Windchimes and whispers

A couple of weeks ago, I bought a windchime and hung it under the eaves of our kitchen door porch (kindly built by our friend Mikey). It wasn’t very expensive but I did feel a bit uncomfortable buying it because it felt so frivolous. Who do I think I am, buying something like this for myself? It’s not like I spend a lot of time there anyway; it’s effectively our outdoor mudroom and it works great for that, but it’s a very transitional space. When we’re on the outside going in, it’s a way to clean up a bit so we don’t track everything inside the house, and we don’t feel rushed because we (and by extension any packages, groceries etc) aren’t being rained on or hailed on or snowed on. When we’re on the inside going out, it’s a great space to put on shoes and get the party organized without being bottlenecked by the door itself. But it’s not exactly a hangout spot.

In retrospect,  I’m really glad I got it. I’ve always loved the sound of windchimes and I’m not sure exactly where I heard them first, but… my Grandma Fay was a big gardener. Connecting with my garden makes me feel more connected with her, and the windchime can be heard from inside the house (a surprise to me) and it reminds me to look out and connect. Because of certain family circumstances I didn’t have the opportunity to attend her funeral but I loved her deeply and I think about her often. One of my biggest regrets is not straight-up asking her to tell me more stories about her life, because she was so full of experience and wisdom… and it’s not like everything she said was pure gold, she definitely had some hinky ideas about certain things, but she had such a depth and breadth of experience that I can only hope to have at her age.

I’m racking my brain and I don’t even remember whether she ever had a windchime at all, but I guess at this point it’s not important. The sound of crows also reminds me of my dear old Aunt Jeannie, and again I have no idea where that comes from either.

10 good things

I’ve been reading about meditation and neuroplasticity. My personality definitely trends towards me being a “fixer” type, which means I spend a lot of time thinking about problems and how I might fix them, and not enough time thinking about the things that are already great. Once I’ve fixed something it tends to slip off my radar relatively easily and I don’t spend a lot of time celebrating because there’s always that next thing to do. This is not really how I want my brain to work. I like being a fixer and I like fixing things, but faced with big intractable problems or too many little problems at once, my brain can start to overheat.  I’d like to work towards fixing my brain (ha ha) and make it a little more resilient so that I can continue to fix things instead of my brain just crashing when it gets overloaded. I also want to calm my brain a bit so I can focus on important work, not just urgent work.

One way to do this is through meditation. I am terrible at meditation. Supposedly that’s normal at first. I think the closest I get to the state you’re supposed to be in when you’re meditating, is when I’m gardening. Another way to do this is to consciously notice and appreciate the good things going on. Because our brains are malleable (neuroplasticity), the more you engage in a certain kind of thought process, the more natural it becomes for you. The more you engage in bad thought practices, the more easily your brain falls into those patterns, and if you want to turn that around, you need to consciously practice it.

So I wrote a bunch of top 10 lists about good things going on (in my life, in the world, in my work, etc). This was really hard for me, which is kind of ridiculous because my life is pretty great overall. Some of these are even things that I initially took as negatives but could equally be seen as positives (another important way to change your brain). I also had to fight the urge to hedge a lot of these by tossing in the negative sides, exceptions, caveats etc. It also felt super silly to write. I think these are all signs that I need to do it more often.

Cured (ish) coffee soap!

Coffee soap has been curing for about three weeks now which means it’s arguably either done or halfway done. There’s a lot of debate on how long it takes for CP soap to cure, but typically the rule of thumb is 3-6 weeks. This gives lots of time for any extra saponification to happen and for the soap to “mellow out”. Waiting for the soap to cure also gives you a harder bar (since it dries over time and a drier bar will last longer), and for the color and scent to stabilize a bit. You can actually continue to cure your soap much longer than 6 weeks to get a really long-lasting bar, but the color and scent will usually continue to fade and it might lose some of its other desirable properties (like bubbling ability) over an extended period of time. But unless you added perishable ingredients that didn’t saponify, or you store the soap improperly, the soap won’t technically ever go bad.

I used about 3oz fragrance oil for 2lb soap which I feel now was a little too much. Next time I try this recipe I’ll try it with 2oz. My rebatch soap had 1oz of fragrance and it was a bit lighter than what I like.

I’m really happy with how the color has stayed in the soap so far and I’ll continue to keep an eye on it and see if it keeps holding. If I can find some time to get back into carpentry this year, I might try making a simple slab mold so I can try doing swirls.

The soap on the left was made with lye dissolved in coffee instead of water; the soap on the right is one of the rebatch soaps, with no colorant.