Friday, December 24, 2010

Old School

Christmas Eve: The children are chatting in bed, speculating about what their presents might be. My husband has taken the in-laws out for dinner, and so I have the house to myself, more or less. Whatever I haven't done, it's too late to do now. What a nice feeling.
The last piece of craft for this year is what you might call Old School. I've always had a soft spot for nativities, and I've been trying to make one for 3 years, but all of them have gone bad in one way or another. When I saw this embroidery pattern on a wet Sunday, with an embroidery enabler equipped with the pattern book, fabric, thread, and a hoop there right beside me, I just had to make it. It's my first ever cross stitch, and I have to say, it was a lot of fun.
Also old school, these dinky wooden decorations from the junk shop. I want to find whoever threw them out and give them a big kiss. They are just my cup of tea.
And for my last piece of Old School: Merry Christmas to You, and a Happy New Year. It may be a cheesy cliche but I mean it.

Thanks for reading, thanks for commenting, thanks for having a laugh with me. See you next year.
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Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Xmas Deco Tour, 2010

This year I took part in this swap, where you make a Christmas ornament for only one other person. I was paired up with Chantal, an artist who writes this lovely blog with some fannnntastic tutorials, like this one for a russian doll print, and this one for a woodland deer card. Chantal made me this wee Christmas elephant, who we have named Joy, because that's what's embroidered on the other side of her coat. Joy the Peace Elephant is a much appreciated addition to our tree. Welcome Joy.
Chantal makes beautiful prints and stationery, so I was thrilled to receive one of her amazing cards.
I made her a small set of Christmas tree robots, because that's the sort of thing I do when I'm engaged in a craft swap. I made some for myself while I was at it, because if you don't crack yourself up with your craft then what's the point?
You thought I'd forgotten about robots, didn't ya! Well ha! I never forget about robots.
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Monday, December 6, 2010

Ritual sacrifice of a wooden spoon

For aaaages now, almost my whole life I think, I have wanted to have a go at making soap. I think that's because my Mum used to make it, and it was a terrifying and very grown up activity because it involved hot mutton fat and caustic soda. Excuse me while I answer your questions: Yes my Mum did make soap out of mutton fat. No it did not smell like a roast dinner. No she did not make us wash ourselves with it, it was for washing the clothes, or the floor.

Now, where was I? Oh yes, the soap. At the age of 38 I have deemed myself grown up enough to give true soap making a go. I was a little put off by the long list of equipment that most instructions deemed necessary (special soap-making pot, two thermometers, a stick blender, etc. etc.). When I mentioned this off-putting list of needs to my Mum she chortled and gave me "the mother look" and then pointed out that people have been making soap for thousands of years without that long list of stuff. Good point, mother bear, good point.

So, I bought some lye from these kind people, who have a soap shop near my house, and I bought everything else at Binn Inn or the supermarket. I did not use a thermometer at all and all my mixing was carried out not with a stick blender but with a wooden spoon, which is now marked "soap only". I used stainless steel bowls for the lye and the soap mixture itself, and then washed them out carefully and popped them back in the kitchen cupboards afterwards. They have never looked cleaner, incidentally.

I followed a basic castile recipe here, and followed all of their links re. using a lye calculator and the basic soap making instructions. I added a couple of things, so I will write the full recipe here for the sake of interest.

800 g olive oil
200 g coconut oil
20 g beeswax
133 g lye
300 ml water
2 T honey added at 'early trace'
5 ml manuka oil (a complete waste of time, as you can't smell it at all)
And, to half of the batch, I added some oatmeal, because that seemed like a good idea at the time. Now I'm not so sure because it looks a little, well, horse-food-esque. Still, you live and learn. Anyway, badabing, badaboom, soap.

So there it is. If I die tomorrow I can consider my life fulfilled. Sometimes I wonder about what things my children will remember fondly, and what things they will roll their eyes about, when they recall their childhood. I have a feeling that my crazy schemes will not all be remembered fondly.
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