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Daily Archives: October 9, 2011

My helper’s first visit and Lumps of Coal

The beautiful Miss Ashlee came over after school (middle school) last Thursday to start helping me out on little business tasks.  I wasn’t really feeling up to making anything and wanted to utilize the chance to get as many opinions for kid options as possible, so we spent the 1 1/2 hours just talking and smelling FOs.  We went through things I had made and was in the process of making, through a mail order catalog with kid friendly items that I was considering ordering from to supplement my items in baskets for various age ranges. 

The first thing I figured out was that Ash must really be into penguins right now.  *grin*  Either that, or I really need to invest in all penguin based toys, because I’m gonna get rich!  lol  I noticed that she pointed out every penguin item in the catalog as being perfect for kids.  It helped me develop the idea of color themed baskets, like all black and white products and toys like penguins, but I really doubt that penguins are quite that popular.  lol  Also, I can totally see her identifying toy musical items like kazoos as an easy little basket stuffer, but I thought about it and will not be ordering those.  *grin*  I sat there while she looked through the trinket pages and decided to run through the scenario.  If I gave a basket to Ash’s little brother, or even her, with noisy items, their mom would probably want a lot less to do with me.  Therefore, I think the parents of any prospective basket recipients would thoroughly hate my little business.  *small laugh*  I learned that pretty much anything in the catalog would be perfect, so I think I’m on the right track of thinking.  When in doubt I will ask my friends that are mothers to see how they would react to the basket.

Probably the most important thing that I learned was to not worry about being a perfectionist with the kid products.  I showed her the lump of coal soaps, which she inspected and thoroughly delighted in the smell of, and asked her if received it would it look enough like coal to be believable.  She looked down at me (yeah, almost a third of my age and she’s taller…*sigh*) and said, “If your package says that it’s coal soap, kids will just believe that’s what it is.  Kids believe whatever things say they are.”  Cue the cartoon light bulb over my lab coat and glasses clad cartoon character.  One, they don’t really know what coal is these days, and two, they don’t care.  It smells good and isn’t the boring stuff Mom keeps in the dish, so I’m in the clear.  Oh yeah, I did a happy dance after her mom picked her up.  *grin* 

The most heartwarming moment was when her mom showed up and Ash asked her if Ash was free after school on Monday, so she could come back.  *cheesy smile and hunched shoulders*  When that didn’t work she started running the days of the week, so I jumped in and said that we’d coordinate schedules, which looks like maybe each Thursday for awhile.  It meant the world to me that she wanted to come back on her own (we are a group of friends who usually have full family get togethers as time permits, so this was totally new for a child to be at any of the other homes without the rest of the caboodle) and that I had inspired her.  I’ve tried through the years to always encourage her interests, most especially art in the past year.  My parents raised me with a real appreciation for art and literature (you can blame them for training me for being a nerd), and if I see that interest in a child, especially one that may not get as much individualized cultivation of that interest as I did, I do everything that I can to help.  Anyway, she now is also interested in science, so she is super interested in how bath products are created.  Part of it is this amazement that anyone can make daily products, not just some mysterious big manufacturer.  It’s sad that crafts that were such a daily activity for hundreds of years are now a novelty and so mind boggling, but I won’t climb on the proverbial soap box.  *wink*  I realized that my interest in naturally beneficial products is a great way for her to get some hands on understanding of chemistry, artistry, and nature.  It’s pretty awesome that I have someone to share in the awe and delight of my hobby. 

I had lots to think about and decided the next day to start making a lot of the lump of coal soaps.  I’m not really sure where I went wrong in multiplying the recipe (I have a newfound appreciation for mathmeticians since my condition has screwed up my abilities apparently), but the soaps turned out navy blue, but I didn’t know this until yesterday, since the wet soap was just really dark and I thought it was black.  I’ll cut, melt, dye, and repour all of them soon, but while they started to set I had another light bulb moment.  I was working with the happiness that the kids would not question if the soap looked like coal, but still wanted something a little better to sell.  It dawned on me that if I used a fork to push the dried “skin” into the soaps it would give some internal texture and ruin that glossy perfection on the backs of the soaps (the irony is that I seldom can ever get regular soaps that perfect lol).  I learned while experimenting that just running the fork through the soap blended the skin and helped to melt it in the warmer liquid centers.  So I totally went into Psycho mode and just stabbed multiple spots in each square with the fork.  *grin*  Hey, I might not be able to do a lot, so I make sure what I do is thoroughly interesting or amusing.  lol  When I unmolded the soaps it really had helped and I could see a major difference between the two techniques.  When I repour I will do the stabbing technique again once it resets, trying to get to what would be the tops of the soaps, so that it is textured and interesting through the entire soap.  I’m pretty tickled that I have a pretty easy remedy to please the perfectionist in me just enough while also taking full advantage of no longer worrying about it if it doesn’t turn out like I hope.  I’ll post at least one pic of the first successful batch (worded in such a way because I’m not totally confident that I’ll be able to get the color right during the repour lol).  I am so relieved and excited!!

By the way, the sugar scrub is still getting firmer.  *cracking up*  I used it again today, which was an incredibly gentle and awesome exfoliation, and as I tried to scoop some out it became more of a prying action.  I’m pretty happy with it still, but think there will be a second version in the works with more glycerin and definitely not additional sugar if the mixture seems thin!  I hope you all have a great one and aren’t too upset by the length of the recent posts.

Cherry on Top army

A blend of cherry, vanilla buttercream, and chocolate FOs

The final result of “A Cherry on Top”. A small invading army of jars that really need to get labels and officially named. lol

A Cherry on Top

I made a massive batch (massive for me, at least) of sugar body scrub the other night and thought I’d give a little inside view into the creation.  Don’t critique the pictures since I was having to work fast one-handed and try to snap a shot as I could.  *grin*  Another soapcrafter had posted the recipe for sugar scrub and it had a few super beneficial additives that I had never thought of, so I thought I’d adapt it to my interest and give it a whirl.  Lo and behold, my inner calculator while reading the recipe was incredibly broken!  I had no real clue that it would be so much until the liquid turned into the amazing fluff.  lol  With a sigh I realized that there was no turning back and grabbed my phone for some pictures to always remind me to not read product recipes when I have insomnia, since I apparently suck at math then.  *cheesy smile* 

All right, I had my dramatic sigh, so I’ll leave my pride for my next post, and will recount the rest without worrying about how clueless I was.  lol  I approach most bath recipes, and especially when creating my own product recipes, much as I do with a baking recipe.  Instead of food I get out what supplies I’ll need and will measure out the appropriate amounts of ingredients, if I know, to help minimize mistakes.  (Yeah, how I missed just how much 5 cups of sugar is while making this is still a mystery to me…)  I decided that I really wanted to try making the black forest cake scent blend that I’ve been pondering for quite a while and got those FOs out.  Oh yeah, I was prepared with a paper plate to hold the pipettes (awesome super tip a crafter wrote in a review on an FO that I bought was to rubber band a pipette to each bottle of FO and EO, fragrance and essential oil, and always use it just for that oil.  It cuts down on the waste and cost, since you’re not washing them out every single time you need a ML of another scent or tossing it in the trash when you’re done.  Also, no cross contamination, since no matter how careful you are at rinsing those pipettes or even measuring spoons, a little bit of that oil will find a way to hitchhike to the next oil, which doesn’t happen with this method!), measured out the glycerin into a beaker, diced and melted the soap, and then set the rest of the ingredients on the other counter, since they were variables.  At first I thought I would multitask like the recipe describes (I know, I know – stop laughing!), so I added the bath whip and glycerin to the mixer while the soap was melting.  Well, until my whip spatula (*raising an eyebrow* don’t even go there) decided that it didn’t want to get the last two ounces out of the container and I realized that the soap was going to get way too warm and frothy if I took much longer.  You guessed it…mixer going on low, spatula stuck in the jar (tipped over, of course, since if one thing is going to go wrong, it wants company), and stumbled over the sleeping dog at my feet to turn off the microwave.  Soap doesn’t have a real set time for it to melt…it’s more like a car started in the snow…it’ll be warm when it wants to be, so I set it for a set amount, then hit add 10 seconds or stop depending on how it is behaving (which also depends on if I’m wearing shoes and can see into the microwave, of course…otherwise it has to go another 10 if I had to pull it out to peek lol).  Of course the soap was fully melted at this point and I got it out just before it became frothy (it’s not a bad thing if it becomes frothy, per se, it just means there will be more bubbles in the pour, so it becomes a habit to think of bubbles as bad, even when it’s never going to be seen…soap can burn, but thankfully I’m too nervous to ever let it sit that long unattended).  I pour the soap into the mixing bowl,  then end up with elbows out, jar in every position possible, trying to get the remaining whip with a spoon as quickly as possible, since soap loves to set when you need a little more time.  Thankfully the spoon worked and the three ingredients transformed into this incredibly awesome fluff.  Do you ever get that moment when you’re warming the jar of marshmallow creme/fluff, it starts to bubble out of the jar, and your inner child starts to urge you to poke the cool looking cloud of marshmallow?  (I know it’s not just me *grin*)  Well, I was given an excuse to play in the fluff this time!  Cue evil laugh…Anyway, as I slowly started to add the sugar to the fluff I had to scrape down the sides, just like with a frosting (by the way, sugar isn’t that fond of bath whip I learned…the main portion of the mixture resisted the sugar as long as it could), and then I indulged the desire to stab it with the spatula a few times.  I may or may not have yelled en garde as well.  *shrug*  I started noticing after the third cup just how much scrub was in the mixture now and slowly added the rest as directed.  I then scooped out some scrub into two bowls to get mixed with some scent and color later (that’s one part I will not describe; oh man did it take forever to scoop that, since I have no big spoons that are sanitized for using with my products, because I’ve never needed one before).  Yet again I managed to screw up and eyeballed the amounts instead of measuring, since measuring always means that some portion of the mixture will be lost from sticking to everything used.  I ended up with half of the mixture in my mixing bowl and the other bowls being more like a quarter each, instead of dividing into three equally.  I added my new cherry FO and some color, and my fluff looked so beautiful!  I suddenly had a WTH moment and realized that I hadn’t thought out the whole three different colors and scents thing, since I only have one mixing bowl.  A massive Pampered Chef measuring bowl came to the rescue (I made 8 cups of cherry alone!  Duh) and I dump one of the remaining portions into the mixing bowl.  Since it would all be touching in the jars I didn’t wash it down and knew that it would help the scents to connect if there was a tiny bit of the residue from the first in the next, etc.  I was delighted with the wafting aroma of chocolate with a touch of cherry (I hadn’t realized at this time that I had been leaning over the empty bowl and had the little bit remaining all over myself) and started coloring.  It, uh, well, the colors decided they had their own agenda.  Instead of a chocolate color we decided that periwinkle would be an interesting shade (yeah, such a wth moment) and I realized that this wasn’t working out right, so I dumped the other remaining bowl into the mix and added the buttercream FO.  In for a pound now anyway.  Well, that’s apparently enough FO to give a thin texture to the scrub at this stage, so I, being a quick thinker (it’s okay, you can shake your head if you all ready figured out what happens), slowly added another cup of sugar, which thickened it well, but it was still runny compared to the airy beautiful bowl of cherry scrub waiting.  Another half cup of sugar helped the super sweet mixture a bit more, but it was never destined to be the star.  I called it good and got both bowls situated with spoons for scooping, and a line of ready glass jars.  (I was apparently still enjoying my sudden lack of intelligence, since at first I only lined up the five glass jars that I had bought for this, which would hold approximately 20-25 oz…I turned on my brain just in time to realize that 25 oz is nothing compared to 12 cups…*rolling eyes*)  I spooned the runny portion into the bottom of a jar waiting on the scale, then added the lovely airy cherry on top, and as I got to the end of the glass jars is when (duh?!) it hit me and I grabbed some of my smaller plastic jars to continue the packaging.  I reserved a nice amount to test as I started to debate on what to call this, since it really doesn’t smell like black forest cake.  lol  I’m not sure yet (which is why I have an army of unlabeled jars on my counter), but I think “A Cherry on Top” may just be my happy accident.

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