Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Soapy Friday: Reformulation

I know it's not Friday, but I won't be able to post this Friday, so I thought I'd do it now! I've been heads-down reformulating my cold process soap recipes lately to make them better, but first...

Bombalicious Body Butter!

I've have formulated an amazing body butter using cocoa butter, shea butter, Brazil nut butter, aloe vera butter, argan oil, apricot oil, and chamomile infused water (hydrosol). It's natural, amazingly decadent, not greasy, and leaves your skin feeling like silk.

This one is scented with pink grapefruit, tangerine, and lemon (litsea cubeba) essential oils. It smells good enough to EAT!

Pink Grapefruit, Tangerine, and Lemon...heaven it a tub!

On to soap, shall we?

I wanted to improve my "old faithful" soap recipe to make it more conditioning. I have several thoughts about how to go about doing this, but my first experiment had me add cocoa butter to my recipe and lower my coconut oil percentage.

This is called "Bonfire Bliss" and I am IN LOVE with how it smells and feels in the shower. I'm on to something with this soap.

"Bonfire Bliss" with cocoa butter
My next experiment had me include cocoa butter and shea butter while decreasing my coconut oil and palm oil. These two are still curing and I'm excited to see how they perform.

This fragrance oil, called "Swedish Dream Salt" riced my soap batter...whaa! But I'm more concerned on how this will feel & perform in the shower than how it looks at this point.

"Swedish Dream Salt" riced on me, but the soap should feel nice!
This fragrance, called "50 Shades of Grey," is definitely a masculine, cologne-type scent and smells AMAZING. Can't wait to see how this performs as well.

"50 Shades of Grey" with shea and cocoa butter
So that's about it in the soap making arena. I'm on a body butter kick right now, so this Christmas will be all about the butter!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Happy National Cat Day!

What are the chances that National Cat Day and Gratuitous Kitteh Monday BOTH fall on the same day?

Chaz doesn't seem to care...


And Miss Thang only cares if there is food involved...


IOW, cats will be cats and don't give a hot fart WHAT day it is. Pretty precise, if I must say so myself. :-)

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Garden in October

Most everything is tidied up for the year in the yard and garden, although we still have one more "after mow" to do on the lawn.

Beautiful colors
The grass seed w/fertilizer and warm weather made the lawn completely take off. We are forced to give it one, last mow or else it will turn into an unmanageable jungle. Usually in the past, we actually get COLD weather in October, which keeps the grass from growing too much, but noooooo. This year and last year have been unseasonably warm.

We haven't even had a freeze yet, and it doesn't look like we'll even get one in the next 15-day weather forecast (BTW, our average first frost is Oct 16th...even last year brought us a freeze by the end of October). I still have all of my bulbs to plant and hope to get to those next week, so I guess if there's a silver lining...

Green, red, orange, yellow...
In some exciting news, my pink, potted Angel's Trumpet bloomed this month! I bought this thing from a lady at the farmer's market this past summer and she swore it would do great up here in a pot. She said you just bring the pot in the garage and it goes dormant over the winter. Can you believe that?

When I bought it, it was only 8" tall. Next year, this thing will get bigger. I think it needs a name...

Pink Angel's Trumpet in a pot
We had a couple of Angle's Trumpets w/yellow flowers ("Charles Grimaldi") growing in our yard in Florida and the flowers smelled A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! They would make the whole yard smell like lemony magnolia flowers. Heady.

Anyway, the fall colors are "peaking" here in our area right now and one cannot help but be amazed at its beauty. Soon, they will be gone and the cycle will begin again.

Tranquil beauty

Monday, October 23, 2017

Gratuitous Kitteh Monday

I know; I know....where have I been?

I've been around mostly doing my fall yard clean-up and cooking good things, which for some reason I never am motivated enough to take pictures of and post. Or I do take pictures and I don't like how they look or I just don't post, or it tasted good, but just didn't LOOK good.

Anyway, kittehs are great. Miss Thang still continues to benefit from just a smidge of Prozac every morning. The weather is cooling off, so both felines are enjoying the annual arrival of the morning fire-place fire, which they both enjoy settling next to after their breakfasts.

Halloween is just around the corner, so this cartoon is perfect for the occasion. It's about right...yes? :-)

Friday, October 06, 2017

Soapy Friday - Anti-Itch Jewelweed Soap

Whew! Today is the day where we do our “last cut” of the lawn for the season and I could not be happier.

The past couple of weeks have been busy aerating, shoveling truckloads of fill dirt, topsoil, moving gravel, and purchasing grass seed, fertilizer, and lime. In the fall, we prep the lawn for overseeding in September, then we wait for that one window of opportunity for a good, steady rain (usually in the first 10 days of October) to put down seed.  

Rain is forecasted for after Saturday (thank god, we need it!) and tomorrow we seed! This all sounds very productive, but when you have a 2 acre LAWN, it’s a major undertaking every fall. We do it all ourselves, too. After we put seed down, we don't cut it until next spring.

Okay, on to soap, shall we?

First, necessity is the mother of invention. I ran out of my favorite body butter from Trader Joe’s and that means I need more. I’ve been wanting to make a real, body butter and have all the ingredients, so I guess this is now a priority.

Need to make body butter!
I made some amazing-smelling “Cinnamon Bun” soap a few weeks ago. It was originally something else, but I didn’t like how it turned out and cut the tops off. So, I just piped some white soap on top and renamed it!

"Cinnamon Bun" cold processed soap
Been making Halloween skull bath bombs w/blood-red embeds. These are so fun to make and are even more fun in the bathtub!

Every day I'm hustlin'
My pride-and-joy lately is my “Anti-Itch Jewelweed Soap” and salve. I finally got around to making a batch of jewelweed soap using jewelweed-infused olive oil and jewelweed tea. I scented one batch with tea tree and peppermint essential oil, and the other with lavender and lemon. This is not meant to be an "all over/body" soap. It's meant to be used on breakouts of poison ivy, psoriasis, eczema, etc.

Jewelweed Soap and Salve
That salve is worth its weight in gold because it works! I’ve been a life-long sufferer of the occasional flare-up of psoriasis or eczema and I put this salve on an itchy spot that I’ve had for a very long time. It’s been 2 weeks, and it’s almost completely healed and no itch! And this is after 2-3 years of dealing with this same spot with hydro-cortisone cream that didn't work. It’s made with jewelweed-infused olive oil, beeswax, tea tree essential oil and peppermint essential oil.

I can't wait for that soap to finish curing so I can share these amazing goodies with friends who also suffer from psoriasis and eczema.  I have a feeling I will be making A LOT more of this next summer!



Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Roasted Sticky Chicken

I've realized that I need to start taking this blog back to its origins instead of only talking about soap products. At some point, my soapy stuff will take on a life and blog/website of its own, so I need to steer this boat back into familiar territory - FOOD!

Sticky Chicken...just as delicious as it looks
Today, I am bringing you Roasted Sticky Chicken. I don't know exactly why it's called "sticky" when there aren't any ingredients that would cause it to be sticky, nor is it actually sticky IMO. I can tell you that I've been making this chicken for over 10 years, and I am always amazed at how good and simple it is to make.

Also, I can tell you it is simply delicious and worth the amount of time it takes to make it. This is a set-it-and-forget-it type of recipe and it's the perfect thing to make on a cold fall or winter Saturday when you are tucked inside the house doing other things. 

It requires 5 hours of sloooooow and looooow roasting. Yes, that is correct...5 HOURS to roast. You would think roasting a chicken for 5 hours would dry it out to the consistency of shoe leather, but no, these birds are incredibly moist and fall-off-the-bone tender. 

Amazing Sticky Chicken
In fact, since it takes so long to make and it's worth it, I usually roast more than 1, 2, or even 3 birds at a time and freeze the rest. The meat freezes WONDERFULLY and does not dry out. That makes it perfect for future chicken salads, casseroles, soups, or simply served with gravy and mashed potatoes. YUM! 

Roasted Sticky Chicken
Recipe source: Sharon Worster, Personal Chef's Network

3 lb. whole chicken
2 tsp salt
1 tsp paprika
3/4 tsp cayenne powder (optional)
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 large onion, quartered

Note: To roast more than 1 bird at a time (highly recommended), double or triple the seasoning amounts.

Combine all spices in a bowl. Rub mixture into the chicken WELL, inside and out; patting into the skin. Place chicken in a large Ziplock bag or large enough container, and refrigerate overnight. If you don't have time for this (I rarely remember to do this), it will still be delicious!

Preheat oven to 250°. Place quartered onion inside the chicken cavity and truss the legs closed. Tuck the wings under the bird. Place in a roasting pan and slow roast, uncovered, for 5 hours. Baste often with pan juices. The chicken will turn a delicious, golden brown. 

To freeze leftover chicken, pull meat off the chicken carcass and freeze in a Ziplock freezer bag. I often vacuum seal as well.


Friday, September 15, 2017

Soapy Friday - Skulltastic!

Happy Friday everyone!

It's really been a tough week for many in Florida, including some of my own family members who were affected my hurricane Irma. I wanted to lighten the mood a little, so I used my skull(s) to bring in some fun!

Apple-Pear and Cinnamon Skull Soap
The thing about making seasonally inspired bath products, you have to start preparing a few months ahead of each holiday. Especially with soap, which can take 4-6 weeks to cure. Also, trends change. so it's good to see how things will look or behave before you sell or give them to friends & family.

Plus it's just fun to play around!

Skull Bath Bomb...waiting for testing.
In addition to making some fun stuff, I had to use my real skull and start this jewelweed and plantain leaf hot olive oil infusion. I went and picked some jewelweed and plantain leaves this week to make this. After it was done, I strained it and put in in the refrigerator.

Next, I'd like to make a jewelweed tea, which will happen next week, and go from there. I plan to make some awesome, anti-itch soap and salve with these infused oils and liquid. Can't wait!

Jewelweed & Plaintain Olive Oil Infusion

Friday, September 08, 2017

Hang in there Florida!

Boy, this has been a stressful couple of weeks for our family. We have family in Houston affected by hurricane Harvey, and of course most of our family is in Florida, including Key West and on the east coast.

Some of my dearest friends, like Mary, are near or in Orlando and they are going to be raked right up the center of the state. Hang in there everyone!

My heart and prayers are with you all.


Thursday, September 07, 2017

The Garden in September

September is usually a busy month for us, as it has us aerating, fertilizing, liming, and overseeding the lawn. In addition, I have quite a bit of plants to relocate and we need to rebuild our fire pit too.

We've finally gotten a reprieve from this summer's brutal heat and lack of rain. August started out rough, but turned out to be actually "normal-ish" as far as what to expect weather-wise. So far for this month, it's been a dream and almost "fall-ish" with rainy days and temps even into the 40's at nighttime.

It's a big difference from last September, which was still very hot at this time.


The veggie garden is dwindling down. Most of the tomatoes were taken down and the bush beans are still putting out an impressive harvest. I'm not a fall veggie gardener, with the exception of planting garlic when we want it the following year. It's tempting though, especially when the weather is as nice as it's been these past few weeks.

In fact, I might not grow a veggie garden at all next year, as I would like to focus on developing the perennial gardens on the property.


The back perennial bed has gone rogue with milkweed, which I love. I planted some years ago and it reseeds each spring.


I was tickled to death to see about 10 of these cuties munching away on the milkweed. They are Monarch caterpillars, and by the looks of it, they will be pupating in the next few days. As much as it is important to grow nectar plants for the butterflies, it's even more important to grow host plants for the caterpillars. Without them, the butterflies won't survive. Sadly, Monarch butterflies are now endangered.

I consider my little milkweed patch to be an oasis in a desert. It takes a while for Monarch butterflies to find your "patch" and remember to come back to it each year. Hopefully, this means we will have even more next year!


The hummingbirds have been fierce this year! There must have been 7-10 "squeakers" buzzing around the property this summer. I had to put up 2 extra feeders to lesson the fighting and tension. Let no one tell you these little birds are sweet and timid; they are not! They will fiercely guard food sources and the "hummer wars" can be intense to watch.

They are boldly curious too. Whenever I go out in the yard, it's not uncommon for one of them to come over and check me out by hovering about 2 feet away from me for a few minutes. They are smart and can recognize familiar faces, just like crows and ravens. I think they know I'm the one that brings the good stuff!


Every August/September I look forward to my big patch of perennial begonia blooming. The bees simply adore the flowers and I think they look almost like cherry blossoms.


One thing I am THRILLED to have found recently - not on my property, but down the road from where I live - is Jewelweed. Jewelweed is a plant that is very well known for it's natural ability to lesson the effects of poison ivy, psoriasis, and eczema itching. In fact, it's called "nature's poison ivy remedy".


I've been reading about it recently and how people use it to make soap and salves. It is known to grow all along the east coast and I've desperately wanted to get my hands on some seeds. Imagine how ecstatic I was to have spotted this growing along side a country road on my way to the grocery store last weekend!

I definitely plan to come back with my tick repellent clothes on and harvest some of this for soap and salves.


Elsewhere on our property, we had our tree guys out last weekend to grind-up about 8 tree stumps in the yard. These areas will either be turned into perennial beds or overseeded with grass. It's nice not having to mow around them now.



Summer is over and I am glad. Every fall I look forward to the last mow and tucking everything away for the season. I look forward to having the break and turning my energy elsewhere, which will now be making itch remedy soap!


Friday, September 01, 2017

Soapy Friday - Soap Behaving Badly

Happy Friday everyone! I'm sooooo glad this is a holiday weekend; it's been a long week and my heart goes out to the people affected my hurricane Harvey in Texas. My brother-in-law lives in northeast Houston, but fortunately lives on a higher bluff and has only had very little damage and is currently without power. He is one of the lucky ones.

This week, I am going to be talking about naughty soap, but really, this should post should be titled, "SOAP: WHY DID IT DO THAT?"

I've had more inconsistencies on my soap journey than not and it's frustrating. To be fair, half of my frustration comes from my own inexperience and errors, and in those cases I know what I did wrong. However, the other times I'm like, "WTH ?!!!"

Example #1 - Colors aren't always what they seem. 

I made a gorgeous lavender essential oil soap this week and I wanted purple in the design. You would think I would use a purple colored natural pigment (mica) right? Well my friends, this is an example of how colors can morph during saponification and using it to your advantage.

In this case, I knew this BLUE color would turn PURPLE, as it happened to me by accident in another batch. This is why it is so important to take good notes!

When blue = purple

Example #2 - What are those white splotches/streaks?

This one has been wracking my brain for a while. What is it? Aesthetically annoying soda ash? Stearic streaks? Lye pockets? Every once in a while I get a batch of soap that has these in them and it forces me to do a "what did I do differently" run-down of my process and ingredients in my head.

Mystery streaks

What is it?
Finally I bought some pH testing strips to at least eliminate the possibility of my soap being lye-heavy. It is not.

Cold process soap is naturally alkaline with a pH of around 9-10. This pH helps to gently clean the skin. All of my soaps average around 9.5 to 10.5, which is awesome!

Perfect pH
So, what are those streaks/splotches? This particular batch of soap was a larger, 5 lb. batch and I believe that when I poured the hot oils into the cold oils there was a sort of "thermodynamic shock" that happened. Both soda ash and stearic spots are both caused by inconsistencies in temperature, so that could very well be the case. There are a few things that I can do that can ensure consistent temps, such as heating all my oils in larger batches. Another theory is that I need to mix my batter a bit more and bring it to a good solid, medium trace.

Example #3 - What are those bumps?

These are some 100% olive oil soaps that I made in my cube mold. After a while, these bumps appeared on only one side of the bars; what are they? Again, I pH tested the cubes to be sure they were not lye-heavy. They were a perfect 10 for pH.

Weird bumps on soap
So, after some thought, I realized that when I umolded these cubes, the soap was still very soft. When they came out of the mold, the bottoms of the soap sort of stuck to the mold and then released. Those bumps are the equivalent of sticking your finger in a perfectly frosted cake and then lifting it up!

I can simply use a planer to plane off the bumps or give them a wash to make them pretty.

These cubes were super soft


Friday, August 25, 2017

10 Year Anniversary

Ten years ago today, I married the love of my life. Although we've been together for almost 15 years, it seems like it has flown by in a flash.

The perfect day!
I've never shared how we met, and it's adorably nerdy.

I think this is the first picture I have of us together. We had only been dating a few months here, and we met at a Technical Writing professional organization meeting that previous fall. Both of us were SO serious and into what we were doing at the time. I joke and say we were Tech Writers in love!

Tech Writers in love...silently judging your grammar since 2002
It seems fitting this month has been extremely hectic, as 10 years ago, the month of August 2007 was a crazy month too. We finished our grad school program finals earlier in the month (Univ. Central Florida...go Knights!), then hubby-to-be went on a business trip for a few days to come back just in time for the wedding.

MAs with an attitude!
While he was gone, I worked and continued to wrap-up all the wedding and honeymoon details, including making our amazing Carrot Cake wedding cake. It's all a blur now.


Our wedding was very small and it was a perfect day in every way. Even the typical Florida summer afternoon rain showers held off until after we had finished the ceremony and had pictures taken. I know this is cliche to say, but it truly was one of the happiest days of my life. We were just so darn happy and full of joy, love, and relief that day.

They tossed bird seed instead of rice
These past 10 years have been amazing, and I'm so grateful to say that we've been very graced to have had many more good times than bad. We've had so much fun on this journey together, which is truly a lucky gift to have in another person.

Now, we're a little bit grayer, and a little bit fatter, but we still count the laughter more than the years. Happy anniversary to the most adorable, caring, handsome, and loving husband in the whole wide world!

Still laughing and loving a decade later

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