Christine’s big (soap) adventure: Episode 1

Editor’s note: To celebrate Emmet Street Creations’ first anniversary, we’re reposting the series Christine wrote detailing her journey to bring Emmet Street Creations to life. Enjoy!

A few years ago, if you told me I would be starting up a soap making business, I would have laughed at you.

It all started with a Christmastime lunch date with three of my girlfriends. I knew this was a perfect time to give them a token of my affection—something I don’t do often enough. But I had no idea what type of gift to give them, and I didn’t have a lot of money to spend.

I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of making gifts by hand, so I started to poke around the internet for ideas. That’s when I stumbled upon this article on craft maven Martha Stewart’s website about making glycerin—also referred to as melt and pour—soap.

One of my early melt and pour soap creations.One of my early melt and pour soap creations.

“Wow! How beautiful and easy,” I thought. So, I carted myself off to my local craft store and stocked up on melt and pour soap base, colorants, scents and molds. I congratulated myself on how much money I would save on my gift giving because I planned to make soap for everyone I knew.

My friends weren’t the only ones who got a gift that Christmas

During that time, some serious life stuff was happening.

I was dealing with the declining health of my mother and living in a constant loop of doctor’s appointments and errand running. I was in a state of constant worry over every detail of her life: Is she living in the best place? Is she eating enough? Are these medications right for her? Am I doing enough for her? Is she in pain or angry or scared or lonely? In addition to the mom worries, my significant other, Matt, was out of work. I was the only one bringing in a paycheck , so money was tight. Needless to say, when my thoughts weren’t on my mother, they were on Matt, money and bills.

But, one Saturday in December, I decided to spend the day focusing on nothing but turning those blocks of soap base into beautiful creations for my friends and family. It was a welcome distraction…

S-A-N-T-A Brought An Awesome Gift-o

This adorable video went viral a couple of weeks ago. Because the internet has the attention span of a fruit fly, you may have missed it.

I haven’t been able to get it off of my mind.

In a nutshell, here’s the story (click here if you want to learn more): A kindergardener has her holiday recital and wants her deaf parents to feel a part of the festivities. So, she signs the lyrics (with a bit of ham served on the side).

This little girl just wanted to do something nice for her parents; to me, this gesture showed the capacity of humans to offer unconditional love. We want our loved ones to feel happy, secure and know they fill an important place in the world. We want them to know they matter and they belong. So, we do things like sign the lyrics to “Santa Is His Name-o.”

What better gift can we give than that?

My wish for you this Christmas is that your days are full of people who let you know that you matter. Please do the same for them. It makes the world a nicer place to be.

I would like to give you the gift of the freedom of a five year old when eyes are on you, too. She obviously didn’t give a fig about being silly during her performance and rocked it.

So, how are you going to give unconditional love this year?

Does anybody really know what figgy pudding is? Does anybody really care?

It’s December 23. The holiday season is in full swing. I’ve been hearing Christmas carols in the stores since Labor Day and I have finally reached the breaking point. I must know and I must know it right now:

Just what the heck is figgy pudding? And what gives those carolers the right to demand I bring it right now?

A search of my local library’s online databases and my Google ninja skills didn’t result in a very satisfactory result (and I even tried Google UK!), but if this Wikipedia entry is to be believed, it stemmed from an old English tradition of the wealthy giving treats to the less fortunate if they came around caroling. I guess it was the sixteenth-century equivalent of the Occupy movement, but with simpler demands and more joyful noises.*

So, let’s move on to what figgy pudding is, shall we? For the most part, we Americans think of pudding as a tasty treat that comes in one of three states:

1.) Box

Pudding box

Image credit: Old school pudding box by T.Young, on Flickr. CC BY 2.0.

2.) Cup

Pudding cup

Image credit: An Afternoon Snack by jeff_golden, on Flickr. CC BY 2.0.

3.) Pop

Pudding pop

Image credit: Marketing Vs Reality by Chris Larkee, on Flickr. CC BY 2.0.

Across the pond, the term means something else entirely. Essentially, dessert puddings are generally some combination of wet bread or other cakey additives, fruit and spices. Figgy pudding includes the addition of dried figs (duh), other dried fruits, spices and brandy (for flavor and to light the whole mess on fire when you bring it to the table).

I contemplated making a batch and reporting the results to you here, fair reader. After skimming several different recipes, the idea of making a dessert from wet breadcrumbs grossed me out. The ick factor increased when I started looking for pictures of the dish. I will spare your eyes the horrors I witnessed. (If you decide to google pictures of it, don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

I don’t think I’m alone in my aversion to this dish; I couldn’t find any evidence that figgy pudding is a dish people actually eat with enthusiasm during the holiday season. My hunch is that figgy pudding may be the British equivalent of the fruitcake.

Have you made or eaten figgy pudding? What are your thoughts? Should I give it a go?

*This statement is, of course, hyperbole. The disparity in society between the very rich and, well, everyone else is worthy of discussion; but that’s best left to another blog post or, better yet, a more erudite blogger


The 12 soaps of Christmas: Day 11

Winter Solstice

The winter solstice is the shortest day of the year, but the hours the sun is in the sky are pretty amazing. Here in the northern hemisphere, we rejoice on the days the sun is shining bright—it makes the cold seem a little less, well, cold.

There are also a lot of holiday parties (i.e., eating occasions) this time of year. Maybe at one of those functions someone will bring a dessert featuring cranberry and fig. Don’t expect to see one of those fancy desserts if you come to my family’s house; the fanciest thing we make is pumpkin pie using an old, family recipe—the one featured on the label of the can of pumpkin.

But, if you do happen to stay as a guest, I will have Winter Solstice on hand for you to use when you shower. Not only does this soap look and smell lovely, it contains several moisturizing oils that will soothe your dry, itchy skin (and maybe your soul after your exposure to the insanity that is my family).

The 12 soaps of Christmas: Day 9

Beachin 3

Nothing says Christmas to me like a day at the beach. Seriously.

For many years, some of my favorite Christmases were spent on a beach on the Gulf Coast of Florida. My parents wanted to flee the winter cold that had settled in. And, if I had to speculate, they also wanted to escape the frenzy of family gatherings we would be obligated to attend had we actually been in Ohio. (Thank you, Mom and Dad, for providing your introverted child the opportunity to avoid some of those functions. That was the greatest Christmas gift of all time.)

Looking at this soap reminds me of the ocean and the white sand beaches where my brothers and I spent hours looking for shells and other treasures that washed ashore when the tide rolled in. I can almost hear the waves hitting the shore. I think I’ll be booking a trip soon…

While I’m waiting for that day to come, I’ll use this Beachin’ soap and think fondly of Christmases past.