Sunday, November 16, 2008

Buttery Caramel Corn Microwave style

Fall is a time for some favorite comfort foods.

I've always loved old fashioned caramel corn but it is sure a headache to make and clean up. I found this recipe many years ago when I was taking a microwave class.

16 cups popped pop corn. Place in a large brown paper bag after popping.
In a 4 cup Pyrex measuring cup combine:
1 C brown sugar
1 stick butter
1/4 c corn syrup
1/2 tsp. salt
Microwave for 2 minutes on full power and stir well.
Microwave for 3 more minutes, stirring after each minute. Watch carefully so that it does not bubble over.

Add and stir until frothy
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla

Pour over popcorn in the paper bag and shake well.
Microwave on high 1 minute and shake
Microwave on high 1 minute and shake
Microwave on high 30 seconds and shake
Microwave on high 30 seconds and shake

Pour onto a aluminum foil lined large baking pan and let cool. Break up and enjoy.
Store in an airtight container.

I like to add some almonds to mine.

Friday, September 19, 2008

FDA Globalization Act

Soon many of us could be out of business due to the FDA Globalization Act that is being proposed. This was originally designed to keep our food safe, which is a good thing. Yet somehow our little home-based companies came to be included.

What this means to us is that each and every product we make would have mandated testing at a cost of thousands of dollars per product. It also means that the cost of each ingredient, which are the same oils you use in the kitchen to cook with, would require the same testing and subsequent costs.

What does this mean to you? Well think about the your currently soaring food costs and know that olive oil and every other oil that you use in your kitchen will now be prohibitively priced. 

Are you missing having lettuce on a regular basis because you can no longer afford it? There is more to follow if this legislation goes through. All of your food supplies will be affected. 

Cosmetic companies of all sizes will have comply or go out of business. Our small handmade home based companies will cease to exist and no longer will you and your skin be able to enjoy the gentleness of vegan soaps. You will be stuck once again with high priced-low quality soaps, if you could afford to purchase even the poorest quality.

Our insurance options for home based operations became limited a couple of years ago. Two companies, Indie and Handmade Beauty Network got together and helped to find a company to insure us at a much higher cost. This high cost alone drove many soap makers out of business.

As soon as I can figure out how to add the link to this blog, you can see for yourself how this new legislation will affect us.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Fresh Hops

The harvest of our hop crop took place last weekend and bountiful it was.

Now you may ask dear reader, why we would grow hops? The answer is simple, we love beer and they look so pretty!

Hops come from a rhizome that is planted near a trellis or wall which will support it's weight. Harvest takes place in late August or early September when the pretty cones start to have a parchment type look and just begin to open. When you squeeze the cones, a lovely beer fragrance is emitted.

There has been a world wide shortage of hops in the recent past and prices have reflected this with some going for $15- $24 per pound. One reason is basic supply and demand to deliberately raise the price of the crop. With the need for more bio fuels, some farmers are now planting corn rather than hops.

Jim Koch founder of Boston Beer, which is the maker of Sam Adams beer, offered his stockpile to the smaller breweries. There were so many that clamored for his hops that he had to institute a lottery system. They were gone in a New York minute.

We used to brew our own beer but no longer, due to the time factor. The soap business keeps me really busy.

We now have around 5 pounds of fresh frozen hops available for purchase. If you are interested, you can email me through my website,

So how do you use fresh hops when you are used to the dry pellets? It's really simple. Replace the dry hop pellets with the fresh at at 3:1 ration by weight. You can use these fresh hops for your whole recipe, which gives a unique dry beer flavor, much like you would find in a light beer.

I prefer to use the fresh hops as my last hop step in the beer making process. Yum!!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Making Soap in the studio

We've been very busy here at the studio making new soaps. The price of patchouli essential oil has gotten very pricey in the last year due to weather, the exchange rate, and of course shipping costs.

Patchouli Odyssey is made with a fragrance oil and contains some loofah for exfoliation.

Give it a go and see if you can tell the difference!

In our Manly collection, we have added Cedarwood and Sage to remind the men of their origins in the great forest.

In our Manly collection, we have added Cedarwood and Sage to remind the men of their origins in the great forest.

Don't be fooled though, women love this great fragrance too!

Sage green is currently a popular color in bathroom decor and this will make a wonderful addition. Not only will you smell great but so will your bathroom.

Sometimes we are gifted with new friends. I met Suzanne just about a year ago when she placed her first order on my website.

Little did I know the ripple effect of that chance meeting. I now feel very much like an extended family member and look forward to emails not only from her but from her sister and daughter.

She and her sister Michelle have been incredible inspirations and I was compelled to honor both of them with their own special soaps.

Suzanne is the sun, sea, and the wind tousling our hair, reminding us of our connections to all things ethereal.

Michelle is ever the muse, mystical with her lilting voice and laughter as she teases us to enter her magical realm.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Avon Breast Walk Colorado '08

This is from my sister Brigid McClaire in Colorado. She and another sister, Angel Eder just finished the marathon and a half for the Avon Breast Cancer Walk in Colorado.

These ladies are an inspiration! 39 miles is one heck of a walk in the Colorado mountains!

We left Friday after work and arrived about 6:30, in time to check in, find Angel’s boyfriend
Paul, and go find something to eat. Most of the restaurants were jam packed, and though we
were all craving Italian, ended up with Mexican food.

Only 3 of the 4 of us that originally
signed up to walk made it up there. My friend Janet, who actually raised over $5,000 did not go, as she began having heel problems in March during her training.

So Angel, a girl named Kathleen, and I stayed in a beautiful condo overlooking Keystone Lake Friday night, and not one of us slept well.

We had to get up about 5:30 to get our gear loaded onto the trucks, then get into the starting area for the walk, which started at 7:00 a.m.

You can see Angel with the brown hat on, and me with the white shirt and the ski lifts and runs
of Keystone in the background. The first part of the day was a little cool, and the walk was 13.3
miles from Keystone to Frisco.

It was beautiful, all around Lake Dillon, and we chattered on. It went really fast! With the mountains in the background and the lake right next to us, it was just like a beautiful walk with 1,800 of our closest friends.

Kathleen is a girl from work that is about 43 and has a close friend with Breast cancer. She had done the 3-day walk out in San Diego a couple of years ago. Later in the walk, she developed some really sore hips, as she has scoliosis. But she persevered!

After those 13 miles, they set up an altitude checkpoint where they checked pulse/oxygen content and actually turned a few people back. A lot of people came in from out of state and
weren’t acclimated. A lot of people also just opted to do only half that day.

We were the bussed from the town of Frisco up to Breckenridge, where we walked from Breck to Frisco. That course was along a bike trail, through woods and along a creek. There were some pretty crabby bikers, too, at having to share the trail with us! As I said, Kathleen started to hurt, and about mile 21, my right knee started to hurt, too. But we slowed down quite a bit and Angel was kind enough to wait for us when necessary, and all 3 of us walked into the Wellness Village together, after 8 hours of walking, 26.6 miles, and 9 hours total on the trail.

Angel and Kathleen went into the medical tent to get a little treatment for blisters, and while there, after sitting down, I immediately got pretty sick—queasy and dizzy.

Upon big sister’s advice, I acquiesced and decided to forego the tent and went with her and Paul to the condo so I could recover there, under her compassionate care. By then both of our knees were paining us! Angel put me right to bed and brought me tea and toast. Thank the good Lord for good sisters!

I think all three of us seriously questioned whether or not we would be able, and would want to complete the walk the next day. But we agreed to meet at 6:15 a.m. to head back to the wellness village.

Kathleen came up with a knee brace for me and an ace bandage for Angel, not to mention moleskin for the blisters. I have to say, those damn toe socks recommended by Tim O’Grady saved my life again this year, and nary a blister was had by me!

Throughout both days, Angel’s good friend Paul cruised up and down the bike trail with us, meeting up at certain specified ‘cheering’ stations. He was on his bike and served as pack mule, support crew, coach, and friend to all of us. We never knew when he would pop around a corner to take our picture or provide a hug, or shoulder to lean on to tie shoes, etc.

I initially forgot my hat, and he immediately jumped on his bike and toured 17 parking lots and 89,000 cars to find mine with my hat in it. All that for the privilege of hanging with thousands of beautiful women!

He wasn’t the only man out there, though. There were husbands, significant others, friends, dads that came along to cheer and a few of them walked. There were motorcycle brigades that stopped traffic for us, and a youth cheering station that sang banana songs, and songs encouraging us to hydrate, urinate, and ……... You fill in the blank!!!

I liked this guy with the red bra and panties! They weren’t my size, though!

And so on Day two we started out from Frisco to head to the town of Breckenridge, limping,
sore, and bandaged. We were now officially feeling like the Crips and the Bloods! Sunday’s
walk was a bit warmer than Saturday, and we got half an hour reprieve on the start time,
leaving at 7:30.

As we went down Main Street of Frisco, I heard my name called out, and lo and behold, there was Peggy (Roanhouse) Wolfe from Waterford, Wisconsin, come out to walk, too. I went all through St. Thomas and high school with her, and Angel went to school with her older brother Jim.

A few minutes later, a car going down the street started waving money out the window and wanted to give a donation. Of course, Angel was the one to grab it (now we know what she was doing when I crashed at 7:30 the night before!). So she had an extra $20 to put into her fund raising efforts!

Although we ached, and only 1200 people started on Sunday compared to Saturday, we felt we could make it.

It seemed that about the time we’d get overwhelmed, cars would drive by and wave and beep, the scenery would get even more spectacular, and we also saw a guy leading a llama on the trail.

Toward the end, when the trail became open and hot, we saw a fox kit that just sat and watched us all walk by, scratching his little whiskers and yawning. There was always just that little bit of motivation to keep you going. And we had each other.

So you can see, that despite the challenge, the frustration of trying to fit in training, the fear of not finishing, and of becoming injured, we carried on through 2 days, 39 miles. Through it all,
the three of us were always in the top third of people passing the checkpoints, and we stayed together nearly all the time.

Will we do it again next year? I think yes. And the year after that? And the year after that?

I don’t know, but one of the sayings said, I’d rather have blisters than chemo. And survivors walked with us, and so did people currently undergoing treatment.

There were those that mourned their friends, their mothers, sisters, brothers, aunts and uncles that have been lost to breast cancer.

I thank God that you and Rae Jean are still here, and I still mourn Gael. When it’s all over, I know that Angel, Kathleen and I made a difference.

Milwaukee Magazine July '08

In May of '08, I was contacted by a Judith Ann Moriarty of Milwaukee Magazine for an interview about my beer soap. With great anticipation I awaited the publication of her article. Here it is in the July issue.

I couldn't have been more pleased with the prospect of having my soap featured in this premier magazine.

I'm a stock holder in Capital brewery located in Middleton, WI which is a micro brewery. I love the beer that is produced and felt that this would make a great soap to lather up with in my morning shower. I sent Judith Ann a bar of both of my fragrances and she was just as pleased with the aroma and the lather.

Now you can have your favorite beer any time of your day. How fun is that?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Opening Day at the Market

It looks like the season is up and running well. Our Harbor Market started this past Saturday and was quite the success for most people involved. We had a record number of vendors for opening day and the crowd was heavy and constant.

Gas prices are very high here reaching $4.09. This may have been a reason for more people to stay home rather than travel for the holiday weekend. What ever the reason, it was a great day.

It started out cold, in the 40's and I was dressed in my Irish wool sweater and ski socks to keep the chill out. It did warm up by noon although the wind was from the NE and the "cooler by the lake" temps prevailed.

I had done a mailing from my customer appreciation list complete with a coupon and a list of my summer events. I'm sure that this brought many repeat customers back to the market. The market opens at 9 AM and by noon I was more than half sold out.

I always look at last years sales for the projected inventory needs but man, I was way off. I only brought home about 10 unsold bars of soap. I could have brought and sold much more I'm sure.

On a fun note, the local NPR radio station was there and did an on site interview with me. How fun is that? All day I had people coming up to tell me they heard me on the radio in the morning. Sweet! A little more advertising is always helpful. I pushed the environmental, sustainable green, movement in the interview to keep the buzz about local buying going for all vendors.

It was great to see my regular customers and vendors once again.

I hope that anyone else that is involved in local markets had a great weekend too.

Have a great rest of the spring and summer

Saturday, May 10, 2008

What's growing in the garden

Spring is always and interesting time in our garden. Every year I plant more perennials and many reseed themselves.

A few years ago my daughter gave us a mushroom log. This is the first year it has produced. Of course I can't find the information on what kind of mushroom this is. Some say shiitake and some say portabella. If anyone has a clue, please let me know.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Mother's Day is right around the corner and she can be really tough to buy for.

Think about pampering her with a special treat from Patti's Potions Natural soaps.

These great vintage enamelware bowls make a lovely show piece in any room. And it is amazing just how much you can get in it should you wish to make your own gift.

We also have some lovely baskets available which we shrink wrap and finish with a lovely bow to reflect the season.

Wedding Favors

The month of weddings is fast approaching.

We are frequently asked to provide personalized favors for the wedding guest or for a shower prior to the big event.

Now how fun to have a personalized environmentally friendly gift from the bride and groom!

We can do full bars and guest size half bars with your wedding or other special event details on the label.

Of if you wish to save a few dollars, you can do this yourself. We'll be happy to tell you how. There is always an internet special soap on sale!

Make sure your guests smell great and have skin as soft as yours!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Cheese Maker

A very fun day was had recently in Cedarburg, WI.

One of the groups that I'm active in, the Essential Herbal, had a discussion recently on the joys of making your own cheese. In the process of research I discovered that there was a workshop available in this lovely little town. So yes indeed, I had to sign on for the class.

For more information on the workshop, please visit the website
Tell Steve I sent you!

These are some of the pictures from the event that he hosts upon request. The top picture is Steve Shapson, the owner of the cheese maker store. He also sells a variety of home brew and wine making supplies. On the eclectic side, he has surf ware. How is that for unique?

We made some Camembert that was surprisingly easy. The middle picture shows a ripe, ready to eat wheel of Camembert. The one we made in the class is now happily living in it's cheese cave and is producing it's distinctive white bloom that is characteristic of this cheese. Steve tells me that it should be ripe and ready in about 30 days. Yum! I can't wait!

I was in this quaint little town for a benefit to raise awareness for breast cancer. My daughter Erin lives here and she is involved with her local Jr. Women's Club. They sponsored a "wearable" art show and a three mile Awareness walk on Saturday. We really enjoyed our weekend together.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

New Items on the website

Blogging can certainly be a challenge sometimes. I've had some recent posts that some dastardly cretin was spamming and adding links to a download. This download would automatically install so I've had to delete the entries and make the blog protected from these undesirables. Yes, it is a cross to bear.

I love to show off some of my mother's newest designs for her hand knit washcloths that are made of 100% cotton. These pictures are just some of the ones she has made available.

Mom likes to tell me she makes these cloths to feel "useful" and that the knitting keeps her hands nimble and strong. I'm certain that it does help her hands but she is always useful in more ways than just her contribution to my business. Thank you Mom for all of your hard work.

SM from Maryland is one of her best customers and has this to say about Mom's work:

"HEHEHE... well... tell your mom... there will be no set-adrift icebergs in her future...AND when her hands give out on her and she can no longer crochet/knit... then she will be revered and respected as the "elder of the tribe" and her wisdom will be sought by those who have not journeyed as far on the trail of life as she has....

Funny, how the elderly have these perceptions of being "allowed only if they're useful". AND (for me anyway).. purchases of those cloths happen BECAUSE she's your mom... Like I said, magic to magic... hers to yours.. it just heightens your Oh so very aptly named "potions"...
And sap (sometimes to the point of maudlin) that I am, I have a soft place in my heart for the crafts and skills of generations that have come before us... and those who still practice their "arts"... if ya know what I mean. What a treasured piece of history they are.. even more so when they "share" their skills.. y'kno??
My own mother was very gifted with crocheting... yet somehow her talents were never shared... sooo many stunning pieces of art Mich and I came across after she passed... broke my heart. (all I keep telling myself is Karma...karma will happen for ALL of us threefold). I have memories of being a wee child asking her to teach me to crochet... alas... never happened.. I ended up teaching myself when I was grown... sooo... I've studied these things hehehe... your mom sharing her gift/magic... will have big karmas.."

Sunday, April 6, 2008


Some years ago we sold our house out in Waterford and the new owners decided to build a new one on the property. The new house takes up most of the lot now. They did keep the boathouse which now looks like a small play house. It's all kind of sad to see the old times and so many of the memories fade as progress marches on.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Natural Cleaners

At the Essential Herbal yahoo group, we have been challenged to share our natural cleaning products.

My all time favorite is this simple, all purpose cleaner made with vinegar and ammonia. I use it on windows, counter tops, floors and just about everything but wood.

To a half gallon of warm water, add:
1 cup vinegar
1/2 cup ammonia

I prefer to use rubber gloves on my hands.
Use a 100% cotton wash rag and apply to the window or surface.
If you are washing windows, try using a squeegee or newspaper to wipe the solution off for a finish that is streak-free.

If you have previously used a commercial spray product for washing your windows you will find that there is usually some type of film left behind, so it may take two washings to complete rid the pane of the residue. No residue is left behind with the vinegar and ammonia.

It works great on car windows and interiors.

The smell dissipates rapidly and you are left with a nice clean smell.

Returning Soaps for Patti's Potions

I've been very busy in the studio now that I've finished my taxes. It sure is good to have that ordeal over for yet another year.

There have been some soap fragrances that were introduced in recent years that were very popular. Summer Solstice and Lilac have been favorites for folks of all ages. Now you would think it would be easy to find great fragrances that behave well and have great scent. That is not the case.

I've tried several lilac fragrance oils and this one that I offer is just the best out there! It is just like sticking your nose in an old fashioned and very fragrant lilac bush! How wonderful is that! This is not the cloying smell that you get from those horrid air fresheners that just smell fake and very chemical. Ick to that I say! I want the real thing and this is it.

Summer Solstice is a fragrance that my customers just fell in love with and were really unhappy when I ran out. But hey, I always have to test the market to see how a new one holds up over time. This one is just clean and fresh, not floral or spicy. Everyone loves it!

If you skin is suffering from winter dryness, then try our soothing lavender and oatmeal soap. It is made with organic oatmeal and a pure lavender essential oil.

All the soaps have an olive oil base and are enriched with shea butter and jojoba for the best in a moisturizing handmade artisan soap.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Fun in Maui

There are so many things to do on this small island. Lahaina Town has the banyon tree that fills a full city block. The shopping and people watching is pure pleasure.

One of the really fun things to do is to go up to Up Country and visit the Tedescherie Winery.

Then of course there are the spectacular views on the Road to Hana.

I hope that all of you can get to paradise.

Whale Watch

The whales return to Maui in early December from their summer season in Alaska. Our first year in Maui was in November so we didn't see them that trip but have on all the rest. Last year with my sister Brigid and nephew Chris, we went on a whale watch excursion. They were so incredibly close to the boat and you could really see just how huge they are! You can see them from the shoreline too during high season.

Maui Wild Life

The Manta Ray in the tube of the Ocean Center in Ma'alea Harbor is awesome!

This little gecko always comes to say howdy to us. His chirping is so friendly and welcome.

Then of course my favorite is the Green Sea Turtle. This big fella was nearly on top of me at Black Rock! My eyes just bugged out of my mask and some words that my mother would hate issued into my snorkel.

And my favorite little fish friend is the Humuhumunukunukupukuapua'a. It's a wonder to finally be able to learn to say it! I wish that I could say I took the one of him but alas, mine are all pretty cloudy. The underwater cameras you buy are pretty good, but the pros really know how to do it.

The first time I saw him I was so excited. "I saw a plaid fish"! Woo hoo!

Hang Gliding over Hana

Maui is known for it's beaches and the famous Road to Hana.

I discovered the little known activity of powered hang gliding on the travel channel and just had to DO IT!

We had to drive to Hana which is spectacular to say the least. It take about three hours to travel 50 miles. It is hair raising with very tight hair pin turns on one lane. At the end of the road is the Hana airport and Armand with his little craft. I soared for an hour above the clouds and at that point he turned off the engine. What a view!

Big Beach

My favorite place in the whole world is Big Beach. It is pristine. Words cannot say what pictures can.

In the early morning we have seen a pod of dolphins crossing the channel. Around 11 am the surf really kicks up! And the backdrop is as natural and unspoiled as it was ages ago before Captain Cook discovered this paradise.

Haleakakala Crater

A must see if you visit Maui is Haleakala Crater and the Summit. It is amazing to say the least. At sea level it can be 80 degrees but at the summit there can be snow as was the case this past week. It is truly no mans land! The wind howls and it is dang cold!

Golfing in Pukulani

One of the activities that we really enjoy is golfing. Most of the courses are for the rich-y rich as we like to say. Pukulani is in Up Country and more for the locals who do not have the need to impress anyone. We sure were impressed and felt very rich with the affordable prices. The holes are challenging and the view can't be beat!

Yes, it may mist a bit in the afternoon but when the golf course is not crowded and you have rainbows, no problem man!

Maui Vacations

We have been to Maui several times. We found this great condo unit in Kihei. The building is a low rise on Sugar Beach in Ma'alea Harbor. Most units are around 800 sq. ft. and very comfortable. All are ocean front.

These pretty orchids are on the property.