"Living Sustainable Earth Stewardship"

VTGW began as a small, mom owned & operated venture, with many ideas of how to offer consumers what they are seeking. With many changes necessary for growth, natural ingredients bath & body products continue to be the main focus of VTGW. A recent addition of featuring farmer's market vendors, emphasizing the support of the Local Movement, will be highlighted weekly. Striving to provide all Earth patrons with what YOU are seeking, VTGW is your destination. Enjoy the journey!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Updates and Changes

Wow! Its been busy here for the last couple of weeks; I've been away from blogging for what feels like forever. I spent almost everyday of last week troubleshooting my formula for my new soapmaking process; the first batch didn't set up the way I had hoped, sending me back to research and cross referencing to solve the mystery I found myself faced with. After a couple of resources found, articles combed over, and the motivation to try again cropped up-24 hr. turnover-I was at it again.
The open air Farmer's Market season 2010 is upon us, and I'm so not ready at this time. Its about two weeks or a little less to be ready for the first days, beginning at Shelburne. I have to double check my schedule and coordinating calendar for dates, so I can post here as to where I'll be and when.
I'm two days away from my new batch of soap being set enough to take out of the mold box, cut and lay out to continue curing (drying). My new process starts with a week of setting up and then 2-6 weeks to cure to the desired firmness. My patience is being tested for this new method but I feel confident now, with the bugs worked out and moving forward to produce a new line of product. I am also considering to take recipes for my handcut soaps I've been producing and move them over into this new process method; I hand cut the new processed soap into bars, so it would primarily be the same, just moving from one processing method to another.
So, here's to another wonderful spring day and a good day to be had for all. Enjoy!
~Momma G

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Vermont Potash Soapmaking in the 21st Century, Part One

"Ashes on Branches Filter"

"Nature's Filter-branches from my backyard"

"Two Gallons Water, 16 oz. Ash"

"Necessary Equipment for Ash Based Lye Water Processing"
I love it when setting up images on blogger seem to go their own way as opposed to how you originally want them set. No use getting upset over the situation, as with reflecting on the process, I had to do it twice to get the right consistency and potency. Lessons learned along the way, and more to come as each step of the process comes into view.
I chose ash based lye processing as opposed to using sodium hydroxide crystals; yes, the lye water produced using the ash is the same as the sodium hydroxide but to me, I feel that using the ash is a more natural process; it also puts me more in touch with what I'm producing, why I choose to make soap and who my consumers are, and I feel I'm picking up and carrying on with a process that is a part of my state's history, especially the industrial/homesteading element.
Necessary Equipment for Lye Water Making:
-1 gallon bucket, galvanized steel
-1 7 oz. stainless steel coliander (pasta strainer)
-1 pair industrial rubber gloves*
-1 pair safety glasses*
-1 4 cup glass measuring cup (Anchor Hocking or Pyrex, your choice)
-1 handful of branches (birch or maple work best) for filter purposes
-2 gallons non-tap water
-16 oz. potash (I used a 12 oz. container to measure out what I needed)
-1 set of kitchen scales
I worked this process in the garage, as this is my first time making soap from "scratch." Taking appropriate safety measures with lye water making should be as the same as necessary safety measures needed for working with sodium hydroxide crystals; lye is caustic and can burn the skin if it comes into contact with exposed skin. This is something I don't need to be worrying about, especially being pregnant. Also, working outside gives an open air environment to work in as opposed to being inside and perhaps having to move outside just long enough to combine lye and water (ash and water with this process).
My first time through this process, I felt confident but when I went back later to cross reference my process with two resources that I implement in my new processing method, I realized I may not have produced lye water that would be of the correct potency. Therefore, after some thought, I went back, remembering my original measurements, recalculating and reworking my lye water production. Working through the process once again, I felt a surge of even more confidence and felt satisfied when closing the garage door.
Because of the attention to detail process necessary to temperatures and when ingredients need to be added to the base, I will be processing after my son goes to bed tonight; more at ease with a little one NOT underfoot? You better believe it. I will be documenting and photographing while processing, resulting in additional posts as I move deeper into this project. I'm excited and hope all who read stay tuned; here's to soapmaking! ~Momma G

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Night Before

It's May, and time to work. I've been freelance writing, which I'm continuing, and now its time to make soap again. I have all the materials and ingredients I need, and as of tomorrow, my adventures into the world of cold processing will begin. The best part is, that I'm using wood ashes to make my lye water. After discovering this "ancient" processing method tied into Vermont's history, I began to brainstorm how it can be broken down from gallons and pounds of ingredients, larger than life equipment to process, to a more modern, kitchen countertop method. After some research through Vermont historical accounts of "the potash industry," notetaking, more brainstorming, and extensive thought, I decided to give it a try. I will be writing about this method to post here, as well as taking pictures to give visual confirmation, as I move through the process.
Market season is upon us, and I'm really hoping to be where I planned to be this year; I know my season will be "as it goes" in the beginning, having to fill the absence in the middle, and coming back as strong as I can towards the end. So, here's to soap making, sun filled days to come, and endless possibilities. ~Momma G

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Decisions, decisions

After some time to think, go over my current inventory, and access the situation in regards to creating new product and being ready for next weekend, I've decided to bow out of the last Shelburne Winter Farmer's Market. Bad news? No, not necessarily. I realize what I have on hand and as opposed to make the trip to put out what little product I have left until I start the new stock, I feel it in the best interest of my business to pull back, regroup, and prep for the new season to come. What also came with my decision was the epiphany that its time to create my ARTFIRE store front and to post the link to my page here; for the time that I felt apprehensive to open that account, I now feel very confident to get started.
Today is project completion day, both in business and personal levels. My list may not be very big but what counts the most is the progress made and effort put into it. Here's to Spring in Vermont-cheers!
~Momma G

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Back to Business

Wow! Its been some time since I've posted here, let alone posted anything pertaining to business. Spring is almost here, and with a new season, lots of sunlight, and longer days, things they are a'changin'. I've been tied up in fiber projects lately, some that I desperately need to finish and some that I love the idea of doing something new but need to complete the unfinished before moving further ahead.
Speaking of moving ahead, I am currently securing the last of my much needed supplie to move forward into the territory of cold process soap making. My choice of adventure moves into the historical aspect of using wood ash, or potash as its more historically known, to execute my decision to keep producing and improving my natural ingredient personal care products. In addition to learning the process of soap from raw ingredients, I am also researchng and writing an article about my journey and the results of my decision.
Soap making has been my passion, biz wise, since the early days of 2008, and as I move further into 2010, I realize I'm moving along at a good pace suited for this stay-at-home mom who loves her little one and preparing for the arrival of my next set of tiny feet in July. This summer is sure to bring many surprises as each day unfolds, and the courage to take each day as it comes is what's needed. Rough drafting plans and then moving ahead, step at a time...
Looking back, I realize I need to complete posting my products, enhancing my formulas, being realistic about my plans (ideas) to add new product before the end of the year, and tighten up a few essentials to avoid feeling overwhelmed with motherhood, shifting hormones, and eating like champion eater to breastfeed my newborn. One step at a time, right?
So, welcome back, pull up a chair, stay tuned, and keep an eye open for this season's unfolding. Its all good.
~Momma G

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Retracing Our Steps Through Our Creative Project

Wow...I don't think I've ever seen my pictures get posted in reverse order but hey, let's run with it; this could be fun!
Tristan and I set aside each Wednesday as a day to get creative and work on a project or two. To me, baking is like chemistry; you have math through the measurement of ingredients, and then the science component comes into play with the change from a raw form of combined ingredients to the final product-edible and yummy-through the baking process. Today was about baking "Vanishing Oatmeal Cookie Bars" and we had a good time, even if the majority of mixing was my role and my assistant was a great foreman. I will include the recipe in my next post, along with a picture of the final product. By the way, they do taste good, especially with a glass of milk.

"Pre-bake status"

"Yes, this is good!"

"And you stir like so...."

"Do we have time for this today?"
So, as you see, my assistant had to check his schedule, see how much time he had in his day, gave a stir or two, tasted the pre-poured ingredients, gave a thumbs up, and let me finish the rest. A fun day, as we added another project; another posting. ~Momma G

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Story Blanket

This is our new "home" project; I found the book at our local library, saw it as a good read, and it wasn't until after I got home and went through the bag of books we picked from the library what it really entailed. How sweet! A Russian based tale about the kindness of the heart when it comes to giving. What starts out as a blanket for local children to sit on to hear stories being told, becomes gifts of warmth and love for those in need. I won't give away the details of the book, as I feel anyone should really read it, even if its a kid's book that you could easily flip through in a matter of minutes. I feel its the time invested in the telling of the contents of the pages that mean the most. Telling Tristan this story really helped me connect to it, love it, and then look at Tristan and ask, "What if we made our own story blanket?"
I brought up a tote of yarn that I keep in the basement, and opened it to let my little one pick through the colors and various textures of yarns within the box. I found a cardboard box, unused, and as we picked colors together, I told Tristan to put the yarn he picked in the other box. Some yarn went in the box, and some went flying all over the room; no big deal as its yarn and he's a toddler testing the waters. I think I laughed as hard as he did with trying to put the yarn in the box, got tackled, put in a headlock, and my retaliation was to wait and tickle him into a frenzy when he least expected it. What a clown but what a moment!
So, there's our new project. A story blanket of our own. These are the perfect months to work on this project, snow and cold blanketing the outside world. ~Momma G
"Knitting is cosmic thinking."-Rudolf Steiner

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Pretzel Making and Brainstorming

Be careful leaving the bathroom door opening while working in the kitchen....

Aunt Annie's Soft Pretzels Recipe
1 1/2 cup of warm water
1 1/8 tsp. active dry yeast
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 1/8 tsp. salt
1 cup bread flour
3 cups regular flour
2 cups warm water
2 Tbsp. baking soda
coarse salt, to taste
4 Tbsp. melted butter
Sprinkle yeast lukewarm water in mixing bowl; stir to dissolve. Add sugar, salt, and stir to dissolve; add flour and knead dough until smooth and elastic. Let rise at least 1/2 hour.
While dough is rising, prepare a baking soda bath with 2 cups water and 2 Tbsp. baking soda. Be certain to stir often. After dough has risen, pinch off bits of dough and roll into a long rope* (about 1/2 inch or less thick) and shape. Dip pretzel in soda solution and place on greased baking sheet. Allow pretzels to rise again. Bake in 450 degree oven for about 10 minutes or until golden. Brush with melted butter and enjoy!

This is my "Home" creative project; I make Wednesdays our days to work on creative stuff, things that Tristan can have hands on with, and most importantly, make it fun. He was great with helping, trying to roll out the pretzel sticks before shaping them into the classic bow style you see at fairs and in malls; after attempting to use the soda bath as a hand soak, he felt his time was done and he needed to get down and go play. I'm fine with that; I don't force my child to go any further than he's comfortable with at this stage in his life-after all, he's not quite three years old yet. He can sit in on policy making when he's older....
My brainstorming has been about my business; focusing on new methods of processing soap, making lotions and adding on things like lip balms, shampoos, etc...I want to keep my expanding list short this year, as with the arrival of another child, I have enough on my plate to keep me busy. So, when you need to brainstorm new ideas, get creative-I do. I find it helps my thought process with new ideas, new projects, etc...I also use my creative outlet as a form of meditation; I'm not one to sit and try to empty my mind-I really don't have that much time on my hands with a little one running around, a house to manage and maintain, and a business to run....besides, I really don't want to miss those priceless moments....would I have found the dog in the bathroom if I were focused on something else? Who knows.
~Momma G

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

New Month, New Creative Theme

The Foreman Checking The Job-
So, here we are in the first couple of days in Feb. Nothing new to report on the business end, except a Winter Farmer's Market date set for Saturday, the 13th in Shelburne, VT. Time is the same: 10 AM-2 PM at the Town Hall Gym.
I am continuing with the Creative Every Day project, and we are focusing on HOME for this month's theme. Home, and what it means. Home, and what you would like, where you've lived in the past, etc....the creation of a sacred space was the first thing on the list, and carving out a space just to sit and focus without the distractions of house chores, tv, etc....that's very important to me. Now, if I can just get my man to stop throwing his work clothes on my chair, we'll be ok.
Home is an important place to me. Yes, our house is where we live, I create products to sell at Farmer's Markets, we eat, rest, play, etc....but the essence of HOME....Home has always been where I can find time to unwind, relax and set aside "those things that just have to be done today." As a mother, home is where my children grow up, aside from being out in the world, guided by my hand and voice to instill in them what is good and what we have to question if instinct doesn't kick in right away. And home is where I can take a box of chocolates from a cute little downtown Burlington business, savor the taste, pose for the camera, and wonder who keeps putting Cheerios in my shoes.
~Momma G

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Updating the Page

So, updating the page today; wasn't really sure what to focus on but somehow it all comes together. Tuesdays are usually my "office" days, that way I can focus on other things without feeling overwhelmed or like I have to do "office" stuff every day. When you are the creator, owner, manager, etc...of your own business, you wear many hats. What I've learned is that you can't wear every day, otherwise your rate of burnout increases and then what you've started you become disenchanted with and there it goes-out the window, in the trash, second swirl going down the bowl....picture it...go ahead....really.
I've added two new blog pages that I'm following, bringing my total to three so far. It's interesting to see the amount of people who are tuning into blogging but it seems that where it's at to get out there and shout to the public, "I'm Here!" Social networking is becoming quite the outlet for people to stay in touch but I still believe in the good ol' fashion face to face conversation; I believe that's why I love the Farmer's Markets so much to be able to market my products and keep in touch with the people who purchase from my business. Yes, I've thought of eBay, ETSY, and ARTFIRE as cyber stores to continue to reach out to consumers; AF is on my list of "Things to Do" for an online store outlet, so I will post as soon as I get that up and running. Stay tuned; Rome wasn't built in a day but boy, did it ever come down faster than it went up!
So, check out my friends' blog pages, enjoy the fish, know that I live by my newly tagged mission statement, and if questions about the consulting option for products, contact me by email: vtgwmail4mg@yahoo.com and remember this-if you can't eat it, don't put it on your body!
~Momma G

Monday, January 11, 2010

Creative Every Day Project-Jan 2010

Creative Endeavors by Hand-My Hands
So, as I'm undertaking my newest adventure with Creative Every Day and monthly subjects the creator has posted-please visit her page by clicking onto the link I've provided under blogs I'm following-or is it favorites? You'll find it, I'm sure. January's subject is focused on the body, and I've been brainstorming how to focus on what exactly to post. I realize, over and over again, that creativity doesn't have to be about how artistic you are or are not; many endeavors are creative-look around. My mind keeps wandering in the direction of hands, and to think of the many wonderful things we create with our hands.
One of the things I've loved to do for as long as I can remember that I've held a needle and thread in hand or learned how to operate a sewing machine, sewing has been one of my foremost creative outlets. Sewing my own clothes over the years has waxed and waned, and now I'm finding that little clothes are becoming a source of fun and frustration these days. Tristan, pictured to the left, is my little model and growing very fast. I thought starting with pj's would be great but working with stretch knit-material found in most t-shirts unless 100% cotton-is not my first love. All the same, after three times of taking out the collar and putting it back on, it all came together; two more sets wait to be put together.
Knitting, crocheting, any type of needle work, fiber work of various types; outlets I can get lost in and have done so many times. I love working with my hands, love knowing that what I can picture in my mind I can convey to my hands to finish the work. So, here's to being creative-everyday. Enjoy and stay tuned to what more can roll off the wagon!
~Momma G

Friday, January 8, 2010

Green Man Cakes, Season 2

Back in the swing of listings, along with a new project of creativity for 2010. Looking forward to sharing with everyone and the mantra for today is, "BUY LOCAL."

Green Man Cakes, Season 2 (Summer)

I love playing with the colors of the season. Pictured today is what I call season 2 of this eye-catching bar of soap. Each season, I formulate three different bars, each a different color. When I originally started making this line of soap, I only made a dozen of each, so three dozen bars were available for three months. Needless to say, when it came to my second open air market season, continuing to do so didn't keep people interested in my product, so I decided that during the three months of that particular season, I would produce up to three dozen of each soap, resulting in nine dozen bars total. That doesn't include the small leaf shaped sample size soaps, which I've only created a dozen total of each soap; so each soap would have one dozen sample sizes. I continue the statement of seasonal; what is available that season is what I have. I don't create the other seasons until they each get here; otherwise, would it really be considered seasonal? Whew! Onward.....

From left to right on the large bars: Elder, Willow, and Hazel. Ok, you're probably asking why I've named each soap after a tree in this line. If you look closely at the bars on the left and middle, you will see a maple shaped leaf with a face in the center. I found this mold on one of the sites that I order supplies from-most soap mold trays-and fell in love with it. I tossed around the name of the soap for at least a year before having a conversation with one of the shoppers I met at one of the markets who bought my soap. "It looks like the Green Man." I nodded in agreement, as I know my Celtic mythology, folklore, etc...The Green Man is considered a Nature spirit, according to the Celts. It fit perfectly, so labels were drafted and finalized within a six month period of time. I have a wholesale source who is interested in this line of soap but preferring packaging so as not to damage the soap should it be dropped or fall off the shelf in the store. I researched many companies online for a recycled paper box, found two which I've trialed, and now have an offer from a small company in Shelburne, VT (wow, right down the road!) to make boxes that will be printed with my label info so I don't have to produce more paper waste. I love this idea. Fingers crossed, this will come into fruition for the summer markets. Now, to give you the important ingredients of each soap you see here today; stay tuned with this line, as I will be posting season 3 (Fall) next week. Season 4 (Winter) is curing in the basement for this weekend's Winter Farmer's Market in Shelburne, VT.


-Shea Butter, Lavender & Patchouli essential oil blend, crushed rose petals & lavender flowers, and Beet Root Powder for coloring (is a cool burgundy color when first poured, turning a brown as it cures).


-Shea Butter, Cedarwood essential oil, and Spirilina powder for color.


-Shea Butter, Sage & Lemon essential oil blend, and Yarrow flowers for color.

Ahhh......feels good to be able to sit and write. Snow is falling as I write this passage, my little one will not nap again today, dinner is cooking, and life is good. Why stress? Just go with the flow.

~Momma G