Knitting

Flying Time

No, I won’t be flying anywhere any time soon. It’s time that’s flying. Far too quickly. Do you realize it’s almost February?? How the heck did that happen? That endless spiral of hour following hour, day following day, week following week just seems to suck us all in, doesn’t it? Before we even realize it, another month has gone by. And what do I have to show for this past month? Not much.

Knitting has been sporadic at best. To be honest, I’m not even missing the needles. Yes, I pick up the Loop shawl occasionally, finish a row or two but, honestly, the satisfaction level I usually feel while knitting just isn’t there right now. I know the urge will return. It always does. Right now just doesn’t seem to be the time for knitting.

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I’ve started doing a little sketching again; and when I say a little, I really do mean that. Doodles have been popping up on my desk calendar at work. Little scribbles have been showing up on my desk at home. Apparently, my pencils have been calling and I’ve been hearing the siren call, picking up a pencil. It’s a start. And it’s about time.

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I’ve also been a little obsessed with macarons for the last couple of weeks. These little French delicacies are so yummy and so finicky, especially when you have an oven that’s way hotter than the dial shows and bakes unevenly.

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Lemon Macarons – These look pretty good but they’re hollow inside.

I’ve been trying to bake THE perfect batch and, after three or four batches, I haven’t done it yet. Maybe today, right? It’s definitely been an enjoyable, and tasty, learning experience. Even a “failed” batch tastes amazing. If you’d like to read more about my “experiments”, check out my cooking/baking blog here.

Around the yard, the kids have been skating more and getting much more comfortable. Ethan no longer needs, or wants, something to hold on to. He’s even been practicing with a hockey stick and puck! Trinity has finally gotten over her disgust of the figure skates (and the “pickers”) and was trying some “moves” last weekend (until she fell hard on her hip). Temperatures right now are hovering around the freezing mark and the ice is still great. It would be nice to see it used a little more often but, in the meantime, we’re having fun. And, no, I have not gotten back on to the ice.

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Apparently, John DID get on the ice this past week, with Ethan and his friend, but there’s no photographic evidence to support his claim. I’ll have to verify it with Ethan.

To be honest, I’m making it sound like January’s been a downer. It really hasn’t been. It’s just been a quiet month and there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s a time for quiet, a time for rest, a time for restoration. It’s just going by far too quickly!

Categories: Baking, Just stuff, Kitchen, Knitting | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Still Knitting… and More

Yesterday, I ended by writing that, yes, there has been knitting. I wish I could say that John’s cardigan is finished but that just wouldn’t be true. I’ll be picking it up again soon, though, now that sweater weather is really here; it just isn’t the kind of project I can work on in the summer (at least, that’s what I keep telling myself).

However, I did come across an interesting shawl pattern that I just couldn’t resist. The pattern is called “Loop” by Casapinka. It’s a simple shawl with an interesting stitch, almost mindless knitting. It is constructed mainly of stocking stitch with a textured stitch row every 8 rows.

chroma-loop

I’m using KnitPicks’ Chroma Fingering weight yarn in two colourways; the main yarn is Fogbank, shades of grey and a little bit of brown and the coloured one is Carnival. I’m loving the yarn (70% superwash wool, 30% nylon); it’s soft and squishy and will, I’m sure, make a shawl that will be an instant favourite.

Right now, I’m just over half way and I’ve only been working on it for about a week and a half. As I said, the body of the shawl is almost mindless knitting. I can work on it while watching tv. The coloured rows take a little more concentration, especially on the wrong side but, if you’re looking for a relatively simple knitting project, this would definitely fit the bill. One bonus about the pattern? The designer has included a row and stitch chart to help you keep your place, including a column to check off completed rows.

Knitting isn’t all I’ve been doing, obviously. A few months ago, I decided that it’s time to start replacing some of my aging baking and cooking supplies…. baking tins, kitchen implements…. that kind of thing. As you may remember, I now have new muffin tins, cake pans and a few other things. There are still a few things I’ll be replacing (as I come across things that have passed their best before date… so to speak).

Over the past couple of weeks, there have been two things that I’ve wanted to have back in my kitchen or have in my kitchen… period. One thing I’ve never had but have wanted is a cookie press. As you know if you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, I love to bake. A cookie press has never been in my kitchen but my mother had one years and years ago; I’ve been looking for one but I’m being picky. Yesterday, I went to my favourite kitchen store and looked at their (very meagre) selection. They had two; both looked and felt rather flimsy. If I’m going to get one, I want a good one. I’m keeping my eyes open.

Years ago, I had a krumkake iron, a Nordicware product that would be heated over an element on the stove. Krumkake is a Norwegian waffle cookie, very delicate but very tasty cookie. They can be served flat, rolled into a cigar shape, or formed into a cone and filled with cream. In Holland, they’re called “kniepertjes” (translated? Clothes pegs) (pronounced knee-pert-yes) and were a favourite of everyone in my family. When I left, I didn’t take it with me for some reason. I’ve always wanted another one.

I now have one.

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This is a Chef’s Choice Krumkake Express iron and I love it! It’s so much easier to use than the old, manual iron I had before.

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These are, believe it or not, gluten free. I tried two recipes and decided my first try would be gluten free because, of course, Kristen is gluten intolerant. It worked very well and, honestly, you cannot tell that there’s anything different about these.

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The kids loved these, especially when filled with vanilla whipped cream! For that matter, so did the adults. I also made a batch with white flour, following a Sons of Norway recipe; I was told to bring them to work because there are enough baked goods in this house already and we don’t need the added weight. The people at work thank you, John.

Categories: Baking, Cooking, John's Sweater, Kitchen, Knitting | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Odds & Ends

It’s Saturday again. Why does it feel that the weekdays crawl by but the weekends fly? It isn’t just me, is it? Anyway, today is a day of odds and ends.

First, over the course of the last two weeks, John’s had cataract surgery on both eyes. His eyesight had been diminishing rapidly and his ophthalmologist decided it was time. The first eye was done October 25 and seemed to go well but, with only his regular glasses, his eyes had to work pretty hard and he was often uncomfortable – tired and headachy. Not unexpected. This past Thursday, the second eye was done. Now, he has to get used to seeing the world in a whole new way and it’s shaken him up a bit. He will still need glasses for distance but he can see very well (perhaps too well) close up. He’s suddenly seeing all the dust and grime that, unfortunately, has built up around here.  Hmmm… with his time at work (gardening) coming to an end for this season, perhaps that’s not a bad thing??

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Last weekend, we decided to have roast beef for Sunday dinner. Normally, when we have a roast beef dinner, one of our staple sides is, of course, Yorkshire puddings. However, recognizing that Kristen is gluten intolerant, I wanted to try something different. I’d also picked up a beautiful head of cauliflower on my trip to the market. I went hunting on Pinterest and found what looked like an interesting recipe… for cauliflower cake. The recipe incorporated one whole head of cauliflower and three eggs.

The recipe is one from Yotam Ottolenghi, an Israeli born British chef and I can heartily recommend it. John has been talking about that cake all week! Leftovers warm up beautifully and, with a bit of gravy, you’ll never miss the Yorkshire puddings.

It does call for one cup of flour but I substituted a cup of gf flour and it worked just fine.

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The photo is not mine; it comes from the blog I found through Pinterest. Mine looked very similar though (I thought I had taken a picture of it; I didn’t). The recipe can be found on Ciao Chow Bambina‘s lovely blog.

This past week was also a week of surprises in the mail. I came home from work Tuesday to find two small packages on my computer desk. It isn’t that I wasn’t expecting anything, I was. I was involved in a soap swap on Ravelry so I knew there would be a couple of packets coming. My son had also let me know that a couple of bottles of essential oils were coming my way by mail so I knew there were parcels on the way. It’s still a nice little surprise to walk in the back door and see parcels waiting for me. Another parcel was waiting for me when I got home on Thursday!

blufrog-soap

This one was the first to arrive, from a Ravelry friend in Pennsylvania. The white flower bar of soap is a brine soap; the bar is a citrus soap; both have been aged for more than a year and, so, should be really good soaps. I’ll put them into rotation once the current bars in use are finished.

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The second parcel came to me from Michigan and included some Peeps chocolates. John had never heard of Peeps before; I had but I wasn’t aware that Peeps also made chocolates. I’ve had to hide the chocolates as there’s a chocoholic in our house… and it isn’t me. The bar at the left is scented with Honey & Leather and the bar on the right is made with powdered peanut butter and Peanut Stout scented.

It’s always nice to try someone else’s hand made soaps and I’m very much looking forward to trying all of these.

There, I’ve rambled on long enough. I could go on and tell you what’s on my needles (yes, there has been knitting) but I’ll leave that for another day.

Categories: Baking, Health, Just stuff, Knitting, Making Soap, Soap | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Last Day of 2015

I suppose the last day of the year is a time for reflection on what has passed and looking forward to a new start but I’m not going to do that. It’s been a year I’m happy to put behind us. Yes, there’s been plenty of good but there has also been heartache. I would rather concentrate on the now.

It will likely be a quiet New Year’s Eve for us. Kristen and the kids will probably not be here as she’s come down with some kind of bug. I’ll try to stay up until midnight to help ring in the new year but, realistically, I rarely stay up that late. Part of today will be spent making olie bollen (fritters) and I may make some soap but I’m not even sure about that yet.

I do know I will be doing some knitting… have already, in fact. John’s cardigan is coming along, if slowly. The back is finished and I’m working on the fronts simultaneously, sort of. I started with the right side and have it almost to the armhole shaping. Then I decided it would be a good idea to work on the left side as well, and get it to the same point, then work the shaping at the same time. That way, the shaping will be the same, at the same time.

Incidentally, the soap making thing? It’s really coming along. I’ve been making, and selling, quite a bit of soap. Christmas, it seems, is a good time for soap sales. This week, I even made shaving soap… real, use a brush, soft, creamy, shaving soap. It’s awesome!

Anyway, I need to get this day going. To all of you, from all of us, we wish you a very happy 2016. I’ll borrow an image, posted by an online friend, that perfectly describes what I wish for all of you.

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Categories: Baking, Blogging, Cardigan, John's Sweater, Just stuff, Knitting, Making Soap, Review | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Sun Still Rises

I’ve been spending some time working on John’s cardigan this week. I think I’m making pretty good progress.

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I still need to work about two inches until the shoulder shaping. I’ve also been making more soap. This week’s batch is another batch of the BNA Blackstrap Ale soap. I’m really pleased with how my soaps are turning out. They look good (in my very humble opinion); they are not strongly scented (I don’t like overwhelmingly scented soaps); they lather (that’s the important part!).

BNA Batch2

The colourant in this one is, once again, cocoa for the bottom part and titanium dioxide to make the foam, along with a hanger swirl to make the “foam” swirl.

You’re probably wondering about the title of this post. What does it have to do with knitting and soap? Nothing, really. It is, however, relevant to my family’s experiences this past week. It’s a reminder not to focus on the difficult times, a reminder that there is another day coming, a day that will bring new beginnings, new experiences, even, perhaps, joy. Right now, joy is difficult to imagine.

My family is hurting this week with a pain that will never fully go away. On Tuesday afternoon, my eldest grandson, Zachary, was found dead in his apartment. I will not go into details other than to say he and his roommate were both found deceased. Until the cause of his death is known, we’ll have to wait for a funeral. Please, if you pray, keep us in your prayers. Both his parents are, justifiably, devastated. We all have a hole in our hearts that will never completely heal but we do know that sun will rise tomorrow and our lives will go on.

Zach

Categories: Blogging, John's Sweater, Knitting, Making Soap, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

So… Colour Me an Idiot

John’s cardigan is coming along. I worked on it for a bit last night and came to a realization.

Let me back up a bit. Before I cast on any project, I choose the size I’ll knit and circle or highlight the numbers for that size I’m knitting, usually as I go along. I did the same with this cardigan. Except….. sigh…

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I’m up to the arm scye shaping and my stitch count was out. Apparently, after 17.5″, I cast on for the wrong size, one size larger than the size I had intended to knit. It’s only a few stitches difference and I don’t think it will really matter a lot but, really??

I’ve been knitting how long?? (Since I was seven, thank you very much.)

Did I mention I’d already knit seventeen and one half inches? I am NOT frogging it. John may have room to grow but from what I’ve already checked, it will fit him just fine.

What was I thinking?? Or maybe I did intend to cast on for that size and I circled the wrong numbers.

I think I’ll go make some soap.

Categories: Blogging, Cardigan, John's Sweater, Knitting, Soap, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

Just Another Weekend

It’s been… hmm… I was going to say that it’s been a quiet weekend so far but it hasn’t, really. On Friday, our kitchen baseboard heater decided to stop working… again. It does this every year – works for a week or two, then stops working for the rest of the year. We’ve been lucky enough to have an extra space heater that we’ve been using but it has decided it’s usefulness had expired this year and has now become nothing but garbage.

We let the landlord know about the heat situation and, on Friday night, K showed up to check the heater, the wiring, and whatever else he could determine. Yesterday, he and the landlord came by with a new heater to install but there seems to be some kind of an issue with wiring so, for the moment, we have no heat in the kitchen. Thankfully, it’s not yet cold enough that it’s an issue but it has made for a busy kitchen. By the time I returned from my shopping trip, there were three men and two dogs in my kitchen, with furniture all over the room, making it something of an obstacle course.

Later, Kristen and the kids came by for a fire and some roasted marshmallows. They even brought “coloured fire”, some packets of chemicals that you throw into the fire to make some fun and funky colours. I think it would have been more effective if we’d waited until dark but it was fun anyway. After a few marshmallows each, Kristen suggested we all go out for dinner and she managed to talk John into it. After a bit of discussion, we ended up at the Mission Tap House; if you’re in Kelowna and looking for a decent place to go for a meal, try it; everyone enjoyed their meals. I was the only one with leftovers, only because I really wasn’t all that hungry, not because it wasn’t good.

I even managed to get a batch of soap made. I’ve been watching a video channel (Soaping 101) and she’s made a couple of videos in which she takes a popular brand of soap (in this case, Dove) and breaks down their ingredients, creates a formula and makes a copy. I decided to try her recipe, now that I have all the supplies on hand. I added a scent (ylang ylang – just a little bit) and a little bit of silk protein, just because I still have some.

NoDoveBefore we even left for dinner, I was able to remove the soap from the mold; it was still a bit warm but already quite hard. By the time we got home, I cut it. Had I waited until this morning, I think it might have been too hard to cut! Do you see the white flecks in the soap? That’s from the titanium dioxide I used to colour half the batter. It’s nothing but cosmetic, just a little bit of interest in an otherwise pure white bar.

It needs to cure for at least 3-4 weeks but I’m looking forward to trying this soap.

And, in case you’re wondering, yes, there has been knitting. I have about 12″ done on the back of John’s sweater and I’ve started the third ball of yarn. At this point, apart from 12″ of straight on knitting, there’s not much to see. Imagine the last picture, doubled, and you get the idea.

Today, the plan is to make another batch of the first soap I made, the Coconut Milk soap, my personal favourite so far. After that, it’s all up in the air but I do anticipate some progress on John’s sweater.

 

Categories: Blogging, Cardigan, John's Sweater, Knitting, Making Soap, Soap | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It Ends Now

Well, it sort of ends now. Today is the last day to get your comments in (on the blog, not on Facebook); I’ll be making the draw for 6 soap samples tomorrow.

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Test pieces for some of my soaps… don’t they almost look good enough to eat?

It’s a long weekend here in Canada; we celebrate Thanksgiving on Monday. We will not be doing the “turkey thing”; I’d rather have a nice quiet weekend without the hectic busyness of cooking a full turkey dinner. That’s not relaxing at all, thankyouverymuch! I was thinking of putting together a big pan of lasagna, to be honest. Not very Thanksgiving-ish, is it? Certainly decadent, though!

I have every intention of filling the weekend with knitting related stuff. I have a book on the iPod (The Confessor by Daniel Silva) and a couple of projects on the needles; I am ready to relax!

First though, John’s slippers are finished… the knitting and the felting, although I will have to throw them back into the washer to felt a little more. For some reason, one slipper felted more than the other.

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My washer isn’t the best one out there, that’s for sure. I get lint on everything, and I do mean everything! I’m leery of washing anything white because I’ll end up with dark lint streaks on it; I’m afraid of washing anything dark because I end up with light lint streaks all over it. It’s rather frustrating, to be honest. In the case of the slippers, though, at least we can brush the lint off.

Because John’s slippers are finished, I’ve allowed myself to start his sweater. I’ve gone through one ball of yarn so far and that’s just knitting a few rows each evening while watching a show or two on the computer (we don’t have a tv… by choice).

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The stitch pattern is an easy one to memorize and read and, as you can see, knits up fairly quickly. The yarn feels really nice in the hand and makes a cozy fabric. I don’t think he’ll be at all disappointed with this cardigan. I’m already a little jealous.

I also have another small project on the needles. I’ve decided I like having a face cloth on the go; they’re the perfect small project – they knit up fairly quickly, even with fine yarn, and they’re a usable little item. I don’t especially like using them in the kitchen but I do like using them on my face.

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This time, I’m using Paton’s BumbleBee baby cotton, a 100% cotton, DK weight, that I do believe has been discontinued (yup… just checked; it was discontinued in 2005… and, yes, I’ve had it that long!). It’s a very soft cotton, nice to work with and knits up beautifully. I have about a half dozen or so balls of it so there will be a few of these face cloths in my linen closet before too long, or they’ll be given as gifts, accompanied by a bar or two of handcrafted soap.

Speaking of soap, I don’t think there will be any soap making this weekend; I’m out of coconut oil and I’m waiting for an order of a couple of items to arrive from Voyageur Soap & Candle in Vancouver. I could just run out and pick up some more coconut oil but soaping isn’t high on my priority list this weekend.

Categories: Blogging, Cardigan, Contest, Finished, John's Sweater, Knitting, Making Soap, Slippers, Soap | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

One Down, Another On The Needles

The Waffle Stitch face/spa cloth is finished! It only took a little over a week to finish one cloth – that actually surprised me; it felt like it took forever! I do have to say, though, that I’m really happy with it. It has a very nice feel to it, not thick but still cushy, with enough texture to help exfoliate and stimulate the skin without being rough. Now, we’ll have to see how it stands up to use. Looking nice is one thing, performance is another.

I’ve also cast on for another face cloth; I figure that if I have the yarn and needles out, I may as well keep going. I think I know a few people who will appreciate these. This time, I using a checkerboard stitch, 5 knit stitches, 5 purl stitches, 6 rows, then alternating the knit and purl stitches. I’m really liking how this one’s working up, too.

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The soap in the picture, incidentally, is the Java Jumpstart soap, one of my favourites (who am I kidding? They’re all my faves!). This one has the most amazing scent and so far, everyone who smells it, wants it.

And speaking of soap, I did a bit of experimenting last night. I’ve been seeing some amazing pictures and videos of something called a Taiwan Swirl (google it and you’ll see why I’ve been blown away). I used two colours (does uncoloured count as a colour?), natural and ultramarine blue and poured alternating sections of each. Then, with a chopstick, the colours are swirled together to form a pattern. Here’s how it looked after I’d finished the swirling…

Taiwan swirl

I chose not to add any scent to this one because I wanted to see how it turned out. If/when I make another swirled soap, I will definitely add some scent to it. To be honest, it takes almost as much time and thought to decide what scent to use as it does to plan and make the soap. It’s one of the reasons most of my soaps aren’t scented. That, and the fact that I don’t care for perfumed things on or near my face.

This morning, I took the soap from the mold; it’s still too soft to cut but I anticipate that I’ll be able to cut it tomorrow. I am really eager to see how the swirls look inside the soap.

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Normally, I cut my soaps in about nine bars, straight down. In this case, the recommendation is that you first cut about four bars across the mold, then cut each of those bars horizontally. That way, the swirls you see on the top become the sides of the bar. If that sounded confusing, just wait for the pictures.

Back to where we started… knitting. The weather here definitely has autumn overtones. Mornings and evenings have that unmistakable coolness that comes with the changing of the season. Another sign that autumn is on its way is the fact that John’s been whining about not having slippers to wear.

That should be remedied by the end of the weekend. I started his slippers last February; they’re almost done. I think I only need to work one more sole, then put them together and felt them. I’m making a point of getting them done and off my plate.

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Then, I can start on a pair for me!

Categories: Blogging, Contest, Just stuff, Knitting, Making Soap, Slippers, The Weather | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

September Already

It seems that summer has taken its leave. The weather has suddenly turned cooler and wetter. That’s very good news for the British Columbia/Washington State fire situation; if I’m not mistaken, all of the fires burning around here are now under control and a campfire ban has been lifted. Our skies are clear of smoke; they’re not clear, though. It’s still overcast but it’s regular clouds, rain clouds, not smoke. This doesn’t mean winter’s on its way yet; September and October can still be very warm around here; it does mean that autumn crops are coming on strong! Apparently, the farmers growing pumpkins have them ripening far ahead of their usual season.

Around here, life is interesting. There have been a few changes around the yard, nothing I need to share but it is definitely more quiet (a welcome change, to be sure) around here.

Trinity and Ethan were here last night while Mom had a much needed night off. They’ve been (and are) outside with their roller blades, trying not to fall, and avoiding the rough patches on the road (we live on a fairly quiet street so I’m not worried). So far, there have been a few tears but no major injuries, thankfully.

One of my co-workers let me know this week that I’ve become obsessed with soap making; you know what? She’s right. I made another batch before I left for work yesterday, in addition to the batch I’d already made this week.

This is a soap from Anne L. Watson’s lovely little book “Milk Soapmaking”, which was available on Amazon at no charge. As the name of the soap suggests, it’s made with yogurt! I’m surprised at the array of ingredients that can be used in making soap.

Yogurt Parfait sliced

I wanted to be able to tell, at a glance, which soap is which, so I coloured this one with some blue colorant that I still had from my lotions and potions making days. I didn’t want a solid colour so I mixed some of the colorant with a bit of the oil and coloured half the soap batter, which I then swirled back into the uncoloured mixture before pouring into the mold. I love the result.

This one has also been scented. In this case, I used a blend that I’ve used in the past as part of a muscle rub – equal parts of ginger, juniper, rosemary, and peppermint essential oils. Now that it’s curing, the scent is amazing; the peppermint is definitely there and the remainder blend very nicely with the mint, making it an almost masculine scent.

The one I made yesterday is also from one of Anne L. Watson’s books, “Smart Soapmaking” (also free on Amazon). This one is the Almond Facial soap, made only with liquid oils (just how many people do you know who just happen to have fractionated coconut oil lying around?). I wasn’t sure what colour to make it because, again, I want to be able to tell at a glance which is which, and decided on pink and purple, simply because those are the other two colorants I have on hand.

Mermaid soap 1

This soap took a lot longer to solidify than any of the soaps I’ve made so far; I think it’s because of the fact that there are no solid oils (fats or butters) in it. The colours are amazing and it makes me think of a mermaid’s tail, with the swirling pinks and purples that Trinity loves so much. Because the soap is still a touch sticky on the top, I decided to take it a step further.

Another item I have left from my lotion making days is some opalescent cosmetic grade glitter, very fine, very sparkly, and very Trinity! Before I let her cut it, I sprinkled some of the glitter on the soap and we now call it Mermaid Soap. The wavy cutter only adds to the mermaid feel, don’t you think?

Mermaid soap

As for my knitting, the face cloth is about two inches from being finished. I’m hoping to have it finished this weekend but we’ll be taking Kristen and the kids to the I.P.E. That stands for Interior Provincial Exhibition, the longest running exhibition in British Columbia. That will take care of tomorrow. Monday is Labour Day, though, and I’m off; perhaps I’ll have time to finish it then… and immediately cast on for another one.

Now, I’m rambling so I’d best go finish up the breakfast dishes and get this day going. Happy Labo(u)r Day to all!

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Categories: Blogging, Finished, Just stuff, Knitting, Making Soap, The Weather | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

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