Soapy stuff · Weekends

Soaping on a Sunday

When I really started to think seriously about this whole soap-making endeavor, I thought that taking a class was not only a good idea, but necessary to up my legit factor. I really imagined that I would have some breakthroughs and have tons to talk about here on the blog.

Alas, I did not and I do not.

OK, let me try not sound too defeatist. We all know I’ll be able to talk about something. There were definitely interesting things that I learned. Like how to soap at room temperature instead of heating up oils and mixing lye separately. (We used a method where we measured our solid oils, mixed our lye solution and added that to the oils to melt them. We then added in our liquid oil (olive oil) and hand-mixed a bit before stick blending.) I never knew about this method and it definitely seems like it would be a time saver, so I’ll keep that info in my back pocket.

I also really appreciated someone sitting down with me and doing the calculations for recipes. You see, soap making is 1/3 math (yuck!), 1/3 science (cool!), and 1/3 creativity (my juices are flowing!). And, as someone who barely passed geometry, it was helpful to do calculations with a group and get my “middle school” on.

But there were some annoying things about being in a soap-making class with 12 other women. First off, Sunday was one of the nicest February days on record and I was stuck in a room with a bunch of people. Some of those people were super nice, while others made me give an eye-roll or two. But, I digress.

Here’s play-by-play of my Soaping Sunday.

7:30: wake up, get coffee, workout, shower. Load bag full of goggles and spatulas and aprons (thanks Alisha!), pop the address in my phone and start my journey to the middle of nowhere. (Literally. I wound up somewhere down by the docks of Newark and was honestly a little uneasy about the secluded location.)

9:45: text my boyfriend and send him my maps location just incase I die. Then I realize the workspace is actually really cool. For being in a creepy local, the building is pretty awesome. Sleek and modern and full of startups and small businesses, I breathe a sigh of relief and find my way to the room where the class would be held.

10:15: we start by going around the room, sharing our love of soaps and fragrances and essential oils and natural remedies. I have never felt like more of a basic bitch.

11:00: we get into the nitty gritty. We learn the history and science behind soap making. Did you know that soap making has been around since 2300 B.C.?! A lot of it is just a refresher for me, but it’s good to hear the information in person. After going through the fact-learning and algebra equations, t’s time to make some soap!  And this is where the annoying part begins…

1:00: we are asked to break into groups of five, and I learn that I really like to have control over my product. Leaving the measuring and mixing to other team members proves to be tough for me, but I try to give up the reigns a little bit. We start out by making a swirl soap with lavender, orange and peppermint essential oils. It looks funky and cool and I’m happy with our teamwork!

3:00: some bitch steals my fragrance and uses it all.

3:45: the frozen milk for our goat’s milk soap won’t melt.

4:30: we are just now starting our final soap. We were supposed to be done at 5. That ain’t happening.

5:00: this recipe calls for some beer. I wish I could drink it.

5:45: we want to take a group picture, but we can’t find two of the girls so we stand around for 15 minutes.

6:00: we finally take the picture, clean up and say our goodbye’s.I end up leaving with three plastic containers of soap. I would share the pictures, but the soaps are still too soft to unmold because we used plastic containers (unmolding from wood or silicone can be done a bit sooner than plastic).

Overall, I enjoyed the experience and it really got me psyched to start making my own recipes. As soon as I got home, I started jotting down ideas for my soap line’s first 3-5 soaps and I’m so excited to share them with everyone. However, these things take time and you all need to simmer down! (hehe, just playing)

Anyway, my shopping cart of soap making supplies is full and I’m about to hit “checkout,” so I’m sure I’ll have some yummy soaps coming soon enough! Until then, I’m headed to a friend’s house to work on an upcoming blog post about essential oils. SO KEEP CHECKING BACK HERE! Better yet, follow the blog! Just pop your email address in and you can get these lovely posts right to your inbox. Fun times, yes? OK, I must run.

XOXO
Amanda

Soapy stuff

Hey girl, let’s make some soap

I clearly remember the day I decided I wanted to make soap. I was jogging (if you can even call my meager attempts at lifting my feet off the ground, jogging) in a local park when I came across a little flea market. A girl – not much older than I was – had tons of yummy smelling soap on display. I picked up an oatmeal bar (honestly, it could have been vanilla or lavender or rose…but for the sake of a legit story, I’ll stick with oatmeal) and sniffed it with a smile. It was delicious. The girl started to tell me about how she makes the bars in her basement, and I was instantly intrigued. Now, at the time I did not have a basement…I still don’t come to think of it…or the real push to try it for myself, but the thought of making me own soap stuck with me over the past few years. Every now and then I would think about it, look through some websites and debate buying a few supplies to get started, but I never pulled the trigger…

…until last winter.

Something inside me said that now was the time to try this whole soap-making thing out. So, I did my homework. I read up on the science of it, watched tons of videos, ordered supplies, and started slowly. Extreeeeemely slowly. My first bars were melt and pour (M&P for short), which basically just means that you melt down pre-made soap and add your own colorants, fragrances, and any other additives you want (think shredded loofah or grape seeds). I loved the fact that they were fairly simple to make and came out great, but really wanted to get my hands dirty and make soap from scratch using the cold process (CP) method.

The thing about making CP soap, is that it’s a bit intimidating. First off, you’re working with lye (sodium hydroxide) which, if you’ve seen Fight Club (thanks Eric!) you know is corrosive  and has the potential to wreak some serious havoc on your skin if you’re not careful. Long sleeves, gloves and goggles are a total must. So, I had to get over the whole fear hump. When I finally decided to give it a try, I used Soap Queen’s super helpful recipes and supplies to stock up and get started.

Chocolate lavender almond meal soap

My first bars were chocolate lavender almond meal, and I fell in love with the process. They were fun to make and smelled amazing. I was so happy with the results that I was hooked.

My next tries, however, were all over the place in terms of the final product. I’ve made some great bars from recipes  found around the web, but making my own recipes has occasionally resulted in disaster. A rose clay soap that looked beautiful after setting, wound up crumbling in my hands after I cut it to cure. What is curing?? You ask. Well! I’m glad you did because a year ago I had no clue what it meant either!

Curing is basically a game of having to exercise extreme patience while your soap finishes going through a process called saponification the chemical reaction that happens when you combine lye and oils. During this process, water evaporates, the bar gets harder, and the pH balances. The process takes about 6 weeks, so soap making is a commitment. But, once curing is complete and your pH is at a balanced level, you are good to go and can start using your soaps. And that was your science lesson for the day. You’re very welcome!

Anyway, back to talking about my recipe disasters. Another one wound up smelling like something I would rather throw in the trash than wash my bod with. And, making soap? Not that inexpensive. These oils and colorants and fragrances cost serious dough. So, in an effort to stop wasting money making soap that just doesn’t cut it (get it?!), I decided to put that money where my mouth is and sign up for an intensive soap-making class which is happening this coming weekend.

My goals are anyone’s guess. In theory, how cool would it be to make this a side gig and open an Etsy shop? But, time and money are a huge factor. I’m hoping that the class this weekend helps me learn how to dive in head first in an educated way, and gain confidence in my skills.

If you’re interested in the soap making process, or just want to be my guinea pig, stay tuned! I’ll be posting all about my experience and gifting some goodies soon.

XOXO
Amanda

Recipes

How to win Valentine’s Day

I love spending time in the kitchen. Some of my favorite moments include music, a glass of wine and turning on the oven…oooo yeah! And the way to a man’s…eh let’s call it like it is…anyone’s heart is no real mystery.

Food.

It’s such a universal language. If you love people, you want to provide delicious meals for them. Plain and simple. You want to serve them hearty dishes and make their tummies so happy they burst (figuratively, of course). And one of the sweetest ways to feed someone on the day o’ love? By baking up a few treats, of course!

Usually, the only time I make cookies is during the holidays, but I recently had a change of heart. My original Valentine’s blog post was going to be on a deeper topic (think, the evolution of our definition of a relationship), but somewhere along the way I changed my mind and decided to just have fun with it. So, I was recently on a mission to find a yummy cookie to make that would be perfect for the occasion. Cue the harp and Cupid’s arrow and all that good stuff. Here is pure love in a bite!

redvelvet.jpg

I found this recipe on Something Swanky, but it was originally printed in the book Red Velvet Lovers by Deborah Haroun. I made a few minor tweaks, but they came out pretty well regardless! Make some and share with your loves, they will be thankful, I promise you =)

Recipe yields approx. 2 dozen

You will need the following for the cookies…

  1. 1 cup butter, softened
  2. 1/2 cup brown sugar
  3. 1 egg yolk*
  4. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  5. 2 cups all-purpose flour
  6. 4 tsp red food coloring
  7. 2 tsp cocoa powder
  8. 1/2 cup granulated sugar or sanding sugar*

You will need the following for the filling…

  1. 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  2. 1 egg yolk*
  3. 1/4 cup sugar
  4. 1/8 tsp salt
  5. 1/4 tsp vanilla

You will have to…

  1. Preheat oven to 300ºF. Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. (I had just run out of parchment paper and don’t own a baking mat, so I just lightly sprayed my pan with some coconut oil baking spray and hoped for the best – it worked out fine!)
  2. Beat together the butter, brown sugar, egg yolk, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Mix in the flour, food coloring, and cocoa powder until soft dough forms. (I had to get a bit down and dirty with the dough because my mixer was not up to snuff. Don’t be afraid to get your hands a little messy!)
  3. Scoop out the dough by heaping tablespoons and roll them in the sugar before placing on the prepared baking sheet (about 2 inches apart). Use the back of a round teaspoon to make a small indentation in the cookie dough.
  4. Bake for 10 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, make the filling: using an electric mixer or small food processor, beat together the cream cheese, egg yolk, sugar, salt, and vanilla until smooth.
  6. After the first 10 minutes of baking, use the back of a round teaspoon to deepen the indentation in the cookies. Spoon a teaspoon of the filling into each indentation. Bake for an additional 12 minutes, until filling is set.
  7. *Amanda’s tip* Sprinkle a tiny bit of sugar on top once the cookies are done baking.
  8. Let cool completely before serving. Store covered and chilled.

 

I hope you and your loved ones enjoy them.

XOXO
Amanda

Weekends

Weekend warriors

First in my weekly series keeping you up to date on my weekend shenanigans…or lack thereof…

Weekends in Jersey center around a few key ingredients. There must be a healthy mix of several things in order for a weekend to be a success:

1. Friends

2. Frolicking

3. Fermented grapes

…I’m trying to stick with an alliterative theme here but the only other f-word I can think of is not appropriate for my younger audience and this is a PG blog, guys!

Anyway, friends and frolicking are two of my favorite things, alright fine we will add fermented grapes in there as well because who doesn’t like some wine now and again (or every night) so that’s how I like to roll a lot of the time. Don’t get me wrong, I love laying on the couch and watching a movie/falling asleep to a movie as much as the next person, but sometimes you just need some fun, drinks and time to play catch-up with the people that you consider family. This weekend was one of those.

It started off on Friday with some longggg overdue time with some of my favorite college ladies. We laughed, we wined and…we didn’t really dine but I heated up some fabulous mini quiche and we were set for the night.

Next up, was Saturday. Because I’ve been a Jersey girl my whole life, I’d like to think I have this frolicking thing down pat. A few rules to live by when just wanting a nice day out with the girls?

1. There are no rules!

2. Rules are made to be broken!

3. Throw the rules out the window!

End cheesy, motivationl life quotes.

But in all seriousness, plans change and places you thought would be amazing turn out to not be your cup of tea. That’s why it’s always good to head to an area where you can walk around and find different locations to settle down at for awhile. This weekend, a few friends and I headed to one of my favorite areas in Jersey City to do a little bar hopping, eat yummy food, listen to some great music and shop at cool local stores. We only got three of the four done and I’ll give you a hint, my wallet thanked me. The night ended with me satisfyingly hitting the pillow and never looking back, so I’ll say it was definitely a success. Especially since I rediscovered my love of mezcal…which brings me to my final day…

Super Bowl Sunday began with a teensie hangover but I was good to go after chugging some water and dousing myself in peppermint essential oil. That will be a whole other blog post, so stay tuned.

Anyway, my boyfriend’s friend had a party that was full of food and not lacking in the beverage department. So, again, I played by some rules.

1. Sip slowly.

2. Then chug because warm beer is gross.

3. Finally, stuff your face.

I know those aren’t really the best rules, but they got the job done for me. Two beers and 70 tortilla chips with chili dip later, and I was feeling surprisingly fabulous. I brought some spinach dip to the party (recipe to the right), and the night was solid (minus that Pats win…no offense guys Brady can go home now).

And can we say that was the ultimate return of Gaga? She’s so amazingly talented and I was thrilled to see her perform to perfection and make a political statement without being even the teensiest bit annoying about it. If it was Beyoncé I’m sure I would have had to turn off the TV…(don’t hate me!)

Weekend rating? 8/10

What was yours??

 

XOXO
Amanda

Favorite things

A few of my favorite things

There are a few things in my life that I just can not stop screaming from the rooftops about. Every few weeks, I think I’ll share one of them with you. This week’s obsession has been a solid part of my life for well over a year. It’s made me strong in ways I really have never been before, has given my mind a sense of ease and made my heart really happy.

I’ve always been really dedicated to physical fitness. I’ve tried every crazy new workout (Insanity alum, right here!), have been a member of two boxing gyms, love a good hot yoga sesh, and for a very brief period of time, thought “lifting heavy” was the way to a perfect bod (didn’t work for me, but more power to you if it’s your thing!). But it wasn’t until December 25, 2015 that I really found my soulmate workout. Barre3 is my ultimate favorite way to start my day. It’s gentle, but fierce…my favorite way to describe myself!

When I tell my friends barre is my workout of choice, they usually roll their eyes and say it’s not “their thing.” I WISH they would give it a try. I can do barre when I’m feeling sick and tired and happy and energetic and it’ll have the same amazing effects. My legs feel strong, my stomach feels toned, my arms are looking lean and my mind feels centered. If you’re looking to change up your routine and give your body some love, check out Barre3. Sadie Lincoln and her team have really perfected the art of safe, effective workouts. Just give this a try- I feel like you won’t be disappointed (and trust me, I’m not getting paid to say this!).

Right now, Barre3 is offering a program to subscribers of their site called B3 All In. It’s a 4-week guided program complete with meal plan and workout tracker and really helps you focus on your goals and track your progress. I’m not a huge fan of strict plans, but aspects of it are really helping me keep myself in check. So, if you’re interested in starting something new, this might be the perfect time for you to join. If you do, tell them I sent you =)

And remember, happy thighs, happy life!

 

XOXO
Amanda

chitchat

I know…I’ll start a blog!

I vividly remember being 12 years old, sitting in front of my Gateway computer (super trendy for it’s time) and deciding I was going to be an author. I had looooong been a big Babysitter’s Club and R.L. Stine fan, and creating characters with exciting stories and lavish lifestyles made me giddy. I would write for hours on end – before school in the morning, as soon as I got home, even on the weekends. It was enthralling. I finished my first “book” in 12 hours, waited patiently on the steps while my dad read it, and continued to write well into my college years.

And then, somewhere along the way, I stopped.

Life got busy, graduate school had me going like crazy and I lost that excitement about writing that once had me so invested in the process. It took time and effort and mental energy that I just didn’t feel like exerting. When I came home at night, I wanted to get my workout in and relax, not beat myself up over a sentence that didn’t sound perfect or a tone that I just couldn’t get right.

Truthfully, though, I miss it. I really do. I miss being able to put my thoughts down on paper and have an outlet. My creative juices have been dry for far too long and this is my opportunity to bring them back. So, that being said…here it is. My introduction to the blog life.

Dirty Jersey has been an idea I’ve had for over a year now. At first, I wanted to make it a soap company (except that I’m currently still in the process of perfecting the whole soap-making thing). So, that’s on the backburner for now. Hopefully, this blog opens up that opportunity, but until then, I decided to do more of what makes me happy and use Dirty Jersey as a way to work through the soap-making process and add in some other Amanda and Jersey-related things along the way. A new recipe I’ve been dying to try? I’ll post it here. A new brewery? I’m there. A hip street fair? I’m in. A cool concert? I’m down.

So continue to join me. I’m sure the blog will grow and evolve along the way!

XOXO
Amanda