Creating a Happy, Colorful, Handmade Home & life on the shores of lake superior

February 15, 2017

DIY Melt and Pour "Lake Superior" Soap

DIY Melt and Pour "Lake Superior" Soap

I warned you: making melt and pour soap is addictive.  It's the perfect craft for stress relief because it's fun and foolproof - nothing vexes me more than a DIY project that refuses to cooperate.  But making soap is easy!  Plus it gets bonus points for being a useful, consumable thing.  I have so many crafty ideas pinned to Pinterest but I am really picky about what I make because I just don't want more clutter.  Really, I can only use so many decorated vases and clay trinket dishes, but that mindset really put a damper on my creativity so I've been on the hunt for fun DIY projects that are useful, too.

Perhaps the best part of this is that the soap base I buy is organic and it lathers so beautifully, so I enjoy it more than the humdrum white bars we were buying.  

DIY Melt and Pour "Lake Superior" Soap

Today I'm sharing my latest melt and pour soap creation: "Lake Superior soap".  I wanted to create a bar that looked like the swirling depths of choppy water and it turned out so pretty.

DIY Melt and Pour "Lake Superior" Soap
DIY Melt and Pour "Lake Superior" Soap

Supplies:

DIY Melt and Pour "Lake Superior" Soap

Some Notes on Supplies: 

I purchased this exact soap base on Amazon in both clear and white, but I do prefer the clear glycerine base because the translucent base really highlights the shimmery mica so well.  I started with five pounds, three clear and two white, and that was a great amount for getting started with melt and pour soap making.   Definitely spring for at least 5 lbs! 

I have bought the mica colorants a few different times (including this exact teal as well as this teal shimmer plus this earthy color lot) and I'm not sure which ones I used here (plus I mix them).  If you're starting out, buy a mixed lot with color options - I guarantee you'll use them because you'll dream up different ideas while you experiment.

Because this project cleans up really easily, feel free to use a cutting board, measuring cup, knife and cheese grater from your kitchen cabinets.  While I was busy making soap, my white cutting board got a teeny tiny spot of discoloration from one of the mica colorants but everything cleaned up beautifully in the dishwasher - it's soap, after all. 

How to Make Swirling Melt and Pour Soap:  
The first step is to make the colorful "swirls".  Cut up the glycerine into 1 inch cubes and melt a cup or two in a Pyrex measuring cup for about 30 seconds in the microwave, until it's liquid.

DIY Melt and Pour "Lake Superior" Soap
DIY Melt and Pour "Lake Superior" Soap

Add a pinch of mica colorant and stir with a spoon until the color is uniform.  Pour into the bar soap mold and spritz with rubbing alcohol.  Repeat for different colors, using varying shades of blues and teals.

Set the bar soap molds aside, undisturbed, overnight.

DIY Melt and Pour Lake Superior Soap

Place the loaf silicone mold on a cutting board for stability.  Pop the bar soap out of their molds and grate them into the loaf mold using the cheese grater.  The soap is slippery so be careful - this is where a set of thin, cut-proof gloves would come in handy.  Grate the soap right into the loaf mold, alternating colors, until it is almost filled to the top.  Layer the lightest blues on top.

DIY Melt and Pour "Lake Superior" Soap
DIY Melt and Pour "Lake Superior" Soap

Melt about four cups of clear glycerine soap base in the microwave and add just a neutral white or pale gold mica colorant - just something for a bit of shimmer.  This is where you can add the fragrance - I used 20 or so drops of coconut essential oil.  Pour the melted soap into the loaf mold while it's still really hot.  The heat will make the top layer of grated soap melt somewhat and the resultant soap will have a pale turquoise background color with subtle swirls and movement.  By the time the melted soap reaches the bottom of the grated soap, it's cooler and the bottom layers stay much more intact.  Working with the hot melted glycerine is how I kept the grated soap design from just looking speckled (which also looks good).  Let it harden overnight and then pop out of the mold and slice, using a large sharp knife.

DIY Melt and Pour "Lake Superior" Soap
DIY Melt and Pour "Lake Superior" Soap
DIY Melt and Pour "Lake Superior" Soap
DIY Melt and Pour "Lake Superior" Soap

I don't know what scent best says "Lake Superior," so I just went with coconut because I like it.  I'm open to suggestions for my next lake inspired batch...

DIY Melt and Pour "Lake Superior" Soap

It is really difficult to photograph this soap because it's translucent and shimmering with different layers and a depth that I just cannot capture in a picture.  You'll have to take my word that this soap is staggeringly pretty.  I have literally stood in the shower for way too long, admiring it.  Just like my DIY gem stone soap, this soap doesn't dye or discolor any surfaces once it's finished. 

DIY Melt and Pour "Lake Superior" Soap

Have you tried making melt and pour soap?  I loved hearing about your experiments when I shared my last batch.  Tell me what you've been up to! 
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February 10, 2017

Lake Life Lately: Behind the Scenes



I find it so interesting how people (myself included!) like to peer into the lives of other people.  Long before reality TV and blogging, my Mama would pop in on family, uninvited, "to see how they really live".  When she visited the townhouse for the first time, she unabashedly peered inside each and every one of my cupboards and closets, eager to ascertain whether I was actually a tidy homeowner, or I has just cleaned for her visit.  When I said the garage was off limits (because the house alarm would sound), she was convinced that's where I was keeping the mess.  I repeatedly asked her not to open the door, but that just made the garage more enticing.  When the house alarm went off at the crack of dawn one morning, I knew that her curiosity had gotten the better of her.

I laughed when I caught her red-handed!  I couldn't fault her, because my favorite hobby was to go for a walk at dusk - so I could nonchalantly peer into our neighbors' homes as I slowly sauntered by.  That was the reason I started reading blogs.  And I know this isn't some weird family quirk because that passion for voyeurism is what makes reality TV such a lucrative industry.

What's funny to me, is that the authenticity and realism we seem to crave is so illusive.  The Hills?  Turns out much of it was scripted!  Blogger homes?  A lot of those Pinterest-worthy images are staged!  Instagram was, for a long time, a place for those candid snaps, but it too has become more glossed over by highly edited and stylized shots.  The "way people really live" is driven deeper into the depths of the internet - now you can find it mostly in short-lived Instagram stories and Snapchat whatevers.  But in this world, where cash is king, there's no conspiracy to hide real life, it's just that glossier depictions perform better: better show ratings, better blog stats.  So do people really want "to see how people really live" after all?

I think about this so much.

I struggle with this as a blogger, because I feel pressure to produce Pinterest-worthy images but I'm still passionate about the function blogging used to serve: a glimpse into real homes, to see how people really live and decorate.  That's more difficult these days and the monetization of blogs blurs the lines even more.
  
The biggest lie I perpetrate is in my food photography and flat lays: I photograph so many things on the floor!  Not so scandalous, I know - until you see how heartbreaking this is for Szuka...


Szuka will come lurking and just hang out, staring longingly at the food that's within her grasp and yet so far away.  I can leave the room and she won't touch it, but she's there.  Watching. 

When I see blogging from her eyes ("why is the food on the floor, human, and why aren't we eating it?") it all seems so strange...

P.S. that's a diabetic-friendly cheesecake!
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February 7, 2017

Easy DIY Walnut Plant Dolly

Easy DIY Walnut Plant Dolly

Feel free to congratulate me on keeping this massive jade plant alive for the past year and a half.  It's a little dusty, but growing!  Hello little leaves.

Easy DIY Walnut Plant Dolly

Everyone says these are easy to maintain, but I've killed one before (after many good years together), so every day that this guy looks green and happy is a victory for me.  He seems to be enjoying his spot in the lakehouse, although he and Szuka do fight for window space.  Whenever I move him to wash the floors, she immediately settles into his spot, staking her claim on the whole wall of windows.  I don't move him often, though, because he weighs a TON.  His relatively stationary life has made him grow a little kitty womper, because I don't rotate him enough. 

Looking for an easy way to move this massive plant, I started looking into plant dollies but I couldn't find a cute one so I abandoned the search.  While shopping online for supplies for a different project, I stumbled across nice low profile castors and decided that a DIY walnut plant dolly might just be the easiest thing to make!

Easy DIY Walnut Plant Dolly

Supplies:

Easy DIY Walnut Plant Dolly

To make life easier (we loathe cutting circles), I bought a solid wood cutting board.  I ordered mine online and it was kind of expensive, but I always see inexpensive ones at places like Home Goods and HomeSense.  A less expensive wood, like bamboo, will only cost around $10 and acacia is in the middle (around $30).  I just love me some walnut.

For size, I recommend choosing a cutting board that has a diameter 2 to 4 inches larger than the base of your flower pot.  For thickness, I went with 3/4" and for strength I don't recommend any thinner, but thicker would work too.  I also chose one with a juice drip groove just in case but I doubt I'll ever need it because I've never over-watered the plant before.

How to Make a Plant Dolly:

The next step was painfully easy: just place the castors equally spaced out, about an 1/8" from the edge of the cutting board.  The wider the castors are placed, the more stable the dolly will be, so I inset them just enough so they can't be seen from the top.

Mark where the screw holes are once the castors are positioned.  Remove the castors and pre-drill the holes.  Put the castors back in place and screw them in.  Just make sure you don't screw to the other side (you can use a piece of tape on your drill as a poor man's depth guide, that's what I do).

Easy DIY Walnut Plant Dolly

That's IT!

Easy DIY Walnut Plant Dolly

I am obsessed with how cute this looks!  The walnut really blends in nicely with our floors and these castors glide so smoothly, although, because the jade is so heavy, it's still really stable.  We need to purposefully move it, which is good.  A lighter plant might go skittering across the floor when brushed against, with such smooth castors.  No problems with Szuka knocking it over because she realized one Day One that the jade now moves, so she's been really gentle around it, it's kind of adorable.  If you have some overzealous pups or kitties, castors that lock (like these cuties) might be a good investment - and maybe even a super shallow wood bowl or a cutting board with a lip might be a good idea. 

Easy DIY Walnut Plant Dolly
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February 3, 2017

Lake Life Lately: Zombies + Other Completely Rational Fears


Being alone in the woods at night has always ranked high on my list of irrational fears - right up there with a Zombie apocalypse and shark attacks in swimming pools.

I never planned to move to the country.  I longed for a lake house, but I always imagined living close to a city.  Lakefront properties, however, do not often come up for sale around here and, if you remember my Sliding Door series, they are often out of our reach.  When this lakehouse came up for sale, we fell in love immediately.  It had some flaws to overlook (why would someone build a basement five feet tall?!?), but my biggest concern was its rural location.

We were actually cautioned against moving so far out to the sticks, largely because of the 45 minute drive to town.  But because we had been living in Ottawa, where rush hour can turn a 10 minute drive into a 45 minute ordeal, we weren't concerned about the commute.  Hubby had grown up in the country, on 80 acres deep in the woods, so the distance worried him even less.  He was more concerned about our measly little acre of land.  To him, our new home wasn't rural enough

I'll admit, I was mostly worried about zombies (in the woods - two fears in one!), so I didn't heed anyone's advice because their concerns (winter driving conditions/convenience) seemed pedestrian when there were much larger concerns to consider (seriously, why was no one else worried about the zombies?).

Shortly before we moved, we started watching The Walking Dead - which was such a mistake because it scared me senseless.  For months after moving here, I wouldn't set foot outside in the dark alone.  If I was in town for the day, I'd tear down the highway after dinner, trying to get inside before the sun went down.  If Hubby was out of town for work and I missed that sunset cutoff, I'd crash at my parents' place in my childhood bedroom.  I bought underwear and socks to keep there because this happened so often.

But it turns out that there are scarier things than zombies!  Since moving here, I've dealt with black bears, getting my truck stuck (and unstuck) in the snow more than once, a frozen well, and some really close calls with moose and deer on the highway.  Like, "is that deer fur caught in my grill?" close.   

Surprisingly, I took to country life like a duck to water.  The drive, the distance from everything, the well, the propane tank, the wood chopping, the garbage hauling - all of it feels routine now.  Eventually my fears melted away too.  I started driving home alone in the dark (although I'd sprint to my door at Olympic speeds).  But then I relaxed about that too, and now I putter around at night, taking out the garbage and admiring the stars.

One night Szuka ran away during her evening pee and I took off after her in my nightgown.  When I reached the road, I remembered that without street lights and our home's motion lights, it's really dark at night!  Then I remembered I was in the woods.  At night.  Alone.  At night.  Undeterred, I started jogging down the road until I found Szuka, who looked startled, like "oh sh*t, I thought you don't come out at night". 

Being able to be outside, in the dark and alone, seems ridiculous but that was a huge accomplishment for me.  Everything else was easy to adapt to, so when I finally felt comfortable in the woods at night, the country finally felt like home.

We even started watching The Walking Dead again (we're all caught up!)
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February 2, 2017

How to Temporarily Make a Ring Smaller

With my weight loss came the expensive realization that not only would I need a new wardrobe - right down to a replacement for my expensive parka (I bought the exact same one in a smaller size) - but even my rings would need re-sizing!  After a long pause, I'm actually still working towards losing a tiny bit more weight so I have been hesitant to fork over the dough to have my rings re-sized.  But after my wedding band got so big it started to fall off, I knew I needed a solution in the interim.  I read reviews on a lot of quick fixes and ultimately found what I think is a really great solution: the RinGuard Ring Size Adjuster.

How to Temporarily Make a Ring Smaller

These soft, hypo-allergenic surgical grade PVC tubes come in packs of three, to size a few rings at once or maximize the ways one ring can be temporarily made smaller.  The more times the RinGuard wraps around the bottom of a ring, the smaller it fits, so by snipping off some of the coil, a ring can be made just that tiny bit smaller.  But once it's trimmed, it's no longer an option to add loops, which is why I love the three pack - there's room for error.

How to Temporarily Make a Ring Smaller
How to Temporarily Make a Ring Smaller

I've mostly used these for my wedding ring, which I have had to size down a few times during my weight loss journey.  But I have also used it for fun cocktail rings - it offers the added benefit of helping heavier rings stay upright.

How to Temporarily Make a Ring Smaller

I've been using the same three RinGuards since May and they have really held up well.  Sometimes soap can get stuck in them, so every now and then I remove the RinGuard and give it a rinse - and I usually clean my ring at the same time.

How to Temporarily Make a Ring Smaller

Unlike some stiff tubes that are sold online, the beauty of these coils is that they curve to the shape of your finger, which helps create a comfy fit.  After a few days of wearing mine, I no longer really noticed.  It's been 9 months and still no complaints.  I know eventually I should have my rings re-sized properly but I'm just waiting a little bit more until my weight has settled before making that commitment. 

How to Temporarily Make a Ring Smaller

I know that quite a few of my readers can share in the struggle of having to buy new everything after a weight loss, so I wanted to share this quick tip!  I guess it's re-sizing for the DIYer, haha. 

I promised a detailed post about my weight loss ages ago but I've struggled to write it.  I have been writing and re-writing the draft, but at some point I will just have to take the plunge and share it!
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