Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Wally the Wonder Turtle and I want to wish everyone Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and happy New Year!

It has been another great year and we had so much fun with all of our friends here at the Wonder Turtle Soaps blog, on Facebook, Etsy, and the Teach Soap forum, and at the craft shows. Thank you, everyone, for your support!

This year, we'll be staying close to home and celebrating with family and friends. The family will get together at my grandmother's house on Christmas Eve to eat and exchange gifts, and we'll go to my mom's house Christmas Day to eat even more. I did some of the baking this year, and I made Ginger Cookies, Magic Cookie Bars, and Chocolate Peppermint Mini Bundt cakes. Yum!

Wally the Wonder Turtle has a special holiday message for everyone:
wally here to say merry christmas. wally very excited about santa turtle coming tonight. he go around and see all children turtles but he slow so he need rocket jet pack. santa turtle fly through air delivering gifts that he keep in shell. that must be big shell. i ask mom once, how santa turtle carry all them presents in shell? she say is magic, and that make sense. hope you all have magic holiday too!

And Wally's friend, Sniffles the cat, also has a Christmas message:
Sniffles here. To make sure you have a safe and happy holiday, make sure you cook your holiday turkey to its proper internal temperature to avoid any foodborne illnesses. Also, wash your hands often and thoroughly to prevent communicable diseases. Did you know that germs and bacteria are everywhere, and they never take a holiday? Anyway, have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

What are your plans for the holidays, Wonder Turtle friends? Whatever they are, we wish you all a very happy holiday season!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Bramble Berry Soap Swap!

Back in October, Bramble Berry announced that they were sponsoring a soap swap. The rules were that you make 12 bars of soap using the same Bramble Berry fragrance, send them in to Bramble Berry, pay for the return shipping, and then wait for a box of 12 soaps made by 12 other soapers to arrive at your doorstep. There were cold-process and melt-and-pour categories. Yours truly was in the melt-and-pour category, of course, and I swapped my soaps with other melt-and-pour soapers.

Here's my entry (and there they are all packed up and ready to ship on the right):

I used Bramble Berry's Lavender 40/42 and Patchouli essential oils to make a blend. I also used a clear soap baseMauvey Gem mica and a touch of liquid violet colorant to give the soap a sparkly, deep purple color. The mold is Mold Market's Clam Shell mold.

I shrink-wrapped my soaps in plastic wrap, labeled them, and then placed them in cello bags tied off with wrapphia and a tag.

By mid-November, the soaps for the swap were pouring into Bramble Berry HQ. It turned out that over a hundred soapers participated in the swap. That's a lot of soap. (If you check out this Soap Queen blog post, you can spot my soap - it's the first one on the left. Yay!)

This past Monday, my swap package arrived containing 12 soaps from some very talented soapers. I was so excited to see (and sniff) each one! Goodness knows I have enough of my own soap around the house, but it is fun to try other people's soap and see what others are up to.

So here are the soaps I received:

From left to right:
Moroccan Mint by Barclay's Soap Box
Tomato Leaf by Barclay's Soap Box
Grapefruit by The Bubble Bakery

Clockwise from left:
A blend of Watermelon, Summer Fling, Pearberry, and Sun-Ripened Raspberry (and a sweet little pig eraser) by Soap Queen TV
Jersey Beach Bar (Coconut fragrance) by The Paper Mermaid (this bar also contains genuine Cape May sand)
Almond Biscotti by Lisa B's Creations

(By the way, the Soap Queen TV soap arrived in perfect condition - it is dented in the photo because I was a super dork and dropped it on the kitchen floor.)

Clockwise (from back left):
Warm Vanilla Sugar Ball by Morning Glory Naturals Gina S.
Bath Time! (Summer Fling fragrance) by Donna's Creations
Lavender (with crushed lavender buds and embedded Silly Bandz) by Terri's Touch

Clockwise (from back left):
Wasabi Rush by K&C's Bathhouse
Nag Champa and Yuzu by The Bath Snob
Moonlight Pomegranate by Indigo Moon

I had so much fun with this soap swap! Thank you to everyone who participated - you are all amazingly talented, creative soapers! Receiving your soaps was like getting an early Christmas present. :)

And a big thank you to everyone at Bramble Berry for making the soap swap happen, especially Amber and Anne-Marie. I had the pleasure of exchanging several emails with Amber over the course of the swap, and she was always on top of things and super helpful and friendly. And Anne-Marie is always working hard to help us soapers and bath and beauty folks. Thanks for all of your support! (And thank you for the Mangosteen and Sheer Freesia fragrance oil samples! Mmm-mmm!)

Any of you participate in the swap? Please do share! We'd love to see your fun soapy hauls!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Boy, Oh, Boise!

Wow, was my last blog post really on Thanksgiving? Time has just been flying by, and I've been keeping busy, especially what with gearing up for Christmas. I think I just finished up shopping Friday, and I have almost everything wrapped. Next week I need to start planning what I'll be baking for our family get-together.

Also, I've been out of town again. From late October through early December, I was popping out of town every couple of weeks. Our latest globe-trotting adventure took us to Boise, Idaho. My husband, Ken, and I get a kick out of Boise, and this is our third year visiting. You may remember that we went to Boise last year if you've been following this blog for a while. Ken first went to Boise in 2007 during an Air Force TDY to the Air National Guard unit there. He was so smitten with the town that he brought me out there the next year. I loved it, too, and we've been going back each year ever since. There's a lot more to Boise than folks think. People are usually surprised to discover that we vacation there. They usually assume we have family there, and they are surprised that we have no ties to Boise other than our love for it.

We usually go in early November, but decided to go in early December this year, hoping to see the town all festive and Christmas-y. It was, even more so than we had counted on. Before we left, we knew it would be cold. I bought a parka in anticipation of this (I had to order it online - you can't just walk into a store in Florida and buy a parka). We even expected that we might see some light snow. We got snow, but it was not light.

It was snowing when we landed at Boise International. By morning, seven inches of snow had fallen, and it kept right on snowing. The locals all said that this sort of snowfall was rare, particularly for this time of the year. The local newscasters were calling it "the worst snow storm in 20 years." My husband and I have always had a knack for showing up for "the worst ______ since ______."

Being a lifelong Floridian, I am unaccustomed to snow. We handled things pretty well, though - I had my parka, scarf, gloves, ear muffs, and storm hood. I even brought longjohns. I did not have proper shoes, though. Walking around on fresh, firmly-packed snow is not a problem - the problem enters the scenario when the snow begins to melt and turns into slushy, sludgy puddles. After sliding around in my beloved Skechers for a day and a half and sporting wet socks and jeans like a Southern tourist, I broke down and bought a pair of waterproof snow boots. And just to make me feel good about my purchase, it started snowing again a couple of days later. My boots weigh about ten pounds, but they sure get the job done.

Me and Ken at The Reef. (Thanks, Park!)
 When we visit Boise, we have our routine of things we like to do. We even have a few favorite watering holes there. Our time this trip was split between the Bittercreek Alehouse, The Reef, and Old Chicago (where we were also able to watch the Miami Dolphins lose to the Cleveland Browns on NFL Ticket). Favorite beers this trip? The Laughing Dog IPA and the Rogue Yellow Snow IPA. I like IPAs.

We didn't spend the whole trip drinking, though - that would make us alcoholics. We worked in some wholesome daytime activities, too.

We visited Boise State University our first day. I always feel a little bit funny just walking around college campuses, sightseeing, but on this particular day, classes were cancelled due to the snow. So things were quiet on campus. Also, we were heading to the Student Union, trying to get tickets to the BSU football game on Saturday, but the game was pretty much sold out.

We also visited the Boise Art Museum and the Idaho State Historical Museum at Julia Davis Park. The art museum featured lots of beautiful, striking pieces, as well as some works that I clearly didn't get. At the historical museum, we learned about the fishing, mining, fur-trapping, and lumber industries in 19th-century Idaho, as well as the Oregon Trail and the Lewis and Clark Expedition. I also learned that doing laundry in the 1800s was an epic nightmare.

Also on the agenda was an Idaho Steelheads hockey game. I'm not much of a hockey fan, but it is fun to go to a live game. And there's always a chance a big gnarly fight will break out on the ice, which the fans love. But I'll bet what would be even more fun is if we were actually present for a win. They played the Alaska Aces Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night while we were in Boise. The Steelheads won on Thursday and Saturday and lost on Friday. Guess which night we went. We have been to three Steelheads games and have yet to be there when they win. And they do win - just not when we're around.

Since we spent the previous day doing indoorsy things, it of course started snowing again on the day when we had outdoorsy things planned. Boise folks are a hardy bunch, though, and the show goes on come rain, snow, sleet, or hellfire. The Capital City Public Market was in full-swing despite the freezing temperatures and snow. I was glad to see one of my favorite Market vendors out there - the Timber Mountain Soap Company out of Meridian, ID. I bought some of Timber Mountain's cold-process soaps last year and just loved them and even though goodness knows I have plenty of my own soap at home, I still wanted some more. I picked up some Lavender Almond, Peppermint and Tea Tree, and Gardener's soap for myself, and Lavender Almond, Orange Patchouli, and Clove Eucalyptus for my mom and dad. We also picked up some white chocolate huckleberry bark, a huckleberry candle, and some huckleberry lip balms for my mom and dad at Taters on the Grove Plaza. (Huckleberry is Idaho's state fruit.)

Coati and "special holiday treat" (a banana).
 We visited Zoo Boise (not Boise Zoo) again, which we do every year. This time was a bit different, though, because the animals were getting their "special holiday treats" on this particular Saturday. We got to only actually see the coati get its holiday treat because we happened to be standing right there. The rest of the time we either couldn't find the animal or the gift-giving went off a few minutes too early for us to get ourselves there on time. For the most part, we pretty much just rolled up on empty cages housing a demolished holiday box.

And we finished our day with a Christmas symphony of tubas. They played jazzy renditions of many classic favorites, as well as one I had not heard before. Something about all Santa wants for Christmas is a tuba. The conductor told us that as a condition of our being present, we all needed to start wishing everyone a "Merry tuba Christmas" from now on. (But I probably won't. Shhh, don't tell.)

We always look forward to going to Boise, and I hope we get to go back next year, too. Everyone is so friendly and the vibe is totally relaxed. If you're looking for a laid-back, hip little college town with plenty of hospitality, personality, and fantastic beer, I highly recommend Boise.

Anyone out there been to Boise, or are you from there or the surrounding areas? Anyone gt some cool upcoming trips planned? Where are some of your favorite vacation spots, Wonder Turtle friends?