Friday, December 31, 2010

Adam's Concoction

I must say, I was a tad surprised when Adam said he wanted to make bubble bath. He does appreciate a good soak in the tub.  But bubbles? Perhaps it was just the scientist in him, wanting to whip up a concoction!

First he took a 4 oz. bar of my soap, one that had little scent. He grated it into a pot.
Then he added a quart of distilled water. (We get ours out of our dehumidifier downstairs.) He used the hand blender to mix it well, particularly to cut the soap bits and incorporate them into the water.
It got foamy like this.  I think it looks like marshmallow fluff at this point.  The Southerners out there might not know what marshmallow fluff is, but the Yankees will :)  I even know what a "fluff-a-nutter" is, and that's saying something!
Then Adam added and STIRRED (not blended with the hand blender) a 4 oz. bottle of glycerin into it.  We found the glycerin at CVS. It was $5 for the bottle, which I think is rather steep, but it was $1.25 off with my CVS card. If we decide to do much of this, we'll need to find a cheaper source of glycerin.

The last addition was about 6 drops of jasmine essential oil. Yummmm.
It filled this carafe, plus the cup-sized jar Anna took straight to the bath tub with her! She said it didn't bubble as much as she expected.  He'll need to work on that.  But she said it was fabulously smooth and moisturizing on her legs. She shaved one leg with the concoction, and one with the shower gel she normally uses.  She said Daddy's Concoction was vastly superior! Yay for Daddy!  I'm looking forward to a good soak with this stuff tomorrow. Another fun use for my soap!

About That Soap ...

A quiet morning after Christmas, the wreaths still on the windows,
I took the soap chips I've been collecting, and went to take a bath.
A cup of hot tea and an old Victoria magazine are good company,
I dissolved all those soap bits into the water.  It turned a warm, milky color.
I love the soap I'm making, and I don't just say that as a sales pitch! Because it only has lovely, moisturizing oils, and lye that disappears as the soap cures, the finished soap itself leaves the skin feeling smooth and moist.  No drying -- at. all. I'm now using it on my face, in the bath ... everywhere we use soap. Anna loves it on her face, because she had dry spots. I also have dry skin, especially in the winter and as I age.

I don't know what they put in commercial soaps, but I've never found ANY soap that I can use, without using a lotion afterward.  They all dry the skin. Now I can know what's in my soap. And simpler is better, I think.

Plus, when I use up the little bits in a bath, I'm cutting down on any wastage at all.

There'll be another soap post later, because Adam decided he wanted to make ...

Bubble bath!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Breakfast on the Blogasbord:

Good morning, hungry bloggers! Here are a few delectables I've collected for you:

First, a link to MommyLife. If you enjoy beautifully creative things, please take a minute to look. This mom in Finland decided to photograph her totally-snoozed baby in various adorable, creative poses.  So cute! Her site is here, but I didn't find it as easy to use as MommyLife's.

This year, we mysteriously and inexplicably LOST the Jesse Tree Advent Book we've had for 20 years. I'm hoping it turns up, but until then, I was so happy to find a new, free download this morning, at Ann Voskamp's post. Scroll down to the bottom of her post, for the link to the download. If it doesn't work for you the first time, keep trying. I like her book better, I think, because it has daily readings from Scripture, right in the book. If you have young children, and you don't yet do a Jesse Tree, I'd encourage you to do it. Make your own ornaments, or have your church do a lot of them for multiple families, next year.

The next one, I'm hesitant to include, because it's rather poorly written.  It's a blog post done by Joe Bastardi, Chief Meteriologist for I hunted long and hard to find it. Adam heard or read (he can't recall which) Joe on the subject of Global Warming (or, Climate Change, as they now call it) recently, and said his insights are good.  The man is a master at understanding Earth's weather, and an excellent meteorologist. Like I said, it's poorly written, as many blog posts are. Evidently he edited it well, before he published the version Adam read (which I can't find). So, read for content.

Michelle DeRusha, over at Graceful, posted today about an online quiz she took. Not exactly a "personality quiz," it is rather accurate at pinpointing your "striving style" -- the mode you function in best, as you try to accomplish your goals in life. Michelle found hers convicting as a Christian, and so did I. You can take the quiz here.  The seven "striving styles" are: Striving to help, Striving to be recognized, Striving to be creative, Striving to be spontaneous, Striving to be knowledgeable, Striving to be secure, Striving to be in control.

I tested as "Striving to be secure."

No surprise there. (Although I tested equally strong in "Striving to be knowledgeable.")  I crave security. Being insecure or uncertain in life (which has basically defined my earthly existence for quite some time) drives me crazy. However, like DeRusha, I find much spiritual instruction in this.  As a child of God, I have ultimate security in being His child, and my insecurity on this planet should be a constant reminder of my inheritance in heaven. But a person who craves security also craves to hold it with both hands. This is a constant battle for me.


Donuts and Games

Rebecca works at a bakery.  (I would be dead meat if I worked in a bakery, by the way.)  So for Christmas, she brought us 3 large boxes of donuts. I've never seen so many donuts, except on the Krispy Kreme conveyor belt, or at a convention center brunch. Look at 'em!!
Heavenly, I know. And I mean that seriously.  When I think of the bakery goods we will make in heaven, the mind boggles. If you see a few empty spots in those boxes, it's because we'd already loaded a few in the oven, to warm and soften them:
Friends, this is so dangerous. Rebecca is very thin, but the rest of us cannot safely be around that many donuts.

Anyway, to work off all that fat and sugar, we decided to play games for the afternoon.  First, there were a few rounds of "Clue." The fire is roaring away.  Note that Philip is not participating. He says he hates "Clue."
After "Clue," we played "Dutch Blitz."  I bought both these games for the whole family, for Christmas. We love Dutch Blitz! (Well, except for Philip, of course.) Anna is insanely competitive in this game. Rebecca had never played before.  Adam claims that his synesthesia gives him a huge advantage over us in the game -- the numbers on the cards leap out at him, and this help him in noting what pile he needs to slap a card on. Hmm.  Well, he didn't win every round. He is pretty good though.
He and Anna were just brutal.  After they left the game (exhausted, I'll add), the rest of us played very civilly.
There will be more of this going on today.  I think I'm getting the hang of "Dutch Blitz."  (And, thanks to Uncle Steve and Aunt Cathy for introducing us all to this game, years ago, when we were snowed/iced in at their home for days on end. We still talk about that weekend fondly.)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sandalwood Soap

I finally succumbed, and used my sandalwood essential oil.  I love, love, love the scent of sandalwood. A few years ago I bought a bar of sandalwood-scented soap. I didn't use it -- I put it in my top dresser drawer, to scent my unmentionables, and so I can sniff it anytime I like.

Imagine my anticipation, at making about 7 lbs. of such olfactory pleasure?

This time I blended paprika into the oil as I heated it, stirring well. And the color dispersed throughout the soap, a mild peach tone. Perfect.
I made four of the small loaf pan bars, one large, long wooden mold, and for the first time -- an orange juice container!
They're perfect.  The soap turns out a good size, and round. The container sides are already waxed.  I cut out a round of freezer paper to line the bottom. And when the soap is hard enough?

Just pull the paper off!
Once you find the seam, it pulls off like a pack of biscuits.
I cut the soap in about 2 days. I weighed each one. Some are just under 2 oz., some just over, some 2 1/2 oz., and some around 3 oz.
However, the sandalwood scent I was hoping for hasn't yet materialized.  I've read that it is mild and emerges gradually as the soap dries.  I sure hope so.  I put quite a bit of oil in the batch, and it is expensive.  But if I end up with the "real McCoy," it'll be worth it!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Here's the apron project I did today. I guess it took between 2 to 3 hours total. If you're not a sewing-type person, this might be too detailed for your reading taste, but there are lots of pics!

This old apron that I made about 9-10 years ago, was my pattern.  I like the way it fits.  When I made it, I think I just came up with the bodice shape myself.  I'm an eye-balling seamstress.  I've used many patterns, but for making an apron, I'd rather pin and cut. Anyway, this poor old apron has a big RIP in the front -- see it? The fabric is thin.
Here's the fabric I chose. This apron is a present for Rebecca, Philip's girlfriend.  She comes for a visit today. I like the starry-sky pattern.
I just lay the old apron bodice on top of the new fabric. I leave a 1/2 inch seam allowance.  It's SO much easier to compute mathematically than the old 5/8". 
Here are the pieces, cut out:  skirt, bodice & bodice facing, 2 pockets, neck strap, two ties.
I like to get the more tedious tasks over with first, so I do the straps. Now, a pattern will tell you to sew the fabric right sides together, into a tube, and then give yourself finger-fatigue while turning it.  How many horrible hours did I spend as a young woman, turning fabric tubes?  Argh! No more!! Below, is a pic of the tedious-tubal-turning method.
THIS is the way I now do it:  I fold in either side of the strip of fabric, and have them meet in the middle, rather like double doors closing. Then I fold it again, in half, with the raw edges enclosed in the tube.
Then I run a single line of stitching down the right-side-out tube, securing it nicely.  And NO TURNING.  Of course, if you're a seamstress who can't abide the sight of any stitches showing, then go ahead and pursue the arthritis.
Here you can see how the strap folds over, as I stitch it.
Next, the bodice. Lay the bodice front, and its facing (I like a facing in an apron), right sides together, and stitch the 2 swoopy sides, and the top.
Oops.  Adam informed me it was time for a lunch break.  He'd made his yummy French Onion Soup.
When you sew the 2 bodice pieces together (1/2" seams, remember), be sure to leave the side edges open. This way, you can go ahead and insert the waist ties now. Can you see the tie? It's under my finger. I lay it as far up as I can, near the seam, and flush with the raw edges. Fold the two bodice pieces together, and sew along that short side, securing the waist tie in the seam.  DON'T sew the whole side though.  Leave about 5/8" open along the bottom side.
And I'm a believer in trimming corners to remove unwanted bulk, when you turn the garment right-side-out. Nice tip.  However, this is a top corner of the bodice, and as you can see, I sewed it closed, without first inserting the lovely neck strap I'd JUST made.  Sigh.  Like I said, I don't sew often enough to avoid stupid mistakes.  I removed a little portion of the seam in 2 places, and inserted the strap fairly easily. (That wasn't my only dumb mistake, but I won't go further into that ....)
Okay.  Bodice complete.  All ties attached.
Now to work on the skirt.  Its width is the width of the fabric, selvage to selvage.  But I don't want the selvage edges to show, so I took a minute to conceal them by carefully folding them over twice, and running a seam down each side.
Then I worked on the top of the skirt, which is gathered next to the bodice. I used to do a double row of basting stitches for gathering, but I don't bother with that anymore. I eye-ball my gathering, and it works fine -- it's not really gathering;  it's more like little pleats.
This is the slightly-tricky part:  attaching the skirt to the bodice. It's just like attaching a skirt to a waistband, and once you learn how to do it, it's easy. Lots of careful pinning ensures a perfect result. Pin the gathered skirt to the bodice edge.  Use a bit more than the 1/2" seam allowance.  This will allow the bodice facing to come down below the joining of the skirt/bodice, and cover up the seam.  Stitch the bodice and skirt together. Below, you see the skirt (left) sewn to the bodice (underneath), and the facing lying on top with its right side showing.
This is the fun, careful part. Pin the facing over the seam that connects the skirt & bodice.  Turn the raw edge of the facing under about 1/4" (no raw edges), but make sure that it falls below the other seam, and covers it up. Pin the whole facing this way.
Here's a closer look:
Here's the whole bodice, pinned, from underneath.
Then, turn the apron so that its right side is up, and place it in the machine. Sew across, right at the spot where the skirt and the bodice meet.  "Simplicity" Patterns used to call this "stitching in the ditch."  This way (if you prefer) your line of stitching hardly shows.  And because the facing fabric falls BELOW this spot, the facing will be "caught" as you stitch, securing the facing in place as well, and enclosing the whole bodice perfectly. One seam does the whole job.
The secret, of course, is in the pinning.  And when I flipped my apron back over, and checked to see where that seam ended up, I was pleased to see that it lay along the bottom of the facing, about 1/8" up, all the way across.  Can you see it?
I decided to do top-stitching all the way around the bodice, for security.  The thread is dark, like the fabric background, so the top-stitching won't show much. And it makes the fabric edges lie so much more neatly when wearing the apron.
I wear my aprons a LOT, and I know that the weakest point on them is the place where the neck strap attaches to the bodice.  So I reinforced this with a diagonal stitch at the corner of the bodice, and with 3 lines of zigzag stitching, connecting the strap and the bodice.  Not particularly lovely, I know, but an apron is a serviceable piece of clothing, and this is important for its longevity.
Finished product.  I also put a pocket on.  Nearly forgot.
Rebecca enjoys cooking and loves to bake, so I think she'll use this particular gift.  Merry Christmas!

No Time for the Blogasbord!

Sliding through the new posts on my Google Reader, I see that both Gretchen Joanna and Gumbo Jody have new posts up this morning, and - argh!! -- I have NO time to read them!  They will have to serve as tantalizing desserts for later, on the blogasbord. Sigh. (As if I don't have enough post-Christmas delicacies around this house!) Their posts are always good reading, and I have too much to do today.

I must:

Vacuum.  A lot.
Crochet. Nobody needs a pair of half-finished hand warmers.
 Sew.  Yeah, I know. You were not aware that I sew, were you?  That's because I never do it. I've had fabric for THREE aprons lying around the house for almost 18 months now.  One piece got swiped for soap packaging.  Well, today will be an apron today.  I hope....
Make bread.

Also, by the by, here's a link to The High Calling blog, their "Best of 2010 Blogs." Never heard of them before.  Ann Voskamp linked to them today. She has a post listed among their Top Ten. Some good reading there, friends.

I'm off to dance with my vacuum cleaner.  He usually wins.

Monday, December 27, 2010

I'll Never Shop at JR's Again.

 (Or, "Security Run Amok")

Today, we went to return things.

I went to a JR's, a store that seems to have everything.  Adam had bought me a present there (not cigars, I promise!!  They carry all kinds of stuff). It was a rather large puzzle, which I decided I didn't want to tackle right now. I took the pristine, unopened package, and the original receipt.

Now, 30 years ago, that was all you needed to get a refund. At many stores, it's still enough.

I went up to the check-out. The lady asked for my credit card. My husband bought the puzzle with his card.  We have the same Visa account, with the same bill.  But his last four digits are different from mine. The other numbers are the same. And (as you know) it's the last 4 digits that are on the store receipt. (Thus, with my card, and the receipt, I have all his numbers anyway.)

Anyway, the lady tells me that they can't put the $$ back on the card, unless I have the actual card in hand. And they won't give me cash back either!!  With a receipt! That's insane, my friends.

With all the progress we've made in cards and technology and security over the years. the customer is actually worse off.

She asks if I want to look around the store to find something I want.  Because, you see, they're perfectly happy for me to spend the $18.86 IN THEIR STORE.  They just don't want me to take it OUT of their store. So I take my grumpy self around JR's.  And, of course, in that state, there was nothing in their icky ole store that I wanted, thank you very much. They mostly have a lot of junky bric-a-brac, cowboy leather goods, and bad-for-you snack food.

So, my only options were:
1. Go get my husband, drag him or his card back to JR's, and get the $$ back on the card.
2. Let me husband take a separate trip to the store to do the same.
3. Get the dreaded Gift Card.

This made me highly irritable.  The lady volunteered to beckon a manager.

Now, managers come in several varieties.  Some are bend-over-backwards nice.  Some are whiny and apologetic, but unbending in their insipid state.  Others, however, look upon the simmering customer with a bored eye, and tell outright lies.  Such was my lot this morning.

I explained that I had a receipt. All I wanted was cash back.  She said that the corporate office would not allow this.  She threw around "security" as an impressive word.  I wondered, if I already had a receipt with the final four digits of the card, how having $18.86 in cash in my hand would in any way impinge on the security of any card. Sigh.

"This is an unreasonable policy," I told her.  "Basically, JR's requires me to carry my husband's credit card with me, in order to do business.  Nobody does that!"  I pause.  Then I put the question to her, "Do you carry your husband's credit card around with you all the time?"

"Yes,"  she said, "I do."

I should have called her a bold-faced liar on the spot, but my natural civility and Southern charm restrained me.

So, I opted for the Dreaded Gift Card, which I will never use, and perhaps Adam will use eventually. Merry Christmas to me.

As I stood in line waiting for it, the girl behind me whispered to her friend what I was getting, and that she would probably have to get one too.  I turned and told her my predicament.  "Well," she replied, "At least they're watching out for the security of your card."

I ruminated on that thought briefly, and then disagreed with her.  "This is overkill, like the TSA at the airport.  This is not reasonable.  It does nothing to protect my husband's card.  All this policy does is ensure that the money gets spent in THIS STORE, and never leaves this store."  Her friend nodded and agreed. I mean, honestly -- what's the difference between getting the cash and getting the gift card?  I'll tell you:  where it's spent.

Thus the "secure" return policy is in the best interest of the store, not of the customer.

I mean, if they think I'm a thief, -- that some poor sucker left a 5-foot puzzle, complete with bag and receipt, lying around in the street, for me to steal-- then they should call the cops.  There is NO security breach in taking an in-tact item, with its receipt, into a store and asking for my money back. Period.

Bottom line?  I'll never shop at JR's again. I doubt they have much that I need anyway.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Snowed In!!

At first, we saw only light flurries, sprinkling the yard.
Then it began to stick to the bushes and bricks.
Soon, the rosemaries grew heavy with the white.
Can't ANYBODY smile?
The wedding china made its annual appearance.
Christmas Dinner: The Best Mashed Potatoes I've Ever Made (with gravy), sauteed asparagus with lemon, homemade rolls, sweet corn, roast beast, slow-braised with carrots, cole slaw. Sweet tea.
As the afternoon darkened, I let the Advent candles burn down.
The air turned blue and the snow deepened. The tree inside twinkled. We watched "Jeeves and Wooster."
The rosemaries slowly submit to burial.
The Christmas village lights glitter on the banks of cold.
This morning, the rosemaries have disappeared.
Adam shovels the drive, again.
Photographs never seem to do justice to the trees in snow.
We had about 6 - 7" of snow. I like the knob atop this fire lamp.
The majestic pine in the back yard carries the weight well.
The naked, spidery wysteria vine. You can't see them, but the seed pods left dangling on its branches look just like Christmas ornaments on a twiggy tree.
Church is canceled here, probably all over town. But we all had lovely Candlelight services on Friday night, so that's fine. We'll worship at home on the Lord's Day today.