Saturday, June 26, 2010

Blog Feature!

I received a nice surprise this morning - Carol from SandFibers on Etsy included my Honeycomb Soap in her blog post, "Saturday Window Shopping with Sand Fibers." This is the first time one of my soaps has been featured in a blog, and I am super-thrilled! Click on the link to read her blog post, which showcases honey-inspired Etsy items. Her selections are gorgeous, and I am honored to be among them.

Do check out the rest of Carol's blog and her Etsy shop - she makes beautiful beadwoven and fiber art and jewelry.

Thanks again, Carol! You made my day!

Friday, June 25, 2010

On the Road: Denver, CO!

Last week, things were kinda quiet at Wonder Turtle Soaps because I was away in Denver, Colorado. What a beautiful part of the country! And the trip was a very welcome respite from the harsh Florida summer, which actually had not even officially begun yet, according to the calendar. In a lot of ways, June is the worst month in Florida because it comes in strong, and I'm not used to the heat yet. Well, I'm never used to it, but by July and August, I'm slightly (slightly) more acclimated to the heat and humidity, although they're both still bad. June so far has brought high temperatures and high humidity with heat indexes in the triple-digits. Everyday, it's hot and muggy with a 50% chance of an afternoon cussing storm. Lots of folks here just loooooooooove the summer and wish it could be like this year-round. Uh-uh, not me. I'm a winter-lover. Winter in northwest Florida is awesome; summer is just something to get through. But I digress.

What was I talking about? Oh, right ... Denver!

My husband, Ken, was on a business TDY in Denver and when he was done working, he took a few days off and I flew out to join him. A few days before I arrived, it was actually sorta cold and rainy with temps in the 50s. Jacket weather, if you can believe it. By the time I landed, the skies were clear and the temperature was a dry 75 degrees.

Ahhhhhhhhh ...

The first order of business was to scope out the downtown area. We stuck close to 16th Street, also known as "The Mall" because it is a large, 16-block shopping district. Our hotel was downtown, and we were able to walk just about everywhere we wanted to go. Or we took the free shuttle that runs the length of the Mall.

The 16th Street Mall in Denver. A free shuttle runs through the Mall - you can see it approaching back there on the left. 

We walked a bit the first afternoon, finding our way around. One of the first things of interest I saw was this giant 40-foot tall blue bear peeking into the Colorado Convention Center. This is actually a piece of public artwork called "I See What You Mean" by Lawrence Argent. Cool, huh?
I landed late in the afternoon, and it was getting close to beer o'clock. I don't know if you guys know this, but I am a beer snob, and I love to sample regional brews. We didn't have to walk too long before we found an Old Chicago. Now, I know Old Chicago isn't very exotic, but they have a bunch of good beers on tap - and most of them are regional microbrews. We thought we'd find a pub with microbrews on every corner downtown, but that wasn't the case. The Falling Rock Taphouse has tons of great microbrews on tap, and we paid them a visit, too. I fell in love with a couple of new brews in Denver. One was Left Hand Brewing Co.'s "400 Pound Monkey" IPA (tastes great and it's fun to say, "Gimme one of them monkey beers!"). My favorite this trip, though, was probably the Green Flash Brewing Co.'s "West Coast IPA". Very hoppy, very grassy, and very yummy.

We didn't spend the whole trip drinking beer, though - that would make us alcoholics. No, our sessions of moderate, responsible drinking were spaced out by acceptable daytime activites, like hiking, going to the zoo, and looking at plastinated bodies.

Our first full day in Denver, we drove to nearby Idaho Springs for a 2-hour hike at Echo Lake, which is near Mt. Evans, which has North America's highest auto road with an elevation of more than 14,000 feet (and I have a blurry picture to prove it!).                                                                    

Echo Lake's elevation is about 10,600 feet. The mountains in the background were snow-capped, and this did not surprise me.

What did surprise me was that while we were hiking, we saw several patches of snow on the ground where we were. Can you believe it? Snow on the ground! In June! It was like being in Bizarro World.

The next day, we intended to go to the zoo, but we picked the one day of the year that they close early to prepare for their annual fundraiser. So, we headed to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science instead. We were planning to go there anyway because I really wanted to see the Body Worlds exhibition. I don't know if you've heard about Body Worlds, but real human bodies (provided by generous donors) are "plastinated," preserved, and displayed. It is really fascinating - how often do you get to see the inner workings of an actual body like that? The anchor of the exhibition was "The Story of the Heart" told through various displays that, again, were provided by donors. What most struck me was how complicated the human body is. It seems that there are millions of opportunities for something to go horribly wrong, yet most of us are born normal (well, normal enough) and have amazingly functional bodies for a good long while, if we're lucky.

Photos were frowned upon inside the museum, so we took some outside. Here I am with a grizzly bear statue. I'm not saluting - I'm shielding my eyes from the sun.

On our last full day in Denver, we finally made it to the Denver Zoo. Sadly, about half of my zoo pictures came out blurry. I was changing the settings on my camera from auto to flash-off and back again as we went inside and outside. I must have forgotten to change the setting back to auto at some point and didn't notice on my tiny camera screen that the photos were all blurred. Oh, well, there are some good ones in there, so I think we'll make do just fine.

This spider monkey was hilarious. He and one of his monkey buddies would periodically harass the anteater in the background. They'd grab the anteater's tail and run away over and over again until the anteater made a move toward them. It seemed like good fun and it certainly was amusing, but I felt bad for the anteater. At one point, I saw him standing on his hind legs at the back gate like he wanted someone, anyone, to let him out.

Okay, I have a thing for monkeys. Monkey beer, monkey monkeys ... what can I say, primates are fascinating. They are incredibly smart, strong, and perceptive. Here is a big beautiful gorilla, which is, of course, a great ape and not a monkey. This shot is through a thick pane of glass, so it's not super-awesome. This is probably the closest I'll ever get to a gorilla, though - just a few inches of plexiglass separated us, and he could not have been less interested in me ...

It's called "peacocking."
Look, Wonder Turtles! Not sure what kinds of turtles these are exactly. The one that's pushing the turtle climbing out of the pond back into the water looks like a slider turtle, though. Come on, man, help a turtle out!

We flew home the next morning. I wish we had had a couple more days there, but I guess we'll just have to go back! Thanks for a great week, Denver! 

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Wally Sez ... Happy Father's Day!

Here is where Wally the Wonder Turtle gets to share his thoughts with the world. Enjoy!

wallys dad nice turtle man. we do lots fun things together. here some wallys favorite memories:

when i little, dad teach me how to ride bike. was special turtle bike for big turtle shell and short little legs. all turtle kids get special turtle bike. anyway i riding and falling lots. wallys mom come out and say, joe why wally not wearing helmet? joe, my dad, he say, wally is wearing helmet - his whole body is helmet. then he say to me, son, you start to fall off bike, you just stick head inside you shell. then he wink and my mom roll her eyes but i saw her smile a little.

dad teach me how to tie bow tie. he say, wally, is easy - just go under, over, in, and out. wait, wally got wrong. is it over, under, in, and out? or under, in, over, and out? oh, i don't know ... wally pay attention next time he tie bow tie ...

one time me and my friend sniffles the cat make dad pancakes for fathers day breakfast when we little. even though pancakes did not turn out right, dad eat them all and say they very good, the best pancakes in whole world.

best memory though was when me and dad just sitting in the grass one day with our necks out, sunning. i say, don't you just love the sun? dad say, i love you, son.

happy fathers day, dad! and happy fathers day to all of the dads out there - you awesome!

-- wally

Monday, June 14, 2010

Shhhhhhhh ...

It may be quiet around here at the ol' blog for a little bit ...

I need to put my Etsy shop on hiatus for a few days, but don't worry! Wally the Wonder Turtle will be back in time to wish dads everywhere a happy Father's Day!

Wonder Turtle Soaps will reopen on Sunday, June 20. (Got a new soap to list, too - Key Lime - so stay tuned!)

See you back here soon!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Using Micas to Make Your Soaps Pop!

If you're an official Wonder Turtle Soaps fan, you know that I've been working on a new Key Lime soap. (And if you're not an official Wonder Turtle Soaps fan, head on over to Facebook® and become one!)

I have a lovely Lime Crystal Kisses fragrance oil that smells like lime kissed with a touch of lemon and sugar. Yum! I used my square mold to make a pretty layered soap of light green and white.

Last summer, I picked up these cool citrus wedge-shaped ice cube trays at Michael's craft store. It's funny how after you start soaping you start eyeing everything as a potential mold. Ice cube trays, candy molds, silicone baking pans, fondant cutters, etc. I fragranced and colored some clear base and poured them into my molds.

Next came the waiting to unmold ...

The plan was to use a bit of clear soap base to affix the lime wedges to the square soaps, and I think that plan worked. The wedges seem pretty darn affixed. It takes some practice, I guess, to get to where you don't have any overflow when "gluing" soap to soap (with more soap!). Before I did that, though, I decided to try something that I saw on The Soap King's blog (and, yes, The Soap King is related to Bramble Berry's Anne-Marie, aka The Soap Queen - he's her brother, Erik, and he manages Bramble Berry's retail store, Otion.)

I took a bit of gold sparkle mica and used a fan brush to dry-dust my soapy lime wedges to make the details of each wedge pop. I just liberally brushed the wedges with mica, wiped the excess away with a paper towel, and then used my thumb to smooth the whole thing.

See the difference using the mica? It really showcases the details of the mold. Give it a try!

Then I melted some clear base and smoothed a small amount across the back of the lime wedges. Then I quickly pressed the limes onto the tops of the square soaps at an angle.

I think they look quite nice! The white has gone a lovely creamy pale yellow, making it look like cheesecake, just perfect for a Key Lime soap! They were a bit of a challenge to wrap, being an odd shape, but I think I did an good job!

Now to take a bar into the shower and make sure the lime wedge stays on during use. And I want to make sure that the yellow stays pale and creamy and doesn't compromise the green (already had one nasty discoloration surprise this week and don't want another).

What fun making this soap was! If my quality assurance tests go well, look for the Key Lime soap soon at Wonder Turtle Soaps!

What fun fragrances/ soaps do you Wonder Turtle friends like? Soapers, what have you been soaping up lately? Wally the Wonder Turtle and I love to swap soaping stories, so please share!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Wonder Turtles and Foxes and Bunnies, Oh, My!

Thought I'd take a detour from the usual soapy stuff, as fun as all of that is, and tell you a bit about some recent awesome animal encounters I had.

I'm a runner and so is my husband, Ken. We have our usual neighborhood jogging routes, but sometimes we like to go somewhere else, just to mix things up a bit. The change of scenery is nice, and sometimes, if you go to the right places, you can see some cool animals.

Sometimes you see a bunch of cool animals.

Last weekend's "Wild Kingdom" episode started out with an intense Wonder Turtle Sighting. We were heading east down Highway 20 toward Freeport. There ain't much out there except for trees and a speed limit of 60 mph (which means that everyone does at least 70). We were cruising along when we saw something in the road ahead.

A turtle, just hanging out.

As Ken pulled over onto the shoulder, I was already taking off my seat belt. I am not unaccustomed to pulling turtles from the road. I think they like to sun themselves on the warm asphalt, not realizing that they are this close to being roadkill. I opened my door and checked for traffic. Clear all the way.

As I got closer, I noticed that this was not your ordinary everyday Wonder Turtle. This turtle was not one of the cute little critters that I'm used to picking up and carrying to the other side of the street. And it most certainly was not wearing a red bow tie.

This little guy was a charmer. First of all, this turtle was covered in mud, like it had just emerged from a swamp or the La Brea tar pits. And mosquitoes the size of Volkswagens swarmed all around it. And it was a Florida snapping turtle. As in a snap-your-finger-off-at-the-knuckle snapping turtle.

There were a lot of reasons to not pick up this turtle.

In the distance, I could see a truck approaching. I tried to gently prod the turtle along with the edge of my shoe (which I later burned). The turtle rocked forward on its hind legs, hissed at me, and refused to budge.

I retreated to the shoulder of the road as the truck got closer. By now, Ken was out of the car, too.

The truck blew by at about 65 mph, straddling the turtle, which scared it and made it hiss again.

Ken came up to me and asked, "Is it injured?"

I said, "Not yet, but he's pretty disgusting." I explained that the turtle was filthy and snappy, and that I wasn't going to pick it up. What if it threw out a kung-fu move and took my head clean off my shoulders before I could say "zoinks"?

So Ken popped the trunk and started rummaging for something other than our hands that we could use to pick the turtle up with. If we left it there, sunning its silly self, it would get run over eventually. And this turtle had made it clear that it wasn't moving on its own.

Meanwhile, another car whizzed by going the opposite direction. If anyone was worried about us folks on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere, seemingly in distress, they never let on.

Ken grabbed his gargantuan golf umbrella and headed for the street. More cars were coming from both directions. Nervous, I was.

As Ken approached, the turtle hissed at him. Ken put the umbrella near the turtle's head, and it turned and grabbed a hold of the umbrella's fabric with its snappy little jaws. It held on long enough and tight enough for Ken to lift it a couple of inches from the pavement and safely deposit it on the other side of the road. Then he waited for the oncoming cars to blow by before returning to our car with the umbrella (which we later burned). We were lucky that neither one of us died during all of this (Headline: "A Niceville couple was killed today while attempting to rescue a turtle that did not want to be rescued ...")

Hey, remember those giant mosquitoes? By now, they were all over us. Fortunately, we had bug repellent in the car and were able to spray them away. Oh, and did I mention that we had both left our car doors open and that the car was now infested with mosquitoes? We drove the rest of the way with our windows down, hoping that the little bloodsuckers would get sucked out. And I occasionally sprayed myself and Ken with the bug repellent, which startled him at times.

Now you would think that The Turtle Incident, as it came to be known, would be enough for one day, but oh, no.

We finally made it to our destination and started our jogs - I went one way and Ken went another. We each have our own routes, and he's too fast for me anyway. We use the same paths, though, and are never too far away from each other. As I was finishing up my last mile, I heard a faint whimper near the footbridge I was crossing. I looked over the side, thinking I had heard a dog or a kitten, just as two foxes ran out from underneath. One of the foxes froze and stood guard near the bridge as the other one came out onto the path, eyeing me. I froze and tried not to make it obvious that I was eyeing it, too.

Interesting side note: Did you know that foxes can growl like dogs? I guess it makes sense since they belong to the Canidae family of species.

This fox was growling at me while standing not fifteen feet away. Not a snarly, teeth-showing, hair-standing-on-ends growl - just a low rumble in its throat, warning me to step the heck off. It paced across the path a few times before eventually retreating to the woods. The other fox stood at the foot of the bridge, waiting for me to go away already. After Growly McGrowl left, so did I.

I have never been that close to a fox before, let alone two foxes. All I can figure is that maybe they had a little young 'un nearby and Momma Fox stood guard while Poppa Fox came over to check me out.

I didn't see them again, but I hope they can continue to live in peace out there in the woods. I didn't feel especially threatened, and they weren't especially aggressive. I think they were just protecting something. Honestly, the whole experience was rather beautiful and thrilling. I wish I could have taken pictures of all of this, but, really, who jogs with a camera?

Oh, and I saw a bunny rabbit, too, which was also cool but not nearly as exciting.

Any of you Wonder Turtle friends have stories about interesting animal encounters? Please share!