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Third Challenge – The Holly Swirl

This month Amy Warden of Great Cakes Soapworks challenged us to the Holly Swirl (named after Holly of Missouri River Soaps who designed it).  Anyway, it is a swirl within a swirl and was a lot of fun to do.  AND this was the first of the challenges that I got right on my first try.  Yea.  That is a good thing because I got started late this month and didn’t have time for a remake.  Otherwise I probably would have tried again just to see if I could do better.

My design was inspired by a new fragrance I got while at the Lights and Lather meeting in Winchester. Kelley from Soapies Supplies did a demo using this and I loved the smell. It is called Arizona Sunrise. After looking at pictures of actual sunrises in Arizona I decided to use a white base on the bottom to show off the red, orange pink and yellow colors reflected by the sun. For the top part I selected a sky blue mixed in a darker blue with white for clouds.

I posted pictures on my Facebook page already because I was not sure I would have time to post here.  So the pictures included here are the same ones as on Facebook.






Colors selected


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I tried to put the captions in that I included in Facebook but either WordPress or my computer is being very stubborn and will not let me.

Thanks Amy for putting this together.  This is my favorite challenge so far mostly because it was a totally new swirl to me.  I enjoyed it and will be definitely be trying this one again.


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Second Challenge – Mantra Swirl

For the second challenge we were assigned the mantra swirl.  There are several ways of doing this swirl with the modified version being the easiest to cut so I chose to try that one.  The challenge proved to be even more difficult for me than the peacock swirl however I am not going to post all my failures.  The problem was mostly that my soap became too thick too quickly.  I finally got one to allow me enough time to work by adding a little more water to my recipe.  The colors I chose were based on a Design Seed pallet with a cute green and orange frog.  I used Crafter’s Choice Ginger Orange FO from Wholesale Supplies Plus.  I think I will name the soap Kermit.

Colors selected
Colors selected
The mold is ready and soap batter mixed with the colors
The mold is ready and soap batter mixed with the colors
Ready to cure
Poured and ready to cure
Cured and cut
Cured and cut

The swirl on the inside of the soap didn’t turn out quite like I envisioned but on a positive note I did get the colors I wanted.

Once again I had a lot of fun trying something that I had not done before.  I used different colors for each of the failed soaps so I got to try out a lot of the samples I ordered from TKB and The Conservatory.

And thank you Amy for putting together another “challenge”.

OBTW: I know you are not supposed to have to line silicone molds but this particular one gives me fits so I line it.  I used this mold because the little side flaps made it easier to anchor the dividers.

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Making kosher dill pickles

Last year I decided to make Kosher dill pickles.  Not just any dill pickle – I wanted to recreate the pickles I remembered and loved from Duke Ziebert’s restaurant in Washington, DC.  It was one of those iconic places.  You will always remember it.  At Duke’s it was Duke himself.  A larger than life character who made everyone believe he remembered them and was so happy they came back.  Then there were the onion rolls – warm and so flavorful.  But I loved the dill pickles.  Every meal started off with a plate of big fat dill pickles that you cut yourself.  Some insisted that they had to be cut in spears, others  chips, I imagine some may have picked up the whole pickle and started munching.  I didn’t care how they were cut, I just loved the strong garlic dill taste.

I searched the internet for recipes that sounded like they would give me something at least close to Duke’s.  Most recipes were for pickles that got canned with the traditional water bath method.  What I remembered was bright green fresh looking cucumbers.  I was sure they must have been prepared in the refrigerator.  After all as many as they went through he had to have a constant supply.  After searching some more I found some recipes where the cucumbers were fermented a few days then refrigerated.  That must be how he did it.

So I picked the ingredients and portions from various recipes that sounded the best to me and made a batch.  This is what was left a year later:




Surprisingly, these were still crisp and delicious – just lost the bright green color.

Time to make some more.  I have gathered all my ingredients:



We have several pounds of cucumbers, fresh garlic, fresh dill, distilled water, vinegar, pickling salt and pickle crisp.  My mason jars are sterilized in boiling water while the tops are in another pot of simmering water.  In the meantime, make your brine by combining distilled water, pickling salt and vinegar – use 1/4 cup each of salt and vinegar per 6 cups of water.  Bring the mixture to a boil and then allow to return to room temperature.





Now to each jar add about three cloves of garlic and a few sprigs of dill, pack in your cucumbers either whole or cut – your choice.  I left the ones on the bottom whole but cut the top layer to get more in the jar.  Now add a few more cloves of garlic and some dill plus about 1/4 teaspoon of pickle crisp granules (optional).  Cover completely with brine and put in refrigerator four plus days.  Most recipes will tell you that the refrigerated pickles will last for weeks but my experience has been they last a lot longer if you happen to make too many.  Although these are so good you won’t get a chance to test this.

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Another option is to allow the jarred pickles to sit on a window sill or porch where they have a temperature of 80+ for a few days and you have fermented (aka sour pickles).  These would then go in the refrigerator after fermentation.  Since I have an abundance of pickles this year I am trying both ways.


Then the next pickle project is going to be bread and butter pickle chips for my granddaughter.


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Peacock Swirl Challenge – Third and Final Try

My first two tries didn’t make the cut. I was willing to give it one more try since I really like the way a peacock swirl looks and I want to add it to my soap line up.

This time I decided to go with red, white and blue since I was running out of time to make a 4th of July soap.  Since we were supposed to use four colors, I added a little yellow in the design.  I was afraid to tinker with the colors because I didn’t want another failure but I needed a darker blue and a red red.  So I added a little black oxide to ultra marine blue and for the red I remembered that someone had shared that they added red brick oxide and merlot sparkle to Brambleberry’s Electric Bubble Gum mica.  This was a gamble as I don’t have much experience at mixing colors.

I had just received some new supplies that included Raspberry Lemonade fragrance oil (it smells so good I just had to try it).  Besides what could be better on a summer’s day then raspberry lemonade?

Here is the freshly poured soap:


Another angle of the raw soap – you can see what I did with the left over mix – I love that little mold Brambleberry gave us at the Soap Guild conference in Raleigh.Image:

I described the problems I had with my other tries in the posts below. This time I just covered the soap and put it on one of my plant propagation heat mats to help with the gel.  When I uncovered it the next day I couldn’t believe it.  The colors were still bright an beautiful.  Have a look:


There are some cut pics:



It was a lot of fun and I am already looking forward to the next challenge.  Thanks Amy for putting this together for all your hard work to make it happen.

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Second Peacock Swirl – Another failure

Okay. so I don’t give up.  This time I decided to use different colors – pink, purple, yellow and green.  Again all the prep and actual soap making went great.  I’ll skip those pics this time.  I got the soaps poured and squirted all the color.  It looked beautiful when I used the rake.



Now time for the peacock swirl part.  I got out my chop stick and made my first pass at “S” curves.  It for some reason didn’t look right.  Was I supposed to do the “S” in the other direction.  I turned the mold and started in a different direction.  Mistake.  The swirl is now ruined.  The soap gremlins must not want me to learn this technique.  Here’s how it turned out.



A peacock swirl it is not, but If you didn’t know what I was trying to accomplish you would probably think it was a pretty swirl.  No way I was going to put this in the oven.  But since I soaped at a low temp I thought I best put it in the frig to insure that it didn’t do a partial gel.  I sprayed with alcohol and the gremlins struck again.  The soap got a film on top from the spray and as I was walking to the frig I slightly jarred the mold and one end got wrinkles.  Then the colors faded.



Well that is only 2 strikes and if this were baseball, I’d have one more chance.  Can I actually get a batch made and keep the soap gremlins at bay????  I will post the results in the next day or two.  Let’s hope the third time is a charm!