Working on the House

I’ve been busy.  I went to Kentucky twice to see my oldest daughter.  She graduated last Sunday with a Bachelors in Early Childhood Education and poised to take a job as a teacher for pre-school or Kindergarden for next Fall.  Meanwhile, she works at a private school for daycare/camp over the summer.  My younger daughter is finishing High school and had her first of two Proms tonight.

I’ve also been looking at job ads and planing a 3 part approach to income:  a local part time job, an Etsy store, and a writing (poetry and children’s books to keep it small for awhile). In addition to trying to build inventory and work on my art/writing skills, I’m cleaning up the house and getting rid of stuff.  Also, I’m trying to make the house more functional.  My bathtub was cleaned up several weeks ago.  And then, I filled it with curing soap.

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The picture above is a small sampling.  I had these racks and racks of soap and no room to wash my hand knits.  I moved some to the shelf across from the shower and realized that wasn’t going to do it.  It wasn’t enough room and it suddenly occurred to me that maybe less humidity would be better.

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So, I took an old shoe rack and mounted it on the wall with these copper brackets from the plumbing aisle at Home Depot.

 

I used these E-Z Ancor wall anchors because they worked by just hammering the anchor into the wall.  I chose them to cut out some steps.  As you can see from the photo, I was moderately successful with the anchors.  But since I didn’t check for studs that may have been the issue.  The anchors do split while you’re “nailing” them in if they run into too much resistance.

In the end, I have this great rack for drying and curing soaps in a cool dry room.

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And even though I won’t make soap to sell, I will continue to make soap for personal use, friends, and family.  I really love making it.  Its such a fun transformation to watch and play with.

So, I am slowly emptying out our storage units.  Plus, I am working towards some employment goals.  I will try and continue to add a blog post here and there.  Keep you up to date on my progress and add a pet picture once in awhile.

 

 

 

Bethandjune

 

 

This child just graduated High School.  The cat is still around-he survived the awkward hold just fine (its not as bad as it looks).  He’s our orange striped cat.

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Long time no Posts

Yeah, I haven’t been posting.  Sorry.  I’ve been looking for a job.  A little bit.

I made some bracelets (see below, not necklaces, but triple wrap bracelets).  I’ve made some silicone molds (they’re not pretty and I won’t show them to you.)  Some of those molds I used for epoxy resin.  I am working on a sculpture using a tree branch and vacuum tubes set in epoxy.  I’ll take some pictures of those things for s future post.

wrap bracelet

And, I’ve been considering seeing a dietician to help me with a FODMAP diet for my GI issues.  I’ve been having a resurgence of my IBS problems lately, so…  Its an elimination diet to address certain sugars.  FODMAP stands for Fermentable, Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols.  Yeah, say that 5 times fast.  Its kind of complicated.  Thus, the need for a dietician.

Of the 3 books I now own and the several websites I’ve been to, pretty much every single one has a slight difference in the list of yes and no foods.  Another reason for a dietician.  But, I need resolve myself to the cost or spend some time trying to see if I can get insurance to cover it.  Good stuff!!

Anyway, I am still trying to figure out where to go next with my life.  I’m considering opening an ETSY shop.  No decisions yet, though.

 

Save me from Pinterest

I am cruising Pinterest and I found these great ideas for bracelets. (Just see my Pinterest Other crafts board.)  And next thing I know, I’m buying supplies on Etsy and looking for patterns. So, yet again, I’m building supplies I don’t have room for.

In the big picture, this is small potatoes.  However, it makes me think about how 1) I have no income coming in and 2) how much I’m not doing about that.

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Sometimes, I feel like I spend my days wondering what to do with this mess I’ve made. I waffle between various options for a solution to the problem.  I keep looking for what feels right after a ‘lifetime’ of being in job where I felt like I wasn’t where I should be.  The items I’m considering are mainly focused on writing–modern fiction (novel or short story), time travel fiction, memoir, or poetry.

Then, as I noted in one of my soap posts, I considered making soap and selling it online. Its seems a simple transition.  With minimal effort on my art, I have 7 batches of soap. The smallest batch being 6 bars, I probably have more than 60 bars of soap.  Then, I thought maybe liquid soap would make more sense because its seems more popular in general.  I was considering this enough that I started reading some stuff on it and making some spreadsheets on costs verses going prices per bar.

 

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Before I got too far, however, I had my cooking moment on Super Bowl weekend.  Its not quite the same.  That is, I put the ingredients for soap together the night before, so I’m not on my feet for as much time as when I’m chopping tomatoes and such for pico de gallo.  So, maybe I could work around bad days and not over stress myself.IMG_1781 Maybe I could make soap a few times a week and keep up with demand.  I could start by giving away to friends and family (which will happen no matter what).

 

Then, I realized that starting even an online business requires a lot of effort–advertising and packaging.  More stock and actually writing down what I fragrance was used so I can make it again.  Further, Soap is regulated as a cosmetic by FDA (as this article from Soap Queen reminded me) and requires compliance with labeling requirements and good manufacturing practices, etc.  I probably wouldn’t be able to make soap in my kitchen for sale purposes.  I also watch Shark Tank and they always say starting a business doesn’t mesh with having a life.  I may not be that bad off.  I am not house bound, but I also have some limitations.

I also considered investment for a few weeks.  I took some money thats already invested in mutual funds and invested in some individual stocks.  I was following recommendations from a subscription investment service.  After reading the newsletters for several weeks, I realized that it bored me.  Not only that, but clearly if it was easy every one would be making money hand over fist.  Well, duh.  Why did it take me a month to figure that out?  I think my reasoning came from my craft experience–if you can give me instructions, I can learn it.  BUT, investing requires an ability to predict the future.  Plus, obviously, its just not the same as making a physical something.

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My daughter gave me a basic story line for the picture book we’re working on and I am having a resurgence in interest on that.  I’m trying to draw every day to help develop my skills and I am working on watercolor painting.  A part of me thinks this is crazy too, but I have been drawing for years just not seriously.  I used to sit in meetings and draw the people in the meeting (large meetings are great for this).  I drew my dogs and cats.  I bought my kids drawing books and showed them how to use them.  I really like doing this. Its fun to draw these pictures and if I work enough they feel like they look good.  And its okay even preferable maybe they look a little cartoon-y rather than realistic.  We are working on the text together.  

Maybe I can focus on this picture book and I’m also working on my poetry.  I want to try some traditional forms for poetry.  Two things seems a reasonable number of pursuits to put my energy into.

 

When Life is Stressfull

I’m tired.  In fact, I’ve been exhausted.

I’ve been busy.  You’ve seen my soap.  I’m also working on carving wood with the idea of using wood as a negative for a soap stamp.  And I’m doing some things with polymer clay that I have always planned to do:  mokume gane, making canes, etc.

I must say that my biggest issue this past week was feeling I am not very focused.  This leads to wondering if I can make a go out of anything when I am not directing my energy into one single pursuit.

I have to say, I’ve also done a smattering of other things, like looking at poetry including several poetry publications, discussing children’s book illustrations, and knitting.  So, yeah, headed off in like 5- 10 different directions.

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For the past week or so, I’ve had plans for Superbowl Sunday.  Its been awhile since I’ve made a good meal and football is the best excuse to eat snacks.  However, back in the fall, we gorged ourselves on a very excellent purchased meal of barbecue during a football game.  It didn’t go well.  While the food was fabulous, it was too much fat and salt and calories and we were miserable.  So, I made plans ahead of time to make good, tasty food for us for this Sunday.

The short of that is: I was on my feet for about 2 hours in the kitchen chopping tomatoes for salsa and making turkey meatballs.  This does not seem like a long time, but its long for me to be on my feet.  Standing.  It didn’t seem so bad until I sat down before I made the second batch of meatballs.

 

But, its not so much the fact that I hurt after standing so long.  What threw me off was the fact that I slept a full night Saturday and still felt tired on Sunday.  And there it is: My reminder that I am not my normal self.

I am afraid that if I push myself too far, I will take days to recover.  I can’t commit myself to a job.  I can’t commit myself to starting a business (selling soap–a passing thought) because I don’t know what will push me to far and leave me exhausted again.

Maybe my prime thoughts should be to test myself.  Instead of living in fear of what I don’t know.

 

 

Aside (as long as I was in the kitchen):  Poor Sarah, my cat keeps taking her clothes off.

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Keeping Busy II

So, my last post describes my soap making adventures after losing my dog, Tucker, and during the East coast Blizzard 2016.  This one continues that story.

Now we get to Tuesday, Day 5 of Snow captivity.  My daughter was going nuts and, thankfully, some friends came by to pick her up.  I have to check the car in back, but we appear to have been dug out back there.  FINALLY!

Its beautiful, but it makes it hard to leave your house, especially here in the Washington, DC area where our resources for snow removal are a little limited since we can go multiple winters with no appreciable snow.  The following picture is our back street (which was not plowed as of Monday night).  Yes, that is a street about 3 feet beyond the mailbox.

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Monday night (Day 4) and my daughter was done with this the day it started.  She was ready to be able to get out again and, truthfully, it seemed like everyone was dug out around us except for us.  Last night we found a Chinese restaurant willing to deliver to us after trying 3 different places.  That helped some.  However, they wanted cash and I said sure and then realized I needed to run out and get more money.  I walked to the bank (2 blocks or so) and found nothing open there.  But I was able to buy some fruit at the grocery store (same strip mall) and get cash.  They delivered while I was gone!!

At some point that night I started feeling a need to do something other than dishes and laundry.  I really really wanted to try another technique, like the Galaxy Clyde Slide or the Monarch Butterfly Swirl, both from Soap Queen (and Clyde Yoshida of Vibrant Soaps).  But, I decided to master the spin technique first and make sure that my slab mold was tight enough to hold the thin soap batter.

I played around with combining colors and scents on Monday night and prepped the oils and lye water.  I made a blue purple, a red violet, and a teal.  I mixed a little red into the base soap to make a light pink/rose.

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Being as I can’t leave things alone, I saved some soap for the top.  I dripped these leftovers on after I did the spin, which kind of ruined the effect of the spin.  BUT, it worked the way it was SUPPOSED TO and I am so excited.

I have 2 lessons from this pour.   First, leave well enough alone and put any extra into little silicone molds so as to not ruin what you’ve done.  Second, while I can premix dry pigments in a sunflower oil in small plastic cups the night before, this is not good with fragrance or essential oils.  I came into the kitchen Tuesday morning to the beautiful smell of a Jasmine blend.  It took me a few minutes, but eventually I noticed that the oil mix was all over my counter and a ring around the bottom of the cup had dissolved into a sticky white goo.  So, I may want to stick with glass for anything I mix together the night before.

I really have enough soap for now.  I aught to wait for time to pass to make sure it will not all be done curing at the same time (not that that will necessarily happen).  However, I am getting more supplies soon, so we’ll see if I can hold out.  I thought it would be the boutique oil recipes that would keep me coming back, but its the colors and swirl patterns that are making me want to make more.  It reminds me a bit of making tie-die shirts.  You’re never quite sure what it will look like until you un-mold it.  I love that aspect.

 

Keeping Busy

I should be writing or illustrating, but instead, I’m making things.  I wasn’t being productive at all.  My daughter wants to write a children’s book with me, but she is finishing her last semester of school and she’s very busy.  So, we are having trouble making much progress.  I’ve been drawing, but its here story and I feel stuck until we discuss the story further.

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This is my drawing comparing the lemon in my water at a restaurant to the christmas tree in the water my cats are drinking.

So, as I said, feeling stalled.  I’m working on my drawing, but I needed more, so I was finishing some projects and I made some more soap.  It also helped distract me from losing Tucker (separate post).  Four batches in about 10 days. And this is what I learned: I’m impatient.

So, scientific method says you change one thing in an recipe at a time to seem what effect the change has.  Instead, at least twice, I took the ingredients and changed the mold type and method of manipulating the soap.

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The first batch was simple, Lots of Lather recipe from Soap Queen.  I split the batch into mini batches and added different labcolors and fragrance.  It set pretty fast.  I was mushing the soap into silicone molds like frosting and trying to smooth it out.  The soap was ready to un-mold in less than 12 hours.

I figured I had basic soap under my belt and I wanted to do something more advanced.  I picked a spin technique mentioned on Soap Queen (search spin) and Aaron’s Hazelnut soap from the book Smart Soapmaking by Anne Watson.

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The picture shows the bottom of the soap.  The spin technique requires soap thats thin enough to move when the mold is moved.  This soap was too thick to move almost the minute I mixed the oils and the lye water together.  I picked great colors, but at the end, I wash (again) spreading soap like frosting.  I swirled the colors a little with a spatula about half to 3/4 of the way through.  But, apparently the bottom is still nearly all white (and the top is nearly all black).

I read some more and realized that if I wanted to spin my soap it needed to be thinner than other thin recipes.  So, I picked the recipe that Soap Queen uses for the Psychedelic Spin Swirl.   BUT, I wanted to use my 5 pound loaf mold.  The one from Bramble Berry with the removable bottom and then I would manipulate the colors a little with each other.  So, I made the lye water the night before and mixed together the oils ahead of time and I mixed it very, very lightly–all in the name of keeping the soap from getting too thick too fast.  Halfway through, I think maybe its not mixed enough, so I blend each color extra.  But, if I really didn’t mix it well, the oil to lye ratio might be wrong and I might end up with unusable soap (not to mention that each color might be a different composition).  The biggest problem, though, was that the soap leaked out of the mold.  Oops!  Bad recipe and mold combination!  I put extras soap in my silicone cube mold as (mostly) individual colors.

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There are some cracks in the loaf.  Plus, although I’ve started to un-mold, I had to stop because its too mushy.  You can see below that my cubes are mushy as well.

 

 

We will have to wait a few weeks to see how these turn out.

 

See my next post for more soap making.

I Lost a Friend

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Just about a week before our crazy snow storm, we had to put down one of our two dogs. Tucker had cancer of the lining of the spleen.  This cancer is unfortunately difficult to cure and we decided not to put him through surgery and chemo when his chances of recovery were very, very small.  Its also non-symptomatic until it grows enough to interfere with other organs in the abdomen.  At the beginning of December, he was not attacking his food with his usual enthusiasm, but it was also coming off as being distracted.  He was eating less and less and beginning to get lethargic and thats when we took him to the vet.

I feel guilty for not taking him sooner, but I’m not sure it would have mattered.  We might have caught it early enough to have a better chance of success with the operation and chemo.  However, my impression is that by the time its detectable, the odds are pretty low.  Besides, at this point, I can’t focus on what might have been.  We’ve spent the time since his death alternately crying/talking about him and trying to occupy ourselves and his sister, Molly.  We have spent a lot more time with Molly, like nearly every minute for the first few days.  The time spent with her has been beneficial for all of us.

So, I had to write a poem about him:

 

Tucker

So, this is it

Sudden and abrupt

One day you are listless

The next we know

Its cancer

And we are saying

Goodbye my friend

 

Two weeks ago

I wondered why you

Weren’t racing to

Finish your food

Two weeks ago

You were normal

Stealing things

Off the counter

Chasing your sister

Around the yard

Pulling on your leash

To catch up

 

At home

I see your sister

And she reminds me

Those same brown eyes

Same short eyelashes

That I looked at

As I said goodbye

Tried to memorize

Your face

Felt the lost muscle

In your legs

How big the mass

In your belly was

 

At home is Molly

She looks like you

Her color whiter

But the same fur

Same way of

Putting her paws

On the counter

My heart stops

I wanna cry but

She is my baby too

 

 

Now you’re gone

She makes this cry

I’ve never heard before

She wants us with her

She’s lonely

Your human family cries too

And we talk about

Our memories

How you let Molly

Do the barking

And crate opening

But you were faster

At catching ice cubes

 

We love you

We miss you

We will always miss you