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Whoa! Summer is over, and I’ve been working on some soaps that are good for gift-giving for the holidays.  Every year, more and more people ask for chocolate soap.  My initial reaction was, “Gross! I don’t want to rub something brown on me!”  But I’ve been sporadically making batches of chocolate soap, and they’ve all turned pretty good.  The chocolate soap pictured below is made with olive, coconut, and palm oils; and cocoa butter with vanilla bean is added for the sweet “chocolatey” smell.  Cocoa powder is what makes it brown.

 

There will also be pumpkin soap:

 

 

But don’t worry.  All of the favorites are still around. I’m also happy to say that Keith Herzik has been screen-printing the packaging for my soap… you can see it below on the Lavender Soap:

 

Orange-blossom with Rose Petal Soap:

Cedarwood-Sage Soap:

Peppermint Soap:

 

Keith’s paper really makes them pretty.  You can see  more of his art at http://alamoigloo.blogspot.com/.

I don’t have any craft shows coming up, but I applied for some holiday ones, so stay tuned!

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It’s been about a month since the Renegade Craft Fair, where I mostly sold out of soap.  There is more on the way, and I promise to have your favorites:  Pumpkin, lavender, and lemongrass.  I think you’ll also be excited to know that I am now packaging my soap with paper that has been screen-printed by Keith Herzik (whose exhibit you should go see at the Hyde Park Art Center).

It’s been a busy few months, and I haven’t been able to keep up with all the stuff I like to keep up with, but I got to go to the Hawthorne Race Track this past weekend, and won $3.90! I got my picture taken with Sven Ghoulie, too!

I’ve also managed to work out a good recipe that involves all my favorite things:  Beans, some kind of pork product, something tomato-based, and some kind of bread baked on top.  It yielded a big batch; there was enough for my boyfriend and I to eat it twice a day for a few days, and it was super-cheap to make!  I bet someone in prison invented it, but it’s one of those things that gets remade into something nicer in all the ladies’ magazines. Here’s what I did (measurements are approximate):

About 2 cups of pork, sausage, or ham cut up into little pieces

1 cup, or a good healthy pour of bbq sauce

1 chopped half onion

3 cans of beans rinsed and drained (I used one each of cannelini, kidney, and black beans)

2 packages of cornbread mix (I used the one that comes in the bags)

2/3 cup milk

2 eggs

Heat the oven to 4oo degrees, & grease a lasagna pan (a 13×9 inch pan). Heat the beans, meat, bbq sauce, and onions on the stovetop, & pour into the pan. Mix the cornbread mix, eggs, milk & butter in a bowl, and spread it on top of the beans & meat.  Bake it for 20 minutes in the oven!

 

 

 

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What’s buzzin’, Cousins?

Since I’ve last talked to you, I’ve been stock-piling coconut oil, palm oil, and olive oil, just so I can make some very special soap, just for you. Over the holidays, I made more chocolate soap, which was a smash hit. Sadly, it’s gone. But I have big plans to make more lavender soap with dried flowers and Shea butter; you all seem to like that a lot. Except some of you complain that you don’t like stuff that smells too “sharp”. Fair enough. I have big plans for you guys too. With spring and summer coming, I will return to tropical lemongrass, which is a natural insect repellent that doesn’t smell nasty like citronella. It’s also made with beeswax, which draws moisture into the skin, smells sweet, and looks pretty.

Aside from making soap, earrings, and stretch bracelets, I’ve been busy practicing with the Blue Ribbon Glee Club. Our next show will be on April 7, singing at the “Well-Read Affair” at the Cultural Center, presented by Literary Chicago’s Associate board. For more information about the event, check out www.literacychicago.org. We will also be performing at the CHIRP record fair on April 9, at the Chicago Journeyman Plumbers’ Union. More information at www.chirprecordfair.com.

The last thing I want to mention is the Milwaukee Avenue Art Festival on the weekend of July 29, 30, and 31. I will post more details as they transpire.

Next time I rap at you, I will have pictures of new soap, and more information about all the stuff I mentioned.

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I know I should have said this sooner, but I was too busy breathing again after all of the chaos from 2 weeks ago: Thanks to all who attended, supported, and participated in the Milwaukee Avenue Art Festival. Without the amazing artwork of Allison Rae Butkus, Cory Norris, Nathan Jerde, and Ryan Goodwin; there would not have been a show. Also, thanks to Laura and Del at Mixed Motion Art dance studio for the space to show art. That beautiful space is what made everything come to life!

I’ve been pretty lazy over the last couple of weeks, but have been getting ready to make some more soap, and design a few custom pieces of jewelry for someone who liked a necklace I had made, and was giving a test drive.

Because everyone has been really great, I’ve decided to devote my next blog post to offering advice to anyone who sends me an email. Don’t know what to wear to your cousin’s wedding? I can offer some suggestions! Questions regarding how to deal with free-loaders? I will be happy to help! Need advice regarding co-workers or relationships? I’m not exactly the authority on those things, but have plenty of first-hand experience on what not to do! Email me with your issues– put “Advice” in the subject line, and I will answer it in my next blog post. [email protected]

Until next time…

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Dear Everyone,

There are many great things happening this weekend, and most of them within the Milwaukee Avenue Arts Festival! I can’t decide whether to list all of said “great things” chronologically, or in order of importance. So I’ll just give as synopsis.

The Milwaukee Ave. Art Fest starts tomorrow at 4p.m. It will cover about 1.5 miles between Diversy & St. Georges Court (1/2 block southeast of California) on Milwaukee Ave. From what little I’ve seen in passing while borrowing tools from other galleries, everything looks amazing! Everyone, I want to let you know that I will be curating a show on Saturday and Sunday (24th & 25th July) at the Mixed Motion Art dance studio. Hours are noon – 3p.m. and 6p.m. – 11p.m. both days. Four artists will be featured in this exhibit: Allison Butkus, Cory Norris, Nathan Jerde, and Ryan Goodwin. I just finished hanging everything today, and it looks great. So stop by, damn it!

There are also some Blue Ribbon Glee Club shows this weekdend. Friday night at Ball Hall– 1621 N. Kedzie 9 p.m. We’re also singing at 7 p.m. on Saturday the 24th by the Logan Square monument. We will bring the party to the art fest!

Outside of art fest preparations, there haven’t been many exciting things happening. However, I did watch a reality show at my friends David’s and Steven’s house about good pets gone bad. An 80 year old’s Pomeranian got eaten by a snake that is a prop in an Alice Cooper tribute band. Wouldn’t you just hit a snake with a broom if you saw it trying to eat your dog?

Before I sign out, I would say that some Art Fest highlights would be the Sulzen Fine Art Studio on the corner of Milwaukee Ave. & St. Georges Ct. where painter Julie Sulzen will have an exhibit of paintings using only the colors green, black, red, and white. Cole’s bar is celebrating it’s (almost) first birthday, and there will be tons of great bands performing on the stage nearby at the fest.

O.k. Everyone. That’s all I have the energy for today, plus many PBRs are leaving me mildly bleary-eyed. Please make it to the festival.

Much love,
Your honorary Cousin Gina

http://www.milwaukeeavenueartsfestival.org/

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Guess what’s curing at my house?  A new batch of lemongrass soap!

See how pretty and golden it is?  That’s because I used beeswax to make it yellow, and to give it a sweet scent.  Shea butter was also added.  Along with the naturally occuring glycerin, it will draw moisture into your skin, and help with dryness issues.  Lemongrass essential oil is what I used for the fragrance.  Lemongrass is a natural insect repellent and has antibacterial qualities, so you can replace that gross alcohol based hand-sanitizer with the silly “micro-beads” in it.  Lemongrass is also used to reduce inflammation, increase circulation, and to relax muscles.  I made three 7lb. bricks of  lemongrass soap last summer, and it was all gone by Labor Day.  So snap some up before it’s gone!

Even though I initially made peppermint soap for the holidays, I decided that it’s cooling properties make it appropriate for summer too.  Some hippie types say it improves awareness and energy, and others say they swear peppermint helps eliminate super-lightning-fast mood swings.  But the reason why I love it is because it’s the best eraser of all things gross that I may have come in contact with through out the day.  I would highly recommend my amazing peppermint soap to anyone who is super-athletic or who has a very physically demanding job.  Most of all, I would recommend it to direct-care workers.  Did you get a handful of pureed squash thrown at you today?  That sounds like a job for peppermint soap to erase!

Also on this summer’s roster is Honey-Oatmeal soap.  Oatmeal softens and exfoliates; honey draws moisture into the skin.  I also used cocoa butter– another excellent moisturizer, and it smells amazing.

These are the top three of my most popular soaps.  Whether you enjoy the tropical and slightly sweet and citrusy scent of lemongrass; the cooling tingle of peppermint, or the comfort of good old honey & oatmeal, there is most certainly something for you!

Coming soon:  Do you want to beat your father at arm-wrestling?  Do you want to show your supervisor who is really the boss of the barnyard? My Cedarwood-Sage soap screams masculinity!  I am going to use hemp oil in this batch to soften it up a little, and to make it a subdued green color.  Updates on this soap coming soon.

So that’s what I’ve been up to– creating the best soap just for you.

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I was re-reading my last post from a million years ago and realized that I’ve severely relapsed on my resolutions by punching a bus, and screaming at someone for using double negatives.  I guess you can’t have everything.

A few minor holidays have also happened since the last time I posted… I didn’t make any George Washington silhouettes for President’s day.  But I did write mean things on candy hearts, and encouraged others to do the same.

I’ve also made chocolate soap, because that’s what the people asked for.  It doesn’t have any weird chocolate perfume in it, and it won’t make your bathroom smell like a cupcake.  I used cocoa butter, ground cocoa beans, and vanilla bean-infused jojaba oil that I made myself.  It took a long time and required a lot of work, but was worth it to hear the positive feedback.  Some people who have tried it said they used it on their faces!  I have some for sale at the Mia Mora vintage clothing store on Fullerton and Talman (across from Fireside Bowl), and also at the Simply Chicago Art Gallery on Oakton a block west of Asbury in Evanston.  Or you can just order it directly from me:


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A lot of people I know have made some pretty ambitious resolutions for the new year, and from what I’ve seen, have been committing to what they said they’d do. My resolution for this year is pretty minor– to not get dramatic about dumb stuff, like getting mad when someone turns a double-exclamation point into a smiley face. I’m also going to try not to cry when I miss the bus. Most importantly, I’ve resolved to get my heart back into making jewelry. A few nights ago when I couldn’t sleep, and the almanac titled Essential Wisconsin Facts wasn’t doing the trick, I made a kick-ass pair of earrings with gun-metal wire, grey glass pearls, and faceted jet-black glass (photo coming soon). The success I had with completing this project made me feel like making jewelry again. It’s really no secret that I’ve been bringing the same jewelry from show to show for the past year, so it’s pretty exciting to have some new work.

I guess my main reason for not feeling so committed to making jewelry is because my soap is clearly more interesting and useful. I’ve been getting a lot of requests for more lemongrass soap. I am planning on making that one of my next batches. I also want to resurrect my cedarwood-sage recipe, which I haven’t made in awhile. I’ve been getting a lot of requests for bacon soap, but I’ll let someone more committed to pig-products make that one. Don’t get me wrong– I love pig, but for eating; not for washing. Another common request I’ve been getting is for chocolate soap, and that is not impossible. I may have come up with a recipe that could work, without compromising the high quality and natural characteristics of my soap. I will keep you posted.

I also found hundreds of those clear glass marbles (that people fill vases with) in a box in the back of my closet, and decided to use them to make those magnets all the indie-rocker girls were making 5 years ago.
I’ve mostly been using scrapbook paper remnants from my soap packaging, so most of the images are pictures of food, music notes, flowers, and stuff like that. But my favorite magnet that I’ve made was from a picture of a “Humphrey/Muskie” campaign button I found in a newspaper. As soon as I can get a good photograph of it, I will post it.

So that’s what I’ve been up to. I hope you enjoyed your holidays. I will post photographs of all of my new stuff next time. There haven’t been any shows lately, but will also post if I plan on being at any events.

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So here it is… about 10 or so more days before Christmas, and with that comes a lot of events and shows. With a lot of events and shows comes meeting tons and tons of amazing people. With meeting new people comes many questions about handmade soap and soapmaking, and those questions are 90% of the time variations of one question:

“Is it true that when you make soap, [insert question about stolen liposuction fat, explosive by-products, or other Fight Club reference here]?

I’ve decided to just start answering “Yes”. It’s just easier that way. I’m also going to add that Disorderlies is actually a documentary about home health care, and that it is required viewing as a part of CNA training. I was going to embed a youtube video here, but the only available clip is ten minutes long, and gave me a headache.

Because I like you, and don’t want you to have headaches, and do want you to have nice things, you should come to a Christmas show this Saturday the 19th. It will be at the vintage boutique Mia Mora at 2639 W. Fullerton Ave. (across from the Fireside Bowl). I will be there with my soap, and there will be other crafters there with handmade gifts available. It will be from 5p.m. to 8p.m. Email me if you require more information.

That’s all for now. It is time for me to get back to work. I hope to see you very soon.

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It’s been an extremely busy couple of weeks, and am happy to say that the orange-spice soap is cured and ready to go! I tested it in the shower on Friday night, after a chain of events that required a thorough un-scuzzing, and was very happy with the results. The new orange-spice soap, as well as the peppermint will be available at the Holiday Art Fair this Sunday, December 13 at the Let Them Eat Chocolate Cafe. Besides my soap, magnets, and jewelry, there will be a lot of other unique gifts available by local artists: prints, cards, photographs, t-shirts, ceramics, and other handmade gift ideas. There will also be music from noon til 3p.m. by guitar player Tyler Bagwell.

Art Fair
Sunday, December 13
12p.m. – 5 p.m.
Let Them Eat Chocolate Cafe
5306 N. Damen (Damen & Berwyn)

Hope to see you there!

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