Thursday, March 11, 2010

2010 Philadelphia Flower Show

Last week, I packed up CrabbyC in the somewhat trusty Focus and headed into our fair city for the annual Flower Show. We try to make it down every other year. While the exhibit itself is very beautiful, the Convention Center is overrun with old people, ambulatory and also in wheelchairs; and let me tell you - they will knock you down in order to get up close to things. This can make the experience a little less than enjoyable. However, in the last couple of years, the PHS has added a wine & spirits tasting hall to the attractions - woot! I am much more amenable to being run over by some old cooter's scooter (ha - I rhyme!) if I've got a few ounces of liquid patience percolating in my belly.

And so it was. Lots of pictures in this post, not much in the way of writing. The theme for this year's show was 'Passport to the World', so the individual exhibits were based on different countries; India, Holland, Ireland, get the idea. The lighting was not very good for taking pictures, but I did the best I could. (wah, wah, wah)

These two photos were taken at the entrance to the Show.

Some of the exhibits were more artistic in nature, not necessarily things that you could recreate at home, but really imaginative and quite beautiful.

I liked this next one - the plants were encased in 'ice' blocks and suspended from the thing above them, and there was water dripping down from the 'thing' (yes, again having trouble with my words) into the pool below.

I am always on the lookout for Hostas, and wasn't disappointed.

I don't know how they get the azaleas and rhodies to bloom in March - I'm guessing they force them in a greenhouse - mine never look this good.

This next one was called 'The Glass House'. The exhibitor created a giant American flag out of flowers and then entwined all sorts of American 'artifacts' into it. There were Coke cans and pictures of Marilyn Monroe and Elvis, baseballs - if it's patently American, it was in there.

I especially like the exhibits that are woodland-themed. It gives me ideas for stuff to try (and fail at) at our house.
This next guy was cool. The theme for this was 'Route 1 - Maine to Florida'.


The bulbs they had on display were amazing.

Oh - this next exhibit - I have got to have this one. It was an open air bedroom. So very neat.

I had a hard time photographing it. The next two pictures are of the same thing, but one with the flash on and the other with it off. You can figure out which one you like better.

Here's another shot of the whole thing.

One of the exhibitors created an Amsterdam canal, and filled it with bikes and bottles and stuff.

Here's CrabbyC and I in the booze arena.

This is an elephant. (no shit Deb)

In the India exhibit - they created an Indian wedding temple-thing, with these cool flower starbursts in the front of it.

There are a lot of smaller exhibitors as well, not everything is on such a grand scale. Each year, the PHS will pick a theme or medium for them. For this project, everyone had to do something with a Brazilnut.

I liked these geese a lot.

The miniatures are absolutely adorable.

This plant was so neat looking. There was a group of about 5 of us standing around it and we all were itching to touch it - which is a big 'no-no', but we did it anyway. It was fuzzy, but firm feeling. And it lived through the abuse.

This year was a little light on the Hosta entries for the individual entries. Kind of a bummer, but at least there were a few there.

Teeny-Weeny Bikini! (the blue ribbon is for his neighbor, unfortunately) Boo hiss.

Pandora's Box. I have this one in my own garden, last year it got eaten. This year, it will not.

Tiny Tears. LOOK AT IT. It's so tiny!

That's it for the photo show.

I love the Flower Show, in that it gets me all excited to start working outside.

I hate the Flower Show because I know I can't even get close to what they do and it makes me want to go home and burn my house down.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Spring is Springing!

It's happening! All over our yard!

What ARE these green shooty-things coming up out of the ground?


I'm so excited!

Yay! Welcome to the first signs of Spring!

I've been waiting for you.

No soap radio

Every once in a while, I get a hair up my ass and I'll go off and try something new. The aforementioned pottery classes, watercolor classes, crochet classes, make-your-own lip balm kits, you get the idea.

Thousands and thousands of years ago (ok - circa 1998), in a land far, far away (ok - Berkeley, kind of North Oakland/South Berkeley), I ordered a glycerin soapmaking kit from Martha Stewart. This was back when she still did that sort of stuff. Around the same time, I found a soap and candlemaking supply store on San Pablo Avenue, less than a mile from my house (ok - it wasn't 'my' house. I had half of a duplex. Jill, of Controlling my Chaos fame and her husband and their two cats had the other half. They didn't have the kidlets yet.). Can't remember what the store was called, but I thought I had found my new favorite pasttime.

The Martha soap was easy. Chop up some glycerin, microwave it, mix in some of the additives that came in the kit (scrubby grainy things, scents, colors), pour into vaseline greased molds, let sit a few hours and out pops soap! Soap you can actually use! I was a cottage industry!

Since the Martha kit was only for glycerin soap, and I was determined to make soap the old fashioned way as well, I purchased supplies to make a beeswax type soap (they gave me the instructions for free) using palm oil and lye and, of course, a giant block of beeswax.

I burned myself with the lye. That shit hurts. Making soap from scratch is a labor intensive pain in the ass. And hurty. And it takes freaking forever. And, if it's not done EXACTLY right (there is math involved - snore) it doesn't work, you don't get soap. You wind up with 4 pounds of beeswax scented, yellow sludgy mush that does nothing but sit there and jiggle when you shake the mold around, after having let it sit for a week or so curing. Like concrete. The first batch I made turned out ok, the second; well, let us just say that that's how I know what happens when you don't do it right.

I still have the block of beeswax, but I don't make 'pioneer days' type soap anymore. My need for instant gratification can't take it. So I am relegated to the world of glycerin soap - which is fine. I can still pump it up with all sorts of goodies that I find in my kitchen cabinets to keep it from being boring, and it's done relatively quickly, with little potential for injury.

When I was living in New Hampshire, in 2001 (I moved around a lot for a number of years), I stopped in at an indoor kind of rotating flea market slash antiques mart, and I found a set of antique metal Jell-o molds. Little ones, single serving-type Jell-o molds. I had an a-ha! moment. I could make Jell-o soaps! Clear, colored, glycerin soaps with fruity scents that would look and smell just like little Jell-o's, but they'd be for washing, not eating.

And so it was. A few times a year, I'd haul out my soapmaking supplies and in an afternoon, I would make enough soap to clean the Philadelphia Eagles for the entire NFL pre-season, regular season and post-season (if they are fortunate enough to make it that far). That's the thing, once you get the everything out, it's not worth it to only make 2 bars. Luckily, I have a couple of friends who will take some of it off my hands. Sometimes, they even come to me asking for it - which is nice.

Such was the case at the end of January.

I didn't take step by step pictures of the entire process, so you are getting just a few highlights.

Here we have some of the simple tools (aside from the nearly finished cup of coffee) for making the Jell-o soaps. I bought 6 molds, but three of them are in much better shape than the others, so I am relegated to making only 3 soaps at a time, all the same flavor. Pause, for you to admire my days-of-the-week dish towels.

3 lime Jell-o soaps cooling on the counter. This day, I made strawberry, lemon, orange and lime.

Some close-up shots of them, once they are popped out of the molds. The lighting is kind of sucky, because we have these stupid cabinets that hang over the bar counter and block any overhead light.

For the nummy-smelling soaps that I expect people would wash themselves with (rather than just their hands, which is what the Jell-o soaps are more suitable for), I use different glycerin bases that already have some emollient added to them. To them, I just add more. If a little works, a lot has to be better. I inherited that gene from my maternal grandfather. Ask CrabbyC about the time I burned up my front lawn with the Weed and Feed.

This is how the glycerin base comes. You could just cut a chunk off and wash with it, but where's the fun in that?

For one of my friends that has super-sensitive skin, I make unscented milk and honey bars. They're just one of the white bases (goats milk or shea butter), that I add cocoa butter, honey and powdered milk to. She swears that it takes away those little bumps that she gets on her arms and stuff - the dry skin bump things. Maybe you know about those.

You can see them below - on the bottom left.

For the rest of the bars, I just throw in whatever I think will go together well. As the proprietor of dry-ish skin, I add copius amounts of moisturizing ingredients - cocoa butter, shea butter, powdered milk, a few shreds of the giant beeswax block. I'm a food-smells person (I understand there are flower-smells people and food-smells people), so I use a lot of stuff from my kitchen. Oatmeal is a favorite, as are cinnamon, vanilla, and honey. There's no rhyme or reason to it and I don't measure anything. I do, however, have to label them so I have a clue as to what's in each one. Going by smell doesn't always work.

Here's most of the day's production sitting on the counter.

And another view of the Jell-o's and the honeycomb-with-bee shaped soaps. Of course I put honey in those bars. I think my OCD would spiral out of control if I didn't.

The soaps were sent off and so far, everyone seems to be enjoying them. I have long harbored a secret wish to open some kind of online store and sell themto the masses, I don't know, maybe one day I will.
And if I could get a contract to provide soap to the Eagles, that would be good too.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Steve Knipp - Hosta Pottery

Someday (soon, I hope) the sun is going to come out and melt all of this snow so that I can busy myself with actual hostas, rather than whetting my appetite by buying things that just look like them.

Although, there is some beautiful Hosta merchandise out there. Case in point: Steve Knipp's Hosta pottery.

I found out about his work while perusing through Cheesehead Gardening's blog (she's a Hosta Geek too). She had ordered a few pieces from Steve's collection, posted about them, and they were beautiful. So, I sent Steve's link over to GeekBoy for his input and he took it upon himself to email Steve for more information. Steve replied to him with a video he'd made just for us, showing the pieces that he had available and their prices. It was a very cool way to do business - very personal. It was very hard to limit myself to just a few items, I really wanted them all, but we have these pesky bills and such, that keep cropping up.

So, I give to you, the pieces that I (really, GeekBoy) procured:

A sushi-type dish. What's neat and different about Steve's work, is that he actually presses the Hosta leaves into the clay on the front,

and the back. So they are interesting on both sides. And he put felt feet on them! A man after my own heart. I'd put felt pads on the cats paws if they'd stay still long enough. And not scratch the living shit out of me.

Please forgive my less-than-stellar photography skillz - I'm not well versed in the art of still-life photography and making things look like they are floating in a white space. Maybe someday. Probably not, though.
A large leaf shaped serving plate. Steve actually uses a Hosta leaf to create the plate, so they are truly one of a kind items. He's got a video up on his site showing how he makes the hosta leaf bowls, in the event you are interested in maybe trying it out yourself. Me? I'll stick to forking over my credit card instead. I took pottery classes about 10 years ago and some of my little bowls (I never graduated from little bowls) weighed 5 pounds each.

Here's the back of the plate. (felt FEET!) Ignore the packing tape and little trees on the side of my kitchen towel. I'm too lazy to crop them out.

The last piece I got is a small appetizer plate. I'm considering putting it on my dresser and using it to hold jewelry - screw the appetizers. I'm on Weight Watchers, food is the enemy. (not really - it's just that I want it out where I can enjoy it all the time and not shut up in a cabinet somewhere, collecting dust because we never entertain, a byproduct of not liking people).
Even the small pieces have detail on the back. But no felt pads :(
Here they are all together, just waiting to be put to use:
Oh, and Steve also included some cute thank-you cards in the package. I thought that it was a nice touch.

They say 'thanks this much' on the front and are blank inside so you can write your own message.

Steve's got one more piece that I really, REALLY want. Maybe if I'm super duper good, it'll just show up at the house someday. (hint hint - GeekBoy, you know which one I'm talking about)

Next up - maybe some soap. Or maybe more Hosta stuff. Or possibly an owl. Who knows, you'll just have to tune in and see.