Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Soooo, a while back, I believe I stated that I was only going to make soap and no other body products.

Then came those addictive little hand balms and I figured I could just stick with them and soap and be good.


blue musk scented lotion and sugar scrub

I made my first non-solid lotion and a sugar scrub today. And now I have plans for lip balm. *sigh* I am waiting for my shipment of new containers (due next Wednesday) and my labels (due this Thursday) and then there will be some fun going on here. And by fun I mean me swearing at the printer when the labels come out all crooked for the eight-hundredth time and me running around confused and frazzled because I can't keep track of what I'm doing ever anymore, at all.

Anyway, look at closer lotion:

blue musk scented lotion

Ooooooh. Now see closer sugar scrub:

blue musk scented sugar scrub

Mmmm, so nice. They are very, very lightly scented with a blue musk fragrance and they are heavenly. Now I need cucumber something, but I haven't decided what the other something should be yet. And a lime and something, definitely. Something tropical perhaps? Maybe complementary scents of scrubs to go with the lotions? Like coconut lime sugar scrub and a mango lotion. Yum. So many ideas and absolutely never enough time to try even half of them. What a bummer.

In other despondency, I want to plant things.

c'mon spring!

I spent the past few days laying a stone walkway (NOT as impressive as it sounds). I am quite pleased with it, but I have yet to get a decent photo. The ones I got yesterday did not do it justice, but the sun wasn't shining, so that may have had a lot to do with it... Anyway, there is a space beside it that is going to be filled with basic shade perennials borrowed from various locations around the yard. But not until they come up for the season. So I am patiently waiting for spring to actually start.

Until then, I will continue knitting winter items to pass some time. The yarn below is some gorgeous, rustic handspun yarn that I did not spin because I am terrible at spinning. I got these from two different people and they look really nice together.

nice together

I wound them into balls the other night and last night I started knitting some sort of mini-poncho cape-y sort of thing. We'll see.

ready to knit

So anyway. I guess I'll post again soon to share my walkway and the beginnings of my poncho(?). See you soon!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Stuff and a thing

Well, it has been a week again. Things have not slowed down around here at all and I have come to the conclusion that I may be in over my head a bit deeper than I thought. Ah well...

As far as the title goes, "stuff"' is just a bunch of pictures with captions and "a thing" was supposed to be a cute little meme from Meg's blog, but I found that my answers made me look like a huge loser, so I am not doing it now. Sorry Meg. ;)

So without further ado, here are a bunch of photos and no meme...

modeled apron
Shameless plug: This little beauty is now listed in my Etsy shop!

carrot soap
I don't even remember when I made this now, but it must have been two weeks ago. It is carrot soap with some tea tree oil and some of Heidi's Rosemary infused olive oil. This is right after I poured it. Look at that thick, beautiful trace! :)

first cut of carrot soap
Here it is being cut the next day.

my wheel - 2
You know what that is?! That is MY spinning wheel!!! I bought this from a friend from Sit & Knit a few weeks ago and I have hardly touched it since then. It has been difficult to find times to use it when the kiddos are not around. Because they are always around. Anyway, I am really terrible at spinning and I have been mercilessly mangling great bunches of fiber whenever I get a chance. I think I need to turn some of my almost nightly watch-M*A*S*H-and-knit time into watch-M*A*S*H-and-spin time...

my "new" old cookbook
This cookbook is amazing. It all started with a cookie recipe I got from a lady on Ravelry. She got it from the Moosewood Dessert cookbook. I couldn't find a used copy of that one at the moment, but this one was nice and cheap. It is a 1992 reprint of the original book and it is fabulous! Many, many sauce and soup recipes among others. I can't wait to try some!

begonias in pots
I am a horrific copycat and when I read Sherrie's post a bit back about her begonia, I had to get one for myself. I decided to split mine into three pots. Not as pretty, but I figured the three little plants might be happier that way.

top with wee little pocket
Here is a sneak peek at the latest shirt apron. This one is a full apron and will soon be in my shop.

A closeup of the main pocket.

sweater progress
Here is the Cascade nightmare cardigan. Look at the back. See the bunches of small stitches and then the bunches of large stitches? Now look at the sleeves. See how they repeat in a completely different way than the back? And see how they don't even match each other?! And see how angry this makes me?!! Whatevs...

leg warmers
In happier knitting news: the second pair of leg warmers! More to come I'm sure...

Well, there are a few more things, but I don't have any pictures yet. I'll be back before a whole week goes by this time, like for real. :)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Hand Balm Tutorial

Okay, the moment no one has been waiting for: My first tutorial! I figured those wee little hand balms would be a good thing to do since none of my close blogging friends have a hand balm tutorial yet. Let's go!

*Disclaimer 1* If you are a soap maker, this will bore you to tears. Like, for real. Read the recipe and then skip to the end where I show the nifty way I put the shrink bands on.

*Disclaimer 2* The recipe I use calls for a blend of beeswax, solid butters and liquid oils and is a modified version of a recipe I found online.
The most important thing about the recipe is to maintain even amounts of liquid oils and solid butters. You can tweak the beeswax and starch amounts according to your personal taste, but you must use equal amounts of oils and butters for them to properly solidify. Anyway, if you do a quick search for "solid lotion bar" or "solid hand balm" it should bring up a slew of different recipes for you to choose from. I will share my favorite here:

2.5 oz grated beeswax (or beeswax pastilles)
3 oz liquid oils (I've used a bunch of different combos of the following: avocado oil, sweet almond oil, golden jojoba oil, rice bran oil, wheatgerm oil -- still searching for my favorite blend)
3 oz solid butters (I've used varying amounts of each of the following: unrefined shea butter, cocoa butter and mango butter)
1.5 tbsp starch (I was using corn starch, but I have switched to arrowroot)
1 - 2 mL fragrance oil or essential oil (depending on desired strength -- you be the judge, but I prefer my scents on the lighter side and generally don't exceed 1.5 mL)
*This recipe makes 12 mini-muffin sized balms

You will need:

•Any combination of the oils listed above (or substitute your favorites!)
•Any combination of the butters listed above (or substitute your favorites!)
•Fragrance, if desired (you can find skin safe fragrance oils at most craft stores with the soap making supplies, or you can use essential oils)
•Mini muffin pan "mold" (I use both silicone and non-stick metal pans with success, but the flexible silicone pans are MUCH easier to release the balms from)
•Kitchen scale that measures at least in half ounce increments
•Utensil for stirring
•Ladle for pouring melted balm into "mold"
•Crock Pot set to LOW, double boiler over LOW heat or oven safe dish in a warm oven
(no more than 200° F) ***The key is to use an indirect heat source.*** Amber's Ambry is not responsible for horrendous kitchen fires caused by irresponsible wax melting ;)
•Individual containers for finished balms (Snack size baggies will do the trick, but don't expect your balms to retain their lovely little shapes that way. After a few trips in your purse or pocket, they will get smashed and smear all over the inside of the baggie. Still usable, but extremely, um, gross looking, so don't say I didn't warn you.)

Step One:
Measure your solid ingredients.
Start with your beeswax so it gets a head start at melting. However, it is not necessary to melt it completely before adding the other ingredients.

hand balm tut. 1
Measuring mango butter.

Step Two: Add solid ingredients to melting device and cover. (Covering is not necessary if you are using an oven.)

hand balm tut. 2
Butters and beeswax pastilles in warm crock pot.

Step Three: Measure your oils.

hand balm tut. 3
I measure my oils all together until I get to my desired ounce total -- in the case of this recipe: three ounces.

Step Four:
Add oils to melting device.

hand balm tut. 4
Adding the liquid ingredients to the solids.

hand balm tut. 5
All ingredients added and ready to melt.

Step Five: Twiddle your thumbs and wait for everything to melt. Stir occasionally. Wash some dishes or something. The time will go faster than if you are hovering over your pot waiting for the chunks to disappear. Not that I know this from personal experience...

hand balm tut. 6
Oh my gosh, it's finally melting!

When your mixture has melted completely, it will be totally clear, with no little pieces floating in it. You may experience some fine sediment at the bottom of your pot from several sources, especially hand-grated beeswax and unrefined shea butter. This is nothing to worry about and you can just stir it in with the starch in the next step.

hand balm tut. 7
Ingredients completely melted.

Step Six: Add starch. This is an easy one. Just measure and dump carefully so as not to splash and stir thoroughly with a wire whisk or a fork.

hand balm tut. 7
Starchy goodness.

hand balm tut. 8
Whisking with fork.

Step Seven: Add fragrance. If you are leaving yours unscented, ignore this step. Otherwise, measure 1 - 1.5 mL of your desired fragrance and stir it into your melty balm mixture.

Step Eight: Ladle into molds.

hand balm tut. 9
Erm, ladling into molds...

hand balm tut. 10
Almost completely solid.

See the color difference in the above two photos? The pictures were taken about fifteen minutes apart, but the balms will actually start to set up pretty quickly in a cool room. Use care not to move or bump them during this process or they will develop unsightly cracks and uneven areas.

Step Nine: Release from molds and place in containers.

hand balm tut. 11
An army of balm.

You did it!!! Now enjoy your balm and give some to all your friends. They will be so delighted with your crafty-ness AND they will have nice, soft hands when they give you the pat on the back you so richly deserve...

*Now for the packaging addendum:
If you are going to sell your balms and need to seal them with shrink bands, I have a neato little trick I use to keep them from rolling away when I turn the heat gun on them.

I place two thick oven mitts or hot pads on the table and I place my broiler pan (the kind that used to come with new ovens) on top of them. Then I line up the shrink bands over my tins and place the tins on their sides in the grooves of the broiler pan. The pan keeps them from rolling while the heat gun is shrinking the little bands, and it provides a heat resistant surface (with the help of the oven mitts underneath) so I don't have to worry about scorching my countertop or table.

hand balm tut. 12
Shrink bands in place, ready for the heat gun.

hand balm tut. 13
Awesome heat gun action shot.

blueberry hand balm group
The finished product.

Alright, that does it! I hope you enjoyed Hand Balm 101. Please check back much, much farther in the far off distant future for more tutorials. But first I have to think of things that I do that don't already have eighty bajillion tutorials devoted to them. ;) For real though, I hope you enjoyed it. Have fun making hand balm!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


So I am totally dropping the ball here in so many ways. No, seriously. I have a paper to write for my little online classes and haven't started it yet. I haven't been keeping up with my housework, or my cooking, or my soap, sewing, knitting -- you name it. This winter has been such an incredible spirit-sucker. I feel like all my energy was gone for so many months and it STILL isn't spring. What a bummer.

Anyway, here are a few pictures and a promise to be less of a downer next time. :)

tower o' Wool-Ease
What can I say? Joann Fabrics was having a sale and I am such a sucker for the bulky stuff. I am planning some chunky socks. :)

growing sleeve
A not so recent sweater progress shot. The first sleeve is now finished and the second sleeve is halfway done.

and it's the same bread again!
Bread! I made up my own recipe with unbleached flour, kamut flour, amaranth flour and oat bran flour. It's topped with a blend of raw sugar and toasted cornmeal. Pretty good, but I think I'd like less of the kamut flour. Dunno...

practice soap cake
Soap cake! This was just a practice one. As in, I used rebatched soap (remember the ugly pink clay batch?) for the cake and cheapo melt and pour for the icing. Not that there's anything wrong with that. ;) But it's not smoooooth like cold process, that's all.

a slice of soap cake
Here's a little slice on a plate.

quilt almost done
Haven't finished this yet, but I'm getting closer. Just a bit more quilting to do and then the dreaded binding. *shudder*

Another thing: I made two aprons (so far) for Tie One On. The theme this time is "no $$". I had a bunch of shirts put aside and grouped into good fabric combos, so I figured this would be the perfect opportunity to actually make them.

simple apron -- made from shirts
This one is super cute and will probably be in my Etsy shop as soon as I get some good pictures of it.

layered apron -- made from shirts
This one is my most favorite apron I ever made, ever. I have been wearing it for every non-dirty task possible and I LOVE it.

It has three layers. The bottom layer is a solid piece from a vintage men's striped shirt. The middle and top layers are all my old shirts that I couldn't wear anymore, but couldn't bear to let go.

detail of all three layers
These are all three layers, laid out for you to see the pretty. :)

pocket made from shirt cuffs
The pockets on both are made from the cuffs of three of the shirts for a neat layered effect.

I did manage to get my tub surround done last week. Yay for me. But I still haven't finished the actual bathroom walls. Because of that, I cannot put up the trim or the wall cabinet I bought. Awesome. One of these days, I will actually manage my time wisely and accomplish some actual work around here other than dishes and laundry.

Okay. I have rambled enough for one night. Have a good one!

Friday, March 6, 2009

A few things and a giveaway!

Yes, I said giveaway. But you have to wait until the end of the post for the details. :)

It has been a week since I posted again and I have very few pictures to share, but I have been busy with so many different things, including some early spring cleaning:

early spring cleaning

I've also had a few custom orders to take care of and I've been trying to get more knitting in --

start of a cardigan

-- AND I spent most of today working on my bathroom. Yeah, remember how I started that like, what, A YEAR AGO? No seriously. I looked it up and it was a year ago. Makes me feel sort of pathetic really...

Anyway. Here's a needle felting project I've been working on sporadically:

blue bird

blue bird!

Sorry for the blur, but I just could not hold my hand steady while I took the picture. Hours of removing and replacing the tub surround did not help my already shaky self.

Okay, now for the giveaway! I signed up for this on Teresa's blog, so I am copying her instructions, with a few changes.

The first 5 people who respond to this post WHO ARE INTERESTED IN PARTICIPATING will get something made by me. This offer does have some restrictions & limitations:

•You will receive this item before the end of the year...or sooner.
•You will have no idea what the item will be, or when you will receive it.
•To participate, you must re-post this meme on your blog and put together something to be sent out as 5 surprises of your own. These surprises can be anything -- it's up to you!

Here's the thing: if you don't want to do this but you were going to leave a comment, just put a note in that you are opting out of the giveaway. I understand not everybody is going to want to have a giveaway of their own and I am greedy for comments, so I don't want to scare anybody away with the "first five" thing. ;)

Okay, time for fun!