Tutorials & Ideas

DIY Foaming Liquid Soap Refill


Normally we’re a bar soap family.  For a number of reasons, I’ve been making soap from scratch for my family since college (it’s actually what ultimately led to our ownership of The Weed Patch, but that’s another longer story for another day!).  As I reckon most homemade soap users will say, once you start using made-from-scratch soap, you just can’t go back to the store bought stuff.


However, that said, we are a busy family that includes two grungy little monsters, which tends to result in a bathroom counter covered in soap scum and bits of soap melting in pools of water.  99.9% of the time, handmade bar soap is fantastic.  However, in a high traffic bathroom used by messy children, it isn’t the best.

Thus I confess my love for those foaming liquid soap pumps.  I LOVE those.  Liquid soap, already sudsy, quick to use, leaving little to no mess on my counter.   Great for kitchens, high traffic bathrooms, or anywhere a lot of hand washing is happening.  However - 1.  I’m cheap, and soap refills add up; and 2. I love handmade soap, and really don’t like commercial “soaps,” liquid or bar.


Well, I’m happy to say you can have the best of both worlds!  We had this foaming soap dispenser on hand, leftover from a gift package we received at some point.  We’ve happily kept it refilled, using my own handmade soap!  If you, like us, prefer to use natural soaps (instead of commercial “soap” bars), want to save on liquid soap refills, or just have a bar soap you love that would be great to have in liquid format, then this DIY is for you.

  1. Grate a little bit of your bar soap using a regular kitchen grater – we used roughly 2 slightly heaping tablespoons of grated soap.
  2. Put the soap flakes into your empty bottle. Fill bottle with hot water (as hot as you can get it without melting the bottle or burning yourself).
  3. Put the foaming dispenser lid back on the bottle, and swirl or VERY gently/slowly shake to help melt the soap. Do NOT vigorously shake the bottle, or you’ll create a huge foamy mess (ask me how I know).


When the soap is melted, it’s ready to use!  Give it a try – if you get foam, but it doesn’t feel very “soapy,” then add a little more soap next time (or add it right away while the liquid in the bottle is still hot).  We added only about a tablespoon the first time around, and it wasn’t soapy enough.  Two tablespoons was perfect.


One bar of soap will provide enough for many refills.  We’ve refilled this bottle several times already, and you can see we’ve only used about ¼ of the bar.  Plus, we get the benefits of natural soap but in liquid format, AND we’re helping the environment a little bit by not buying a soap refill in a new plastic bottle!

As my soap is already scented with essential oils, I didn’t add anything for extra scent, however you are certainly welcome to add a few drops to the bottle before mixing!  You may need to periodically gently shake your bottle to redistribute the oils, as oil and water don’t mix, and they won’t fully emulsify in the soap/water mixture.


I have no idea how this will work on commercial “soaps.”  They are made with chemicals and thus legally cannot be labelled as soap, so they have a different make-up than natural handmade soap, and I couldn’t tell you for sure that they’ll work.  If you try it and it works, be sure to let us know!

Happy soaping! :)

A New Spin on Floral Arrangements

Just in time for Easter, Janene brings us a simple "how to" on how to create interesting and unique floral arrangements that are sure to brighten your table, desk, or counter top!

For a new spin on floral arrangements, considering unusual containers as "vases" to display your farmer’s market finds in all their glory. Most any vessel can be turned into a container for your bouquet with just a little work. Scour flea markets, thrift stores, country shops, or even your own cupboards or recycle bin for objects that catch your eye. Some possibilities include tea cups and pots, old shoes, your childhood lunchbox, tarnished silver creamers/sugars, wire baskets lined with moss, glass light fixtures turned upside down, old tins or toy cars.

First, set a block of florist’s foam (for fresh flowers, not dried arrangements) to soak while you’re prepping the rest of your materials, so that it is fully saturated by the time you’re ready to use it. Next, simply line the inside of your container with plastic from a plain black trash bag, trim off the excess so it doesn’t show. For the flowers, I like to purchase a dozen stems of some sort of large showy flower, like roses or daisies, then I also pick up a bouquet of mixed flowers in colors that I like from a local farmer’s market to use as filler flowers. You could also purchase some likely looking smaller flowers like baby’s breath, greenery, little bachelor buttons or mums.

When you’re ready to begin, place your floral foam into the container, trimming and sculpting with a knife until it fits. If you’re using a bowllike shape, such as a teapot or urn, place a large chunk of foam inside, then trim the top so that it gives a nice rounded shape sticking a few inches out of the top of the vessel. If you’re using a box-like shape like a tin, cut pieces of foam to fit inside, then cut strips of waterproof floral tape to make a grid along the top. You may also use torn strips of masking tape like I did, if you don’t have the floral tape - you’ll just have to be sure to place your flowers so they hide the tape.

Now comes the fun part! Starting with your large showy flowers, trim the stems to about 3-6 inches below the blossom (depending on the size of your container), then begin placing them evenly into the foam. By placing the flowers closer to the base so that they are more horizontal, and the flowers closer to the top more vertical, you will end up with a nice rounded shape that shows off its pretty flowers from all angles. If using flowers such as roses, you may have to trim off some of the lower leaves so that they’ll fit into the foam, and watch out for those thorns! Next, start selecting some of your filler flowers from your bouquet, trimming them down, and filling in around the larger flowers. 

This is where you get to be artful - choose the colors you like, which compliment each other, and place them evenly around the bouquet. If it doesn’t look right, pull them out and move them around - the foam is rather forgiving. Be sure to make use of the leaves - they are great for filling in gaps, hiding bits of tape, and making the arrangement more full. Voila, that’s it! You now have a nice arrangement that should last for a week or more if you keep the foam moistened, depending on the age of your flowers.

C is for Crafts


Crafting is simply the best way to enjoy the holiday season - well, besides cooking, baking, singing carols, visiting friends and family, decorating the tree, and gift-giving, of course.  I enjoy a wide variety of arts and crafts, and they tend to follow the seasons - Spring is watercolors, Summer is oils, Fall is collage and crochet, but Christmas is all about crafting.  Out comes the felt, buttons, paper, scissors, bells, beads, glues, glitter, pipe cleaners, fat quarters, googly eyes, and more.  I could just sit and start at all the fun goodies waiting to be turned into something wonderful, and sometimes I do.  A sort of tradition my friends Beth, Holly, and I started is having a tea and crafting afternoon together - we drink tea, eat goodies, and talk, all while working on some sort of Christmas crafting project.  One year I made cards, another year I knitted a scarf for my mom.  I have some ideas about what I might do this year, but then again I've never been lacking ideas.  My problem has always been which one to choose!


I love to make gifts.  I love to receive handmade gifts.  On Sunday, I received my Christmas gift from Holly rather early.  I haven't taken a photo yet, though, happily, Holly has, so I stole it from her blog to show you here.  Not only has she blessed me with a handmade gift of my very first Advent calendar ever, she did indeed fill each one of those handsewn little white felt envelopes with a small gift, one for each day.  The first gift was this book.


It is just the kind of thing I had been looking for to read together with my family during December - it is full of stories, devotional readings, scripture passages and prayers.  The second gift was an adorable little pair of socks for Ben.  We haven't opened today's gift yet.  Words simply cannot express how much I love this gift.  Leave it to Holly to know exactly the kind of thing I want, without even asking me, and then make it herself.  I'm just blown away.

By the way, Holly wrote a lovely blog entry about Advent the other day - she has this wonderful talent of taking the big pile of words swimming around in my own head like a school of a billon tiny fish in the ocean, and expressing it perfectly and eloquently and sensibly.  Without all the wild hand gestures and the "you know what I mean?"  Thus I am also so excited to see that she has started a second blog devoted entirely to spending a year in the church calendar.  Having grown up in a baptist church, I hadn't heard much about the church calendar (that I can recall), such as Lent, until I went to college.  I find I really love the focused, scheduled times of celebration and introspection, so I plan to follow this blog quite closely throughout the year.  If you'd like to join in, visit the blog here.

But anyway, I digress...

C is for Crafting.  Crafting is one of the most coziest things ever, and I'm all about the coziness in winter, especially for Christmas.  What are your favorite Christmas crafts?  Do you have ones you like to do with your kids?  There is a myriad of ideas out there - some related to Christmas themes, and others more general for an anytime gift.  Here are a few tutorials from some of the blogs I love to read: 

Felt Elf Clogs
Travel Tissue Holder
Super Easy Keychain
Festive Felt Penguins
Embroidered Felt Ornaments

I'll be listing a craft tutorial myself, but I'll do it on a separate post, because I can't seem to stop typing and this post is getting really loooooong.

Crochet Pumpkin Tutorial


This is a free tutorial I've shared in one of our past newsletters, as well as posted on my own personal blog, and thought you all might enjoy it.  The weather is starting to be the type where I just like to cozy up on the couch and make things with my hands.  I really enjoyed creating this pattern, and sometime would like to make a whole family of these pumpkins.  Please feel free to leave comments or email if you have any questions.  Hope you enjoy!

Crochet Pumpkin


1 skein Monteza Classic Elite llama/wool blend yarn in pumpkin orange (I used #3885), or similar bulky wool yarn
1 ball Crystal Palace Kid Merino yarn in brown (I used #4673), or similar mohair/wool/nylon blend yarn in complimentary color
1 skein Monteza Classic Elite llama/wool blend yarn in olive green or brown, or similar bulky wool yarn for the stem
Size H/8 crochet hook
Large eye needle
Fiberfill for stuffing
Optional: Dark green wool felt, olive green pipe cleaners, small orange button with 4 holes

This project uses only one stitch, the single crochet (sc) for the entire pumpkin, working in rounds, making it a doable project for beginners. The stem incorporates a few half-double (hdc) and double (dc) crochet stitches, but once you get the basic stitches down, the rest is a breeze. For instructions on basic crochet stitches, check out any crochet book from the library, ask a friend or relative to show you, or search on google .  (Feel free to use this pattern for your own personal use, to make your own decorations or a gift to a friend, but you may not reproduce or create for selling.)


For the pumpkin (using the orange wool and brown mohair yarns together):

Foundation and Round 1: ch 2, then 6sc in 2nd ch from hk. Place marker by placing a stray length of yarn of a different color in the last stitch you did, so you know where the round ends.

Round 2: 2 sc in ea st around (12 sts total). Move marker to last stitch (continue moving with each round)

Round 3: [1 sc, 2sc in next st] repeat around (18 sts)

Round 4: [2 sc, 2sc in next st] repeat around (24 sts)

Round 5: [3 sc, 2sc in next st] repeat around (30 sts)

Round 6: [4 sc, 2sc in next st] repeat around (36 sts)

Round 7: [5 sc, 2sc in next st] repeat around (42 sts)

Round 8: [6 sc, 2sc in next st] repeat around (48 sts)

Round 9: [7 sc, 2sc in next st] repeat around (54 sts)

Round 10: [8 sc, 2sc in next st] repeat around (60 sts)

Round 11:  [9 sc, 2sc in next st] repeat around (66 sts)

Round 12: [10 sc, 2sc in next st] repeat around (72 sts)

Round 13: [11 sc, 2sc in next st] repeat around (78 sts)

Rounds 14 – 27: sc in each st around (78 sts each time)

Round 28: [12 sc, skip next st] repeat around (72 sts)

Round 29: [11 sc, skip next st] repeat around (66 sts)

Round 30: [10 sc, skip next st] repeat around (60 sts)

At this point, stuff the pumpkin with fiberfill (not too stuffed!), and continue adding bits of stuffing as you complete the closing rounds.

Round 31: [9 sc, skip next st] repeat around (54 sts)

Round 32: [8 sc, skip next st] repeat around (48 sts)

Round 33: [7 sc, skip next st] repeat around (42 sts)

Round 34: [6 sc, skip next st] repeat around (36 sts)

Round 35: [5 sc, skip next st] repeat around (30 sts)

Round 36: [4 sc, skip next st] repeat around (24 sts)

Round 37: [3 sc, skip next st] repeat around (18 sts)

Round 38: [2 sc, skip next st] repeat around (12 sts)

Round 39: [1 sc, skip next st] repeat around (6 sts)

Round 40: [1 sc, skip next st] repeat around (3 sts)

Finishing: make one more sc in middle st to close the opening, clip yarn and weave in the tail.

For the stem (using the green or brown wool yarn):

Foundation and Round 1: ch 3 (counts as 1st hdc), 11 hdc in 3rd ch from hk (12 sts total, incl. ch 3)

Round 2: sc in each st around (12 sts)

Repeat round until the stem reaches desired length, approx 2 – 3”.

Next round: ch 4 (counts as first dc), 2 dc in each sc around (24 sts total, incl. ch 4)

Last round: 1 sl st, 1 sc, ch 5, 1 sc in 3rd ch from hk, 1 hdc in next ch, 1 dc in next ch, sl st in next 2 sc (one pointy stem base made). Repeat around, completing 6 evenly spaced pointy stem base pieces, or alter as desired. Stuff stem with fiberfill.

Putting it all together:

Using a very long length of orange yarn, make three even wraps around the entire pumpkin to create the pumpkin-like grooves, threading through an orange button on the bottom if needed to keep secure. Pull yarn fairly tight so that nice deep grooves are created, and so that the yarn doesn’t slide. Using a length of the green yarn and the large eye needle, whip stitch the stem to the top of the pumpkin. 


  • If desired, cut leaf shapes from dark green wool and stitch near the base of the stem.
  • Create tendrils by wrapping olive green pipe cleaners around a pencil and tucking into the base of the stem.
  • Make your stitches tight so that the stuffing doesn’t show through.
  • To make a smaller pumpkin, use a lighter weight yarn and a smaller crochet hook.