Thank you, Majestic Mountain Sage!

So, I’ve been waiting to share something that is both humbling and super exciting for me in the soaping realm. The Soap Challenge technique in December was the spoon swirl, and…

I WON Sponsor’s Choice!!!

Can you believe it?!?! I really couldn’t!

Here’s the soap I made that won:

spoon swirl soap entry

Champagne Sugar Soap made with real champagne using the spoon swirl technique

You can check out all of the other amazing spoon swirl soaps entered into the challenge here.

Tina from Majestic Mountain Sage contacted me after the holidays and graciously gifted me an Amazing Dozen sampler set from thesage.com. She told me that my soap reminded her of handmade paper with leaves and petals and seeds, and it made her want to whip out her stationery and write some notes! Too funny!

It was so much fun choosing which fragrances to get, and even though I know a dozen is a lot, I still had a difficult time picking! I’ve never received a scent that I didn’t like (or LOVE) from MMS! Their fragrances are simply fantastic. I typically only use just 0.25oz per pound of oils when scenting cold process soap, so a 1oz bottle goes a long way!

And this is what I received in the mail a few days ago:

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My handpicked Amazing Dozen sampler kit from thesage.com!

These scents are all so very yummy. I absolutely adore Apricot Freesia, Posh Petals, Napa Valley Vineyard (I feel a red wine soap coming soon), and Juicy Pear. Oh, and Lemon Sugar, and Bay Rum, and … They’re ALL FANTASTIC! I’m quite pleased with my choices, and I am so grateful to Tina and Majestic Mountain Sage for being so generous as the sponsor of the December Challenge Club. Thanks, Tina! It was wonderful to work with you! 🙂

If you’re looking to try out some new fragrances, I highly recommend thesage.com. (And by the way, I’m not an affiliate or anything. I’m just telling you this because I truly love them!) They’re a great company with excellent customer service, and I’ve never had a problem with any order I’ve placed, from supplies ordered to packaging to shipping; it’s just good service.

I would also, of course, be remiss if I didn’t thank Amy Warden of Great Cakes Soapworks for hosting these challenges, working so hard on creating great tutorials, and arranging all of the sponsors and details. She is an awesome soaper that has blessed me and many other soapers all over the world! So, thanks Amy! I truly appreciate you, and I know so many others do as well.

WAHOO! Which fragrance should I use first?!

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Mastering…er….Attempting the Butterfly Swirl

It’s that time again: Soap Challenge Club! The January 2015 club brings about a new technique to many of us soapers, and I must say, WOW! This one is difficult, yet so much fun!!! Around the middle of last year, Zahida of Handmade in Florida began sharing her “butterfly swirl” soaps and even a few videos of their makings. Her creativity is astounding, and the resulting swirls are just gorgeous. I’ve been admiring her work from afar, watching her videos, and dreaming of trying it, and this challenge was my push to finally do it! Once again, Amy Warden of Great Cakes Soapworks has given us an excellent tutorial on how to create this Butterfly Swirl. But because of the nature of dropping in soap and all the variables that go with it (texture, trace, fragrance, colorants, type of mold, etc.), I can only imagine the beautiful different results that await our viewing. And over 150 soapers joining in on this one?! Incredible!

Because this is such a new (and most would say DIFFICULT) technique, I decided to get started super early this time around! (Plus…I kind of have some extra motivation to get things done seeing as I’m mere weeks away from the due date of baby girl #6!) I’ve been soaping up a storm this month, and I managed to crank out 5 batches of butterfly swirl attempts in the last two weeks (along with 9 other batches of restocks and new spring soaps)! It was fun to try a batch, cut it, make a few observations and modifications, and try, try again.

I used my favorite 8-oil soap recipe since I am familiar with how much time it gives me. For the first few batches, I used fragrances that I have already used, knowing that they wouldn’t speed up trace. As I got more comfortable with the technique, I did try a few new scents, but I read reviews from many soapers who said they were very workable. For molds, I simply used the same loaf molds that I typically use, and they are all wider, shorter “traditional” loaf molds. I don’t have a tall skinny mold, but I’ve made a honey-do list for my hubby with dimensions so he can make me one. 😉

Furthermore, I didn’t even have a hanger swirl tool! Can you believe it? I’ve done tons of swirls in soaps, but I always use a spoon or a skewer, even for the hanger-type look. So for the challenge, I found a few wire hangers, used needlenose pliers to untwist and straighten them out, strung a few drinking straws in the middle, and used the pliers to bend the hangers in a U-shape to the correct length to fit my molds. It was much easier than I anticipated…I don’t know why I hadn’t done it before now. The challenge club really does motivate me to get things done!

On to the soap! [If you don’t want to read through the LONG list of all of my trials and experiments, just scroll to the bottom to see my final pick for the challenge!]

Batch #1: Pears & Berries

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Pears & Berries Soap. First attempt at the butterfly swirl technique!

I used 24K gold sparkle mica, red sparkle mica, green mica, and berry bunch neon purple with a bit of red mica for the drop swirls added to white base soap. I poured off just over half a cup of soap into each of the 4 colors and did very thin layers of drop colors down the length of my 17-inch long mold. The result was very thin and wispy swirls without much defined color. Perhaps I poured at too thin a trace as well. I also think that I used the hanger tool to swirl more in the dead white space of soap than in the colors. But I did get a few pretty butterflies! Here’s another good one:

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Kind of looks like a butterfly, yes?

Note to self: reach deeper into where I poured the drops of color! I don’t see much of a butterfly in many other bars, but I do love the beautiful swirls anyway! Lots of good observations and take-aways from this batch.

Batch #2: Sweet Pea

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Sweet Pea Soap. Second attempt at the butterfly swirl! This one has a butterfly right in the middle with long wispy swirls surrounding it. Not really what I was going for, but still very pretty!

The colors here are green mica, sparkle pink mica, lavender oxide, and titanium dioxide in a base of lighter green soap. I used 3/4 cup of soap for each of the colors and tried to pour at a slightly thicker trace. I also peaked the top of this soap, so it looks pretty cool when I turn the soaps on their side for the mirror images. The space made on top looks like the shape of the inner wings.

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Turned on their sides, these create the outer shape of a butterfly (kinda), but there isn’t much detail inside those wings.

Verdict: still not enough colored soap for my liking. I want more color in those wings. I do like the wispy swirls again, though! Very pretty, and a lovely spring fragrance!

Batch #3: Bedtime Bath

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Bedtime Bath Soap. Third attempt at the butterfly swirl.

With the strong notes of lavender in the scent, I tried for purples and blues in this soap. (And due to the slight vanilla content, I only added fragrance oil to the main uncolored soap batter, not to the colors). I poured off just under one cup of soap into lavender oxide, blue oxide with a bit of pink mica, a blend of blue and black oxide for a nice navy color, and titanium dioxide for white. I again tried to pour at a slightly thicker trace, and I made sure to reach all the way to the bottom of the mold, deep into the colors. I even tried doing a few figure-8 patterns with my hanger tool to add some more detail to what I hoped would be the wings of the butterflies.

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Bedtime Bath butterfly swirl soap

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Same soap as above, just outside moved to the inside! So cool, right?!

Result: I love this soap! The trace seemed to be spot on. It is a bit difficult to differentiate between the blue colors, but there is a slight variation, and the swirls are ever-so-whimsical. There are several different beautiful butterflies throughout the batch.

Batch #4: Jasper (a discontinued fragrance from the Twilight Series at thesage.com)

This time I wasn’t going for anything better, per se, than the previous batch. Just wanted to play some more!!! At this point, I am LOVING this swirl technique. Every bar is just so beautiful and unique! I used just under a cup of soap for each color: electric bubble gum pink, lavender oxide, bright blue mica, and yellow oxide with gold mica. I used a bit of green mica to color the base soap a pale green. Here’s a look at the raw soap:

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Raw soap scented with Jasper. Note the beautiful turquoise blue color.

I was really surprised when I cut into this batch.

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I see a butterfly, but where did the beautiful turquoise blue go?! It was supposed to be between those pink and yellow lines on the bottom wings. And what about the pale green base color?! Big changes from raw to hard soap!

The colors faded and morphed a lot! Both the bright turquoise-blue color and the pale green are almost completely gone! I clearly needed to use more mica to color the soap (and this shows why I need to get Kenna’s More Swatch Mania! book before the end of the month!). The swirls are very pretty.

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Here’s one pair turned on its side to achieve the butterfly. So pretty!

I did make a few nice deep swirls to form the bottom wings of the butterflies, but I see fewer butterflies in this batch. I did find some fun pictures like these:

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Looks like kissing fish to me!

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Put together on opposite sides, and it looks like an alien or a very funky Mardi Gras mask!

This scent: AMAZING! It smells fruity and fresh and deep and ripe. There are some tropical fruit notes and some fresh green meadow notes, and maybe even a hint of floral, as well as some water. It’s so hard to define! I need help renaming this soap. Any ideas? I’d love to hear your suggestions!

Batch #5: Blackberry Sage

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Blackberry Sage butterfly swirl soap. Now THIS looks like a butterfly!

This time, I went for thicker trace and more colored soap, and boy, do I love the results! I poured off 1.5 cups of soap into 1.5 tsp red sparkle mica, 1.5 cups soap into 1tsp lavender oxide with .5 tsp red mica, and just over a cup of soap into .75 tsp green mica. The rest of the base is uncolored with a darker yellow hue thanks to the addition of milk and subsequent heat-up of the sugars. I poured each color twice down the length of the mold, and I really concentrated while using the hanger, trying to carefully place it in the shape of each wing. It was pure bliss to cut into this loaf of soap! Every single mirrored image looks like a butterfly, all 18 bars! Here are a few of my very favorites.

IMG_6036 (2) IMG_6038 (2) IMG_6044 (2) IMG_6045 (2)So this is the one I’ve chosen to enter into the challenge, this Blackberry Sage batch.

Blackberry Sage SCC entry

My January 2015 Soap Challenge Club Entry: Blackberry Sage butterfly soap

It’s hard to choose just one, but this one seems to be the most butterfly-like of them all. Which is your favorite batch?

As always, I’m so excited to see what everyone else has come up with. I anticipate so many gorgeous soaps with different color schemes and intricate swirl designs. Thank you a million times over, Amy, for putting this together and teaching so well! I think this has been the most fun challenge to date, and y’all know how much I LOVE the challenges! [And thanks for sticking with me to the end of this incredibly long post!!!]

Change

Happy New Year! As we welcome 2015, it seems as though so many have made their resolutions, setting goals, and striving to live a “better” life this year (which can be translated in so many ways). I know I’m a bit behind the curve, but I’ve been reflecting a lot over the last few weeks, reading mommy blogs about goal setting, financial blogs about getting out of debt, foodie blogs about simple ways of eating cleaner, Christian blogs about setting a one-word goal for the year…

It’s that last bit that has sparked my interest: a one-word goal. Hmmm? What exactly does that look like? Focusing on one word throughout the year and really embracing all that it might mean?

And rather than choosing a word for myself, it seems as though one word keeps popping up on my radar:

CHANGE.

Change has chosen me. Yes, I realize that change is a part of every single year. It happens constantly, like it or not; we are all subject to it. And yet, I keep getting this nagging feeling that this year I’m supposed to recognize it, accept it, and even (gasp) embrace and welcome it. Sounds so clichĂ©. But I truly sense the Holy Spirit nudging me to notice changes in myself, in my marriage, in my children, in my circumstances. Some of these changes will simply happen, some will hopefully be the work of the Spirit in me, and some I must proactively seek.

Change.

It’s already happening all around me. My heavily pregnant belly has changed rapidly over the last few months. In just 3 short weeks (or even sooner), we will welcome a tiny new addition into our family. Eager with anticipation, I can hardly wait to meet her, but I know that she will bring about so much change in our lives and the lives of our children. A family of 7 to a family of 8. Five girls to six. The little sister will become a big sister, no longer the baby herself. And the biggest sister will take on more responsibility as she tries to help me care for the baby. (And believe me, this is self-imposed, not mommy-imposed; it’s just how she’s wired, just like me.) Our lives will grow messier yet again, burp rags galore, pacifiers abounding, blankets everywhere, and bouncy seats and baby gear to stub our toes on once more.

Change.

And just as our house will get a bit smaller, so has our mini-van! We no longer all fit in it! Yes, we’ve moved up to a 12-passenger van this year. Can you believe it?! Can I believe it? According to my title and registration, I officially drive a bus. A BUS! And you know what? It’s really great. The girls have tons more space, we can haul other people around with us (like grandparents and friends), and it rides really well. Did I ever, in a million years, think I would be saying these words, especially given our infertility history? Absolutely not. This is one change that I certainly wasn’t looking forward to, and here I am realizing how much better it is already for my family. A huge blessing.

Change.

There have been some other major changes in our household recently as well. The triplets turned 4 at the end of November. Annabelle, Madelynn and Chloe have grown up so much, even in the last few months. I can’t believe how big they are, how just one year of growth makes such a difference. In preparation for the new baby to arrive, we needed to upgrade the cribs-converted-to-toddler beds that the girls were still using. On the last night in their little girl beds, I snapped this picture.

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How wonderful and precious is this? Daddy can get them laughing like no one else on earth!

As I snapped shots of them all together, I couldn’t help but feel reminiscent. I left the room full of utter joy and at the same time, crying. Small, quiet tears. Because I remember bringing the triplets home, so tiny that they all fit into one crib quite easily. Because my babies are growing up so fast. Because I don’t want to miss a moment of it. Because I am grateful to experience these moments.

The next day ended with this:

Triple Bunk Beds

Still a bit rough with a few boards to paint and screw holes to fill in, but really fantastic!

Brand new big girl bunk beds, perfect for my girls who could not even fathom the thought of moving into separate rooms!

This meant a change in the nursery as well. Lydia’s room now houses her crib and another, awaiting the child growing in my belly, the one that she and her sisters kiss repeatedly throughout the day! And with the arrival of a second crib in her room, Lydia has learned to climb out of her bed and into the baby’s bed. Oh, the time I’ve already spent trying to teach her not to climb in with the baby, and the baby isn’t even here yet! It will most certainly be interesting to see how she adjusts to a roommate, especially one who wakes up to eat in the middle of the night. Will this work?

Just yesterday after intently watching our sweet Lydia (who is about to turn 2), my husband said to me, “It seems like she’s grown 6 months in the last 2 weeks!” And that says it all.

Change.

How could I speak of change and not talk about our oldest daughter, Emily, too? She’s six-going-on-sixteen. A first grader. She lost her front teeth early in the school year, and they have been nearly fully replaced already by her big girl teeth. I can’t believe it! She is still a sweet, innocent little girl, unashamed to laugh and love and be silly. But I see glimpses of a much bigger, wiser girl coming out of her. Sometimes she says the most profound things, and I am amazed. Yet within five minutes, she may have a sudden teenage-like hormonal response to something petty. It’s maddening and hysterical all at the same time. I see her changing before my eyes, and I am so hopeful for her future.

I’m absolutely stunned at how blessed I feel to have been given the privilege of raising these children, and yet I realize the weight of this heavy burden to raise them all well, showing them love, teaching them how to be loving adults, pointing them to a Savior who is so much better than me.

I don’t want to change who they are, but I hope to help shape them into who God created them to be.

THIS is an important job. THE MOST important job.

Change. I realize that I do have a choice in this. Change will happen inevitably. (I’ve even talked about change here.) But my choice comes in how I respond. This year, I am going to consciously choose to recognize change and, clichĂ© as it is, embrace it. I want to see my children, each one for who she is now and for who she is becoming. I want to actively change my marriage for the better. (Not that it’s bad, but we all know things can always be better!) I hope to find ways to change some of those nagging habits that I don’t like so much, and replace them intentionally with better things, like more prayer, daily Bible study, caring for others, writing more, developing my business… Now I’m starting to sound like I’m making resolutions.

Perhaps.

But the point is, I can choose change for the better. I can notice change around me. And I can change, through grace, in love.

I find so much hope in this: my God, who never changes, longs to do something new in me.

21 Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, 22 throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.

-Ephesians 4:21-24 (NLT)

And this:

Behold, I will do something new,

Now it will spring forth;

Will you not be aware of it?

-Isaiah 43:19a (NASB)

I intend to become aware of it this year. Will you notice with me?