Monday, March 31, 2014

Advanced Soap Making with Mama

In the fall of 2012, I learned how to make lye soap. Since then, I have made soap a handful of times and feel reasonably comfortable with the process. Ready to go deeper, I was delighted to discover my favorite local shop, Mama, now offers intermediate and advanced level soap making classes. Last Saturday, I went for the advanced class.

Our instructor, Emilie Sennebogen (also the shop owner) was terrific. First, she shared in-depth information on scent blending techniques using essential oils, coloring and marbling techniques using natural flowers and herbs, and the properties of various oils and how they work in the soap making process. Then she guided each of us as we created our own unique batch of soap. I scented mine with a blend of rose geranium and lavender essential oils and colored it with alkanet root.

Finally, Emilie gave us an overview of how to create our own soap recipes using a lye calculator. All of this terrific information combined with the hands-on experience gave me a real boost of confidence. I am more inspired than ever to experiment with new recipes and techniques.

24 hours, my soap was ready to cut. I love the effect of the marbling. This bar almost looks good enough to eat, doesn't it? It smells lovely too. It will be all I can do to wait a couple of weeks to allow my bars to fully cure before I start using them. 

If you live in the Atlanta area and have ever thought about trying your hand at soap making, Mama is a great place to start. And even if you're not the do-it-yourself type but appreciate high quality handmade soap, natural body products, and soy candles, Mama has a wonderful collection for sale.

What next? Ginger lemongrass? Lavender rosemary? Or maybe cedarwood tangerine? I'd better get busy. Because I want to try them all!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Southern Caribbean Cruise, Part 3: ARUBA

I'm over at Petit Fours and Hot Tamales again today (click HERE). Come join RockStar and me on the last leg of our southern Caribbean cruise, the beautiful island of Aruba!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Southern Caribbean Cruise, Part 2: LA ROMANA AND CURACAO

Today I am blogging over at Petit Fours and Hot Tamales with further tales about the southern Caribbean cruise my son and I took last fall. Today's stops: La Romana and Curacao. Click HERE to join the fun!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Hot Process Soap Making

I love making cold process soap but hate waiting 24-48 hours to cut the finished soap into bars, then another four to six weeks for it to cure before it is ready to use. That's why I was so excited when my sweet sister-in-law, SeDonna, offered to introduce me to hot process soap making. Incorporating heat significantly reduces cure time.
Ready to go! 
Using a recipe SeDonna concocted, we melted our oils in a crock pot, added lye water, and let the combination to cook. Within minutes, our soap was bubbling away.

Soon, it started turning in on itself.

It didn't take long for the mixture reached the "mashed potato stage," indicating saponification was complete.

Using phenolphthalein , we tested to make sure the mixture was no longer lye heavy; magenta indicates the presence of lye, but our soap tested clear.

Then we added patchouli and citrus essential oils for fragrance and sea salt for its exfoliating properties.

Finally, we poured our finished soap into a parchment paper lined mold

It's an empty Velveeta cheese box!
and less than an hour later cut it into bars, ready for immediate use.

There are lots of soap making tutorials on the internet; HERE is one you might start with. But be warned: soap making is highly addictive! If you don't believe me, ask SeDonna! 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Southern Caribbean Cruise, Part 1: GRAND TURK

Every Friday this month, I'll blogging over at Petit Fours and Hot Tamales about my experience on board the fabulous Carnival Freedom. Our first stop? Grand Turk! Click HERE to read all about it. Have you ever been on a cruise? If so, what is your favorite part? If not, what is stopping you?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A SUITABLE WIFE by Carol Burnside

Sam Moreland is desperate to keep his daughter out of the clutches of her abusive mother seeking custody. He resists legal advice to provide the court with a complete family unit because past relationships have soured him on love.

Though she yearns for children, Rosie Baxter knows a failed pregnancy has likely left her barren. She remains single rather than bring her problems into a marriage and concentrates on her business with its financial woes.

A temporary marriage pact means Rosie provides Sam with the illusion of family in return for an influx of cash into her store. But kisses for show become all too real. When outside threats shake their growing bond, each must trust the other with their darkest secret or lose their best chance for love and happiness.

I like to read while I am using the elliptical machine at the gym. To be honest, there are many days that is the only reading I get done. That's how I got started with this book, but I didn't want to stop. Matter of fact, I did an extra ten minutes on the machine that day, and as soon as my work day was finished, I pulled my Kindle out of my gym bag and didn't stop until I reached the end. It's that good! Don't say you haven't been warned!

Sam and Rosie have been friends since childhood, and when they reunite after many years apart, neither can deny the sparks that fly between them. But it's complicated. Sam is looking for a business arrangement, not a romance, and Rosie is terrified of losing herself in yet another relationship based on control. Set against the backdrop of charming Sweetwater Springs with a supporting cast of evil exes, a loving family, and devoted friends, this is a love story that satisfies in every way. I can't wait to get started on the next book in the series (click HERE). Five enthusiastic stars! Very highly recommended!

NOTE: I received a copy of this book for FREE in exchange for a written review. There was no expectation that this review be either positive or negative, and I was not given any financial compensation to read the book or write the review. This information is disclosed in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 [...] Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Any Excuse for a Party

Life is like a party. You invite a lot of people; some go, some join you, some laugh with you, some didn’t come. But in the end, after the fun, there would be a few who would clean up the mess with you. And most of the time, those were the uninvited ones.
— Unknown

Last Thursday night I had the privilege of attending a fabulous party. Bill, a friend of my fiance, invited a handful of his closest friends to celebrate his 60th birthday with him. We started at his favorite local hangout, then boarded a limousine; over the course of the next several hours, we visited three of the Atlanta area's landmark restaurants and clubs. It was definitely a night to remember.

Sunday evening I went to another party. Every year, my friend Jennifer invites all her friends and family who purchase Girl Scout cookies from her daughter to pick up their orders at a potluck dinner. Love and laughter are abundant. Everyone is encouraged to bring a dish, but dessert is taken care of. 

Two parties in one week! Happy, happy, joy, joy! But the truth is every day provides a cause for celebration, if we just look for it. Everything from the first dandelion of spring

to finding a quarter in the parking lot at the gym

to savoring a delicious meal in a new restaurant

to getting a great fortune cookie afterwards

is a reason to revel. I am truly blessed to have people in my life who feel exactly the same way.

What have you celebrated recently?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Making Writing the Priority

Frustrated by my lack of motivation and progress where my fiction writing is concerned, I decided to heed the advice of author friend Sia Huff and sign up for The Book Factory with Kerri Nelson. Sponsored by From the Heart of Romance Writers, affiliated with Romance Writers of America, class started this week. I think it's going to be the kick in the pants I need. 

Kerri writes using the 15-Minute Method, packing in as many 15-minute sessions of writing as possible, with a personal goal of a total of 1000 words per day. And she does this consistently - in addition to working a full-time job and being married with three kids. Very impressive!

We have had only one assignment so far: to write down a typical daily schedule in 15-minute increments. That's not an easy thing to do; my teaching schedule varies from day to day, and other activities - practicing piano, exercising, keeping the household running, and spending time with family and friends, for starters - have a way of filling up my free time. The next thing I know, it is late and I am exhausted; indeed, my notes from yesterday revealed that I really had packed a lot of good stuff into the day, and it wasn't at all clear to me where, exactly, I might have been writing instead of doing something else. 

Well, after looking over my schedule from yesterday, Kerri suggested that instead of starting my day with email/Facebook/Twitter/my blog, as is my habit, I start with 15 minutes of writing, while my mind is fresh and not filled with all those social distractions. "You'd be surprised what can happen when you make those things a reward for getting some writing done instead of as a priority over writing," she said. Well, I just might be surprised. But I won't know until I try.

So when I wake up tomorrow morning, the first things I will do are start the coffee and take care of the dog. But the next thing I will do is set a timer and write for fifteen minutes. Check back next Wednesday for a progress report.