Saturday, February 27, 2016

Black Raspberry Vanilla Salt Bar from Shari's Handcrafted Soaps

 My first month as a member on the soapmaking forum, one of the most talked about soaps was (and still is) salt bars. I went "Whaaat?" and began to read numerous threads on the topic, and then I Googled and read some more.

So here's the basics of a salt (or spa) bar. It's soap with salt grains in it. It's reputedly good for your skin and can make bathing in hard water feel like soft water. The soap bars, when made well, are rock hard and long lasting. I was intrigued.

I ordered one from Shari's Handcrafted Soaps, and the dear sent me two. The one I had ordered was "only" four months old. Salt soaps really come into their prime with age (which is really true about any handmade soap), so Shari added an older salt bar, Black Raspberry Vanilla.

Ingredients (from package label): Coconut Oil, Water, Sodium Hydroxide, Coconut Milk, Sea Salt, Avocado Oil, Fragrance, Mica, and Tussah Silk.

First Glance: Molded in a lovely flower mold and a fitting shade of purple for the Black Raspberry Vanilla (BRV) fragrance. A very heavy and solid bar of soap. The soap fits nicely in the hand.

First Use: I'm going to admit to being a bit disappointed. Totally not the soap's fault. It had a huge setup based on my interwebz reading. I was expecting an angel choir, heavenly light, and to suddenly have the body of my 23 year old self. Needless to say... I had to adjust my expectations. Reality is that this is a nice bar of soap. A lovely creamy lather that is very gentle on skin. I used the bar directly on my legs and definitely got some light exfoliation from the salt. It was scrubby but not scratchy. Left a slight skin scent after showering.

Overall Thoughts: I am not a BRV girl. It's much too sweet for me. I use this about once a week simply because of the fragrance. It's such a nice bar of soap, I can't let it go. Showering with a salt bar is definitely an experience not to be missed - one that I look forward to more often once this bar is gone.

Monday, February 22, 2016

All the Lasting Things

All the Lasting ThingsAll the Lasting Things by David Hopson

This was a well-written book with very clear characters. A well-written setup for the fatal secret, this book read quickly and was quite entertaining.

Summary: The Fisher family of Alluvia, New York, is coming undone. Evelyn spends her days tending to her husband, Henry—an acclaimed and reclusive novelist slowly losing his battle with Alzheimer’s. Their son, Benji, onetime star of an ’80s sitcom called Prodigy, sinks deeper into drunken obscurity, railing against the bit roles he’s forced to take in uncelebrated regional theater. His sister, Claudia, tries her best to shore up her family even as she deals with the consequences of a remarkable, decades-old secret that’s come to light. When the Fishers mistake one of Benji’s drug-induced accidents for a suicidal cry for help, Benji commits to playing a role he hopes will reverse his fortune and stall his family’s decline. Into this mix comes Max Davis, a twentysomething cello virtuoso and real-life prodigy, whose appearance spurs the entire family to examine whether the secrets they thought were holding them all together may actually be what’s tearing them apart.

Monday, February 15, 2016


DismantledDismantled by Jennifer McMahon
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

An uncompleted book. Writing was well done. Characters were a bit flat. The ones that weren't flat were just weird. The intrigue and plot fell short for me.

Summary: Dismantlement = Freedom
Henry, Tess, Winnie, and Suz banded together in college to form a group they called the Compassionate Dismantlers. Following the first rule of their manifesto—"To understand the nature of a thing, it must be taken apart"—these daring misfits spend the summer after graduation in a remote cabin in the Vermont woods committing acts of meaningful vandalism and plotting elaborate, often dangerous, pranks. But everything changes when one particularly twisted experiment ends in Suz's death and the others decide to cover it up.

Nearly a decade later, Henry and Tess are living just an hour's drive from the old cabin. Each is desperate to move on from the summer of the Dismantlers, but their guilt isn't ready to let them go. When a victim of their past pranks commits suicide—apparently triggered by a mysterious Dismantler-style postcard—it sets off a chain of eerie events that threatens to engulf Henry, Tess, and their inquisitive nine-year-old daughter, Emma.

Is there someone who wants to reveal their secrets? Is it possible that Suz did not really die—or has she somehow found a way back to seek revenge?

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Reading The Bible in a Year

Reading The Bible in a year should be fairly easy, right? I mean, it's a book. It's got words. It's got stories. Easy? Notsomuch.

This is the third year I have put "finish reading The Bible" on my resolution list. I haven't finished it once in any of the previous two years.

I lead (term used loosely) the high school youth group at my church. Why? Because I'm not perfect. I swear. I make bad choices. Multiple times. I watch questionable TV shows and R rated movies. I think that's what teenagers need to see, is someone who struggles the same way they do. They need to see someone who still tries, despite everything, to find and keep a relationship with God. They need to see what letting go of worldly things looks like.

I am not a perfect role model for "my" teens. I'm honest about it. I curse - I try not to and I try to be more conscious of what comes out of my mouth - but I don't hide it. They ask me questions and I don't lie about who I am. We talk about changing our lives, we talk about God, and how to follow what our true lives are. The kids come back every week. They bring their friends and I bring cookies.

Every week I rant a little bit about reading The Bible (see how I'm connecting all this now?). It is the foundation for a relationship with God. The Bible is not just words or stories. The Bible is us. It is a living relationship between us and God. You can't read The Bible without being changed.

This year, they told me to make them excited about reading The Bible. So I'm throwing out the challenge to them. If they buy the dailyaudiobible app, and use it for a month, I will pay for the app. I love this app. I love hearing The Bible read to me. I love hearing Brian explain things, break things down, and make them real. Most of all I love how it connects me to God.

Saturday, February 6, 2016


I meant to write this a week ago. Most of the week went by and I still hadn't done it yet. Life is just insanely busy and actually getting time to sit at my laptop doesn't seem to happen as often as I'd like. I'm trying though. Really really trying.

I'd love to report HUGE progress on my 2016 resolutions, but as it is I only managed to rally a bit at the end of the month. I'll take rallying over failure any day.

Continue drinking water and caffeine in moderation - this continues to vary by day

Finish maintenance list on the fridge - I thought I had the dining room crossed off, but one stinking outlet screwed up that whole deal.

Get back on track with bill paying - I can actually report progress! I have been successfully setting and resolving a budget every month since October. I paid an outstanding bill in full, and still managed to have some fun. I think I'll be able to clear the rest of the outstanding bills in February and March.
Build up emergency fund - Sadly, The Duder's trip to NYC/DC is sucking up a lot of my savings allotment, but now that I've adjusted to living without that money every week I plan to continue to put that amount into savings every paycheck once the trip is paid for.

Nails (more about this coming, I promise!) I have to strike this one off the list. I'm not motivated. I'm not.
Soap - I'm having fun looking at other people's homemade soap, and trying some of it too. I will eventually post about my own soap at some point in time.

 Books (because... ya know):
Continue reading the Bible - I can't even stay up to date with an audio bible app. The effort is there, I just need to get the habit.
24 books read - I'm putting some firm rules down this year. Namely that every book has seven days to be read. If I haven't managed progress on it, it goes down as unfinished and I move on. I'm discovering a desire to read again. I should be able to exceed 24 books at this rate, although I expect some fudging on my part if I tackle The Outlander series again, or if I know a particularly busy week is coming.
TBR shelf down to 100 - current count is 131 so a long way to go yet.

Decide if I want to or not - I think I want to, I just need to get a handle on everything else first.

So there's progress (and lack of). Some things just aren't worth mentioning at the moment. Actually, as I look at this list, it's better than I thought it was. I imagine this list will become more fluid as months go on and as things get crossed off.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Moonlit Garden

The Moonlit GardenThe Moonlit Garden by Corina Bomann
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was provided to me as a free Kindle pre-release through Amazon Prime.

This book is an English translation from German. There are rough spots as a reader fumbles through poor word choices, however I felt these to be few and far between and not distracting from the story itself.

The story begins with a prologue before the true action starts. I felt the prologue was unnecessary as the mystery of a stranger giving the violin to the main (present day) character to be hook enough.

The romance between the main characters (past and present) were flimsy at best. Passionately in love with a guy she spent minimal amount of time with over a week or two? I didn't find it romantic at all.

The story itself was riveting. Beautiful locations and culture, plenty of historical information as well as entertainment. Once I got through the first 80 pages, I couldn't put the book down (seriously, I got up an hour early one day to make sure I had time to read).

Lilly Kaiser had come to terms with her solitary, uncomplicated life after becoming a young widow. So when a stranger delivers an old violin to her Berlin antiques shop and tells Lilly it belongs to her, she’s completely bewildered. Why should she be the one to inherit such an exquisite instrument?
Together with her best friend, Ellen, and handsome musicologist Gabriel Thornton, Lilly sets out to explore the violin’s legacy. From England to Italy to Indonesia, she follows its winding trail. Along the way, she learns of Rose Gallway, a beautiful woman of English and Sumatran descent who lived among Sumatra’s lush gardens more than a hundred years earlier. A celebrated and sought-after musician, Rose once owned Lilly’s violin and regularly played concerts for Sumatra’s colonial elite—until, one day, she simply disappeared.
As Lilly unravels the mystery behind Rose’s story—and uncovers other unexpected secrets—she’ll come to see her own life in an entirely new light. And as each shared discovery brings her closer to Gabriel, her heart might finally break its long-held silence.