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Archive for May, 2013

Thumbirds3

Packing and unpacking, you get to appreciate your belongings. Or, get annoyed at the amount of belongings you somehow managed to accumulate. Since I have some months off, I have taken the opportunity to really go through all my stuff. Now, the movers were of the decided opinion that I didn’t have that much stuff (17 standard boxes, ten smaller boxes, a desk, a bookshelf, a table and chairs and a mattress plus some odds and ends). Yes, I asked. I, on the other hand, felt drowned in stuff and I still do. I am way too fond of slowly collecting things to become a true minimalist, but in my own way I am looking to simplify. So, enter the idea of going through everything one more time and sort stuff out. I am currently five big boxes and three book-boxes ahead in this adventure.

Packing and unpacking, you also stumble upon of serendipitous combinations of stuff. In this case, some appreciated books that just matched SO well. Serendipity is, by the way, one of my favourite words and I am happy I got an opportunity to use it.

Prettycovers

I have mentioned it on the blog before, I know. I have an idea of illustrating a book while I read it. Among the first fantastic books I read were Jules Verne (which I have also mentioned before). The copperstick illustrations always got my imagination going. I like the style as well, and I hope to incorporate it in my own style of drawing (that is: continue with focus on ink but add some planning and more elaborate backgrounds). The book I’d definitely choose for the first book is Kraken by China Mièville. Keep your eyes out for some drawings of bug familiars on strike, scary tattoos and such. The matching bookmark is from Black Gull Books .

I have my friend at Pimpinett to thank for getting me into Chesterton. Thank you again, K! I implore everyone to go read The Man Who Was Thursday, it is a perfect introduction to his work.

Louis-Ferdinand Céline… I can’t remember how I stumbled onto his work years ago. Probably looking for subversive literature as a teenager. I enjoy the (extremely) black and dry humour and, yes, the misanthropic bent. My translation of Voyage au bout de la nuit, is a later one, evidently challenged since it was considered too modern by some. The defenders insist it is more true to the sentiments of the original novel and in some ways more correct in the harshness of the language. I still wish I could read it in French, though. Never been good at French. My grandfathers brothers wife was French and recently passed away. I sort of regret I never discussed Céline with her. I have a feeling she wasn’t a fan, but it would still have been interesting. The fact that I never broached the subject is a combination of me not daring to and us being not close at all, I met her two or three times the past five years. But still.

Upcoming: today I made soap again. I used smoked tea, clary sage, green mint, lavender, propolis and spirulina algae. If all goes well, this soap will have an earthy, green, smoky and minty type of fragrance and a pretty three-colour swirl in dark brown, grey and dark green. If it goes not-so-well I will have a vague minty smelling disaster in three shades of muggy brown. I will know tomorrow. It is very exciting and fun still, this soapmaking thing.

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Well, I do have a lot of time on my hands.

Some months ago I got bitten by some sort of beekeeping bug. With that came honey, beeswax and related areas of intrest, one of which was soapmaking. At the time, this was sort of frustrating, since I lived in the flat of a friend and didn’t really want to handle caustic chemicals in her kitchen (or maybe I just couldn’t get my hands on any lye). Now, I have moved and I live with my father who – not that surprisingly – happen to have plenty of lye in his cellar (don’t ask, someone was probably trying to toss it and there you go).

A couple of weeks ago I made a honey and lavender olive oil soap:

Soap1

I was a bit heavy on the honey (and perhaps also on the raw beeswax), which probably is the explanation of the small red dots in the soap (not pictured). According to Google-wisdom, this apparently disappears with the curing of the soap and doesn’t affect the quality of the soap. Double-checking the numbers I discovered that I had made an extreme water reduction (water at 25% of oils, when 35% is recommended for beginners). Maybe this was the reason for the red spots? I rebatched everything (hot process soap, see pics) but a couple of slices of the soap, adding some milk-and-honey mixture. The rebatched soap still smell good, has the expected tan colour (from warm milk and honey) and is very soft (unlike the non-rebatched bars I saved). The smell is lavender, but with a caramel over/undertone, which is very nice. It is supposed to be cured for a looong time, at least six months, but preferably longer. Looking forward to see how t developes.

Sort of embarrassed over miscalculating the water-oil ratio I decided to make another batch today. This time a beer soap. Beer is another one of my obsessions. I used one of my favourites, actually. Sotholmen Extra Stout by Nynäshams ångbryggeri, my close-to favourite Swedish microbrewery. I calculated (correctly, this time) and made sure to reduce the beer with a pince of salt and the peels of two lemons until I reached the proper amount of fluid. Making cold process soap is not that difficult, but it is very important to get the oil-lye balance right. I recommend lye calculators and/or the iPad app Soap Calculator before making any cold process recipe. There are a couple of different calculators available. I bought the Soap Calculator for a small sum, choose it for the easiness in changing to metric (seriously, change your bloody measuring system already!).

Sotholmen

Sotholmen Extra Soap
Oils: Olive oil 600g, Coconut oil 180g, sunflower oil 20g, canola oil 60g, beeswax 10g.
Fluid: 300g, 150g reduced stout boiled in lemon peel and some salt and honey. 150g water.
Lye: 120g (in a 45% solution, so 120g lye and 150g water was already in solution).
EO: 5g lemongrass essential oil.

I choose to rebatch/Hot process parts of this soap (just because), adding cocoa powder, ground coffee and ground oats. This is the result:

SOap2

Home-made soap is different from commercial soap in several ways. The glycerin (an humectant) in industrial soap is commonly extracted, making common household soap more of a detergent bar than a soap bar. Of course, there are more fancy forms of commercial soap as well, many of which have added glycerin and other ingredients. Another advantage, making your own soap you can be perfectly sure what goes in it. It also gives you an opportunity to avoid palm oil, which is very common in commercial soap. Besides, it is fun!

There is plenty to read about soapmaking on the internet. Below is some links to get you started, or just to gawp at the pretty swirls and colours (my next soap project).

Soapmaking Forum: a great forum with plenty of inspiration.
Miller’s Homemade Soap Pages: plenty of information.
Offbeat + Inspired, category soapmaking: a great DYI blog with a very nice design. I can warmly recommend the Introduction to Cold Process Soap Making for Beginners-post and I can’t wait to try the Peppermint Mocha swirled soap.

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The Nano Vivarium

This is the reason I haven’t updated the blog in a while:

Exo Terra Nano 1

Another obsession of mine is tropical orchids and plants in general. I have, together with my father, made plenty of glass houses/vivariums/orchidariums/paludariums over the years, but none with moving water and none with an aspiration of looking semi-natural. Inspired by the aquascapers nano aquariums (just google it, you won’t regret it), I decided to make a nano vivarium. I decided not to make it from scratch, since I plan on having this one at my place of work in the future. Places of work tend to shun home-made containers of water, for obvious reasons. Since this has been some sort of a trend for some years now, a small terrarium was easily aquired.

Container: ExoTerra Nano 20x20x30 cm
Pump: ExoTerra ReptiFlow 200
Important Notice: Yep, this might seem a little overkill on the construction side. Smaller containers are more sensitive to disturbances and actually harder to keep than bigger ones. My experience tells me that making sure all parts of the container is well ventilated is paramount. I plan to add a micro (2.5 cm) computer fan for air movement. Some of the plants will have to be removed, since they will probably outgrow the container. I will continue to work on the interior, gathering micro-mini plants and really try to get some moss growing. Update is coming in about six months or so.

Shops (OBS: nothing is sponsored in any way!)
Herpers Choise: the terrarium, the pump, Pleurothallis niveoglobula, Rubellia (or possibly Pleurothallis) lateritia, Sigmatostalix radicans. The ONLY thing I didn’t like about this shop outside of Uppsala is that they didn’t exist until I moved away from there. Warmly recommended.
Dusk Tropic: Hygrolon and Epiweb, also inspiration (take a look at the pics on the homepage).
Dartfrog.co.uk: Xaxim, tropical moss, Kyoto moss spores.
My aquarium: Java moss (probably Vesicularia dubyana), Java fern (Microsorum pteropus).
The woods: sphagnum, which I nuked in the microwave to get rid of pests like snails)
Local garden shop: coconut fiber, Chirita tamiana, Cryptanthus species, Ficus pumila (a great little climber and impossible to kill).
Local lawnmover shop: rubber fuel line. The only thing flexible enough to work for the waterfall. I am ambivalent, but liking the out-of-the box thinking I did on this one.
Fellow orchid/plant enthusiasts: Angreacum distichum, small Dendrobium, Sinningia Rio das Pedros seeds.

Forums
Vivariumforum: rather inactive, but with plenty of inspiration and how-to.
Dendroboard: Poison Dart frogs stuff, but loads on building terrarium habitats.
Pilgift.se : Swedish Poison Dart Frog society and forum.

Behind the cut is several images of the building process (pic heavy): (more…)

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This sketchy sockbird will keep an eye on the blog while I am away.

PreSockbird

I hope to visit Cass Art again, this time to buy some Windsor & Newton Series 7 brushes. I’ve been planning to buy some for several years and I now feel that I have earned it since I have practiced and perfected my technique with the one series 7 brush I own. I am also going to Cornelissen, hopefully to get ahold of a proper lumpe sanguine and perhaps also silverpoint equipment. I plan to draw at both the British Museum and Natural History Musem. We’re also visiting Pollock’s Toy Museum, another place where I hope to make a lot of drawings and drolleries. A visit to Kew is planned as well, as always. A small cactus I bought at Kew a couple of years ago perished in the move, so I hope to find something to add to my plant collection.

Speaking of plant collections, I bought a nano terrarium yesterday. I plan to grow small orchids, mosses, ferns and gesneriads there. Pics upcoming. Also, I made cold process soap. Yep, I do have a lot of time on my hands at the moment!

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