New twist

Time marches on, things change, kids grow up, our homes evolve, family scatters, but sometimes we can feel like we’re standing still while the world marches past, moving inexorably forward.  Shouting down the marchers does no good.

That was more or less how I felt for a while. Clicking along, merrily, perhaps a bit cocky and overly confident in the day-to-day workings I’d churn out online in formulations, label production, graphic design, blog posts, Instagram & Twitter moments then Bam! It all came to a screeching halt.

Windows 10 ran an update,(cue ominous music) which did not play well with others.  My computer lost sight of several things – first, our network settings, so trying to get that back caused us to lose our sound card codec settings.  Trying to get those back, we then lost the ability to save custom settings for region, date and time of day.

The forced updates Windows began doing with its roll-out of 10 was a complete disaster to the desktop.  The laptop fared far better and still clicks along just fine.  I suppose in part because it’s newer.  It began life here on 8, which we could hardly wait to leave in the dust to upgrade to 10.

10 worked fine for a while on the desktop that began life here on 7, but then suddenly we could not get any wi-fi signal, so YouTube buffered constantly before dropping out completely. Being a huge fan of Hulu, Netflix, YouTube and streaming online at various channels’ websites, that’s like being denied air.  Unsustainable.

The fixes to all of those issues did nothing to repair the situation.  There was no going back as another of the casualties was the ability to set aside a custom portion of our drive to rollback dates.  It wouldn’t go back beyond the date of the fatal update so all hope and hardware was lost.

The time had come.  My desktop was going to have to be retired from full time operations.  It’s still a great computer, but the internet connectivity is unreliable.  Still a lot of my files are on there and I need them daily.  So, it will still be used for offline work mostly, though it does still connect to some ghostlike form of someone’s network.  Don’t know whose network it’s latched onto since none are listed.  My 20 year era of faithful dedication to PCs had ended.

Welcome to the wonderful world of iMac!  It’s a brave new world and so far I’m loving this and wondering now why I waited so darn long.  Yes, a couple of my programs aren’t Mac compatible, but the PC still can serve that purpose.  I’m fine with that.  Now to learn how to find everything I typically use all the time and quit scrolling on a wheel mouse in the wrong direction. My iMac is an older model, but new to me.  Has plenty of power, lots of memory, runs on Sierra, updated to the latest iTunes so this chick is a happy camper.  Everything seamlessly syncs if you want it to.  It never fails to ask first and I like that!  So here’s to another long & happy relationship with Apple computers and the bright, shiny world of iMac!


Our Charleston Salt Bars has a video this time! Ta Da!

Here’s the link to our YouTube video for the Making and Unmolding of Charleston Salt Bars. Hopefully, we’ll be including many more videos in the future.

The Making and Unmolding of Charleston Salt Bars with stills

Salt Bar Heads-Up

After conferring with a sister who lives in South Carolina, I’ve decided on the color for the addition of a Salt Bar to the lineup for this summer’s soap offerings.  I now know the color I’ll be using, the fragrance and the recipe so all that’s left now to create it, so keep your eye’s watching for a post on the upcoming salt bar batch!  I’m really looking forward to making it!

Weird things are normal with CP

As all soap makers know, you just never know what’s going to happen when you’re dealing with a finicky beast like cold-processed soap.  It can be nice and well-behaved one time and be Vesuvius the next.  The recipe can be one you’ve made a hundred times before but with cp, it’s all fair game for the gremlins.

The recent batch, a favorite of mine for its gloriously spot-on beachy scent of windswept waves, ozone & aquatic notes plus a hint of a light floral, is an example.  I’ve made this recipe numerous times, always using the same ingredients.  No alteration or deviation from the standard formulation developed years ago.  Yet for some inexplicable reason, the oils turned a weird greenish hue when the lye was added and stick-blended in.  Lye and oils

The light is a bit odd here with the window to my left but the actual color I saw was more towards that left-hand side. The more I blended, the greener it became, so of course, I stopped.  I added some Mad Mica’s Snow White to it to get it closer to a more neutral shade before splitting it into portions for individual colors, which seemed to help a bit but I was gobsmacked over this oddball occurrence.

This is a prime example of what a CP soap can throw at you when you think you’ve got this. Those gremlins will humble you in ways you couldn’t even conjure up in your wildest dreams.

The base color was to be a pale, powdery blue, but there was no way that would happen with a base of that drab olive green. The Snow White helped though and I was able to get a blue-ish hue. It just took more of the mica than I’d originally planned on using but still within safe levels.Base color, resized

It still looks a bit greenish there but some of that is the lighting.  The day was a bit cloudier than good photography would allow.  Once the other colors went into their portions, all looked well again. The blue is, in fact, blue and the white is a lovely bright white, as intended.Key West & Snow White, resized

That change in color was totally out of left field with this one.  I had not added anything other than the lye & water solution.  The coconut water and coconut milk parts went in much later, as did the FO.  So what caused this change, I may never know.  Put it down to one of soaping life’s little mysteries.

The fragrance called Mischief is from Fragrance Laboratory, a favorite supplier of mine for many years now.  The notes contained in this fragrance are listed on their site as being ozone, lime, salt sea air, dune lily, lychee fruit, sea moss, woods, and musk.  No doubt that’s a light musk in this one! I love the classic beach scent it brings to all the soaps, lotions etc I sell at my site.  They have another one, and yes, it too is gorgeous. A rich, heady beach scent but more defined as being one that reminds one of an indoor spa-like atmosphere with the windows open and the soft sea breezes blowing through. Its name is Mineral Salt Spa.

Ultimately the soap was finished up without any further issues and by comparison, this one was minor.  It did not accelerate the soap (make it too firm to stir, swirl or pour into the mold), did not rice at all, it never morphs into some hideous shade, but leaves the colors true to their intended hue, does not discolor at all as some can with odd ingredients that can turn some soaps yellow or brown. Best of all, it sticks!  Over time, it will fade as all fragrances do, but this one holds up like a champ in every batch for the long haul.  This fragrance is a fan fave and this maker’s fave as well!Boardwalk Cover labeled

The challenges of crafting cold process soap with alcoholic beverages, Pt 2.

As mentioned in part 1 of this ‘conversation’ the batch in the spotlight was a bar made with moonshine, which is fairly high in alcohol and if you’ve ever watched an episode of Moonshiners,  you know what I mean.  Their batches are running around 160 before they’re proofed!

All experienced soapers know of the problems associated with making a soap, hot or cold processed, with an alcoholic beverage of any type. It can go off like Krakatoa if you aren’t careful and don’t watch it all the time.  The volatility of this type recipe is notorious!  But there are ways around this and that’s what I’m sharing today.

Full Steam’s Rocket Science Pale Ale about to be cooked down.

My favorite workaround is to cook out as much of the alcohol in the beverage as possible prior to use using a low & slow approach.  Usually, it’s cooked down one day, going at a low temp, say 2, if the settings on your burners run from 1-10.  If it gets too low in the pot, turn it down to warm or 1.  This is for an electric range or stove so those of you with gas ranges may need to adjust your settings.

Heating it in this way is safer given the high alcohol content of many types of beverages while managing the level of liquid in the pot more easily.  Once it’s down to half the volume of the pre-cooked level, add distilled water up to the amount of liquid your recipe requires.

This has two purposes:

  1. it restores the liquid volume to its original level giving you plenty of liquid to work with for your recipe and
  2.  it gives you the option of creating a slurry of the booze + water to keep soaping temps cool thus avoiding that volcanic reaction.

The latter part is the most important because if it does volcano there’s a big caustic mess to be cleaned up, which can put you at risk for some pretty nasty burns unless you’re heavily protected and it’s damaging to your work surfaces.  Protect everything!  Keep out pets. Keep children out of the room.  Cover your clothing with a lab coat or a long apron.  Wear closed-toe shoes and the thicker the shoe the better.  Wear gloves!  Wear goggles!  Wear a mask when mixing the lye solution because the fumes are abundant and caustic.  It can damage your lungs. Work in a well-ventilated room or even outside, weather and pollen count permitting.

All of these precautions are not meant to scare you away but rather to prepare you and prevent accidents that can happen.  This is meant to be a creative and fun outlet with a usable, wonderfully scented treat at the end of all your hard work, so play it safe and you’ll enjoy the results!

Tainted Apple with Angry Orchard Hard Apple Cider

Patients, know your choices.

When you’re finding yourself in need of serious hospitalization for a major health condition, you place your trust, faith and well-being in the caregivers’ hands.  Those caregivers are surgeons, doctors, pharmacists, nurses, therapists and aids.  They are all required to know your case, discover your needs during recovery and follow up with the best course of action after the surgery is done.  All of this is taken down in your chart and the instructions are laid out in a manner that best fits your circumstances.  But what if you did everything right – you followed their orders to the letter and yet your health was compromised in a serious way?  A way that set you back further than you were before you went into the hospital initially?  And it was all due to a medication?pexels-photo-356054.jpegSuch was the situation we’ve had and it all came down to one medication that caused a serious life-threatening situation for my husband.  It was not through any fault of ours or any of the staff providing his care during the first hospitalization. Rather it lies fully at the medication’s doorstep.

Everyone has a list of meds they know they cannot take without serious side effects.  We keep those names burned in our minds and on our medical charts to safeguard ourselves when it comes time to approach a health issue that might require that med again.  When it’s listed, we all then know not to use that particular one but try something new, or in my husband’s case, something old.  The doctor or nurse asks why you don’t take med X and what was your reaction to it to have it black-listed.  Based on that they choose if the risks outweigh the benefits.  Ultimately the choice is yours to make.  You have the right to refuse a medication if you have any doubts or concerns about it based on the pros and cons you experienced.

While I will not tell you to not take life-saving medications, I do want others to know of our experience and our choice to make the decision we made based on his response to that medication.  The benefits were far outweighed by its negative impact.  It set him further back than where he’d started so we will proceed with caution with a simpler, older, well-documented med that we know will not compromise his health or cause serious side effects.

Know your rights as as a patient, make wise decisions based on prior knowledge and experience.  If in doubt anywhere along the way, research the meds and their side effects, know your body’s response habits, research your doctors and surgeons.  There are sites just for that very thing.  I’ll list some below to get you started.

Choose your state, then narrow the search by doctor’s name

Medications – side effects, benefits, contraindications, used for….

Medications Side Effects


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I’ve been away a while now.  It’s not been easy to simply stop making soaps, lotions, scrubs, and all the other things that comprise my inventory but it has been necessary.

My husband’s health took priority over all else and when it faltered, there was no question but that I had to be there for him while he struggled to recover, slowly, one step at a time.

He’s well on down that road now and I’m relieved to see him doing so well and hopeful his life ahead will be as grace-filled and wondrous as it has always been.

Many of members of my family have stepped up to help us out when other things fell through and that has filled me with a deep gratitude for my family that reaches far beyond words.  Those who’ve been unable to be there physically for us have been there spiritually, lifting our spirits with little shimmers of sunshine that lit up our hearts, faces and our world.  Our latest grandchild was born during this time and that did so much for our spirits.  Our smiles have not stopped since welcoming little Cashwell into our hearts! Thank you to my daughter for allowing us to share in his birth at a distance.

My sons have offered a great deal of help in so many ways and for that I cannot every adequately thank them or repay them though they know we’ll certainly do our level best to try. When things are at their darkest, my children have always brought the light back into my world in a lasting and very personal way.  Thank you all for the gifts you’ve given me by being in my life and being supportive of both of us when we’ve needed you. It’s means so very much.

I will be able to get back to work very soon on what I love to do best and that is making all those wonderful things that help create a mood, an atmosphere of serenity, botanical bliss beyond compare and hope you’ll join me when I do.  In the meantime, we are loading up on new ideas, dreaming up wondrous things and looking forward to creative days to ahead.  We’ve got YouTube channel videos to film, too!

The challenge of crafting cold processed soap with alcoholic beverages, Pt 1

Not a new topic for anyone around and definitely not a new one for me.  It’s become increasingly a favorite for me and given the numerous successful microbreweries in my neck of the woods, there’s certainly plenty of brewed beverages around from which to choose.  I’ve named several in past posts so I won’t repeat them here for this post.  The beverage I want to talk about now was the one type I’d yet to make a soap with…until now……moonshine.

Moonshine has a long, storied past along the Appalachian mountains and when it comes to the methods, it’s a family tradition, one passed down from generation to generation, mostly by word of mouth and observation.

One moonshiner, in particular, has gone legal and is now being sold in area ABC stores. Tim Smith created one called Climax and this is the one I used in a cold processed batch recently.  The bottle I had was not full as it was gifted to me from my son who said he can no longer drink it, so I put it to good use making it into a batch of moonshine soap.  Only in North Carolina can we take corn liquor and turn it into a batch of soap! Well, maybe not, but I’ve so far not heard of anyone else trying it.

The main issue at hand about Moonshine is the proof/ percentage of alcohol by volume.  Climax Moonshine is not as high as one might think.  It’s certainly not as high as Everclear, which is typically used for creating a translucent soap, which is sold in North Carolina at 151 proof (75.5% abv).  Climax is 90 proof or about 45% abv. The higher the proof the greater the risk of having a volcano from your soap running over the top of your mixing bowl. That is the one thing none of us wants to happen!  In part two I’ll cover the way I’ve managed to bypass that particular gremlin.