I watch several soap makers, artists and crafters on YouTube because there is always more to learn and I enjoy seeing how others go about things. I have seen many useful and inspirational videos and there is one artist that just blew me away with her incredible talent! Grace takes soap artistry to the highest level I have ever seen. Her creations are both beautiful and beneficial. She creates soap that hides a story within as well as presenting beauty on the surface. The way that she makes this happen is unique! I was so impressed by her artistry that I contacted her to tell her how much I admired her, and..she sent me a present! I am so grateful and dragonish about these soaps! Use them, you say? Use them? Oh no. No No. I must hoard them. I must touch them and sniff them and admire their beauty! (For as long as I can hold out!) The smell is divine, the feel of them in my hands is weighty and clean. The beauty is matchless. But the Shea & silk is calling to my skin. My skin is saying Oh just once, just a little lather, just wet the back a bit and have a quick little bath.. I cannot resign myself to the inevitable washing away! The soaps below are two of her incredible designs. Please, click the picture and visit her website. I guarantee that you will find delights there! When I do break down and use the Monarch, I will post pictures of the transormation. But..do not expect this to be soon. I am ordering a special display box for these beauties! Visit Grace's You Tube channel to learn more: youtu.be/wBxnf-6-IBU
What a long struggle it has been to get things made right in our home again! I can say happily that cleaning is under way. The giant air scrubber is doing it's thing in the living room and two incredible ladies worked like berserkers for the past two days to HEPA vac and wipe everything free of mortar dust. Thank you Servpro East! We are actually not afraid to be in our own bedrooms tonight. How long were we in that gross yet pet friendly motel? Nine days? Yes, it was gross but it wasn't full of silica dust and the air conditioner worked so very well. A bedbug rumor sent us madly out into a tent in our backyard, and then a hoard of disgruntled spiders sent us out of the tent last night. Luckily, things were OK inside the house, although I will not feel truly good about it until I see an air sample result that proves it. No, I did not get any good spider pictures. We were too busy being horrified and trying to shake out our blankets. I think the spiders were protesting the mortar dust that coated their webs. They were probably right in the line of fire from the blowing box fan! (Grungy fan pic below, and this is what you never want anyone to do to your yard or your neighbor's yard) The rabbits and oldest daughter stayed with my aunt and missed the sweaty tent experience. There just was not enough room for us all, and although Izzy did not seem interested in the bunnies while we were stuck in the smelly hotelly, bunnies in a tiny tent may have brought out the beast.
A huge cloud of ground mortar composed of 50 to 75% silica sand (which became microcrystalline and invisble dangerous silica particulates when ground) was released into our atmosphere without regard to the environment. Good contractors use removal tools with dust catching equipment attached so this does not happen. To grind without the proper dust control is a huge OSHA violation, but OSHA does not protect bystanders and home residents, only workers. These contractors unleashed the cloud with only a box fan in a window to mitigate dust dispersal, and that is NOT good. We had no choice but to flee until professional cleaners can come in and scrub the place and our air! The soap making tools are stuck in the no go zone! The thing that happened in our living room is quite similar to an operation called tuck pointing. Visit the CDC and OSHA to discover the dangers and the best ways of protecting yourself, should you ever need a similar operation done to your home, or if you want to do such work yourself. Some dust is way more than dirty. Some dust kills! Here is a link to get you started: www.silica-safe.org/know-the-hazard/why-is-silica-hazardous
I have some prolific lemonbalm and basil at the moment, so I am putting it to multiple uses! I like to liven up regular iced tea with both of these herbs. I believe that using fresh herbs provides the most benefit, so when I can, I certainly do! As I have mentioned before, lemonbalm is definitely best fresh. It adds a sunny slightly lemony aromatic note to iced tea. Just cut a few sprays and put it in your tea water as it is heating and let it wilt. This releases the goodness of the herb into the water. Then, add your tea (I like it with green tea) and steep as usual. I don't bother straining mine. A few stray bits of lemonbalm or tea leaves does a body good! I have the best luck with cinnamon basil here, so I use the same process with a lesser amount and black tea. I think the basil is too overpowering when mixed with green tea. Soon, I will be making Passiflora incarnata drinks. I could be using the flowers right now, but since bumble bees love them, I have left them undisturbed this season. Sadly, only two bumblebees have visited my garden this year, and maybe two honey bees. This is a very bad sign. My garden used to hum every season. I wonder how many of my neighbors are contributing to this decline, and it makes me sad that seemingly so few appreciate the value of these creatures. I seem to have a healthy wasp population, and subsequently, very few caterpillars have emerged so far. I'm sure some will survive! Speaking of the wasps...A nest has been started under the eaves of the front porch. We have had no trouble from them. I think of them as our extra guardians of the front door, guaranteed to ward off the faint of heart.
Mosquitos find me to be absolutely tasty, and we have a severe population here every summer. Before I knew of the harm that the strong commercial insect repellents could do to my sytem and the environment, I never went outside unslathered and sprayed. When I stopped using the commercial products, I suffered greatly, so I began experimenting with naturally occurring alternatives. So far Neem oil is my winner. It does have it's downsides. #1: It is an oil, so if I use it straight, I'm oily. #2: Neem has a distinctive odor. I have gotten used to it. My daughter tells me I smell like food. Well, as long as I don't smell like mosquito food, I can abide! #3: It might not be a good thing for dogs and cats. I have read accounts of dogs and cats being poisoned by neem oil, so I definitely keep my beloved Izzy from licking my legs, and I make sure to wash my hands before petting The Boss Queen and Mack the Marauder. My latest experiment involves putting the neem oil into a smooth on stick form. A blend of 1/3 neem, 1/3 Shea butter, 1/3 beeswax plus 1 tsp of coconut oil is giving me good results, although it is a bit soft. The neem smell is lessened, and the protection is still excellent.
Several years ago, I stumbled upon a loose Lonicera Japonica vine and took some of the root. Finally, it is paying off! We are about to enjoy our first homegrown honeysuckle tisane. When I was a kid, we had a huge vine that grew on our back fence and this yielded many flowery experiments. I made watery perfumes and infusions galore. That vine also made a great fort one year. About a decade later, my horse ran out of hay and ate the vine while I was out picking up his new round bale. He was just fine, although he smelled just like that vine for a day or two! There are toxic honeysuckle species, so I don't advise making tisanes out of just any plant called a honeysuckle. Allegedly, Lonicera Japonica has antiviral and antibacterial properties. Some say it is good for all manners of colds and flu. I have never tried any dried flowers, but maybe this year I will have enough to dry and save for later.
For a while, the only kind of soap I sold was made by cooking it thoroughly. Lately and mostly because of my arthritic foot issues, uncooked but prettier soaps have crept into the shop. These soaps are not as herbally intense as many of my cooked soaps due to the lack of leeway in timing of adding ingredients, and not all essential oils work in unheated soap formulations. My daughter is discovering how interesting soap can be and she is now helping with coloring and swirling cold process soap.
Finding something that I can stand the smell of when burning is very difficult. I mostly hate candles and incense. Recently I discovered a DIY incence recipe on The Practical Herbalist website and decided to give it a try. I like it! The sticks on the left are blanks that I have coated with some herbs and resins. Surprisingly, the frankincense variety works extremely well in spite of being a bit pebbly, but is very strong. Visit www.thepracticalherbalist.com to get the full recipe details if you too would like an easy way to make your own incense.
I have been enjoying the hairy scary purse that I made last year tremendously and since I have received a lot of complements, I am going to make another purse that will be quite similar to this one. It might take a while though! My hands and arms have seen fit to betray me this past year and it has greatly slowed my ability to do detailed work, and any work requiring repetitive motion. This purse was very hand labor intensive! I cleaned, washed and carded the alpaca and most of the sheep's wool that went into this thing, and it is NOT SMALL.
I never did get around to making the hornets to embellish it either, and I can't guarantee that I will for the next purse. I am also going to cheat a bit on the next purse and use primarily already washed and carded fibers because if I push my hands and arms too hard, I will lose the use of them entirely. I am hoping that the Hairy Scary 2 will be even better than the first one! The new model will still be materials and labor intensive, so alas, it will be expensive. It will also be roomy and unique. If you choose to carry it, prepare to get noticed and engaged in conversation!