Look At Me! I’m Organized!

STUDENT TEACHING HAS STARTED! Last week I got into my classroom for the semester. I have my own little desk, book-case and corner that’s ALL MINE! I can’t even begin to tell you all how excited I am and what it has taken to get here. Everything the last 4 years has led to this! I am in a wonderful school district, with a co-op that I LOVE.

Yesterday was my first day, and I finished moving in. Here is what my little corner looks like thus far.

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The front of my desk is rocking bead buddies and stained glass projects my summer school kids did this summer. If you can’t tell, the stained glasses are Beauty and the Beast themed.

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Recognize that pot? See how I made it HERE! Miss Swenda is written and facing front towards the students. “Called Equipped Prepared” is a reminder just for me! Cinderella’s glass slipper and the Disney princess cup are from a bridal shower I was at a few weeks ago.

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I am really proud of these drawers. Yes, I have an entire drawer of snacks. I have a schedule that gives me the ability to snack every few periods. I regret nothing. My other drawer holds my tea, binder clip collection, stationary, and other rando things.

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I have a nice little bookshelf to keep all of my stuff. Obviously, it’s full of classics and the majority of the Folger Shakespeare Library collection. My brother hooked me up with Dancing Groot and Albus Dumbledore and I certainly couldn’t leave them at home! Bob my Philadelphia Flyers Gnome has a place of love as well. One of the best things I learned from my previous co-op was unit binders. You can see the stack of them to the right of the above picture. For each unit, I have created a binder. Over the years I have and will continue to collect handouts, projects and general things to go with the different units. IMG_7189

The cool part of having a mom that has been working in schools for so long, is that she has some pretty fun decorations and ideas. Ma hooked me up with these cute little fall leaves. Together, we came up with “What Miss Swenda is reading…” The top leaf has the name of the book. The bottom leaf lists the author, genre, number of pages and style. I am currently reading Dracula by Bram Stoker. It falls into sci-fi/fiction/historical, has 414 pages and is written like diary/journal entries, letters and newspaper clippings. For different holidays/months I will have different shapes to show my what I’m reading. As an English teacher, I feel it’s important to show the kids not only that I am reading, but also give them a glimpse of who I am through my reading.

We have some awesome projects planned for the kids this year- I can’t wait to share some of them right here! 🙂

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Terra Cotta Pot Pen Holder

There is a battle going on in my brain. I am preparing to enter the world of student teaching. I have a bajillion things going on in my brain and so many questions. What should I bring? Can I bring decorative things? Should I bring my own pens, pencils and markers? Am I going to look crazy walking into school with an entire cardboard box of unit binders? Can I be too organized? What should I wear the first day of school? Do I have enough grading stickers? Are my pens going to be as useful as I think they’re going to be?

Well, now that you’ve seen a glimpse of the crazy in my brain: I bought myself pens, pencils, white board markers and good ole crayolas. I have my Groot,  Dumbledoore, and Flyers Gnome packed. I’m wearing an apple dress, yes it’s a thing. I DO have a box of 3 ring binders full of unit plans. I do have labeled binder clips that go with my matching accordion binder/file folder set. I have over 2,000 A+, Great Job!, 100% and apple stickers. My Ink Joy Pens are FREAKING AWESOME.

Walking around Michaels I wanted to bring something to store all of those pens, pencils, and markers that I had bought myself. I came across the terra cotta pot section. I found one on the small side, but it’s not very squat, it’s a bit on the tall and thin side, AKA, writing utensil sized. I stood staring at it for a moment as I thought about my pile of acrylic paints at home and how I could paint it and put it on my desk for myself. BOOM. With my coupon, I paid under $2 for the pot and the rest I already had sitting at home.

  1. I painted the entire pot a single color. I LOVE pink.   
  2. Using different sized widths of wash tape, I created a geometric spider web.     
  3. I then painted within the shapes randomly.       
  4. After allowing the paint to dry, I went through and painted some sparkle here and there. Life needs a little glitz.
  5. I was going to leave the inside but the terra cotta didn’t match so I went with a purple.   
  6. I went back through and touched up color here and there that had dried uneven etc and allowed it to dry. 
  7. I removed the washi tapes from all around the pot. I was left with a pretty neato pot as it was, but I can’t leave well enough alone. 
  8. Using a Sharpi, on the side that will face the class I am going to write,  “Miss Swenda.” On the side that will face me I will do “Called Equipped Prepared.” It has become my motivation, my mantra, and my constant reminder that if God has Called me, He has Equipped me, and He will  Prepare me. So when the days get tough, when nobody does their homework, when they’re too busy on their phones to listen, when I am swamped with grading and sleep deprived, I will be able to look up and remember that God has put me in this position for a purpose and with His strength I will be successful.

I now have a super cute, totally personalized, motivational and all around awesome piece to hold my junk! This would make a perfect teacher gift, and even with buying a few paints, it can easily cost under $10 to do a few of these guys! I plan on making another one for my binder clip collection!    

    

 

Dying Art

Once upon a time women were taught beautiful arts. At bridal showers, the bride received a “Bless This House,” cross stitch/embroidery, or something along those lines to hang in their new house from a grandmother or an aunt. When babies came, quilts and afghans were made for the little one to snuggle up with as a gifts from older generations. Schools are cutting art and music programs and parents are enraged. So why are these same people not enraged that they were not taught these other precious gifts?

My aunts taught my mother how to crochet, and she in turn taught me. They started the tradition of making baby blankets when ever a little one is on the way. It is something that my mother and I have both continued to do for our friends over the years. It’s not huge, or fancy, but something most mothers and children treasure over the years. When I’m cold, I just make ear warmers and scarves. FullSizeRenderI’ve been blessed to grow up surrounded by women who were fortunate to know these arts, whether out of necessity or choice. I have grown up in a house full of pieces lovingly cross stitched and surrounded by crocheted afghans and heirloom quilts from aunts, my great-grandmother, great-great-grandmother, mother, and myself. Throughout the year quilts and larger blankets grace our quilt hanger….the majority of which were made by these women. IMG_5939I recently set up one of my sewing machines. I learned how to sew on my great-grandmothers Singer. I am nowhere near the seamstress as the other ladies in my life, but I’m working on it! I needed a skirt for a costume. Working at JoAnn Fabrics, I bought myself some supplies and made my Minnie Mouse skirt, for a fraction of the price a skirt like this would cost in stores. It took me 30 minutes.
IMG_5936I was struggling with a bridal gift. I remembered that I had some embroidery floss from making friendship bracelets in high school. Again, working at JoAnn’s, I bought myself some hoops, fabric, needles, and more floss. I’ve now completed 3 pieces in the last month. IMG_5810 IMG_5938 FullSizeRender-1I am not posting this to brag about my craft savvy. It’s a question and something for us all to think about- when did we get so busy that our mother’s and grandmothers and great grandmothers couldn’t teach us these gifts? For hundreds of years women spent their days using their hands, passed down from generation to generation. Many times, it was out of necessity. Wool was spun, clothes and blankets were made. Embroidery was for more than decorative tapestries, but to decorate what would have otherwise been a very plain dress or cloak. My pieces are a far cray from Renaissance pieces like this one.

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Elizabethan Polychrome Nightcap c.1600.

How did our lives get so busy that basic skills like sewing a button or fixing a hole in a garment have been lost to the past? Why is there such little interest in these hobbies in the younger generations? When did these arts get lost? When did they begin to die?

As of right now, I have 3 weddings and a baby this year, not ME, but other people. Since handmade gifts like these don’t show up at showers too often, I have made it my mission to be that person. Everyone deserves to have something that can’t be bought, something made just for them, something that will last, something that is literally stitched with love. I am not saying our mothers, our aunts, or our grandmothers have done a disservice, but quite the opposite. I think we have let them down by not looking to them to teach us these arts that they so painstakingly learned. I for one am taking the stand. I want my children, my friends and my family, to grow up in houses full of love, full of stories, and full of art- just like mine.

 

Spare Time Writers

I am SO excited to finally be student teaching in the fall. I was blessed to have an incredible field experience teacher who let me teach a unit on my own. That alone is an experience most students do not have before their student teaching. Another blessing that is coming with student teaching in the fall is that I have the entire summer to prep. I have already met with my co-op and she is in the same hallways as my field experience co-op so we already know each other!

I will be teaching 9th and 10th grade honors. When I first started college, I thought that I wanted to be a college professor. I wanted to run to that position as fast as humanly possible. Then I got into a classroom. I was spoiled with an amazing group of 9th graders, and I fell in love.

Writing can be a struggle and at times very boring, especially for high schoolers. Unlike elementary ed, secondary teachers usually don’t walk away with baskets of goodies at the end of their student teaching…or holidays…or at all really. I have come up with a way to get both.

I scoured pinterest, blogs, books and the internet for pictures and writing prompts. Some of the writing prompts are as simple as captioning a picture. Some are personal, asking the students to write about a mentor or a favorite book. Others require the students to write a scene or short story using a provided sentence, setting, character or phrase. Some are silly while others are serious and heartfelt.

I am going to be putting these prompts in a bucket. Students will be able to grab one if there is time at the end of class, if they need/want writing inspiration-whenever. They then write and return both the prompt and their writing to a bin. If there is time at the end of class, I will open the floor for students to share what they have written through the week, if they so choose. I will collect their writings throughout my 16 weeks of student teaching in a binder as my keepsake and memento of my time with them.

You can use these writing prompts for your own creative writing to aid writers block. You can use them in a classroom. I have done the work and I am now sharing it with the world, because, sharing is caring.

I suggest printing these spare time writers, cutting them, and pasting them on index cards for extra strength. To really make them last, laminating them might not be a bad idea either!

Happy Writing!

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Planner Bag and Sticker Storage with Taylor

This video was done by my planner friend Taylor! It combines two of my favorite things- Erin Condren planners AND Vera Bradley. I actually worked at Vera Bradley for a little over a year and have so much it’s crazy!

The Vera Travel Organizer is one of my favorite pieces. It usually sits on a shelf with the rest of my Vera, under-used because it’s a travel item. When I do travel and want to bring my planner stuff, it is a full Vera Tote of stuff all on its own. I like that each section has its own purpose and really keeps it organized instead of it all getting thrown together. I currently have a cute Target One Spot felt envelope that I keep my planner in. I see changing that in the near future! My planner fits perfectly and I have room on the sides to stash pencils/pens.

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I couldn’t have come up with better a better sticker storage idea if I tried! I currently have 3 Target One Spot accordion folders for my sticker collection.

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One small one holds my Erin Condren personalized stickers that come with planners/notebooks (top). My first medium-sized one holds stickers topically- animals, food, birthday, quotes, school etc. My second medium folder has stickers organized by month/holiday, February/Valentines Day, July/Fourth of July….you get the picture. It can be kind of a pain when I’m trying to plan. In my infinite wisdom I got matching folders to be cute…and I always grab the wrong one! By putting them in a binder like Taylor, that eliminates a lot of the problem because there is simply more room. I can put them all in one spot and have them labeled with tabs! Staples and Michaels constantly have binders like that for sale. One more project to add to the organizing list!

If you enjoyed her video, you can follower her YouTube account Ask Me About My Planner. To see more of her massive sticker collection and general cool planner things, follow her on Instagram @AskMeAboutMyPlanner!

Don’t forget to follow Brunetteswithbrains on Instagram for blog posts and other random fun, Pinterest and right here on WordPress!

Where can you find a planner to use all of these adorable additions!? Here is a referral link for $10 off of a purchase of an Erin Condren planner for yourself! After you create an account you will receive an email with the code. 2015 planners are currently 40% off and you can use the additional $10 off making planners $20! 2015-2016 planners will be rolling out in June! HAPPY PLANNING!

This Very Crafty Mama Stickers

By a twist of fate I follow Jessica, owner of Etsy shop ThisVeryCraftyMama on Instagram. I saw that she was running an AWESOME giveaway and decided “Why not? It’s worth a shot!” AND I WON! HOLY COW! 😀 This afternoon I practically RAN to the mailbox in hopes of having a package in the mail- and there it was, in all of its hot pink glory!

IMG_5167When I opened my pretty envelope, one of the nicest happy mails I have ever received slid out! There is something to be said for a person who takes such ginger, love and pride in her work!

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IMG_5170And on to the best part- THE STICKERS!

IMG_5171I know there are some girls out there that are OBSESSED with mermaids. I’ll give it to ya, I love The Little Mermaid. I do grow my hair out for years at a time in order to donate and sometimes kinda feel mermaid-ish. Not only are these mermaids so cute, but so are their sea friends! I can’t wait to use them this summer and plan beach and aquarium trips JUST so I can use them!

IMG_5172I am an Army brat, and come from a long line of service men. We celebrate all of the holidays associated with them. I also have a friend who is dating a man in the service now. I will be sharing these Army stickers.

IMG_5173These baking stickers are spot on for planning. They are the perfect size and don’t take up too much space in the squares. The colors are fun, but soft. They are a perfect addition to my collection. 

IMG_5174Everybody loves a good page flag.Pictured are both the solid and patterned ones! The stickers are matte, and colorful without being too bright or so patterned that you can’t write on them. She knocked it out of the park on these guys.

IMG_5175Ok, so when I first saw these I laughed way too hard for way too long. These “Monthly Cycle Tracker” stickers couldn’t be better. Not much makes any aspect of this more tolerable, other than chocolate, but these might help a bit.

IMG_5176I know Valentines Day has passed, but hearts are really all year round. How could I pass up those heart-sleeved coffee cups, or those owls, or instagram stickers!? Nothing is wrong with back stock either…

IMG_5177A roll of washi tape, some more stickers, star sticky notes, mini clothes pins, and small envelopes rounded out my killer giveaway package!

Follow Jessica on instagram at ThisVeryCraftyMama for new shop additions and a baby picture now and again! Visit her Etsy shop for ALL of her stickers! She carries stickers for Erin Condren, Plum Paper, FiloFax and Kikki K so regardless of what planner you love, she can help you out!

Don’t forget to follow Brunetteswithbrains on Instagram for blog posts and other random fun, Pinterest and right here on WordPress!

Where can you find a planner to use all of these adorable additions!? Here is a referral link for $10 off of a purchase of an Erin Condren planner for yourself! After you create an account you will receive an email with the code. HAPPY PLANNING!

Valentines, Sugar Cookies and Babysitting

I wouldn’t be seeing the kids that I babysit on Valentines Day, so I decided to do it a bit early. The idea started at Target, and really, don’t most great ideas start there? In their Dollar Spot, they had these cute scratch ‘n’ sniff puzzles for Valentines day. The kids love puzzles so I grabbed one!

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As I walked around, part II came to mind- “I should make sugar cookies with the kids!” So heart-shaped cookie cutters, hot pink vanilla frosting and some Valentines Day themed sprinkles were all juggled to the counter. After purchasing everything I asked Mom if this activity was pre-approved. She was ALL FOR IT!

The kids had all had their Valentines Day parties at school on Wednesday since they don’t have school Thursday/Friday this week so they were all hyped up on the holiday spirit! After Mom left for class, I dumped the puzzle out on the island. Because I am evil, I would not let them look at the box, it would have given away the surprise! They had to complete the puzzle to know what the surprise activity for the night was!!!

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By the end of the puzzle we’d lost one….he was hiding near by!

While the kids ate dinner, I pre-measured out all of the ingredients so that they could help me dump!

Sugar Cookie Ingredients:

3 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon of salt

1 cup sugar

2 sticks room temp/softened butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 egg

1/2 cold water

*Pre-heat the oven to 350

1. In a mixer, cream butter and sugar. I had one of the kids sift the flour/salt/baking powder at this time.

2. Add in 1 egg and vanilla until well mixed.

3. Slowly add in the dry ingredients. This is a very dry/crumbly dough and it will be in lots of little crumbly pieces.

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4. Slowly add some water until it starts to form a better ball.

5. Dump on a lightly floured surface, you might want to wet your hands to knead/work the dough a bit. I split the dough into 4 small balls, lightly floured the surface for the kids, rolled out the dough and let them go to down with the cookie cutters.

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6. Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 6-8 minutes. I found that 7 minutes was perfect.

While the cookies were baking/cooling I prepped our decorating area. Using their kiddie divided dinner plates, I poured in the different sprinkles for them. Each kid also got a small bowl of hot pink frosting and baby spoon to frost their creations.

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We had a great evening of (early) Valentines Day fun, food and decorating! Because nothing says I Love You like a giant heart cookie smothered in frosting with half a pound of sprinkles and candy hearts! ❤

Station Stickers Planner Decor

Now that I am not working at a location with a Starbucks right next door, I do believe I have replaced my Starbucks spending with planner goodies spending. These stickers and washi are from Christy Dee, owner of Etsy shop, Station Stickers. She is also on Instagram @stationstickers, where she posts shop news, new additions and even what she buys from other shops!

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These tea-cup stickers are adorable! I am going to use some of them to denote special wedding planning time with my best friend Faith. Others I am going to use to schedule in tea time with friends at school. I might be a college student, and yes I love coffee, but just about anything can be helped with a good cuppa.

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TV stickers are so fun. I love the colors. I have so many shows to keep track of, or minimally, I need to schedule time to catch up on my shows on DVR and OnDemand! I have a tendency to turn a show on and do my school work with it going in the back ground. Yeah, I’m one of those people. I can’t wait to use these guys!

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I am slowly but surly building my washi collection. Though my full rolls are great, I don’t necessarily need full rolls. This set of washi is fun, fresh, and classic. Who doesn’t like some good old classic gingham!? I will probably use most of these later in the spring to the early summer, but I couldn’t wait to get them. There are two sheets of each pattern, 7 pre-cut pieces on each, giving me a total of 70 pre-cut washis!

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The pill stickers are for my mother and me. I take fish oil, iron, and cranberry pills in the mornings. My mother suffers from migraines and takes preventative medication as well as medicine when she actually has one. She is going to use hers to denote when she actually has a migraine and takes her super meds!

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Being the AWESOME lady that she is, Christy also threw in two little goodies for me! The coffee cups are my favorite color and so stinking cute! I can’t wait to use them. I am in LOVE with the heart check-list and will need to get MORE!

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On top of this wonderful package, Christy has come up with a discount code for all of my readers/followers to use at her shop! WOO HOO! Use the code BWB15off for 15% off of your purchase at her store on Etsy. She has a TON of new stickers!!! The link is in the beginning. Make sure to follow Christy on Instagram @stationstickers for more of her stickers and planner goodies! Follow me @brunetteswithbrains for more shop reviews, upcoming discount codes, book reviews, recipes, gardening and planner things!

Where can you find a planner to use all of these adorable additions!? Here is a referral link for $10 off of a purchase of an Erin Condren planner for yourself! After you create an account you will receive an email with the code. HAPPY PLANNING!

Planning Made Easy Stickers

Now that I have both my life planner and my teacher planner, I am seriously getting into the world of planning. It doesn’t help that my mother’s planner is on the way and my friends are aiding my hobby. I am super excited to have my goodies from Ashley Odenweller, owner of Etsy shop, Planning Made Easy! I am never bored following her Instagram account @planning_made_easy. She posts new additions to the shop, discount codes and general awesome planner things!

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I am an English Ed major, taking all online classes including a World Literature class. These book stickers are going to be PERFECT to help motivate me to do my reading! They will also be used to help keep track of when I do book reviews right here on the blog!

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I am in LOVE with these Bible verse stickers! As a student at a Christian university, dating a licensed pastor, being able to post a verse for myself every week is so cool! I love the backgrounds, the verses are applicable and just awesome! She also has inspirational quotes, success quotes and fitness quotes available!

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MIXER STICKERS! I have a total love affair with our Kitchen Aid mixer. It has faithfully helped me make chocolate chip cookies, brownie, whipped cream, shredded chicken and so much more! Like the books, I will use these guys to help me denote when I post a recipe on my blog, or to show when I need to bake something…which happens at least once a week!

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My one planner buddy collects elephants! As soon as I saw these elephant stickers, I knew that I HAD to get them for her! They are the perfect size and have just the right burst of color to add a bit of pizzaz to her week!

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HAPPY MAIL Stickers! Envelopes and mailboxes, these guys will be great to use as a reminder to send my stuff out to my planner buddies as well as when I have shipments expected to come in…ya know….cuz I keep buy people planners!

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These little heart guys are super cute! I will be using them for anniversaries! With so many colors, it will be easy to match the tag to the month!

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Hop Hop Hop! This Easter washi sticker set is going to be so fun to use and to share! The pastel colors match the April colors in the ECLP perfectly!

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Camera stickers, planner flags, and cheveron stickers are perfect little additions to my collection!

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It took about 2 weeks from the time I ordered to the time I received my package- this included New Years. It helps that she’s in New York and I am just down in Pennsylvania, it makes mailing time a wee bit faster I think.

Make sure to follow Ashley on Instagram @planning_made_easy  or her FB page for more of her stickers and planner ideas. Follow me @brunetteswithbrains for more shop reviews, upcoming discount codes, book reviews, recipes, gardening and how I use my stickers in my own planner!

5 Homemade Christmas Soap Recipes

My ma and I are all about those homemade Christmas gifts. Not only are they relatively inexpensive, but they tend to be pretty useful and they give us time to be crafty. 🙂 Along with some Homemade Dog Treats, and chocolate covered pretzels, we did homemade soaps!

all soaps

Left to right- Chocolate Peppermint, Lemon Drop, Coffee, Peppermint, and in the center- oatmeal.

For all soaps we used combinations of Artminds™ soap making, olive oil glycerin soap, Artminds™ soap making, clear glycerin soap, and Artminds™ soap making, goats milk glycerin soap– all purchased at Michaels.

Other potential ingredients:

Lemon

Cocoa Powder

Peppermint Oil

Citrus Soap Fragrance

Vanilla Soap Fragrance

Oat Meal

Coffee/ Coffee Grounds

Soap Coloring

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For the oat meal:

50/50 olive oil and goats milk soap- about 8 blocks of each

1/2 cup plain oat meal

1. In a microwave safe dish, melt the soap about 30 seconds at a time.

2. Add the oatmeal to the melt soap, stir MOVE QUICKLY

3. Using a measuring cup or ladle, gently pour the soap into your molds.

4. Let set until solid- about an hour unless you throw it in the fridge….or outside to chill.

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Chocolate Peppermint

2:1 ratio clear glycerin to goats milk- total of about 16 squares

1. Gently melt your soap 30 seconds at a time

2. Add about 1/4-1/2 teaspoon peppermint oil, 2 or 3 drops of vanilla fragrance

3. Sift in about 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder

4. Whisk the powder into the soap/peppermint oil. It will be kinda whipped/frothy.

5. Using a measuring cup or ladle, gently pour the soap into your molds.

6. Let set until solid- about an hour unless you throw it in the fridge….or outside to chill.

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Peppermint

2:1 ratio goats milk to olive oil- total of about 16 squares

1. Gently melt your soap 30 seconds at a time

2. Add about 1/2 teaspoon peppermint oil and 2 drops of vanilla fragrance

3. Add 2-4 drops of red soap coloring directly into the soap molds

4. Using a measuring cup or ladle, gently pour the soap into your molds.

5. Use a tooth pick to drag through the soap to help mix up a bit

6. Let set until solid- about an hour unless you throw it in the fridge….or outside to chill.

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Lemon Drop

This smells SOOOOO good and is probably one of my favorites that we did!

Just goats milk soap- I used about 16 squares

1. Gently melt your soap 30 seconds at a time

2. Zest and juice 1 lemon

3. Add half of the zest, all of the lemon juice, and 2 drops of citrus soap fragrance and 3 drops of yellow coloring

4. Sprinkle the rest of the zest in the soap molds, using a measuring cup or ladle, gently pour the soap into your molds

5. Let set until solid- about an hour unless you throw it in the fridge….or outside to chill.

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Coffee

Make a small pot of good STRONG coffee, save the grounds

2:1 ratio clear glycerin to goats milk- total of about 16 squares

1. Gently melt your soap 30 seconds at a time

2. Add about 1/4 cup hot coffee and stir

3. Mix in about 2 tablespoons of coffee grounds

4. Using a measuring cup or ladle, gently pour the soap into your molds.

5. Let set until solid- about an hour unless you throw it in the fridge….or outside to chill.

PHEW! That was a relatively long post. We wrapped each bar in suran wrap with a cute little Christmas sticker. These gifts are easy, fun, and smell good enough to EAT! This craft can be relatively time consuming only because we had to wait for bars to cool and set between batches since we were only using a few “normal shaped” molds. With the variation of smells and flavors it’s easy to put together samplers like
chocolate peppermint, peppermint and coffee or lemon drop, oat meal and coffee.

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And here is my favorite Elf assembling her goodie bags!