Friday, August 24, 2012

Mmmmm. Soapy Spoiling.

I am a very pampered and spoiled woman.  Look at these beautiful products that my far away friend Tina sent me.  Tina and I had our own little private swap.  These are the luxurious goodies she sent to me.

The Cuban Coffee Soap is the soap in the back.  It smells very yummy.  I just love coffee fragrance.  I am pretty sure Tina saved this bar just for me.  It's a very pretty bar in person, with piped soap on the top.  It looks good enough to eat.  The lather is very fluffy and silky.  The soap is made with a wonderful blend of vegetable and animal oils, and cow and goat's milk.  It left my skin feeling great.  I have used Tina's soap's years ago.  I loved them then, and I love them even more now.  Tina is an exceptional soapamaker.  Her's are some of my favorite soaps ever.  In my opinion, better than most other people's handmade soaps.

The whitish bar is a Mineral Salt Spa soap.  I can't wait to try it!  It smells yummy with a gentle fragrance.  And is full of Pink Himilayan Sea salt.  What a fun salt to try in a salt bar.  She was kind enough to give me the recipe she used for this bar, so I can test it out.  I made a salt bar a little while back.  I liked it, but don't love it yet.  So it will be fun to compare and see how the differences in our recipes affect the final bar.  One day I hope to come up with a salt bar that I really like a lot.

This was my first time trying Tina's Lip Bomb.  It is fantastic!  And is full of really pampering ingredients, such as Avocado oil, cocoa butter, mango butter, and shea butter (three butters!!) and more.  I  really like the texture of this balm.  I think it is the perfect balance between hard  and soft, and so smooth.  The Vanilla flavor and fragrance complement this balm well too.  It soothes as you put it on, and protects the lips nicely.  I am very impressed with this lip balm.

The sugar scrub smells delicious.  I have only tried it on my hands so far.  I am waiting for this weekend to do an all over pampering session with it.  On my hands it was great.  Nice scrubbing action, without just enough oil to be moisturizing.  It is made with saponified oils of Jojoba Oil and Cocoa Butter.   That must be why the oils and sugar are not all separating and messy.  I think it is a great scrub and I can't wait to try it out.

The Cocoa Butter Cream is probably my favorite thing that Tina sent.  Oh my goodness!  It is so nice.  Tina makes wonderful lotion.  It is creamy and rich and feels really good on the skin.  It has a great slip and is not too oily.  It sinks in quickly enough, with just the right amount of moisturizing feel after you rub it in.  It is very indulgent with Cocoa Butter, Jojoba, Coconut oil, and Aloe.  I love how it feels, but most of all, I just LOVE the fragrance.  The blend of essential oils is heavenly.  They are all luxury essential oils such as sandalwood, and neroli.  I can't remember the rest of them, because I am not at home now and I can't look right now.
But there are about 5 really nice fancy essential oils in this cream.  Tina has a talent for blending them.  I smelled so delicious last night!

Tina is the owner of Essentially Made Soap Company in Lake Orion Michigan.  She can hook you up with some really wonderful pampering products.

Thank you Tina!

Friday, June 22, 2012

My Favorite Cookies

I'm putting my favorite cookie recipe here for safe keeping.  I actually got this recipe from a friend many years ago.  I always use it when I make Chocolate Chip cookies.  It is not the goody kind of cookie.  It's more of a firm, but not hard cookie that has a very good taste.  I think it is the best!  And so good with milk.

I actually think this recipe calls for too many chocoate chips.  So you can probably cut back on them a bit.  I usually do.

1 cup shortening (I use butter flavor)
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar 
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla
1 TBS. water, warm
3 cups flour, sifted
1/4 tsp. salt
14 oz chocolate chips
1 cup walnuts

Dissolve baking soda in warm water. Cream shortening and sugars together.   Add eggs and mix until well blended.   Combine flour and salt, add to batter a little at a time.   Stir soda water and vanilla in for moisture.   Add chips and nuts.   Drop by rounded teaspoon on a greased cookie sheet and and bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.   

In my oven 10 minutes is usually long enough, so check them.   They are good when they are just barely golden on the edges.

Also I like to keep the cookie size fairly small that is why I use a teaspoon instead of a table spoon to drop them onto the cookie sheet.   The smaller cookies have a nice texture when they are cooked.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

All The Way From Austria

Look what I got in the mail!! All the way from Austria!

These last few months I have tried to participate in a weekly soap making challenge hosted by Amy at Great Cakes Soapworks.  I was not able to do every weekly challenge, but I did a few.  And the ones I haven't been able to do yet, I will try on my own over time.  At the end of the challenges Amy hosted a swap and paired us up with soapmakers from around the world.   

My swap partner is a lady named Marina who lives in Austria.  And this is the lovely package of beautiful goodies that she sent me!  We were only supposed to send one or two bars.  But Marina sent me a whole box full of things.  There are 5 lovely soaps, a bunch of handmade gift tags, some cute stickers and a reindeer post card.  It was almost like Christmas opening this package and finding all these treasures inside.  

Each bar was labeled with a cigar band label and on the back of each label was written the ingredients.  I am excited because Marina has used some ingredients that I have never used yet, like Rice Bran oil, Palm Kernal oil and Babassu oil.  Each bar looks like it has different ingredients.  The one I decided to use first is the one labeded Sea.  It is the blue bar.  The smell is fantastic and has a smooth creamy texture.  It has a fresh fragrance with what smells to me like a touch of clove.  There is also a decorative imprint stamped into the side. 

Click on the picture above to see how beautiful the soaps are!  I took the wrappers off long enough to take a picture and then replaced the wrappers.  The swirls are so pretty.  The yellow Lemon Parfait bar is colored in a soft gradient from darker yellow to almost white.  It also has some very pretty gold sparkles on top,  The Tropica bar (red and yellow) has a touch of red sparkle on top also.  All the bars have very pretty swirls. 

Thank you Marina!  I love these soaps.  And I had such a fun time with this swap.  Your package that I sent you should be to you any day now.  I hope you enjoy what I sent.  I of course love the soaps you sent me.  And the tags are so beautiful and I know they must have taken a lot of time to make.  Thanks for the stickers.  I will share them with my grandchildren.  Thank you for all your hard work.   

Thursday, May 24, 2012

My Tutorial For the Best Lip Balms Ever

Here is my secret recipe for my super wonderful and famous (to my friends and family) lip balms.  They are the best ever.  I am not just being conceded.  They really are the best. They are a treat for your lips.  I am going to tell you how I make them.  I don't have pictures now.  I may add some to this post later.

I totally cheat on making my lip balms.  I use Majestic Mountain Sage's  Lip Solutions and doctor them up with just a few ingredients.  There are a few formulas to choose from.  My favorite is the Shea Butter formula.  But I also like the Mango Butter formula.  These bases are $8 a jar, (plus shipping) and each jar fills about 55 lip balm tubes.  You could use the bases just as they come, but I like my lip balms a tad firmer than the base alone.  So I add beeswax to firm it up a bit.  You could also use Candelilla wax if you'd like. It has a higher melting temperature than bees wax.  Some people like it for hot areas so it won't melt in hot weather as easily.  I also like to add a tiny bit of Allantion.  Allantion is a powder that helps skin heal quickly.  It is pretty amazing stuff.  The final thing I add is a little bit of Peppermint Essential oil.  I love the cool feel it adds to lip balms.

Here is my recipe.  Feel free to adjust the measurements as you please.  I never really did follow a recipe until my husband wrote down what we used as we made lip balms one time.  He likes exact recipes, and I like to just wing it.

Melt the base in a pan of water on the stove, or in the microwave.  You want to melt it, but not over heat it.  Overheating could kill the properties of all the beneficial oils in the lip balm.  So stir often.  If you use the microwave, stop it every 30 seconds or so and give it a stir.  

Add the Allantion to the base and stir the best you can.  It doesn't mix in very well, but I don't worry about it.  It usually mixes in well enough and I never notice pockets of it in my lip balms.

Melt the beeswax in the microwave.  Stop the microwave every 30 seconds or so and stir it so it does not overheat.  Again because you don't want to kill the beneficial properties of the beeswax with too much heat. Beeswax needs to be quite hot before it will melt.  So be careful.  You will need a hot pad.  I use a small glass dish to melt mine in.  I have also used a glass or ceramic mug.  This is hard to clean out when you are done.  But with enough hot water and scraping, it will eventually clean out of your dish.

Add the peppermint.  Make sure your lip balm base is not too hot, because Peppermint Essential oil has a flash point of 160 degrees F.  That means it will evaporate if it reaches that temperature.  Then you won't have the benefits of the peppermint in your lip balm.  Sometimes I like to use Double Mint Essential Oil from Pine Meadows in Provo, Utah.  The Double Mint is a blend of Peppermint and Spearmint that is softer than just peppermint alone.  It seems sweeter to me too.  In fact, Pine Meadows also has some nice lip balm bases too.  I use them about the same as I do the Lip Solutions.

I like to test what the lip balm will be like when it is cool before I put it into tubes.  The way I do this is I drip a drop onto a plate and then let it cool.  It cools very quickly.  Then I rub my finger in it to see how hard it is.  If I want it harder, I add more wax.  Then I rub it onto my lips to feel if it has enough peppermint.  If it is not pepperminty enough, I add more.  A little peppermint goes a long way so be careful you don't overdo it.

Use a disposable Transfer Pipette to squeeze the hot melted lip balm into Lip Balm containers.  My kids like tubes because it keeps dirty fingers out of the lip balm.  But I think the little jars are cute and fun to use too.  (Be sure to order lids if they don't come with the tubes.)

The best way to fill a lip balm container is to not fill it completely all at once.  If you do that, as it cools, it will make an ugly little sink hole at the top and not look pretty.  I love the look and feel of a fresh new lip balm that is slightly domed over the top of the container and smooth, with the slightest little dimple in the center.  The way to get this finish is to fill your tubes almost to the top of the screw stick on the inside of the container.  Let the balm cool till it is opaque.  Then top it off again with more hot melted lip balm, filling it till the tube is so full that it domes over the top of the tube slightly.  As the balm cools it will turn smooth and shiny with the pretty little indent in the center.

Be sure your second layer of lip balm is hot as you add it to the top.  If you add it when it is just warm and still melted,. then it will not bond with the first layer of balm and break off later as you are using it.   As you fill your containers, you will most likely need to reheat the jar of balm in the microwave for a few seconds every now and then.  Or if you used the stove to melt it, just keep the jar in the hot pan of water.  It will stay hot longer.  If it gets too hot when you microwave it, you may even want to add a little more peppermint.  You can always test it again by dripping it onto a plate and letting the drip cool.

After your balms are cooled in the containers.  Wipe the outside clean with a damp paper towel, being careful not to mess up the pretty finish of the top, and put the lids on.  I like to shrink wrap my tubes and store them in the refrigerator in a ziplock baggie until they are needed.  It will keep them fresh for a very long time.  I am not sure the shelf life of a handmade lip balm, but I think if it was clean and unopened and stored in the fridge, you could probably store it for a year or so.  Since they are made with food grade oils, most of the oils probably have a shelf life of 6 months if not refrigerated.  So storing them in the fridge greatly improves the shelf life.  Sometimes I like to decorate my lipbalm tubes with cute little stickers.  It makes them fun and cute and people love them that way as a gift.

That is it!  If you give these to your friends and family, they will never again be satisfied with regular store bought lip balms again.


If you ever want to try making a lip balm from scratch, and not use a pre-made base, here is a rough formula for designing your own recipe.

40% Liquid Oil -such as Sweet Almond, Apricot, Avocado, Grape Seed, Hemp, Macadamia Nut, Sunflower or Soy.

25% Solid Oil - such as Shea Butter, Mango Butter, Coconut Oil, Palm Oil, Almond Butter or Lanolin.

20% Wax - such as Beeswax or Candelilla wax

15% of Brittle Oil - such as Cocoa butter, Kokum Butter or Palm Kernel Oil.

These percentages are by weight.  Try any combination of oils to equal the percentages.  The oils listed are just a suggestion.  You can use any combination of any food grade vegetable or animal oil.  It is pretty fun to experiment with this as a guide

Monday, May 7, 2012

Strawberry Freezer Jam

In this week's Bountiful Basket, we were able to buy 2 flats of strawberries.  So Brent and I made Strawberry Freezer Jam.  

 Brent wouldn't pose for me, so I wasn't able to get a good picture of him making jam.  He is a good jam maker.
Freezer jam is very easy to make.  And the taste is so good!  Since the jam is not cooked, it has a flavor that is more like fresh strawberries.  

We made 23 freezer bags of Strawberry jam, enough to share with our kids.  Maybe I will need to make some homemade bread to go with.  Oh how yummy they would be together!  

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Better Late than Never-- Beer and Myrtle Soaps

I recently joined (or tried to join) a fun soapmaking challenge put on by Amy Warden at Great Cakes Soapworks. Every week she posts a new soapmaking challenge.  There are over 93 soapmakers from around the world participating in her challenges.  It was pretty hard for me to keep up with the weekly challenges.  I have been trying to adjust and keep up with my changing life.  I recently moved and have been trying to set up my home.  And I now have 2 hours a day in commute time since I moved further away from work.  I have a new calling in church as a Primary Teacher.  (Surprising to me, I love being a Primary Teacher.)  I really enjoy making handmade soaps.  It's been a passion of mine for quite a few years now.  The last couple of years though, I have had a hard time finding the time to make it.  I hoped that these weekly challenges would give me some extra inspiration, and help me to rekindle my soapmaking hobby.  

This first picture is of some soap my kids really like.  They are made with a handcrafted beer that a co-worker friend of mine made.  I don't drink beer, but beer makes a lovely soap.  And making it with a special handcrafted beer was extra fun.  The darker one is scented with Almond fragrance, and the slightly lighter one is scented with Lavender Apples and Oak.  They both smell very nice, especially the Almond one.  I think it is one of my favorite fragrances.  Beer may sound like a strange thing to make soap with.  But it actually adds a few nice qualities to the soap.  I love how creamy the lather is.  And since beer is made with hops and other grains, it makes the soap soothing to the skin.   
 This second soap is one I made with half and half and aloe juice instead of the goat's milk I normally use.  I had meant to scent these with Vanilla Hazelnut, but I grabbed the wrong fragrance on accident.  So these are scented with Myrtle fragrance oil.  I actually like the fresh clean unisex fragrance of Myrtle, although the name has something to be desired,  It smells like a fresh herbal soap.  Normally I would not color a Myrtle soap brown.  But now that I made them this way, it seems to work.  The swirls turned out very nice this time.  My molds are vertical molds made from rain gutter downspouts.  These soaps were swirled in the pot using cocoa powder for the colorant.  The Myrtle soaps are made with deer tallow.  I like the texture a good tallow adds to soaps and deer tallow is one of my favorites.  So I am excited for these to cure so I can use them.
Although I have not been able to keep up with the challenges on a weekly basis, I do plan on trying a few of the challenges in my own time.  One I am especially excited to try is piping the soap out of a pastry bag.  Some of the other soapmakers that did that challenge made some extraordinarily beautiful soaps.  I also would love to try the funnel pouring method or the faux funnel pour.  I use will need to get some regular log molds so I can try these.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Pretty Spanish Fork Trail

This is the pretty trail I ran this morning.  There is a river that runs alongside it.  I am liking Spanish Fork so far.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Bears to Cuddle

Okay, Don't look at how awful I look in this picture.  I was on the early morning shift and had not done my hair or makeup yet.  Just notice that wonderful little creature in my arms.  How cool is this.  I got to hold a baby bear!  I really have always wanted to do that.  At work today they had two little bear cubs on the morning news show.  The bears were two months old and so cute!  They liked to roll around, and be cuddled and suck on people's neck and hands.  They were so cute to watch.  After news I went over to the studio to try to pet one.  But I didn't just get to pet one, I also got to hold it!  I got to cuddle it up to my face and sniff it.  It didn't quite smell like puppies.  And I also found out that I am not allergic to baby bears like I am to some dogs.  Their fur is soft, but not as soft as I thought it would be.  It was a bit more wiry than I thought it would be, and very thick.  The bear made a very cute growl/purr noise as it was sleeping in my arms.  It was louder and rougher and more vibratey than a cat's purr.  The handler told me that bears make that sound when they are happy.  And sometimes even the adults will do this purr.  One bear that a co-worker got to hold was  sucking on her neck.  It was so cute!  I love bears!  

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Raised Donuts, From Scratch!

It's been close to two years since I have blogged.  I've actually missed it quite a bit.  I like having a place to put thoughts and share things about my life.  I did enjoy my old blog.  But I think it is a good time in my life to start a new one.  So here I go! 

Look at what Christy and I made.  And they are homemade, from scratch!  I didn't even know it was possible to make RAISED Donuts from scratch.  My dad had always made cake donuts when I was a kid.   (Fun times.)  And they were very yummy.  But a plain old raised donut is my all time favorite!  My sister-in-law Dione showed me that you can make these by yourself, using your favorite bread dough recipe.  

Since we are moving this weekend, most of my kitchen supplies were packed.  I didn't have any measuring spoons.  So I had to cook like my mother taught me.  She cooks with out measuring and she is a very good cook.    So I had to just guess on a few measurements.  But the dough turned out very good.  

Christy rolled and cut the donuts. 

Notice we did not have a donut cutter.  
So Christy used a cup for the outer circles, and a clean pill bottle for the donut holes.
We rolled some in cinnamon sugar, and made a simple glaze, and some we dipped in chocolate.  The bread recipe is this one: Rich Egg Bread It was in my cookbook that of course was packed.  So I was glad to find my recipe right online!   Although I think the donuts look great, they did not look anything as good as Dione's donuts.  Her's were a beautiful work of art.  But these donuts were so tasty!