Books that I read

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Soap Crafting - Step-by-Step Techniques for Making 31 Unique Cold-Process Soaps by Anne-Marie Faiola

Book description: -

The Soap Queen, Anne-Marie Faiola, shows you how to make perfect cold-process soap that is better than what you can buy at the store! Simple instructions and great photography walk you through every step of 31 exciting recipes, making it easy to master the techniques you need and produce the soaps you want. You'll find chapters on colors (neon, oxides, mica), molds (milk jugs, yogurt containers, pipes), food (pumpkin, coffee, beer, avocado, oatmeal), and building (embedding soap in soap, funnel pour, swirling). Faiola offers everything you need to make your own soap, safely and enjoyably!

My very first experience on handmade soap making was about 1 year ago. I got to know few mothers who shared with us on this beautiful art and since then, I have fallen in love with it. For a person who used to bake regularly, soap making to me is just as fun as baking. I can decide what kind of soap that I want to make, what shape, what kind of color, pattern etc. Just like decorating a cake, it's entirely up to your own creativity. 

Soap making is actually difficult at all. It's a delightful hobby, and with the many benefits of the handmade soap, it's definitely worth making the soap for your own usage. Actually, handmade soap are getting more and more popular nowadays, especially with many home makers doing it as business selling handmade soap to families and friends. It's easy to make your own soap. I know few friends who making this at home through self learning. 

Soap Crafting - Step-by-Step Techniques for Making 31 Unique Cold-Process Soaps by Anne-Marie Faiola, is a very good book especially for a newbie in soap making. It explains the soap making techniques and the safety guidelines (this is very important!), the equipment needed and tutorial on how to make a basic cold compressed soap. There are few soap making techniques but this book is more focus on the cold compressed method of the soap making technique. Besides soap making techniques and equipment, it also explains on the oil choices in soap making. Different kind of oils and its benefits are explained in details, allowing us to decide what oils to used in our soap depending on our purpose and needs for that particular batch of soap. 

Making a cold compressed soap is actually very simple. It's just like baking, where you mix, cook and whip. This book provides detail steps, along with the picture to guide you from beginning until the end. It also has tips inserted in the right place. And most importantly, there is this Soap Safely section to remind you, on preserving the safety during the soap making process. As one of the main ingredients in cold-process soap is sodium hydroxide, also called as lye. Lye is a caustic material commonly used to clean drains, brine lutefisk. Dry lye, or lye water, and fresh soap is harmful to our skin, our eyes. Thus it is important for us to have the necessary safety precautions when dealing with lye. And throughout the whole book, the safety precautions are being reminded to the readers again and again. 

When it comes to soap crafting, color and fragrances can't be excluded. There's a chapter explaining the colorants, and another chapter on using essential oils and fragrance oils. Included in the book is also 31 cold-process recipes, showing how the author plays with the colors, patterns and molds in soap crafting.

Picture of the soaps available in this book. Love the beautiful swirl patterns shared by the author! 

I like the way the author presented the recipes. The step-by-step guides is simple and easy to follow. For each of the recipe, the purpose and benefits of the soap are clearly stated. Any preparation that needed to be done prior to making the soap mixture are explained. Pictures along the step-by-step guide, and details explanation on how to pour and swirl to make the desired patterns. 

Whether if you are looking for trying a new hobby on soap making, or wanted to learn more on creating different patterns and designs on soap making, this book is definitely for you. 

Note: I receive the ARC of this book from the publisher via Net Galley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Parents' nightmare

Earlier this evening, when I went to pick up Lynn at her school around 6.30pm (school over at 6.20pm), I overheard a mother talking to the 2 teachers in-charge there telling them her child has gone missing. According to her, her child usually will wait for her inside the school but today her child was not there. She borrowed the hand phone from one of the teacher to call her husband to come over help to find the child.

Honestly I'm getting worry upon hearing that. It was just 10minutes after school hours and there were still about 40% students left waiting to be picked up. Usually there are 2 teachers staying around to make sure all children have gone home. And most of the time class teachers from Standard one will be around too but they won't stay till very late. They would be gone when most of the students from their class have gone home.

From very first day of school, I have been telling Lynn that never ever follow anyone going home. She must stay inside the school compound and wait for me to come. She can follow me only and not any other person. If raining days I may be late depending on the traffic but no matter how late she still have to wait for me inside the school. And never follow any other person, regardless she knows them or not. If I can't pick her up, I will tell her in advance who will pick her up and only follow that person and no one else. I told Lynn about the child missing incident I overheard just now and reminded her again that she must follow no one except me. Earlier I also have taught her how to make phone calls using public phone in case she needs to reach me. I gave her some coins for making phone calls and told her only call when necessary. There were twice that I reached her school very late, almost 7pm. First time I was stuck in an unexpected traffic jam and the other time I was very sick and overslept after taking the medicine despite I had set the alarm. Both times she was sitting in front of the guard house waiting for me, together with few other students and one teacher. While I was surprised there were still students around but I was glad she's not alone and not the last one.

I know I should not trust the guards fully, but I still would like to have some faith with the school. The school has a very strict rules allowing parents and even students entering the school. All parents entering the school must register with the security guard and then report to the school office before proceeding to whatever matters they need to be inside the school. Even students entering the school much earlier than normal school hours also have to register with the security guard. There are total about 4 security guards if not mistaken, all are local Chinese. I do not see any foreign worker which I'm glad of. But all guards are in their 50s and above. And I have been seeing them guarding the school since at least 4-5 years back. The school is just next to the shop area where we visit frequently so we always pass by the school entrance.

With the increase of social crime rate at the parking lot of shopping complex, nowadays I dare not bring Lynn and Hao to shopping malls without one other adult accompanying us. If I really need to go, I will get hb to come along or I go alone. One good thing is me and hb do not like window shopping and we do not have the habit going to the malls every weekend. So we only go when necessary. The only public area I dare bring Lynn and Hao with me alone is during weekdays picking up Lynn after school. Normally I park near the shops and walk about 100m across the shop lots to school to avoid stuck at the long queue in front of the school. We have been going to the few eatery shops there every week for the past 8 years so I'm quite comfortable look after the kids by myself there. But I won't eat at the shop with the kids alone. If hb is not with us I would just buy back home. Ever since the kids can walk by themselves, me and hb have insisted the kids must hold our hand when going out. And we are still keeping this rule. Both Lynn and Hao are not afraid of strangers and thus I always paranoid bring them out. Those of you that have met Lynn and Hao before will know what I mean. We have been telling them and from time to time reminding them not to talk to strangers. And I always make sure they are within my vicinity. Since we are not staying with the parents and hb always come home very late from work, I have no choice but to bring them with me whenever I go. I limit my grocery shopping to only few places and since I always go there we are quite familiar with the shop people there. I usually only buy what I need which I already know beforehand and thus my shopping usually is very fast. Once a while, I will go supermarket alone and get the things like butter spread, cheese, muesli etc that are not available from the normal grocery store.

The kids have to learn that this world is not safe. While I try my very best to protect them, they have to learn to protect themselves too. As for the mother i saw from the school earlier, I really hope that she can manage to find her child. Just hope maybe the child has the urgent to go to the toilet right before the mother was there.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Welcome 2013

I did not start well in year 2012. First my car was badly damage being hot from behind. Then not soon after that the very same car got stolen while I had only 6 more installments to go. I guess I have no fate with this car. But during the year I got a freelance job on accounting. Though its only few months but I got some extra pocket money from it. And then out of my plan, I ended up back to work full time again for the second half of the year. So in overall, if I did not lose my car, I would say year 2012 is not a bad year.

Year 2013, Lynn finally enters Primary 1. When I was young, my mom was a house wife. I remember me and my brother never attended any tuition, my mom would guide us on our school works until secondary school. So naturally I wanted to play the same role to my kids. With much longer school hours in primary school as compared to kindergarten, I do not welcome the idea putting Lynn at those day care centre. I prefer I myself spend the before school hours with her. Which means that I can't work full time anymore.

When I accepted my current full time job, I had been very honest with the boss that I would quit and switched to do freelance when school reopen in 2013. Becoming a stay-at-home mom when Lynn enters Primary 1 is always my plan. But then I thought - why can't I go to work while Lynn is at school in the afternoon? I would say that I feel very blessed that my boss allows me to work only half day. Though my pay is cut by half but at least I still get some income and at the same time I get to look after Lynn myself. To me, it worth the sacrifice. As for Hao, he would still be full day at kindy as before.

So every day after sending Lynn to school in the afternoon, I go to work. Then I would leave at 5.30pm sharp, to go pick up Hao and rush back to pick up Lynn who finish school at 6.20pm. Though its very rush for me, but nothing can beat my smiling face when I see Lynn's face lighten up upon seeing me picking her up after school. To overcome the heavy traffic outside the school, usually I would park my car at the furthest about 100m away and walk her to the school. Honestly, I enjoy those moments holding hand walking side by side. Even Hao also enjoys walking with me go pick up his jie Jie after school. This helps keep all of us in happy mood, which means they will annoy me less, and get scolded less, which is a good thing. :)

So far I enjoy working half day and spending the rest of the time with the kids. I consider this as a good start for year 2013 and hope more good things to come. :)

Monday, December 24, 2012

Gingerbread house, yule log making & Merry Christmas!

It's Christmas time! This year, Little Sprout's mama invited me over for gingerbread house and yule log baking session!

Little Sprout's mama pre-baked the gingerbread cookies a day before. So what I need to do is just to assemble and decorate the house and the choo-choo train! This year, Little Sprout's mama try using the royal icing, which is different from what she used last year. And the results? Little Sprout's mama complains the house is not as steady as last year! Which make the assemble work more time consuming. Anyway, I enjoy myself decorating the house with all the candies and sweets prepared by Little Sprout's mama!

Unfortunately the house and the choo-choo train did not survive the trip going home from Little Sprouts' house. Next year (if we going to make the gingerbread house again) I'm going to try with different packing.

The yule log is actually decorated swiss roll. I wanted to try making swissroll some time back but do not have the gut to make it. Whenever the recipe calls for 'folding the dough with beaten egg white', naturally I will hesitate to give it a try. As I fear I would spoil the cake during folding process. But after a hands on experience on making swiss roll or the yule log, I have more confident now! And I definitely would try making swiss roll back home. :)

Another challenge on making swiss roll is the 'rolling' part. Both me and Little Sprouts' mama have no idea the correct way to roll up the cake. But I think we did it correctly, hehe. There's some cracks but it's at the bottom and we can cover it easily by using the frosting. Another lesson learn for me is, do not be too greedy and apply too much filling. It will overflow from the side. >.< Anyway it's a good experience learnt and I have so much fun! Nothing can beat when the whole yule log finished within the next day despite it's too sweet to our taste. Hehe.

Actually my baking sessions with Little Sprouts' mama started somewhere mid last year. That time I requested Little Sprouts' mama to teach me to make cream puff. After that, we get together few more times for some baking fun. Last few times, since I have got back to working world, we have the baking session during weekend. Thus while the mommies are busy baking in the kitchen, Lynn and Hao are busy playing and watching TV with Little Sprouts and Little Sprouts' papa in the living room!

Thank you Little Sprouts' mama for the fun baking session as well as sharing many baking tips with me! And also thank you Little Sprouts' papa for babysitting the kids!

Wish you all a Merry Christmas! 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Life with Do Re Mi Fa

Time flies. Opps seems like I have not been blogging for almost half a year. Well, the main reason is I seldom come online anymore. Even Facebook  I only check once a day from phone, sometimes none. Of course I still go online, but more for work purpose and not so much for leisure purpose. That's explain why I have not been writing and also not blog hoping much.

These 2 weeks, if you pass by my house you can hear lots of children noise. My 2 nieces (age 5 and 2.5) come stay with me for 2 weeks. My parents and my bro together with his wife are going for holiday and thus I'm helping them to take care my 2 nieces while they are away.

My elder niece is at the same kindy with Lynn and Hao. So every morning she will follow hb's car to go to school and I will pick up 3 of them from kindy after work. The youngest niece is going to the nanny behind my mom's house. I will drop her off on the way to work in the morning, and pick her up on the way home after picking up the 3 older kids.

My this youngest niece, MM is extremely attached her mom. From day 1, she has been crying looking for her mommy. I can see that she misses her mom very much. And I could not stand her crying. It's not just crying. She's actually closing up herself. She doesn't really play with the others, and not talking to us. When I ask her questions, instead of answer me (my this niece very good at talking at 2.5 years old) she will just shake or nod her head. This is definitely not her at all. Thus I message my SIL asking her to send back some video clips and pictures, telling MM that mommy has been missing her too. At the same time the kids also get to know what's the grandparents and parents are doing there. And it works! Whenever MM cries, I will show her the video clips and pictures. At the same time, we also cross the date in the calendar every morning, telling the children how many more days their parents will be back. And whenever there is chance, my SIL will video call back us at home, so the children get to talk with them. Now after one week, MM will still cry looking for mommy but not as frequest as before and back to her normal self. She will talk with others now, play with them and laugh with them. No more closing herself though I can feel that she's still not quite like me. I guess maybe she relates with being forced to stay with me.

As for the older niece, YY. She's definitely happy to have playmates all the time. 3 of them (Lynn, Hao and YY) are very noisy whenever they are around each other. From morning till night they are not bored playing with each other. Do they fight? Sometimes they do but it won't last long, and mostly just small matter. 5 minutes later they will play together again. And oh yes, they always can't come into conclusion when time to bath! Either they will fight for number one to bath first, or none want to bath first. Sigh. One day I got irritated I set a sequence for them to take turn! Yes take control of 4 children is not easy! 

Having a 6 and 4 years old at home, life is actually quite easy for me. Both Lynn and Hao can bath themselves, brush their own teeth, pack their own school bag, basically I only have to keep an eye on them. But with the 2 nieces, the 2.5 years old MM still need someone to bath her. I make the 5 years old YY to bath herself. So I only need to bath MM. But last 2 days, I get just Lynn to bath her together when Lynn is taking her bath. As for food, MM can eat by herself. All I need to do is just serve the food in her bowl. Weekdays she has her dinner at nanny's place before I pick her up. Weekend she will eat with us. So far she's not too picky on the food. She will eat whatever I serve her. She eats both noodle and rice. 

Things are still pretty much stay in routine despite with my 2 nieces. Basically YY and MM are following our routine. 6 of us sleep in the same bedroom. Normally I get the kids to sleep quite early during weekdays even now it's school holidays. But we still need to wake up early as we leave the house at 7-ish to go to work. I do not have much problem getting 4 kids to go to bed. I usually will accompany them in the room until at least they have fallen asleep. Despite new environment, I'm glad both YY and MM have no much problem fallen to sleep. Maybe they are tired after playing too much. Hehe.

One week has pass and few more days, my parents and my bro family will be back. Taking 4 kids are not really that difficult as I would have imagined at the beginning. But YY is always fine with me around and she is kind of close with Lynn and Hao. The only challenge is just MM. It's been an exciting and challenging week for me. As for Lynn and Hao, I'm sure they have a very enjoyable time with their cousins! And I foresee very soon they will start requesting YY to come stay overnight more frequent...... :) 

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