All About Soap Making: Basic Soap Making

by Gary Everson

Many areas of misunderstanding exist with regard to soap making. I am often asked “do I have to use lye?” “just how dangerous is lye?” and “will soap making save me money?” “can I really make soap and sell it for a profit?” these and many more questions arrive in my inbox on a daily basis, making it clear to me the extent of misinformation that exists where soap making is concerned.

There are really only two soap making techniques, cold process and hot process. Other techniques referred to as melt and pour and rebatching, are not actually soap making at all, instead they involve melting previously made soaps back to liquid form, then adding fragrance and color, maybe some herbs and grains and then allowing to set again.


True Soap Making involves the chemical reaction which takes place when fats and/or oils are mixed with an alkali such as Sodium Hydroxide, also known as Lye, or Caustic Soda. It’s as simple as that really, but more complex than you can imagine.

Aside from the basic fact that a strong alkali in solution will cause a chemical reaction known as saponification when mixed with fats, the exact nature of the resulting soap is dependent upon the type of fat used, the amount of lye, the curing time and a host of other factors all of which combine to make soap making a truly interesting and rewarding craft. I call it a craft because it requires skill and practice, I would prefer not to recall the number of soap batches I made when I was starting out that had to be thrown into the trash. Its important to remember that sometimes it takes a few tries to get it right, but once you’ve got the process down, homemade soap making is easy and fun. It is a never-ending source of joy because there is always more to learn.

Soap making is an age-old skill that is currently undergoing a popular revival. Home or cottage level soap making is done by the “cold process”, however this method is not recommended for children because of the potential danger that lye poses. Soap making is a fascinating, enjoyable and creative hobby, but did you ever realize that it could actually become an excellent source of income. the beauty of soap making is its adaptability to village-sized enterprises, it represents a business that requires little space, with little cost and offers numerous possibilities.


Soap making is a great hobby and makes a wonderful gift because, let’s face it, everyone needs it. Homemade soap making is not at all a difficult process. The melt and pour process makes it even easier, although melt and pour is not soap making in its true sense, it is an easy and creative way to make your own soap. It is the easiest of all the methods and is by far the least time consuming.

The most popular soap making process today is the cold process method, where fats such as olive oil react with lye, it is the process that more advanced hobbyists and small business owners use. It is certainly a more complicated way of making your own soap than melt and pour, but can yield much more pleasing results. Cold process is a method of soap making which doesn’t utilize any external heat source. Sodium hydroxide, also known as lye, is used in cold process soap making. The cold process yields no waste products of any kind.

Melt and pour soap making is an easy and creative way to make your own soap. Some soap makers prefer melt and pour because the process is easy and allows the soap maker to concentrate more on the aesthetic aspects of soap making. In its simplest form, slice off what you need, melt it, and pour it into your favorite soap molds. Learning how to make melt and pour soap is the easiest soap making method that you can learn. The joy of Melt and Pour Soap Making promotes the making of soap in the home as a fun hobby and economical craft. Learn melt and pour and cold-process soap making basics then try your hand at lotion, lip balm, salt scrubs and more. Melt and pour soap base is pre-made and purchased by the block, a natural soap base is melted and poured in individual shapes. It has become very popular in recent years. Melt and pour is not actual soap making, often called glycerin soap, it can be opaque, colored or clear. Even children, when supervised, can make soap using this method. Typical un-molding time for Melt and Pour soaps is 4 hours, after which it is ready to use. Un-molding time for cold process soaps is 24 hours or more, followed by a curing period that can take as long as four weeks.

If you are careful to shop around for the best deals and buy your ingredients in bulk wherever possible, you can create batches of soap which cost between 20 and 50 cents per bar, less than commercially available soap bars with many times better quality and a lot less than the price of other handmade soaps on the market. This provides the opportunity for a reasonable profit margin should you decide to sell your products, either simply to recoup the cost of your hobby, or to fuel the beginnings of an exciting and profitable business.





Soap making is not hard to do if you are armed with just a little bit of information. It is an age-old skill that is currently undergoing a popular revival. A fun and useful hobby, soap making is a great pastime and makes a wonderful gift because, let’s face it, everyone needs it. Cold process soap making is not recommended for children because of the potential danger that lye poses. Melt and Pour soap making is the easiest of all the methods and is by far the least time consuming. Soap making is not just for your grandmother anymore; it has become a popular hobby for many creative and artistic people.

Copyright © 2007 Gary Everson

About the author:
Want to learn All About Soap Making, but haven’t a clue where to start? Gary Everson’s FREE course will show you how, from the basic techniques with a detailed explanation of theraputic soaps, to cold process and melt and pour recipes, followed by comprehensive safety and legal information and finishing by turning it all into a business, with an extra bonus at the end.

Reverse Variegated Spider Plant

Reverse Variegated Spider Plant

Spider Plant
Botanical Name: Chlorophytum comosum

Spider plants are an extremely easy, beginner houseplant. They are very forgiving plants, tolerating neglect and thriving in nearly all conditions. Because of this, they are also very common.

The reverse variegated spider plants have leaves with white outer stripes, and a green stripe between. The variegated have an inner white stripe with green outer stripes. There is also the common all green variety.

Spider Plants are one of the plants on NASA’s Clean Air Study as an air-filtering plant.

Light Requirements:
Spider plants prefer a medium to high light area, filtered afternoon sunlight. Variegated varieties will require more sunlight than the regular all-green variety.


Watering Needs:
Spider plants have large roots which store water. They prefer to dry out a bit between waterings to prevent root rot.

Use rain water, distilled water, aquarium water or tap water if you let it sit for more than 24 hours before using. Spider plants do not like the chemicals in tap water. Brown tipping on leaves may be due to tap water.

That said, once or twice a year, I usually stick each of my plants in the bathtub and give them a shower. This gets the leaves clean, gives them a good soaking.. and just seems like it would feel good.

Propagating:
Spider plants are a viviparous plant, in which it produces seeds that germinate before it detaches from the mother plant. In spider plants they produce both seed and plantlets growing from stolons.

As a spider plant becomes more rootbound, the more babies – or offshoots, it will produce. The plant will require more water, as well. To reduce the stain the babies put on the mother plant as they each, in turn, grow and mature, clip the babies and put the small root system in water or soil. Each baby will quickly grow into a mature plant.

The mother plant may also be divided to gain new plants.

Dividing:
I found a reverse variegated spider plant at a local hardware store. It was a reverse variegated spiderplant. There were 4 mother plants in the pot. I couldn’t resist purchasing it specifically to repot.
Spider Plant

Here’s how I go about dividing and repotting. Pull the plant out of the original pot. This may require some gentle pulling. I use a butter knife to loosen the inside side of the plant and it usually comes out easily.
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The plant had a lot of root system growing at the bottom. It had grown around the plastic drain in the bottom of the pot. I took a sharp knife and cut the bottom roots off. This may not be recommended by others, however, I have always cut the bottom portion off of a root bound plant, with no ill effects.
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Now, the main plant is divided into sections – in this case, 4 separate sections.
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I gently cleaned each of the plants root systems off, baring most of their roots.
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I used a potting soil mixture with added sand for good drainage.

Finally, I repot into smaller pots, because spider plants do like a snug fitting pot.
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I keep empty water jugs filled with tap water, which sits for at least 24 hours before use. Periodically, I add bat guano to it for fertilizer.

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Copyright (c) 2007 Judi Cox.

Ingredient and Oil Properties for Soap, Lotion, Serums, Bath and Body

Ingredient and Oil Properties for Soap, Lotion, Serums, Bath and Body


To help take the mystery out of the ingredients listed in soap, lotion, serum or other products you have received from Momma Muse (or other handmade bath & body companies), here is a list of the commonly used ingredients by common name, label name (the FDA required INCI name – International Nomenclature for Cosmetic Ingredients) and description of skin benefits and properties it provides. Don’t let those mysterious names on the labels scare you off – so much of it is just a complicated name given to a simple ingredient.

Almond Oil
Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil
– An excellent skin softener and moisturizer. Almond oil is great for all skin types but especially beneficial for dry or irritated skin.

Apricot Kernel Oil
Prunus Armeniaca (Apricot) Kernel Oil
– High in both vitamins A and E. It helps moisturize and soften skin. Helps skin retain it’s elasticity, clarity, and suppleness.

Citric Acid

Cocoa Butter
Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter Sodium Cocoa Butterate
– Cocoa Butter is absorbed quickly into the skin to soften, lubricated, moisten and nutrients the skin. Works great to prevent and treat scars, stretch marks, and damage skin.

Coconut Oil
Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil Sodium Cocoate
– Coconut oil makes a hard bar of soap which lathers beautifully.

Colorants
– We use a combination of micas, oxides, spices, and clays to achieve colors in our products.

Cyclomethicone
Cyclomethicone
– Used to prevent a greasy feel and impart a soft & silky feel to lotion. Commonly used in lotions to provide a “powdery” feel. Also used in body sprays and bath items (bath salts, etc).

Distilled Water
– We always used distilled for safety and purity.

Emulsifier (a.k.a. ewax)
Glyceryl Stearate (and) Cetearyl Alcohol (and) Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate
– Because lotion is made with mixture of both oil and water, an emulsifier is necessary to blend and hold the two together. We have chosen a natural self-emulsifier which helps to provide a natural moisturizing factor found in the skin. Our emulsifier provides a conditioning and softness to the skin.

Ewax – see Emulsifier

Fractionated Coconut Oil
Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride
– This light oil helps carry therapeutic oils under the skin. Containing medium-chain triglycerides, it also helps moisturize and soothe the skin.

Fragrance Oil
Fragrance
– Fragrance oils are added in small enough quantities to not be an irritant for most people. Yet, we add enough to give a light scent which, in your favorite fragrance, you’ll have a hard time resisting the urge to sniff your hands (again and again!). May not be included in all our lotions, as we are able to make available unscented, scented naturally with hydrosols or with essential oils – usually by special request.

Glycerin
Glycerin
– Glycerin is a humectant, meaning it draws moisture to the skin. This is the whole idea of lotion right? To moisturize our skin, keeping it soft. Good stuff.

Hydrosols
INCI depends on the hydrosol used.
– Hydrosols are also known as floral waters, essential waters, or distillates. They are purified waters which occur during the process of extracting essential oils from plants and flowers. The hydrosols we use are all natural, containing no added fragrance.

Infusions and Teas
– In some recipes, infused oils with herbs, or create a tea, using distilled water and herbs are used to maximize the benefits of specific plants. Not to mention, it’s lovely label appeal.

Jojoba Oil
Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil
– Jojoba oil contains protein and minerals. It is similar to our own sebum which is secreted by our glands, helping lubricate, as well as, protect our skin.

Lye
Sodium Hydroxide
– This is the chemical used to make soap. Without this chemical, there is no soap, period. Sodium hydroxides causes a chemical reaction called saponification. Once saponification is complete, the finished product is soap – and there is no lye in the finished product. You will see sodium hydroxide on our ingredient list, however another way to list it is as a saponified oil – for example, for an olive oil soap we could just list it as “sodium olivate” – which means the same as sodium hydroxide, olive oil.

Monoi de Tahiti
Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil (and) Gardenia Tahitensis
– A moisturizing and naturally fragrant oil, which quickly penetrates the skin acting as a natural barrier helping prevent dehydration (and wrinkles) of the skin. A wonderfully, naturally scented oil excellent for all skin types.

Olive Oil
Olea Europaea (Olive) Oil Sodium Olivate
– A moisturizing oil used in soaps – castile soaps are generally 100% olive oil, but there is no requirement as to what percentage must be used. It softens skin while attracting moisture to your skin. Makes for a mild soap which keeps your skin soft, supple and younger looking.

Olive Squalane
Squalane (Olea Europea)
– Squalane is a very light, fine oil which is absorbed deeply and quickly into the skin, leaving no oily residue. Squalane is a wonderful oil for skin issues such as eczema, dermatitis, rashes, psoriasis, cracks, so far as helping with bruising or healing of the skin. Because squalane is naturally present in the skin (a botanical lipid) having an identical molecule structure to human lipids, it is effectively used in facial products to help reduce wrinkles and rejuvenate the skin.

Palm Kernel Oil
Hydrogenated Palm Kernel Oil Sodium Palm Kernelate
– Very similar in qualities as palm oil, it produces a cleansing, hard bar of soap which lathers well.

Palm Oil
Sodium Palmate
– Used as a base ingredient in many luxury and expensive soaps. It is considered a vegetable tallow which produces a hard bar of soap which is both mild and cleansing.

Preservative
Propylene Glycol, Diazolidinyl Urea, Iodopropynl Butylcarbamate
– The preservative we use in our lotions is a broad spectrum, non-paraben bactericide and fungicide. It is highly effective against both Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria, yeasts, molds and troublesome house organisms. We do not have our lotions tested, other than to give to family and friends, however we always use the recommended percentage of preservative to provide maximum safety for our users.

Rice Bran Oil
Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Oil
– A nourishing oil and a powerful skin protectant, high in gamma-oryzanol as well as anti-oxidants, which will protect and replenish the skin. RBO is rich in phytosterols, helping to help reduce inflammation and soothe discomfort. It also contains the highest quantity of vitamin E in liquid form. Beneficial to mature, sensitive and delicate skin.

Shea Butter
Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter) Fruit
– Shea Butter is deep penetrating and long acting. Is needed to restore the skin’s moisture balance and prevent visible signs of aging and wrinkles.

Stearic Acid
Stearic Acid
– We use stearic acid 100% palm derived (i.e. vegetarian friendly). Stearic acid is used to help bind the oils and water together, but also to help thicken, as well as stabilize, lotion.

Vitamin E –
Tocopherol
– A natural skin antioxidant, promoting healthy tissue – healing and rejuvenation.

Copyright (c) 2007 Judi Cox. (updated 1/16/08)
Judi Cox is a work at home mom living in the Ohio Valley with her husband and 4 children. She enjoys gardening for fun and for the birds, playing with the kids, reading, and promoting other mom businesses. She has been making soap and lotion since 2001. Find her on MySpace & Cre8Buzz.

SEO – Building a Successful Website – The Basics

Content

Content on site is a must. The more pages of relevant content your site provides, the more pages the search engines will index. Index pages equal search engine saturation. The more pages of relevant content you provide on your site, the more of an authority you become to the spiders and bots.

Linking

This is another important way of getting your site seen. By trading links with other relevant sites, you reinforce your sites content, thus making your site “important”. The more relevant the links you trade with, the more important your site becomes. If you are a gaming site trading links with a pharmaceutical site, you are not going to appear very relevant to the search engines.

As it sounds trading links is a link swap.. you post my link on your site, I’ll post yours on my site. However, there are places you may “purchase” a listing without reciprocation.

Remember, the more friends a person had in high school, the more popular they were. Link exchanges are a similar concept. The more links you have (remember, stay relevant) coming into and going out of your site, the more “popular” your site becomes.

What’s your Niche?

Narrow down your topic. “Computers” gives a Google search result (as of this moment) of 1,720,000,000… the chance of being found in that ocean of results is about a good as finding a penny in the Atlantic ocean. Narrow down your topic, get more specific. A search for laptop computers receives a Google result of 106,000,000 – that’s better, but still an ocean. Get the picture?

Build your keywords around your niche. If you are aiming your site at light weight laptop computers, build your keywords around that… “Computers” as a keyword isn’t going to be very helpful. Get specific.

Articles

Writing articles and listing them on free reprint article sites allows for other web publishers to print your article, with your author byline in-tact. Author byline would include a link(s) to your site(s). This gives “links back” to your site.

Become an Authority in your field. 🙂

There are also paid article submission sites. The more you pay, the higher in their site your article is placed.

Remember, basically what you are doing is offering your knowledge and free article for a link or advertising for your site.

Blog

A web log (later shorted to just blog) started as an online journal for personal websites, but have begun to infiltrate the online business world. They give a business a quick, easy way to update several times a week, daily, or even several times a day. Search engines like blogs because they are typically updated often. Therefore, they send their spiders to those sites that are most frequently updated.

There are blog directories to which your blog could be listed – free.

Keywords, Site Description, Title

Make sure each page has a relevant page title, relevant keywords and a good over-all description.

Search Engine Smarts

Search engines look for site relevancy. Each page must relate to the site topic/theme. Each individual page must have a specific topic. Where possible, name the page specifically for that topic. If your page is about Light weight Sony laptops, name it accordingly. Ex: http://www.yoursite.com/light-wieght-sony-laptops Note: Hyphens signify to spiders and bots separate words.

Make use of h1, h2, h3 tags header tags within your content pages. Why? This tells the search engine bots and spiders that this is keyword, a relevant topic.

Use title tags in any links and alt tags in all image tags.

Use CSS to style a page – this reduces clutter within the page code making it cleaner for the spiders and bots to navigate the pertinent information. Too much clutter and the spiders and bots are likely to hit the road.

Frames are NOT search engine friendly. They are difficult for spiders and bots to index, because of the way they are put together. If you want to optimize your site, ditch the frames.

Flash
– it’s flashy, visually fun, appealing to some… but it’s a killer in the search engines. Spiders and Bots cannot read flash. If they cannot read your page, how do the index it? Again… when it comes to optimizing your site, if search engines spiders and bots can’t read the file, why bother? Just because it looks good? Sure, ok… but if the search engines can’t or won’t spider your page, and you aren’t in the index, no one knows your site is out there, who is going to see it? You have a great looking site sitting there doing nothing.

Splash page – this is the page you come to that has a cool flash file, cute image, etc and says “Enter” (or similar). Re-read the Flash information and ditch the splash page.

WWW or not?

If you type “www.microsoft.com” and “microsoft.com” into your browser window, you get the same page right? We see it’s the same page, we know, as site builders they ARE the same page. But search engine bots and spiders DON’T know that. They view with and without www as two different sites.

Why does this matter? If your site is out there on the web with both links, you stand the chance of penalization from certain search engines – they view it as duplicate content. Duplicate content don’t typically get indexed, at least, not very high in the rankings.

The work around on this is a redirect, or an .htaccess mod rewrite. Tell your server to point to one page, either with the www, or without it. Ex, point to www.mysite.com and when someone types in mysite.com (less the www) it will automatically add the www to the link.

Is it absolutely necessary to do this? Maybe, maybe not, maybe one day the search engines will be programmed to view with and without www as the same. Until then, do you want to take a chance the search engines dump all your pages because they can’t figure out which is the original?

Advertising

How many times have you moved past the first couple of pages when doing a search? Chances are, not very often. Yet, as a site/business owner, it may take forever and a day to get your site to the top 20 in a search engine for any given keyword. Are you ready to get your name out there NOW? Consider advertising on the major search engines. Google has Google Adwords, Yahoo has Yahoo! Search Marketing. Both will get you listing within the first couple pages, depending on your willing bid amount.

Newsletters

Now, you have visitors coming to your site. Is your site sticky enough to keep them coming back?

How many times have you been to a site you liked, wanted to browse more… so you bookmark it, never to return again. Life is busy, we forget. And you lost a visitor and potential customer.

Offer a free newsletter subscription. Entice visitors to join by offering free tips, valuable information, free products, etc. Once a week, or every other week, send out a newsletter to encourage and pull those subscribers to your site. They may turn from a newsletter subscriber to a customer.


Judi Cox is a work at home mom living in the Ohio Valley with her husband and 4 children. Judi’s interests include working websites (two of her websites http://www.momslittlegarden.com and http://www.mommamuse.com). She enjoys gardening for fun and for the birds, playing with the kids, reading, website design and promotion.

Attracting Orioles with an Oriole Nectar Feeder

Attracting Orioles

Similar to other homemade wild bird and butterfly nectar recipes, Oriole nectar requires only two main ingredients; water and white sugar.


Oriole nectar feeders are available through wild bird retail shops. Feeders are similar in look to a hummingbird feeder, but are orange rather than red and have larger feeding holes. Designs vary, but some include an area to put fresh fruit (oranges, mashed bananas, grapes, etc). Or, if you prefer, skip the nectar altogether and just feed fresh fruits – there are other more specific feeders for fruit.

Directions for Homemade Oriole Nectar Recipe

Oriole nectar is made in a ratio of 1 part white sugar to 6 parts water.

1. Bring your water to a boil.
2. Add sugar.
3. Stir and remove from heat.
4. Let cool.
I like to let fresh nectar cool in the feeder, but I don’t put the feeder outside until it’s completely cool.

Nectar storage: it stores up to 2 weeks in the fridge or several months if frozen. I put my nectar in a clean 1/2 gallon (obviously empty!) milk jug, which clearly I write Oriole Juice on the side.
(Tip: Use an ice cube tray. Once frozen remove and store in a freezer safe baggy.)

Beyond nectar, Orioles like to munch on a variety of bugs (caterpillars, beetles, wasp, etc.) and are particularly fond of grape jelly. I have read they are fond of cherries (maybe some cherry jelly next to that grape?) and blackberries (some jam, perhaps?). They also like fresh ripe fruit, such as oranges, raspberries, cherries, mashed bananas, apples, pears, …. etc.

Enjoy! Have fun attracting wildlife and happy bird watching!

Homemade Hummingbird Nectar Recipe




Homemade Hummingbird Nectar Recipe

Attracting Hummingbirds and other Birds

Some Favorite Hummingbird Photos

No need to buy the powdered Hummingbird Nectar mix from the store for this rewarding hobby. Instead, make your with this simple hummingbird nectar recipe. You only need water and white sugar – super simple and easy to make.

Use the following proportion:
1 part regular white sugar to 4 parts water.
Example: 1 cup sugar, 4 cups water

1. Boil the water. Debatable*
2. Add sugar and stir until dissolved.
3. Let cool.
4. Refrigerate in a designated hummingbird feeder pitcher.

That’s it. Nothing more:
There is no need to add anything extra to the mixture, i.e. coloring – that means NO Red Food Coloring,  No Honey, etc. These things are NOT necessary andcould be harmful. Honey will quickly ferment becoming poisonous to the birds.

How to Make the Hummingbird Mixture:

Using a microwave works too. Put the water in a microwave safe container and heat to boiling point. Carefully remove and add sugar. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. I fill my clean feeders and set them aside to cool and let the rest cool a bit before storing in the fridge.

Note: There is some debate on whether the water needs to be brought to a boil to make the nectar safe or not. In the past I have always heated my water to hot, but not boiling and mixed from that point. Anyway, one commenter below says it does not need to be boiled as it is the birds tongues which put bacteria into the water. However, another commenter says it does need to be boiled to get the chlorine out of the water and bacteria off the sugar.

My understanding is the water is boiled to make the sugar dissolve easier. It also slows down the fermenting process of the sugar water.. however, you should be changing your nectar solution every few days anyway so fermented nectar should not be an issue.

What I have been doing this year is using water I store in gallon jugs (I use for my plants and my fish – the water comes from the tap, but as it is sits for a couple days the chlorine is evaporated out. I use this to make my hummingbird nectar (and oriole and butterfly) without heating and definitely not to boiling. As a matter of fact, I got one of the butterfly pavilions – it says to make nectar using water and sugar… nothing about heating the water.

Wondering about the concerns of fermented nectar, check out Sheri’s post Vampire Hummingbird Expert & Myth Remix or read more information regarding the proper nectar recipe for hummingbird feeders.





Back to the Nectar Recipe and Directions:

Storing hummingbird nectar: I store all varieties of my wild bird (Orioles, Hummingbirds, Butterflies, etc) “juice” up to two weeks in the fridge, but generally need to make it more often than that.

Tip: I use a Rubbermaid container or a clean milk carton, clearly marked, to store my hummingbird juice in the refrigerator. Another idea I recently read is to freeze the extra. I may try this by putting it in a freezer bag and freezing flat. Once it is frozen, it would break up easily to place into the feeder.

August 2006 077

Discard: If the juice in the feeder(s) becomes cloudy, or mucky, empty, clean and refill.

Cleaning: Make sure bird feeders are cleaned every few days to a week to prevent any ickies. Cleaning with a solution of vinegar and hot water is good.

Location and Feeders: More than one feeder, placed strategically around the yard, will encourage more hummingbirds to visit at a time. They are territorial birds, so place feeders out of the line of sight of each other.
note: however, I have had more than one at a feeder at time with no ill-will directed towards each other. Experiment a bit.

Enjoy your visitors!

Want to attract Orioles? Here’s our Homemade Oriole Nectar Recipe – and a few other Oriole feeding ideas.




Photo Mosaic created by BigHugeLabs using photos from these flickr users: 1. Hummingbirds, 2. Ruby Throated Hummingbird, 3. Ruby Throated Hummingbird, 4. Hummingbirds

Summertime Craft Ideas

Spring and summer come and everyone starts opening their doors and windows, bringing in the fresh air.  Tree leaves are full and flower blooms abound; birds are singing, building nests and taking care of their chicks.  I am drawn outdoors by the lure of warmer days and the call of the dirt and new sprouts.  Not to mention, as a mom, the kids are clamoring for more room to play.  It’s a perfect time to pull out some fun out door family crafts.

Here are a few, easy to personalize, summertime craft ideas for summer fun or to celebrate May Day, Mother’s Day or a holiday weekend.  All craft supplies are easily attainable from craft supply stores or online suppliers.  While making these crafts is a fun family activity, some are available in pre-assembled kits, or already made.  Use your favorite search engine for more information on various ideas – keyword suggestions are offered below craft each idea.

1. Terra cotta clay pot bird bath.  Invert terra cotta clay pots, from larger on bottom and smallest on top.  Add a clay saucer (the part the pot sits in to catch the drained water).  A waterproof saucer is necessary.  Set the clay saucer on top of the inverted stack of pots.  Paint or mosaic the pots if you feel especially creative.  For more bird fun, add a mister.  Birds love to play in the water.  Note: Make two similar stands and use one for a bird feeder.

Keywords: clay pot bird bath; clay pot bird feeder; terra cotta bird bath.

2. Plant and grow an herb garden.  Include herbs such as basil, thyme, sage, chives and any other favorites.  You’ll have fresh herbs to add to your recipes all summer long.  Herbs are easy to grow, making this an easy garden for kids to help.  Take it one step further and create a “kitchen garden”, including lettuce spinach, tomato, cucumber or other salad favorites.

Keywords: growing herbs; kitchen garden; easy herb gardening; gardening plans; container gardening.

3. Build a toad abode (toad house).  Use a terra cotta pot and a rock. Invert a clay pot and prop edge on a rock.  If you have a chipped pot, that would work great too and wouldn’t require propping.  Paint and decorate to your liking.

Keywords: clay toad abode; toad house; frog house.

4. A handmade stepping stone.  Personalize with stones, marbles, or other memorable items.  Make the project a tradition.  Mark the stone with the year and include items to remember the year; a key (house or car), a toy, etc.  A footprint each year could signify the walk of life and would be fun for young children to mark their growth from summer to summer.

Keywords: stepping stone craft; handmade stepping stones; stepping stone kits.

5. Personalized necklaces.  Letter beads (for names or initials), a few spacer beads, a charm or two added to a simple chain makes a lovely, personal necklace for any mom or grandmother.  For fun, make matching necklaces one for mom, grandmother, and daughters.

Keywords: personalized mother’s necklace.

6. Bookmarks make a great craft for rainy days.  Get creative – use paper, dried flowers, ribbons, needlepoint thread.  Use beads and charms attached to chain or yarn to create a “book thong”.

Keywords: handmade bookmarks; handmade book thong.

7. A decorated throw pillow.  A pre-made throw pillow with light colored fabric, decorated with fabric paint.  Fabric glue will easily adhere buttons and other small mementos.  Start from scratch and decorate your fabric before making a pillow – tie-dye, iron-on colored pictures made with fabric crayons or reverse dying using a darker fabric and bleach provide many creative ways to decorate any pillow or piece of fabric.  Another variation would be decorating pillow cases.

Keywords: handmade throw pillow; throw pillow craft; decorative pillow craft; fabric crayons; iron-on transfers.

8. A tie-dye party is fun for family or a gathering of extended family and friends.  Supplies are readily available online coming in easy kits.

Keywords: tie dye supplies; reverse dying.

When doing a search, try searching images also. Often time pictures of an already made item will spark some creative thoughts. 

There are so many fun activities to be done outdoors during nice weather.  For more ideas, or to submit your own, visit http://www.mommamuse.com/2006/04/21/summertime-craft-ideas/

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Judi Cox is a wife and mother of 4 children.  Her hobbies include making handmade soap from scratch, gardening, crafts, web design and maintaining Mom’s Little Garden ( http://www.momslittlegarden.com/ ), an online resource for pregnant mothers, as well as her personal website, Momma Muse (http://www.mommamuse.com/ ).
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Copyright (c) 2006 Judi Cox
Permission is granted to copy and reprint this article keeping author byline in tact.

Instructions for Making Crock Pot Handmade Soap

Crock Pot Soap Making

Making soap in a crock pot is an easy way to use the “hot process” method. This method of soap making is also referred to as crock pot hot process, or in short, cphp.

This how-to tutorial outlines my steps for making crock pot soap and assumes you are familiar with the soap making process.

Start with a good recipe (Soap Recipes). I prefer recipes that have a higher amount of liquid oil to solids. One of my favorite recipes is very simple: 60% Olive Oil, 20% Palm Kernel Oil, 20% Palm Oil. Run it through a lye calculator to determine the amount of lye and [distilled] water needed. I do not discount my water when making hot process. One of my favorite recipes is at the end of these instructions, with more here: Soap Recipes – or use the search.

Detailed Photos, check my flick set: Crockpot Soap




I use a 6 1/2 quart crock pot. A 4 pound batch of soaps fits perfectly. It fills the crock pot about half full – giving room in the case of it bubbling up, but not too little an amount that it could burn.

First, measure cold water and set aside.

Then measure the lye into a separate container. Slowly pour the lye into the pitcher of cold water. Stir until dissolved. Set aside in a safe place.

Once I have my lye mixture set aside, I measure my solid oils. These can be put into the crock pot to be melted. But, it takes longer this way, so I generally put them into the microwave for a couple minutes until melted and then pour into the crock pot.

At this point, my crock pot is on low.

Mixing the Soap

I recommend using a good rubber spatula to scrape the bowl – no sense leaving any good oils behind.

Next, I measure my olive oil – and/or any other liquid oils I happen to be using – and pour this into the crock pot.

Get out your handy-dandy stick-blender and using low speed, slowly pour the lye mixture into the melted oils. Gently move the stick-blender around, up, down, around, ensuring a nice even blend. If you don’t have a stick-blender, a stainless steel wire whisk works great too – just requires a little more arm power, and of course, will take longer.

Once it has reached ‘trace’, I put the lid on the crock pot and turn the heat setting up to high. However, the first few times I made crock pot soap, I left it on low until I was confident in how it worked (both the soap AND my crock pot).

Now while it is cooking, I ready my mold, measure out any fragrance oils or essential oils and any additives I plan to use.

Cooked

After about 15 or 20 minutes, I take the lid off and, using a potato masher, mash the soap around. It has a look of a vaseline texture; glossy, slick. It will have a waxy feel if you rub a piece of it between gloved fingers.

Add your additives, colorants, herbs, etc and mix well using the potato masher. Once that is blended fairly well, add your fragrance and mix again.

It is done! At this point, it’s really soap. It only needs to be put into your mold. I do this in large spoonfuls, pounding my mold on the counter every few scoops to ensure it packs into the mold tightly. Once I have it all in the mold, I put a baggie on my hand and flatten the top – making sure to “squish” it into the corners really well.

Now is a good time to wash all the dishes. And you don’t even need to add any soap! You should see some lovely lather from the soap you’ve just made.

I let this sit over-night. The next morning, I unmold and slice into bars to air out for a week or so. Once each bar has had time to harden, I bevel each one and it’s ready for use, or sale.



Rosemary Mint is my favorite crock pot soap recipe:
Rosemary Mint Handmade Soap
4 pounds
– 38 ounces olive oil (59.38%)
– 14.4 ounces palm kernel oil (22.5%)
– 11.6 ounces palm oil (18.13%)
– 8.7 ounces sodium hydroxide (5% discount)
– 17.5 ounces distilled water
– 3 ounces rosemary mint blend essential oils
– 2 teabags of Organic Peppermint tea

If you want a smaller or larger batch, just run the ingredients through a soap / lye calculator to ensure your lye to liquid ratio is correct – Don’t take chances on this, you don’t want soap that won’t set up, or worse, soap that burns.

handmade soap

A search of MommaMuse will provide other soap making recipes which may be used for cold process soap, hot process soap, or crock pot soap. Soap Recipes

Note: Sodium Hydroxide is highly caustic and should be handled carefully and knowledgeably. It is the soapmakers responsibility to research safety procedures for soapmaking.

Detailed Photos, check my flick set: Crockpot Soap



Prepare for New Baby with These Tried and True Items


Search the net and you’re sure to find list upon list of what you need for a new baby. Most of those lists go way overboard. Babies don’t usually need much at all. Here’s a list of what I found, through my own experiences, to be the most useful.

Clothing

Plenty of t-shirts and sleepers. If you only want to do laundry every few days, figure around 4 tshirts, and 2 sleepers per day. This may be a bit more than necessary on most days, but there will always be the occasional day, or days, when baby is spitting up more than normal, or has messy blow-outs. You’ll appreciate the extra tees.

Diapers and Wipes

Disposables or Cloth. In todays internet world, you will find diapers and wipes in variety of styles, patterns and personalities. The options are even wider for cloth than they are for disposables, can you imagine? There are some really ingenious designs that make diapering a baby’s tush almost seem exciting! And the following within the cloth diaper community feels the same way. However, beware, you may end up needing to one day admit “My name is ___. And I’m a cloth diaper addict.”

Can’t talk yourself into cloth? No worries, the disposable diapers have come along way and while they aren’t soft natural cotton and wool, they do keep your baby dry and don’t leak.

How much of each? Only keep a couple jumbo packs of disposables on hand at a time. Babies grow so fast you aren’t always able to guage how soon they’ll be into the next size. Planning on using cloth? A dozen or two dozen would probably be a good start. What I’ve seen is cloth diapers are an addictive thing and you may end up with wonderful cloth diapers coming out your ears! Wipes? I always buy by the package and sometimes by the box. Making your own? A yard of flannel or fleece would probably yeild a good start.

Blankets

Receiving blanket. Those itty bitty blankets you wrap a newborn in, but after the first month aren’t good for much baby wrapping. But if you, like most women, end up with a few dozen of them, they make great lap pads, burp pads, and for mom, use them to wrap your hair when you get out of the shower – they are light-weight so they don’t fall over when you are tending to baby, or use them as a nursing pad when you are bra-less. They work just fine. They may also be used when baby is going bare – to catch any accidents.

On the other hand, a couple of really nice, kid-sized blankets are must have!

Sling or Carrier

The online mothering community has been inundated with every type of baby sling and carrier you could imagine, and then some! Padded to unpadded slings, pouches, wraps and carriers. These, like cloth diapers, may lead to addiction, tread with caution! But a good carrier is a must have. You even see mothers in the public eye touting their babes in slings nowadays. It’s no longer alternative, having paved a path into mainstream.

Structured carriers are great too. Do some research and where possible, give one a test run. Some communities offer baby wearing classes and have slings you can test. Some online shops will even send you a used sling to try, reserving cost on your credit card – then applied back when you return the carrier.

Sleeping Area

Co-sleeping has become more commonplace practice, but it isn’t always for everyone. Not to mention, some moms, even the attachment parenting mom would like a place to lay baby. Some ideas include a bassinet or cradle, a travel crib, a moses basket, or many others. This is something you may need to experiment with to find the best fit for you and the baby. Different stages of babyhood may require some changes.

Pad an out of the walk-way area of the floor with a couple receiving blankets and make a little nest for baby to lay. No extra expense.

Required:

Car Seat

Unless you live in a walking/biking community, chances are you’ll need a carseat. For safety’s sake, do your research on this one. An infant seat is nice when you can take it in and out of the car easily while baby sleeps, but any secure, up-to-date infant approved carseat is great, necessary! Also, take note that not all car seats fit all cars.

Optional:

Stroller

Most mothers who “wear” their babies say you don’t need a stroller. Strollers don’t have to recieve use directly from the baby to be useful. It comes in handy to carry coats and jackets, drinks, purse or diaper bag, extra diapers, change of clothes, not to mention any purchased items on your outing. As an added benefit, it leaves mom pretty hands free – you get really good at pushing a stroller with one hand! If you opt for a stroller, choose one that has drink carriers.

Bouncy Seat

A bouncy seat comes in handy so often, that while I’d classify it as “optional”, for myself, it was necessary. I loved our bouncy seat as much as baby enjoyed it. I carried it everywhere with me, to the bathroom for instance. It was a great baby holder while I took care of bathroom duties, did the dishes and cooked dinner. Baby and I would sing, talk and play while I got chores done.

Diaper Bag

Any bag with a couple pockets works well. The younger the baby, the bigger the bag needed. As baby grows and has less accidents (i.e. spit up, bottom blow-outs), you’ll get more efficient at packing just what you may need. Don’t go overboard on a diaper bag with all the frills. A nice canvas bag, decorated by you and siblings, works just as well. Toss in a couple gallon-sized baggies for messes, a couple of receiving blankets for padding and you’re good to go!

Judi Cox is a work at home mom living in the Ohio Valley with her husband and 4 children. Judi’s interests include working websites (two of her websites http://www.momslittlegarden.com and http://www.mommamuse.com).  She enjoys gardening for fun and for the birds, playing with the kids, reading, and promoting other mom businesses.

You will find this and more of my articles listed on Google Base – Judi Cox.

6 Ways to Memorialize Your Pregnancy

As featured on Mom’s Little Garden

Nine months of pregnancy seems an eternity when you get that little pink positive on the test stick. In this day and age, we no longer have to wait until we start having symptoms of pregnancy, which can start as late as 8 or 10 weeks for some. Instead, we have pregnancy tests that will determine a positive just days after conception. This can make the pregnancy journey seem even longer!

While you are growing, suffering morning sickness and anxiously awaiting the new addition to the family, here are a few ways to memorialize your pregnancy; both for yourself and to pass along to the child in the future.

Write It

If you don’t already, now is a great time to take up journaling. A hardback journal to write would give you the option of writing any time, while eating breakfast, in bed, or in a waiting room. Picking out the book could be a special in itself, as you will be picking something that touches you. If your penmenship is not something you particularly want to share, journaling online offers a wide variety of options. Generally called “blogging”, a web log has been a popular method of writing thoughts, opinions and sharing knowledge with others. There are many blog communities, each offering different perks. Some provide private post options, so your posts are viewable to the general public, only to those you allow. Some allow categories, giving you the option of writing about things other than just your pregnancy. Others still, are aimed just at moms or pregnant moms. Take a look around and find one that has a good feel for you.

Pregnant Belly, Say Cheese

Take monthy pregnant belly pictures. Start at the beginning, or as soon as you are able. There may not be much of a baby belly at 8 weeks along, but when you have a whole pregnancy worth of belly shots, you’ll have fun looking at where you started and where you ended!

Some tips for taking monthy belly pictures: Be consistent. Stand the same way, by the same wall or door (or similar). Wear similar clothing (like a pair of sweatpants that you can wear almost throughout). Show bare belly, or wear a shirt – or do one of each every time. The more consistent you are, the more obvious the pregnancy changes when looking back.

Studio Pictures

You’ve got the digital camera taking your own pregnant belly pictures, but a professional photogragher will make some beautiful pictures for your baby belly book. Consider including siblings, if any, your partner, and take pregnancy pictures that aren’t so “traditional”. Strip down and wrap up in white robe, or guaze – with a dark background, this is beautiful. Siblings touching or kissing baby belly makes for a touching moment. And your partners hands on your belly, speak love. Of course, studio pictures are best towards the end of pregnancy, but don’t wait too long either!

Some studios specialize in pregnancy and newborn pictures – check your phone book or ask around.

Belly Cast It

Belly Cast, or Belly Mask, has become a popular method of preserving pregnant bellies. Belly Cast kits are inexpensive and easy to find, particularly online. They are easy to do, but don’t try to do a belly cast yourself! You will definitely need another set of hand and sometimes an extra set is helpful. No baby belly inhibitions? Make a party of it! Invite your girlfriends over for some messy fun. In the end, you have a plaster cast of your belly to decorate, hang on the wall or sit on a shelf.

Decorated Belly

Women are becoming more willing to bare their pregnant bellies. Decorating your baby belly is a fun way to show it off. Wear it around the house, or out in public. Make a party of it, or do it yourself. But don’t forget to take pictures!

Semi-permanant belly decoration – Henna is a type of skin dye that will essentially “stain” the skin, essentially, a non-permanant tattoo. Women have been using henna for years and years. Henna kits are widely available. A simple design or something elaborate – it’s all up to you! Do be careful in the sun with a henna’d baby belly. Your skin may tan and when the henna wears off in a week or more, you may end up with a reversed belly tattoo.

Paint it and wash it – Skin safe paints are a great just for fun project to do with siblings. Get into some comfy clothes, get a glass of water, juice or your pregnancy tea and sit back. Let the kids paint. Don’t forget to Take Pictures!

Belly Pillow

Whew! The pregnancy is over, or close to it. Grab your favorite maternity top, your sewing machine and some good stuffing. Sew that shirt into a pillow; square, round, or just sew up all the openings and leave it full size! This is a great momento to pass along to the baby. Do it for each pregnancy and each child will have their very own “moms favorite maternity shirt pillow”.

Regardless of how much you do to memorialize your pregnancy, enjoy as much of it as you are able to. Those nine months, though they seem long while you are counting the days, when looking back, it’s just a snippet in time.


Judi Cox is a work at home mom living in the Ohio Valley with her husband and 4 children. Judi’s interests include working websites (two of her websites http://www.momslittlegarden.com and http://www.mommamuse.com). She enjoys gardening for fun and for the birds, playing with the kids, reading, and promoting other mom businesses.

You will find this and more of my articles listed on Google Base – Judi Cox.