Ginger and Anise Seed Soap

A new adventure on my crafting journey: milled soap. Apparently this is different from regular soap… I’d never heard the term until I discovered instructions on how to do it in my mom’s book The Complete Soapmaker by Norma Coney. To try it, I’m using my most recent batch of handmade soap (cold process pure olive oil).

001To start, I’m using about 3.6oz of soap (two pieces seem like a good test amount) and a Dollar Tree cheese grater. The grater is perfect for this (and cheap enough to use only for milling soap ^_~)!

grated soapThe two pieces, when grated, filled my ceramic fondue bowl (bought just for craft stuff like this)… It fluffed up a lot more than I expected! I added the suggested ratio of water and lit my little candle in the fondue stand and put the bowl on top. In hindsight, I wish I’d kept track of how long I let it heat up because I started to get impatient when it wasn’t looking very liquidy.

fondue standmelting soapIn my excitement to see it melt, I switched the bowl to a pan of boiling water for a double-boiler effect hoping to see the process sped up a little – Nope. After 20mins of basically no change, I removed the water from the pan and scooped the mess directly onto it (I turned the heat down a little so it wouldn’t scorch). The mess became the consistency of mashed potatoes – ^_~ looked just like them! – and refused to melt any more. Close enough. I scooped it back into the fondue bowl and added 1 tsp ginger powder and 1 tsp anise seeds.

I was originally going to add just ginger, but after taking a whiff of the powder I realized I wanted something more. Randomly sniffing different herbs in my cabinet in combination with the ginger, I settled on anise seed as a suitable partner. I wasn’t following any particular recipe so I just kinda eyeballed what looked good and added 1 tsp each. Without a wooden spoon, I’ve been using a wooden skewer to do all my mixing and it works alright – I’ll have to visit the $ Tree again to see if they have something that’ll work better. Once sufficiently mixed, I scooped the stuff into two plastic molds (^_^ also from my mom).

006I chose the rectangle and the circle (somewhat randomly) and the mix was the perfect amount to just fill both. Because it didn’t really pour, I had a little trouble with air bubbles getting trapped between the soap and mold. Using my skewer I tried to fix them as best I could and let it sit out for a few minutes to kinda settle. Then, as per instructions, I put the tray in the freezer for an hour and a half to let them harden. When that was done, I popped them out of the mold – which was way easy!

milled soap 1My finished 1st batch of milled soap and the rest of my normal soap pieces (sorry for the poor quality pic). I can’t wait to try out a bar! They’ll be ready April 17th. As you can see, by using two pieces for each practice batch of milled soap, I have 4 combinations left that I can try. Right now I’m planning on at least a oatmeal version and a coffee grinds version (The Complete Soapmaker says that coffee is good for removing food smells from your hands – who knew?). I’m sure I can come up with more additives for the other two batches ^_~ Look forward to it!

DIY Mini Book Press

001 Samples

Left to Right Top: Soft cover monastery stitch, Hardcover monastery stitch, French stitch. Left to Right Bottom: Hardcover Coptic stitch, soft cover long stitch, soft cover Japanese stitch

Some time ago (about a year I think) I took an art class that taught me how to bind books. It was one of the most amazingly fun classes I’ve ever taken! I learned 6 different binding styles and made 9 sample books – 3 7/16in. x 5in. For an avid reader like myself, learning how books can be constructed increased my appreciation for the books themselves (even though it’s rare for books to be bound by hand these days).

One of the things that makes a book look nice is flat pages. If you’ve ever tried folding multiple pages at once, you might notice that they tend to pop up at the spine. In class we used a paper-wrapped brick to combat this. While browsing YouTube, I found a diy alternative! Sea Lemon’s video How to Make a Book Press tutorial HERE . The materials were cheap and pretty easy to find (with a couple modifications).

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Left to Right: Dollar Tree furniture sliders, 2 hex bolts (6in.), 2 washers, wing nuts, 7in. x 9in. wooden plaques

The trickiest part of the whole project was making holes in the wood without a drill… Gave myself at least 4 hand bruises trying to press down while turning a + screwdriver. It took me over an hour to get most of the way through the first of 2 holes. Then my husband took over and finished both of them in a matter of minutes … Not sure if I should be annoyed or pleased … ^_^

004I taped both pieces of wood together – so the hex bolts would pass through both pieces correctly – but the hole I made was angled – ugh. Also it was a bit of a tight fit which was fine for one underneath. To get the top one to slide up and down – somewhat – smoothly, I used a – screwdriver that was slightly wider to enlarge the holes on top. Even so, because of my inability to drill straight down I have to pull the two hex bolts slightly apart as I slide the top up and down.

Once the hex bolts were through, I threaded each with a washer and a wing nut. The final touch was the felt sliders on the bottom … and All Done!

finishedBoth wooden pieces are unfinished so I plan to paint/decorate them eventually. Also, the boards I used aren’t long enough for making larger books (like folding regular letter sized paper in half hamburger-wise), but I am excited to make mini books (cutting regular paper in half and then folding in half again, both hamburger-wise). Look forward to updates of that nature ^_~ !

Spring is in the Air

Ahhh Spring ^_^ Such a lovely thing… Days are getting longer, the sun feels warmer, and new growth is beginning to bud. Soon I’ll begin some Spring cleaning (because my apartment needs it!). I’m also hoping that soon my handmade soap will be ready to use.

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The fruits of my 2nd batch of cold-process soap ^_^ ! I used a recipe I created at soapcalc.net (I HIGHLY recommend this soap calculator for making soap from scratch!!!!). The only ingredients are water, lye – sodium hydroxide NaOH – and pure olive oil. No random crap! Simple, clean, and easy on my skin ^_^

Ostara (Spring Equinox) passed recently and Easter is on its way! To get myself in a festive mood, I decided to try blowing eggs for decorating. The technique is pretty simple: poke 2 small holes at opposite ends of an egg and blow through one hole which will force the egg white and yolk out through the 2nd hole. The process goes a bit smoother if you can scramble the egg yolk before blowing. I tried How to Scramble Eggs Inside Their Shell by NightHawkInLight on youtube HERE . I stopped before hard-boiling though.

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My first ever successfully blown egg – if it looks like the egg inside the jar is more than one egg … it is (I crushed my first try by holding it too hard as I blew).

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I managed to successfully blow 2 eggs … And then I dropped both of them.

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On a side note, it’s been just over a year since my About Me picture was taken and I’ve not cut my hair since…

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Hair - march 2014

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Hair - march 2013

It’s getting a touch long and I’m looking forward to my 2nd attempt at a flat-twist headband. I’ve been procrastinating because it takes hours to style my hair into anything remotely fancy (two-strand twists are usually my go-to style when I want something other than bedhead ^_~).

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