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Wrecked Ships

I mentioned the abandoned ships north of Jetty Island recently and discovered that a friend had never noticed them before.  They were sunk to try to divert water in the channel back when ‘they’ were trying to turn the Snohomish south to make Everett a freshwater port.  That failed, but the ships remain.

I took these photos 2 years ago when I paddled out to see them with a friend.

Jetty Island
Paddling among the ships

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Cross Stitch Patterns

I do not cross stitch myself, but I have a friend who does, and who has clever ideas, and I have images that I want to see get out into the world.

I spent about a week trying to find ways to convert images into cross stitch patterns using online tools, then GIMP, then Excel, then Gimp Plugins.  Here are some of my preliminary results.

The octo-gear needs a simpler color scheme and to be made smaller.  I think the owl needs more contrast but the rocket turned out well.

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Tall Ships

If anyone is going to be in Kirkland, WA this week, the tall ships, the Lady Washington, and the Hawaiian Chieftain are there.  Tours are $5, sailing trips and battle sail trips are also available.  My daughter is on the crew so we popped down on their day off to deliver a care package and provide a dog for the crew to pet.

The Lady Washington is a period reproduction and has appeared in many movies, most notably, she is “the Interceptor” from Pirates of the Caribbean.

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Funnel Pour Test

Just a quick post today.  My first attempt at a “funnel pour” using one of my standard recipes and Frankincense and Myrrh fragrance oil.  The black is activated charcoal while the yellow is the natural color of the soap.  I expect it to morph into a tan as it cures.

Also check out my new silicone molds from Brambleberry.

Update – the soap is now cut

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Sunday Soaps – Experiments

I ordered new supplies recently and got new things to experiment with!  When the rest of the order comes in I will try a hand at making solid conditioner bars, a syndet* shampoo and some oil cleanser.

But first, here’s what I tried today.

I got a free sample of a nice floral fragrance called “Midnight Waters”, just enough for a 1 pound batch.  I made a simple coconut soap with coconut milk and tried to color it purple.  The fragrance discolored a bit tan so my base purple was crowded out, but since things were moving slowly I tried to add a purple line and colored the top pale green.  I’m quite pleased with the result

This glorious purple mica was overwhelmed by the FO discoloration
Bars after unmolding and cut. The purple line looks great. I’ve never tried one before.

Then I tried two shampoo bars.  One is my favorite coconut recipe but I wanted to try it again with the addition of apple cider vinegar and citric acid.  The next was a very different recipe with 6-oils that also includes apple cider vinegar.

Cider vinegar in the lye does not make for an attractive color.

I scented one with ylang-ylang and bergamot essential oils and the other with a green tea fragrance oil.

Coconut shampoo on the left, 6-oil shampoo on the right.

*But wait, I hear you say.  What is a syndet bar? The shampoo bars I’ve made so far are all true soaps.  That means they are made by reacting lye with fatty acids from plants or animals and you get a high-pH solid soap at the end. Your hair has a natural pH on the acid side and some (but not all) shampoos you can buy commercially make a big deal out of matching the pH of the shampoo to your hair.  It’s unclear to me if this is really beneficial or a marketing ploy (I suspect the latter), but I do notice that when I use my soap-shampoo that every week or two I like to use a cider vinegar rinse that seems to remove some build up.  (It will also de-scum your bathtub!)

If you try to add acid to soap to lower the pH below around 8, you will undo the chemical reaction that makes it soap and be left with a pile of fatty acids.

Enter ‘synthetic detergents’.  This is what nearly all commercial shampoos are made of.  They can have a pH anywhere from about 4 to 8 or 9 but they stay detergents, and will still clean, even with a lower pH.

Lush makes shampoo bars by pressing detergent noodles into a mold along with some other ingredients and I’m going to have a go at that and see if like it any better than my soap-based shampoo.

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Paint Pour Art

The local 4-H Arts program had a workshop where the kids could learn to make acrylic-pour art on canvas.  Since I’d been looking at exactly that just a few weeks earlier and thinking that I wanted to try it out, I jumped at the chance to sign up with my two younger children.

We did a ‘flip cup’ pour with only 3-4 colors as this was suggested to get the best results for the kids.  And I held back a bit to watch how everything turned out.  Part of the secret seems to be patience – don’t rush the process of letting the colors spread out.

Spreading the paint
The initial flip

 

I happen to like the one made by my youngest best, I think choosing highly contrasting colors help the final outcome.  I also noticed that the color I used most in the cup isn’t necessarily what you get most of on the canvas. (For mine, I used nearly 1/2 purple, but it’s not dominant in the final painting).

My final painting using purple, green, light blue, and white
Youngest daughter’s final result using red, orange, purple and silver. I really didn’t think these colors would work, but now it’s my favorite.
My middle child’s effort. Sorry about the glare here, I’ll get a better photo when it’s dried. He was going for ‘space’ and didn’t quite achieve that, but it’s still cool.

They are still drying right now and will have a poly finish applied before they are ready to go.

The kids loved this so expect to see more!

 

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Prehistoric Caves

In addition to the mushroom cave, we went to 4 other caves during this trip:  Lascaux 4 (reproduction), Font-de-Gaume, Chauvet-Pont d’Arc (reproduction) and one more where the kids went spelunking and rappelling (and I did not!).

The ones that I went to are all caves that have famous cave paintings in them. Lascaux is the most famous, but I think the Chauvet-Pont d’Arc paintings may be more beautiful.

The reproductions were interesting.  I had some hesitation about going, thinking ‘why would I spend my time going to a fake cave, better to just see the real one and skip the others.’  I’m glad I didn’t do that.

For Lascaux 4 and Pont d’Arc, the process of making the reproductions was just fascinating.  They are full size, to-the-millimeter, faithful reproductions of the inside of the cave. To the extent possible the paintings were replicated using original techniques.  My favorite bit: they hired a ‘professional nose’ to visit the caves and replicate the SCENT – which is now pumped into the replica, so that it will feel even more like you are in the real thing.  No photos are allowed inside the full reproductions (or in Font-de-Gaume – the only original cave I visited) so all of my photos are from the museum at Lascaux.

aurochs, horses and reindeer
yellow horse. See how much he looks like Preswalski’s horse.
closeup of the reindeer
3 aurochs and the yellow horse

This was not the only place, but Lascaux 4 was the first place we encountered armed military guards. They’ve been taking things seriously since the terror attacks.

Horses in Pont d’Arc (from Wikimedia Commons)

In Lascaux 4 the most common animals were aurochs and horses (17,000 years old). Reindeer were the most common food but were not depicted with nearly the same frequency.  In Chauvet-Pont d’Arc is by far older than Lascaux, at over 30,000 years old and had good preservation as the entrance to the cave was blocked for tens of thousands of years. Font-de-Gaume has some as old, and is primarily a bison cave. No photos were allowed here. I bought a book, but the photos don’t do it justice. The drawings aren’t in as good condition but in the dimly lit cave, with a light playing over them, much as it must have been with crude lamps when they were drawn, the animals seemed to reveal themselves more clearly.

Common to all the caves: predators were rare and were always ‘hidden’ they were in the shadows, in the cracks, hard to see. Humans were rare and crudely drawn, especially compared to the beauty of the horses and bison.

PS  We got lost looking for Pont d’Arc cave and accidentally drove past the actual Pont d’Arc – a natural bridge, and the original cave sight, although we didn’t know it at the time.

Pont d’Arc

PPS We also drove past some signs indicating that the road would be closed for the Tour de France, but I didn’t get a shot of it 🙁

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Sandalwood Tree

Or at least – ‘artists impression of a sandalwood tree’.  I admit it looks more like a madrone (and like all my other trees so far), but I’m happy with it.

A little break from photos of France.  I am getting ready for my fall soaps and thinking of new labels in color.  I wanted a wood grain, but when I tried looking for photos of that I was disappointed in the results.

And if you are thinking “what is a madrone tree?” They have a very striking cinnamon color bark that peels. The outer bark can get rough and darker, the inner bark is smooth, flowing and can be orange to green. They are a broad leaf evergreen that lives in the pacific northwest.

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Jardins de Marqueyssac

This is a chateau and large garden on a ridge-line above the Dordogne river. Normally open during the day, it sometimes opens in the evening for a candlelit view of the gardens along with music. I would go back in a heartbeat. I’d love to also see it during the day.

As we were about to walk in, the light glowing through a grape arbor caught my eye.

Inside, in addition to musicians, there were ‘fairies’, colorfully lit fountains and these little goblins popping out of the earth. In the daytime there was a mini rope-net course for the kids to play on, but we didn’t have much time there before it became too dark to see.

Fairies
Enchanted pool
Our girls casting some sort of spell.
Earth goblins. I think I need some of these for my yard.
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Château de Chambord

The main word that comes to mind is “ostentatious”. I mean, building a giant, spired, wood-paneled, fake-castle/palace as your summer home (or in this case, hunting lodge) is alway ostentatious, but this one really seemed to do it more.

Just look at it!

From a distance
Getting closer…
Can you see that this is a detail on the roof and it’s still enormous?

It was only used for seven weeks total by the builder (in the 16th Century), in part because it’s completely impractical.  It’s too big and open to heat effectively and there was no nearby village to supply food so everything had to be carried in for the 2000 or so guests who would arrive all at once.  But it has some really neat features.  One of the most famous is the double helix staircase.  Two staircases spiral around each other and you can stop at the internal windows and look at your friends going up the opposite stair.

Looking up the center of the staircase

And there are fire-salamanders everywhere, and who is not a fan of fire-salamanders?

Fiery king salamander

And, as usual, the gardens were vast and impressive.

There was an equestrian show at an outdoor pavilion on the grounds that I missed, and I’m a bit sorry I did because it sounded amazing.  Next time, I guess?