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Anna sure seems excited these days:

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And the feeling is contagious…

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What could it be? Oh right, that little thing…

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Yay! We’re “official,” and ever so happy 🙂

(and here’s one more really cute picture of Anna)

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It’s getting cold in Boston, and we’ve been trying to think of ways to keep the heat inside. We thought that stopping the stiff breeze coming through the living room windows was a good place to start… So, remembering what my grandma had growing up, we decided to make some window and door “snakes.” Basically some old fabric filled with rice. Anna did a great job sewing, even adding some buttons and stitching enhancements — like this:

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We felt the difference almost immediately. Only problem is, some of them don’t stay put and try to escape into other rooms…

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So good thing we have a Gordon to corral them!

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Anyone else have ideas for keeping an old New England house a warm(er) this winter?

I am up waiting for the damned bread to bake… I started it at about noon, and it is past midnight.  It better be good bread.   We got the recipe from the Bread Bible.  Yes, that is the name of the book.  It is a great book on all things bread, and it came to us from our lovely friends Terri & Sammy.  Now, the recipe is said to taste like “what Wonderbread wants to be and isn’t” but that remains to be seen.  I’ll report tomorrow on the yumminess of the crumb, but let me just say, their “basic white sandwich bread” was far from basic.

But seeing as I am up now at 12:20, I might as well report on the goings on in the soap-making world too, right?  Right!

Today we finished two–TWO–new soaps!  Lucky Jeff & Sheena will get to take home test bars tomorrow of honey chamomile and lavender vanilla.

I was going to just drop the chamomile buds right into the soap this time, just like I usually do, but the buds I purchased this year are so large and of such high quality, I decided to mash them up into a fine chamomile dust.

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Mark helped out on this too, which was good, as he was very keen on keeping out as many stems as possible.

Here’s what we came up with once we added all the ingredients–the chamomile bud dust; pure Mass. honey; and Roman Chamomile Oil–to the hot melted base:

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Now, at this point, this mixture smelled soooooo good, I wanted to eat it up.  But that would have been A. dangerously hot and 2. really nasty since, of course, it’s not just yummy honey chamomile sauce it’s soap.  Ick.  But imagine sticking your nose into a warm cup of chamomile tea and multiply it times 50.  It was amazing.

Then of course we pour it into the molds like this:

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Today we did both bars and rounds.  Still haven’t received our awesome giant loaf mold which I’m slightly peeved about, but I’m being patient because I know the guy makes them individually 🙂  These ones turned out especially good, don’t you think?  Wish we had smell-o-blogging so you could enjoy the aroma too.

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In our endeavor to create an L.P.E. stamp to press into each soap, we tried another technique of using rubber stamping material from which I carved out the letters.  But when I attempted to glue the rubber carving onto a piece of wood, the glue (I tried two–P.V.A. [probably a mistake] and household super glue cement stuff) _ate through_ the rubber…

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So instead, we used some plain jane rubber stamps which worked out perfectly.

Here’s an example from our lovely lavender vanilla batch we finished today, after some melting and re-melting, and trying different ways of adding the lavender (we finally ended up grinding it up in the blender, which smelled amazing, *thanks Mark for the great idea!!).  These came out quite nice:

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Ok.  Well, the bread is finally done.  And I have to say, it looks and smells delicious.  I’m going to bed now, but will have sweet dreams of fresh bread and warm chamomile.  I hope you do too!

So, ok.  We don’t actually make the soap.  We buy the soap from another soap maker (because we don’t really live in a good place where soap making with the lye and all the chemicals would be easy and safe to clean up, and I’m not really sure our renter’s insurance covers soap-making-mess-ups).  But we do mix scents and melt the base and add in the best of the earth’s essential oils, plant extracts, herbs, and dried flowers and create beautiful, yummy-smelling soaps.

Here’s what we did today… it’s a long affair of melting, mixing, pouring, and waiting, so we only started out with one batch.  We’ll do more as the week goes on.  Today we did a rosemary mint batch, and the house is smelling awesome.

First, we put together all of our tools:

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From left to right: goat’s milk, glycerine, and shea butter soap bases, various molds, soap cutter, herbs, and essential oils and plant extracts.

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Then we cut the soap base and melt it down to a liquid.  We use the microwave, because it’s faster and we’re impatient.  But you can also use a double boiler on your stove or a commercial melter.  The liquid soap is very hot when it first comes out, but cools quickly so we move fast to add the scents.  Here I’m adding a concoction of peppermint oil and rosemary oleoresin extract (it’s green and sticky and smells like rosemary… duh!).

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Then we stir stir stir and pour really carefully into molds.  These ones will be bars, but we made a few rounds too.  We also ordered a brand-new awesome loaf mold that hasn’t come in yet, but will be really fun to use–you pour the whole lot into it and let it set 24 hours, then cut it up into slices like a loaf of bread.  That’s new for us this year, and I’m very excited to try it out.

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The color on the screen is kind of a weird yellow, but the true hue of these soaps is a beautiful earthy green.  At this point the soap is already starting to set up, and can get a little globby, so we had to re-heat to keep it from getting funky.

Then we stamped them with LPE…I made the stamp out of resin block, and it broke down from all of the stamping and heavy pressing 😦 so I’m going to have to find an alternative method of pressing L.P.E. into the soap face (suggestions greatly appreciated!!).

Anyhoo, here’s the finished product!

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Again, the color is a weird yellow here, but in REAL LIFE, they’re a lovely shade of pale earthy green… I hope the color doesn’t turn people off, but oh well.  THEY SMELL FABULOUS, and they’re really creamy and lather up nicely.  Hopefully I’ll be able to do another style tomorrow…

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Soap making will commense today!  We’ll be testing out some scents and mixes, and begin listing items on our Etsy Shop as well.

Be sure to stop back tonight and tomorrow for photos and more on creating our soaps and info on the best scents of this year’s batch.

YAY!

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That is all.

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