Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Did You Know I Like Moss?

I like moss. It is a staple here in the Pacific Northwest. My favorite color is green, and I believe this is heavily influenced by my love of moss. Also, I love the word "moss." Moss, moss, moss.

If you say "moss" enough times, it ceases to have any form, function, or meaning.

However, this treasury remains pretty! Click it, and you can go see it on Etsy, and click through to each item to truly appreciate it (maybe even buy it!)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Ok, as promised... Here is my finished soap block:

And here is the soap cut into bars! 

Of course, now I have to wait 3-6 weeks for it to cure, but so far I think it is looking good!

I Made Soap!

Welcome to Scaredy Soapers Anonymous.

My name is Megan and I'm scared of making cold process soap. Why? Well, there is the whole "caustic lye" angle, but really it comes down to the trace.

What is trace, you ask? For those that don't know, when making cold process soap, you mix the lye into the water and then you separately heat up your oils (fats). Then when they've cooled to the same temperature (depending on your source, this should be somewhere between 80 and 120 degrees F) you blend them together, then stir like crazy until you reach TRACE - which is when everything is perfectly blended and the fats are no longer separating out, but before the mixture thickens up to the point where you can't pour it into your soap mold.

Trace makes my blood run cold. I never have done well with things that are under pressure time-wise. Like Thanksgiving dinner. Trying to get the turkey, mashed potatoes, rolls, stuffing, and green bean casserole all done at the same time is impossible for me. So the thought of bringing a mixture to trace and having only seconds to add in the fragrance & coloring, etc and then getting it stirred in and poured? I'm panicking just imagining it!

I've been making bath and body products from scratch for about six years now. I make lotion, cream, salve, lip balm, sugar scrubs, bath salts. I've even managed to make some liquid shampoo from scratch that wasn't half bad! I had some tracing issues (thus only adding to my fear) and I only ever made one batch, because my patience is about as long as a gnat's life span and I couldn't handle the cure time; which was another one of the main reasons I kept putting off making soap, ha!

However, I've long had soap lust over other B&B makers' soaps. They are so pretty! They are so fun to photograph! They are so easy to package! You don't have to be worried about them melting or leaking when you mail them to customers thousands of miles away!

So tonight, I made my first soap! I've actually gathered the equipment over several years (for instance, some of it I needed when I dipped into shampoo making) but over the last week, I've stocked up on the rest of the equipment and all the ingredients.

I even bought a book! I've read TONS of stuff online over the years, but I have to say the book is handy because everything is in one place. While waiting for my ingredients to arrive, I researched recipes. I found one that was simple and made one pound of soap. It seemed like a good place to start, but OF COURSE I couldn't leave it alone and used Majestic Mountain Sage's lye calculator to tweak it a little. Which may have been a mistake - see details later.

I laid out a towel. I set out my two containers, one for the heated oils and one for the lye solution. I pre-measured my ingredients, including my scent (Enchanting Apple!) and the colorant (which I stupidly put INTO the fragrance oil instead of dispersing into a teeny bit of water like I should have, thus causing the lovely apple-y green color to sink to the bottom and stick to the bowl and not make it into my soap at all. Mental note for next time.)

I had all my stirring utensils lined up, my thermometer ready, and my stick blender plugged in. Gloves on (and cuffed to catch any errant drips that might try to sneak down towards my elbows), goggles in place. My husband was oh so kind as to take a picture of me in all my fashionable glory. And for those of you wondering if I'm going to post said picture, the answer is HELL NO.

First I mixed my lye into my water, which involved a lot of stirring and not a whole lot of breathing (fumes are bad, mmmkay?) While that was cooling, I heated my oils. Then I waited for both to cool. When they were both around 105-110 degrees Fahrenheit, I poured my lye solution into my oils and used a stick blender to mix them together. According to one trusted source, this should have taken about 90 seconds.

This is where my fears surfaced and everything started going NOT according to my carefully arranged mental plan. At maybe the 30-second mark, I felt the mix was thickening faster than it was blending. I could still see swirls of oil that hadn't fully blended in - which is not ok, so I kept blending but my mixture was getting thicker. It was nearly pudding consistency and according to what I'd read, that was too thick. I don't even think I made it to 60 seconds of blending when I felt the mixture was fully blended and I added the fragrance oil and gave it a quick buzz to blend it in. I immediately poured it into my prepared mold, but it seemed very gloppy and thick to me. So now I'm nervous.

Was it because I tweaked the recipe to include shea butter? Maybe I should have increased the water in the lye solution just a bit to compensate (although the calculator recommended 4-6 ozs and I used 6 ozs). Did I blend at too high a temperature? The recipe that estimated 90 seconds of stick-blending also recommended combining the two mixtures at 120 degrees F. so that didn't seem to make sense - however the book I read said that lower temps would take longer to reach trace, thus making timing a little looser, which I prefer. Oh well, too late to do anything about this batch, so make a note to try a few tweaks to the next one (if this batch doesn't turn out awesome - which it may. I mean, miracles happen right? RIGHT?!)

I wrapped my molded soap in a towel and tucked it into a cupboard and now I just have to wait. I'll un-mold it tomorrow evening (if it is hard enough - but hopefully not so hard it crumbles) and cut it and take pictures to show you.

Don't worry - I only test out new products on family members. I won't list any for sale in my shop until I'm totally awesome at it. Should I start accepting bets now on how many batches that will take?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Monday, September 12, 2011

An Atypical First Day of School Photo

So, my oldest son suffers from pretty bad anxiety. Bad enough that even though we are not the sort of parents to rush our kids to psychiatrists and doctors at every little thing they do that is out of the ordinary, we felt his anxiety levels were enough above normal to warrant medical intervention.

So he's on meds, and he's in therapy, and we are constantly working on ways to help him cope. Some days are great, some days are ok, and some days are really really hard. However, even in some of those really really hard days we can still find moments of humor, laughter and joy.

For instance, the first day of school. Every kid is a little nervous, right? Even the most excited ones probably still have at least a twinge of anxious anticipation pinging around inside of them. Isaac, on the other hand, takes that to a whole new level.

Witness his first day of school photo:

Now, this is not your typical standing by the bus or front door with a wide grin on your face first day of school photo, is it?

Despite the evidence above, he actually did get on the bus (after a lot of coaxing) and when I got a call after lunch-time from the school nurse informing me he had a tummy ache and wanted to come home, I was able to convince him to stay, and he made it the rest of the day.

However, in moments like the one above, I've found it invaluable as a stressed-out parent to find the humor in the situation. Ok, sometimes the humor doesn't strike you until later and some of the moments we've been through with him are bad enough that there just isn't any humor to be found. But God truly blessed us with our son, despite the challenges He included, and Isaac does bring so many moments of laughter into our lives.

So when I saw what he was doing, I grabbed my camera. *CLICK* There we have it - our son's first day of 2nd Grade, yay!

Note: after we convinced him to leave the house (but before we had to bribe him onto the bus) I did manage to get this shot, more closely resembling the typical First Day of School photo - albeit the smile is heavily infused with nervous grimace.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

My Yellow and Navy Treasury

I enjoy making treasury lists on Etsy. It is a fun challenge for myself stylistically. I love getting to roam through so many fun shops and items that I otherwise might never have discovered. Plus, it is a real joy knowing that I might be bringing attention to someone's handmade item that they've poured themselves into and maybe even get them a sale, connecting a handmade artisan with an appreciative customer.

So, without further ado, I present my latest treasury list! I used one of my favorite color combinations. I just thing this color pairing is classic and never goes out of style! So click on over and check it out!

Monday, September 5, 2011

If I Were Going Back to School

If I were going back to school, I would want the following Etsy items to make the transition from summer vacation just a little sweeter. :)

Chalk Board School Supplies Bracelet by MySelvegedLife
Vintage Learning Curve Pencil Box by Mmim
Shark Bag Zipper Pencil Case by minnebites
And of course, I wouldn't want to forget a gift to my teacher! Never hurts, right? :) 

Peppermint Foot Cream by RightAsRainCreations
Any teacher would welcome some of my peppermint foot cream after a long day of standing. The cream nourishes, the peppermint soothes and cools. Remember kids: A teacher with happy feet is a happy teacher indeed! (and maybe she'll go lighter on the homework as a result)

Friday, September 2, 2011

My Baby Started Preschool!

I'm not really a very sentimental person. Not really. I haven't saved all my kids' baby teeth. I think the "souvenirs" from their infancy could fit in a small storage tote each - a couple outfits, a special stuffed toy, the hospital paperwork, and maybe a fun bib or rattle or something. I figure most of what I want to remember, I can revisit through pictures without having to store a bunch of stuff.

I don't really mourn each phase my children pass through, and to be honest, I spent all summer looking forward to when school was starting again. Ok, so mostly this was because my kids are at that constant bickering/name-calling/tattle-telling phase and I'm going insane (please, please tell me they outgrow this? Or at least get more adept at it so my involvement isn't needed? ha!) To put it mildly, I'm just not sentimental about a lot of things.

However, it kind of hit me that my very last baby, our youngest, our only daughter... is growing up. It isn't a sudden revelation, truthfully. She's always been eager to keep up with her brothers and has been eschewing anything "baby" since before she turned two. Somehow, though, this step smacked me in the face a bit.

Not that she cares. Look at her:

This is the face of excitement, folks. This is the look of months' worth of anticipation! She just did not understand my need to cuddle her and hug her and kiss her and take a bazillion photos of her this morning. She just wanted to leave already! (Note: she did cry for about two minutes after Daddy left, not realizing somehow that he wasn't going to be staying there and playing with her the entire time.)

See that sparkle in her eyes? No? Well, she is making "camera smile" face here, hahaha. The sparkle is there, trust me, and it was even sparklier when I picked her up three hours later. She spent the entire 10 minute drive home filling my ears with all the fabulous things she got to do: play with playdough! Play with her friend from Church! Hear a story about pirates stealing beans from Grandma! Eat a snack!

So, goodbye baby and hello school girl. Mama loves you the same. No, that's not true - Mama loves you even more!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Are You Ready for Halloween? Well, My Son Is!

School doesn't start until next week, yet my oldest is more interested in Halloween being only 2 months away (LESS THAN TWO MONTHS NOW, as it is September 1st as I am writing this) than he is about starting 2nd grade next week.

Seriously, two weeks ago he was in the garage pulling down our Halloween decorations (I think we have five) and painstakingly placing them around the play space. I thought he was playing with Legos. Silly me.

So when a friend of mine posted a link on Twitter to one of her awesome sculptures and it happened to be a pumpkin version of Munch's "The Scream" I just had to make a Halloween treasury. I knew Isaac would flip for it.

Allow me to share it with you. You might find that Halloween decoration you never knew you always have needed! Plus, with stuff that you buy via mail, it is always safer to buy early (in fact, three items in this list have already sold, so better not hesitate!)

... and let's not talk about how this is my first post in 2011, shall we? Thank you. (Hopefully I'll post more often, but let's face it. I've made that promise before!)