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

Friday, August 18, 2017

Soapy Friday - Espresso and Another Honey Soap

Happy Friday everyone! This week I've been getting my groove back on in cold processing soapmaking and I think I've found my sweet spot.

I was SO happy to get back after my last curing wait period and crazy lye mix-up Frankensoap. BTW, all of the soaps I've made since implementing my fully melted oils have turned out spectacular. I've tried them all out in the shower and they've all been silky smooth with a great, bubbly lather. Even the rebatched Honey soap from last week was a hit! I tried it this week and it's amazing.

So, with all my new-found knowledge of oil melting practices and lye concentration, I wanted to try out my Espresso fragrance oil from Brambleberry.com to make an espresso soap.

Look how daggone cute it turned out! I wanted it to look like a cup of latte, with foam on top, and it smells AMAZEBALLS....sort of like a hazelnut espresso.

Espresso Soap...drink it up!

Yum!
I also wanted to try out ye-old Honey Soap for the hundredth time (if nothing else I'm tenacious) using different water amounts and lye concentration and I feel really good about it. I was able to unmold in LESS than 24 hours and I'm very confident this will feel amazing once it's cured.

Still, I used my original recipe and would like to incorporate another hard oil like cocoa butter in it, so it may evolve even more.

I just unmolded and cut this yesterday, which is why it has such a light color to it:

Honey Soap...batch #27

Friday, August 11, 2017

Soapy Friday - Rebatching Soap

So what do you do while you are waiting for your shipment of Sodium Hydroxide (lye) to come in and you want to make soap? Why, you rebatch some of your older soap into something new!

New old soap
I'm practically chomping at the bit to get back into real soap making. With my last Frankensoap disaster, I've had to reorder the correct lye and wait, wait, wait. I ordered from Brambleberry.com, which is an AMAZING supply company, but dang it takes FOR EVER to receive their orders. It averages anywhere from 10-14 days for me to get my orders from them, as they are on the West coast in Washington state. For this reason, I normally don't order from them unless I want something specific and even then I wait till I have a big enough order to make it worth the wait.

ANYWHO, so I'm rebatching some of my previous batches of soap where I didn't like how they turned out. Rebatching (also sometimes called milling) is where you shred-up hard soap, melt it back down using a cooking method, add a new color or fragrance if desired, and then remold it. Most home soapers use soap-only crockpots to rebatch or hot process soap.

So, if you buy soap that's been "triple milled" it means that it was made, shredded-up, remelted, and remolded three times. Milling soap is said to make it a more solid and creamier soap, but I'm no expert.

Shreddings ready for rebirth
Rebatching soap has many benefits of being able to reuse soap that didn't turn out as expected, or if you forgot to add an ingredient, or even if you'd like to add finicky fragrances that react badly during the traditional lye/oil/water saponification process. Since rebatched soap has already saponified, fragrances won't behave badly or fade like some are prone to do in cold or hot process soap methods. Some soapers do nothing but rebatched soap for this very reason. They buy bulk orders of unscented and uncolored soap and turn it into what they want.

Another plus is rebatched soap can be used right away, but does benefit from a few days-to-a-week of drying time. The only downside that I can see to rebatching soap is that it often is more difficult to make into pretty designs and it looks more "rustic".

So, I decided to rebatch some of my old Honey Soap where I didn't melt the oils down hot enough during initial processing and the soaps felt a little scratchy when used. I added just a touch more Pure Honey fragrance oil to the melted batter before molding.

Honey Soap reborn
I think they turned out surprisingly well and from the sample sliver I tried in the sink to wash my hands, they are silky smooth to use! I will know for sure in a few days.

Yesterday, I shred-up and rebatched my old Pear Lime and Cucumber Melon soaps that didn't turn out the way I wanted. I was hoping the shreds would melt down to a very light green and I wanted to rescent with "Apple Sage" fragrance oil.

They turned out adorable and I even stamped them with a generic soap stamp.

Rebatched as "Apple Sage" for fall
Rebatching is a lot of fun; I shredded, melted/cooked, molded, unmolded, and cut that "Apple Sage" soap in a single day! The good news is my lye order came in yesterday so I'm back on track...I have a lot of catching up to do.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Black Krim, Green Zebra and Gold Medal Tomatoes

It's that time of year again to taste-test and compare some of the heirloom tomatoes I've grown in the garden. Every year I like to grow different varieties to see what's-what, but very few actually make it back to take up valuable space in the garden beds.

This year, I grew "Black Krim," "Green Zebra," and "Gold Medal" along with my standby ultimate favorite heirloom "Brandywine Sudduth's Strain".

Black Krim
"Black Krim" is a deep purple beefsteak tomato that is supposed to have a deep, rich, almost smoky flavor. This heirloom wins tomato-tasting contests all the time, so I had to give it a try.

"Black Krim" tomato
The plants were productive and the fruit beautiful; however, I wasn't impressed. I found it to be mild, slightly sweet, lightly acidic, and it did have a very slight smokiness to it. This is a good tomato if you have issues with eating acidic foods. I think "Black From Tula" is a better-tasting purple beefsteak.

Green Zebra
"Green Zebra" was a wonderful surprise this year!. It's a small, plum-sized, green-striped tomato that is said to have a bright, high-acid, almost "citrusy" flavor profile. I've read that this tomato is amazing sliced on top of a crab-cake sandwich.

"Green Zebra" tomato
It's flavor description is spot-on, as well as having a nice depth of all-over-tomato-flavor. Since this is a green tomato, I was confused/concerned as to when to know when to pick it. Luckily for me, the variety that I grew turned its stripes yellow when it was ripe.

The only issue with this tomato was I noticed it had a tendency towards blossom-end rot, even when given bone meal at planting. I've never had this issue w/my other tomatoes, so it's something to keep in mind. The 2-3 plants I had only had a few fruit that got BER, so it wasn't too bad.

This is a keeper tom for sure. We loved it.

Gold Medal
"Gold Medal" tomato is a hearty, yellow/blush, beefsteak tomato that is quoted to be "the sweetest tomato you've ever tasted," and boy were they right! It's definitely sweet...almost too sweet and I prefer my tomatoes to be on the more savory/acidic side. It's a mild (almost watered down, IMO) tomato, lightly acidic, and would be great for people who are watching their acid intake.

But talk about being super fun to grow! Check out this 2 lb. monster I picked from one of my plants!

A 2 lb. Monster Tom

2 lbs and counting...
Almost all of the fruit from this plant were this size. In fact, I'm going to enter my tomato in our local paper as the largest tom and see if I win!

As far as yellow beefsteaks go, I much preferred last year's "Mr. Stripey" for flavor.

More and More Tomatoes
This summer has definitely kept us busy. Our late, cool spring allowed our plants to set extra fruit and I think we are at about 150 lbs picked so far. I'm done with canning tomatoes for the season. No more!


After this, it will be Herbed Roasted Tomatoes, Tomato Basil Butter, and giving what's left away to friends and neighbors.


Monday, August 07, 2017

Gratuitous Kitteh Monday

It's blissfully raining this Monday morning, with the occasional thunder. That means both cats have disappeared and are hiding - they hate thunderstorms and Chaz doesn't even like the sound of rain.

It's been a while since I wrote a GKM post, as life has been hectic, but fortunately the kitteh life has been mostly boring...

I'm cute and I know it!
Miss Thang is still on Prozac, although just the tiniest amount possible (2.5 mg). We have found it's just enough to help her manage stress/anxiety, but not be a recluse. She seems happy and balanced. Time will tell if we will keep her on it.


Friday, August 04, 2017

Soapy Friday - The Story of Frankensoap

I'm convinced that if you think you've figured something out and get a little cocky, God says, "Here, hold my beer. Watch this!"

Well, do I have a doozy for you! Please, sit down and pour yourself a cup of coffee or tea...


So last week, I was pretty sure I had this whole lye concentration, oil, and water thing figured out and I was anxious to get back to my trials. I wanted to make my friend Mary a batch of Patchouli soap because I know she loves Patchouli.

Well to make a very long story short and after making a big-ol' hot mess (literally), I present to you the first batch of soap that I had to throw away...Frankensoap:

A big log of sticky gunk

Yuck!
Ultimately, what happened was instead of ordering and using Sodium Hydroxide, which is used to make HARD soap, I accidentally ordered Potassium Hydroxide, which is used to make LIQUID soap. Both containers look the same and I did not check the label.

I didn't realize this HUGE, HUGE, HUGE screw-up until after I had wrangled with this once cold-process, then hot-processed to save, rebatched and whipped soap into the mold. After cleaning up, I sat down on the couch and was wracking my brain to figure out what I had done wrong.

I scrolled through all my Pinterest pins and blogs and websites for info and something stood out...earlier I was reading about how to make shaving soap, which is made with both Sodium and Potassium Hydroxide, and I thought, "WAIT A MINUTE....did I? NOOOO!"

Yep, I used the wrong lye and ended up with a big log of sticky gunk. So, the moral of the story is...

Yes, a bitch indeed.

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