Soap Making Down on the Farm

As I have mentioned multiple times before, taking classes and learning new skills is one of my favorite things. In just the past year I have learned or taken classes for pearl knotting, flower crown making, basket weavingcalligraphysewingbutter making, knitting, and sushi making. I feel like a nonfelonious Martha Stewart.

soap

I’ve wanted to cross soap making off of the list for a long time, but it has been difficult to find a class that was hands-on rather than demonstration only. You learn a lot more (and have more fun) when you get to do things yourself. Fortunately, I found a class at Three Creeks Farm where not only could I get my hands dirty, but I could design my own soap.

soap-making-lye

We started with mixing the lye. This was the only part of the process we didn’t get to do on our own and our instructor, Seth, did it for us. Lye can be very dangerous and can burn your skin, blind you, and even kill you if ingested. Once it is combined with water it almost instantly reaches 180 degrees and therefore should not be handled indelicately. However, it is a vital part of soap making as its chemical reaction with the oils is what produces a solid soap (a process called “saponification”).

soap-making-fragrance

The first step was deciding what to put in our soap. I opted for coconut lemongrass for the fragrance oil, ground oatmeal and buckwheat for exfoliants, and a little bit of clover honey just for fun. Everything requires very exact measurements. After all, science.

soap-making-coconut-oil

Once we selected our special ingredients (and set them aside to use later) we started to mix our oils. Our soap included 7 oz of olive oil, 6 oz of coconut oil (yum), and 1 oz of canola oil.

soap-making-gloves

Once the oils were mixed it was time to put on my sexy safety goggles and add the lye and water to the oil mixture.

soap-making-mixing

The lye tends to sink to the bottom of the oil, so I gave it a quick swish before mixing it.

soap-making

To thicken the mixture and help it along its journey to magnificent soapiness, we used an immersion blender to save time. It did not take long for the consistency of the oil and lye to start to change and become custard-like.

soap-making-exfoliant

Then it was time to add the fragrance, oatmeal, buckwheat, and clover honey.

soap-making-pouring

After some more blending, I poured the mix into a one pound mold where the soap began to harden over the next few hours. I was supposed to wait a week before removing the soap from the mold . . . I waited approximately 24 hours. I have never been accused of being patient. Fortunately it turned out ok.

soap

I wanted a soap that was earthy, but sweet, and with a nice texture. I think I accomplished that. I still need to wait 2-3 weeks for the soap to cure through the saponification process before I can actually use it. (Waiting will be torture). Until then, every time I walk by the soap I pick it up and smell it. Mmmm!

Three Creeks Farm has an array of interesting class offerings including blacksmithing. Plus, they have a farm filled with alpacas, llamas, fainting goats, sheep, pigs, peacocks, guineafowl, and a very large mastiff named Hugo that you can pet and snuggle on . . . so you know I’ll be back.

An Unplanned Night of Poetry

My five week hiatus from law firm life has ended and I have finally settled into my new job. I’ve made it through the first few weeks, and so far life is wonderful. I am working approximately 30-40 hours a week less than at my old firm, and I have filled that extra time with seeing my friends and actually taking care of myself. Oddly enough, all the free time for long hikes, trivia nights, dinners, and hot yoga sessions have put doing new things (or at least writing about them) on the back burner.

On one of my nights out, my friend Katie, who I hadn’t seen since law school, and I headed out to catch up over a drink. At the bar we started to chat with a gentleman named Adam seated next to us. We went through the general getting to know you topics: where are you from, what are you doing in town, how do you feel about the first few weeks of the Trump administration, etc.

We learned that he was in town for a poetry reading as part of Nashville’s First Saturday art crawl. I told him that going to a poetry reading was on my list of New Things to do, and we promptly invited ourselves along.

j-joseph-kane

The reading was held at Sauvage Galerie, a bizarre little gallery in a residential neighborhood in South Nashville. The room was tiny, and the art consisted of mixed medium design, which I am pretty certain was just trash glued to wood and I think one piece was just part of a mop. Ron Swanson would not approve. I respect what the artist was going for, but I was not hip enough to get it.

robyn-leigh-lear

The three poets for the evening were J. Joseph Kane, Robyn Leigh Lear, and Adam Day. Poetry has never really been my thing. I love novels, biographies, and Buzzfeed articles about which dog best matches my personality (Great Dane, ironically). That said, I enjoyed the varied expression of the three different poets and I got a lot more out of it than I would just reading words on a page. I would totally go to another reading in the future . . . but I still don’t see myself ever reading poetry for fun.

adam-day

I promise more interesting and exciting posts are heading your way. First I just have to get used to actually having a life again first. More adventures are to come!

Taking a Sushi Making Class: A Delicious Way to Spend the Afternoon

After about 14 years of being a vegetarian, two years ago I added fish back into my diet. At the time, I was preparing for a lengthy trial and I was eating even less than I was sleeping. I knew my standard veggie diet was not going to keep me going when I was away from home working 24 hour days. I was staying near Little Tokyo in downtown Los Angeles, so it was the perfect place to try sushi for the first time. It was love at first bite. (I am still sorting out my ethical dilemmas with eating fish, but that is a story for another day.)

sushi-class

Fast forward to present day and sushi (and fish in general) is now a major part of my diet. Since I love eating it so much I wanted to see if making it was just as much fun.

sushi-ingredients

My friend Amber and I (well, actually we are related, but if I tell you how it will make me sounds a lot older that I am) went to Kabuto in Richmond, VA to take a private sushi class with their sushi chef.

making-sushi

We each got to select 3 rolls we wanted to make. Amber chose the Fire Cracker Roll (tuna and scallion roll topped with red pepper); Cajun Roll (shrimp tempura, fish eggs, avocado, and spicy mayo); and a California Roll. I selected the Dynamite Roll (tuna, yellowtail, and spicy mayo); Killer Roll (eel, avocado, with tempura flakes on top); and a Philadelphia Roll (because I just can’t get enough cream cheese).

sushi-lesson

We started with a lesson on how to make the sushi. You begin by grabbing a large clump of rice, somewhere between the size of a large egg and really small baseball. The rice is then spread across the nori (the seaweed paper that comes with sushi). I probably went a little heavy on the rice . . . because rice is delicious.

philadelphia-roll

Once we lined the nori with rice, we flipped it over to add our ingredients. I wanted to pack the roll, but a little went a long way.

sushi-roll

Then it was time to roll! Much like in life, you gotta keep it tight to keep it all together.

rolling-sushi

We used the bamboo sushi rolling mat to compress and shape the rolls to be nice and pretty.

cutting-sushi

All that was left was to slice the rolls. The trick was to have a slightly wet blade and saw through the roll rather than trying to slice it.

finishing-sushi

Voilà! Just a few finishing touches and I had a full plate of scrumptious sushi!

finished-sushi

We loved our sushi making class and the results were delicious. Having the private lesson (and a chef willing to take photos of us) made the experience extra special. Plus, any new experience where you get to eat your creation can’t be bad!

Absinthe: Sampling the Green Fairy

Absinthe rose to popularity in the late 19th/early 20th centuries and was fashionable among the literati of Paris. Some famous fans of the drink include Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh, Oscar Wilde, and my hometown favorite, Edgar Allan Poe. Absinthe was outlawed in the United States in 1915, but since the ban was lifted in 2007, it has experienced a resurgence. While Absinthe has a reputation for being a hallucinogenic, that label is is merely a result of legend and exaggeration. Sorry.

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Despite my past travels to Europe, I had never had an authentic glass of absinthe. So, I thought that it would the perfect thing to help me unwind during a little après–ski. My friends Lilas and Chris joined me in a visit to The Absinthe Bar in Breckenridge, which boasts the largest selection of absinthe in the United States.

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The menu had 19 types of absinthe from France, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Austria, and the USA. I selected Pernod absinthe, a French absinthe often written about by Hemingway, which is from the original producer of commercial absinthe and has a high alcohol content and a heavy anise flavor profile. It is made using the same ingredients as in the early 1800s.

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There are a few processes through which absinthe can be made. One method, which my bartender used, is classic French absinthe ritual. The ritual involves placing a sugar cube on top of a perforated spoon, which rests on the rim of the specially designed absinthe glass. Ice water is then dripped on the sugar cube, which dissolves into the absinthe. This causes the green transparent liquor to “louche” into an opaque mint green cocktail.

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The result was a fun, cold liquorish-flavored cocktail. The Pernod was slightly bitter, but that was partially offset by the dissolved sugar. While liquorish isn’t my favorite thing in the world, I’d like to sample more because I find the history and process to make absinthe fascinating.

Breaking Out of An Escape Room

If you haven’t heard of escape games then you are missing out on one of the country’s hottest new trends. Escape rooms are live action games in which players are locked in a room filled with puzzles and clues with the goal of escaping before time runs out. Over the last few years escape game locations have popped up all over the country and I have been itching to try one out. This weekend I finally got my chance to try to break out with The Escape Game.

Tete-a-Tete Opening and K.O.S. open galleries on Saturday February 6th, 2010 with annual members meeting and gallery talk with Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker.

There were several different games from which to choose, including Mission: Mars, Prison Break, Classified, Gold Rush, Underground Playground, Nashville Escape, and The Heist.

nashville heist paintings

We chose The Heist. I don’t want to say too much about the game and give any secrets away, but the gist of The Heist is that a famous piece of artwork has gone missing and has likely been stolen by the curator. It is up to us to recover the masterpiece. If we succeed we will be national heroes, but if we fail, we will be treated as common criminals by the authorities.

nashville escape heist elephants

In order to succeed, the team had to work together to finish in under 60 minutes. We were in a group with four strangers, but as soon as the clock started we worked as a unit to solve each puzzle. There are multiple clues to solve so the key was to split up the manpower but to also simultaneously communicate well with the rest of the group. There were way too many things to solve to try to attempt them one at a time.

nashville heist scrabble

I’ve always loved logic games, riddles, and mysteries, so the Escape Game was right up my alley. However, there were a few points during the game where we started to stall and needed some guidance. Fortunately, we were able to get a few “hints” from the Escape Game crew. I’m not sure if there were some red herrings in the room, but there were definitely some possible clues that seemed to go unused.

escape game nashvilleThe Heist is their second most difficult game with a success rate of only 26%. But, with just 1:56 to spare, we broke out! I didn’t think we were going to make it, but everything seemed to come together in the final moments. Everyone in the group had a great time and I know that I can’t wait to go back and try it again. I am already recruiting friends for another trip.

My First Time Sewing Resulted in Awesome New Pajamas

I grew up with my mom sewing little outfits, stuffed animals, and all of my Halloween costumes for me. She always had a project going, usually for my benefit. I, however, never picked up the craft. It was probably a good idea to not let my tiny fingers near the machine. However, now that I’ve grown, I thought it would be fun to take a sewing class so that perhaps one day I could use the sewing machine I inherited from my mom.

homemade-pajamas

Craft South has a variety of sewing, knitting, and other crafty classes. For my first foray into sewing, I signed up for their pajama pants making class (sample above). Fortunately, Craft South also offers sewing machine lessons for those talent-challenged folks out there like me. Otherwise, by final product would result in something like this:

Theo Shirt

I was the only person there for my sewing machine intro class so I managed to get the benefit of a private lesson. The first class got me acquainted with how to use a sewing machine, the different types of stitches and techniques, and, most importantly, how to sew in a straight line. The class also got me excited about getting to try the real thing.

Pajama Sewing Pattern

Two days later I got to take my first practical sewing class. We started by selecting the right size pattern and cutting out the fabric. This part was easy enough, but when you have plaid or another patterned fabric it takes a little extra work to make sure the design lines up.

first-time-sewing

I am really glad I took the sewing intro course because after Lauren, our instructor, set up the sewing machine, I was able to just run with what I needed to do. I would have been pretty lost had it been my first time using the machine.

sewing

The first thing we sewed was the button holes. These look complicated, but they are created with literally just the push of a button. All you have to do is hold the fabric still. Next, we moved on to sewing the leg of the inseam on each side, which was basically just a straight line. Check. I had that under control. Then we combined the left and right sides of the pants by sewing the rest of the inseam. This was a little more complicated because the fabric curves. While I am sure this part will get easier with the more experience I get, but for now, sewing on an angle is a little tough to do smoothly. After that we sewed up the outer legs, which was the easiest part of the sewing process (more straight lines).

sewing-pajama-leg

We finished up the pajamas by folding over the waist, stringing through the elastic and drawstring, and hemming the legs. Voilà! Adorable pajama bottoms!

finished-homemade-pajamas

After I finished the class I went home, slipped on my newly made PJs, and watched some baseball. Life is about balance right? I can do sewing and sports in one night. I made the pants a little bit long because the fabric will shrink when washed and because the longer pants keep my feet nice and toasty.

Finished Pajamas

I absolutely loved my sewing class. While my obnoxious need to do everything perfectly was tested, the class was actually relaxing and I loved being able to have a finished product within just a few hours. I can’t wait to take another class and and eventually get to use my mother’s sewing machine for my own creations.

Learning Calligraphy

I have always had terrible handwriting. It is so bad that often even I can’t read it and it prompted someone to once ask, “didn’t anyone teach you to write like a girl?” Given that, I didn’t really expect calligraphy to be my calling, but total lack of skill has never stopped me.

Calligraphy Pen

Calligraphy requires a special pen called an “oblique.” Oblique calligraphy pens are used because they have a protruding flange (the gold piece sticking out on the side) that forces your nib to write at the correct 45-degree angle. A nib, which is inserted at the end of the oblique, is the part of the pen that actually touches the ink to the paper. Every few letters you have to dip the nib in an ink well. It really made me feel for Thomas Jefferson but also made me think that I don’t have enough feathered quills in my life.

Photo by Karen Watson

Photo by Karen Watson

I took a class with Molly Margaret, the owner of Esque Script Calligraphy at Paper and Ink Arts. We had four hours of instruction in which she took the time to demonstrate and let us practice the basic technique and strokes as well as each lowercase and capital letter. It was an incredibly intricate and time consuming process which I found I don’t really have the patience or attention span for.

52 Things 52 Weeks Calligraphy

However, it was an interesting class and I always enjoy exploring a new skill. Molly was kind enough to write out the name of the blog for me since her writing looks significantly better than my initial attempts at calligraphy. Unfortunately, in my rush to run  off to Sunday brunch I smudged the ink before it fully dried. Oops!

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