Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Say Hello to My Little Friend ...

Whew, it has been busy in the Wonder Turtle soaping kitchen! So far, I've got three craft shows coming up in October and one in November, and they all have a holiday/Christmas theme (golly, is it that time already?). So, I've been making a bunch of new holiday soaps for the shows - and maybe I'll even get around to listing them in my Etsy shop one of these days, preferably before Christmas is over.

One of my special holiday soaps this year is my little Gingerbread Man, scented with a Gingersnap fragrance oil.

It would be so much easier to use a soap mold for this, but I had a hard time finding a gingerbread man mold that I liked. Either the molds made soaps that were bigger or smaller than what I wanted, or they were similar to what lots of other folks were using. (There was one mold in particular that I saw over and over again, and, as a result, I also saw that soap over and over again.) I wanted the soap to be roughly the size of a gingerbread man cookie, so I thought, why not use a cookie cutter?

I used a gorgeous sparkly Cappuccino mica to color my melted clear soap, and poured the soap into my trusty 8x8 silicone baking pan.

After the soap hardened, I turned it out and used a cookie cutter to punch out six little gingerbread men. (My cookie cutter had a sharp edge that stuck out and made the cut jagged - I just used some packaging tape to cover it up so it wouldn't mangle my soap.)

Looks like a lot of wasted soap, right? The great thing about melt-and-pour soap is that it's never wasted. I can just cut up the leftovers and melt it down again.

These little guys are actually a lot of work, and they take their toll on my hands (if you look closely at the photo on the left, you'll see an upside-down gingerbread man in the center of my palm). No permanent damage, I'll live. After they're popped out, they're a little gummy and rough around the edges, plus I can't help but smudge them. So, I run my finger along the edges, smoothing them out. And I spritz a tiny bit of rubbing alcohol on my finger, shake off the excess, and then do a few straight sweeps over the tops to get rid of any smudges. (The alcohol evaporates very quickly and does not adversely affect the soap.)

Sometimes, surgery is necessary, and oftentimes it doesn't go well. Check out the poor little gingerbread guy over there, laying in a pile of his own gore. He's a goner. See, as I punch out the soaps, the cookie cutter can warp and give my little guys a bit of a stumpy leg. I try to exert even pressure on the cutter when pressing down, and I pause to reshape the metal every now and then. Still, sometimes a leg comes out so stumpy that I decide to sculpt it back to normalcy. I was successful with one gingerbread man, not so successful with another. Like all of the plastic surgery cautionary tales warn, once you start cutting, it is hard to stop. This project would probably be easier if I made the soap less thick, but I wanted to get as much soap into each gingerbread man as I could! My hope is that an occasional stumpy leg will lend the soap some handmade charm. I doubt it's even all that noticeable to anyone but me.

I made a similar gingerbread man soap last year, and I wanted to make these even more special this year. So, after shrink-wrapping the soaps, I put them in a cellophane bag and tied it off with some raffia. Because the gingerbread men are so small, it's difficult to put an ingredients label on the back without the edges of the label showing, so I decided to attach a cute card with all of the pertinent info on it (including a "I'm soap - don't eat me!" warning). I just hope that the card isn't too comical, seeing as it's as big as the soap itself.

Maybe I can get creative and find a more efficient way to make these. I thought that perhaps I could pour a thin layer of clear soap on the bottom of my pan and set the cookie cutters in the clear soap so that it seals the edges of the cutter. Then maybe I could just pour my gingerbread soap into the cutters and be done with it instead of popping each one out by hand, cleaning them up, and then having a bunch of soap to remelt. I'd just need six cookie cutters.

Hmmm ...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Broken layer, broken heart ...

My layered Fresh Snow soap was going to be so beautiful. I was going to sandwich layers of crisp blue and light blue between pure-driven white. Glitter suspended in the blue portion would look like snowflakes drifting to the ice-covered ground below.

Wowza, look at that!
It was going to be gorgeous, I tells ya.

And it was ...

Until it fell apart.

Sigh. Such is the soaping life. Sometimes, no matter how careful you are or how much rubbing alcohol you spritz, you mess things up. And, ooh, how do I hate to mess things up. I live in constant fear of messing things up. Which usually just makes me more nervous and therefore more likely to mess up.

And me getting "more nervous" is very serious business. I am already nervous as it is. I haven't had fingernails since 1989. My spirit animal would probably be the squirrel, either running or freezing at every threat (and threats are around every corner). Make me "more nervous" and I'm like a paranoid schizophrenic squirrel on crack. It's not good, and it's not very conducive to crafting (or anything else, really). And we're just talking about soap here - it's not like I'm performing brain surgery or piloting a commercial jumbo-jet.

Anyway, I kinda thought this might happen. When I poured the first white layer (the layer that popped off), it took forever to set up. It has been really hot here in Florida lately, so maybe my house was too warm, I don't know. But it just would not set up. And as you soapers know, timing and temperature are crucial when layering. You have to pour as soon as the previous layer is ready, and that layer still needs to be warm. Time was ticking away and the skin on the soap still wasn't thick enough. Eternal optimist that I am, I was thinking, "This will never work. This is taking way too long."

I plowed ahead, though, and finished up the soap in the hopes that maybe everything would work out and be okay somehow (always a bad strategy). Interestingly, the blue layers set up very fast - almost too fast - and this had me worried, too. Those layers stayed together, though.

I rarely have layers pop apart on me. I hate having a layered loaf fall apart on me for many reasons. First of all, it seriously shakes my confidence, which, as I explained earlier, is not good for squirrel-like people. Second, I feel like I wasted a day making something ineffective. Third, I have to spend another day salvaging the soap and fixing the problem. And fourth, I then have to hope that my fix worked, or else I'll be looking at three wasted days.

Fortunately, melt-and-pour soap is as forgiving as a favorite pair of sweatpants. If you screw up, just cut it up, melt it down, and try again.

That's what I did. Instead of trying to dissect all of the layers and repour them, I thought maybe a solid light blue bar might be nice. Simple, sophisticated, no chance of falling apart.

So, I poured it all into my loaf mold again. (I had to use two 4-cup measuring glasses because it wouldn't all fit in one and 4-cup is the largest capacity measuring glass I have. Maybe it's time to get an 8-cup glass.)

Here's the result. Pretty blue with a dusting of irridescent glitter on the tops. I like the way it turned out, and I hope others will, too.

Ah, melt-and-pour, thank you for your flexibility. You are never truly wasted, although some projects just can't feasibly be brought back to square one again. But even if the effect fails, the soap doesn't.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Craft Show Recap: "Fall Flair"

"Fall Flair" craft show at Destin UMC. Hey, look, there's my table!
I apologize, Wonder Turtle friends. My goal is to post here at least once per week, and it has been almost two weeks since my last post! I have a good excuse, though. I was getting ready for a 2-day craft show event and wasting my time making lip balms that just didn't quite work out. (Perhaps I'll revisit that topic someday.) I have never done a two-day event before, and I wanted to make sure that I was ├╝ber-prepared.

Here's the least terrible photo of me.
The "Fall Flair" craft show at the Destin United Methodist Church was this past Friday and Saturday. My mom was sweet enough to be my booth buddy. (I'm going to have to put her on my payroll or pay her comission or something.) Friday was almost a twelve-hour day after we factored in travel and set-up time. We got home a little before 8:00 p.m. Friday and we were back at it again Saturday morning at 9:00. Saturday went by quickly, probably because it was only a seven-hour day.

Rev. Kim Cannon, Minister of Music and Worship
It was a good show, and I enjoyed meeting other crafters, customers, and the wonderful staff and volunteers at Destin UMC. Throughout the event, we were treated to music provided by Rev. Kim Cannon, an enormously talented piano player.

This is the second year Destin UMC has put on this show, and I was impressed with how organzied everything was. Turn out was good, I sold quite a few bars of soap and made some connections, and some nice folks went home with some Wonder Turtle Soap that, hopefully, will make them very happy!

Next up is the Jingle Bell craft show at the Mary Esther United Methodist Church on October 2. October will be a busy month - after the Jingle Bell, there's the Holly Fair in Shalimar on the 16th and the Bayou Country Craft Bazaar in Niceville on the 23rd, all at United Methodist Churches. Those are usually fantastic shows, and I am looking forward to them. And they have a Christmas/holiday theme, which makes everything festive and exciting. (Which reminds me - I need to get cracking on some holiday soaps!) Hopefully we'll have some cooler weather by then, too!

Anyone out there participating in or attending any craft shows soon? What are you most looking forward to, either as a vendor or an attendee?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Happy Birthday, Wally!

Today is Wally the Wonder Turtle's birthday, and his good buddy, Sniffles the cat, agreed to guest blog and wish Wally a happy birthday! (You may remember Sniffles from Wally's posts about chocolate turtles and Father's Day.) Wally and Sniffles go way back, and we're happy to have him here on this special day!

Sniffles the cat

Hi, I'm Sniffles! I've known Wally for as long as I can remember, and he's one of my very best friends.

Anyway, I'm here to wish Wally a happy birthday. Part of having a happy birthday is having a cake. I'm not much of a baker - I can't even make pancakes. So I went to the grocery store yesterday to get a cake and some lettuce because Wally loves lettuce. Have you noticed how cold they keep the grocery stores? Gadzooks! It's still hot outside, so I'm wearing shorts everywhere, but whenever I go indoors, I freeze. Then when I go back outside, I burn up. Hot, cold, hot, cold ... What are they trying to do, kill me? I could get pneumonia constantly going from hot to cold and back again like that.

And have you seen all the different kinds of lettuce they've got at the store now? Iceberg, romaine, bibb, butter, arugula ... goodness! I ended up buying ten bags of the pre-washed seven-lettuce salad. By the way, what the heck does "pre-washed" mean? How do you wash something before you wash it? I mean, shouldn't it just be called "washed"?

Anyway, Wally loves lettuce, and he also loves bananas. I went to the bakery section and couldn't find one big banana cake, but I did find some of those individually-wrapped banana snacky cakes. I got some candles so I could put one in Wally's little cake. By the way, does the whole blowing-out-the-candles-on-a-cake thing seem like a terrible idea to anyone else, or is that just me? I mean, hello, germs. The absolute worst is when you're at a kid's birthday party and all the kids have to help blow out the candles. And kids aren't dainty about it either - they just blow and spit all over the place. Mmm, who wants cake? Ugh. Check, please.

Anyway, Wally and all of his friends came over to my house and we ate our lettuce and banana cakes (and there might have also been some Terrapin Ale and some catnip infused bubbly) and we played "Pin the Bow Tie on the Turtle." And we all brought presents for our good friend Wally. I got him a great gift for the coming winter - a turtleneck sweater!

Anyway, Wally ate, danced, and played with all of his friends until we couldn't eat, dance, or play anymore. I hope Wally didn't eat too much sugar and that he gets a good night's sleep before he heads back into the soaping kitchen tomorrow. He probably didn't sleep much last night because he was too excited about his party. Lack of sleep can cause headaches, irritability, clumsiness, dizziness, increased blood pressure, and, of course, fatigue.

Anyway, happy birthday, Wally!