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Weekend Reading

I don’t know about you, but with the quarantine days bleeding into one another, I find myself constantly looking for things I can read/do to distract myself – especially on the weekends when I would usually be out running errands and having brunch with friends. Since I’ve gone through so many articles in the last few days, I decided that I would share some of my favorites with you to help you find some inspiration for your weekend. Enjoy!

I love Kickstarter. While of course there are some really odd/dumb ideas, there are many wonderful projects to be found. I recently discovered this botanically inspired tarot deck. These beautiful illustrations feature “traditional paintings rooted in classical tarot interpretations that delve into the lore and mythology of the plant kingdom.” A fantastic gift for any tarot or plant lover or just for yourself.

I know there are so many articles being passed around on how to use this time to do all of those cleaning projects you’d never normally get to, but I really enjoyed the perspective of this closet cleaning breakdown. It acknowledges the importance of making the most of what you’ve got as well as keeping items that hold sentimental value.

Coffee Chocolate Layer Cake with Mocha Mascarpone Frosting, need I say more?

Considering how much online stress shopping I have done in the last few weeks, I needed to read this article on how one woman managed to not shop for clothing for an entire year. Food for thought as well as a much needed reminder to be more thoughtful about my purchases.

Mother’s Day is only a week away. Since going out shopping isn’t a great option, these free printable cards could be a great option.

“You know what they say – when life gives you quarantine lemons, make real crepe paper lemons to decorate your front door!” This cute little crafting kit is perfect since it not only give you something to do, it also livens up your living space.  

As I am dabbling into crafting my own bath products these days, I thought this article on the benefits of different types of salts was an excellent resource to help me up my game.

Hanging a hammock to enjoy some time outside is nice, creating a hammock oasis is even better.

I’ve done silk dyeing, shibori, tie dyeing, and resist dyeing, but I have never tried tissue paper dyeing, and after seeing this tutorial, I can’t wait to give it a try!

*Image from here.


I Made Soap!

….sort of. After watching dozens of soap making videos on YouTube over the past few weeks, I decided to use the birthday cash my mom gave me (plus a little extra) to purchase some very basic soap making supplies from Bramble Berry and see what I could come up with.

My purchases included:
*Square Soap Mold
*3lbs of Goats Milk Melt & Pour Soap Base
*Orange Valencia Essential Oil
* Petal Sample Pack
*Eco Glitter Sample Pack
*Natural Colorant Sample Pack

In my opinion, melt and pour soap is the easiest way to dip your toe in the soap making pool. The oil base and lye solution have already been emulsified, so all you have to do is melt it down and combine it with any colors, fragrances, or additives you chose. To make things a little more interesting, I decided to do a two tone soap bar.

Am I soap making savant? Not at all. Did I have a good time? Heck yeah, and I’ve already ordered more soap base so I can use some of the other samples from my first order.

I did learn some tricks to help me get a better bar of soap next time. First I need to spritz each layer with rubbing alcohol to remove any bubbles and prevent any soda ash from forming. Secondly, I need to leave my soap alone while it sets up. I tried un-molding the soap way too soon and one of the bars started to split (don’t worry I was able to save it). Finally, I think I will press the flower petals in a little more firmly. They looked lovely, but I lost more than I’d like taking the soap out of the molds and wrapping them to give to people. I can’t wait for my next order to arrive!


Funky KitKat Taste Test

I think quarentine has warped my sense of what things are worth me spending my time on. Usually, between work, friends and life in general, my down time is very limited. So if I am going to do something extra during that time, the bar is fairly high. These days, I am at home, on admin leave and aside from cleaning, laundry, and slowly whipping my home office into shape, there really isn’t anything I HAVE to be doing, and I’ve found myself indulging in my whims, just for the sake of doing something that isn’t one of those previously mentioned activities.

*Side note, I am cool doing more of cleaning activities around the house since Andy is still having to log on and work everyday, but no matter what, having to do the dishes is still the WORST. I hate it so much and I have to fight myself to do them every GD day.

Anyway, back to my whims. I am finding myself more likely to indulge my whims these days. For instance, they other day I was putting together an Amazon order and I happened to be watching a video about Japanese candy and the insane amount of KitKat flavors that are available. Before I knew it, I had added a sample pack of random KitKat flavors and completed my purchase. Then I completely forgot about it. Three days later I am pulling things out of the big cardboard box and I have a momentary “what the hell?” moment when I pull out a bag of colorful fun size KitKat bars.

Of course, these little guys came with no information regarding flavors so I had to do a bit of research so I could find out what we had. Here is the list from left to right: Green Tea (Sweeter), Chocolate Mint, Sweet Potato, Strawberry, Strawberry Mochi, Mixed Citrus, Hojicha Tea, Sweet Potato Apple Pie, Red Bean Paste, White Chocolate, Chestnut, Dark Chocolate, Green Tea(Slightly Bitter), Maple, Original, Chocolate Orange.

My Top Three: Maple, Green Tea(Slightly Bitter) & Chocolate Orange

My Bottom Three: Sweet Potato Apple Pie, Sweet Potato, Chestnut

Andy’s Top Three: Chocolate Mint, Chocolate Orange & Strawberry

Andy’s Bottom Three: Maple, Sweet Potato, Sweet Potato Apple Pie

This group had some high highs and some very rock bottom-y lows. I think Andy had more fun watching me try the flavors than he did actually trying them himself. I will admit that it was late and I may have been slightly more dramatic about my dislikes than the situation warranted, but I gotta do me, right? I also thought it was interesting that there were two different Green Tea flavors, but I read an article online that said that the lighter sweeter green tea was geared more towards children, and the darker earthier flavored green tea was for adults with a more developed pallet.

The KitKat Massacre Aftermath

The Takeaway: This was a whim that worked out pretty well. We had a good silly time researching and trying out KitKat flavors. I would absolutely recommend trying this, especially if you have a quarantine buddy to share with. I think I will probably even order another blind box of KitKats once this insanity is all over and have a try party with my friends.


YouTube Obsession: Royalty Soaps

We are all looking for a little distraction these days, and I have been spending so much time on YouTube that someone will have to stage an intervention as soon as we can be closer than six feet to one another again. One of favorite things to binge are the tutorials by Royalty Soaps. These incredible soaps are a family endeavor, but the main soap maker in these videos is Katie, the “Duchess of Suds.”

I have seen “fancy” soap bars in the store before, but I had no idea how far a seasoned soap artist could take things. So many techniques and ideas! And they come up new themes and ideas every single month!

The Royalty Soaps crew puts out videos every Wednesday and Saturday and have been putting out videos for a few years now, so there is plenty of content to enjoy. I’ve literally spent multiple hours watching episode after episode.

After all of that soap inspiration, I do have admit that I finally broke down and ordered some very basic soap making supplies. I’m not starting out with the signature cold process soap that Katie created, instead starting with a much simpler melt and pour base, but I am excited and as soon as I get my supplies I can’t wait to start creating.

All images are directly from the Royalty Soap social media sources. You can find them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter & Pinterest. All of their fantastic creations are available for purchase on their website.


Ricotta Mulberry Sweet Loaf

I will say, while the not being able to be around other humans thing is kind of a bummer, it is helping me focus on some of the items that have been on my to-do list for a while, like recipe development. A friend of mine has a mulberry bush in her back yard, and when she dropped off a bag of berries the other day (while practicing safe non-contact social distancing), I had exactly what I needed to elevate a recipe I’ve been considering for a while. This recipe is essentially a ricotta pound cake, which is perfectly lovely on its own – I mean, come on… it’s cake -, but I like when a recipe is more than just sweet. I want a little complexity that makes for a more satisfying bake and a more interesting flavor. I’d never tried mulberries before this, and I’d describe them as a cross between a blueberry and a blackberry: sweet, a little tart, and minimal seeds. I’ve already sent a text to my friend asking for more as soon as her mulberry bush produces another round of berries.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup Softened Butter
  • 1 1/2 cups Sugar
  • 3 Large Eggs
  • 2 tsps Vanilla
  • 15 oz Full Fat Ricotta (drain off any excess liquid)
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 2 1/2 tsps Baking Powder
  • 1 1/2 cups Flour
  • 1 1/2 cups Fresh Mulberries

Recipe

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F and grease a 9″ loaf pan.
  2. Beat together butter and sugar on high for 5 minutes until light and fluffy.
  3. Beat the eggs in one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next one.
  4. Add in vanilla and ricotta a mix until combined. ( Batter may look lumpy or curdled, but it won’t matter once you’ve added the dry ingredients)
  5. In a separate bowl, combine salt, flour and baking powder and whisk ingredients together.
  6. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients a little at a time until combined, do not over mix.
  7. Gently fold in fresh mulberries and pour batter into greased loaf pan.
  8. Bake in the oven at 350 F for 20 minutes. Rotate pan and reduce heat to 325 F and allow to bake for an additional 40 minutes.
  9. Allow loaf to cool for half an hour before turning out of pan.
  10. Once the loaf is completely cool slice and enjoy!

*If you can’t find mulberries, you can use blackberries instead.

Andy and I both really enjoyed the finished product. A lot of times Andy plays guinea pig for me, but his reactions can be a little lackluster. I bake enough that he rarely gets “excited” about new recipes, but when we were sitting on the couch the following day, enjoying a slice for dessert he turned to me and said, “yeah, this is really good cake.” So there you have it.