The Best Cranberry Sauce
- 12 ounces fresh frozen cranberries
- 1 medium to large orange (with thick rind) cut into 8 parts.
- 1 cup sugar (or to taste)
In blender, pulse 1/2 cup sugar with half of the orange pieces (rind on) until completely chopped. Add half of the cranberries (frozen) and pulse to blend until completely chopped. Pour into bowl.
Repeat. Add sugar to taste.
Forty years ago in November of 1977 I made my very first batch of soap. Our baby girl, Sara, was just three months old at the time, and she had been born with a skin disease called seborrhea. It made her skin dry and non-elastic. Everywhere she moved her little body her skin cracked and bled. Though we took her to see our doctor time and time again, nothing he prescribed seemed to help her.
Then a wise old neighbor farm woman suggested to me that my baby might be sensitive to commercial soaps and detergents. She gave to me a bar of her stinky old-fashioned laundry soap and told me to wash my baby and everything she wore or touched with it. After three months of doctoring and prescritions, I was ready to try anything. I did as Dorothy suggested and in one week my baby was normal!
I learned to make that stinky laundry soap with fats saved from cooking roasts and making soups and stews. It worked for Sara, but it smelled awful. I wanted to learn to make pretty, nice smelling soaps. Forty years ago there were not many options available to someone wanting to learn this skill. There was no internet. Our library in Juneau, WI did not have much on the topic.
I researched old books in a library in Milwaukee and I learned about the rules of chemistry involved in soapmaking, as well as the history and a few old wives’ tales.
I learned enough to develop my own recipes. The first successful one was my Fresh Meadow Soap, which is my best seller to this day. It is one of five healing soaps I now make for people who have sensitive skin. The most important ingredient is chlorophyll, which comes from plants and promotes healing.
Sara still uses my soaps exclusively, though there was a short learning curve when she was in her teens and wanted to try something else. Almost immediately her skin broke out in a rash when she tried a commercial soap. Needless to say, she is my oldest, most loyal “customer”, though she gets all the she needs in exchange for a kiss and a hug.
When word spread locally about how my soap had helped Sara, others asked to buy some for their loved ones who had skin problems. I had a nice little home business going to make a little pocket change. I had three children, a husband, a garden, cows to milk twice a day, some sheep and chickens. Life was good.
Then, sometime in the early 1990s, a local freelance journalist interviewed me about it. Her article was sold over the associated press. Several small town newspapers across the US published the story. I got a few letters in the mail, a few requests to buy some soap. Now I had a mail-order business. Everything was primitive. I saved cereal boxes in which to package and mail the soap. I asked family and friends to save their boxes, too, when the need arose.
In 1993 the Milwaukee Journal published a story about my soap business on the front page of their business section. As a result, I got 10,000 letters in the mail over a period of a few weeks. I had no computer. I asked Jim (my husband) if he would help me to answer all those letters asking for my recipes, to buy soap, or if I would come to teach them to make it. He told me “no. You got yourself into this mess, now you can get yourself out.” I answered every one of those letters by hand. When I was finished, I had a little bit bigger business. By this time our children were in highschool and university. They could help out more on the farm and I could do more with my business. I made enough money to remodel my kitchen and to buy a pipeline milking system for the barn so I didn’t have to carry the milk from the cow to the bulk tank anymore. Again, life was good.
Then one day in 1994 The Country Woman magazine called to ask if I might agree to be on the cover of their magazine with my story. (I took a breath.) I thought of those 10,000 letters. I said, “no, thank you. I don’t want to have to do that again.” When I told Jim at lunchtime what had happened he said, “You did WHAT!? You call her back and tell you’ll do it!” I said I didn’t want to have answer all that mail all by myself again. He said, and I quote, “ I will help you. I will sell the cows and I will work for you.”
The editor called me back a day later and said that the most mail any business woman they featured on their cover had received was 6,000 letters. Since I had already handled 10,000, I should be good to go. So I agreed to go ahead with the plan.
They sent out a photographer to take pictures on the hottest day we had in August of 1994. We had no airconditioning at the time and those lights were hot. I had to have three changes of clothes ready in colors they specified. The shoot took 12 hours over two days. The interview was done by phone, and what I said is not what they wrote, but there it is. They did get my name and address right.
In March of 1995 the first copies of the issue hit the magazine stands. One day I got 50 letters in the mail. I was thrilled. The next day I got 75, then 200. The fourth day of that week the post office called to say the our carrier couldn’t deliver our mail. It didn’t fit in his vehicle. Soon after that the number of letters reached 5,000 per day and remained so for weeks. Jim had to get our mail with the pick-up truck every day. Now think about that. One person cannot open and read that much mail in one day. Soon our living and dining rooms were stacked five feet deep in post office mail bins. We lived that way for more than a year. The total pieces of mail that year topped 250,000.
Our children helped, my mother-in-law did our laundry, friends did my cooking, cleaning and baking for me. I finally did get a computer, but it was just an Apple 2Gs. I had a dot matrix printer. I could print only 500 one page (1/4 folded) catalogues per day and the sound of that printer was very annoying. (Jim did not sell the cows.) I designed a catalogue and had Econoprint run them for me. Then I realized that for what I paid them to run my brochures, I could own my own machine, so I bought one.
I had to learn to do everything I was doing on a much larger scale. I did. I still do. Things have settled down quite a bit. This business helped us to pay for the farm and fix up our house and helped us to put the kids through school. We paid for a few weddings in there, too. Once again, life was good.
I now make 21 varieties of soaps, each one of them good for sensitve skin. I weave towels and washcloths using 100% US grown and milled cotton yarns. These towels are durable. They become softer and more absorbent with every washing, unlike commercial towels that wear away with use. (Never use fabric softener!)
Check out thesoaplady.com online, if you haven’t done so. I rebuilt my website earlier this year and I am rather pleased with it. Let me know what you think.
I have been making, cutting and trimming soap to stock up for what I hope will be a good holiday sales season. I have washcloths in weaving progress on the loom and a good sized pile of washcloths and towels sitting on my work table, waiting to be hemmed. Soon I will get to work making my annual discount postcards and get them out in the mail to all of my loyal customers. Over the years I have enjoyed getting to know many of my customers when they call or write to order from me and include a little personal note to tell me about their lives. I appreciate each and every one of you! And yes, life is still good.