealed container for several months.

--My ginger required a lot of sugar to coat.  It kept soaking it up, even after drying overnight.  The next time I make it I will try letting it dry some before tossing it with sugar. I kept the extra sugar that got damp but didn't coat the ginger.  It will be good when I want to sweeten something with a little bit of ginger flavor.  I kept the syrup that the ginger cooked in also.  The syrup should be refrigerated.  It is good on waffles!     
Remember to Label

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Joe and Mack are off gallivanting together tonight.  Marie and I are at home, but far from sulking at being left behind!  This goofy Daughter/Mama duo is going to spend a Tuesday evening and bond in the most perfect way.  With chocolate.  Chocolate face masks, in fact.  There is a second part to our oh-so-carefully crafted plan; that is Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman (on Amazon Prime).

 It is hard keeping the dogs away from licking our faces because the mask smells so good, like cookies!  Since it contains cocoa, it is very important to keep our dogs away!  After using the mask our faces were soft and very clean feeling.  There was more than enough for both Marie and I.  I am storing the leftover in the refrigerator.  We will use it for our next "Girl Night"!  

Chocolate Face Mask

Mint, Oats, Cocoa & Clay
Mask Ready to Use!

1 Tablespoon dried mint
2 Tablespoons oatmeal
1 Tablespoon cocoa powder
1 Tablespoon cosmetic clay
1 Tablespoon honey
1/4 cup plain yogurt

Grind mint and oats in a coffee grinder.  I have one that I only use for herbs and such, not coffee.  Add cocoa and clay and stir well.  I found that a small egg beater works well.  Add honey and yogurt, stir carefully to mix thoroughly.  You may need to add more or less yogurt to get the consistency you desire (we used homemade Greek style yogurt).  Smear it on your face; a small spatula works well.  Let the mask dry, 15 minutes is the standard for face masks.  I don't time it, but wait until it is completely dry.  If you feel pain or discomfort, wash mask off right away.  When you are ready to rinse, wet a washcloth and hold it over your face to loosen the mask.  Wash with warm water and washcloth until all the mask is gone.  Make sure to check your ears! 

Monday, November 5, 2012

An Important Lesson About all Those Shrooms

     On my way home from bagpipe lessons (yes I am taking bagpipe lessons) I noticed several large mushrooms along the side of the road growing in a thick layer of pine needles under a row of those conifers.  I recognized them from my recent readings, but couldn't identify them exactly.  I pulled over and put on the 4-ways.  I grabbed the Gerber and a bag and went to take some sample(s).  They were large and beautiful with mottled yellow caps and buff white stalks.  I would guess that the larger ones weighed close to a pound.  While collecting these I also found another beauty which I knew right away as the coral mushroom (edible).  Nothing else looks quite like a coral mushroom, except actual coral of course.  Unfortunately it was past its prime, but I collected it anyway to bring home if for no other reason than to show the family.  I filled my bag full of shrooms and returned to the parked Jeep Liberty, leaving many other of these very attractive fungi growing in the pine needles.  I drove maybe 50 yards and noticed another stand of large brown mushrooms in the same stand of pine.  Since I hadn't even really sat down long enough to get comfortable, might as well stop and pick a few more if for no other reason than for educational opportunity to identify another species.  It turns out I found two more species one tan/brown with bluish green  tinges and another bright red smaller mushroom.  By this time I am thinking pine needles plus hurricane equals excellent mushroom growth.  I once again returned to the jeep with these new specimens and came home.
     Once home Sara and I identified all four mushrooms at least to the genus level and all to edibility status.  It turns out that the first mushroom that caught my eye was the toxic (hallucinogenic) yellow fly agaric or Amanita muscaria.  I am sure I could have unloaded this at a head shop, but instead it wound up in the compost bin.
   The second mushroom was the crown tipped coral mushroom or Clavicorona pyxidata, a choice edible.  However, since it was very old and also since I had it in the same bag as the Fly Agaric it also went in the compost.
   The third smaller red capped mushroom was of the genus Russula and I think called the Emetic Russula.  Technically the mushroom is not suppose to be highly toxic and would cause no permanent damage to a body.  However, it does cause a strong vomiting (emetic) reaction in many people who try to eat it.  For this reason, it too went to the compost.
  The last mushroom was tan / brown with a bluish or greenish hue with the cap about 4 inches in diameter.  It also turned blusih green when cut into.  For a more accurate analogy think blue cheese.  This last one was difficult to identify but eventually we narrowed down the taxonomy to one of three species all of which are edible "Milky" varieties.  Lactarius indigo or Indigo Milky is the most likely candidate with L. paradoxus and L. subpurpureus also possible.  Though I would be confident eating this mushroom, it also is ending up in the compost bin because it is past its prime.  The age of the mushroom caused its deterioration into a dry, flaky near mess when it was cut in to.  The age also made exact species identification difficult.  However I did learn that if the mushroom is blue it is likely edible.
   The lesson learned from all of this is one of caution.  Just because a body can be tempted by the prospect of gathering a bounty of mushrooms positive ID is a must.  Whenever you gather any wild food you must be 100% sure of what you have.  This is especially true with mushrooms.  Though a 60's style psychadelic trip may be cool, its not exactly what I had in mind when I initially saw the mushrooms growing under the pine trees.  I did learn a lot, and now feel better prepared for surviving the upcoming Zombie Apocalypse.