Friday, November 27, 2009

Alchemic Muse Handmade Soaps

My sample pack of goodies from Alchemic Muse
A couple of weeks ago I was browsing through Etsy and decided I needed to purchase some soap. You're probably thinking..."Doesn't she make soap already? Why would she buy it if she can make it?" You're right...I could make soap....in fact, I make a lot of soap...but I don't make this particular soap!

You see, each soap maker has a different imagination and uses different ingredients. If you truly love soap, you feel the need to smell and experience ALL kinds of soap. And lots of it!

I ended up ordering from three companies and one of them was Alchemic Muse.

Some of Alchemic Muses Soaps

Well! Once again, I wasn't disappointed. When I ordered, I couldn't decide which ones to pick so I asked Karen to pick for me. The order was for 4 quarter size bars but Karen threw in a couple of slivers of some others as well. I'm so glad she did because my two favorites are from the little slivers...don't get me wrong...they are all fantastic! But Loukoum and Ginger Cake...well, they take the cake!! I just love the smell of those two. Yummy!

Now about the lather. Another Wow! It starts off with some big bubbles and then progresses into a thick frothy foam. Very rich and creamy. To die for actually!

I like that her labels list all the ingredients and I noticed that all the soaps I received are palm free. Instead she uses cocoa, mango and shea butters. No wonder they feel so great!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Mouse in the house!

Just so there's no confusion...I do not like rodents! Sorry, but I really don't....at least not as pets. When I was 7, a girlfriend put her pet...something...gerbil I think, up to my big toe while I wasn't looking and the little monster bit me! Made me bleed and everything.

Lately, a mouse has been getting into one of the cupboards in our house. How do I know? Because it has been leaving little presents behind for me to find in the morning. Yuck!

We bought some traps. We set the traps. No mice. Nothing. Figures, right?

Then the other night while my husband was out by the garbage cans, he hears this rustling sound. He looks in the can and sure enough there are two little creatures sitting in the bottom. And darn it, they are alive!! And they look cute!! Smelly, but cute.



It's one thing to dispose of a dead little creature once you have trapped it. It's another thing entirely to have to actually kill something that looks at you like this. Not going to happen.

Even my big, gruff, tree climbing man didn't even consider disposing of these two little guys. Nope....gave them some toilet paper to cuddle up in. A dog biscuit...just in case they got hungry. Some water of course. Oh...and brought the whole garbage can into the mud room so they wouldn't get too cold. He's such a sweetheart!

Yesterday we took them to a nearby field and let them go free. Run little mice, run free. I tried to take pictures of them leaving the garbage can but they were way to fast for me.

I guess I'll throw away the traps now...maybe I can find a live trap somewhere and put it in the crawlspace under the house...maybe we'll catch some more...I sure hope not!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Mad Hatter Soap

Mad Hatter Soaps
You know how exciting it is when you go to the post office and find a parcel of treats has arrived? I could barely contain myself until I got home to open this little package.

Part of Mad Hatter Soaps appeal is the entertainment factor she has managed to incorporate into her products. Each soap sample I ordered has a awesome name like Mephisto, Superstition, Kashmir and Moonstruck. On top of that her descriptions are wonderfully intriguing...."The scent of mystery and myth, dark and foreboding at the core, soft and sultry around the edges, tinged in sweet irrationality"....that alone made me instantly want to try "Supersition"!

Each soap sample was nicely labeled with a full description of both the scent and the ingredients. And the ingredients!!!! Goodness gratious....we're talking upscale here! Chock full of silk and exotic butters...I feel tempted to either wear or eat these soaps.

As soon as I was finished taking the above picture, I ran upstairs to our bathroom to try these babies out....and I tried all of them!! Each and every one has a fantastically exotic scent that is geared to those who prefer a more sophisticated scent. There is absolutely nothing ordinary about how they smell.
Lathering action on all the bars was above par...huge fluffy bubbles and the bars glided exceptionally well across my skin.

I haven't made a final decision yet as to my absolute favorite out of the four bars but I think I'm leaning toward "Moonstruck"! If you go and check out her shop, you'll see that I'm not the only one who likes her products....she's had to close shop until December 1/09 to restock her shelves. To see the sort of stock she usually carries, just click on '1340 sales' under 'other items' on the right hand side.

Enjoy browsing...make a list...you'll be glad you did!!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Pink Glove Dance!

I love this...it gave me the giggles!!

Sunday Drive on Saturday


We decided to take a little drive yesterday. A cruise into the hills to go find some snow. It wasn't hard. Within a half hour there it was...everywhere! The kids and the dog had a bit of fun with the toboggan and I had some fun with the camera.





Saturday, November 21, 2009

Soap Making Business


Has the idea to start a soap making business been sneaking into your thoughts, haunting your dreams?

You, like many others, probably feel overwhelmed and excited all at the same time. Excited is good....overwhelmed is not!

Go slow, do your research, make a list of 'to do's' and then break each task down into smaller chunks.

Small challenges are easier to accomplish and give you a sense of achievement....of progressing forward.

I am not by any means an accomplished business woman! I tend to be scatterbrained...always thinking ahead to the next project before finishing the one at hand. Building myself a soap making business is a challenging task....mostly because I keep changing my mind on where I want to go with it!

Read on....

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Craft Project - Pillow Box Tutorial


Give this easy craft project tutorial a try. Make these cute pillow boxes and use them for packaging up your handmade soaps or other bath and body products.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Seagrass Handmade Soap Recipe

Seagrass Handmade Soap
Check out this wonderful seagrass handmade soap recipe.

Bright, fresh and uplifting, this soap is made with a blend of Rosemary, Eucalyptus, Lemon and Lavender essential oils.

Fashion Statement

Latest Scarf Fashion
Came across this while poking around facebook....too funny! My personal favorite is Granny with the tattoo!

Here's the original link for those interested in purchasing a set of these beauties!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Give the Gift of Gluten Free


Holiday time can be somewhat depressing for those unable to eat gluten rich foods. It's so sad really....think holiday goodies and you'll probably have a hard time coming up with many that don't involve wheat flour.

I love holiday baked goods! Actually, I adore them! When I realized that I couldn't eat flour anymore, my main thought next to not eating bread was "What about the Christmas baking?"

I've yet been able to replace sandwich bread to my satisfaction but I have found that sweets like cakes, brownies and cookies can be very good indeed. In fact, I have found some recipes that are definitely just as good as wheat flour baking.

Previously, I blogged a brownie recipe that I really love. There's only one problem ....I hate getting all the ingredients out to make it. So much work and such a huge mess for one tray of brownies.

With that thought in mind, I reworked my favorite brownie recipe into a mix. Now I just have to pull the ingredients out once in awhile, make up a bunch of mixes and put them away until the urge for brownies hits. When it does, all I have to do is grab a mix, add eggs, vanilla and oil and cook. How easy is that? Really easy...the only thing easier would be for someone to make the mixes for me!

Which is where giving the gift of gluten free comes in. If you know someone (or are someone) who can't have gluten, I bet they would love to receive a gift that not only feeds their cravings for baked goods but is fast and easy as well.

This recipe is a little different than the original recipe I posted and I like it even more...the brownies are thicker and the texture is smoother.

Gluten Free Brownie Mix

1 Cup Sugar
1/4 Cup Tapioca Flour/Starch
1/4 Cup Corn Starch
1/4 Cup Gluten Free Flour (I use Sweet Sorghum or Brown Rice)
1/3 Cup Cocoa Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Xanthan Gum
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 Cup Chocolate Chips or Chopped Nuts (optional)

Place all ingredients into containers and seal. I line up large plastic cups on the counter and place a cellophane bag into each cup. I then measure out the sugar into each bag and then follow with the rest of the ingredients. Once you've measured out all the ingredients add a tag giving the directions as follows.

Chocolate Brownies

Add ½ cup melted margarine or oil, 2 lightly beaten eggs and 1 tsp vanilla extract to contents of package. Mix. Pour into greased 8 inch pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Do not overcook. Cool and slice.


I serve these brownies with vanilla ice cream and hot fudge sauce...sooooo good!

Here's the hot fudge sauce recipe. It's very tasty and will keep for quite a few days in the fridge...if it's around that long!

Hot Fudge Sauce

In a small sauce pan combine the following:

4 Tbsp Cocoa Powder
6 Tbsp Water
1/2 Cup Sugar
3 Tbsp Butter/Margarine

Bring mixture to a full boil and remove from heat. Allow to cool slightly then add 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract.

Enjoy!!
PS...the tags in the picture mention that the brownies will fall...not anymore...not since I reworked the recipe. Good and thick they are now!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Packaging Your Soapy Creations

Handmade packaged soaps by Nikki Hoefer

Are you in need of some soap packaging ideas?

You've made your lovely soaps and now they sit there....naked....bare for all the world to see! What next? Should they be elaborately dressed in silk and all manor of things elegant? Or would a modest look be more appropriate?

With the vast array of packaging and wrapping options available, you shouldn't have any trouble finding some great soap packaging ideas. The only trouble will be trying to decide which one to use.

Packaging your soaps can accomplish many things.

If you plan on selling your soaps, labels provide an area for listing ingredients and displaying information about your product and company.

Many countries either require this to be done already or are heading in that direction.

For more information visit Health Canada or US Food and Drug Administration.

Even if you just give away your soaps, it's not a bad idea to list the ingredients...you never know what people are allergic to.

Your soap packaging can also help to create an overall look or 'brand' for your products making them instantly recognizable as yours.

Wrappings keep the soaps clean and can help to protect them from deterioration due to environmental elements.

And my favorite reason for wrapping up soaps....it looks great and can be such fun to do! Visit my new Packaging Ideas page on Soap Making Essentials to see some great packaging ideas you could use for wrapping up your soapy treasures.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Girls Sleepover

Silliness reigned supreme last night as three high energy girls ate, bounced, laughed, talked, squealed and generally had a ball.

My daughter, Brianna invited 2 of her friends to sleep over last night and as you can see, they definitely had a good time.

Where does the energy come from....or rather...where did mine go to? I could barely keep up just taking the pictures.

Lots of funny, goofy faces....

Plenty of smiles and giggles....

Yup....

They're wonderful nut balls!

This was one of the first shots I took while trying to figure out how to take pictures at night. I added it because it's pretty neat....especially for a mistake.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Gluten Free Pizza

gluten free pizzaAlmost everyone loves a good pizza. So you can imagine how depressing it is when you can't just order one anymore....and when every recipe you come across tastes like either mush or cardboard.

Well not anymore! I've found the perfect recipe for a great tasting gluten free pizza crust. The picture above does not do the pizza justice, I'm afraid. It smelled soooo tasty that I didn't spend much time trying to take a good photo. The kids and I pretty much just dove in and devoured it rather quickly.

While I was making the crust (my counters scattered to the brim with ingredients) I got to thinking. How often am I going to make this if I have to make such a mess every time? Not often I'd bet. So my next thought was, "Why not just measure out a couple of batches and ziplock them for later?" Like a mix. Yeah! Great idea! So that's what I did.

Here is the recipe, slightly changed from the original as usual.

Gluten Free Pizza Crust

Place these ingredients in a ziplock bag for later use. I suggest marking the bag with the date and using within a month or two.

• 1/3 cup brown rice flour
• 1/3 cup sweet sorgham flour
• 1/2 cup tapioca flour or potato starch
• 2 tablespoons flax meal (optional)
• 1/2 teaspoon sugar
• 2 teaspoons xanthan gum
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
• 1 teaspoon garlic seasoning (or other seasoning of choice)

When you're ready to make pizza, place the contents of the ziplock bag into a bowl and add the following ingredients.

• 1 tablespoon dry yeast
• 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese (optional)
• 2 tablespoons milk powder (dairy, coconut, nondairy)
• 2/3 cup water (110 degrees F)
• 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
• 1 teaspoon cider vinegar

Directions:

o Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
o Mix all ingredients on low speed until blended.
o Scrape down sides and beat on high speed for 3 minutes.
o The dough should be soft and sticky, much like cookie dough.
o Place the mixture on a lightly greased pizza pan and sprinkle with rice flour.
o Press the dough flat until it covers the pan, continuing to sprinkle with flour if needed.
o Make the edges slightly thicker to hold in the toppings.
o Bake the pizza crust for 10 - 15 minutes.
o Remove from oven and spread with sauce and toppings.
o Bake another 10 - 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the top is nicely browned.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

It's Apple Season

Lately, apples have been featured in our local grocery store fliers at much more affordable prices. For some reason, when food is on sale, I feel the need to stock up and I usually end up with a bit of a surplus.

Thankfully I have a couple of handy dandy gadgets that make processing apples a snap. The first gadget would be the apple peeler/corer pictured above. My mother-in-law gave this too me when my daughter (now 15) was first born. If you don't have one....get one! I mean it! You won't know how you lived without it.

The second gadget is a dehydrator. I must admit that I don't use this for a lot of things but I do use it a lot for ONE thing. Making apple chips. My family loves them. Quite often I'll open up the dehydrator and half the apple chips are gone before they are even done!

It's a good thing they are so easy to make! Simply peel and core the apples with gadget #1, cut in half and place on the drying racks. Sprinkle with a little cinnamon for variety if you like and turn the dehydrator on.

Then you just walk away for the next 6 hours or so. Once the apple slices have a leathery feel to them (some like to dehydrate until they are crispy), turn off the machine and allow them to cool. To store the apple chips, place them in a Ziploc bag or airtight container.

You can use apple chips in a variety of ways. I cut them up and add them to granola bars, cereal and trail mix. You could put them in cookies, slices or cakes like you do with raisins. Or just eat them straight out of the bag!

My biggest problem with apple chips is keeping them around long enough to put them into anything....not such a bad problem, huh?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Treasure Hunting!!

Garmin gpsmap 60cxRecently, I made an expensive purchase. It's something I've wanted for quite some time but kept putting off due to the high cost. Well, now that I've got it, I'm not sorry what so ever. This little gadget is a GPS or Global Positioning System.

Hmmmm, you're wondering? Why on earth would she want something like that?

To go treasure hunting of course! Or more accurately Geocaching.

"Geocaching is a worldwide game of hiding and seeking treasure. A geocacher can place a geocache in the world, pinpoint its location using GPS technology and then share the geocache’s existence and location online. Anyone with a GPS unit can then try to locate the geocache."

Basically, you plug in the co-ordinates for a cache into your GPS and then go find it. The GPS unit has a compass on it that points you in the direction you need to go. Mine tells you how far you need to go and how long it will take you. Once you find the treasure, you sign the log book and then trade a small trinket in the box for one you've brought with you.

Check out the Geocaching website and click on "Hide & Seek a Cache". Do a search in your area to see how many there are. Lots probably. I was shocked to see that I walked by a number of them every day. Little treasure boxes hidden all over the world.

So far I've taken the kids on 6 searches and they love it. Not only are they getting outside for some exercise but they are also getting away from the TV, computer and video games. See their smiling faces!


This is one of the trails we found a cache on.


We even took the dog. No amount of coaxing would get him to go near the water! He's such a baby.


Nick, of course, had to practically get in. If the water hadn't been so cold, he probably would have.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Growing Calendula for Health and Home

Each month, members of the EGCG team are asked to submit an article for the team's blog site. I thought since I went to the effort to write this, I would share it on my blog as well!

Calendula Officinalis
Last month we introduced you to the delightful benefits of using bath and body products containing the herb 'Calendula Officinalis' otherwise known as Pot Marigold. This month we would like to encourage you to try growing this versatile herb in your own garden.

Part of the Daisy family, this annual plant has beautiful sunny yellow or orange flowers that bloom from mid-summer until the first frost and can grow to heights of 60 centimeters.

As you can see from the picture above, it makes a lovely, vibrant addition to any garden. It's also relatively easy to grow...simply plant your seeds in early spring by covering them lightly with one-quarter inch of garden soil or compost. Try to pick a spot where the Calendula plant can re-seed itself. Provide a space of 12 inches between your Calendula plants to allow for growth expansion and water the plants regularly. For optimum growth, a dose of fertilizer or compost once a month is beneficial.

Once your flowers have opened you can harvest some of them for use in your home. Did you know that drinking Calendula tea is said to help fight many illnesses and improve overall health?

To make a tea, pour boiling water over two or three teaspoons of Calendula petals. Let the mixture steep for about 15 minutes. Calendula tea can be consumed up to 3 times a day and is believed to be beneficial for the following when taken internally:

* To detoxify and protect the liver, gallbladder and other organs from long-term damage or failure.

* To reducing fever and sore throat associated with the common cold or other viral infections.

* To relieve gastritis, or inflammation of the stomach lining, as well as stomach ulcers and other digestive problems.

* To clear or prevent symptoms of conjunctivitis, or "pink eye" internally.

* To reduce the pain associated with menstrual cramps as well as easing hot flashes.

* To help repair skin damage and fight aging.

The tea can also be used as a natural wash for wounds and skin ailments because of its amazing ability to speed up the natural healing process. Bruises, cuts, scrapes, minor burns, eczema, athlete's foot, diaper rash, cradle cap in babies, sore nipples in nursing mothers and sunburns can benefit from the use of a Calendula wash.

Calendula flowers can be used as food additive as well. They add flavour and colour to cereals, rice, soups and the petals are delightful in salads.

With so many uses and benefits, a Calendula plant or 3 in the garden would definitely be a positive addition.

Here are a few (of the many) bath and body products containing Calendula that are available in our members shops.

Calendula and Chamomile Oil by Aromaherbals
Calendula and Chamomile Oil by Aromaherbals


Orange Blossom Spa - Natural Handmade Soap by AlcamicMuse
Orange Blossom Spa - Natural Handmade Soap by AlcamicMuse


Calendula Infused Lip Balm by PixieSoap
Calendula Infused Lip Balm by PixieSoap


Shea Butter Coconut Milk Handmade Soap by JoviaSoap
Shea Butter Coconut Milk Handmade Soap by JoviaSoap


Facial Mask and Exfoliant with Organic Kelp and Calendula by DressGreen
Facial Mask and Exfoliant with Organic Kelp and Calendula by DressGreen


Sweet Orange Calendula Cream with organic oils by MirasolFarm
Sweet Orange Calendula Cream with organic oils by MirasolFarm


Sources:
http://www.ehow.com/how_2189664_improve-health-calendula-tea.html
http://www.ehow.com/how_2098659_grow-calendula.html
http://www.mountainroseherbs.com/learn/calendula.php
http://www.newdirectionsaromatics.ca/calendula-herbal-oil-organic-p-1529.html

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Resistance is Futile!!!

As with soooo many other things, I truly tried to resist ever owning one of these. Unfortunately, just like the video games and the pellet guns....I was foiled!!

For years I got away with statements like this "Sorry kids but we just can't afford to buy a trampoline". So what do they do? They get one given to them for FREE!

My husband met a nice man who's children are all grown up and they no longer want to have this infernal contraption in their yard. So now it's in mine....sigh....these things terrify me. I did get on and give it a jump or two though. You know how after being on a boat for awhile and you get off onto shore you still feel like you are on the water? Yeah....same concept except it feels like your going up and down instead of side to side...kind of nauseating, actually.

The kids have no such problems and are thrilled, as you can see from the following pictures of the set-up process. I have to admit, it is wonderful to see them so excited and happy!!