Saturday, November 28, 2009

Christmas Deals and Shopping

Looking for a bargain for Christmas shopping? Here it is! You pick 5 bars of handmade soaps that you would like...Pay $20. THAT'S IT! Doesn't get easier than that. No shipping charges for shipments in the U.S. Sorry guys who live outside the U.S. Shipping will be reduced but that's the best I can do.

This item is available on most of my shop sites and just recently sold on Etsy.  Shopping online is so much easier than long waits at the store lines.

So, sit back in the comfort of your home, have a cup of tea, coffee, hot chocolate or other drink of your choice, listen to some great music while you shop online. No lines, no traffic jams, no rude people, no road rage, no hauling bags around and storing them in your car in hopes someone doesn't break in while you shop at yet another store.

It's all online.

All your packages get shipped to your door. All you have to do is haul them inside your house and get them wrapped up. Wait! If you shop at my shops, I even do the gift wrapping for you on request! So, you don't even have to gift wrap them!

Doesn't get easier than that.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Non-Traditional Thanksgiving

We a re a busy family full of working adults and social butterfly teenagers. Neither hubby or I have "regular" Monday-Friday daytime jobs at "normal" times, so our schedule "rocks". Maybe I should call it "rocky" instead!

Anyway, we often work holidays and weekends; and sometimes we don't even get the same weekends off. It requires a lot of planning and working at keep our family/marriage alive and well.

Usually, on a holiday, we try to ensure that at least ONE of us adults are home and arranging some sort of traditional holiday festivity, but it isn't going to happen this Thanksgiving. We BOTH work. He works the night shift and I work the 12 hour day shift. So, hubby will be home but needing to get a little sleep, and I will be just gone!

The solution? Who said Thanksgiving has to be on Thursday? Not happening this year, at least for us. Instead, we will be having our Thanksgiving on Friday instead. It doesn't give me much time to prepare a "Thanksgiving" feast though. So, my plan is to purchase my goodies today and prepare most of the stuff today. Then, on Friday I can just pop in the oven and enjoy without killing myself.

Every year we go through this issue of "what are we going to have for Thanksgiving?". Why? Well, I have a finicky family. Hubby hates turkey, daughter hates ham. We have grown tired of cornish game hens. No one likes lamb but me. Everyone hates pork except me. What to do, what to do......hmmmm. I have not yet come up with a menu for Friday, but here are my thoughts for the main at least. Tell me what YOU think:


Chicken and seafood kabobs

Chicken pie

I am leaning toward the kabobs. They are so much fun to make and eat, don't take long to cook. I can marinate the meat all day Thursday, so they will be just fantastic by Friday.

Are you asking for a recipe? No, I don't have one; at least on paper anyway. I'm one of those 'fly by the seat of my pants' cooks. It's all up here in my head. I take an idea and run with it and seldom write anything down! Drives most folks nuts. I can give you a basic run down of what my plan is though, IF I still decide on the kabob thing.

Skewers, I have metal skewers but still prefer wooden ones that have been soaked in water prior to cooking.
The meat will marinate in some sort of sauce I have yet to create, still no idea yet which direction I want to go. It depends on what I find on sale at the grocery store. I'm thinking some sort of lemon pepper type thing, but nothing is set in stone. Maybe more of a spicy caribbean lime/rum thing?
When I make the marinade, I will put the strips of meat in it and let it savor up overnight.
Veggies? Well, of course, what's a kabob without fresh veggies! onion, peppers, tomatos, with just a little brushing of oil and herbs.
Must have a bed of rice, not sure what kind got it, whatever I find on sale at the grocery store is what will go in.
A little squeeze of lime at the end of the cooking and yum!
Tossed salad along with it and of course some little appetizers.
What to drink? No thoughts yet.
Dessert? I would like to have at least ONE traditional thing, so pumpkin pie for sure. Then, maybe another lighter dessert.
After dinner, I have a sweet port wine and want to add some dark chocolate nibbles to go with it.

OK, so there are a my thoughts so far. I am thinking of my menu as I write this blog. It's my best method of organizing thoughts.

Does it sound good?

I'll let you know how it all turns out next week :)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hot and Cold Process Soaping Methods

If you know anything about handmade soap, you may have run across this terminology before: cold process, hot process, melt and pour, hand milled...

You may not know what any of that means.

In case you ever wondered, this is the blog read for you.

Well, here is my attempt at briefly explaining what those things are and how they differ from one another.


Let's start with just your basic melt and pour. This is a method of soap making where you purchasing a pre-made soap product. You melt it down, add some color and frgrance to it and mold it to your preference. Sound easy? It is, although there are a few things that you need to know in order for your soap to be successful. Melt and pour method does not require you adding any ingredients that may be dangerous around kids and animals, or to yourself. It really is a fun, clean craft. Easy wash up since it IS soap.

I started off making melt and pour soaps. I still make them on occasion, although that method is not the bulk of my soap making.


Next is the cold process soap method. This requires that your make your own soap formula from various oils, liquid and sodium hydroxide (lye).  There are tons and bunches of soap recipes online and in books. Each oil adds its own distinctiveness to the soap recipe. If your are a star trek fan, you may remember how "The Borg" assimilate other cultures to add to their own? Well, different oils are like that in soap. Palm oil helps to harden the soap, coconut oil gives the soap a nice lather, castor oil gives the soap a sudsy quality, olive oil is amazing on your skin but low on suds, and so on.

Just the right amount of liquid and lye mixed with the oils, and mixed together until the soap begins to thicken just a bit, called "trace". Then you add any other colors, fragrances or exfoliants to the soap. In cold process, the lye mixed liquid and oils are mixed together at a cooler temperature. They are poured into molds and covered and insulated to allow the oils and lye mixture to heat up and "cook". The curing process takes a while before the soap is safe to use. I typically wait about four to six weeks before I will allow it to be sold.

If done right with a good recipe, you will get a great, smooth bar of soap at the end of that time.  A few drawbacks in cold process is that some colors you may use, may look different when the soap is done, and some fragrance oils fail miserably during the curing process and you end up with a nice bar of soap that doesn't smell anything like you intended.


Hot process soap uses essentially the same ingredients as cold process, although you may want to add 2.5-5% additional liquid to your recipe to prevent the soap from hardening a bit too quickly. Sometimes you can add just a bit of sugar to prevent hardening too quickly also.  Each hot process soaper develops their own style.

This time you take your lye/liquid mixture and add it to your oils. Then, you begin to heat up your soap mixture. There are a variety of different ways to do that. Some soapers use their oven, some used a large crockpot, and some are double boiler experts. I'm a crockpot fan myself and own several crockpots so that I can make more than one batch at a time.

The soap mixture is heated up slowly and on low heat since you don't want to burn the stuff. It is important to check on it while "cooking" to avoid boiling over and spillage. The soap will turn from a batter-like substance to a slightly lumpy gel (kind of like thickened wall paper paste or thickened fiber laxative like metamucil...really! :)  Once the soap is this gel substance, you can give it a taste test. Yes, I said a taste test. Before taste testing, I test it between my fingers first, then if it feels OK, I touch it to my tongue. If there is no stinging "zap" to the taste of the soap, that means it is finished cooking and you can take it out and allow it to cool. I usually add my color, fragrances and any other additional oils or ingredients once it has cooled just a bit. This allows the fragrance to not overheat in the soap dissipate. Once I'm done with that, off it goes to my mold. No need to cover it up to insulate and cook; you've already cooked it. Once the soap hardens, it is ready to use.

The benefits of hot process is that you have soap that is ready to use right away because cooking it has allowed the chemical reaction between the lye and oils to occur more rapidly.  Another benefit is that you don't have worry near as much about your fragrance oils changing during the cook, since you add them AFTER the chemical interactions have occurred. The drawback to hot process is that you can't get that gorgeous, color swirl effect in it like you can with cold process, although you can mix a few colors together if you like.


Hand millled soap is a fun little process where you use soap that has already been made and you shred it down, add a bit of water, and melt it down. You then take your colors, fragrances and other additives and add it to your soap, re-mold it and allow it to dry and harden again. Some folks make hand milled soap balls, or bars out of soap that maybe didn't look too nice the first time around for some reason. Hand milling gives a bar of soap a second chance. I love using hand milled soap for decorating and for adding ingredients and fragrances to my fragrance free soap. I can take a small batch and re-color or fragrance it according the season. So, it is great fun.

So there you have it. In a nutshell, some different handmade soap processing methods. This blog write was not intended as a tutorial for how exactly to make each type, but simply an overview. Hope you enjoyed.

Of course for a full list of soaps that I currently have available in many of these methods, visit one of my online shops.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

After the Workout...then What?

Want something to soothe those sore tired muscles after working out at the gym, or yard work, housework, or coming home from work? This is your handmade soap! Perfect for hard-working, sweaty bods needing a top-notch clean up!

Each soap is approximately 3 oz each and loaded with natural oils to soothe your dry skin, and loaded with oils that soothe your aching muscles and joints.

This soap contains Eucalyptus oil, which is said to stimulate and aid in concentration. It also helps to relieve aches and pain. Peppermint oil not relieves aches and pain but is also stimulating and refreshing. Ginger and Lavandin also have reported pain relief properties. Tea Tree oil is a natural antiseptic on the skin and assists in alleviating body odor.

In addition to these fantastic oils, Calendula blossoms were added on top and throughout the soap. Calendula helps with mild skin irritations.

You'll be delighted!

Here are some hints to keep your soaps lasting longer. First, you may want to cut your soap into halves or even quarters. Keep the unused portions wrapped in a towel in the refridgerator and use one of the portions in the shower or bath. Always store your soap in a place after shower or bath that is well draining. I recommend a slatted soap dish to allow the soap to sit above standing water and let it air dry. When the soap becomes too small to handle easily, you can always add the piece to an open weave soap bag for use until it completely dissolves.

Monday, November 16, 2009


Yes, it's a movie; yes, it is an odd conglomeration of Spanish and English tossed together. It is a melding of cultures in a language format.

Our kids were raised in Spanglish due to the uniqueness of our own multicultural marriage. Dad's first language is Spanish and mine is English, although we often drift into the other language. Besides that, because both of us worked when the kids were younger, we had to have babysitters. We chose sitters that spoke Spanish, figuring that English would eventually take over here in the U.S. We lived in an agricultural area when the kids were little with a rather high hispanic population, so it worked for us.

Early on, we never taught numbers, letters of the alphabet, animal names, or any of those early words that kids typically learn in English. They were all Spanish. However, the English sentence structure stayed. Hence, Spanglish.  The kids would come out with sentences like: "Look, mommy, that caballo is bonito." (...that horse is pretty).  Or, screaming this one out..."eeeeeeee...the ganzos went caca on my cabeza!" (the geese pooped on my head). It was a traumatic experience for 3 year old!

After a few years, we moved over to an area that had less percentage hispanic population and it was difficult to find sitters who spoke Spanish, so the kids had more exposure to the English language. By the time the kids went to kindergarten, one of them still spoke a form of Spanglish and attended ESL classes. The younger one was fully integrated in English before attending school and never went to ESL.

Their language of choice now is full-on English, although they both can pronounce Spanish and understand much of the language; not fluently though. Daughter is now attending Spanish class in high school. The teacher suspected early on that she knew Spanish and kept trying to catch her, but never could because my daughter DOESN'T speak Spanish. She knows lots of songs in Spanish, lots of words, lots of things in Spanish that most English speaking kids don't know; but she doesn't speak Spanish. They learned a song in school, sort've a Spanish childhood nursery song, which my daughter had heard numerous times as a child and she sang it fluently the first time out. Made the teacher just a tad suspicious. I told my daughter that if that teacher had any questions or concerns, please call me at home and we will talk. Although my daughter is not a straight A student, she does get good grades in Spanish.

OK, so Spanglish is not an official language, but it is spoken by millions here. It is just another sign of how language is an ever changing, dynamic method of communication. It doesn't need to be official in order to serve the purpose of its intention.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Frankincense and Myrrh....

Frankincense and myrrh is just one of those fragrance combos that remind us of  Christmas because both of those are mentioned repeatedly in the Bible. These were expensive back in biblical times, used for many things. In the scriptures, it is included with gold as gifts to Jesus by the wise men, showing their importance.

"On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of frankincense and of myrrh." 

Matthew 2:11

Frankincense is a resin from a deciduous tree  that is a low twisted, thorny shrub without a central branch. Today, almost all frankincense comes from Somalia, where the trees grow along the coastline, without soil, growing out of rocks. Frankincense is harvested by a deep cut made into the bark and a 4 to 6 inch strip is peeled off. A milk-like juice exudes from the plant hardens when exposed to air into "yellowish tears". These tears are then scraped off and harvested. When burned, frankincense is very fragrant and was used in worship as an offering to God.

Myrrh is a resin also, pale yellow in color. It eventually dries to a brown/black and comes a large shrub or tree found in East Africa, Yemen and the Red Sea countries. There are ducts in the bark, which fill with a granular secretion that drips when the bark is wounded or has natural fissures. The myrrh drips from the bark, forming irregularly shaped grains of resin. Dried myrrh is hard and brittle with a bitter taste.

Myrrh was one of the ingredients of the holy anointing oil and also of incense. Myrrh was valued as a perfume as well as for its medicinal properties. It served as local anesthetic and was given to both mother and child for postnatal care, perhaps one reason the Wise Men brought it to Jesus. Jesus was also offered myrrh while being crucified on the cross.

The Wise Men brought items that had great worth. Although we don't consider these two resins as valuable in this day and age, they still have symbolic worth and smell delightful, which is one of the reasons I've included these two fragrances in one of my latest soaps.

Each soap is a generous 4 oz plus size with just a small dusting of copper and gold cosmetic mica for added elegance.

"Who is this, coming up from the desert like a column of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense..."
Song of Solomon 3:6


Christmas Bazaar Time

Yes, 'tis the season for Christmas bazaars again. For those of us who are handcrafted vendors and take our craft seriously, this is a real busy time. For those who are Christmas bazaar attendee addicts, well...the same goes. It's a busy time too.

Before I got into soap-making, I had never attended a Christmas bazaar. Well, I digress a bit; I had attended a few in my past, all of which contained items I would never have given to anyone I knew, nor would I have bought them for myself. I guess I didn't go to the right bazaars. My general consensus was that these things really weren't worth my time attending. But, that was a few years a go.

Christmas bazaars have really done some upgrading over the years. Both small and large sized, the quality of items you can get at a bazaar is usually great.Of course, not all bazaars and craft items are created equal, so you just have to pick and choose what works for you. There's much more variety than there used to be. Or maybe I'm just attending better bazaars? Actually, it is a recent upsurge of desire for handmade items that I believe is the factor.

Yesterday, I attended my first Christmas bazaar of the season as a vendor. It was a smaller bazaar, affordable for me, run by a local church. They had more vendors this year than last, so could not fit all of them in their main room. They ended up putting the other half of the vendors in a different room down the hall. The result? Despite the fact that there were signs stating there were more vendors down the hall, much of the traffic didn't get there. The "down the hall" vendors were feeling a bit forgotten. I'm hoping that it will be a bit different next year. It was my second year there. I had a great experience there last year, but was "down the hall" this year and we vendors down there were trying to come up with ideas to increase traffic down that lonely hall.

I can't blame it all on the down the hall syndrome though. Despite the numerous signs, advertisements and internet postings, there just wasn't near as much traffic this year. Due to our sluggish economy? I suspect so. The prices were good too, so we weren't scaring people off. Our location in relation to general street traffic made it a good location.

My first Christmas bazaar of this season has given me just a little trepidation on what is to come for other bazaars that I'm scheduled for in the upcoming weeks. Next week's bazaar is also located in a nice, high traffic location, but it is my first time there. I'm not sure what to expect, but I'm hoping for a group of folk who are excited about there purchasing experience this year. Which brings me to another subject of Christmas commercialism, which I won't talk about now...

For those who are locals here in the Portland/Vancouver area, stop by and visit the Christmas (oops, they are calling it a "holiday") bazaar at the Fishers Grange next Saturday, Nov 21st, 9am-4pm. It sits there on 164th ave, just a few blocks north of Mill Plain.

You might just be pleasantly surprised!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Phoenix in August and Other Unseasonable Trips

Our family took a vacation this past summer. A real, actual vacation; not a day trip or an overnight trip, or a business trip or a trip out of necessity. We chose to take a vacation. Not extravagant; we didn't go over our budget which meant we spent overnight most of the time at friends and family. We had a great time.

Our first stop was sunny southern California with all that it has to offer. Great beaches, amusement parks, great weather. It really is a great vacation spot. I was born and raised in So. Cal and always enjoy going back to visit, even if it is to see how much things have changed since I was growing up there. When I was a kid, Disneyland was just becoming a budding giant surrounded by a few backwater towns, orange groves, dairy farms and low land crops. There are STILL some low land crops grown in the area, but you really have to look hard for them.


Next, we chose to drive over to Arizona...yep; in August no less. My friends there said it was "monsoon season" there but I'll be dog-goned if I could find anything that remotely related to a monsoon while there. In fact, they had 113 degree heat and hardly a drop of rain during the week we were there.

I love hot weather, by the way and enjoy the dry heat that Arizona offers, even in the summer. We started off in northern AZ, driving to a friend's house north of Prescott, then continued onward toward the Grand Canyon. Spent the night near Flagstaff, then drove south to Scottsdale, which is next door to Phoenix. On our way down, we stopped at a variety of places, including Montezuma well and Montezuma Castle (which you see in the picture above). This area is located up in the hills just north of Phoenix and was quite hot the day we visited, but I enjoyed it all. In Scottsdale, my hubby found a casino and hang out in while I visited a dear friend of mine. The kids hung out in the pool and the local mall, which is pretty much what kids enjoy doing anywhere. Our time was pretty limited and we didn't really stop at too many touristy spots in Scottsdale/Phoenix area.

On our way back home, we stopped along Tuzigoot Indian ruins, pictured below.

As we made our way back to the Prescott area to drop off our other friend who had spent the last several days with us, we went up the side of a mountain and drove through a cool old mining town, touted to be "haunted", has lots of artsy/craftsy type things there. Gorgeous views, and RAIN!!! Yeah, we ran into some rain on our way up the mountain. It was a nice relief from the heat, even though I like the heat, change is always nice. After dropping him off in Chino Valley, we headed out toward Las Vegas and ended up staying overnight there.

We spent the night on the strip of course and checked out the Luxor the next day. Las Vegas is truly a place for fantasy. Pick your fantasy, you can find it there.

The next day we drove through the desert in California and passed through the Barstow area. Just west of Barstow, we saw a huge cloud of smoke going over the desert. We realized it was the smoke from the fires near Los Angeles. It was pretty impressive.

Over all, we had a nice relaxing vacation and lots of pics to remember our time with family and friends. That's what it is all about, isn't it?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Wake Up and Smell the Coffee... Soap, that is.

Handmade soap using real coffee! Coffee is known to get rid of unwanted odors. Coffee grounds are added in the soap for exfoliation. Great for cleansing without drying your skin. What more could you want in a hard-working soap like this? Only one thing... It smells fantastic!

This soap was recently made and now listed on two of my shop sites. It has been a hit so far in men's soap collections, spa baskets and individually.

This will be one of my featured soaps in upcoming bazaars this year.


Monday, November 2, 2009

Featuring "The Candle Guy"

Donald MacKinnon is the Candle Guy and sells his amazing candles on I chose to feature him due to his unique history and how he came to be making candles.

He is a retired principle engineer and a Vietnam Veteran. While in Vietnam he was assigned to the 170th Assault Helicopter Company, where he served as crew chief on a "huey".  In the picture below, that is Donald on the far left.

After retiring and moving to Florida, he became extremely ill resulting in a permanent disability. Because of Agent Orange exposure while in Vietnam, he suffers from chronic pain due to Peripheral Neuropathy and a host of other problems. Candle making has allowed him a distraction, enabling him to manage his  pain issues more effectively.

His candle making began in 2004 making some hand-dipped tappers, which he sold at a local farm. From there, he moved to his first online venue, Ebay. He eventually moved from Ebay to Etsy, then to as his main selling venue.

He uses the 3 inch diameter X 4 1/2 inches tall pillar candle as his flagship product because he feels this size candle gives the customer the most product for their dollar. It is a good size for shipment using the priority mail 2-3 day system offered by the United States Postal Service.

Another extremely important detail is that Donald has a special deal for ALL 170 th Assault Helicopter Company Vietnam Vets. If any of these vets purchase 6 candles of the 3 in dia. X 4.5 inches tall variety, he will pay the shipping. This deal will last forever because they are family.

He has an outdoor studio where he works most days on his candles. From this vantage point, he is entertained by the local feathered residents of his neighborhood while he works.  Perhaps some of their beautiful colors has inspired some of his beautiful designs. His store "Candles by Donald" is open all the time, and is easy to get to at

Stop by Donald's shop site, grab a cup of tea or coffee and explore his delightful candles. You won't disappointed.