Saturday, October 01, 2016

Greasy Coat

Here is a little bit of Greasy Coat on my old Pollmann banjo. It's the first day of October and super nice outside. Clawhammer banjo on the front porch.

cell phone video

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Pollmann banjos

In case you haven't seen a Pollmann ivory patent stamp from the turn of the century, here it is. Technically, it's iveroid; no elephants were harmed. This is on the fretboard where the banjo is often scooped out on open backs. 100 years old. Natural skin head. Nylon strings, one wound, and one fishing line. It's the cat's meow!

A photo posted by Merit Cooper (@meritcooper) on

Wanna hear it in action? Ragtime Annie on the old Pollmann banjo.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Long time no posts

A photo posted by Merit Cooper (@meritcooper) on
Been a very long time for me with no posts. I had a lot to say but didn't want to share. I guess I am still at that point. Lots of changes. Lots of feelings. Life gets too busy and things become important that really aren't.

Still playing that banjo and escaping into a magical musical world where the off beats are just as important as the main beats.

Go out and be creative. Unplug and enjoy this thing called life.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Happy Song - Budding Trees

I stumbled on Nahko and Medicine for the People one day when I found his "Black as Night" video. After loving the feeling in his music, I saw this one and this may be my new favorite happy song. Every song I hear is another good one. :)

This was done as a community project where he invited others to contribute their pieces to be collaborated.

Here is "Budding Trees."

The body talks and meditation helps!

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

The Crow - clawhammer banjo take

It's been awhile since I last posted and especially any banjo videos. It was super hot in Texas that day. The first take was in the backyard, and I got bit by ants about in the 3rd round of the song. I tried other spots in the yard. It was surely 100 degrees, and you couldn't stay out long without beading up sweat. This will also throw your banjo out of tune quickly if you are playing indoors and then walk outside and play a song.

This is what I finally settled for. Imperfect but it'll do. ;)

Steve Martin plays bluegrass and clawhammer. He played a bluegrass version of The Crow. I love it and use to play this as he played it. Then, I got the idea that the melody was pretty straight forward and wanted to do this on my openback.


My Banjo was made by Chuck Lee Banjo Company straight from Ovilla, TX by Chuck Lee himself. It's a custom banjo with a 12 inch pot. It has a nice ring to it and my front porch gives it a bit of a sound boost.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Fretless Gourd Banjo

Have you ever heard of a Gourd Banjo?  It's a banjo made from a gourd. I have bought this masterpiece from Barry Sholder.  You can purchase directly through his website or on Ebay.

Mine doesn't have any frets so the sound is pretty neat.  If you want to hear what this sounds like, just listen to our family jam video.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Kitchen Girl on the Chuck Lee Banjo

Been a long time, but I have made another banjo video.  My playing has been very spread out with my little man running loose in the house.

This was played on my custom Chuck Lee Banjo.  Chuck Lee is an awesome guy who builds amazing banjos in Ovilla, TX.

Kitchen Girl is an old fiddle tune.  This version is played from Dwight Diller's tab.  Tuning is Open G.  Clawhammer style.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Mary Had a Little Lamb

Awhile back I posted a banjo video of me playing Mary Had a Little Lamb - clawhammer.  Someone contacted me and asked if I had the tab.  I hadn't normally written tab in the past.  This version is something that I came up with and just happened to tab it.  Hooray! It's not perfect, but I will share for anyone who is interested.

If you would like the banjo tab in pdf form, it can be uploaded from here.  It is for ADADE tuning and 3 different versions that can all be added together for variety.  Good Luck!

Here is a jpg version as well.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Chuck Lee Custom Banjo - Snowdrop

As you may know, I have a custom made (Texas proud) banjo from Chuck Lee.  I need to work on a new song because I can really wear out an oldie but goodie.

Snowdrop, played in Open C. Hope you enjoy it.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Steamed is what's for dinner

I bought the best thing in the world for $20 at Walmart, and this may be the first time I have bought anything cheap that actually works as intended.

Rival Double Stack Vegetable Steamer - it's cheap and a little thin.  It does not have all of the bells and whistles that the more expensive models have.  It works!!!! Most important for me.

This is why it is worth it to me.  This was my dinner.  I put all of this in the steamer.  About 25 minutes and Bam! Done!  I added a spoonful of butter and tossed the okra.  A little salt and everything was so yummy.  You just throw some vegetables together and some Ms. Dash.  Put it in there, and it comes out amazing.

Here is what it looked like stacked before I turned it on.  This picture is before I figured out that my stacking seals were stuck together.  It still cooked wonderful.  Fool Proof!

More food pictures for you.  This was the first time I tried it.  Broccoli, Squash, Celery, Onion, Ms. Dash.  I ate every bit of it.

This is what it looked like while it was cooking.  Like I say, I didn't have the stacking seal on it, and it still cooked up great. This is using only one layer of cooking. 

Look at the vibrant color of the finished food.  It is not cooked to death and has plenty of flavor.  You can toss with some olive oil and salt or nothing at all.

This may be the best $20 I have spent in a long time.  This is especially the best time of year to find something like this with all of the fresh vegetables around.  I do plan on cooking some meats in it, too.  I am also wondering if tamales are an option.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Anderson Creek Soap is live

It's official; my Etsy shop is now open.

I have been making soap for awhile now.  Everyone always asks me if I am selling it.  Up until now, I have only been giving it to my friends and family.  As I started making different kinds, I have found a few recipes that I really love.

I am selling two kinds of soap at the moment.  Oatmeal, Milk & Honey Cocoa Butter Soap and Ginger Papaya Mango Butter Soap.  More to be added soon!

If you want to keep up with my progress, I have created a blog specific to my soap vending.

I also have a Facebook page if you want to go "Like it."

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Soap currently on the curing table plus lip balm

As of right now, this is what is curing on my table.  I still have some of the Oatmeal, Milk, and Honey soap in the back.  You can tell because it has a honeycomb texture. 

I decided that I would share my soaping experiences good or bad so others can use it to their benefit in their soaping journeys.

One of the prettiest soaps I have done so far is the soap I will probably call Mocha Cappuccino Cocoa Butter Soap pictured below. Only a little over 2 pounds.

It is made with brewed coffee, cocoa butter, cocoa powder, etc.  The smells are chocolate, vanilla, and coffee grounds sprinkled on top.  You can't really tell exactly what a soap will smell like until it has finished curing.  Experimenting with colors and swirls.

It does look like a manly soap with rich, strong scents.  I had a light bit of ash form on the top.  That is always a stinker because it doesn't happen right away, usually the second or third day.  I haven't had ash problems for some time. Hmmm

This is some Ginger Papaya with Mango Butter and sprinkles of poppy seeds. About 2.5 pounds. I was experimenting with color and swirls again.  It is good to learn different techniques such as mixing in the pot or in the mold.  This smells amazing.  It was quite stout in the bottle but mellowed just enough in the soap.

My saran wrap stuck to the top, and I did not get the top I was hoping for although it still looks good.  This color will change even further as it cures.  I suspect that the soap will lighten a bit as the water evaporates.

Not as impressive since there was some noticeable gelling discoloration on the sides.  This is only cosmetic.  Whenever I use a PVC mold, I always get a little different color at the bottom inch or so.  I use a goat milk so I do not insulate.  This soap was Frankincense & Myrrh Goat Milk Soap.  This was 2 pounds. There is also ground oatmeal in this soap.  This is much better than my first attempt at Frankincense & Myrrh soap.  It was horrible and smelled like playdough.  I threw it out because it stunk so bad.

Here is a bonus! I made some Coco-Rosey Lip Balm the other day found at Crunchy Betty's blog.  You can tell that I have been using the bottom right one already.  It is not bad.  I think the recipe needs improving.  The first time I made it, it did not harden or set up.  I had to reheat and add a tablespoon of beeswax to it.  After viewing the comments, I could see that other people had problems as well.  I live in Texas, and it is summer.  Coconut Oil is not going to stay hardened in our climate anytime of the year.  I infused the oil with dried rosebuds.  After I use it for an extended time, I will let you know how it is.  I like anything that smells like cocoa butter.

In a week or so, I am going to be teaching someone to make soap.  I am excited to pass this on to others.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Sunday Relaxing

Having fun a few hours before evening church.  Crocheting.  I haven't crocheted in around 2 years.  I can't believe it has been that long.

The other day I was washing my hands with some of my homemade soap, and I found LOVE in it.  Ha ha

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Frankincense and Myrrh soap

Even though I make soap, I buy this soap, Frankincense & Myrrh (organic) from Charlene at the Bathhouse Soapery & Caldarium in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

This soap is one of my favorite soaps from her shop.  It has nice darkened edges and reminds me of being aged.  The smell is not like any other Frankincense & Myrrh that I have ever smelled.

It is so pretty that I had to share. :)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Oatmeal, Milk & Honey soap is what's up

I have been filling my soap curing table up in the last few weekends. My latest creation combined a few things I have been wanting to try - the honeycomb pattern and the oatmeal in the middle.  I used a very popular fragrance oil: Oatmeal, Milk & Honey that can be purchased from Brambleberry.

I just unwrapped this 5 pounds of cold process soap today and cut it.  It is still very soft and needs 4 weeks to cure.  The color will change a bit over the 4 weeks, and it will shrink a tiny bit. This is a blend of oils I worked up when I started making my Chocolate Mint Spa Soap.  It has a good proportion of coconut oil in it and cocoa butter as my moisturizer.

This is the soap on its side.  You can see that I put the bubble wrap on the bottom of the mold and poured right on top of it.  You just easily peel the bubble wrap off and you get this neat design.  There is a layer of oatmeal in the middle of the soap.

This is once I first pulled the freezer paper away from the sides.  It was just poured yesterday.  Untouched and uncut.

Here is what I had curing before this weekend.  Pictured in the back: (cold process/hot process) Orange Patchouli Coconut Milk. Round pieces are cold process Apple & Peach Cobbler Goatmilk soap with raspberry seeds.  My favorite that is curing towards the front is a cold process/hot process Creamy Coconut soap.  I specially formulated it for my mother-in-law with mostly Coconut Oil, coconut milk, and mango butter.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Back at the banjo

It's been awhile since I posted.  I have made 3 videos in the past few weeks that are of clawhammer banjo playing.

If you have a minute or two and want to catch up, here you go!

This song is called Cluck Old Hen.  It's an older sounding song played clawhammer style.  Played on Deering Goodtime Openback Banjo.

Here is a clawhammer version of Cripple Creek for the bluegrass lovers.

Last but not least.  Blackberry Blossom played Clawhammer style.

I would also like to plug my favorite banjo maker, Chuck Lee. One of these days I will have one of his handcrafted banjos to play for you. :)  He is a real nice guy who lives in Ovilla, TX and makes the best darn banjos around. I have had the pleasure of talking with him and playing one of his banjos at the Acoustic Music Camp in Arlington, TX.  His son, Nate Lee, is an amazing mandolin/fiddle player.  I have heard him play there in Arlington a few years, Overton Bluegrass Festival, and CampBluegrass in Levelland, TX many moons ago.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Jeans to skirt and hair flower

I needed some skirts to wear and love denim, but good jean skirts seem hard to find when you are looking for them.  I had older Levis pants.   I was so intimidated by ripping out the inside seam in the jeans.  Once I got started, it wasn't so bad.

Warning: Bad quality cell phone pics!  :)

It is an A-line skirt.  I trimmed the bottom off and pieced in the panel.  I frayed the edge and ran two lines of stitches above where I cut it so it won't fray past that part.

It has turned out to be one of my most comfortable skirts now.  Didn't cost anything since I used what I already had.

I also decided on a whim today that I would like to make some pretty flowers to put in my hair.  I saw some for sale but knew I could create them cheaper and more unique. I got some tulle, organza, felt, and alligator clips at Hobby Lobby today.  I already had some seed beads.  It was fun.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Plucco is not so little

This Plecostomus has become the star of our tank. He is a few years old and eats wafers everyday. Our tank is 47 gallons and vertical. He is getting so big that some of our decor is having to come out.

You can see that the plecostomus is probably 12 inches long now. He looks stuck in the colosseum, but he's not. I have removed some of the extra fake greenery and other things so that he can lay on the gravel.

He is so large that when I am on the couch staring at him, I am sure that he is staring back at me. I do not handle him, but I have read that some people like to do that. I am not that brave. It is becoming harder to clean the tank and keep him undisturbed. He is graceful and looks like a dragon flying through the water.

When I first got this plecostomus, I thought he was just going to be an algae sucker. He was maybe 1-2 inches long from the pet store. If you feed them wafers and don't allow them to only eat from the tank, they will Flourish!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Make your own Peppermint Water

If you like the taste of MetroMint Peppermint Water but do not like the price, you can make your own. I bought some of this water and paid a little over $2.50. Wow Expensive! I saw the ingredients and knew I could make something similar.

You can add 1-2 drops of Peppermint Essential Oil in a glass of water. That's it. Stir it around and you have peppermint water. You can also steep some peppermint leaves if you wanted to go that route. You can get a small bottle of Peppermint Essential Oil for $4 online.

There is a huge savings to making it yourself, and the health benefits of Peppermint Oil is very long. It can help with digestion, UTI, immunity, and blood circulation among many other things. You can view a great page of info here.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Revisited Scented Pine Cones, Orange Slices

I made a blog post back at the beginning of November telling how I was making the scented pine cones, orange slices, and lemon slices. They smelled really good and were supposed to sit for several weeks. I got all caught up in the holidays at Thanksgiving and forgot about them until now.

I pulled them out today and made a small centerpiece for the table and another basket for the fireplace. They had some cinnamon sticks in them as well. They smell wonderful and the dehydrated slices turned out nice.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Thieves Oil to the rescue

I had never heard of Thieves Oil until this past year. I started dabbling in essential oils and making cleaners. I heard this word come up several times. So, the best resource I found for easy DIY instructions was Ma & Pa Parker's Sustainability Blog. There is some history to Thieves Oil that you should look up. It's interesting. It helped the robbers of Medieval times fight off the plague so they could rob the dead without getting ill and dying.

 You can find the recipe there on their blog. I had to make some variations because of what I had.

Thieves Oil (My substitutions to the side.)

1 lemon peel (20 drops Lemon EO)
4 Sprigs of Rosemary (I grew mine this year)
4 Cinnamon Sticks (18 drops Cinnamon EO)
1/4 cup Whole Cloves
7 drops Eucalyptus EO

Bring 1 Quart of water and all of the hard items to a boil. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Stir Often. Strain into Quart Jar and add the Essential Oils. The picture of mine above is after I have used it several times.

What can you do with this? I use it to mop with and fight off nasty flu and germs. I pour a little (1/4 cup) into some hot water to mop with. It smells really good because of the Cinnamon and Cloves. If it is good enough to kill the plague, it should work for everyday flu.

On Ma & Pa's blog, they tell how you can use it for a General Purpose Cleaner, Glass Cleaner (mixed with vinegar), Wood Cleaner (Polish), and Laundry Additive. Make sure to find out how to mix these things before you use it. Some things can be damaging if not known how to properly use.

Friday, December 23, 2011

DIY Foot Soak

I haven't been to get a pedicure in 2 years. Last few times I went, they cut me pretty deep or injured me somehow. I decided to just pamper myself at home.

I used a large dishpan and filled it half-full with really hot water. I put about 1/4 cup Epsom salts, 1/4 cup baking soda, a few drops of Rosewood Essential Oil, and a small handful of dried Rose Petals. It was super relaxing. By using Epsom Salts, you will absorb Magnesium through your skin. See more benefits here at SaltWorks.

I got to soak my feet and watch some TV at my couch. How cool. I put all of my pedicure tools in a small bucket so they would be available while I was soaking. Don't forget to have a towel handy! I finished up with some great Shea Butter Lotion for my feet, cuticle oil, and some fuzzy socks.

So, I saved myself $40 dollars plus Tip. I will probably never go back to a Nail Salon for a pedicure.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Curry Hot and Sour Soup, a crock-potting tale

Perfect day today for a good crock-pot soup. I wanted to try and make a Hot and Sour soup because I had never made one. I also love curry and Thai. Mix of 2 recipes. Fabulous.

I am so excited to say that I have now cooked Tofu. Shame on me for not doing it sooner. And after watching Forks over Knives, thank you Michelle, I feel proud.

Here is a basic run-down of how I did it. It happened throughout the day, but I will spare you all the scatter-brain details.

Curry Hot and Sour Soup

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • carton of chicken broth
  • 3 TB Red Wine Vinegar
  • 2 TB Soy Sauce
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 TB Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp chopped Jalapeno
  • 1 carrot, peeled and sliced
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1/2 Red Bell Pepper
  • 1/4 cup or handful of shredded cabbage
  • 1/2 box firm tofu, bite sized cubes
  • 1 tsp chopped garlic
  • 1/3 cup wild mushrooms (frozen or dried for my area)
  • 1/2 can Bamboo Shoots, drained
  • 1/2 can Water Chestnuts, drained
  • -----------------------------
  • 3-4 green onions, green tops
  • 1 TB chopped cilantro

I started off with frozen chicken breasts and dumped a carton of chicken broth over it. I let it cook for a few hours (probably 4) on high. After awhile, you can see it boiling and know it needs to be pulled out to cube or chop up. If you aren't worried about cloudy broth, which I am not, I throw the meat back in to cook with everything else.

Then, I started adding everything in as I chop it. No need for too much prep. I added the 2 cups of water, the Red Wine Vinegar (Rice Wine Vinegar may be more traditional but that is what the Cooper Cupboards had), Soy Sauce, Curry Powder, Brown Sugar, red pepper, jalapeno, carrot (I wouldn't have peeled them if they were organic), celery, red bell pepper, cabbage, garlic, wild mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and water chestnuts. Let that cook up for about 2-3 hours. Depending on how hot your crock pot gets, you will want to monitor that.

Throw the last few ingredients in at the last and let it get good and hot. The flavor of the cilantro really adds a flavor punch mixed with the curry mix.

I couldn't get enough of it. The flavor was so good. It was definitely the best comfort food I have had in awhile. This was too spicy for my 17 year old daughter, and too weird for my picky 13 year old son, but my little buddy D ate this right up and kept saying "Bite Bite" after each bite. He really dug the broth.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Scented Pine Cones, Orange Slices

Several weeks back, we collected pine cones from the yard and set off to make scented pine cones and other holiday items. I used my dehydrator to dry these orange and lemon slices. I added cinnamon sticks and whole cloves. I then mixed up some essential oils and painted the pieces with a paint brush. I closed them up in this tin canister. They will be ready in a few weeks, Right about time for holiday decorating. You could hang these on a Christmas tree, attach to a package with the tag, spread in a decorative bowl, add with potpourri. Ready in 4-8 weeks.

We filled this basket up with pine cones. Then, I did the same for the pine cones. We got a few pieces of cinnamon sticks to throw in there with them. We made up our oil blend and painted each pine cone. Put it all in a big trash bag. You can shake it every once in awhile. This may help to distribute the scent.
 My tips for you that I learned was "Wear Gloves." Pine Cones will stick you. Also, this helps with not getting the strong oils on your hand. Your house will smell good when you make this.

My mom used to keep scented pine cones in a canister before the holidays. I went in search of how to do it.  I found a quick article on SnowDrift Farm. Change it up however you want.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Who can resist the curing table?

This is the funnest part of making soap. The curing. It is a pretty slow process, but you get to see your soap turn into a nice looking bar. In the beginning, sometimes it looks pretty scary. Colors change. Fragrances change, sometimes not for the best. You never know how it will really turn out until the very end.

The soap you see above was cold process and then oven processed. It will be ready in 4 days. This soap was made many days ago.

No one can resist walking by curing soap and touching it.