Friday, June 1, 2012

Blueberry Muffin Soap: A Tutorial

Today I'd like to share my recipe for making one of my most popular soap scents, Blueberry Muffin.

  • 1 oz. clear soap
  • 5 oz. white soap (shea and goats milk soaps are also fine substitutes)
  • a non-bleeding blue colorant
  • your favorite Blueberry Muffin fragrance oil

  • digital scale
  • microwave-safe container (such as a glass measuring cup)
  • knife or soap cutter
  • two 3 oz. soap molds in any shape you prefer
  • eyedropper
  • spray bottle of rubbing alcohol
  • spoon or other mixing utensil
  • temperature gun or infrared thermometer 

Hint: Make sure all of your tools and work area are clean and dry before beginning!

STEP ONE Using your digital scale, measure out 1 oz of clear soap for the "blueberries". Using your soap cutter, slice the soap into small cubes (this will help the soap melt faster and more evenly) and place the cubes into your microwave-safe container.

STEP TWO Place your container in the microwave and melt for about 10-15 seconds. Do not allow the soap to boil. Always keep an eye on your soap while it's in the microwave! If you finish nuking and there are still a few small unmelted pieces, don't worry; just stir very gently and the heat of the melted soap will melt the remaining chunks.

STEP THREE Once all your soap has melted, add 1-2 drops of a *non-bleeding blue colorant. Proceed to add 2-4 drops of your fragrance oil. Gently mix with a spoon and pour into your mold. Spritz your rubbing alcohol over the surface to evaporate any bubbles. Now it's just a matter of waiting for this soap to harden before we move to the next step (depending on the temperature of your workspace and the thickness of the soap, this can take 10-30 minutes). Blow gently on the surface of the soap to tell if it has begun to set. If it doesn't move, you can always gently poke a corner of the soap. If it bends inward at your touch, it's not hard enough!)

*(Brambleberry has an assortment of non-bleeding colors. If you don't use a non-bleeding color, after a few weeks the blue color will leech into the white and you'll end up with an ugly and unpresentable bar of soap)

Hint: While you're waiting for your blue soap to harden, begin preparation for the next step: weigh out 5 oz of white soap and place it in your container (make sure you have cleaned it since using it for the clear soap!!!) and have it ready and sitting next to the microwave.

STEP FOUR Unmold. If you have trouble unmolding the soap, try popping the mold into the freezer for 30-60 seconds. Press your thumbs gently on either side of the mold and try to get an air pocket to form between the mold and the soap. Once you've succeeded in this, the soap should pop right out.

STEP FIVE Chop your soap into small "blueberries" and disperse between your two 3 oz. molds. Before adding your white soap, you will need to gently spritz the "blueberries" with rubbing alcohol. This will help to adhere the layers so the blue chunks won't fall out of your soap while bathing!

STEP SIX Remember how I hinted that you should have your 5 oz. white soap weighed out, chopped, and ready for nuking? Pop your container into the microwave and melt for 20-30 seconds. Add 4-5 drops of your Blueberry Muffin fragrance oil and mix gently. Once the soap and fragrance have been thoroughly mixed, slowly pour your white soap over the "blueberries". Spritz surface with rubbing alcohol to eliminate any bubbles.

Hint: Wait for your white soap to reach 125-135 degrees before pouring. If it is too hot, you will melt your "blueberries"! Note the image below: this white soap was poured freshly from the microwave. As a result, the white soap ended up melting blue chunks. You want your soap to look like the lower righthand bar after pouring.

If you don't have a temperate gun, test the soap with your fingertip before pouring; if it feels too hot for your finger, it is too hot to pour! While your soap is cooling, stir gently and frequently to prevent any skin from forming on the surface.

STEP SEVEN Unmold your soap, and eureka! You've just made a bar of gorgeous, delicious-smelling soap! You can use it right away. If you'd like to wait a few days before using, wrap your soap tightly in common kitchen plastic-wrap; this will preserve freshness and keep your soap from drying out or "sweating", which will give the soap an unsightly look.

I hope you enjoyed the tutorial! Leave a comment if you'd like to see more soap tutorials.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Soapmaker Returns

Good news everyone! (I can't write that without sounding like Professor Farnsworth in my head...) I'm now officially a college graduate. I received my Bachelor of Arts in English two weeks ago. Also -  Sweet Tangerine Soap is back!

Don't forget, Father's Day is Sunday, June 17th! To celebrate, from now until Father's Day, get 10% off your order when you use the code SOAPDADDY.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Companion Quest Steps: Rough Tutorial

I did this drawing back in 2011. I've had a few people ask me since then what sort of steps I take in Photoshop to finish an image, so here's a (very) rough breakdown:

Friday, November 18, 2011

A few home changes.

Sorry it's been so long since my last update. Roy and I wanted to make a few improvements to the house before winter - we built a new porch and installed two new windows in our living room. It's been snowing for the past few days, and the new windows have been amazing. The house is far warmer than it was last year, and there are no longer any drafts around the windows!

Next summer, we plan on opening up our living room and expanding it into the office; that small office window to the right will be replaced with a bay window. We also hope to start on a garage/workshop for Roy and a garden in the back for me. Within the next five years, we'd like to save up enough money (and vacation leave) to add a second story onto our home ourselves.

Old porch:

Staining the new porch:

Removing the siding, and one of our new windows:

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Mistakes (and learning from them)

I met Ruby during my sophomore year of high school. I immediately liked her; she was shy, awkward and creative, (like me in a lot of ways) and I was immediately drawn to her, thinking we could help each other through our shyness.

However, if there's one thing I've learned from being young, it's that girls can be especially cruel to one another. Two sisters from my school (my own mother liked to jokingly refer to them as Anastasia and Drizella) were particularly mean to Ruby, poking fun at her behind her back because of her weight and her looks, bursting into fits of tiny giggles whenever she spoke up outside of class. I felt awful for Ruby, and I made a point to sit next to her in class and talk with her whenever I had a chance.

I could tell that Ruby knew these girls spoke behind her back, but when she asked me, I denied it. After all, those same two girls often spoke behind my back as well (years later, I would become close friends with one; she apologized). I'd learned the only way to be happy was to focus on the kind things people said. So I told Ruby that she was sweet and wonderful. I asked her how could anyone speak poorly of her. In my mind, trying to outdo this lie by being her friend was the one thing that would help Ruby look back on high school as being a good experience in her life.

It was only a few months before Ruby moved away, and we rarely spoke after that, but she had new friends, and she seemed happy on the occasions when I saw her.

It's been seven years since I last spoke to Ruby. A few days ago, she looked me up on a social networking site. I was excited to hear from her, and eager to find out how things had been for her in the past seven years. But it turns out that Ruby wasn't interested in seeing how I was doing. Ruby was only interested in venting her anger, reminding me that the other girls and I had been mean to her in high school, and had spoken behind her back. I was heartbroken. Ruby had held onto those memories for seven years, and worst of all, she'd forgotten my role in her life. She had lumped me in with all of the other girls. It was incredibly disheartening, not only because the things people had said had stuck with her for so long, but also because I realized that I had failed to make any sort of difference in her life at all.

I'd always thought that kindness was one of the most important gifts you could give, but it didn't help Ruby. I began to understand that, rather than directly facing the root cause of the matter, I'd been trying to plaster over her pain with lies of kindness. In the end, my kindness had turned to poison. Ruby couldn't believe my words and actions were genuine, because I had refused to acknowledge what was going on around her. I'm ashamed for not realizing that before now.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Happy Endings (Or, Turning My Problem Into Someone Else's Solution)

Some of you may recall the tale of this handsome little fellow; a local, unaltered male stray who had decided to take up residence with us. We've taking to calling him "Tyler" (partly due to his nature to fight, but mostly due to my husband's love of Fight Club). The Humane Society contacted us and said that the owners (one of our neighbors, as it turns out) who had initially reported Tyler missing had decided they no longer wanted the cat, and that, legally, since more than ten days had passed, the cat was now ours.

Then came the bad news: the shelter would not accept Tyler. They explained that they are a "no kill" shelter, and to remain that way, they had to be selective about the pets they accept, and that meant no strays. They told us that, if we were desperate, we could bring him in. However, they would ship him to another shelter to be euthanized.

That "solution" simply did not settle with me. I immediately headed to the classifieds and to Craigslist, posting photos of the gorgeous Coon. I have to admit, he was a hard sell; he had bitten me quite hard the first time I'd tried to place him into a crate, and I knew he wouldn't be suitable for a home with children. He'd also fought over food with my own cats (fights that had ended with several trips to the vet to drain abscesses as a result) so I knew that, based on his months in the wild fighting for food, he wouldn't be acceptable with other indoor domestic cats, either. As much as I wanted to fluff up his good qualities, I knew that I needed to be honest - even if honestly didn't exactly paint the best picture of him.

To my surprise and delight, within two days, a couple contacted me. They asked me about his hunting abilities, and as his main source of food before me had come from the mice I'd seen him catch on several occasions, I could give him top marks. The couple lived on a farm about fifteen miles out of town, and were looking for a mouser to live in their barn. They said they'd be happy to have him, and asked me to bring him down as soon as I could.

I was so ecstatic that I nearly forgot the tricky part; catching him. Trying to put Tyler into a crate previously had resulted in several bites on my right hand, as well as scratches all over my chest and neck. I'd rented a humane, live-animal trap two weeks previously, but no matter how much I refused him his usual meal on the porch in place of setting it inside the trap (and feeling awful to do it), our Maine Coon simply refused to enter, for dry food, wet food, or even tuna fish. Even Roy, equipped with cat toys, treats, and a hefty pair of utility gloves to avoid bites, was unable to catch him after several attempts (although he did run off with a toy mouse!)

Yesterday, over an entire week after getting the call from our farming couple, I used tuna juice to create a trail leading into the trap. Tyler was so ravenous that he was eating the strands of grass that the tuna had touched, but still refused to enter. My rental time for the trap was up, but I knew I couldn't give up. I would buy my own trap if necessary, and keep at it until winter if I had to! I walked around the house to get the hose to clean out the trap, came back around the house... and there he was. Inside the now-locked trap, glaring at me.

It was like Christmas. I quickly called the couple who'd wanted him; they weren't home at the time, but said to go ahead and drop him off in the barn. Initially I was nervous; I honestly didn't know much about the couple, and for a long time I worried that I may be leaving him in a worse situation than he'd been in with us. Once we arrived, we headed toward the open barn. I opened the trap and Tyler slowly came out, curious. A well-fed female calico ran out from under a tractor and began twirling around Roy's legs, purring happily. She saw Tyler and purred even louder, eager to say hello. Despite the thousands of places for him to hide, rather than dashing off the moment he was free, the stray sat down quietly and looked around, almost as if thinking, "Well, this is actually sort of nice."

Seeing him sitting there in the barn with the obviously well-looked-after calico, and looking at the sheer amount of space he had to roam, I felt a lot better as I drove off and left him behind. Roy and I both agreed that we'll sort of miss him... but our own cats will sure be happy!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Mobile Template For Bloggers

I don't know about you, but I sure love browsing the internet on my iPhone! Especially places like Facebook and Blogger, so I can always check up and see how my family is doing. But did you guys know you can enable a mobile template for your blog that automatically detects when it's being accessed by a mobile device, and switches to a template that's easier to read/navigate?

The next time you're logged into your blog, go to Settings > Email & Mobile > and choose "Yes. Show mobile template on mobile devices."

Note that this doesn't work for all custom templates, but most of the templates provided by Blogger will have a mobile version of the template.