NaNoWriMo 2013 - Day 1

Well here we are in the first hour of National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo, 2013. With nine minutes left in the hour my word count is at 1951 and I'm ready for some sleep. My brain is tired and I keep finding myself re-reading my work and editing.

Now normally, editing is a good thing. A very good thing indeed. But during NaNoWriMo it is highly discouraged. One of the major objectives of this event is to write with abandon. No thinking, no editing, just writing, getting it out there. Easy enough, right?

Yeah... no. Not for me anyway. Every time I go back and read something I've written I catch myself correcting, rewriting, EDITING.

I blame my control issues. And my deep rooted need to have everything around me be perfect, even though I know that's impossible. Silly me.

Despite the error of my ways (and that damned, red ink, virtual editing pen!) I have managed to crank out 1951 words in less than an hour. And this post. I think that's a pretty auspicious start. Yay me!

If I expect to keep up this pace, I'd be wise to get some sleep. And with that, I bid you all bon nuit.

Until next time - here's to 50K words in 30 days!


Journaling and NaNoWriMo

It appears that the time has come for my [quarterly? bi-annual?] blog check-in with a post about another one of my random ambitions.

As you may remember if you've followed me for any length of time, I have bounced from knitter, crocheter, photographer, book and movie critic, occasional fashionista, embroiderer, skin care creator and soaper. Yes, the old adage of "jack of all trades, master of none" definitely applies here. In fact, I am probably the embodiment of that cliche. I keep telling myself I want to buckle down and master at least one of my many creative interests. Problem is, I'm not sure which I want to commit to so completely! I mean, if I were to look long and hard at all the creative things I want to do, I would have to add baking, cooking, interior design, and writer to my list, just to name a few. I am starting to believe that when it comes to creative endeavors, I suffer from Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD.) Seriously, if I could clone myself, I probably would, just so one of me could sit back and watch all my others go to it on the creative front.

I've also noticed a pattern with my blogging; it seems to be directly tied to whatever my latest creative obsession is. That being said, I'm ready to announce the next artistic challenge. Ready? I want to write a novel. TA-DA! I have no doubt many of you saw that coming based on the title of this blog post alone. Or maybe you've been blessed [cursed?] with my ramblings of wanting to write for the last few months. Either way, it's that time. My writer personality has been tugging and pulling and screaming at my consciousness and finally, I must let her loose. The timing, of course, probably has a lot to do with it, since the National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo) is just nine days away. I've tried this challenge before, to write fifty thousand words in 30 days, starting November 1st. In fact, I've tried the last two years and failed miserably. I blame my commitment issues. Well, that and the fact that it's so close to Christmas that all my other creative personalities (forthwith to be known as the others) start rearing their heads for time to do all their creative holiday endeavors. I think it's safe to say that at no other time of the year is my artistic MPD worse.

But this year feels like the year, you know? I've been preparing myself by starting a bullet journal late in September. It's quite retro, involving actual pen and paper for note taking. And so far, I love it. There's something so intimate about putting pen (or pencil) to paper. In fact, that's sort of become my new mantra. Writing in my bullet journal daily has stirred the writer in me, and as such I've found myself doing character and plot development for my novel. It's been a great exercise and is definitely getting me excited for November 1st. So yeah, I'm doing this. Or at least, I am going to try. (Damn commitment issues!)

And as my inner author takes center stage for the month of November, I will temper the others by allowing them an occasional opportunity to strut their stuff. In the meantime, lift your pens and pencils with me, find yourself some fine paper, and jot down a little note for someone you love. You'll feel so much better for it!

Here's to old school communication!


The [Soap] Dish

Over the last few weeks I've found a new passion. Yes, another one. I know, I know, I'm all over the place with my crafty, DIY stuff. But really, I can't help it. I love to create. I love to make things. And soap? Well, there's something very zen about taking fats, in the way of various skin loving oils like olive oil, avocado oil, shea and cocoa butters, adding in some drain cleaner (did you know that lye is in fact a drain cleaner? It's also used to make pretzels, canned mandarin oranges, hominy... I'm not kidding) and some awesome smelling essential oils, along with a myriad of other additives, and winding up with soap? Honest to goodness soap. Bubbly, creamy, cleansing (not drying, if you know what you're doing, and I'd like to think I do!), fabulous SOAP. I love it. To a degree, it's like baking for me, sans those destructive calories!

Yes, I am now making soap. I've made about 12 batches, totaling about 20 pounds of soap, in just over six weeks. All using what is called the cold process method. More on that later.

Today, I am making milled soap. Known also as rebatched soap. Essentially, it's a way of taking an existing soap and modifying it by melting it down and adding any assortment of things, such as rich and softening shea butter, or, as in my case, correcting a "mistake" and adding the scented essential oil I forgot to add when my niece, Heidi, and I made the soap. Soapmakers often use this method to repurpose "ugly" soaps, soaps that didn't quite turn out they way they'd envisioned. So yeah, that's another reason I'm rebatching the soap I lovingly call "Heidi-bean Bar." I don't want to toss the soap, since it's actually a great formulation, but I also wanted something more girly for my Heidi-bean. So this soap will be for my personal use once I've rebatched it and I will make her something fabulous for her use. Yeah, I know, I spoil the kid. And I love it!

Here we have the original soap, freshly poured into the molds. We tried to do a bit of a swirl, using red sandalwood powder to color part of the batch a deep purple and leaving the rest of the batch its "natural" color, then alternately pouring the two colors into the mold.

The soap came out of the molds beautifully, although our "swirl" and layering attempts were, well, blah. The purple color was fairly muted, and the coffee grinds we added for a bit of scrubby action (Heidi said she really liked how the "scrubbies" felt on her hands) made the two colors blend to the point of being almost indiscernable.

After four weeks of curing, the soaps developed the dreaded ash, which sometimes occurs on handmade soaps. Surprisingly, some people like the rustic look it gives soaps. Me, not so much.
Heck, if it weren't for the muted purple, the ash on these makes them almost completely blend into our granite countertops. Not attractive as far as I'm concerned. Certainly not cute enough for a 9 year old girl's bathroom!

The first step in rebatching is to shred or chunk the soap to facilitate melting it. I figured the finer I shred the soap the easier and smoother it would melt. Rebatching is known to produce very chunky, rustic (but not ashy!) soaps and I wanted to minimize that as much as possible.

Patiently shredding the soap by hand. So yeah, I'm making hand-milled soap! Sounds fancy, eh?

With the ashiness shredded away, you can see the colors a bit better, but the muted purple just wasn't doing it for me, at least not for my niece. She should have a bright, vivid purple, pink and black soap! This just won't do.

Once all the soap is shredded, I tossed it into a gallon sized zip lock and tossed in a bit of goat's milk. Goat's milk boosts lather and is great for those with eczema and psoriasis. In soap, goat's milk is loved for it's skin conditioning properties. Once in the bag, I put it in a pot of lightly boiling water and walked away to do a bit of Facebooking and soap formulating.

After about 45 minutes in the pot, the soap was melted and looking nice and goopy. I quickly added the Eucalyptus Spearmint essential oils and snipped a corner of the bag to "pipe" the fast cooling, quickly turning to goop soap batter into the mold.

Since I really liked the way the soap turned out of this mold the first time, I figured why not use it again? As quickly as I squeezed the batter into the mold, I wasn't quick enough. By the time I got to the last heart the batter had cooled so much it was pretty much set. I barely got it into the mold.

All in all, the process wasn't near as bad as I'd read it could be and while the soap backs won't have a perfectly smooth finish, they will smell awesome and have a lovely conditioning lather.

Not bad for a first time rebatch and an awesome way to save what would have otherwise been a very boring soap.

Here's to hand-milled, heart shaped soap!


Making the Break

Today, I did something I NEVER thought I'd do again. Today, I used a BAR SOAP for my shower ::GASP::
I stopped using [commercial] bar soaps AGES ago, for the simple fact that they made my skin feel sticky, scratchy, tight, and dry. It was gross. I switched to lovely liquid shower gels, and eventually bar soap was nothing but a very bad memory.

Fast forward at least 20 years. I am now making my own bar soap. I can't stop thinking about bar soap. I am obsessed. Bar soap, bar shampoo, bar dog shampoo, bar shaving soaps. Every waking moment, and most of my sleeping moments, I am obsessing about soap!

As my first batch of soap has now cured for a full week, and while it feels like 5 weeks is still a lifetime away, I know that one day soon my bar soap will be ready for it's debut in my shower. And to be fair to it, I want to make sure that by then, I am not still harboring some of the terrible memories from my previous bar soap experiences. To this end, while shopping at the mall with my niece yesterday, I popped into L'Occitane to pick up one of their "famed" Shea Butter Milk Bars. And today, it made it's debut in my shower.

I was a little hesitant as I unwrapped it. I sniffed it, and then really inhaled the scent. It was delightful. I then put the soap in my hand and felt it's smoothness and firmness. The beauty of the bar was in it's simplicity. Once in the shower, I started lathering up the soap and was pleasantly surprised at the thick, rich lather. The soft scent filled the air and I could feel the soap doing it's thing, getting me squeaky clean without drying my skin out.

Once I was done, I immediately toweled off, noting that I wasn't soaking wet as I normally was with my usual shower gel. Not sure what happened there. I also noticed a tiny "drag" on my skin, but nothing that was unpleasant. Once I finished toweling off, I applied my usual tiny bit of home made body butter and immediately noticed the difference. The body butter absorbed nice and evenly and immediately left my skin feeling like absolute silk. I must admit, however, that I did miss my shower gel just a little, but my excitement for using my own, hand made soaps is such that I will continue using the milk bar as a point of reference until mine have cured. I know that with a bit of trial and error, I will be able to find a formula that is absolutely perfect for me, and that journey into the awesomeness that is soap making is what continues to drive my enthusiasm.

Here's to hand crafted soap [bars]!


Buh Bye Tide!

I have recently been on a do it yourself bender that started with lip balm (more on that in a near future post.) I blame Pinterest. And the Internet in general. I mean, think about it. You can find instructions on how to make a bomb via Google or Bing. How hard could making your own lip balm be? Or, in tonight's DIY adventure, laundry detergent? Yes, I went there. I made my own laundry detergent.

I have to say, there aren't near as many "recipes" for DIY laundry detergent as there are for other things, like facial scrubs, shampoo and yes, my favorite, lip balm! But the ones I did find were pretty basic, inexpensive, and chock full of stuff that I normally use in my wash anyway, so I figured, what the hell, let's do this.

I headed to my local Wally World with my ingredient list in hand. I practically ran to the laundry aisle, partly from the crazy excitement that inevitably possesses me when I have a new project on hand, and partly because I just love the smell of the laundry detergent aisle in pretty much any store, but especially at Wally World. I tossed the Borax, baking soda, super washing soda and softening crystals into my cart and scanned the aisle shelves for the laundry bar soap. My recipe, which I found via Pinterest over on How Does She's blog, called for Zote soap, but I'm big into scents, especially when it comes to my laundry detergent, so I wanted to smell the Zote and any other bar soap they had. I smelled the Zote soap, and it was okay - clean, fresh, light. There was the added bonus that they had a white version, (their original version being pink) and, even better, they had a box of the stuff that was already pre-chipped, sliced, slivered! That meant no grating. It also meant a slightly higher investment in your detergent and since I was wanted to see the least expensive way of accomplishing my task, I opted to skip on the pre-grated stuff.

Curious to smell some other soaps, I looked around for other options. My eyes finally landed on something called Fels-Naptha, which while I'd never heard of it, it had been listed as an alternative to Zote in several of the DIY formulas I'd researched. Some of the other choices for laundry bar soap were Dr. Bronner's and Kirk's Original Coco Castile, though I think these are more body soaps than they are laundry, and I was unable to find them at my local Wally World (but you can bet your butt I will be ordering Dr. Bronner's Eucalyptus for my upcoming DIY Body Wash adventure!)

With only the Fels-Naptha as an alternative to Zote, I grabbed a bar, held it up to my nose and inhaled deeply. WOW! My eyes flew wide open. This stuff was everything I wanted my clothes to smell like. Super clean, fresh, soapy and just a hint of perfume, but not overly feminine nor masculine. I was hooked. I put the bar in my cart, and added two more. The recipe only required two bars but I figured one more bar would help boost the scent, the washing power and certainly couldn't hurt.

With all my ingredients accounted for I beelined for the hardware section to get a five gallon pail with a lid. Found one easily enough for about $4. A bargain as the bucket and lid were very sturdy and absolutely perfect for my little experiment.

Ready to get the party started, I checked out, telling the cashier about my detergent making adventure while she scanned my goodies. She seemed interested but I suspect was really just being polite. I then drove home, unloaded my bounty and set everything up on the counter.

The players:
1 (4lb 12oz) box of Borax, found in the detergent aisle
1 (3lb 7oz) box of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda, found in the detergent aisle
1 (3lb) tub of OxyClean, found in the detergent aisle. This item is optional but I've used with my regular detergent and it's an awesome booster.
2 (14.1 oz) bars of Fels-Naptha (or whatever laundry soap you prefer). Also found in the detergent aisle.
1 (4lb) box of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda. I suppose you might find this in the baking aisle, though mine was in the detergent aisle, right next to the Super Washing Soda.
And last but not least, 1 or 2 (depending on how soft and scented you want your laundry!) (55 oz) bottle(s) of Purex Crytals Fabric Softener, found in the detergent aisle. I got Lavendar Blossom for mine. Smells dreamy.
1 (5 gal) pail with a lid
1 long wooden spoon

Scene 1:
Grate your bar soap. I suggest using a good sized bowl to grate your soap into; a single bar yields a substantial amount of shavings. You can use a food processor or do it manually using a cheese grater. If you use a food processor, do one bar at a time, emptying the container between bars. My first go round, I used the larger grate but with the second bar of soap I went finer. I wound up with a 50/50 mix of thicker to fine soap shavings. I recommend going as fine as you can on the grate because the finer the shavings, the easier it will dissolve in your wash. And don't worry about the soap residue on your grater or food processing disc. This stuff isn't like wax as it dissolves very easily even in cold water, making clean up a snap.

Scene 2:
Dump your grated soap into your 5 gallon bucket.
Dump in the Borax; give it a stir with your wooden spoon.
Dump in the baking soda; stir it up
Dump in the super washing soda; stir some more
Take a break. Inhale deeply. SMILE.
Dump in your Purex fabric softening crystals; grab that wooden spoon, tap out a little tune on the side of the bucket, then stir
Dump in your Oxyclean and stir, stir, STIR

Scene 3:
I stirred 'til I didn't feel like stirring anymore. Then I popped the lid onto the bucket, made sure it was on there nice and tight, then tipped the bucket on it's side and started rolling it around the kitchen floor. No kidding. Way easier than stirring. Plus, all that super fine, yummy smelling powder was in the air from my having poured it into the bucket and was starting to give me a tiny headache (it smelled really good but it was also really strong!) so I was trying to minimize getting more of it into the air. This definitely did the trick. After about 3 minutes of mixing my detergent, I got the bucket right side up again, peeled off the lid and looked down at my awesome smelling detergent. I was thrilled! I then scooped about 2 gallons worth into a cute glass container I'd picked up at the store, tossed in my tablespoon sized scoop, capped it with the lid and triumphantly carried it to my laundry room. Not known for my patience, I ran into the bedroom, grabbed a bunch of denim out of the hamper  and threw it in our HE (high efficiency) washer with 2 scoops of my newly made detergent (2 tablespoons of detergent is all you need for a load). Immediately the smell of clean started filling the air. Guess I'd soon find out how well this stuff works.

Some things I learned while researching my DIY detergent formula:
  • This is definitely HE washing machine safe
  • This detergent is not very sudsy; if you are expecting sudsy, you will be disappointed. Please do not let that be a deterrent  Suds does not necessarily mean clean. Suds merely means sulfides. A lack of sulfides is a more natural product, easier on your skin and clothes, and definitely easier on your washing machine
  • I spent $28.16 for the detergent ingredients. I made enough detergent to do approximately 640 loads of laundry. That's five cents (yes, you read that right) per load of laundry, and 1.75 loads of laundry per day. For a year. It's okay, you can re-read that last sentence. Go ahead, I'll wait for ya'.
I had a blast making this and am excited to see how this stuff performs over the next few weeks. I will definitely do a follow up post after a few uses of the detergent. If you decide to try this for yourself but can't wait for my review, you can hit me up here or on my Facebook page, and I'll be happy to try and answer any questions you may have.

Final scene:
My washer just dinged. Clothes are done. Took a minute from writing this blog to get the jeans into the dryer. They smelled great coming out of the washer and upon inspection, appeared to be squeaky clean. First impression? This stuff is awesome, and for five cents a load? I'm hooked.

Here's to doing it yourself and doing it cheaper AND better!


30 Days of Thanks: Days 5-11

As is my habit, I've started about four new projects this week, quickly casting aside any unfinished projects for the new ones. This is a testament to my inability to commit to any one project at any one time. I almost always go back to my unfinished stuff and eventually finish the project, but yeah, I'm easily distracted. Same can be said about my blog. I love to write, usually, but this week has been all about lip balm and knitting (I'll save the details for another post, another day). With soft supple lips, cozy blankets and trying to stay on top of writing a novel crowding my brain, this week's casualty was my 30 Days of Thanks blog series. Please know, failure to blog what I'm thankful for on any given day doesn't mean I didn't recognize what I was thankful for. As I mentioned at the start of the series, I have more to be thankful for than days I have left to count those things on. And for that, I am beyond grateful. I am blessed. But, as it is November and Thanksgiving Day is just around the corner, here's my list of things I'm thankful for for the last day days, listed in no particular order.

Day 5 - My cousins. They are my sisters, my best friends. I love them dearly and thank God daily for them.
Day 6 - A home filled with love and most days, peace. I am able to accept that sometimes these things get lost in the crazy of life, but I am deeply thankful that they have always returned.
Day 7 - Freedom of speech. This last week was election week and a week of enlightenment as friends and family touted their political convictions on the social media sphere. I may not always, or ever, agree with some of their opinions, but I respect that they care enough about our country to passionately defend their views.
Day 8 - Veterans. These are the folks who sacrifice everything defending our country and it's freedoms. There aren't enough words to thank these incredible individuals.
Day 9 - Technology. It makes it possible to have daily "face to face" conversations with my parents via a computer and the Internet.
Day 10 - God. Everything, and I mean everything, begins and ends with Him.
Day 11 - Warm, fuzzy boots. I don't mind being cold, so long as my toes are warm.

Here's to the big and little things!


30 Days of Thanks: Day 4

There is so much I am thankful for that these posts are actually a lot harder than you might think. How do I pick one thing? God has blessed my life so abundantly that there is always something to be grateful or thankful for. But blessings don't always seem blessings when first we receive them. And it is about that I will write about today.

I am thankful for the challenges God allows me to put before myself daily. They are often so much harder and sometimes more painful than I think I can bear, but inevitably they serve as a reminder that I am never alone, that I need not fear, and that, in Christ, I can do all things.

It was the broken road that led me to my husband. It is the hard and painful experiences that bring me closer to God. It is the hardships that make me appreciate the blessings. And for that, I am thankful, every day.

Here's to being the clay in the Potter's Hands!


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