Sunday, March 29, 2009

Friday, March 20, 2009

All Things Handcrafted!

My mother taught me to knit and sew when I was five years old. She was from England, and believed that every little girl should know how to knit, sew, embroider, and crochet. My sisters and I grew up with a love of these things.

Now the question bead, or not to bead?

I love to create pillows, quilts, and handcrafted items from vintage lace, trim, and fabric remnants. These are pillows in the works!

First the deco pillows, then on the to fiery desert reds and yellows....

Create and enjoy!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Milk Bath & Bath Salts

Life is good. While I walk/jog, do Pilates, and exercise religiously, my friend can down two pints of mint chocolate chip ice cream (1420 calories), after eating a pound of pasta alfredo. He’s tall and lean, and never exercises.

I’ve been experimenting with fragrance combinations recently. I love rose, light citrus, and spicy scents, and wondered if a combination of all three would work. I combined Rose Absolute, Lime Essential Oil, and Allspice Fragrant Oil in a 3:2:1 ratio, and it was wonderful! I added this to milk bath and bath salts, and my bathroom smelled like a tropical resort!

I add my essential oils to dendritic salt first, as this helps prevent the oils from spoiling, and helps the fragrance last longer. I need to add a lot more fragrance to milk bath and bath salts than I do to a batch of soap…after all, the milk bath and bath salts will be diluted in a tub of water!

I wasn’t able to find dendritic salt locally, but I did find it and other great products, prices, and service at Arkieannie. Arkieannie has most of the basics I need to make bath and body products, including Kaolin and Bentonite clays. I purchase essential oils at New Directions Aromatics but of course there are many suppliers out there. Dendritic salt is about 5% of my recipe, and I add the oils and fragrances to this first.

Milk Bath:

2 cups non-fat dry milk; 1 cup cornstarch; 1/2 cup baking soda

Bath Salts:

2 cups Epsom salts; 1/2 cup sea salt; 3 TBL baking soda

I combine ingredients in a large stainless steel bowl, mixing well. (I do this in a clean, safe, designated area of my workshop, and I wear disposable vinyl gloves and a headcover). I measure and take out the amount I want to color and scent, and put this in one of those plastic self-locking containers with a lid. I add powdered, FDA-approved soap colorant, and shake until the color is evenly dispersed. I then add my scented dendritic salt, and shake well.

I package my Milk Bath and Bath Salts in the plastic candy “treat bags” I buy at my local craft store in the candy-making section. I label it according to FDA specifications, seal it using a sealer, and add raffia or ribbon. Ready as a gift or an item to sell!

You can see more at

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Birthdays, Soapmaking, The Weather, New Mexico, and a Spice Cake Recipe

Ah, yes. Today is my birthday! I won't say how old I am, it's enough that I'm a Pisces. We're romantic and sensitive, you know. I had dinner with my "Sunday Girlie Group"...five or so of us get together once or twice a month, on Sunday, just "us girls." We gossip, listen to music, and eat potluck dinner. We each bring a different dish, so we could end up with black bean chili, antipasto, shrimp dip, and blueberry ice cream, you just never know. Last night we grilled steak, chicken, and shrimp, though, and there was a cake with candles (yikes).

Well, today I spoke with a friend in Albuquerque. He told me that the winds there, which had reached 40-50 mph gusts over the past few days, were finally dying down. Temperatures where I am right now have been in the 30s for most of the past month, so I had no sympathy, since temperatures in Albuquerque have been in the 50s and 60s.

He has daily adventures of his own, and many of them remind me of "Confederacy of Dunces" (by John Kennedy Toole) meets "Ship of Fools" (by Katherine Anne Porter)...two of my favorite novels.

Last night I watched "Juno" for the first time...what an amazing film!! It was not at all what I expected in terms of story line. The photography, music, casting, and script were perfection. This movie is now on my all- time favorites list.

I started my adventures in soapmaking with melt and pour, as do many handcrafted soap makers. Desert colors have always been my inspiration, in painting, jewelry, pillow cover and quilt designs, and in the soap I make.

(You can see more of these at

My favorite scents are rose, lime blossom, and clementine (lightly sweet citrus orange...just heavenly!). I often add a hint of spice to the floral and citrus, and I've blended a new fragrance using combinations of these, which I added to Milk Bath and Bath Salts. The bathroom is filled with a sweet, spicy, citrusy fragrance, just intoxicating!

My next project will be to add desert organics to cold and hot process soap, but to keep the light, delicate colors and desert-inspired designs...pale yellows and pinks (like the roses at The Lodge), sunrises, bold skies, and the million shades of turquoise, jasper, and other desert stones you find in New Mexico. The high desert is where the true importance of moisturizing really hit home for me, so I add extra ingredients for this. There are some really great natural and organic elements for soap, too, and I'm working on incorporating these into my new soap recipes.

In the days and weeks to come, I'll post a bit about my daily life, include my favorite soap recipes and designs, and keep you abreast on my progress with oven and double-boiler hot process soaps, which I find to be creamier than cold process soaps, although, of course, not as easy to work with. I think I've found a way to create melt and pour design elements into this! Let me know if you have wonderful soap designs you'd like me to post, and if space permits, I'll do it. I'm looking for the really exceptional!

Now it's time to make Pennsylvania Dutch Spice Cake. It's really good, my Albuquerque friend loved it. Here's the recipe:

2 1/2 cups sifted flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup water
2 cups apple butter
2 eggs
1 cup raisins
3/4 cups walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift dry ingredients together, put aside. Cream butter, add water and apple butter, mix until blended. Add dry ingredients 1/3 at a time, mixing well after each addition, about two minutes total. Add eggs, beat two more minutes. Add raisins and blend; fold in nuts. Bake in greased 13x9 inch pan, bake 45-50 minutes or until cake pulls away from sides of pan. Cool. Frost with cream cheese frosting: Whip one 8 ounce package of cream cheese until fluffy; add 1 tablespoon of sugar (or to taste) and 1/2 cup light cream; whip together until fluffy. You'll need to refrigerate the cake if you use the cream cheese frosting.

I'll be sure to include pictures with my next recipes.