Posts Tagged ‘beginner’s guide’

Beginner’s Guide to Soap Making

I kiind of cheaped out in November and just bought a soap-making kit. That obviously made it way easier, but I also think maybe I missed out on key parts of the experience? Here’s what it gave you:

The sponge was not part of the process, it turns out

The sponge was not part of the process, it turns out

Blank white soap, red dye, some scents, some apricot seeds, a mold, and a random loofah. From looking around on the internet, lots of the blogs that are into soap-making also start with the blank white (or clear) soap cubes and the “art” happens when you dye it, layer it, scent it etc. I get that this is more fun and creative than actually making soap from… wood ash and lye(??? this is just a guess), but also seems like kind of a cop out to me? I don’t know, you know how I feel about pie, so maybe this is just a personal issue.

Melted soap base

Melted soap base

Anyway, the kit had pretty clear instructions. You heat up the soap blanks in the microwave to melt them, stir in any scent, dye, and/or other add-ins like the apricot seeds, then pour it into the mold. Then it hardens at room temperature and you’re good to soap.

It would start to harden pretty quickly

It would start to harden pretty quickly

Different concentrations of dye

Different concentrations of dye

The soap on the bottom right was the last one I made, where I just decided to use as much of the red dye as possible to see if it would ever come out BLOOD RED instead of pink. The answer is apparently no. Also, getting them out of the molds was kind of an annoying process. The mold was a brittle plastic, so I won’t be able to use that again.

They're pretty, though

They’re pretty, though

I will probably not be pursuing this craft further.

Last Month: Cake Decorating
Next Month: ????

Beginner’s Guide to Cake Decorating

I’m good at baking, but bad at decorating, so it’s been pointed out to me before (by Steven) that my cupcakes and cakes tend to look like they were made by a child. WELL THIS CHILD JUST TOOK A CLASS IN CAKE DECORATING FOOL. Online, but still.

To test out my new skills, I decided to try out all my different piping tips on a batch of cupcakes:

I also made a Halloween cake for my book club (this maaay have been back in October, whatever).

Much neater and flatter than I usually manage.

Much neater and flatter than I usually manage.

Inside it's Halloween funfetti

Inside it’s Halloween funfetti

Previously: Pole Dancing
Next: Soap Making

Beginner’s Guide to Pole Dancing

YES! FINALLY! I have been wanting to try a pole dancing class since I moved to Cary and found out my closest gym was a pole dancing one. One of my penpals does it and described it as “like swinging around the jungle gym as a kid except in high heels”. I had pretty much no faith in my strength or coordination but I knew I could count on a serious workout and having fun swinging around like an idiot! I accomplished both things.

To get pumped, I watched some “beginner” videos on youtube. There’s a reason I write the word in quotes because damn. Still, pole dancing is beautiful and hardcore as shit so I enjoyed watching the videos even if I knew I would never be able to do some of those moves. Esp after just an hour lesson!

My friend Alex agreed to go with me. She actually has ballet experience so she was much more poised and less floppy than my flailing self, but I like to think I made up the difference in sheer ENTHUSIASM.



We learned about five moves in all, and there was only one of them I could accomplish semi-gracefully: the pirouette. Surprise, it’s the only one that doesn’t require you to be able to support your body weight with just your arms.

Naturally my arms were HELLA sore for like three days after, but my legs were a little too because, surprise, pole dancing happens all on the balls of your feet and since I never wear heels, those muscles are not used to doing so much work. For this class we were barefoot, but when you move up the ~pole dancing ranks~ you do wear heels while doing it.

I decided I’m probably not going to invest the time and effort to get good at this, but it was fun to try. And it inspired me to go up a level in my usual weight-lifting because my arms are even less competent than I thought.

Previously: Free motion quilting
Next: ??? Email me your ideas

Beginner’s Guide to Candy Making

For July I decided to tackle candy making in honor of this book I bought from one of my favorite/most trusted bakers:

Sally's Candy Addiction by Sally McKenney

Sally’s Candy Addiction by Sally McKenney

Candy making is more complex than baking and requires a lot more minute attention to temperatures, something I was not always successful at. For instance, here is me failing at making butter rum candies:

Candy thermometer and everything

Candy thermometer and everything

Even though I followed the instructions and was watching the candy thermometer the whole time, they still turned out burned. Maybe my thermometer isn’t accurate or something. Oh well. On to the successes!

Birthday fudge

Birthday fudge

A layer of white chocolate fudge on top of a layer of milk chocolate fudge. With sprinkles!

Homemade Reese's Cups!

Homemade Reese’s Cups!

I only had crunchy peanut butter, but, surprise, that makes them EVEN BETTER!

Chocolate chip cookie bark

Chocolate chip cookie bark

The baby chocolate chip cookies this required were the best part. So cute!

And, my personal favorite:

Strawberry buttercream truffles!

Strawberry buttercream truffles!

These were rad as hell. The strawberry flavor is achieved through crushed freeze-dried strawberries so it really pops. Also Steven helped me perfectly temper the chocolate using the sous vide so, though it took a while, the dipping process was the easiest ever.



I also made chai tea truffles and lemon pie truffles, but they came out kind of underwhelming so I didn’t take pictures. This was a fun and delicious month!

Previously: Bullet Journaling
Next: Free Motion quilting

Beginners’ Guide to Bullet Journaling

As you may remember, I’ve kept a journal regularly since I was 11. So anytime there is news in the exciting world of journals, I take an interest. Bullet journaling is something I’ve been hearing about for a while now, but I’ve always been unsure about trying it for myself. Despite the best intentions, I’ve never written in my journal everyday, but when I do write I go with a narrative style and pretty long entries. The bullet journal is the opposite of that: part planner, part to-do list, part journal. You make entries every day and they should be short and to the point. But, in the spirit of journal science discovery, I was willing to give it a try.

This beginner guide explains things better than I can, and gave me some grounding in how to do things the “right” way. Then I pretty much just took the parts of it I liked and did whatever I wanted. First you’ve got your monthly calendar. Here’s mine for July:


Other people have really fancy layouts and draw theirs, but my journal had a section of calendar pages at the beginning so I just used that. You can use it to plan out your month and to refer back to etc. After that is my table of contents:


Surprise! I’m bad at recording things in a table of contents. Oh well. Then you get down to the daily entries. I would usually start the day (or sometimes the night before) writing down everything I needed and wanted to do that day next to open boxes I could fill in when I accomplished it. At the end of the day, any un-filled-in boxes got moved to the next day. I also recorded stuff that happened that day with bullet points:


Near the bottom of the page I recorded what I ate and what I spent money on too. At the end of the month I could make a chart! Because if you love charts, bullet journaling is all about that. Here’s me recording monthly habits:


I know, pathetic, but I was sick for a while this month. I haven’t made myself a little chart for July, but if I ever do this again, I want to try to use more fabulous colors. On the other hand, some of the elaborate bullet journal layouts you can find online seem, to me, way more trouble than they’re worth.

Overall, bullet journaling really kept me more organized than I have been, particularly with things like chores that don’t really have deadlines but still need to be done consistently. I still wrote more narrative entries below what I considered my “bullet journal entry” for the day, but not always, and often just short sentences elaborating on my bullet points. I’m not sure I’ll stick to this format, but I’ll probably incorporate some elements of it into my normal journaling. Like charts!

Previously: Make Up
Next: Candy

Beginner’s Guide to Makeup

The main thing I’ve learned this month is that when you tell people “I don’t wear makeup” they hear “I don’t wear MUCH makeup.” Because how inconceivable is it to go around everyday with your normal disgusting face on display?? Ridiculous, I know, but it is how I live my life. I have so far received no complaints (to said disgusting face, anyway). But I decided it might be nice to actually know what this stuff is about in case one day I feel like playing with it. So I made an appointment at Sephora and I spent an hour having little conversations like this:

Sephora Employee: What kind of primer do you usually use?
Me: I don’t wear makeup.
Sephora Employee: Okay, but–
Me: Also what is primer

Sephora Employee: Do you prefer liquid eyeliner or–
Me: I don’t wear makeup

Sephora Employee: Do you normally wear mascara?
Me: I don’t wear makeup
Sephora Employee: Never?
Me: Never
Sephora Employee: What about on your wedding?
Me: I was wearing paperbags

By the end I feel like she was wondering why I was even allowed to walk into the Sephora store and I was wondering why the hell people do this every goddamn day. Because it is a lot of work and also GET THAT POINTY THING AWAY FROM MY EYE. Here is what her tireless work (and my constant eye-watering from trying not to blink) produced:

Appreciate it, because it's never happening again

Appreciate it, because it’s never happening again

So here’s how to makeup:

1. Wash your face, you peasant
I feel like this was the only category where my Sephora employee actually had faith in my abilities as an adult. Since it was the first thing we talked about, it may have lured her into overestimating me, because I am into skin care, friends. I even subscribed to the fabled 10-step Korean skincare regimen briefly before paring it down to this:

1. Wash your gooddamn face (with an oil-based cleanser)
1a) Twice a week exfoliate
2. Toner the shit out of that
3. Moisturizzzzzze

Also sheet masks sometimes mostly because there is a Tony Moly outlet in HMart and I can’t stop myself.

I can only assume that this part is even MORE important if you slather your face with random crap daily.

2. Hide your imperfections with color theory

This is where she lost me. This step involves putting a bunch of stuff all over your face to “even out” your skin tone and hide your pores and whatever. My main problem is redness so I need to put on layers of green (??gold?? I forget now because I wasn’t taking notes. I thought about it, but I was afraid of incurring even more disapproval) in between other layers of things that match my skin tone. They had a special camera machine that they would hold against your cheek to get a SCIENTIFIC BEAUTY MATCH for your skin tone. It felt kind of like being at the doctor. Anyway, this step is like preparing the canvas for the art that is going to happen next:

3. Eyes: This is a form of torture

Stuff happened to my eyes at this point, but I was paying even less attention because of how incredibly uncomfortable it was. Keeping your eyes open while someone wields a pointy thing right up in there?? Nope nope nope.

I asked how soon I would sweat all this off and she seemed confused because apparently Real Ladies don't sweat lolololol

I asked how soon I would sweat all this off and she seemed confused because apparently Real Ladies don’t sweat lolololol

4. Lips: the only part I can kind of do??

Lol jk my ability to put lipstick on is as shitty as all my other non-existent artistic abilities, but at least this part was painless. She tried to teach me some technique about outlining your “cupid’s bow” with an x and then filling in… stuff…

5. Good fucking luck ever getting this stuff off

No wonder you need an intense skin care regimen, is what I’m saying.

So I’m never doing that again. I did buy some lip stuff that I have used a few times on ~special occasions~ without looking like a total clown, so there’s that.

Previously: Gardening
Next: Bullet Journaling

Beginner’s Guide to Plants

I’m a plant novice. The only time I’ve grown any kind of plant was once in fourth grade when I needed to grow grass in a tupperware for a science fair project. It worked, I guess, but like all science fair projects everywhere, I’m pretty sure my mom did most of the work. I decided that was going to change this April. I was going to keep something alive for at least a month, and I’m pleased (and surprised) to announce that I have accomplished that goal!

Here they are on April 1st, just after planting!

Here they are on April 1st, just after planting!

I got seedlings of thyme, rosemary, and basil, which are some of our most used kitchen herbs. They get a lot of sun on our balcony and the coconut husk liner in the basket keeps them pretty well drained. I water them every day, which is fun, because Olivia is invariably standing underneath and looks really miffed when she gets splashed.

This is two weeks in!

This is two weeks in!

We’ve used them quite a few times when cooking at this point, and they’ve weathered some thunderstorms and wind well. Olivia likes the fact that we open the balcony door so often, because she loves to keep watch on the parking lot.

And lounge in the sun

And lounge in the sun

This project was a lot easier than I thought it would be, although I did have a lot of help from both Caitlin Miller, the only plantologist I know, and Steven, who knew his way around Lowes Garden Center. Even if you’re like me and don’t feel like you have a green thumb or any plant instincts, if you choose your plants well, you can do it!

One month!

One month!

Previously: Beginner’s Guide to Cross Stitch
Next: Make Up

Site and contents are © 2009-2018 Patricia Ladd, all rights reserved. | Admin Login | Design by Steven Wiggins.