Category Archives: Crafts


Olive Oil Soap


Photo courtesy of The Best Homemade Natural Soaps: 40 Recipes for Moisturizing Olive Oil-Based Soaps by Mar Gomez, 2014 © Reprinted with publisher permission. Available where books are sold.

Have you ever made your own soap before? I really like the idea of using homemade soap with natural ingredients and have been interested in trying to make some myself. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to review the new book, The Best Natural Homemade Soaps: 40 Recipes for Moisturizing Olive Oil-Based Soaps (Robert Rose, softcover). 

UnknownThe book starts off by sharing some interesting history about soap making. In ancient times, soap mainly consisted of a mixture of boiled fat and ashes. The first people to make olive oil soap were the Syrians, several thousand years ago in the city of Aleppo. “The women of Aleppo realized that by adding ground bay leaves to soap, skin infections were reduced considerably; the leaves from the bay plant possess an extraordinary natural antiseptic.” And other soap-making discoveries continued over the centuries.

This book also includes preparation tips and utensil and ingredient guides so you have everything you need to make your own olive oil-based soap. The step-by-step instructions seem easy to follow and include information on therapeutic qualities of the natural soap additives in each particular recipe–additives like essential oils, beeswax, cocoa butter, kaolin clay, seaweed, and goat’s milk. Some of the 40 different soap recipes include Kiwi Soap, Lavender Soap, Marigold Soap, Seaweed Soap, Green Tea Soap, Chocolate Soap, Coconut Soap, Cinnamon Soap, Rosemary Soap…and many more great-sounding versions!


Image from The Best Natural Homemade Soaps

I was going to try making the basic Olive Oil Soap recipe. The ingredients are simple and basic enough–mineral water, lye (caustic soda), and extra virgin olive oil. However, I wasn’t able to find lye in any stores near me, so I guess I’ll have to order some from a soap-making supplier (there’s a list at the back of the book). In the meantime, I have permission from the publisher to share the recipe with you! Note: You’ll need safety goggles, a large saucepan, and a kitchen thermometer to make this soap.

OLIVE OIL SOAP from The Best Natural Homemade Soaps

  • 7.5 oz. mineral water
  • 3 oz. lye (caustic soda)
  • 1.5 lbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • Scent (optional), store-bought or homemade
  1. Wearing gloves and goggles, pour mineral water into a large saucepan. Add lye slowly, stirring gently until it is dissolved.
  2. Using a thermometer, monitor the temperature of the lye mixture until it is between 120˚F and 140˚F.
  3. Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan, heat olive oil to between 120˚F and 140˚F.
  4. Remove olive oil from heat. Add lye mixture to olive oil, stirring slowly and trying not to splash.
  5. Stir occasionally, every 15 minutes or so, until the mixture thickens and congeals (it will have a texture similar to that of light mayonnaise).
  6. Stir in scent (if using). Stir for 1 minute with a spoon (or with a whisk, taking care not to create foam).
  7. Pour into a greased or paper-lined soap mold. Gently tap mold to remove any air bubbles.
  8. Cover with a blanket or towel and let stand for 2 days. Uncover and let stand for an additional day if the mold is very large.
  9. Turn soap out of mold. Wait another day, then cut into bars as desired.
  10. Dry bars for 1 month, turning occasionally to ensure they are drying uniformly.
Soap recipe from The Best Homemade Natural Soaps: 40 Recipes for Moisturizing Olive Oil-Based Soaps by Mar Gomez, 2014 © Reprinted with publisher permission.


This sounds like a great soap for your skin! Homemade soap is a great DIY gift idea, too! Do you use or have you made any olive oil-based soap, or any other kinds of soap?

Linked to Thursday Favorite Things.


Autumn Bouquets


I am such a jar and bottle-saver! I save glass jars and bottles of all shapes, sizes, and colors. I was starting to get quite a collection and running out of space to put them, so I thought I’d make some autumn bouquets to give to my flower-loving friends.

I love the variety of sizes and colors of these bottles! Each one of them had some sort of food item in them–after the contents were used up, I removed the labels on each bottle so I could reuse them as vases and tied autumn-colored ribbons around them before filling with flowers.


These three glass bottles were all once containers for vanilla, almond, and orange extract.


These two jars originally had jam in them.


Another unique-looking bottle and jar: the small clear bottle in the foreground was from Cracker Barrel (it was a miniature maple syrup bottle–the kind they give you when you order pancakes). The larger brown glass jar in the background is actually a vitamin jar. Who would’ve thought it would make such a great vase?


This vintage-looking soda bottle was from Cracker Barrel, too–they sell a variety of vintage sodas in their country store, and some of them have such great designs, you hate to toss them out!


This bottle is one of my favorites–it has a long neck and a rounded base, so no worries about this tipping over! This originally had some white wine vinegar in it.


And this large bottle had some apple juice in it–I love the detail of the leaves at the top of the bottle–much too pretty to get rid of!

Most of my labels came off pretty easily just by soaking the bottle in hot soapy water–I left the bottles in the water overnight. But sometimes I come across really stubborn labels, and on those, I sometimes use nail polish remover. I’ve also heard that Goo Gone works too, although I haven’t tried that yet. If you use products like these, make sure you’re in a well-ventilated area.

Are you a glass jar and bottle-saver too? Using them as vases is one way to upcycle them. Do you have other ways of reusing pretty jars and bottles?

Linked to Inspire Me Monday at Create With Joy and Show and Share at Coastal Charm.


A Spring Branch Bouquet


Dogwood trees are starting to bloom where I live and their blooms are so pretty! The Redbud trees are also blooming and their rich color looks so striking against the other trees that are just starting to produce small leaves.

I decided to pick a few blooming branches and make a bouquet–something I had wanted to do last spring, but by the time I thought about doing it, the blooms were past their prime. So here’s how my “Branch Bouquet” turned out–I just combined 2 Dogwood branches with 3 Redbud branches and I think the different blooms look so pretty together! You could use other kinds of blooming branches, too–Forsythias, Pear Blossoms…whatever type of blooming branches that are growing around you. It brings a nice touch of the spring outdoors into your home or office.

You could also use this idea to make a pretty Easter centerpiece for your table!

Do you have any pretty blooming shrubs or trees in your yard?

I’m linking this to Fiesta Friday, Inspire Me Monday, Wow Us Wednesday, Favorite Things Thursday.

PrettyClver Vals

Pretty Clever Valentines

Here are some fun handmade card and gift ideas I came across for Valentine’s Day at…maybe you’ll see something you want to try out!

See below for the links to these ideas…

PrettyClver Vals

Above, left to right each row, a hand-stitched Valentine, dainty doily envelopes, a gift-in-a-card seed card or seed starter Valentines heart envelope cards–envelopes that turn into Valentines, fun heart-and-lollipop flowers, card bookmarks or heart bookmarks, a chocolate wrapper  with a special note on the reverse side, poetic wrappings with poetry written on paper or ribbon, heart-shaped soap with a message, or conversation heart cookies. All fun, unique things to give and to get!

Are you making any handmade cards or gifts for your Valentine(s)?

Decorating with Fall Foliage: Part 2

I have found so many creative Thanksgiving and autumn decorating ideas on the web and posted some of those yesterday. This is a continuation of some of the inspiring things I found. The ideas and photos I’m posting today are from Better Homes and Gardens. You just may get motivated to try out some of these really easy projects for Thanksgiving!

Here are some ideas using a variety of vases and containers (you can click on an image if you’d like to see it larger)…

Row 1: (1) Display pears, apples, or other autumn fruit in a large apothecary jar; (2) Fill vases with branches of colorful leaves and bittersweet berries; (3) For larger open spaces, fill tall vases with long stems of colorful foliage…a great idea for an entry way!

Row 2: (1) Display cattails in several tall glass vases, anchored with nuts or acorns; (2) Display cattails or branches of leaves in a vase filled with birdseed to give them support…tie some raffia around the vase to add to the natural look; (3) Use a butternut squash as a vase by cutting off the top of the squash, scooping out the flesh, and filling with water and colorful autumn flowers.

Row 3: (1) Arrange autumn flowers and berries in glass jars or vases and fill with water…for a pretty centerpiece, line up a variety of these along the middle of your oval or oblong table (or cluster them if your table is round); (2) Arrange small pumpkins in a rustic basket, tie a bow on the handle and use as a centerpiece or decoration in your living room; (3) Put freshly fallen or pressed leaves in small glass vases (old lab beakers are used in this photo)…put around your home or arrange them together as a centerpiece.

Note: an easy way to press leaves is to place them between layers of newspaper, under a heavy stack of books. Let leaves dry for a few days. To enhance the color of the leaves, iron them between pieces of waxed paper–use a cloth in-between the iron and waxed paper to keep wax off the iron.

Hope you get to try some of these out! You’ll find many more ideas at!

Decorating with Fall Foliage: Part 1

I love the season of autumn, but when it comes to decorating my home, I really don’t have many store-bought fall accessories to work with. I have a wreath for my door and some autumn candle holders, but that’s about it. I really don’t want to buy a lot, though, because then I’d have the problem of storing it…and I just don’t have the space! Besides, I really like using elements from nature when I can, like pretty fall flowers, gourds and pumpkins, apples and pears, and rich, colorful leaves. And when you use natural things, you don’t have to worry about storing them…you can just put them in your compost bin! The other benefit is that many of the natural things you can decorate with are inexpensive or free–you can find pretty leaves, dramatic branches, and acorns or other nuts on a walk in your neighborhood or local park.

I’ve seen so many great natural decorating ideas for Thanksgiving and fall on the websites of some of my favorite magazines, so I thought I’d share some with you. Even though we’re pretty well into fall, you may find a few things you want to try from now through Thanksgiving.

Here are some creative tips (and photos) I found at I love this autumn planter (pictured above)…just use one of your unused flower planters from summer, and fill with gourds, small pumpkins, Indian corn…and fill in any extra spaces with leaves, moss, or other natural filler.

These gourd vases are another great idea…

I actually still have a few daisies blooming in my garden, so I could use them for this! Just cut the tops off of the pumpkins, squashes, or gourds you want to use and scoop away the inside pulp with a spoon; then fill with fall flowers (mums would work great) and add water…these natural “vases” should be watertight for about a week. Or you can use dried flowers, which won’t need any water.

There was a similar idea to this over at…for their pumpkin centerpiece, they suggest arranging fresh flowers in a water-filled jar (instead of putting water in the pumpkin itself), and placing the jar inside the pumpkin. That sounds like it would work really well. Here’s their photo…

And another RealSimple idea and photo…use a wooden salad bowl as an autumn “vase.”  Place a shallow glass or plastic container in the wooden bowl, fill with water, and arrange cut carnations, mums, or other autumn flowers in the container. The stems only need to be about 3 or 4 inches long.

The richness of the wooden bowl makes it perfect for a fall centerpiece!

I’ll post more natural fall and Thanksgiving decorating ideas soon…stay tuned for Part 2!🙂

Linked to Favorite Things Saturday.

Elegant Gilded Pumpkins & Other Ideas

Talk about some wonderful pumpkin decorating…this photo of beautifully gilded pumpkins really caught my attention over at There are paint kits available that you can use to get this look in The Country Living Artisans Collection, or you may be able to improvise with your own materials. Here’s how to create gilded pumpkins in a nutshell and for more information, visit the links above. All photos shown and gilding directions are from

How to get started…

You can use real or faux pumpkins…make sure the surface is clean and dry. Wearing gloves, apply a base coat with a paintbrush to seal the surface. Let dry for 30-60 minutes.

Position stickers (from the kit) on the pumpkin, then apply “sticky size” over the entire surface, including the stickers. Leave until it’s clear and tacky, 10 to 20 minutes.

Apply gold and silver leaf to the pumpkin and smooth with a soft cloth to fill in the gaps.

Carefully pull off stickers using tweezers.

Apply toner with a paintbrush. Wipe away the toner with a soft cloth to get the desired color and effect.

Here are some other great autumn decorating ideas I liked at

Decorate terra-cotta pots and gourds with imitation silver and gold leaf.

Carve out small pumpkins and insert votive candles…this is a great idea for decorating your table all autumn long!

Make a Pumpkin Tower, stacking different sizes and colors of pumpkins. This could work nicely in a corner of your front porch or backyard patio. There aren’t any specific instructions for this on the website, but it looks like some stems have been cut down or removed on the lower pumpkins for easier stacking.

There are 29 pumpkin decorating ideas in all, so visit to see more!

Fun Pillow Patterns

Here are some eye-catching pillow patterns I’ve seen at Pier I this summer. They’re really fun and colorful…I like the simple graphic shapes that are used within the patterns. Some of them have embroidery and rick-rack incorporated into the design which gives them a unique, handmade look. I found them inspiring, so I thought I’d share them with you!

Linked to Favorite Things Saturday.

Make A Lavender Sachet

Lavender is one of my favorite scents. I have several lavender bushes–one in the front yard and one in the back. The photo above is of my backyard bush. I started making lavender sachets because I didn’t want all that wonderfully–scented lavender to go to waste! The sachets are so easy to make, too. Start out by clipping a bunch of stems from your lavender bush. Lay these stems out on a flat surface, like a tray, and spread them out to try. You can let them dry outside or inside. You’ll need to give them at least a few days to dry.

When the lavender has fully dried, you can easily remove the lavender buds by rubbing them off the stems. Remove the buds from all the stems, and make a little mound with all the buds (the lavender smells so good when you’re rubbing them off the stems!).

Then all you need to do is fill pretty little pouches with your lavender buds. If you don’t have your own lavender bush, you can buy lavender buds at some craft stores or you can purchase them online.

I bought these pretty drawstring pouches at Wal-Mart in their craft section; you should be able to find pre-made pouches at your local craft store, too. Instead of pouches, you could also cut squares of thin material, place a mound of lavender buds in the center of the square, and then gather up the sides and tie with a bow.

These sachets are nice to use in dresser drawers to keep things smelling fresh, and you can also hang them in closets, using the ends of your drawstring ties or ribbons to loop or tie around a hanger. They make great little gifts, too! You can also attach one to an already-wrapped gift as an added adornment.

Linked to Sunday Showcase Party, Make it Yours Day, Strut Your Stuff Thursday, Creative Spirit Challenge, Pretty Packages Party, Made by You Monday, Creative Blogger’s Party & Hop.

The Farm Chicks

I first heard of The Farm Chicks about six months ago in Country Living magazine. I noticed they had come out with a fun-looking cookbook, The Farm Chicks in the Kitchen. It has lots of down-home recipes, personal stories, and even some sewing and craft projects.


I visited their website, too, and it’s really fun. I love the retro graphic art and vivid colors on the site–here are a few things I saw…

Dots are supposed to be “in” now and there are definitely a lot of dots on that site!

If you’re wondering what a Farm Chick is, they explain that, too: “A Farm Chick is a girl who sees the world through rose-colored glasses. She loves her family. She laughs a lot. She’s farmgirl meets Fifth Avenue….”

One other fun thing I noticed is that another Farm Chicks book is coming out–The Farm Chicks Christmas. If it’s anything like their first book, it will be full of great ideas…so be on the lookout for it in September!