Monday, December 22, 2014

Homemade Soap Season

I guess I could have said homemade soap season is nigh upon us but who says that anymore except those of us who watch period dramas and read old books? For me it's harder to make soap in the summer because the temperatures get too high unless you start early in the morning. It takes too long for the sodium hydroxide to cool to the proper temperature unless I use up all the ice the ice maker produces then there is none for iced tea. Fall weather is so spectacular I really just like being out and about and in the garden. Early in the spring is the traditional time to make soap, post holidays and pre-spring cleaning, before there is weeding and gardening to do. (Having just wrote that, I don't think we have winter in California anymore. I am still harvesting squash from the garden, some roses are blooming, not all the leaves are off the trees and the weeds are starting to take off!)

These soaps turned out very nice (except for the spots). I used sodium lactate (which is a sugar) to make the soap harder since my recipe is not that hard but apparently, I didn't mix it in enough or something. Still even with the spots I am very pleased. I have a couple of these types of tray molds and I never seem to get anything aesthetically pleasing from what I have tried until now. I don't want to "paint" the details in as some have done (I have seen beautiful painted soaps on the websites that are usually selling the molds). My basic recipe is not that opaque but I refuse to whiten it up with titanium dioxide which is toxic.

So here is what I did. I made a batch of soap. I kept out about an ounce of distilled water when I made the sodium hydroxide (I put red devil lye into the distilled water). Then I made a small amount of green (sage) and brown (java) coloring (making up with the 1 ounce of water I withheld from the main batch of sodium hydroxide). I use dedicated pyrex measuring cups for soap making so that I can control the pour easier. So after putting soap in the individual pyrex cups and mixing in the colors, I poured the brown colored soap into the pine cone and branch areas and green colored soap into the pine needle areas. Then I poured the uncolored soap into the tray mold. As I had more green colored soap, I finished off pouring that into the tray. I have done this technique before on other detailed tray molds but they didn't turn out to my satisfaction probably because the color combinations didn't blend together as naturally as these do.

After letting the mold sit and unmolding  (plus 4 weeks curing time for the lye and fats/oils to completely saponify) and voilá! I have always thought of these soaps as very Christmasy but I guess they could also be considered rustic or woodsy and be used year round especially at a cabin. It's so nice I don't want to use it just yet.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Works in Progress

I've been attempting to get back into the swing of normal life…  I thought I would try part 2 of a small project I've been wanting to do since last Christmas. Some small Christmas tree skirts for 2 barbed wire Christmas trees that I have had for a couple of years and just adore. Here is one in a Dresden plate still unfinished. I have been trying it out with different backgrounds to see how I will back it. The plan now is to sew 2 circles together, slightly larger than the Dresden plate, turn it inside out, press it and sew the Dresden plate onto it. When I laid it out on one of my quilts, I thought, I am going to have to make another quilt like this with random Dresden plates on it. I'll add it to my list of quilt projects...

I cut out 20 blades for the Dresden plate but it became obvious that I was going to have to stop at 17. Thus, my pattern is not symmetrical. It was a trial run made from scraps but I love it anyway regardless of its imperfection.
Here it is ready for assembly with the first tree skirt I made out of felted wool in a rustic penny rug style I started earlier this year. (Yes, my creative output has been very minimal this year.)

I still have to stitch a piece of wool felt to the bottom of it with a blanket stitch. Here is a shot of the wool pieces I made my selection from. I hope to get them finished in time to decorate for Christmas.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


Gosh. I am home. Not from a trip or a journey. Just home. What makes a place home? It can be a person, no doubt. It can be a place. It can be a collection or association of objects. Not just any old objects. Objects collected from vacations or journeys. Even journeys to thrift stores or yard sales. Those objects say something about you. This is what interests me or what I find interesting or comforting or comfortable. It can be an object that has a story. It can be a very personal story or a story about your family. Or, it can be something that makes you smile when you look at it.

I recently bought a print at the thrift store. It was not signed or numbered and had a plastic cover so I knew it wasn't valuable. I sort of agonized about buying it. Not because it cost a whopping $5 but was it "me"?  I awkwardly carried it around the store for awhile (too large for the shopping cart) as I was browsing for other stuff. I really did like it and it was in a nice custom frame and garden themed, my favorite stuff, so it came home. It is titled, Still Life on the Veranda by John Powell.

A couple of caveats. It can be easy to get carried away buying stuff at a thrift store. Even there, don't just buy stuff because it is cheap or a bargain. I have re-donated stuff to the very thrift store where I bought it after I looked at the stuff at home. In fact, I bought a table and chairs and the guy loading it cautioned me he didn't want to see it back for at least 6 months. And, don't end up a hoarder with your house bursting at the seams with stuff that was too good to pass up. Sometimes when I see stuff and I know it is nice and a bargain but it is not something that is me, I just say, I'll let if be someone else's treasure. And, lastly, if you do love it, buy it because you may not find it when you return. Now, I just have to decide where to hang it.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Zentangling Away

 This is my third zentangle doodle. I was looking at the prow of a ship from a Viking ship if you can't guess. Still working on my medieval Norway quilt...

The doodle just progressed and grew until it became the whole ship. The perspective is off and it isn't historically correct and would probably fall over if it was built but it isn't a drawing just a doodle! And, did I say it's a lot of fun!

This is the first zentangle I tried. I am hoping to make some zentangle inspired embroidered hearts before Christmas.

Saturday, August 17, 2013


I couldn't go a summer without posting a photo of my favorite flowers, zinnias. I confess, I usually cut them when they are smaller and have them finish opening up in the vase to beautiful shades and variations. I procrastinated... No further sighting of the praying mantis. He/she must be down in the stems eating bugs (surely there is a good supply of aphids down there). Last summer I saw a praying mantis rip the head off a honeybee and proceed to eat it...They are effective predators but indiscriminate. I have had fewer bug problems this year with earwigs who were plentiful earlier in the year. Last year, they were pretty bad in the pluot trees. All of the leaves were moth eaten from them. I couldn't work on the trees without getting showered with earwigs. I think the heat might of done them in which was a good thing. I ended up with 62 pounds of plots halves frozen. I think the tree must have produced at least 100 pounds of fruit!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Garden Angel

I was looking for a spot to photograph a baby boy quilt when my garden angel caught my eye. It has a shaded spot in my garden on an arbor bench. I try to rotate what I plant in the summer and squeeze in as much as possible. A Sakata melon vine has twined itself around the bench while a Marina di Chiogga squash, blueberry bush and fig tree crowd the back.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Color pots

Spring has sprung and my color pots are filled. I love this old wire basket filled with succulents.

I love this blue pot filled with a tweedy, yellow and green coleus, coneflower (yet to bloom from last year), light green heuchera, yellow and pink latte cuphea and sky blue lobelia.

This pink and lime green petunias and sky blue lobelia are my favorite colors this year.

Along with this pink on pink petunia. Yum. Yum. Yum. A feast for my eyes!