Saturday, December 19, 2009
When I was a kid I went through this candy making phase. For a while, every weekend me, my sister and my niece would spend the afternoon in the kitchen making our own candy. We made fudges, toffees, honeycombs and even once made hard peppermint candy. To this day I regret not keeping my little book that documented all our confectionery experiments.
A few months back I had a sudden penchant for some home made caramels, so did a quick google search for recipes and came up with this one from Epicurious.com. The first couple of times I made these I didn't have a candy thermometer and tried to guesstimate the "soft ball" stage (that's candy speak). My guesstimation was off which resulted in caramels that wouldn't hold their own shape and had to be eaten with a spoon. Of course this didn't phase me because they were still tasty. Then I got myself a thermometer and my 3rd attempt was successful.
Here's the recipe in case you'd like to try it. I used regular course sea salt in my recipe which worked fine for me:
* 1 cup heavy cream
* 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
* 1 teaspoon fleur de sel*
* 1 1/2 cups sugar
* 1/4 cup light corn syrup
* 1/4 cup water
* Special equipment: parchment paper; a deep-fat thermometer
Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, then lightly oil parchment.
Bring cream, butter, and fleur de sel to a boil in a small saucepan, then remove from heat and set aside.
Boil sugar, corn syrup, and water in a 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Boil, without stirring but gently swirling pan, until mixture is a light golden caramel.
Carefully stir in cream mixture (mixture will bubble up) and simmer, stirring frequently, until caramel registers 248°F on thermometer, 10 to 15 minutes. Pour into baking pan and cool 2 hours. Cut into 1-inch pieces, then wrap each piece in a 4-inch square of wax paper, twisting 2 ends to close.
If you try it, let me know how it turns out. If you lose any fillings, don't blame me!
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
About a month later, the host contacts husband to thank him profusely for the wonderful stuff and to tell him how much he enjoyed using them and how although he was a tough army guy, he had never felt so pampered in the shower.
This switches on a light bulb in husband's head so he asks me if I would make a batch of soap to send to the soldiers in Iraq. I was delighted to so that's exactly what I did. I made a batch of oatmeal, milk & honey and for a bit of pampering I added real milk, real oatmeal and real honey oh and lets not forget the silk fibers either. Even soldiers want soft skin sometimes. Off the soaps went to Long Island where "Army man" would ship them off to Iraq to his fellow fighters.
Yesterday husband went onto a forum they all belong to and read this posted by "Army man" who is now back in Iraq:
I've touched on this before but I'm going to a kind of repost with some actual in the field reviews (edited for language shared amongst
soldiers) of a DAMN FINE product made by the illustrious Mrs. JJenk.
I'm talking about handcrafted soaps and lip balm.
What is so special about soap and Chap-Stik you ask? Read on......
My first experience with this was after my Beer-B-Que and GTG this summer. JJenk was kind enough to bring a gift for Mrs. SFA, a basket of lip balms and soaps that she handcrafts in small batches.
Used her coffee almond bar the next day. HOLY SH*T this stuff was like showering using baby bunnies for a soap bar and clouds for lather.
There was all kinds of happiness involved. Not just smile on the face kind of happy but WOW this stuff is amazing kind of happy.
It literally left me feeling cleaner than anything else I had ever used with no strong perfumey kind of after-smell. I also used it with a brush for shaving and it completely and utterly rules for this task.
A couple months later Mrs. JJenk made a batch for me to ship to my comrades in Iraq. This was almost an unscented soap (any smell attracts sand flies and mosquitos like mad). Took a good while for it to arrive but it did finally make it. Some of the thank yous I have gotten go like this.....
"Damn brother- where the fu*k did you find this stuff? This is the first time I've felt clean in months and it even knocked out my toe rot........"
"Coyote this good sh*t. Same thing like that my mother made in Estonia.
It is like being back home. The Bear loves you again...."
"- thank you soooooo much for the soaps. I'm not a foo-foo girl but this is pure luxury and a definite treat."
"Good sh*t. Now I know why I kept your ass around for so long"
Yeah guys & girls- it is THAT good. These are comments from guys who don't give a rodent's posterior about high end anything for the most part unless it goes bang or boom. Heck I'm not a dude that rants and raves about this kind of thing either but gotta say this is worth the effort to speak up about.
The second part of the basket included some lip balms. When I say that smooching Mrs. SFA has become even more enjoyable take that as it stands. Very cool flavors, sweet and nothing artificial. My personal favorite is the chocolate cake one which also happens to be Mrs. SFA's fave as well. Works out well for all concerned!
She's always had a problem with chapped lips during the winter, especially with central heating systems. No worries so far- and the best part is it's 100% natural. No Red #3 or sodium hydroxegenated whodawhackers, just good old fashioned grandma's kitchen type ingredients. Not gonna get lip cancer from this- just tasty kisses
With Christmas coming up snagging one or two bars of this heaven would be a good move for the Mrs. or significant other in your life or even as a gift to yourself. Same goes for the lip balm (serves as a gift for you both hehe). I'm pretty much off bar soap for good after trying these boutique bars.
Monday, November 23, 2009
SO - my dear friend Joanna sent me a facebook message a while back. I guess she must have realized that my mojo had taken to the hills once again so she told me to roll my sleeves up, get creative, push the envelope, do something "different". I mulled over her message for a couple weeks before I decided to take her up on it. Granted these aren't the most exciting looking soaps in the world but they ARE different to my usual fare.
First up is "Garden Party" - same scent as the original but with a new look. I went for hot pink and bright green with sprinklings of gold mica on top. There's supposed to be a fine gold line dividing the 2 colors but it's barely visible unless you hold the bar right up to your face.
My next envelope pusher is a Pomegranate & Orange soap with sugar sprinkles on top. I actually love the scent of this. Don't even ask about the funky lines/wannabe swirls, they sort of did their own thing but the colors are cool right?
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Have you ever experienced moments when you question whether your products are any good. I mean, are they REALLY good or do people just say they are to be polite? I do this ALL the time. I think they're good (for me at least) but then I tend to work in a silo, with blinkers on, with no idea or much bother as to how other people do things. I make what I make to suit me and just hope that others will like it too.
Last weekend, while checking my google analytics, I noticed that I had a visit from a site that is known for reviewing lip balms. I had come across the site in the past and I remember thinking to myself, how brave one would have to be to submit products there for review. Why? Because the reviewer is brutally honest. I mean, she doesn't mince words, she tells it the way she feels/tastes it. Yes, honesty is a good thing (until it's one of your own products and the review is unfavorable).
So back to the story, I see this site has visited my shop and my eyebrow hits the ceiling. I'm thinking to myself "why would they be in MY shop"? So, of course by now I'm curious and I have to click over to the site. Imagine my shock and horror to see my Turkish Delight Lip Balm larger than life up for review. I damn near shat me-self. (Sorry - couldn't think of a decent way to say that!)
I do believe at that very moment before I started reading said review, I decided right there and then that I would cry myself to sleep and stay there for the rest of the day. I braced myself for the worst then started reading. My heart felt as though it would pound right out of my chest and if memory serves me right, I think I held my breath the entire time I read.
Read for yourselves here: Confessions of a Balmaholic
Monday, September 28, 2009
Whilst not the most exciting purchase in the world, they mean a whole lot to me.
Yesterday I went out and bought myself a new pair of sneakers FOR RUNNING! Yes, that's right, I've taken up the sport of running. Although at the moment I haven't graduated to the outdoors yet, I'm still glued to treadmill exercise thing, but it's running none the less.
I've been following the Couch to 5K program which is the most painless way to graduate from being a couch potato to running a 5K race in only 9 weeks.
The application is available for iphones. Read all about it right here: http://c25kapp.com/
It really is a great program and it's at least gotten me up off my arse and doing something good for my body.
So, I'll raise a shoe to health & fitness!
Sunday, September 20, 2009
There are times when I make them and they just won't cooperate. They fall apart, they grow warts after drying, they heave wide open, and the list of naughtiness goes on.
Then there are times like this morning when they're the most perfectly well behaved things in the world and are (gasp.... dare I say it?) a pleasure to make.
What gives, pray tell?
Next Saturday I have a last minute vending event here in CT. I have a ton of soap but not much else ready so decided to take my chances with some fizzy bombs. I pulled out all my equipment & ingredients and got to balling. To my pleasure, every single one turned out just lovely and at this time they're sitting happily side by side drying themselves ready to be packaged.
- Lemon Ginger
- Key Lime
- Pumpkin Chiffon
- Oatmeal Milk & Honey
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
This week I took Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday as vacation days. Monday I made 12 lbs of soap and the same again on Tuesday (see pic).
In the pic (left to right: oatmeal milk & honey, Eucalyptus, Black Raspberry Vanilla, Lemon Ginger, Almond, Pomegranate Juice, Nag Champa, Tuberose, Unscented with Oatmeal)
Today if Mojo doesn't disappear on me, I plan to make a couple of facial soap bars. One will be with pureed cucumbers and the other with charcoal.
Friday, August 14, 2009
1. The sound of children's laughter
Sunday, July 26, 2009
" if Auntie Sharon paints my toy chest, I'll like her a lot". So of course I had to do it cos I like being liked especially by HIM!
Since I spent the majority of yesterday snoozing, I was determined to do something constructive with myself by getting this thing painted already.
Was meant to take a BEFORE picture but forgot until after I'd already started. Anyway, you can sort of see how it was before and then once it was done.
Just need to add a protective clear coat and little man will be good to go!
Hoping he'll like me a lot when he sees it :-)
Saturday, July 18, 2009
So today I had the crazy idea to make a ton of lip balm. A ton being in the 250 tubes range. I now have plenty of every flavor except for mango which I decided not to replenish this time around. Instead of mango, I've introduced a brand new one - Rum & Raisin. Can't wait to see if it does well. It smells just like the real deal, rich and creamy and sweet!
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
A couple days ago, I was on Twitter and got a private message. It said "You Rock". Of course I raised an eyebrow at such a message as I was a bit confused. I sent a message back saying thank you and asking how come? Part of the response was "well, you are funny, talented & motivated & I appreciate you as an artist"
Now, this message was sent to me not just by a virtual friend but by an individual who I highly admire. By a woman who I wish I could be like. By an individual who I've looked up to long before she even knew who I was.
For the past couple days I've mulled over those 2 little words in my head again and again. I've looked at myself from every possible angle to try to see what she sees. I can't say that I'm there yet but I feel good knowing that someone who I look up to thinks this of me.
Thank you virtual friend. If only you knew, I think YOU ROCK even more :-)
Thursday, June 25, 2009
I've always believed that one should not be miserable at work. If I'm not happy, I leave and go elsewhere - simple. To me, it's not worth being unhappy for 8 hours x 5 days a week. That's a huge chunk of our lives being wasted on feeling bad.
What's different now? There's no place to go. This creates an even more frustrating situation because I'm now forced to suck it up, shut up and deal!
Come on 'Bama - let's get this show on the road. I need for this economy to get back on track, like NOW!
Saturday, June 20, 2009
Last night the bug bit me again and I had the urging to make more soap (shown here).
Gardenia - since I'm almost out of it and I have to say it felt weird re-stocking before running out. I'm the biggest procrastinator in the world and usually wait until people start begging before I restock. Bad, bad girl!
Pumpkin Chiffon - Can you believe I'm making Fall soap already? The mojo's gotten totally out of control obviously! With this batch, I experimented by sprinkling a layer of cocoa powder between the 2 colors to see if I could get a fine brown line. We'll see how it turns out when I cut the loaf.
Rose - Here I combined 3 different rose FO's together. I'm not a huge fan of rose but this one smells pretty damn pleasant. It had better, for the amount of trouble it gave me. Why are florals so mean? UGHHH!
White with Black Swirls - This one is an experiment. I wanted to make a gentleman's soap and decided that patchouli, fir needle, tangerine & oakmoss would be an interesting scent. Right now the scent keeps changing & I can't wait for it to settle down. I liked the way the combo smelled on my arm (had me falling in love with myself all over again :-) I may call it The Gentlemen's Club.
Friday, June 19, 2009
My garden is starting to come alive and all kinds of things are blooming. Seems like my lavender plant loves the rain. This morning I ran out with my scissors and snipped me a bunch.
I'm dying to try lavender in cookies. Not sure if I'm brave enough so in the mean time I'll stick to using it in soaps & stuff :-)
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
That said, those of you who are familiar with Etsy must have heard all the hub-bub that's been going on over there with all this SEO business. Well, I have a basic understanding of the technicalities of it all but have sound knowledge that whatever the heck it is, my little shop has ground to a halt. Now all this could be a combo of Etsy and the economy.
Either way, I've resurrected my ArtFire shop and plan on rebuilding my own website with a quickness. This is probably just the kick in the tail I've needed to get on with things.
Soooo, during the time that I would have been making and shipping products, I've decided to revamp some of my photos. It's a long and laborious process but I'm liking the results. I've discovered this nifty tool called Picnik. It's so easy to use and makes me photos look 100% better.
What do you think? Be honest now......
Saturday, June 13, 2009
Now it's my turn to pass on this award to my fave bloggers.
Here are the rules of the award:
1. The winner may put the logo on her blog.
2. Put a link to the person you got the award from.
3. List seven things you love.
4. List seven blogs you love.
5. Leave a message for your nominees.
Seven Things that I Love (in no specific order):
1. Soap making
2. My Family
3. My friends
4. My inner voice
6. The creativity gene
1. Natural Beauty Workshop
2. Etsy Green & Clean Guild
3. Daisy Girl Soap
4. Katie Crafts
5. Dancing Mooney
6. Cheap Thrills
I will now let my people know I grant them the Kreativ award. Hopefully they will all join in, take this as an honor, as I did, know they got it for being recognized for their creativity and pass along the award.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Here is the 2nd batch of soaps I made this past weekend after the return of my mojo. As you can see they're not nearly as interesting looking as the 1st batch but they're still exciting!
I did plan to take photos of them as whole logs to post here but impatience got the better of me and I sliced 'em all up before you could say "say cheese".
The brown bar in front is my usual ChocoTherapy. I haven't made this one in a while and was well overdue.
The 2nd bar with confetti-like topping is still unnamed. The scent is like a vintage perfume (very girly). It's expected to get much darker than it is currently and should end up being a deep chocolate brown. Oh and there's gold mica in it so it will shimmer and look quite glamorous when wet.
The 3rd bar smells exactly like Johnsons baby powder. I LOVE it. This fragrance usually turns soap a tan color but I've combatted that with a little titanium dioxide and pink coloring.
The 4th bar is to die for - it's Green Tea. The scent is so subtle, soft and deliciously sweet.
Since we're entering warmer and more humid weather, I decided to leave these batches in the oven a little longer than I usually do just to cook off more of the lye and water in them. I also added sodium lactacte to each batch for harder bars. These should be fully cured & hardened within the next few weeks and I can't wait!
Sunday, June 7, 2009
....that's right. Saturday morning I woke up to find my Mojo had come back to me. Not one to miss an opportunity, I quickly snatched it up and put it to work immediately before it had the chance to disappear again.
Here's what I worked on Saturday. Sunday I made 4 more batches (totaling 24lbs of soap). I feel whole again!
I'll post pics of the other 4 batches later.
Monday, June 1, 2009
I'll be honest, I'm not so fond of NYC but this was so much fun, I'd definitely do it again!
......still waiting for my Mojo to come back by the way (well I gots to stay busy somehow)!
Friday, May 29, 2009
My current faves are the rose bushes that are coming up so beautifully this year. I took this pic while it was drizzling a couple evenings ago. They smell so divine - I think I'll cut some and bring them in the house.
Next project to be completed will be the little black sweater that I'm knitting. I'm hoping this will be enough time for my mojo to come back so I can get on with the business of soap making!
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Well Mojo, I hope you're enjoying your extended vacation because I'm sitting here giving my soap pot a blank stare.
Friday, April 24, 2009
Today is Etsy Day. In celebration, I'm running a little sale in my shop until 5:00pm EST.
Take 20% off all purchases PLUS there's a free gift with every purchase.
So, come on by today and help me celebrate Etsy Day in a right a proper fashion!
Come shop over here
Monday, April 13, 2009
I'd like to highlight an Etsy friend of mine's wonderful shop. Her shop is called Auntie Di's De-lites.
Auntie (as I so fondly call her whenever I run into her in chat or on Twitter) is a wonderfully talented lady. Check out her gorgeous candles and jewelry. I plan to purchase my wedding jewelry from her for my trip next month. I just love her style and it helps that I'm an earring fanatic!
Stop by Auntie's shop - she's sure to have something you'll love!
Don't forget - Wednesday, April 15th they go on sale in the EGCG Etsy shop!
Friday, April 3, 2009
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Last week Etsy Admin started a thread that they were looking for B&B experts to submit product write ups. Of course, being the lurker that I am, I started reading the thread and naturally there were plenty of "pick me, pick me" posts but then there was 1 post from an individual named CMaille which halted me in my tracks. This individual just outright told everyone in the thread that Morgan Street was the best and gave the best customer service, yada, yada, yada. I didn't know whether to wipe my tears before falling off the chair or vice versa. Within minutes, I got a convo from Etsy asking me if I'd be interested in doing a write up. Of course I was elated but then it all started to sink in.
I'm no EXPERT! What the heck do I know about anything? Yes I make lip balms and yes I think they're lovely. I stick to one tried and trusted recipe, I don't use color, I don't use sweeteners so what the heck can I tell anyone that could be considered enlightening? Panic started to set in, and I'm not going to lie, it took me almost a week to write the few paragraphs. I closed my eyes and clicked send in email and off it went.
I don't know if they'll use what I wrote but at least I know I tried and that's all we can do right?
Thanks CMaille - you're the best!
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
So - back to the task at hand. A quick update and a request for your assistance. I made this batch of soap for our upcoming EGCG Swag Bag sales and for my soap of the month subscribers. For the swag bag I'll be submitting 2oz bars but for the monthly subscribers they will get full size 4oz bars. Either way, I'm stumped for a name. It's a combo of Gardenia, Coconut Lime and Cherry fragrance oils (in that order). What do you reckon?
UPDATE..................We have a name!!
Don't you think it's perfect? I do!
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
even though I'm not so talented in the melt & pour department, I have to admit I have a lot of fun playing with the stuff.
Here's the result of my most recent M&P adventures. I'm going to call them Bon-Bons. I love em all. So far I've made coffee, chocolate, lime & ginger, strawberry, pomegranate, lemon & almond. Lawd knows how many more I'll come up with between now and the weekend.
Sometimes having too much time on your hands can be dangerous.
Somebody please come pry this block of M&P from my hands!!
GIVEAWAY!! Get yourself a free Bon-Bon with any purchase from my Etsy shop. Just mention my blog & the flavor you'd like at checkout!
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
...yet I just can't help myself in this situation. Yes, I'm guilty.
Of all the cakes, loaves and cupcakes I've made thus far, this one is my favorite. It's the only one that I made using this color combination and it smells nothing like it looks. Chocolate on the bottom and black raspberry vanilla frosting with "green" sprinkles.
It somehow reminds me of The Grinch & Cat in the Hat all rolled into one. I haven't listed it on Etsy probably because I don't want to sell it, but I know as soon as I take it out of hiding one of my face to face customers is going to snap it right up.
I suppose I could always make another one right?
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
I personally have nothing but the utmost respect for you.
I saw you in action yesterday in NYC. I woke up at the crack of dawn, jumped on a train and headed to the city where I met up with 6 other lovely ladies so we could come watch your show live and in person.
I had no idea what to expect. I can't say I was even a fan of yours before yesterday. That said, the entire experience was splendid. Not only was it interesting but we had loads of fun, we learned a lot, left with free goodies and best of all an invitation to return in March during Craft Week.
See you in March Martha and in the mean time, keep up the good work!
Monday, January 19, 2009
So you all know my soaping method of choice is Cold Process Oven Process right? That's where I pour my soap in the mold and instead of putting it away wrapped in a blanket for 24 hours, I put mine in the oven at 170 degrees for 90 mins. I then turn the oven off and let the soap sit in the warmed oven for up to 18 hours. This shaves at least 2 weeks off the cure time which is right up my alley since I'm an impatient individual.
Now, one evening I decided to make a batch of soap. I went through the whole oven ritual as per normal. The next morning I checked my soap log and it was beautiful. Nice and firm and ready to be removed. For whatever reason (possibly laziness), I decided to let it continue sitting in there until later that day when I would have the time to slice it right away.
My mother would have said "Never put off til tomorrow what you can do today" - never a truer word has been said!
Later on that afternoon, to my horror I discovered that husband had decided to make dinner so turned the oven on full hilt to get it warmed up (of course he didn't open it to check 1st). I didn't even remember my soap until I smelled something funny coming from the kitchen. I ran like I've never run before, flung open the oven door to discover it was a little smokey in there. The wax paper lining the mold was a little burnt and worst of all my soap log had reverted back to the gelling stage. It was soft and mushy'ish. I wanted to cry.....I mean really really cry. This was a batch of plain unscented oatmeal soap and you all know how hard it is for me to make "unexciting" soap. I sat my burned up soap to the side and removed myself to the bedroom where I could mourn the death of my log in peace.
Fas forward to the next day......I went to check on the burnt up log and to my surprise, it not only looks normal but is ROCK HARD. I mean it's as hard as it would have been if it had been curing for a month. I did the zap test and it passed. I sliced a piece off and immediately washed my face with it. If anything was wrong with it my face would certainly tell me. NOTHING! The soap was perfectly fine.
So once again another lesson has been learned. Twice baked soap is OK. I guess it's no different to hot processing!
Next time I'll try it with a scented batch just to see if double cooking affects the fragrance at all.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
...if I always followed directions? Not as much as I've learned by not following them that's for sure.
I made a batch of Milk Rose soap per a customer's request a little while back but it has taken so long to harden up that I decided to make another batch but this time instead of pouring in the mold and leaving it alone, I put that sucker in right in the oven - milk & all. Shock, horror, clutch my pearls!
Yes, I really did put a milk soap batch in the oven over night and you know what? Nothing happened to it. When I checked on it the next day, I half expected to find a volcanic mess in my oven but to my surprise, my milk rose log behaved quite perfectly under all that heat. I let it sit for a day before slicing even though I could have sliced it immediately it was that firm. Not sure if I will attempt doing this again though as that would be tempting the devil and I'm not THAT brave!
Tomorrow I'll tell you about another rule I broke that turned out perfectly!
Friday, January 2, 2009
Last year I learned about the Laws of Attraction.
I learned that hypnotherapy can be used to easily and painlessly kill all my demons.
I learned about this thing called meditation (not that I've managed to try it yet) but I learned that it's a good thing and that it's a way for me to listen to my heart, spirit & soul for guidance and good advice.
I also learned something that I'm still having trouble understanding but plan to work on. I learned that there is no such thing as time, that there is no past and no future. When I fully grasp this rule, I will share it here.
For Christmas I bought 2 copies of the Deepak Chopra book "The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success". One for my sister and one for myself. We plan to read and discuss as we go along. The book is seriously deep and enlightening and not something I could read alone. I'm sure we're going to have lots of questions for each other.
So, I am wishing everyone a fantabulous 2009 because I know I'm going to have one :)