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.

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