Sunday, November 01, 2015

Here we go Again!

If you saw my other post today Technology as an Advantage and Disadvantage to Education, you are probably wondering what I'm up to. Well, that was an essay contest for a scholarship. Every time I turn around, life seems to throw another curve ball my way.

A year ago an announcement was made. Kimball Office would be closing the Post Falls plant. My time at the plant is nearly over. I started college this fall to obtain my degree of AAS as a paralegal. I'm already loving my studies and I know I made the right decision. There isn't a doubt in my mind that I did. I've got three more full-time semesters ahead of me. I'll try to work, but it will be hard to find employers willing to pay a decent wage and work around a school schedule too. With any luck, I will be able to obtain a few scholarships that will help to fill the financial gap created by me working part-time.

Technology as an Advantage and Disadvantage in Education today

Technology has created opportunities for many which would have been nearly impossible twenty years ago. The ability to juggle family, work and education has availed many of an education today, which they likely would have missed out on, or did miss out on, twenty years ago due to obligations of family and employment.

I’m a prime example of how technology in education has changed my ability to achieve higher education. I graduated high school in 1993. When it came time to start college, I did. Just like every other classmate I graduated with. Much to my mother’s dismay, I feel in love and got married in the first semester of college. Starting a life with my husband was not easy. I had to work full time and try to go to school. Of course, this was back in the day when computers and the internet were not the mainstream. Doing school work for a college in my day required endless hours of study in the library or at school. My husband never saw me and it would eventually strain our marriage. Something had to give. Being the good faithful wife that I was raised to be, I decided to quit college.

Today I am pursuing an AAS degree as a Paralegal. All of my classes are hybrid classes, which means we only meet once a week (except math which is two days per week). Many assignments are given online and it is possible for instructors to list future assignments for those that want to work ahead.  Assignments can be turned in online. Feedback can be given and received online as well. This has allowed me to juggle the demands of my family, a part-time job, and my education.

Twenty years ago research for any thesis paper required countless hours at the library. Part of the time constraint was looking through the old Dewey Decimal system card catalogs to find books that you hoped were on the subject you were investigating. Today if you need statistics, literature, opinions, research data or any other form of information to support your thesis paper, all you have to do is Google it. Research no longer requires the gas to travel to the nearest library in the snow and rain. In a time when gas prices are still high, it’s hard to imagine a college student affording the expenses to travel for their research on top of going to school and work. It is no longer necessary to spend a myriad of hours reading books to find the one line that supports your argument. By using Google, you can navigate through multiple articles using keywords.

Technology and the internet have also opened those seeking higher education to the freedom of pursuing their degree at any time of day and any day of the week. For me, I do most of my research on the weekend.

Above are all the advantages to online learning. However, to every advantage there is always a disadvantage. In my experience, the struggle with online education is the lack of interaction and discussion that a classroom setting brings. I had originally started my education purely online at Kaplan. Within a week, I knew online learning would not work for me. There wasn’t much opportunity for interaction with my peers and questions. By the time, I would type my question or read an answer, five more would pop up on the screen. It was very confusing and not in the least productive. Now that I am going to the local junior college and taking the hybrid classes, I can now balance my life, but still have the in class discussions and interactions that are necessary for a beneficial learning environment. Especially since I am pursuing a degree in law.

I recently did a thesis paper on Citizen Vince by Jess Walter. I had the book on Kindle, which had many advantages. By using the search feature, I was able to go specifically to places in the book with the quotes I wanted to use. If I had tried to do that twenty years ago, I would have spent many hours flipping back and forth between pages frustrated with not remembering where a specific quote that I wanted to use existed.

If obtaining an education today required the time that it did twenty years ago, I cannot imagine going back to school. There is no way I would have been able to take care of my family, the farm animals, work at all, and do well with my education. Today, however, I can juggle it all and still maintain A's and B's in all of my courses. I have a full load of thirteen credits and I am doing very well.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Natural Colorants in Soap Making

So for those of you who have been following my venture to make soap, you know that I'm really focused on trying to use all natural ingredients.
I was contacted earlier this week by my best friend who had a soap request. She's getting married in March and I had already been thinking who can I contact about her wedding colors because I had wanted to make little soaps and surprise her. Well I guess it won't be a surprise now because it was her idea for me to make soaps for her wedding. It turns out that her wedding theme is Pi (no not pie as in edible pie, but Pi as in the mathematical symbol) and wine colors, purple and green. I found a Pi mold and ordered it this week. Can't wait for it to get here.
With that in mind I set out to make today's soap making session an experiment in color. I wanted to try and find something that would give me purple and green, but also a few things that I had read about and wanted to try.
I set up me kitchen for making soap. For color I pulled out cinnamon, Oregano leaves, carrots, ground cloves and stevia mixture, raspberry jam and grape jelly. I put the carrot in the food processor to prepare it ahead of time and I had mad a 50/50 mixture of ground cloves and stevia powder. Then I laid out scents that I thought would go with the colors I thought I was going to get.
So I mixed up my batch of soap and separated a small amount for the first test, the raspberry jelly. I'm thinking this would probably make a pretty purplish red color.......wrong. When I first put the jelly in the soap it turn GREEN! What, how can that be? But as I mixed it turn to an orange color. It's the one in the bottom left of the mold. So that wasn't exactly what I was hoping for, but it's still pretty, with raspberry seeds peppered in it adds interest as well.
Next I tried Grape. Now this has to turn purple, right? Wrong. I added the jelly to another batch of soap and it turned green, okay no big deal. So did the last one, so I waited and waited as I mixed. But it stayed an almost sage green. It was pretty, but not what I was expecting.
Next I tried the ground cloves and stevia. According to what I had read it should have been a green, once again.......NOT! Currently it's a speckled brown, but as I've seen before it can change, so I'll wait and see.
Next I made this beauty in my spring form cake pan. I went into this with no preconceived notions, so maybe that's why I haven't yet been disappointed. I wanted this to be layered with decorations on the top. So I mixed up a bowl with cinnamon and oh so yummy smelling Almond Cybilla for fragrance and another bowl with just the pure soap and oregano flakes mixed in. I layered those two. Then mixed another bowl of cinnamon again when that wasn't enough for the third layer.
The top I really didn't do until the end with what was left. A little bit of pure soap (no color) and some of the green left from the grape jelly surprise. First I laid down the cream color. Then in the center I put a mound of the green. Then with a spreading knife I dipped into the cinnamon layer and swirled the three layers in the pattern you see. I can't wait to open this one tomorrow and see how it turns out.
Then with what was left I added the carrot and poured into my goat mold. The problem came with how much was left, not enough. I'll have to leave it in the mold and create another small batch to layer over it in another color, but I like the color that carrot makes.

Check back tomorrow when I pull the soaps out and unmold them. We may be surprised as to the final color.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Almar Acers Natural Soap, My new venture

This is one "hobby" I never thought of. God knows I have plenty of hobbies; quilting, genealogy, photo restoration just to name the major ones. I'm a busy woman. I can't sit still. But this little hobby was not one I dreamed up, it was my mother. You know when they say "mother knows best" it's true. She had a problem and she knew I was the one that could handle the solution.

Ok so I'm getting a little ahead of myself. Let's back up to how Almar Acers got started. My husband and I and our three children moved onto the family "hobby" farm about four years ago. My parents are not getting any younger and really wanted us to join them and enjoy the farm with them. We could help them with the farm and allow them to live out their life where they loved instead of moving into town where we were at the time. Now I know that makes my parents sound really old, but honestly they are very active for their age. They were just thinking ahead for the day when they wouldn't be so active. Now they have nothing to worry about.

So the farm......I was always around farm animals. My mother just can't help herself, she just loves raising, breeding, showing and all around farm work. When we first moved out here my parents had a few head of cattle and three horses. Then she went to a fair, saw and feel in love with a the Nigerian Dwarf Goats she saw. I think it was all over from there. My mom can sure change her mind plenty, but when it's made up, it's a done deal. So she decided the big animals ate too much, didn't give back enough for what they ate, and were getting too hard for her to handle, but not these little goats. So about three years ago she started breeding Nigerian Dwarf Goats. She named her farm Almar Acres. Which is cute because it's a combination of dad's name Alvin plus her name Marilyn. It must be a thing with us. That's how I came up with my daughters name by combining James, my husband and mine, Amy to then name our girl Jamie. Ok a little side tracked there, so last year she started showing and grand championed her first goat. She's on a roll. Her herd as grown to.........I Lord let me count.......I think about six buck, about 10 or more does and now a dozen or so kids. Well when you have 10 does giving milk, some as much as a 1/2 per day, yikes my kids don't love milk that much!

So now back to the Start of Almar Acres Naturals. Mom walked in my house in early spring toting a pail of milk and said "You know Amy I think you need ANOTHER hobby!" Holly Smokes mom have you not seen all my hobbies? Where the heck am I goging to find time for ANOTHER hobby? So I asked "oh yeah, what's that." Really expecting to laugh at her and tell her she was crazy. "You need to learn how to make goat milk soap." Hmmmmm. Dang it she knows me too well. She knew I wouldn't laugh and tell her she was crazy. She had my curiosity and she knew it! So I did what I always do. I got on line and researched, read, watched videos, shopped for supplies and with in a week I was making soap. Well sort of..........

My first batch failed when I added scent and liquid color that seized my soap. I learned enough lessons in my first batch you'd think I would have given up, but no. I never give up easily. So I did more reading, watching video and learning that hey that batch didn't have to be tossed, I could rebatch it! Cool! Not bad actually. It's not how I would prefer to, or would like to again, but it worked. At least I didn't have to throw the batch away and we could still use it for the family. I did experiment with using crayons in that one, since I had to heat it up. Uhhhh I won't do that again. Pieces of crayon that don't get fully melted don't feel good on sensitive skin. YIKES! OUCH! So another lesson learned, painfully I might add.

After that I was on a roll. I began to do more reading and decided that I wanted my soaps to be all natural. Health is important to me. I'm not a fanatic about it, but I do walk and jog daily and watch what my family and I eat. So to finally find a way to provide my family with an all natural soap that is chemical free was a really cool thing. So I found out the Essential Oils were a perfect way to add fragrance to my soaps in a natural way. Not the chemical stuff I tried the first time that seized up my soap. So I made my first couple batches unscented while waiting for my essential oils to come in. Then I wanted to add color, but how can you do that naturally. For a while all I saw was Mica's which are beautiful and brilliantly colorful, but they aren't natural. Then I ran across a couple articles that introduced me to natural colorants like herbs, spices and clays. Now I had the whole plan in mind. All natural soaps. From there Almar Acers Naturals was born. After all it was my mothers idea. What would I do with out her?

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