Friday, March 29, 2013

The Latest Batch of Soap

It's been a while since I did a post on soap-making because it's been a while since I made soap. I'm not sure I've made any since before Christmas. Well ... today was the day! My stock is getting low. I carry about a dozen different scents of soap at the market, so I really don't want to make a whole batch (7.5 lbs.!) of only one scent, like tea tree oil. What I need is about six new bars in about five or six scents. Today, my finished batch looked like this:
In the long box mold in the back (only half-filled, you see) is lavender, in layers of 4 colors (cocoa, paprika, turmeric, plain).
On the left in the tiny clear mold is lilac, and the OJ can behind it is also lilac scent.
In the red heart mold is magnolia with poppyseeds.
One of the OJ cans on the right has vanilla, colored with paprika.
Two of the OJ cans have plain tea tree oil.
The last OJ can is a mixture of all the soap I scraped from the various bowls and pots. I hate to waste it, but I can hardly blend it all and sell it, so I'll use it myself.
Speaking of pots and bowls, this is what my sink looks like afterward. I weigh my oils on my scale in the big pot, resetting to tare each time. The soap is mixed in this pot, and I pour it out into the various smaller pyrex pitchers to blend in scent and color as I like. It's messy, but it works, and I get all the various scents/colors of soap I want. It's important (for me, anyway) to set out everything ahead of time -- prepared molds, spoons, paper towels, scented oils in the order that I'll use them, with the colorants next to each one.

Here's the lavender block. I made one of these before Christmas, in layers of color, and it sold well.
Here's the tiniest mold I've ever used. These little shells probably hold only 2 teaspoons of soap each. I'm not quite sure they'll turn out. I warmed some towels in the oven beforehand, wrapped the mold in plastic wrap after filling them, and wrapped them in the warm towels to help the soaps warm as much as possible, so it would gel and go through a full, slow saponification process. I've found this is extremely important for the quality of the soaps later.
Soaps that don't get hot enough, and stay warm a long time, and cool off slowly, don't harden and dry well. Later, if I haven't sold them, they begin to get oily and sticky, and sometimes they discolor around the edges. The smaller the soaps, the less heat they hold, the more they tend to do this.
I also poured a can of lilac -- what a lovely scent! I think it might sell well in the spring, when people want floral, cool scents.
I write the names of the scents on the OJ cans, so I don't forget and lose track of what's what.
The magnolia hearts are in a baking mold, which is really useful. That means I can put this mold into a warm oven before filling it, which should help the soap gel and saponify successfully. I also wrapped it in plastic wrap, and then in towels. These hearts are not very small, but any individual mold like this tends to lose its heat faster.
The OJ can molds always gel and harden well. The box mold does particularly well, because it holds its heat a long time and gels fully.
When I get them cut, I'll show you how they turned out. Oh, I do hope the tiny shells turn out well!

For Those In the Snowy Parts of the World ~

We have azaleas in bloom!
I know some of you are still enjoying the delights of shoveling, digging out, making pots of hot tea, and such wintry sports. Here in Oriental, spring is arriving.
Granted, we've had a string of very chilly days, but that hasn't stopped the spring bloomers -- oh no! Daffodils, forsythia, pears, and others whose names I know not, are all charging forward into warmer temps.
The white tree is a Bradford pear, of course. The tree in the foreground, I'm not sure.
Here's its blossom up close:
I was on a bike ride, of course, so I pedaled on down to the town's dinghy dock. Four boats were tied up there.
One was an old wooden row boat.
Another was brightly painted and rather modern-looking.

The Oriental Yacht Club always has a nice string of boats, although I never see any of them move or sail anywhere.
In the photo above you see a pink boat, and I believe there's our friend, the pirate boat. The pink boat has been around Oriental all winter long, usually at anchor over in Green Creek. Why she's over here in the harbor, I don't know. Quite a few boats have been gathered there in recent days, and I don't know if they're all just having a big party (very possible with sailing types), or if the weather or water level has something to do with it.
Here's our old friend, the red steel-hulled boat with such unusual masts. I hear she's a Frenchman's boat, and she's also been in Oriental all winter. This is a nice place for boaters and sailors to hunker down until warmer breezes blow.
Speaking of warmer breezes blowing, this pretty little lady motored out of the town dock this afternoon. No mainsail up, but a foresail will pull her along a bit. She has a nice bimini cover over the cockpit because the sun is shining today!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Big Purchase

Julia has been saving her money. She has a little helpful work she does for a local group, and she's earned some money from her artwork that's won some prize money this year. The total amount has crept slowly up. She's been saving for the big purchase:  her own computer!
It arrived in the mail yesterday. Her daddy found a new Nexus reader (made by Google) for a good price. She thought she'd have to wait many more months before she had enough money, but a 7" screen is just fine by her, and it does everything she wants it to do.
Tada!! There it is! She's been ever so happy.
Of course, we have some rules, things she can and can't watch. We keep a good eye on what's been viewed on our Netflix account. And she can only have it after school is done each day and on weekends. But that's plenty of computing fun.
I must say, I'm proud of her for buying it all herself. She's only 13, and we have never done allowance money with our kids. Just goes to show that a child can be responsible, save money, and work toward a goal, if the motivating object is in view :) Good work, Julia!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Food Fads

I'm almost 50. (hooray and all that) I've seen some food trends come along, tarry a while, and fade away. Remember fat free?
That one lasted a while. I mean really. Half and half without any fat? Just call it water.
Anybody remember when eggs were bad for you?
Now they're good for you. Same eggs. Different fads.
And coffee. Remember when it was the devil's own drink?
We used to call them diets. You know: Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Adkins, South Beach, Weight Watchers again. I stopped listening to them after Dr. Atkins died.
He had a good thing going though ~~ steak for breakfast, lunch and dinner? Oh yeah!
When the food gurus realized we'd wearied of the "d" word, they pulled the ole switcheroo. They're no longer diets; they're food trends. So now your facebook friends, totally normal people you've known since junior high school, will spring this on you:
"You must go gluten-free!"
"You must go dairy-free!"
"You must go paleo!" (Paleo? Let's eat like cavemen?)

So, although I wish to offend no one, and I whole-heartedly support everyone's desires to amend their own and their family's eating experiences, I'm here to say that I reject all food fads. I realize that a tiny portion of the eating population has valid allergies to gluten, sugar, cow's milk, or whatever, but this constant onslaught of vindictive attacks on our perfectly ordinary foodstuffs must stop. When people post blaring memes instructing me to dump my milk down the drain and never sip it again, I become suspicious that all this food brouhaha is a smoke screen, a marketing guise designed to manipulate me into changing my purchasing habits. I see this in my friends. They're clearing out their pantries each year as they do their closets. "What's the food fashion this season?" seems to be the stylish question to ask.

[If you are quietly, thoughtfully, moderating your eating regimen because you've established specific health concerns, this is no criticism of you.]

It is a matter of moderation, I believe. I ignore people who say I must do away with some food absolutely and never eat it again. I know some of you will be distressed that I would dare to say such things. I'm sorry. I am.  But someone has to call this what it is: food insanity. Can't we just eat in peace? Eat in moderation? Stop demonizing perfectly good food? If you have a food intolerance, and you've found some relief by altering your diet, I'm happy for you! I do not understand why, however, a diet change for a few should become a new dictum for all.  Because just as soon as we all give up our dairy/flour/eggs/coffee/potatoes, some guru with a degree will come along and tell us we were wrong all along. And undoubtedly, he'll be selling a new trend.

Gathering Children

Last week at my parents' house was rather bizarre. I drove there in a frenzied hurry of worry about my dad's health. Soon we realized that he had the stomach flu. And then we all proceeded to bear witness to the stomach flu ourselves. There were no fun trips to town. No teas at neighbors' homes, nor teas with them in our home. No romps in the woods. Just lots of sleep and feeling ill. My poor mother -- all the meals she'd planned and shopped for? Nada.
Needless to say, blogging and photography were not high on my list. The last day I grabbed a few inferior photos. Here's Anna in her usual spot. It's morning, so she has Anna Big Hair:
I nearly got this photo of Julia before she realized it! Then she sat up in protest, and you see the result:
Peter, thankfully, was asleep. He's been working hard on tests and papers for college, and this week of spring break will be recovery for him.
Soon he transitioned from the above position to the one below. Bless his sweet heart! I couldn't resist taking a picture. Isn't he precious?
Just before we left, I asked them to gather for a photo. To give my mother credit, she's in her bathrobe after cooking a huge breakfast for us, and hadn't even had a minute to comb her hair. She's always a sport :) When you have college kids, you treasure any day where you have most of you together. How I loved being with three of my kids last week!
On the drive up to get Peter at college, I grabbed this picture of the rocky hillside in the mountains near Cashiers -- ice! It's been windy and cold all over the state, but they were expecting snow that day at high elevations. This coastal gal isn't used to such treatment!
Blessings to all of you ~~

Monday, March 25, 2013

An Artist's Delight!

Adam's mother is a painter and generously offered to send an easel to Julia. It arrived in the mail last week (while we were gone). This easel is so very beautiful -- plus it's very special. Julia's grandfather, "Papa John," gave it to Adam's mom one Christmas. It will be a treasure for years to come.
It's collapsible and light enough for Julia to carry. She can take it to the park, the dock, or the beach or anywhere in town where she might want to paint the lovely landscapes and waterscapes we have here.
She and I did a little light-hearted watercoloring today. Well, I started, and then she joined in.
Julia's not finished with hers yet. We decided on a water and boat theme.
Mine is done. It's kind of silly. I like the swirly water in the foreground. I suppose this represents Pamlico County, where we live. We have ocean nearby, and the placid river, lots of boats. But we have many pine forests and lots of farm land too.
This adorable lamb pencil sketch was done by my brother Max, who is the true artist in my family. Now you can see the kind of artistic genes Julia has in her heritage, plus the ones she gets from Adam's mom. Max doesn't do much art these days; he has a blueberry farm to manage.
But when he does draw, it's mighty fine. He sent this as my mother's birthday card.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Life Without T.V.

We don't watch T.V. We don't have reception for T.V. If you didn't grow up with a large Motorola in your living room in the 1970s, you might not understand how shocking this is. My brother Marshall and I were hard core T.V. addicts: Petticoat Junction, Bonanza, Andy Griffith, Brady Bunch, Gilligan's Island ~~ Every. Afternoon. Accompanied with a batch of Pioneer Mix homemade donuts. It was our after-school life.
T.V. costs money now. You can't stick an old set in your living room, turn it on, and hope to get a few channels. Lest you think we're holy or off-the-grid, fear not! We simply get no reception, don't want to buy fancy antennas or pay for cable. And who needs T.V. anyway?

We have Netflix. There's so much to watch on Netflix that my college-age son cancelled his account. It was affecting his grades. Right now, I'm experiencing Doc Martin. I think I watched the entire third season on Thursday when I had the stomach flu and was in bed.

I could have watched Downton Abbey at 9:00 PM on Sundays. Instead, we watched it Monday afternoons, online at the PBS website, at a more humane time. Same for: Call the Midwife, Once Upon a Time (ABC website), and others. Watch when you want to.

This is the thing: why are we enslaved to tolerating commercials 20 minutes every hour, and plunking ourselves down on the couch at a dictated time, to watch a show? There's no need. Did you ever try to pause a T.V. show for a potty break, only to discover that you couldn't? Haha!! I don't think I could sit through commercials ever again. I've been spoiled by the convenience of online viewing and DVDs when we like.

Um, don't worry about our lack of screen time. There isn't any.

I must admit though, on Saturday afternoons, I still miss these guys, A Lot:

Especially Bob. He gave me so many nice naps! But I bet they're all available online somewhere. I just need to look.
This is very similar to our old Motorola.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Thoughts on Evangelism

This morning I bounced this question off my college-age daughter, who's a missions major: "Can you give me one clear example from the New Testament of a Christian (even Jesus, or any disciple, apostle, etc.) who walks up to a stranger and initiates a conversation specifically for the purpose of converting them to Christianity?" In other words, does our modern technique of aggressive E.E. find any real support in Scripture?

She was stumped.

So was I.

She proposed the lame temple beggar whom Peter healed. I noted that the beggar initiated that conversation. I thought of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. The eunuch initiated that. Then I thought of the people who approached Jesus, whom He almost seemed to rebuff -- the rich young ruler, the Syro-Phoenician woman, to begin. Even when people approach Jesus, He seems to counter with, "Are you really sure you want this faith?"

There is the Great Commission: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, teaching them ...." Go, teach, baptize, teach. But there's no instruction about accosting strangers on the street, individually. I don't see any examples of this. Please correct me if my failing memory is, um, failing me. Which is certainly possible. (I guess Paul himself, and the disciples perhaps, are the best examples of aggressive evangelism! But I'm really thinking of after the Lord enlists this core group as His team.)

Generally speaking, even with Paul, the most aggressive of the missionaries, I see a man who goes into a new community, enters the existing religious establishment and starts preaching. He does what Jesus instructs. Then he waits for interested parties to approach him and ask questions. I simply don't see examples of door-to-door evangelism. I see bold, vocal, friendly Christians who respond to those whom God draws to them.

(Has somebody famous already written a book about this, and I just missed?  I, and every guilt-ridden Christian I know?)

Because ... all Christians (especially the introverts among us) feel mighty guilty that we're not out there evangelizing in that accost-a-stranger fashion. We've been told since 4 year old Sunday school that we're supposed to. Nobody ever dared to voice the lazy, good-for-nothing, chicken opinion that we could simply make friends with lots of people, work hard to be like Jesus, and wait for them to ask.

That would mean we would wait for God. We would wait on the Holy Spirit to have moved already in the person's heart. We would have trusted Him to draw His people to His people.

Maybe I'm crazy, but this was a small eye-opener to me. I'm gonna stop feeling guilty that I don't scare people at their front doors. I may work harder, however, at being a real friend to more people, and not just ones in my church. It's a good idea. Maybe God will use it.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Welcome, Spring!

And now ... because spring is here and Easter is coming, here are some lovely images of our beautiful church:
Extra points if you can find the honey bee in this photo. There were many on these blossoms.
These Bradford pears were brilliant red last fall. They do put on a show.

And because Sandy is so cute ~
I'm laying low today because I have the stomach flu. Ick and double ick. We've all had it now, here in the mountain house. What a week! Time to recover and think about heading back to the sun on the Eastern shore.