Saturday, December 27, 2008


Giftmas turned out pretty okay over all. A few days after the snow, a friend called to say that she had rescued a 4 week old kitten from outside her apartment, and since she was heading out of town over the holidays I of course offered to kitten-sit.

I mean, it's not like she is an adorable ball of fluff or anything, who requires constant cuddling and gratuitous amounts of photos taken of her.

I mean, that would be ridiculous. In other news, though, I'm really getting a lot of wear out of those Beetons I made!

I actually thought about making a third, since one of them seems to be occupied.

I also started some socks, Bayerische socks by Eunny Jang, made from Malabrigo Sock that I got when I was down in Houston last - I met up with some ladies from Ravelry, and it was good times.

And then of course there was giftmas. The soaps were a hit! I was really pleased with how they turned out, but what I think did it most was the presentation. I had some really bitchin' presentation.

So, you know, all in all? Good holiday.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Goodbye, About

Out and About came into our lives on May 13th, 2007. On October 23rd, she showed signs of being ill, and we treated her for a middle ear infection. She seemed to have recovered, though she kept the head-tilt that had first tipped us off.


On December 18th, she passed away. She does not seem to have suffered, as she was happy and cuddly last night when we went to bed. She is in the freezer right now, and will be buried in the front yard under a rosemary bush, which she would have liked because it has a smell and is food-related. As far as we can tell she was born around April 20th, which would make her 1 year and 9 months old, and the average lifespan for a pet rat is 2 years. She had a good run. She will be missed.

Out seems to be doing fine. We have moved her to the smaller cage, and will probably be moving her into the living room so she can interact with us more through the day, which she will need now that she is by herself. We considered getting another little girl for her to bond with, and maybe naming her In or Down, but decided that with the dog and cat we have our hands plenty full.

Goodbye, my little girl. Mama loves you.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Moar Soap Pics Plz

The rose soap, in all it's glory! (see that nice log shape?)

The strawberry soap did not fare as well. It looks like it didn't gel right, or didn't trace right, or some other more different thing happened. I will try rebatching it tomorrow, see how that goes.

And for that classic feel, here's some (very small) pics of MANANA! soap:


Tiny kiwi-seaweed pics:

And because it makes everything better:

Monday, December 08, 2008

3 Batch Night

Yup, tonight I made 3 whole batches of soap! I know, I'm still behind, but considering how nice the Manana and Lemon Poppyseed are right now, after only a few weeks' cure, I think I'll still be okay so long as I get the rest of them finished as fast as possible and give a generous water discount.

The kiwi-seaweed, not so much with the nice. That seaweed smell really overpowers the kiwi, and while it's at it it overpowers the manana that's drying across the room, and gives the cat a run for his money. It smells like Galveston, and not in a really great way. I may give it out at work. I would never be asked to make soap for anybody else.

So yes - soap! Made tonight! 3 batches!

I started setting up for the first batch and realized that hey - I had all my basic ingredients, but I was missing some of the things to differentiate the batches. I had cocoa, but no peppermint. I had coconut powder, but no milk. Instant coffee and beans to grind, no espresso. That sort of thing. So I got what I had and went to town.

The first one went perfectly, and I'm really glad it was this one that did. I used my basic Bastille recipe (80% olive, 10% coconut, 5% each avocado butter and castor, 7% superfat, 50% water discount), and as my liquid I used rosewater from the mini-mini-mini mart, which is the best place in town to get indian groceries, let me tell you. The rosewater you get from the international section of the big grocery stores just does not compete. For scent, I used a few drops of some Rose Absolute that Mr. Sweetie's sister gave me a few years back - the real shit, that comes in 1/2 dram bottles for like $50.

I do not use this stuff lightly.

I tried something new with the rose soap, the first of which was that I put a liner (read: plastic bag) in the crockpot first, and poured my oils into that. It worked out really well! The cleanup was crazy easy, and I wished that I remembered to do that with the other two batches, but I didn't, so when I'm done with this it's time to clean the kitchen again. But for the future, I'll bear it in mind.

The second thing I tried new was dissolving some silk into the lyewater right after mixing it up. It took longer to dissolve than I'd thought it would, and it looks like nothing so much as when you kill your hair trying to bleach it*, which I guess makes sense. That's basically what you're doing.

This batch traced really fast, but I still got it into the mold easy, same one as I used for the lemon-poppyseed bars, which I like because it gives a very nice classic shape. It's the closest I've got to a loaf mold right now, and I appreciate that about it. I think it's going to turn out great.

So the next batch, right?

I wanted to do another shaving soap, so I fiddled with my bastille base a little. 75% olive oil, 10% coconut, 10% castor, 5% avocado butter (man I love me that avocado butter, and you know I still have a bunch of it left!). I used the rosewater again, because I had already opened the bottle, but I forgot to put a liner in the crock pot before I poured the oils so oh well. There's that. I also did the silk again.

That batch traced FAST. Like, less than a minute fast. Starting to set up in the crockpot fast. You don't have time to dig out a mold and shouldn't you have done that earlier anyways fast. I managed to spoon it into some old coffee mugs, which I guess I'm now giving as gifts! Comes with 6.4oz of soap per mug, if I divided them evenly, which I don't think I did. I'm not sure if the bentonite clay I added actually mixed in at all, or if it's in chalky streaks in the soap somewhere - my money's on the latter. Luckily, there will be other parts to these gifts.

So on to the third batch, right? I'm really proud of this one. So proud, I'm calling it my Holy Trinity Soap. That's right, bitches - strawberry, balsamic vinegar, black pepper soap! Depending on how nice this turns out, I may keep it all for myself. Because I love it. And the family won't know.

I went back to my basic bastille, this time with a 5% superfat because I wanted an ever-so-slightly harder bar, and because vinegar is basic. I added a cup of pureed strawberries, vinegar, and black pepper for the entire two pound batch, and it again traced VERY fast. Did I mention I used the rosewater again for this one? It was in a handy new container, right next to my other supplies. I didn't use silk, and this batch didn't seize. I'm thinking the rosewater may be what's speeding my trace up so much. I got this one into my original molds, which I was not as pleased with but again I forgot to grab molds before I mixed the oils and lye, so I took what was near to hand. It was at a really heavy trace when I poured it, so I scored the top of the soaps like they were peanut butter cookies - crosshatching forkmarks. It was really cute.

And now those 6 lbs are insulated and in the soap closet, hopefully going through a happy little gen phase while I prepare for bed. And oh, I will be happy to be there.

* Okay, so was I the only kid who tried to use straight bleach to color their hair when they were too young to buy a proper dyeing kit? Jeez, I'm glad I tested a little strand separately, or I'd have been one bald-ass chemically burned child.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

19 lbs of Cheesecake

So I learned to make cheesecake this thanksgiving - boy did I ever! I used the recipe from Cooking for Engineers, which worked fine except for the actual cooking temperature/times. I'm still trying to find a guide to how long/how hot I should cook the cheesecakes so they end up toasty brown on top and creamy and DONE all through the middle. So far little luck.

We always go to FavoriteAunt's place for the holidays, and this year was only a little different - this year, being a newly married woman, I was invited to participate in the Midnight Drunken Baking that happens the night before. This is usually reserved for married ladies and single ladies (i.e. no unmarried ladies living in sin with their SOs, FavAunt wants none of this under her roof), with the one notable exception of FavCousin's now-fiance being invited when she was his then-girlfriend. Now-fiance lived nearby, and she didn't sleep over, so it was okay.

ANYWAY. Midnight drunken baking. I offered to make a cheesecake, and FavAunt contemplated making two. I was directed to make two crusts, and did so, thinking they were both for cheesecake and that a third crust would be made for FavAunt's sugar-free pumpkin cheesecake (made for FavUncle). She thought I was making one crust for me and one for her. I made two cheesecakes' worth of filling, filled the first pie tin (which was not so much a pie tin as a giant tall cake tin), and started filling the second.

She stopped me and asked what the crap I was doing. I explained, she explained, the misunderstanding was soon made clear. I poured the filling back into the bowl as best I could, and she filled it up with her pumping cheesecake filling. It was about half-full, as was the first pie tin, and I still had me a bowl full of uncooked cheesecake goodness.

So, of course, we topped off both. One only-cheesecake, one half-pumpkin cheesecake (in layers!). Good times, right? Who doesn't love more cheesecake?

Well, the baking directions said to cook one pie for 10 minutes at 500 degrees, then two hours at 200 degrees. FavAunt was dubious. I wanted to stick to the recipe. We compromised, first cooking both pies together at the times and temperatures directed, then when they were clearly not done like at all turning it up to 350 like FavAunt wanted and cooking them until they were actually done. We didn't get a clear time on how long that took, since we were also opening the oven every 20 minutes to put in other things to bake, like TwinSister's apple pies, coconut almond tartlets, and apple caramel tartles that we made from all the leftovers of the other desserts (which were delicious, btw).

So when they were finally done, we chilled them as we were able and for the hell of it, weighed them. They were each 7 lbs. Not a crumb remained by the end of the night, except the slice I saved to take home to some friends who had to work thanksgiving.

Later that weekend, we were scheduled to meet up at mom's house on sunday doing HER thanksgiving, so I decided to make another cheesecake. I only made one, and I cooked it as per the recipe (10 mins @ 500, 2 hours @ 200) before cranking it up to 350 for another half an hour. This one was only 5 lbs, but I figured that was okay. It was also a hit, but as mom's gathering are much less massive than FavAunt's (15 people vs. 40 people), by the time I had to leave to drive home there was still half a cheesecake left - and you best believe it went home with me.

So basically this is the recipe.

1 graham cracker crust (make your own or buy it, however you like)
1 really tall cake tin, or 9-10" springform pan.
2.5 lbs of cream cheese at room temperature
1/8 tsp salt
1 3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract.
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 large egg yolks
6 eggs
(Optionally, 3 Tbs flour (I did not do this))

Mix of cream cheese at room temperature until smooth.
Mix in salt.
Mix in sugar, in thirds. Optionally, also mix in the flour.
Mix in lemon juice, and vanilla extract.
Mix in heavy cream.
Mix in egg yolks.
Min in 3 eggs, then 3 more when those first ones are all mixed in.

Pour it into the crust, and bake. Honest, at this point, I would just go right to 350 and cook it until the puffing has almost reached the center, maybe 30 minutes, then go down to 200 for like two hours. Cool very slowly once it's out of the oven - put a big bowl over it for a few hours until it's room temp, then stick it in the fridge for a few hours. The slow cooling is supposed to prevent it from cracking, but if it does crack (and mine did), it's still delicious cheesecake so who cares?