Monday, September 17, 2007

Soap Binge

Since when did this become a monthly blog? I certainly didn't intend for it to be that way, but it seems that is exactly what has happened. I'm telecommuting most of the time now, so you would think that I'd have more time for blogging. I'm not commuting every day, saving heaps of time. The fact is, I have even less free time online now than ever before.

I finally moved my "soap lab" out to the country. We're spending more and more time out there lately and I was going into soap withdrawal. My stay there lasted 3 weeks and resulted in something of a soap binge. I'm not telling what scents are in these soaps, because something in these stacks is going to be used for a soap exchange.

I've been playing around quite a bit with colors lately, trying different colorants and techniques. Some have been more successful than others. The two pink soaps shown here are both colored using pink kaolin clay. The soap on the bottom left was supposed to be green. I tried coloring it using ground parsley. It gave me tiny green flecks, but not the green color I was hoping for. Still pretty, though.

I'm *THIS CLOSE* to finally being able to sell some of my creations. It has been a long process, but I'm glad I've taken my time with it. I didn't want to rush things for sale just to do it-- I wanted to be sure that the recipes were tested and came out "just right" before making anything available publicly. It doesn't help that soap takes quite a while to cure. I can't just make this stuff, cut it, and sell it the next day. I have to let it sit for approximately 6 weeks first.

I'll get there eventually. ;)

Monday, August 20, 2007

It's a bird! It's a bee!! It's a... moth???

I saw this little guy hovering around my phlox last week. My first thought was "oh, a hummingbird!" It was just about the right size and shape, and it was certainly flying like one. I ran and grabbed a camera.

Then, I noticed the antennae. After that, I did a leg count. Six of them. Okay, so that isn't a hummingbird. It was brown and yellow, but WAY to big to be any sort of bee. Some internet searching revealed that what I had was a Hawk Moth, a pair of them, actually, even though I managed to photograph only one of them.

My garden project while we were in the country last week was to plant some coneflowers and coreopsis. BF managed to snap this "work in progress" photo. I've never been a huge fan of how coneflowers look, but this year I kept noticing them in other people's gardens and I realized that they're really quite pretty when paned with other flowers. Please excuse the posts on the porch-- they don't look too hot now, but they will be painted when the weather cools.

The added bonus with the coneflowers is that they will provide seeds for this little guy and his feathered friends during the colder months.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Out of hiding?

I haven't really been "hiding" exactly, but I have been remiss in posting any online updates. I'm working from home most of the time now. You'd think that would mean more time for regular updates, but it has had quite the opposite effect. I tend to go on and off line during the course of the day, depending on the workload at any given time. This means that I'm usually online only when there's lots of work to do, and there isn't as much down time to do other things online. If that doesn't make a good case for employers allowing staff to telecommute, I don't know what does.

I'm still working on my soap formulations. I've got a few recipes that I absolutely love and am *THIS CLOSE* to being able to sell. The trouble with making soap from scratch is that it isn't ready to use when it comes out of the mold. It has to cure for 4 - 6 weeks first. So, whatever I make has to sit around, then I can have friends test it out for me. Then, if it's a successful batch/scent, I can make more and wait another 4 - 6 weeks before it is ready to sell. I think it will go pretty smoothly once I get the recipes and scents worked out, though.

I did quite a bit of stitching last month, mostly on TW's Tradewinds. A friend gave this to me last year when she was clearing out her stash. She had the kit for a while and decided she'd probably never stitch it. I'm absolutely loving this project-- it's a real pleasure to stitch. It's funny that I enjoy TW's so much, because ordinarily I don't like projects with lots of backstitching. I'm not crazy about stitching with blended threads either, for that matter. And yet there is nothing I enjoy stitching more than a TW design. Go figure.

Here's the project as of July 7:

And my progress as of July 29:

Later today, or maybe the first of next week, I am going to make a point to catch up on some of my blog reading. I miss seeing what you've all been up to! Of course, you all are a bad influence-- every time I go off and check the blogs, I end up finding 10 more projects that I simply MUST stitch.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Yellow & Blue Makes... Caramel???

That is not what I learned in elementary school. Nevertheless, that is exactly the result I got the other day when I mixed yellow oxide and blue ultramarine powders to color some soap. My intent was a green swirl in my off-white soap. What I got was quite different, more of a caramel color.

This is the first batch of soap using my brand-new slab molds. It's also my first attempt at swirling. Unfortunately, I colored a bit too much soap for the contrast, so I didn't get quite the swirl effect that I would have liked. I'll know better next time (probably later today). The scent for this batch is Sandalwood & Clary Sage. I absolutely love how this one smells, very earthy and fresh. I think the caramel color actually works well with this fragrance, even though it isn't quite what I had in mind.

I've decided to go with slab molds for the soap that I'll be selling, rather than the more detailed molds that I was working with previously. The reason for this is packaging. I couldn't find a decent way to package the fancier soaps without totally covering up the pretty details. The only thing that would work for those was shrink wrap, and I wasn't crazy about the way those turned out. Besides, the shrink wrap is terribly labor-intensive. The plainer slab molds make a generously sized bar-- 3 1/2" x 2 1/2" x 1" and they weigh in at over 5.25 oz. I'll be able to package these with cigar-band type labels, and you'll still be able to see the color/swirls/etc. in the soaps.

The business side of my little soapmaking hobby is going very slowly. I've finally perfected the recipes that I'll be using for sale. I've been using them myself for a couple of months now and can honestly say that my skin has never felt better. Now all I need to do is make a few batches up and let them cure. Look for them in about a month. ;)

I'm still stitching a bit, but not nearly as much as I would like. Lately, I've been working on Just Nan's TrickORTreat Box. Unfortunately, I've managed to lose the white silk floss and will need to pick some more up before I can finish this one.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Finally... a Finish!

It's a little one, but it's a finish nonetheless. The design is Antique Elegance, by Sweetheart Tree. This was one of my many purchases from CATS last September. I hadn't intended to buy any of these, but they had the finished/framed models hanging and I just couldn't resist. The photo really doesn't do this one justice-- it's much more sparkly in person.

We'll be heading to the country this weekend, and I'm hoping to see more of this little guy, or some of his kin. We seem to have quite a few Bunnies out there, including tiny baby ones. None of them seem too bothered by our presence when we visit. I was just a few feet away while this one grazed on the weeds under our bird feeders.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Wow... I've gotten way behind in my blog updates. No excuses, other than I just need to get back into the habit of updating these pages.

I would like to say that I have been busy working on my soap business, but that isn't the case. I'm also hopelessly behind in getting that underway. I have been making soap and other products, just not in the volume I would like. The truth is, I am running out of places to store everything. Although my pace has been slow, I am inching ever closer to getting all of this underway.

Stitching has been practically non-existent in the past couple of months. I did pull out a small Sweetheart Tree project the other day that just needed some beads & backstitching. I should have a happy dance soon. Other than that, the only happy dance I've had this year is one of the LHN monthly series. Speaking of which, I haven't been keeping up with those purchases and need to buy the rest of the series.

PIG is still alive, but has been "resting" for a while. It certainly hasn't hit the UFO stage, as I do pull it out and put in a few stitches whenever I'm able. It just seems that lately there are a thousand other things that need to be done, mostly outdoors. I've been doing as much planting as possible this year, although it doesn't look like much so far. I have some photos of all this activity, but they have not yet been uploaded to PhotoBucket.

I'll get some new photos soon and will have updates of the garden, soaps, stitching, etc. Until then, I'll leave you with a photo of PIG that was taken on February 28. It has changed a bit since then, but you'll get the idea.

Monday, April 30, 2007

A Quick Note

I've been away for a while, due in part to a major computer crash at home. And, I can't seem to get Blogger to work off of my work PC. That really comes as no surprise, since so many things are blocked here.

To add insult to injury, my email inbox is overflowing with spam, probably thanks in part to posting a link to it here, combined with a couple of email groups that I'm on. So, if you need to email me, please use the following address:

juanita at riverbendcreations dot net

I'm still working on PIG, and my fledgling soap business. Neither is coming along as quickly as I'd like.

Look for some updates soon.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Time Flies

It seems like I just updated this thing yesterday, and yet I know it has been nearly a month since my last post. Sorry for the slacking folks, I've just been really, really busy. After staring at a computer all day at work, the last thing I feel like doing is getting online at home. The few moments that I do spend on the computer at home are currently devoted to building a website.

Stitching is still practically non-existent, but it's getting better. I've managed to get into a bit of a routine where I actually work on my stitching (mostly PIG) for a miniscule amount of time each day. Admittedly, it isn't much, but it's better than nothing.

Soap continues to take up most of my time. I've been playing around with various recipes and techniques, and I am getting ever closer to being able to sell some of it. Technically, I suppose some of it has been sold. That was unintentional, though. You see, I took some painted Valentine heart soaps to a friend who owns a coffee shop. These were not for sale-- the intent was that he would give them out to some of his "better" customers. There was no tag, no business card, nothing. It was just a little Valentine treat for some of the folks who had supported his business. Apparently, one of his employees didn't know these were freebies, and he sold several of them.

Below is a photo of samples from some of my recent batches. The one on the left is the lavender soap that was a near-disaster. The first go-round with this soap didn't set up properly, even though the soap was just fine. So, I shredded it and rebatched using buttermilk. Unfortunately, I was in the country when I did the rebatch and had forgotten to bring soap molds. I ended up using a mini muffin tin, hence the small size and less-than-glamorous appearance. The soap is absolutely wonderful, though.

The next soap was my first attempt at using powdered colorant. It didn't turn out quite right. The color was supposed to be added to the water at the beginning of the process. I missed that part of the instructions and ended up adding the powder at the very end, just before pouring into the molds. That's why it's speckled. It's a terrific soap though, scented with Love Spell "type" fragrance. I really like this scent-- rather citrus-y. It's one that I'll definitely be using in the future.

The soap all the way on the right is what the speckled soap was supposed to look like. Notice the pink color! That is what happens when you add the color at the correct time. LOL

The dark one has been named "Ugly Soap" because it is, well... pretty darned ugly, especially when compared to it's more attractive siblings. I used vanilla buttercream fragrance and added honey and oatmeal. The combination of vanilla fragrance and the honey is what turned the soap so dark. The final scent of this came out very earthy, in part because of the oatmeal.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Back to Normal

Many thanks to the folks at Bloglines who took the time to comment on my previous post. As it turns out, I didn't actually have to do anything. The list showed back up on my blog without any intervention from me. And the list at Bloglines itself is working just fine as well. It just seemed to be a temporary hiccup of sorts. All is back to normal now! :)

I'm still working on PIG and the LHN series, but I have gotten somewhat sidetracked from my stitching recently. You see, I am trying to get a bit of a business started. Really, it's just an extension of my hobbies, but I'm planning to sell, so I guess that makes it a business. LOL I'm working on soaps and jewelry at the moment, but I reserve the right to change my mind later. ;)

Lately the focus is soap, as I try to come up with just the right recipe. I'm already pretty close! Next will come scents. Any suggestions?

My first batch turned out quite nicely. It's honeysuckle scented. No color was added, because I wanted to see what the 'natural' color would be. I rather like it! I'm doing very small batches, until I get it just right. This one made 12 bars-- three of each one shown here.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Bloglines issues?

I track all of the blogs that I read through Bloglines. Admittedly, I haven't been reading blogs in quite a while-- not since I took 4 1/2 months off of work. I'm back at work, and into my regular routine again, so I was looking forward to catching up with everyone. But, much to my dismay, all of my subscriptions seem to have disappeared from Bloglines. I checked my blog to see what was listed there, and sure enough "Blogs I Read" is empty. It was all there yesterday!! I'm hoping that this is just a temporary Bloglines glitch. Otherwise I will have to attempt to recreate the lengthy lists of blogs that I follow.

So, to all of my fellow bloggers-- I miss reading your sites and will try to start commenting again regularly, just as soon as I find all of you again.

In the meantime, I returned to work on Monday. As of today, I am only partially set up to do my job. The office has moved to a new location. I knew this before I left and was not the least bit happy about the move. In fact, I was pretty close to leaving my job over it. I chose to take an extended leave of absence instead. In hindsight, I'm glad I did. As it turns out, the commute really isn't any worse (I hate admitting that!) and the office itself is better than what I left.

What I am not happy about is getting up in the mornings. I had gotten used to sleeping in until 9 or so in the morning, and 5:30 a.m. comes awfully early. I also wasn't thrilled about wearing "grown-up" clothes again. My work shoes had dust on them. I keep telling myself that it's good to have a routine, but I'm not yet convinced.