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I’ve heard from many of our readers after the Ultimatum post who’ve shared how they too have many projects they’ve started and never finished, or who have boxes of crafting supplies collecting dust in basements and closets.  It’s good to know we’re all in this together.  I have big plans to create a sub-blog to which I hope all of you out there who have projects and MIGHT get to them can post what they are and your progress in finishing (or starting, or attempting to finish).  It will be a kind of creativity support group for those of us who have either terrible craft-buying habits, or who have terrible laziness…  I have both, sadly, and much progress to make on both fronts.  I’ll try to get to the sub-blogging this week and will share it’s place and info on how to post soon.

And so now that I’ve posted my creativity ultimatum, it’s time to get cracking with this intervention and share with you what I did this week. I’m pretty proud of myself actually.  It’s easier than I thought to put in a little effort towards my projects.  Sometimes I can even do my projects whilst watching TV, which is great.  Because, I’m sorry I must admit, I have a terrible TERRIBLE TV addiction.  It won’t be fixed unless I move off the grid (someday!) or unless someone steals our TV.  (NOTE: don’t steal our TV.  I will find you).

Anyhoo back to the projects:

I finally finished a mini mitten, and then got inspired and knitted three more!!

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I also did a few more lines of knitting on my blanket which was good.  I also added some info to our blog on a cool knitting site I found, and learned a new knitting method which I used on two of the mitts above.  Fun fun!

Hmmm… and we also made SOAP!

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YAAAAY!  Soap making has commenced!  Mark and I melted up about 20-30 pounds of new soap (lemongrass verbena, lavender vanilla, gardenia, chamomile honey) and put them right up on Etsy.  More to come there.  Very excited about that.  Mark is a very good soap maker and I’m glad to have him around to encourage and support me, not just in soap, but in life, generally :-).

Week one (or is it two now? Oh well… let’s call it one) went pretty well, I’d say.  Feeling good!  Let’s keep it up!

I’m continuing work on my unfinished mittens (I actually started over so I could really do it right.  I was kind of just making it up as I was going).  And so I’m following directions now (for once!) on this training mitten pattern, and came to the direction “Increase 1 after the 6 and 18 stitch.”  WHA?  Yeah.  I don’t know how to do that.  Well, NOW I do!  Thanks to happening on to:

http://www.knittinghelp.com/

They have amazingly clear how-to videos for everything from casting on, adding stitches, subtracting stitches and learning different knitting styles.  For instance, my Mum taught me the Throw/American Method which is what I’ve done for years and been just fine with.  But there are other methods too, like the German Method/Left-Handed Knitting or Combined Knitting, or BACKWARDS Knitting!  German Method is actually easier than I thought, and I just followed the videos and WOW!  I know a new method of knitting.  YAY!

This is all well and good because I just purchased this beautiful sweater pattern on Etsy!

oatmeal pullover by janerichmond

OH MY!  It’s so cute but I’m sure I wouldn’t know all the directions.  SO glad I found this website because I know it will help me along the way.  Yipppeeeeee!

Happy Knitting!

I feel bad for not writing.  I feel bad for not painting.  I feel bad for not finishing my projects.  I have so many ideas bottled up inside my brain but I get home and I’m so tired.  So. Tired.  I can’t even think.  I just want to do something mindless. Like watch TV.  Or play Farkle.  Once, I played 35 games of Farkle.  In a row.  On Friday night I watched six hours of TV after work.  SIX HOURS.  O me. O Life!  I feel like it’s passing me by, O me, O life.

I spend hours on Etsy seeing so much fun stuff and getting so much inspiration.  Like this:

And this:

And this:

I’m stuck.  Unmotivated.  Bored?  (I hope not!) Tired? (Likely.)

Let me show you everything I’ve started and can’t get myself to finish:

1. A painting of Mark… I started this so long ago (winter 08). Dreadful. It’s acrylic on canvas.

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2.  I started this one last winter… March I think?  And it’s just doodles in acrylic on canvas.

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3.  This is a knitted blanket (or 1/3 of one).  I’ve been knitting this damn thing since winter 2006. TWO THOUSAND SIX!!!! I have so much yarn collected for this that I could knit sweaters for Jon, Kate, and all Eight.  Plus the Branjelina Clan.

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4.  I started this mitten last week.  Hah!  Yeah.  Wishful thinking.

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5.  In this box are the piecings for a quilt and my sewing machine.

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6.  I worked on this cross-stitch all last winter but see that bottom corner? Not done.  I started it for my cousin Betsy for her wedding.  She got married in June 2003.

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7.  This is a mini tote bag for Sammy Pants.  I started it last fall (2008) so she would have something to carry her lunch in for school.

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Such silliness!  Such waste!  Of space, of money, of time never spent.  I can’t even believe it!  I have boxes and boxes of stuff like this.  Great ideas!  Wishful thinkings!  Hopeful pursuits!  Most never finished, and some never even begun.

And yet the problem is that deep inside I feel like I want to just paint and paint until I run out of media.  Or sew and sew until my machine breaks.  Or knit and knit until my fingers bleed.  If I could I would spend all day creating.  I have hours before I sleep to spend time doing this. But I just. can’t. get. there.  WHY!?!?!  I get so frustrated with myself. And I’m so disappointed.

And so… today I begin.  Well, tomorrow.  But this blog is the real beginning.  I will do ONE THING every week that is creative, and NOT for school.  And I will post my progress here, on le-petit-elephant.com.  And if I don’t do it, I want you, readers, all 23 of you out there, to email me. Annoyingly. Until I post.  And if, by my birthday, March 14 2010, I have not posted at least 3/4 of the weeks, I will put all of my art supplies up for donation.  Even my two easels.  Because it is a WASTE to have such lovely supplies and not use them.   And a waste of ideas.  And a waste of time to not be spending time doing what I really enjoy doing.  I’m serious.  This is ridiculous.

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!

We took the handmade pledge!  Which means we’ll be making every effort possible this holiday season to buy or handmake all of our gifts.  It’s easier than it looks with sites like Etsy.com where you can really find ANYTHING under the sun that’s handmade, vintage, or crafty (like soaps from Le Petit Éléphant).  From jewelry to child toys, clothing, art, and bath & beauty, there’s really no reason for you to have to go to the mall and deal with the craziness and commercialism of the holidays.  The season is about being thankful and thoughtful and telling those you love you LOVE them.  And this season, I’m THANKFUL that I’ll never be setting foot in a mall again.  Unless my mom drags me in with her, in which case I’ll go, begrudgingly, with my hands stuffed in my pockets and a frown on my face.

Anyhow–check out Etsy and see all that’s there, including…

Ta DA!

Le Petit Éléphant!!

We’ll be posting items for sale soon, so keep checking back often.  Or just shoot me an email and I’ll take special orders.  Here’s what we’re offering this year (or what we plan to offer–once we get to making the soaps we sometimes get creative and come out with some fun scents and flavors we didn’t expect):

SOAPS (3-4 oz. bars, stamped with L.P.E. and wrapped in velum, $3 each or 4 for $10, your choice of bars, as available):

Goat’s Milk Base

  • Honey Chamomile
  • Rosemary Mint
  • Lavender Vanilla
  • Gardenia
  • Lemongrass Verbena

Shea Butter Base

  • Honey Chamomile
  • Lavender Vanilla
  • Gardenia
  • Coconut

Clear Glycerine Base

  • Rosemary Mint
  • Lavender
  • Honey Chamomile
  • Lemongrass Verbena

I’ll also be putting up holiday cards, calling cards, and stationery, all hand drawn or printed with one-of-a kind designs.  These can also be made to order with your specifications.  Just let me know!

We may also do printed shopping bags, but we’ll see how the soap-making goes and how much time we have.

So check us out!  We look forward to creating something special for you! And sorry for all of the shameless plugs for our store, Le Petit Éléphant on Etsy.  It really is a fantastic space for artists and crafters to sell and share their ideas and wares.  We hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Happy Giving!

Anna, with her endless creativity and digital design skills, has come up with a new logo for LPE:

What a cute little one! It is different than our previous logo (which was inspired by a stamp we found a few years back in Northampton) in a few important ways:

1) He has no tusks

2) His trunk turns upward (a sign of good luck!)

3) He is “rounder”

You will notice that this little elephant has already been inserted into our blog banner. BUT… s/he does not yet have a name. Loyal readers, this is where we need your help. Any suggestions???  A prize of Free Soap (when soap-making time comes around… usually before the holidays) will go to the winner.

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