Saturday, February 23, 2013

Homemade Olive Oil Soap - Trial and Error

Vintage French olive oil advertisement card from Alex V

Before we started painting the hallways, I made a batch of olive oil soap from scratch. Knowing it would need at least a month to cure, I figured it would be ready to test once the hallways were done. Pure and simple, unscented and uncoloured so I can re-batch (mill it) into several different scents, colours and patterns. I truly believe in the benefits of olive oil, not just for cleansing and moisturizing the skin, but in food as well. I also love its positive symbolism. Olive oil is good in every way.


This is not a tutorial. There are many steps in making soap from scratch. As it involves lye, I wanted to to avoid distractions so did not take shots of the work in process. Many safety precautions should be taken before starting - the first is to be well informed.


Everything went very well. Once heated and mixed, I poured my soap mixture into a plastic container and let it harden for 48 hours, as recommended. This turned out to be much too long and my soap was so hard and flinty, it was hard to cut into even chunks. The next time I'll pour my soap into bar size molds and use as is after the curing time. Or I'll un-mold while it still soft and cut into manageable size bars.

 

I ended up breaking that big slab into small chunks and used my electric grinder - thank God for that.


I thought re-batching would be easier - similar to a melt and pour - but it took forever to grind and melt. 


I added a bit of coconut butter and the required amount of water to help it melt down.Waited...waited ...waited still.


Even after hours, I could not get my basic soap to completely melt down. The texture remained, heavy, lumpy and sticky - not fun. I think a Croc Pot would have done a better job at melting everything down more evenly without the risk of scorching the soap.


Three hours later, I was kind of fed up. I added my aromatic oil and Japanese green tea powder. The green tea powder turned brown - not very pretty. Seeing how thick the mixture was, I did not bother putting in my silicon molds at the bottom, I thought the design would be lost anyway. It was so messy, everything was sticking to everything. I let it cool outside. Once un-molded, this batch was easy to cut, like a hard Emmental cheese, no crumbs - big relief.


Here we are, my first attempt at re-batching. Too rustic looking for my taste, but what I lost in prettiness, I gained in moisturizing quality. This little ugly guy feels rich and creamy, lathers nicely and   is much milder on the face than the 'melt and pour' batch from the store - it's wonderful. At the end, it turned out okay, but it was so much work. When Brian walked into the kitchen, he thought I had made walnut vanilla fudge. I have to work on the appearance, I wouldn't want our guests taking a bite.


In order to use my silicone molds, I'll need a finer texture soap similar to hot liquid wax. I think the answer is in translucent/glycerin soap. It requires more ingredients, but the lye is neutralized in the cooking and there is no curing except for the normal drying and hardening time. The translucent soaps are said to be super-mild and would be ready to use - no re-batching involved. Also, I could pour my translucent soap directly on to my silicon molds without risking deterioration from the lye. Anyway, in the mean time I'll finish re-batching my olive oil soap and try to make them look pretty. Live and learn.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Painting the Hallways - Mission Accomplished!



Even though - or perhaps, because - I was born in the dead of winter, I very much suffer from those cold and dark months. Those who've been following this blog for a little while may have got a sense that I'm a summer child. I'm an early riser. I'm most productive during the morning and can only do my artwork in natural daylight. In the summer months, I'm like a songbird - up at the crack of dawn and powering down when the sun sets. Come autumn, I feel like a bear looking for a hole to curl up in.

So, if one doesn't have sun and warmth, one must create it.

Let there be light!






With the light paint colours, this stair runner is too bold. Something in the William Morris style would be ideal, but it will have to wait. The wall on the right, leading to the kitchen is earmarked for a mural.
The two rooms connected to the hallway on the main floor are the library on one side and my studio (previously, the parlour) on the other. The yellow I chose was found on both wall papers adorning the rooms. In the library, the highlights on the lion's coat and many details in the ceiling patterns. In the studio, the lemons in the lower section and small flowers near the ceiling.

Library

Studio
Studio
Don't get me wrong, I love dark, rich colours. The previous owner's selection was very sophisticated, uncommon and elegant, befitting the style of the house. And if one can live with a darker palette, one should go ahead and do it. I took these shots the first winter after we moved in to the DV. Very atmospheric, elegantly spooky, don't you think? Don't mind the otherworldly orbs. The hallway entrance was, after all, the first tangible contact we had with the DV and we fell hard for this house.




We still have to do minor touch-ups, a window covering and a cushion on the trunk but this huge painting job is pretty much done.

Brian replacing his books, alphabetical by author, of course.

Thank you for following me on this project.
I feel like my inner bear is morphing into a song bird...


or perhaps a Harpy.
I Schipper 1660 graveur Matthius Merian naar J.Jonstons' "Naekeurige Beschryvingh van de Natuur"

Monday, February 11, 2013

Joyeuse St-Valentin!



When presenting a heart themed post, one runs the risk of falling into the kitch and sappy category. The market is saturated with romantic heart shape Victoriana of all sorts, so I will deliberately stay away from this style. The heart is, to me, the shape that is truly universally understood by all human beings on this planet and is absolutely timeless.


Two of my birthday presents, this year, came in the shape of hearts. Appropriate since it is not far from Valentine's Day and they come from the two loves of my life. Brian got me this adorable little garnet ring from Gems Berry, shown further above with one of my little guest soaps in a heart shape crystal dish I found in a local second hand store.


Astrid gave me this big chunky vintage necklace from Things of Splendor. A huge metal heart set with big facetted glass stones. Perfect for a super simple little black or white dress. Another Etsy shop owned by a fashion lover and collector of all things splendid.

Other heart items I love, found on Etsy:

This impeccably crafted ceramic pendent from Studio Khan. You have to snap the nodules apart and reconnect them to shape the heart. The chain comes from inside the pieces - so clever.


The Dusty Raven offers barb wire hearts for your vines to grow on. Jewellery for your house and garden.

Because our hearts can also be broken. This Art Nouveau style black mourning pin at  Sweet Sweet Vintage is elegantly understated.


How adorable is that! Look carefully, you will see the smallest hearts ever crafted on jewellery at Kiss the Frog Studio .

Diamond heart at Aawsomblei , need I say more, except...


HAPPY VALENTINE'S !

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Painting the Hallways - Part II


We're beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, literally. We've been living here for four years, but I felt the hallways still belonged to the previous owners. We took possession and now claim them as our own with fresh coats of paint.


Still a lot to do, but it's getting there.


The little light goddess figures nicely on a yellow background and the 14 1/2"-high floor mouldings proudly lead the way.


Below, a few 'work in progress' shots.


Upstairs ceiling is done.
The application of the yellow paint has started upstairs while Astrid is finishing downstairs.
We're going to take a well-deserved break for a couple of days.

Opposite view upstairs.