Smelling good! My soaps from @SoapDaze


Remember a few weeks ago I shared details of my soap making workshop with @SoapDaze, well today I collected my soaps! I love the colours made by the bladderwrack and clay and the blend of sandlewood with mandarin is delicious. I also think the pup approves as she gave them a good sniff as I was trying to get some pictures! 

Make it Monday: Gone fishing!

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Over Christmas I bought the toddler some candy canes which we put in a cup and ‘fished’ for using a keyring hoop on some string. They were cheap canes and really not tasty (even the pup refused to munch them!) which is one of the reasons they have lasted so long but they finally all broke.

The toddler was rather disappointed as she loved her ‘fishing’ game so I was really thankful to find this tutorial from Handmade Gifts Made Easy! It’s a fairly simple pattern and I decided to reuse the fabric from one of my first ever sewing projects (a simple A-line dress I sewed for the toddler to wear to swim classes. Looking back, there’s wonky lines, unpressed and incorrectly sewn seams BUT she loved it and seemed happy I was going to use some of her favourite fabric). Given it’s covered in some of her favourite ocean life, it seemed fitting for a fishing game.

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One of the first items I ever sewed! Sadly the toddler has outgrown it so I’m reusing the fabric

The tutorial comes with a pattern for the fish but due to some printer issues, I decided to make my own. As you can see, it was very high-tech and properly measured.

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I used a coaster to create my fish

The toddler was already excited when I started cutting the fish out and was determined to help me sew them together. For this reason I didn’t pin them as they do in the tutorial. (Before anyone comments, when the toddler ‘helps’ me sew, she sits under the table and works the foot paddle with me, however, I don’t like to use pins if I know little fingers are around!). I also didn’t want to create a ‘worm’ on the hook because my magnet was very small and I was worried it might not have the strength to pick up the fish so used some of the fabric offcuts.

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With my helper at the paddle, the fish were quickly sewn and before I had a chance to stuff and close them the toddler had ‘caught’ a few and was off! She had a fun half an hour or so until bed time, catching them, showing us what fish she’d caught.

Once little fingers were safely in bed I got my sewing needles out and finished off the fish, putting a little stuffing in each before I sewed them up. My sewing is in no way as neat as the ‘Gifts Made Easy’ team but they do provide a helpful video if you want to do a neater job than I did.

The next morning the toddler headed straight for her fishing kit and all through breakfast kept ‘fishing’. It’s proven to be one of her favourite toys (as her homemade gifts often are) and as it’s so neat and small, it’s one I can pop in my bag to keep her entertained while we’re out and about. Hopefully it last longer than the candy canes!

Have you made any games for your youngsters? Feel free to share photos or links in the comments.

 

Make it Monday: silk weaving in Laos


Facebook is telling me it’s nine years (NINE YEARS! Honestly, where does time go?) since I did my silk weaving class at Ock Pop Tok in Laung Prabang, on the Mekong River in Laos.

Ock Pop Tok (East meets West) is a social enterprise where local women are employed to teach traditional textile crafts. It was still in its infancy when we were there so I’m really pleased to see from their website that they’re continuing to do well as I have such fond memories of my day there and the amazing staff who taught me with such humour and patience. 
I remember there’s a stunning garden where my guide taught me about traditional silk dying, and the plants used. We collected different plants and I dyed skeins (does silk come in skeins like wool? Let me know below) of silk which I’ve still got on display.


Then it was on to the silk weaving. I’m not going to pretend I understand the machine – it was a large contraption with more threads going everywhere than Shelob’s lair! I remember it being a little tricky feet, as I needed to press each paddle (again, sorry to any weavers if I’m using the wrong terminology) to move the threads and create the pattern. Once in the ‘swing’ it was surprisingly quick to create my piece. 

I chose a ‘naga’ pattern, a traditional Buddhist symbol which I was told was a protective, wise deity. 

And here’s my finished piece! Happy to say it’s still pride of place, currently in our bedroom. So many happy memories. 


Have you visited Ock Pop Tok? What did you make? Have you tried any local crafts on your travels? Let me know in the comments below. 

Make it Monday: Soap with Soap Daze

Soap making

You’ll remember a few weeks ago I ran out of soap, so used ‘melt and pour’ goats milk soap. The results were fine and I’ve been happily scrubbing with the coffee grounds, but I didn’t really know what was in the soap and was keen to learn to do it properly.

Luckily I know Sharon, owner and maker of ‘Soap Daze‘ based in Devon. She’s been making natural soaps for about six years and having bought (and recommended!) some of her soaps in the past, when she announced she was running courses to learn how to make soap, I knew I wanted to try.

My friend Jo (@handmadebyjo seriously, read the rest of this, then go and check out her beautiful crafts. I mean it!) and I booked. We arrived at Sharon’s ‘she-shed’, her converted garage in her garden and got to work (over multiple cups of tea and yummy home-made biscuits).

Sharon took us through the history and basics of cold process soap making, how the oils bond with the lye and transform during a process called saponification to make soap. It was really interesting to learn that different oils have a different saponification figure, relating to the quantity of lye you need to add. The only downside was that we needed to do some working out, which first thing on a Saturday wasn’t my strong point!

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Getting to work measuring out my oils

Sharon has a huge variety of ingredients, with base oils including cocoa butter, coconut oil and hemp oil to name a few. I chose avocado oil, olive oil, help oil and sweet almond which I’m hoping will produce a very rich, moisturising soap. Added to that, some rhassoul mud and bladderwrack seaweed, mostly because I like the names (seriously, don’t they sound like the villain in a DC comic?) and mandarin and sandalwood essential oils. It was lots of fun sniffing all the different essential oils and choosing our ‘top notes’, and ‘base notes’. Jo chose cocoa butter, olive oil and avocado oil, with grapefruit and black pepper essential oils.

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Mixing my oils

The first part was to heat the base oils, then preparing the lye (something I’d been a little worried about but Sharon gave us clear instructions and wrapped up in gloves, an apron and protective glasses we mixed  the lye with water before monitoring its temperature.

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Mixing the lye with water. I was amazed at how much heat it gave off!

Once both the base oils and the lye were at the same temperature we mixed them together using a hand blender until we were able to achieve ‘trace’, when the mixture has formed a custard-like consistency. It was really interesting watching the changing colour of the mixture. In went the essential oils and it smelled soooooo good! (I think mandarin and sandalwood may be my new favourite combination!)

 

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Looking for a trace of trace

Finally it was time to pour the soaps into the block. A little tricky as I’m a bit cack-handed at the best of times but managed it. I poured half the mixture in, then blended the rhassoul mud and bladderwrack seaweed with the remainder before adding that, hopefully in a way that it will create an interesting pattern once the soap is cut. Sharon then wrapped up our soaps, explaining that they need to sit for at least three days before being cut and cured.

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Adding my rhassoul mud and bladderwrack seaweed

So now we have to wait for three weeks! I’ll let you know how our soaps turn out.

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My soap, poured into the block

Have you made cold process soap? Do you have any recipe ideas? Or have you tried the melt and pour? Let me know in the comments below.

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I up-cycled some Soap Daze packaging to make the toddler a ‘Matchbox Doll’

Disclaimer: Sharon is a friend. However, I paid for the soap making course (bought during a promotional phase run by Sharon) and all thoughts, photos and opinions are my own.

 

Make it Monday: Bath Bombs!

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It’s a bath explosion! I’m going to a friends wedding soon and it’s my first night away from the toddler EVER so I’m feeling a bit unsettled (she’ll be fine with daddy and the pup, but I’ll definitely miss bedtime snuggles!). However, every cloud has a silver lining and as I’m staying in a hotel, I thought I’d make myself some bath bombs to enjoy while I have a (hopefully) uninterrupted bath.

I’ve been making my own bath bombs with the toddler for a while. She loves measuring out the ingredients, selecting the essential oils and then mixing the assorted ingredients. It’s  a fun, not-too-messy activity which teaches her about measuring, different ingredients and scents and also the pleasure of using what we’ve made come bath time.

As these were going to be a little treat for me, I decided to use some Himalayan Pink Salt, which is supposed to be a good detox tool. The mix of sweet orange and clove is delicious, and definitely one of my favourites, although it’s a tough choice between that and jasmine.

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There’s a lot of recipes out there (and I’ve tried a number, including one which used coconut oil which left my skin soft but the bath a mess!) but this is the one that’s been working for me.

  • one cup of bicarbonate of soda
  • half cup of citric acid
  • quarter cup of Himalayan Pink Salt (or Epsom Salts)
  • Witch hazel in a spray bottle
  • Essential oils

Measure the dry ingredients into a large bowl and mix well, making sure there’s no clumps. Add your essential oils, approximately 15 drops, but I added 15 of both the orange and clove. Mix well to ensure they’re evenly distributed. Keep mixing and spray witch hazel over your ingredients. I generally do a couple of sprays, mix and see if they’re clumping together, if not I’ll do a few more sprays, then see again if it’s going to bind together. One thing I’ve found is using the salts, I need more witch hazel to get the ingredients to bind that I do when I just use the bicarbonate of soda and citric acid. Once it starts to clump in your hand, start pressing it into moulds. I’ve found cookie cutters to be best as they hold their shape while I firmly press the ingredients into it. Silicone moulds tend to bulge and the bath bombs then crumbled when I pressed them out. Gently press the bath bombs onto a rack to dry overnight.

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I really love the flecks of pink from the Himalayan Pink Salt. Don’t they look pretty?

I store my bath bombs in a pot in the bathroom. They’re so much more cost effective than those bought in stores, plus the toddler and I love experimenting with colours and scents – we even added a cup of ‘Lustre’ from Lush to create beautiful golden swirls in the water.

Have you made your own bath bombs? What’s your recipe? Let me know in the comments below!

Make it Monday: Melt & Pour Soap

It’s a few weeks until my soap making course with Sharon from Soap Daze and as we’re running low in Casa CH, I thought I’d try ‘melt & pour’ soap. I’d seen a recipe of Garden Therapy which I had followed and made for gifts but this time I thought I’d try something a little different.

I’ve become a huge fan of ‘Thieves Oil’ and I’ll write a longer post about the benefits of this fantastic blend at a later date, but given it’s anti-fungal, anti-biotic and assorted other benefits, I knew I wanted to use this oil in my soap. Given the assorted ways we get mucky here, from paint to soil to dog drool, I knew we’d need something gently abrasive to remove even the most stubborn food or paint. Luckily hubby has started drinking filtered coffee again so we have plenty of coffee grounds (if you’ve got some lying around, mix them two parts coffee to one part coconut oil, then add an essential oil such as lavender. Use as the most scrummy body scrub!). 

But back to my soap! Melt and pour soap is incredibly easy to use. Measure out the amount you need (approx 200g made six small soaps but it depends on your moulds). I used a measuring jug for ease of pouring. Pop your soap into the microwave and set on a high heat for 30seconds (or as per pack instructions). Keep microwaving at 30seconds intervals until it’s fully melted. 

Mix in your essential oil and any other ingredients. I’ve found that the soap can set quite quickly so it’s best to have everything ready to go, but if you don’t, don’t fret, simply pop it back into the microwave to melt it again. The soap smells lovely, but was extra delicious when I added the coffee grounds and thieves oil. I gave it a thorough mix and started to pour. As expected the coffee grounds settled rather quickly so next time I’ll wait a until just as the soaps starting to set before adding them. I ppped the moulds into the fridge overnight to make sure they set fully.when I popped them out of the moulds, the coffee grounds had settled but I love the colour differences and they smell delicious. And, the best bit is, we’ve got super duper clean hands! 

Happy Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day! Hope you’re celebrating all the wonderful things our amazing planet has to offer. I’m ‘celebrating’ by making a few pledges – will you join me?

  • Reduce the amount of non-recyclable plastic we use, specifically food sold in bags such as crisps, portions of fruit or other ‘snack’ foods. This may be a little tricky as the toddler (and I!) will grab a bag of fruit, crisps or other snack while we’re out or if I’m packing our lunch box for the day. Yes, it’s convenient BUT I’ve got a growing stack of unrecyclable bags & packaging which is just thrown away;
  • Be more water conscious. This covers different things. 1. Nothing is more fun than water play with the toddler and I do try to use any water not soaking us to water the plants. Continue doing this. 2. I’ve been conscious that we’re a mucky family, muddy dog walks, cloth nappies and my propensity to spill every drink over myself means we create a lot of washing. I was reading up about the damage certain washing powders do to waterways so I’ve switched to ‘ecoleaf‘ which is derived from plant extracts, is biodegradable and doesn’t contain harmful chemicals. It’s been working pretty well, I just need to be a bit more organised so I don’t run out & end up running to my local shop to buy some cheap chemical-filled powder. 
  • Continue to reduce, reuse and recycle. I’m aiming to throw away less than one bag of rubbish per fortnight by the end of the year.
  • Buy ethical clothes, repair my old stuff and make my own! This is a bit of a biggie for me at the moment. It’s been brought home how much stuff we go through having the toddler – children grow like magic beans! I’ve already started making her some skirts (see my Instagram for pictures) and I’m planning to reuse the fabric when she grows out of them. The pieces I have bought for her are normally second hand or I try to buy quality pieces as I’ve found items from ‘bargain’ stores fall apart their first wear. Hubby and I also have a bad habit of wearing through jeans so I’ve learned how to repair them – I’ll let you know how I get on! I have taken a skirt-making course which was really interesting, and following it I made myself a lovely skirt so have bought some fabric in order to make some more.
  • Going chemical free with all our cleaning products. Obviously we put child locks on the cupboards when we had the toddler, but I got to thinking, if I don’t want her to get into the cupboards due to all the dangerous chemicals in there, do I really want to use them in the first place? I’ve switched to using vinegar more (and have sparkling glass to show for it!) which is great as the toddler is going through a ‘helping’ stage where she wants to help with EVERYTHING! I’m definitely not going to say no to free labour so using no chemicals has been great as I can let her spray vinegar onto the windows and if a bit goes on her finger, I’m not overly worried – the worse thing is she smells a bit like a chip shop till bath time! 
  • Making my own toiletries. This is linked to both the taking care of water but also going chemical free.  Your skin absorbs anything placed on it in less than a minute so wouldn’t it be nicer to be placing something natural on it rather than things you can barely pronounce? I’ve been making handcream and recently made myself a moisturiser which is lovely and doing wonders for certain wrinkles! I need to do a bit more reading around this though to learn more about different butters, waxes and oils. It’s exciting as I can choose the scents of my products (I’m currently addicted to frankincense and orange) but with the added benefit that I’m saving a fortune!

So those are my pledges. What are yours?