Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Karita Loua

Coffee Liqueur is a nice addition to afternoon coffee on a chilly day.  It's even really good over ice cream.  I’ve made this in bulk for years, giving bottles away as gifts.  I recycle pretty bottles I find at the dollar store. 

This recipe does not need to age.  So try it.  You’ll be surprised how much it tastes like the name brand!

Coffee Liqueur

1 vanilla bean or 2 tsp. Vanilla extract
1 qt. Brandy (I use 750 ml, the rest vodka)
1 cup vodka
4 cups water
6 ½ cups sugar
4 oz. Instant coffee
2 TBSP. Cocoa

Bring to just a boil (do not let it boil over) everything except brandy, vodka and vanilla.  Remove from heat.  Cool to warm.  Add brandy, vodka and vanilla. Pour into bottles.

If using a vanilla bean, cut it into equal portions and place in bottle.

Monday, October 18, 2010

How I Got Into Soapmaking

I remember distinctly the day I read you could make soap from scratch.  I have always been the kind of person who enjoys doing things from scratch.  I enjoy canning, baking, sewing, crafting, anything from its raw material base.  So when I read in the newspaper an article on making soap from scratch, 25 years ago, I began collecting the ingredients.  Beef fat from the butcher at the grocery store.  Coconut oil from the health food store.  Lye from the grocery store.  The first batch was a success.  I knew I’d be making soap again!

I went to the local bookstore and bought the one and only book they had on soapmaking.  To this day it is my favorite book on the subject.  I then began making soap every 6 months or so, adding fragrances and herbs for variety.  I found a bar of handmade soap made an excellent gift. 

When my husbands business slowed during the recession of the early nineties, I was looking for someway to supplement our family’s income.  But the problem for me was I had 5 children.  Can you imagine what childcare for 5 children would be?  I had to find a job I could do partially at home and take my children with me to work.  My friend Cindy, who had been a recipient of my soap, solved my dilemma.  I was telling her my plight one day.  She responded “Karita, you ought to try selling your soaps”.  She had traveled extensively doing flea markets with her husband, and she observed people would buy cleaning supplies and food.

I thought about it and decided to give it a try.  That was 15 years ago.  It was a wonderful solution to my dilemma.  I made soap at home, and on the weekends my children and I would go to the farmers’ market to sell them.  I tell my customers I am one of those rare people who work at what they love.  I am at home during the week, which I love.  I leave home once or twice a week to sell my soaps, which I love. Can it get any better than that? 

Check out Karita's soaps at

Friday, October 15, 2010

Put Yer Hoes Down

I grew up in almond country.  Not all-mond country, but am-mond country.

Each year during the almond harvest, my mother and my cousin’s mother would work on the almond huller for about 6 weeks.  Once school began, we would ride the bus to the farm and dairy and wait the 2 hours until she was off work.  This farm happened to be where Indians had lived centuries before.
  Waiting for mom was not boring at all.  We would hunt for arrowheads and obsidian.  Occasionally we would find Indian grinding bowls.
Grinding Whole Grains
  A creek ran through the farm where we could look under the rocks for hellgrammites, which were used for fishing bait.  Mr. Perez would sometimes let us milk a cow.
No, we were never bored!

That was 45 years ago.  The farm and dairy have been transformed into an organic farm called Full Belly.
For 23 years this farm has opened its gates for a farm festival extraordinaire.
The Hoes Down!  I’ve been a vendor at this festival for some 12 years or so.
When my children were small, I’d take them with me to the festival.  There were activities galore, not only for children but for adults as well.
Bobbing for Apples

We all looked forward to October. 
Carding Wool

Each year I attend I relate to my customers what this farm was like 45 years ago.  I point out where the huller was, where the milking barn was, where Mr. Perez lived with his family.
Circus Bella
I relate to them what we as children did and where we would go on the farm.  I relate how the walk from the highway almost killed me the first year I did the festival.  We unloaded the car and parked near the highway, and walked the same walk I did as a child.  I hadn’t realized how far it was from the huller. 
Hay Fort

Everything changes, but the Hoes Down Festival brings those pleasant childhood memories back to mind. Those were the days!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Cinnamon Mulling Spices

This time of year naturally we want hot refreshments.  The days start to get shorter and the temperatures are more temperate and cooler.  Apples are readily available this time of year and fresh apple juice and cider is very good.   I have always wondered what the difference is between apple juice and apple cider?  So what is the difference?  According to
Apple juice and apple cider are both fruit beverages made from apples, but there is a difference between the two. Fresh cider is raw apple juice that has not undergone a filtration process to remove coarse particles of pulp or sediment. It takes about one third of a bushel to make a gallon of cider. 
 apple cider jugs
To make cider, apples are washed, cut and ground into a mash that is the consistency of applesauce. Layers of mash are wrapped in cloth, and put into wooded racks. A hydraulic press squeezes the layers, and the juice flows into refrigerated tanks. This juice is bottled as apple cider.

Apple juice is juice that has been filtered to remove solids and pasteurized so that it will stay fresh longer. Vacuum sealing and additional filtering extend the shelf life of the juice.

The flavor of cider depends on the blending of juice from different apple varieties. The term "flavor" refers to the palatability of a distinct apple juice flavor and the aroma that is typical of properly processed apple juice. Cider makers are most particular about concocting a blend that will create the desired flavor and produce the perfect balance between sweetness and tartness.

Cider needs constant refrigeration because it is perishable. It will stay sweet and unfermented for up to two weeks. Cider can also be frozen, but be sure to pour off an inch or two from the container for expansion during freezing.

A Nutritious Alternative: Although a glass of cider a day cannot guarantee good health, the sweet juice is a good source of potassium and iron. Apple cider is pure and natural with no sugar added. A 6 ounce glass has only 87 calories. Apple cider, like other juices, fruits and vegetables contains no cholesterol. Pectin, contained in apple cider, has been shown to keep serum cholesterol levels down.

To spice apple juice or cider try mulling it. This recipe for mulling spices I got out of Sunset Magazine about 20 years ago.  Each year I make a batch or two to use to mull cider or red wine.  It is easy to prepare and has a very nice flavor.  I seal in large tea bags (available on line or at kitchen stores) or you could use muslin and package in pretty tins or cellophane. 

Cinnamon Mulling Spices

1 lemon, peeled
15 cinnamon sticks (3”)
1-1/2 TBSP whole cloves
1-1/2 TBSP whole allspice
1 tsp. anise seeds, crushed

Heat oven to 225 degrees, dry lemon peels (1 hr.).  Crush cinnamon sticks into 1” slivers.  Mix rest of ingredients in bowl.  Add cinnamon and lemon rind.  Divide into 2 TBSP portions.  Seal in large tea bags or Sm muslin bags.  Makes 5 bags.  Serving is 1 bag to 1 to 2 quarts liquid.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Healthy Skin Care

I am an alchemist.  I concoct.  I make skin care products.  When the spirit moves me in a creative direction I get excited.  When I branched out from soaps and began making skin care products, I wanted them to be beneficial.  So I had to do my homework.  I read about the skin, what factors cause dry skin and wrinkles.  My research led me to this conclusion.  Skin problems inevitably begin inside our bodies, with poor eating habits, not enough fluids consumed, not enough fats in the diet, immoderate habits and too much sun.  Wrinkled skin is a lack of either oil or water in the body’s system.
So what makes beautiful healthy skin?  Our lifestyle, stress, even our attitude can affect our skin. Lack of water, (dehydration) vitamin deficiencies, improper nutrition, alcohol, caffeine, and smoking can all affect the skin's health.

Protecting your skin from within is the first line of defense. 
A glowing, youthful complexion begins with good nutrition. When your diet contains fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, legumes, and omega-3 fatty acids, the skin is nourished. Preventive measures for skin care include wearing sunscreen, maintaining a good skin care regimen, following a good diet; eat healthily (plenty of fruits and vegetables), drink plenty of water,  take vitamins,  and exercise regularly.  All  will have a positive effect on the health of the body and the skin.  You'll be rewarded with younger looking, more radiant healthy skin!

Exercising regularly invigorates circulation to the skin.  Get plenty of sleep (natures repair systems of the skin need rest so cells can regenerate properly.)
Sun damage is the main external factor of aging.  Daily sunscreen is imperative for healthy skin. Sunscreen helps protect the skin from the sun, prevents "age spots" and helps prevent collagen loss.

Quality skin care products used regularly to cleanse, moisturize, and protect the skin are part of a well-planned skin care program. Remember what you put on your skin your body absorbs or drinks.  The fewer the ingredients the better.  Water, oil and beeswax (as a binder) are really all that is necessary in a skin care product.

Remember too being happy and thinking positively can also have positive effects on the skin! 

Check out Karita’s Skin Care Products at

Friday, October 8, 2010

Gold Paint Makes a Buffet (or Filing Cabinet) Look Good

It has been said that paint makes an old barn look good, or paint covers a multitude of sins, whichever.  I know there is truth to that rumor!

My sister has a thing for gold spray paint.  A thrift queen she is with a fetish for buffets painted gold. She believes all things can look good with a couple coats of gold spray paint.  I, at one point asked, “How many buffets does a person need?” Her buffets come and go, but the gold spray paint is a constant.

I have come to appreciate her penchant.  I happened across an old filing cabinet that needed some TLC.  You know what I did?  I got 2 cans of gold spray paint, and painted my filing cabinet.  When my family saw it, they said “Okay Shandra!” But you know what – that gold paint made that filing cabinet look good! And what’s more, most things can look good with a couple of coats of (gold) paint.

Thanks Shandra for turning me on to gold spray paint!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Almond Roca Cookies

I am a chocolate and nut lover.  Always have been and always will be.  My dad would not come home from work without a treat for us.  Something sweet of course!  My husband tells me he should have looked at my teeth before he married me, he could have saved a fortune!

Cookies are my favorite.  Chocolate chip with nuts, especially.  I did acquire a recipe from one of my mother’s co-workers years ago that fit my obsession.  Almond Roca Cookies.  I accompanied my mother to a Head Start seminar (she was a teacher) perhaps when I was 18 or so, where refreshments were brought by different ones.  Pat Williams of Davis, CA brought these cookies to the seminar.  Now I am really shy by nature, but I had to ask for that recipe.  It has all the ingredients to fully satisfy my sweet tooth: butter, sugar, chocolate and nuts.  I still have her recipe card written in her own hand, which reads, “Good cooks never lack friends.” For a different kind of cookie try this recipe.

Almond Roca Cookies
Download the recipe on a 3x5 card.

1 cup butter
½ cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups sifted cake flour
9 ounces milk chocolate
1 cup sliced raw almonds

Cream butter and sugars.  Beat in egg yolk and vanilla.  Add flour and mix well.  Spread batter evenly in an ungreased 10 X 15” rimmed cookie pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. Meanwhile melt chocolate in double broiler or microwave and spread over warm shortbread.  Sprinkle almonds on top.  Cut into squares while still warm.

Monday, October 4, 2010


Lavender has been called a breath of fresh air.  And indeed it is!  Lavender is used extensively in herbalism and aromatherapy. English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) yields an essential oil with sweet overtones, and can be used in balms, salves, perfumes, cosmetics, and topical applications. Lavandin, (Lavandula intermedia) yields a similar essential oil, but with higher levels of terpenes including camphor, which add a sharper overtone to the fragrance. Mexican lavender, (Lavandula stoechas) is not used medicinally, but mainly for landscaping.
According to folk wisdom, and Wikipedia, lavender has many uses. Essential oil of lavender has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. Infusions of lavender soothes, heal insect bites and burns. Bunches of lavender repel insects. If applied to the temples, (lavender is one of only a few essential oils that can be applied undiluted on the skin) lavender oil soothes headaches. In pillows, lavender seeds and flowers aid sleep and relaxation. An infusion of three flowerheads added to a cup of boiling water soothes and relaxes at bedtime. Lavender essential oil heals acne when used diluted 1:10 with water, rosewater, or witch hazel; it also treats skin burns and inflammatory conditions.
Flower spikes are used for dried flower arrangements. The fragrant, pale purple flowers and flower buds are used in potpourris. Lavender is also used extensively as herbal filler inside sachets used to freshen linens. Dried and sealed in pouches, lavender flowers are placed among stored items of clothing to give a fresh fragrance and to deter moths. Lavender is also popular in scented waters and sachets.

How to use it:
10 – 12 drops lavender essential oil to 1 oz either water or carrier oil is sufficient.  Leftovers should be stored in a dark bottle, in a cool place.

Karita’s Handmade uses lavender extensively in many products.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Shoes & Mattresses

There are few things in life that a person really needs to splurge on.  Good comfortable shoes, and a good comfortable mattress.

Our feet have to carry us through life.  If our feet hurt, we’re in big trouble.  Misfitting shoes are responsible for many health ailments, including deformities such as bunions, calluses or corns, hammertoes or pinched nerves between your toes.  It is important to make healthy choices in footwear.  How do you choose well fitting shoes?  Check out  for tips on a good shoe fit.

Because we spend a third of our lives in bed, it is very important to get a good night’s sleep.  During sleep time our bodies do its healing work. Sleep is necessary to refresh, invigorate and rejuvenate us.  According to  a good mattress can make a noticeable difference in your health, attitude, and well being. A comfortable mattress is of utmost importance.  How can you choose a good mattress?  Check out the above link.