The Coincidence of Coconut Cake

I recently finished a really good read entitled “The Coincidence of Coconut Cake”. A struggling chef, Lou (a girl) Johnson, fights the good fight to make her restaurant a success sees it just within reach when catastrophe happens thanks to a poorly timed visit from a food critic who’s known for his blistering reviews. Due to circumstances back at home, she is a mess waiting to happen and the result is a terrible review that sends the potential customers away in droves. Her restaurant, named after her grandmother Luella, is in jeopardy. Meantime she meets a British fellow, Al, and they begin a quirky sort of friendship that makes both of them smile before, during and after their time spent together. He gets the 10-cent tour of all things great about Milwaukee and its history while she gets her mind taken off the floundering ship that is Luella’s. What she doesn’t know is that Al has an alternate personality, a pen name that has a byline set just above those previously mentioned ‘blistering reviews’.

He never tells her who he really is for quite a while, even after he realizes who she is. He first saw her crying, running along the sidewalk near Luella’s with a boxed Coconut Cake that eventually splats everywhere on the walkway while she continues onward to work – Luella’s. He’s out front preparing to walk in and be seated, to order a meal and write a review about the experience, neither of them ever setting eyes on one another until after the article is in print for all the readers to see. All he can think about is the lovely woman running along in tears, carrying then dropping the most delectable coconut cake he’d ever smelled. And he really wants to meet that sad lady and bring a smile back. He’s entranced. Intrigued.

She’s on the rebound after catching her fiance in a compromising situation, which he tries to explain isn’t what it seems. Nice try.

That’s just the beginning. She’s a lovable character start to finish. Al is obnoxious initially, though he kind of grows on you. You realize he has a soft inner core that no one truly sees. The fiance? Well, he’s an EX for a very good reason then later an even better one.

Quick Question……

This post is going to be a bit different.  This time the writer will be mostly YOU!  I want to hear from you this time.

Spring is just about here and thoughts are turning to the batches to be created for this year’s Spring-Summer lineup, so tell me what you’d like to see, what you’d like to hear about.  What fragrances or notes would you love to see translated into a soap?  Is there a particular ingredient you’d like to hear about or see soaped with in a cold process batch?  Do you want to see more posts about books or something else?  Leave your comments below and let me hear from you.  This tells me a lot about what your interests are, what you’re curious about, what you love to read about so no one gets bored seeing and reading the same ol’ thing over and over.  I also will be happy to post a YouTube video if something is requested that can be recorded.  So let me hear from you!

New books for the reference collection (soapmaking reference, that is)

For those who just can’t get enough of soap making books, here’s something to check out next time you’re looking for something quick, simple & fun to read, something to learn from and refer to over time. Anne Watson now has two more in her series of “Smart” books –

Cool Soapmaking: The Smart and Simple Guide to Low-Temp Tricks for Making Soap with Milk, Citrus, Cucumber, Pine Tar, Beer, Wine, and Other Special Ingredients

and

Castile Soapmaking: The Smart and Simple Guide to Making Lovely Castile Soap from Olive Oil Quickly, Safely, and Reliably

That’s quite a mouthful, I know, but the contents are helpful, no-nonsense and approached in a clear slightly humorous way.  She explains how to make soaps that will be safe and ready for use faster, with a boost to bubbles, or how to make them with foods that won’t ruin the soap over time with DOS or worse, mold.  She also includes a way to contact her for questions you might have that weren’t clear or not covered in her books with the note she’ll respond within hours.  How helpful!  This sort of transparency & approachability in knowledgeable experts is a rare treat in any field!

Under the Castile Soapmaking’s covers, she includes how to create castile, why it should be done a certain way, and even how to get it to trace and saponify faster.  Even though I’ve been a soap maker for more than 8 years, I still found very useful info in here to finish out the book with a few pages of notes to add to my reference notebook.  She’ll teach you how to calculate for a blended lye solution to help avoid the slimey texture castile is prone to with a blend of KOH and NaOH, use a bit of uniodized salt to help firm it up if the oils used are not characteristically hard oils in a finished bar or by adding warmth to the oils and how to boost the bubbles using a bit of sugar or castor, to name a few tricks contained in its chapters.

Within the Cool Soapmaking book she offers tips and tricks for working with cucumber, avocado, honey, various types of milks, yogurt, apricots, and clays.  She uses essential oils predominantly for the soaps in this book though some include the use of fragrance oils only as suggestions. There’s even one recipe that includes orange juice.  Are your taste buds tingling yet?

This book is not a beginner’s guide type of reference so it would be best to read through her previous book Smart Soapmaking or Milk Soapmaking and practice with a few of her small batch recipes to get a feel for the touch needed using alternative liquids in soapmaking particularly alcoholic liquids such as ales, wines, champagne, beer, stouts, etc.  Those are very tricky and definitely not for beginners.

Cool Soapmaking and Castile Soapmaking are available in Kindle format, which is how I got mine (for $0.99!), as well as in paperback format.  They both also include numerous recipes to try out and learn from as you expand your soaping skills horizons.

I highly recommend her books for every level of soapmaker looking to have a robust reference library to turn to for confirmation of certain techniques without all of the clinical or technical jargon that some other books may have.  They touch on the science of soap crafting with easy to read and follow text in a light, friendly way that’s neither overwhelming or intimidating.

In case you’re sold on these two spotlighted titles or any of the others mentioned, I’ll include links below for them.  Happy soaping!

 

Castile Soapmaking

Cool Soapmaking

Milk Soapmaking

Smart Soapmaking

PS: she has also published a book on Lotionmaking – Smart Lotionmaking

Scams are everywhere

Today I received a letter.  A letter from an opportunistic leech.  Now maybe I’m presuming guilt where there is none.  Perhaps they are legit and just trying to help, but the cynic in me thinks they just want to steal my money and run with it.

The company sells domain names, allegedly.  Internet Domain Name Services.  They sent a letter telling me the date my domain name ownership expires. which I already knew.  They then proceed to state I should lock in my name to protect myself by getting the .net and .org names as well so there is no confusion on my customers’ part.  It’s only $540 to do all of those.  A pittance I suppose to protect my domain name, right?   Of course there’s an equal chance they are honest and trying to help me out, but they made the mistake to reminding me of something I already knew long before was necessary, voluntarily sent me this form requesting I send them $540 without any knowledge of their integrity, honesty, or ability or intention of providing the services I sent them the money to do.  I don’t trust anyone who sends me such mailings when they’ve purchased or found and nabbed my name from the net in hopes of profiting from it somehow.  I would hope that all other independent crafters and artisans will be as cynical and not trust strangers too quickly.  Their numbers are legion.

The host I use for my web site, Weebly, has always been friendly, helpful, honest, forthright, and extremely quick to respond when there’s a problem or question.  I asked them about this company and they might very well discover this company is legitimate, but I’d rather be safe than sorry (and broke!) so I sent along the name that I received the mail from today.

Many others are out there, the Nigerian scam promising millions in overseas funds, ship our products overseas if we’ll accept their credit cards and (which aren’t real), buy their supplies from a country we regard as highly suspect or sell second-rate goods.  The list grows every year and our hard earned money is constantly under threat.

Be aware of those seeking the quick money stolen from your pockets.  Ask your fellow crafters about those hinky  emails you’ve received, they’ll be happy to help you discern the company’s legitimacy.  We’ve all been on the receiving end of those trying to part us from our income and learned to recognize the signs from a mile away.

Diversification for fun’s sake

I’ve always loved to draw going back far back enough that I could safely say I’ve drawn things since I was big enough to hold a pencil and not lose an eye.  I began with butterflies from my grandmother’s Field Guide to Butterflies.  After a year or so, I tried birds from, what else, the Field Guide to Birds.  That was how I entertained myself while my parents played Canasta on the weekends before I began taking piano lessons.  Once those lessons started I played for them during the game time and served drinks during the break.  Halftime? Good times in a simpler age.

The drawing continued and once in junior high it was suggested that I try out the art classes, so being willing to try something new, I signed up during 7th grade.   I think it was seventh anyway.  So after a few weeks, we were given an assignment to draw a portrait.  Anyone at all was fine so long as it was a full face portrait.  Finally, an assignment I could dig deep for fun and a grade! I thought it turned out rather nicely, but my teacher took a look and instructed me to change how I drew the eyes.  I must remove the reflections of the lights in the eyes.  I said they were in the picture I used, so they’re there in my drawing.  He insisted they be removed because my drawing was obviously NOT a picture.  It was a drawing.  It was very frustrating because I’ve always liked doing the eyes the most in a face.  They’re something I worked very hard to make completely realistic and was told often to enough that I’d succeeded. Needless to say this would not happen with my drawings.  So I stopped taking that class.  He might not have liked it, but I would not change the signature feature of what I create.

Many years have passed since that year.  More than I’ll admit to here.  It’s always enjoyable to try out a new technique, a mew media or method, and even mroe fun to have others enjoy it, too.  I love creating something that brings a smile to someone else.  If it can make you happy, it’s something I’ll at least try.

Circular motif, December watermarked for blog

With the newly discovered therapeutic benefits of colouring for adults, it wasn’t too hard to work this newest form of drawing into my portfolio.  The above is the mandala now offered on my web site as a digital download.  It can be found in my etsy site as well as the regular, full service web site.  Links for the regular full site is found here….while the link to my Etsy store can be found here….. and please let me know if these links aren’t working for you!  I test them, but I’d like to know that a third party can get there through the links provided, too.

I love to colour, using coloured pencils, with these colouring books for adults that you can find just about anywhere now, but soem of the prettiest images to colour are individual pages.  You might not like every page in the books but you will get all your favorites in a choice of individual pages.  If you really want a great selection of pencils with a name that’s been trusted for a very long time, go with a nice set of Prismacolor pencils.  They’re the best around now for performance, smooth application of colour and lays down a soft layer of colour with little breakage. Blending is easy to do, seamless and practically effortless.

Christmas Amaryllis
Christmas Amaryllis

With the world becoming crazier, scarier, more rushed and stressful, it’s more important than ever that we find peaceful means of relaxing, decompressing somehow that offers us quiet time.  No thinking, just quiet, meditative motion.  Colouring gives us this and more.  If you haven’t tried it out yet, take some time out from the rest of the world and see for yourself. This is far better than just playing couch potato for an hour or more!

Enter your email for the Valentine’s Gift Giveaway from Neecy’s!

Please submit your email one time only please and you’ll be entered into our giveaway context.  Drawing is January 31 and notification of the winner will be announced Feb. 1 2016.  Send your submission email to neecysnecessities@live.com today.  Thanks and Good Luck!Valentine's GIve-Away Collage

Ooops!

I’ve been practicing on depth, dimension, shadows, and realism in the colored pencils on plain paper just for fun in recent days, trying to improve something somewhere along the way as I do each one.  Today’s project was a small cluster of bright red cherries in front of a wedge of ripe watermelon.  The cherries were the easy part.  I have a long way to go to work on the realism with a watermelon though to say the least!

I’m self-taught.  Haven’t really wanted to take classes or lessons for fear it would ruin the ‘fun’ aspect of art for me if I knew I had to draw a specific thing that was not of my choosing and turn it in by a deadline.  That’s intimidating even without the possibility of critique at the end!  So, I remain self-taught, but have lately taken up watching every YT video I can find on the subject of coloured pencil drawing and even some pastel (chalk) as well since I did that media for many years before other things took my attention away from it.

I love to draw, have done since I was big enough to hold a pencil and not hurt myself with it, slowly going from pencil line drawings to butterflies to birds in crayon to chalk pastel portraits to today’s coloured pencil workings and colouring pages.  Today was rotten.  To the core rotten.  Pouring rats, cats, & dogs outside all morning and there I was rolling slowly 10 miles to work in the dark and the rain.  Ugh.   Anyone who knows me how much I hate driving, even in good weather with the sun up already.  This morning’s commute was nothing short of hell.  Pure unadulterated hell.  So, once I got back home, for good that is since hubby and I went out to lunch today for a change, I slipped into my jammies,put on some Enya and worked on the picture I’d started yesterday.  Cherries and a wedge of watermelon. It was going very well until I stood back at realized that the shadows were all wrong for the watermelon.  Not that it looked all that realistic in the first place, but well, if the shadows are heading towards the left, then the right side of the watermelon shouldn’t be shadowed, now should it!  Oooops! Cherries cropped, resized So out came the gum eraser and the boo boo was eradicated and the shadow was placed elsewhere.  it’s okay, but I know it needs lots of work before I’ll be where I want to be.  Maybe I try some faces, which I have had more experience with in the past and see how they do with pencils, but if we plan to draw, we need to keep our net cast widely.  Draw anything and everything.  Do it often.  Keep stretching those boundaries outward.  It never hurts to go sideways and try something way off from where you’ve been going.  Being flexible doesn’t hurt and who knows, you might find that you have a flair for something else entire different from what you thought you excelled in.

 

Have you noticed how popular this new adult colouring pages trend has become?  It’s amazing to see how it’s just exploded onto the scene! Though I never grew tired of colouring all these many years, I didn’t do much until now when these highly detailed colouring books started appearing on bookshelves and stores, justifying my longing to colour anything and everything.  I think there should be a roll of designs so we can colour our own wrapping paper.  Don’t you agree?  Adult designs, intricate, fun and once you’ve completed it, you have a beautiful, totally unique paper to wrap something up for someone special.  Let’s do this!  Maybe butcher paper, using the paper side, not the waxy one.  I have lots of that around thanks to the soaping biz already in place, so let’s do something new and see what happens.  It would definitely take a while to colour up a roll of paper, but hey, it would be pretty and very unique.  And I love unique!