Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Cold Process Gets Hot!

Where has the time gone! I have one more big show in December till it's time to chill out, but until then it's been a flurry of soap wrapping, labeling and selling for the season. Here's a few of my latest cold process soaps:
Eucalyptus, Tangerine, & Rosemary
This one is my new favorite although it smells exactly like a Halls Lemon cough drop, so while everyone loves the design, combined eucalyptus, rosemary and tangerine evokes either a smile or frown depending on their particular past relationship with Halls. After making a ridiculous number of batches, I've finally formulated a recipe that brings out everything I like in a soap. Isn't she pretty?  Here's another one, orange spicy clove soap, using a variation of my new recipe.
Orange Spicy Clove
Here's one which didn't turn out quite as I envisioned, but maybe my vision a bit off considering how the soft wispy swirls compliment this tea tree, lavender and rosemary soap.
I have plenty of cold process soap...surely can't make more, but you know what? I don't have any hot process soap...matter of fact, I've never even tried it once during the last 6 months of cold process making fury. Enter husband. "Really, you're going to make MORE soap?" "Yes, I said, justifying quite brilliantly  that I can't study for my soap making certification without ever actually making a batch. I'm big about certification. I'm a certified resume writer (day job) and now I want to be a certified soap maker through the the Handmade Soap Makers Guild. Certification shows passion and sets a standard of excellence for your craft. I know, just studying for my resume certification taught me all kinds of stuff...hoping the same is true for soap making

Bergamot, Rose, and Vetiver Hot Process
I wanted to do a soap I couldn't do with cold process like one with exotic essential oils that would otherwise  cook off and end up costing a fortune. I just bought some Bergamot from a fabulous women near Kent State and I could combine that with a touch of Rose Absolute rounded out with a few drops of smokey Vetiver. Since essential oils are added after the soap has fully sopanified, just a fraction of what you'd need for cold process is required. Now, hot process yields a different texture, and frankly I've seen some real ugly hot process along with some real beauties. I watched a ton of You Tube videos. I did a rose cold process soap some time back that was a beautiful rose color, made from rose clay, however, the rose petals daintily applied on top ended up looking like burned flesh. So, there you  have it, another advantage to hot process...no burned botanicals. I was overjoyed at how much cleaner hot process is. I didn't have half my dining table covered in caustic lye blobs! I mixed in rose clay into a depression made in the "fluffy like cake batter" stage and swirled it all together. Since hot process is rustic looking, I made the tops all fluffed up in rugged rustic spirit.

Wow, the next morning it was DONE.Wow...not even cool to touch...it was rock solid done...and I loved it!! Not better or worse than cold process....just different. My impatience appeased, I transported one of those beauties to my shower for product testing....ahh...a keeper! Smells divine.




Wednesday, October 23, 2013

First Craft Show

First Craft Show

My first craft show was a two day event. I had no idea how much to bring, so I thought  best to err on the side of caution and have a ton of soap. OK, it wasn't really ton but it sure felt like it when I had it all packed to go. As you can imagine, after the last few months having a blast making soap, I really needed to sell it so I can make more soap. I tried hard to not have any grand expectations since I didn't know anything about the event or the venue. Turns out that while this was the 8th annual event for this show, what many vendors didn't realize, including myself, was that it was a first time venue in a well-to-do part of Akron. There were about 100 vendors in all with three soap makers total. I was placed at the back which made me a little nervous. Take a look at my table. I'm open to constructive criticism. The first day, I did pretty well considering there was lots of negative talk from vendors about the lack of volume Since I had nothing to compare it to, I was blissfully ignorant and happy if anyone stopped to sniff the soap.
Then of course there were plenty that walked past with nary a glance or a sniff. My theory is that those people have never used handmade soap and if they caught even a peripheral glance, they were relegated to "just pretty soap that I don't need." Most of the people that stopped at my booth already knew the benefits of handmade soap. I made only $176 in sales on day one and on day two, it was extra extra slow with only a trickle of buyers and tallied up day two with only $70 in sales. I still have a ton of soap left. Overall, it was a success even though I still need to find homes for the leftovers. My daughter was a real trooper. I think she had a lot of fun that first day with all the selling and shopping other vendors, but Sunday when the crowd was thin, it was boring.

I've been in a maniacal experimental soaping streak, so I had 28 kinds of soap which I lined up naked on my little display stand. The wrapped versions were nestled in baskets or boxes. People are funny about picking up stuff and maybe I need to re-think fingers all over the soap. I mean it's soap...it's self cleaning, but I understand that germs could park themselves among the swirls or crawl under botanical bits. For my next show, I'm only going to have, at most, 10 varieties displayed on wooden soap decks. Then customers can pick up the decks to sniff it. When the inventory gets low, I'll swap it out with a new 10. My best selling soaps were my oatmeal milk and honey soaps followed by my citrus goat soaps. My whipped shea butter was a great hit, but I think I could have done better if I had more than one scent available. I made lavender, but can you believe it...some people can't do lavender. Interestingly, I didn't sell a single bar of Holiday Soap. I guess it's a little early for Christmas shopping.

I'm not wild about my dark blue table cloth..it was a beast to iron. I'm eagerly waiting the arrival of a fitted table close cover, a table cloth condom so to speak, which will negate the need for ironing. I hung up the iron along with my nurse's hat about 20 years ago. My soaping sister Kim--yes, we are equally afflicted with the must-make-soap gene--bought one for her show and I think it looks so sleek. She's a master decorator and it's such a bummer she's all the way in Florida! We could bulk buy our oils if she still lived here! Such is life...

I think the best part of the show was talking (and shopping) the other vendors. I talked to both the other soap makers and they gave me great advice. So much to learn. My next show is November 9th. I promised myself I will not make any more soap. Instead, I hit the craft store and picked up supplies to make fancy decoupage boxes for soap gift boxes. It'll be fun, but compared to soaping, it's like a chewing a pencil when you really want a cigarette.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Great Cakes Soap Works Dandelion Challenge

I really had fun with this because it's such a fun method! It's fun to pick out colors for the dandelion then letting the colors slop down the ramp to make something beautiful. In my last post, I talked about how my first attempt's purple base turned grey on me. Actually, it's kind of neat. I had a little slip with the Ylang-Ylang bottle, so the floral's a bit much unless you're a die-hard floral lover. But, maybe someone will like this little grey flower. Shame on me for not reading the reviews on my freebie samples. My, I've had so many lessons lately! Here it is: A Soap only a Soap Maker Mommie Could Love

Now, this one turned out pretty nice. I love the color combinations for the dandelion and top. I mixed my own colors for this one. I love jewel tones! I did a  subtle zebra  alternating layers of neutral soap with layers that had Fuller's clay added for the base. It was a new recipe, too, using a completely new oil to my repertoire--sesame--along with olive, coconut, palm kernel, sunflower, and shea.
 Probably shouldn't try anything new with a challenge soap, but what the heck...I think I try something new with each and every batch. I did a fragrance oil/essential oil blend keeping with those rich sultry colors...sandalwood incense from WSP with fennel and patchouli. I love it and it was so much better, too, because it didn't do any shady business to the trace. It stayed nice throughout.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Dandelion Daze...

Goat and Dandelion
Even before I realized the October Great Cakes Soap Challenge was going to feature the Dandelion Tiger Stripe, I've made two batches using this method. I love it how those harp-like bands hang in the soap like angelic apparitions. My first attempt utilized all natural clay-based colorants in a Goat's milk base scented with tangerine and patchouli. I only did a few bands and I love how it turned out.
My second pass was more festive utilizing bright Christmas candy cane colors and scented with spearmint, eucalyptus and peppermint. My batter was much thicker turning my angel harp lines into fat festive little cherubs, or maybe an abstract candy cane sleigh, or melted candy cane Christmas tree--I see different things every time I look at it!  The picture was taken before any final beveling, planing, or fussing. The finished soap is stunning. I love it!
Dandelion Candy Cane
With two pretty batches under my belt, I pondered whether to sign up, but did anyway. Hmmm...what color scheme? What scent? Maybe something not so Christmas-y? On a recent WSP order, I opted for a free oxide sample...a beautiful grapey purple called Matte Purple Pigment Powder. I do extensive research and read every review of everything I buy, but since I didn't buy this...it evaded close scrutiny. Breaking out of the Christmas red and red theme, I was going to do a base using this captivating color and dandelion stripe it with green, pink, white and black. Oh, it looked so pretty, that purple all mixed up with a little bit of oil. I opted for a floral essential blend using lavender, clary sage, and just a touch of ylang-ylang--except ooops... darned bottle slipped and ended up with a shade more that than I wanted. In my experience, this floral accelerated trace, so smart me...I didn't add any of the blend into my separated dandelion patch.

As soon as the purple colorant hit the soap, I knew I should have gone back to the site and read all the reviews, gosh darnit, but oxides are oxides, right? What you see is what you get? Not. My beautiful grapey purple was turning a disappointing barely purple mostly grey. I tossed in a little more and now had dark grey with specks. Instant flashbacks ensued of the time I tried doing a droplet effect with alkanet colored soap into white base and ended up with something that looked like stilton. I soldiered ahead trying my best to ignore the grey and complete the soap. Everything else about the batch was perfect! It's in the mold now...I'll take it out of the mold tonight and get the final verdict. Don't worry, I will post my mistake. It'll be a hoot.

I've messed up a few batches now, but that's ok...I've done over 20 for my fall show and seriously...I've had a blast....even with the mistakes, because it means I'm gaining experience! Yeah! Sure enough...I went back to WSP site and all but one of seven reviews were rants pertaining to how it turned grey, or a few even brown. WPS people had a warning that it could discolor in high ph environment, so the onus was on me and the other overly excited soapers that just saw that pretty color and dove right into the soap box.

Being in the career industry (day job), I just read an article for work written by Jay Block of the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches that expanded on Benjamin Franklin's 3 keys to success as applied to career success, but can be applied to anything really : 1). Big achievements come one step at a time. 2) We have the power to mold our lives if we consciously pursue greater knowledge and improve our skills every day and are flexible along the way. Totally agree! Now, it's number 3 that got me a little, made me really think because it's so uncharacteristic of how I used to approach flubs and failures, with fits, tantrums, ultimatums, etc.. 3). Success is measured through pleasure. We've got to be happy along the the way, inclusive all the perceived successes and failures.  Kind of winds into the ole adage, "there's really no pleasure without a little bit of pain." To wrap it up, strive for happiness along your journey to whatever...an education, a new job, master soap maker, etc. and you'll eventually reach your goals and realize it wasn't so much reaching the goal that made you happy, but the ups and downs of the entire journey.
Winter Warmer

One more success...love this soap. It smells divine. Opening the door to fragrance oils has led to the creation of some uniquely me blends. This one is a combination of Bourbon Vanilla and Cocoa FO blended with Patchouli and Benzoin essential oils. I'm calling it Winter Warmer for it's capacity to melt the coldest of moods.



Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Supporting Actors of the Soap

For the last few months, it's been all about the soap--one, two, and three batches a week to build up my inventory for the fall show.  I'm too paranoid, and love to make soap too much, to do large batches at once for fear of ruining the whole kit and kaboodle. But I think I'm done. If I run out, I run out. Now, I need to concentrate on the supporting actors of my line...the bath and body non-soap stuff.

I thought of selling sea salts fairy dusted with botanical bits, but couldn't decide on packaging. Then there was the whole, how-to-contain-the bits thing to decide on. I made myself up a batch adorned with chamomile, dried baby rose buds, lavender and calendula from my garden, poured them in the tub and crawled in with bits floating all about, sticking to the side of the tub, and sticking to me. Frankly, while lovely and fragrant, I felt like I was steeping in swamp tea. Definitely, need to contain the bits. In the bottle, they have huge curb appeal, which unfortunately, didn't translate to My tub experience. Now, I don't think like the majority of people. My daughter was perfectly happy with bits floating about. I abhorred the mess and thought of my husband a couple months later, plunging out drain clogged red tresses enmucked with (hopefully fragrant) bits. I'd have to include a mesh tea bag or something in addition to a lovely bottle.

I ditched the idea of selling dead sea salts at the show and continued on with my salt experiments. OMG--I really love Dead Sea Salts. They are truly amazing. My favorite application, however, is not as a bath salt, but a salt scrub. I found a basic recipe using dead sea salt, avocado oil, vegetable glycerin and a few drops of essential oil. It did fabulous things to my face, although many don't recommend it for facial use, just body use, but my face loved it. I scrubbed it in every so gently and left it there 5 minutes to work its magic. Yes, it stings a bit on acne eruptions, but remember--there is no pleasure without a bit of pain. When I go swimming in the ocean the pimples will sting, but since Dead Sea salt is seven times more salty, you get an extra ding for your sting. It's also loaded with a litany of minerals, including. magnesium, which I read a few precautions regarding use if you have high blood pressure. Not sure about this. In a former life, I was an RN, so I'm going to look into this and see if that's true and to what degree is it true or not. Anyone out there know? I know the skin is much more permeable organ than originally thought to be which makes transdermal delivery of medications possible and  handcrafted soap make so much more sense and a worthy affordable investment at $4-6 a bar.

I followed my salt scrub with my usual Rhassoul Mask and couldn't believe the results...the texture of my skin seemed smoother and more radiant. And--it dried up those pesky middle-aged eruptions in no time--just like a few days on the beach. I definitely think this can be a part of my line, once I straighten out the blood pressure thing, and it needs no botanical bit adornment. Fine Dead Sea Salt looks like snow cone ice glistening in the sun! There are extra oily recipe versions, but I'm partial to the less oily versions...mostly to save my tub and rubber duckie post bath de-slickings.

So what the heck am I going to sell in the body and bath category other than soap? Lotion bars, for sure. They're so easy to make and people love them. I decided on a shallow tins, because otherwise, lotion bars, if left out on a dish or desk tend to become hair ball dust bunny catchers. My house is the perfect house for testing the hair ball capacity of lotion bars. I have a TON of hair. My super soaper assistant./daughter said she was sitting in class, bored, and started pulling multiple red hairs off her shirt (those would be mine). Yep, need tins. I prefer using shea butter or mango butter for better glide in our climate. I'll scent with fragrance oils because I've found I can't get a good scent with essentials except for lemongrass.

I'm also going to make whipped shea butter because its easy and amazing. I've made it with completely raw, unrefined shea mixed with calendula infused olive oil and lavender and carrot seed oil. The essentials are not enough to mask that uniquely odd shea-y smell. It's not a bad smell, but not real pleasant either. I think a little moisturizing capacity will be lost by using deodorized shea, but appeal greater. I'm going to use calendula-infused olive oil and scent with Bourbon Vanilla FO from WSP.  It would have been a joy mixing up my butter using my awesome Kitchen Aide mixer I got for my second wedding to my first husband, but alas, he broke it while employed to make my birthday cake 2 years ago. I can't find a small appliance repair place for anything. Fortunately, shea mixes up quite nicely in about 7 minutes with a sturdy wrist and handheld electric blender. It's so nice and concentrated, a little going a very long way! This stuff can smooth the scales off a reptile.

I cannot wait to do the next soap challenge. I'm totally up for it. I really appreciated all the nice and constructive comments about my multi-gradient soap. I really learned a lot. Such a fun and worthwhile thing to do for newbies and soap making experts alike!






 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Haunted Batches

I'm trying to finish up the soaping for the upcoming fall show on October 19th so it still has enough time to cure. Here's some of the latest: 

Cursed Halloween Soap
I've been fortunate that, up until recently, I've never had major issues with my soap batches...sure the normal stuff...too thick...too thin...general "doesn't match the vision in my head" kind of thing, then bang...two batches in a row, messed up. I think it's because I'm stressed. I have so much to do to get ready for my first craft show, but I work full-time and have all the normal household and run around teenagers kind of stuff to do too. Maybe it's because I tried to make my Halloween soap on Friday the 13th? Anyway, I had canola on my recipe twice and since I have a good system for adding in all my oils; I start with them on my left and as I measure out into my bowl, I put them on my right. Usually, I start with the oil at the top and go down, but sometimes, when I'm feeling lazy, I'll skip the pain ingredients like cocoa butter (hate cutting that stuff) and come back to them later. So, my system didn't allow me to put in canola twice which meant my recipe was 15% short oils. I can't believe I didn't notice it! 

Halloween Soap
I was so excited...I planned a modified dream catcher into spider web design pouring alternating circles of white, black, and orange into four quadrants of my square mold. I used a new FO from WSP, Crackling Fireside, which smells like a smokey bonfire. The oil turned my white soap kind of yellowish, then my daughter noticed something else, "This looks funny Mom, what's wrong with it?" Soap disaster denial kicked in and I said, "Nothing's wrong with it. Don't be such a naysayer. It'll be fine!" Eye roll from daughter. It looked a little, how can I describe it... like curdled buttermilk on top.

I put it in the oven for CPOP and went back to my recipe..there it was...two canola lines on my recipe and I added it once. Lye heavy! So, now what do I do? Pitch it? Rebatch, but add the missing 15%?

I quickly whipped up the redemptive  batch the next night and all was well. I'm not real wild about the FO, but now that  soap has had time to dry out a bit, it's looking pretty good. The final scent is very unlike out of the bottle, but subtle and perfect for this design. 

Rose & French Clay Soap with Worm Hole

This little flub was not near the magnitude as the Halloween Soap, but bad enough to make me not want to sell it. Just the day before, I received my new beveler/planer tool form Soap Making Resources. I love it! It turned some ugly ducky soapies into real swans! Yeah it shaves off a little soap, but makes it salable where otherwise, it would relegated to the cabinet of misfit soaps for my husband and son to use. This little gadget makes some beautiful soap curls so why not incorporate into my next batch, a milk-in-oil method goat soap designed with three layers chock full of clay...bottom rose clay, middle fuller's clay, top French green clay. I'll stick a few soap curls in the middle, oh clever me! This recipe was on the thick side since I loaded it with a high percentage of shea and cocoa butter. I nestled perfect curls into the middle, lighter layer and topped it off with my pudding thick French green layer. 

My husband is frequently recruited to hold my log cutter box. The first slice was beautiful!!! The second slice...what, the heck was that? A giant air pocket? Mike said, "What's with the worm hole?" Upon closer inspection, yes, there was the worm...my little perfect frond of a soap curl all curled up trapping air.
Yikes..and I was sure to include a curl in every slice. This is nice soap and my only goat one I did for the show, but seriously who is going to buy soap with a worm hole?

Black Raspberry Vanilla with Glycerin Embeds 

Nothing wrong with this batch, thank goodness, other than being a very strong FO scented soap. I used WAY under the standard FO amount and still it gives me a headache. I'm an essential oil girl, what can I say. My daughter really loves the soap and the scent and I know this one
is really popular for both soapers and customers. It soaped super easy.

I'm going to do one more batch and then I'm putting away the soap box to concentrate on making my bath and body stuff, labeling, table display, and all that stuff. This batch is going to be perfect and I'm going to love everything about it!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Multi-colored Gradient Challenge

I think we should call this the multiplied times three multi-colored gradient challenge. I must have been goofing off in kindergarten we went over color basics, because my first attempt was a bit flawed. My super-soaper assistant/daughter/color theorist abandoned me when I was set to do the challenge.
I was ready, but she was more ready for a Friday night hanging out with her friends at the football game, so I went full-steam ahead into the challenge.
The first two colors I chose were next to one another on the color wheel, purple and blue, and the third, an orange-ish hue was half way on the other side, so not sure what was going through my head.

I overcompensated on the need for a slow tracing soap and used a recipe that I could play with for a day, so even non-choppy layers went out the window. I used a fabulous fragrance oil by Wholesale Supplies Plus, Beneath the Stars. Upon the slicing reveal the next morning, my daughter shook her head and said, "You just couldn't wait for me, could you?" You see...she spent her whole middle school years attending a visual arts school. She knew I'd be multiply challenged by this. I said, "Well, I can't use it for the challenge, but it's still pretty. What should I call it? My husband said, "Well, how about 'Color-blind?'" Smarty pants.

Round II

Livy was available to help and I chose three colors next to each other on the color wheel. That's a start!  I used a different recipe and set up for action. My colors were green, yellow, orange. Look...there's the color wheel for frequent consultation. I wanted to use a lighter green, but she thought the jolly green giant green, aka, matte forest green would be good to start with. For the yellow, all I had was Brazilian yellow clay from Brambleberry. The orange was the yellow clay mixed with a tad of Americana Matte Red oxide. The blending seemed to be going great, the layers nice and smooth and the measuring to the last drop precise. Here's a picture of the first few green layers. My, we are very messy soapers.  We followed the instructions exactly! I didn't even have left-over soap, or layers that were soap short.

Any ideas on what happened? My green stayed jolly green giant green through 4 layers! It looks like a solid block of un-blended green pasture. The remaining layers look nice...nice gradation from yellow to orange. I used Brambleberry's Energy Fragrance. I'm calling it Heartland Sunrise because it reminds me of vistas off I-77 during summer drives through Ohio heartland to visit the Florida kin.

This challenge was great for me. I can't wait to see everyone's posts. I kind of feel like I did when I entered my first big race with a bunch of fast runners. I knew I'd be trailing at the end, like a lost golden retriever, running with a pack of sleek foxes, but hey.....just happy to be running. What a learning experience! Here's my soap:

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Food-Smell Inspired Soaps and Soap Obsessions

My daughter really loves spearmint soap, so we decided to do a small batch heavily influenced by the family favorite dessert--mint chocolate chip ice cream. I think food scented soaps are the most frustrating of all because they make me want to lick my stick blender or take a chunk out one while washing up in the shower. My husband thinks it might be a good aide for those trying to lose weight, but  I disagree...a soap that smells like mint-chocolate chip icecream makes me want to eat the real deal. I'm not super crazy about food-smelling soaps, but I was excited about this batch. I've started incorporating a few more fragrance oils into my soaps and this would be a good one to start. Spearmint essential oil would be the perfect mint, but real chocolate or cocoa in soap would be too subtle. I opted for Brambleberry's Hot Cocoa FO mixed into a chocolate brown swirl layered between two expertly colored layers of spearminty green. I used the spoon swirl technique, also referred to as the Celine Swirl, to swirl the three layers together.

  Upon cutting it this morning, I was ecstatic with the results. My only reservation, a slight fear that brown cocoa scented will darken the surrounding green--or will it stay put in the brown? My daughter nailed that mint ice cream color on the head by blending matte forest green, aqua blue and touch of spirulina.

I touched on few obsessions/bad habits, but how about soap making? When do I cross the line into obsession? I have a tendency toward obsessions..there was the gardening obsession, the dried flower and wreath making obsession, the running obsession, and now the soap obsession.  I started off making soap for the extended family as gifts and what-not, then to friends, then to co-workers...well,  now I was spending so much, I had to start charging, which people were perfectly happy to do. Since there are so many soaps colors, scents, and techniques, I must try them all.  I figured I better start an Etsy shop (not doing very well) and sign up for a few craft shows. I've spent a ton on materials...molds, liners, fragrances, equipment, etc. with up to now, very little return. I hope to sell well at the craft shows I've chosen.  If my soap sells well, I can make more soap. If it doesn't, I'm stuck with a ton of soap and wouldn't feel justified in making more. When trying to figure out when my hobby, passion, or past-time is turning obsession-ish, I ask myself the following:

1)Is it affecting work/life balance?
Well, a little bit...my husband's been complaining a little, but likewise, I complain about the three times a week band practices and two times a weekend gigs. I justify that I make soap to have something to do when I'm a band widow. As far a work balance...I definitely would like to work less and make soap more, but my day job pays substantially better and I like that to!

2)Is it draining my bank account?
Definitely no, even though it seems like I have. I'm lucky that financial management has always come easily to me. Actually, that should be on my obsession list too since I went through a financial management dark period when I was separated and divorced for three years. BTW...married the same guy again! I track all my spending and set financial goals. I'm frugal and search for deals. I wanted to start slowly and buy all my start-up supplies on current income and never savings. I bought Soapmaker 3 early to track my inventory and batch costs.

3). Do you think of soap 24/7? Do you dream about screwing up soap?
Well, yeah...

So, am I obsessed? Yeah, probably, but one thing I do know, as I approach 49 years of living with Cindy, is that I eventually find a comfortable balance. I ran for 7 obsessive years, before I said, "Hey, running 50 miles races is kind of crazy!" Now, I'm a recovering maintenance runner logging a sensible 15 miles a week. I still garden, but it's no longer necessary to start 1000 seedlings in my basement. It's a curve, I guess, of which I'm still on the upswing.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Soapy Labor of Love

Contrary to what the Labor Day holiday is supposed to signify, I worked like a soaping dog cooking up three new batches for the fall show. The first batch was a first on a few levels...I caved to my daughter's laments about fragrance oils. I bought a sampler pack from Brambleberry when I first started soaping and really like the vanilla and milk and honey scents. I also bought Anne Marie Faiola's book "Soap Craft ng," which is wonderful, so Livy and I whipped up one of her recipes, Oatmeal Layers, a  homie
sweet-I could- take- a- bite- out -of -you- soap for the fall.

 I've only used fragrance oils once, on my second batch of soap ever, Oatmeal, Milk, and Honey, and I don't recall it doing anything funny. It came out really nice...a nice beige-y tan color. Since then, I've been using essential oils like crazy, but even with skilled blending techniques, you just can't get certain scents that make people go nuts, and I really think people are a touch more motivated more by scent than fancy swirls. I see when customers sniff among a dozen soaps--it's clearly the scent that sways followed by design. As a soap maker, I love design because I know the technical finesse that goes into balancing temperature, oils, scent, and technique--when it goes right, I'm deliriously proud and it's an instant favorite. I followed Anne Marie's recipe to the tee, and so interesting  how those vanilla  fragrance oils discolor over time. In this one, I used a vanilla, milk and honey blend on the bottom, and an almond on top. It's been two days since I made it and already the bottom layer is turning dark. The actual soap featured in the book has a dark brown bottom layer. I didn't have the exact quantity called for, but hoping the final cured soap looks as delicious as Anne Marie's, but probably not, since I forgot the honey-oops. Here it is after day 2

I love this book. I bought the handy spiral-bound version--because the beautiful pictures make it coffee table worthy and I can take notes. I've developed some very nice recipes using Soap Calc, but  agonized that certain thicker recipes were costing me a fortune because I used high percentages of shea butter or cocoa butter to get them that way. After studying her recipes, I've discovered I can make a perfectly glorious thick-high quality batter without the high expense. Awesome book.

My second batch, called Autumn Wreath, is not exactly as envisioned, but pretty darned close. I bought a new liquid pigment, the liquid version of the matte Americana red oxide I'm used to. Well, the liquid stuff, when added to white soap, goes pinky pastel and not the vibrant red you get with the powdered oxide. Lesson learned, but I still think it's beautiful. I used a blend of essential oils: cedar wood, fir needle, rosemary, and clove. Smells like a mid-autumn trail run through the pines. Love it!

My third batch, a modified mantra hanger swirl, is still nestled in it's mold. I uncovered it for a quick minute to get a picture. This one uses three naturally colored clays--Brazilian red, Fuller's clay, and sea clay. I think the hangar part went O.K., but you never know. I'm really drawn to masculine hippy-dippy scents, so this one is lavendin, basil, and patchouli.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

New Mold! Oh Boy!

Now, who but a soap maker would rejoice over a new mold in their house? ;) My brother visited from Tallahassee last weekend to drop off his first born son in Cleveland to a new job and a lovely fiancee attending Case Western Reserve University. As it happens, my brother is a master wood craftsman, so a few months ago, knowing he was going to be traveling this way, I asked him if he'd make me a few molds and we'd barter for soap. I make a few skin products--a face serum and a whipped shea butter, and of course the soap, that he enjoys, so we traded soap and body products for mold. I've long been coveting the tall mold because, to me, they scream artisan elegant!

I decided on a half-half type soap, lemon and poppy seed specked on the bottom, and wispy lavender swirled with white on top. My husband loves my soap, but he's quite vocal about certain soap issues--namely that his soap not have "stuff" on top--in this case, wall-to-wall lavender buds. He doesn't mind so much "stuff" embedded in the soap, like oatmeal, adzuki beans, or poppy seeds, but he draws the line at potentially drain clogging "stuff" on top. I've listened to him, up to now, but this soap is for my show and I know women love this stuff--he can head to my soap scrap graveyard for his next shower. Here it is: I finally figured out a decent ITPS! It seems like the easiest technique, but  managed to elude me for a good long time. This is very close to the Holly Swirl, had my soap been a bit more fluid and penetrated the bottom layer. I'm taking notes! I've done a few Christmas soaps for the October show, but I'm going to do one more attempt on the Holly Swirl using green, red, and white.

As I've mentioned before, I've really been sitting on the fence about fragrance oils. Up to now, I thought I'd use essential oils only, but now I'm missing out on doing certain scents. It doesn't have to be an all or nothing proposition...I can do a line with essential oils, a line with fragrance oils and a totally naked line with no added scent. It appeals to me as an artist and would certainly appeal to a wider range of customers. Win-win.

I officially entered the next Great Cake Soap Cake Soap Challenge for the multi-colored gradient challenge. This is going to be a challenge for me--on so many levels--but I'm up for it and can't wait to see what everyone comes up with. I'm just happy to be mingling with the soap masters!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Soap Challenges

I've been following the Soap Bar's challenge series for awhile now. I read up on everyone's results. It's so fascinating, and I learn so much it's ridiculous. I'm a barely walking--maybe still crawling soap newbie with just about a year of experience. I'd say three batches out of every 10 come out exactly as I planned. Some come out better than I planned, but most of the time I totally miss the mark on creating the elusive vision in my head. My latest quest, an abstract elegant pumpkin soap, came out pretty close to the vision, but now I'm thinking my vision a bit myopic. I did an angled soap, three layered angles, starting with a natural soap at the bottom, a pumpkin layer in the middle (yes, real pumpkin!) and the top a super white creamy top (no, not real cream...just too much titanium dioxide). I topped with a glycerin mica oil swirl of gold and bronze. I just learned that from the Great Cakes gal, so thought I'd give it a shot. My daughter questioned the drizzle over whipped cream, but I said, "Heh...this is abstract elegant pumpkin...imagine it's a caramel glaze!"

Now for the scent...here's where I struggle..it's hard to get a good pumpkin scent using essential oils..sure I can use ginger, clove, and cinnamon, but it's not the same as those pumpkin pie synthetic fragrances. Sure there's real pumpkin, but pumpkin mixing with lye doesn't translate. I don't use fragrance oils, because I feel they somewhat defeat the purpose of handmade soap, but then again, these particular essential oils can be just as irritating in certain amounts as synthetic fragrances. I'm still sitting on the fence about essential vs fragrance oils, but for the time being, I use only essential oils. Another thing that keeps me on essential oils are all the horror soap stories about uncharted fragrance oils causing soap to crawl out of it's mold. Soap making is messy enough...just don't need that that aggravation.

While reading about the Soap Challenges, I've been a little obsessed about the "Holly Swirl" a technique named from the lady at Missouri River Soaps. She's awesome. I stop by frequently to drool over her soaps. I tried it first with my cucumber calendula soap, but  even though it was much too thin and just sunk to the bottom and a total fail on the Holly front, it's still one of my summer favorites. Here it is.

My second attempt at the Holly Swirl is in the oven for the oven part of the CPOP. My plan was to do a white base and my ITP Holly Swirl would be a black-fushia pink combo. I used a different recipe that I knew would be slightly fluid but medium thick. While I've never have destroyed a soap batch, me and colorants have had a long hard painful education...I mess them up a lot. When using activated charcoal, I fear ashy gray and tend to overcompensate with too much which subsequently discolors lather and destroys the household white wash cloths. I read somewhere that grey in the soap phase turns darker later, so that's what I was going with when I added about a half teaspoon to my 12 ounces of soap for the Holly. I put in the pink just like all the You-Tubes and videos advise and plopped it in the white base then swirled with chopsticks. It looked like pink-tinged grey sludge, but I'm really keeping  my fingers crossed. Here's what it looks like just out of the oven...going through its gel phase.
My daughter added the heart line embellishment to the top. She's heavily influenced by somber dirge bands like Black Veil Brides. I'm calling this: Charcoal Bleeding Heart Soap. Can't wait to see the inside. Just like the colors--black, pink, and white, I scented with something equally contrasting... light lavender, lemongrass, and exotic, sultry patchouli. I don't know if this is appropriate for the fall show and Christmas Show, but what the heck. It might just end up being one for the family soap shelf.
OK...it didn't turn out at all. The pink in the black swirls just faded into the black. Not sure why this happened--not enough pink? too thin? It's enough to drive a soap maker to madness. I haven't even taken a picture of it. It's still beautiful...I'm going to call it Charcoal Bleeding Heart because the inner swirls are dark and somber like a recent breakup.




I Changed My Blog Name...

Well, I had to do it. It started off soap and dirt because I thought I was going to post about my gardening efforts as well as my soap. Life happens, though...I'm still gardening and growing good things to put in my soaps...just didn't have the time to blog about it.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Graphic, Labels, and Logos--Oh my!

I've really been struggling with all of these things. First, my Etsy banner--I perused hundreds of banners before I decided on one with a light blue background, stylized botanicals with Cindy's Scentuals floating off the top like seeds in the wind. I really liked it, but once I filled up my shop with a dozen of my soaps, it just didn't seem to fit both my shop photography style, my name, or what I'm ultimately trying to convey as soaps being olfactory slices of bliss and sensual experience. Here's the banner I was using:

I decided to take the banner off when I read an Etsy article how no banner is better than bad banner that doesn't make your shop look cohesive, but I didn't like going naked either, so found another article about how to create your own on GIMP. The article made it sound so easy, but it took me an entire Friday evening sweating and fretting to come up with something. I pieced my banner with actual soaps from my shop. Funny, but my main soap star was an early ugly duckling out of the mold, my cucumber calendula soap. Here it is at my shop.  It's not at all like the vision I had in my head, but after a good long cure--a swan! And one of my current favorites: 

I had my nephew come up with a logo...it's similar in theme to the first Etsy banner but more sensual, I think. I'm having issues with the "indy" coming off the bottom of the "C". He had it coming off the top, initially, but it didn't look right to me so I had him change it. He was right, I was wrong, cause now I have issues getting my logo to tuck nicely into label corners, but can't because of the change.  Lesson--leave it the professionals!  Sheesh!  Who knew??? Here it is:

Here's the latest for the curing rack--a Christmas scented soap with essential oils of rosemary, bay, fir, fennel and orange.

My next is going to be an abstract rendition of a fall season favorite--pumpkin soap. Stay tuned. So excited!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Rose Soap

Funny, how I get an idea in my head for a soap and can't let it go till I make it. I perused Etsy soap sites, blogs, Google images, etc. for a good soap technique to bring my rose soap to life. I really love the pictures of rose soap with rose petals embedded on top, but my practical, botanical-bit wary husband discouraged plying my soap tops with crushed roses. He said, "Who wants to wash with scratchy rose soap with soap petals that fall off in the shower?" Hmm...he had a point here, but I still love all those rose topped soaps, so I compromised and used only a minimal sprinkling to adorn the tops. Practical botanical bit haters can pluck the 3 or 4 petals off before indulging.

At last, I decided on a modified dream-catcher style where I layer alternating light pink, dark pink, and white layers in a slab mold. The pink and dark pink were made with rose clay and Brazilian red clay, which I love for the great soap feel it provides.  I added a few splotches of green and ran  my skewer, outward,  through both the lily-padded pools and the leaves. It didn't really look like roses, but the impression of roses was definitely there. Now, here's a first--normally too consumed with making my soap work, I decided to step it up a notch and do a few pictures of the soap in progress. Mind you, I'm a nervous Nelly and normally too focused on the soap to do anything else. Instinctively, my family avoids asking me questions or talking to me when I'm in the soap zone. Here's the start of my rose soap. It's controlled chaos, for sure, but suits the way my brain works...flitting here and there..nothing ever linear.

I used a super luxurious blend of oils including olive, avocado, shea butter, rosehip oil, and coconut. I added a light scent blend--rose absolute, palmarosa, and patchouli.

Here's the cut bars--even though I used a CPOP, I'm still going to let these cure a few weeks. The scent was a little more subtle than I anticipated. My husband loves it--even with the botanical bits! He'll just pick them off and proceed as usual. Girls love this stuff--we'll just sniff our bits, pick em out of the shower and love every minute of it. This is a GIRL soap.



Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Late Summer Soaps & Goats

It's sweltering something terrible in northeastern Ohio to the point of ridiculousness, so most of us (those fortunate enough to have air conditioning) are stuck inside as if there were 3 feet of snow on the ground, so along with making stuff for my table display at the Avant Garde Craft Show in October, I've been trying out new soaps, scents, and techniques. My Etsy soap, so far, is just but a tiny little fish among schools of bigger and brighter, more territorial and established fish. Again, like I tell my graduates just out of school with no experience lamenting that they can't get experience without someone giving them a chance, it's all down to networking and getting yourself out there. My soaps need to be smelled! I'm hoping that people who buy my soaps at the show will feed back into my Etsy store, but we'll see. While there doesn't seem to be a lot of soap makers in my area, they are sure plentiful on Etsy!

 Here's my last creation inspired by the husky-voiced Soaping 101 lady demonstrating what she called a "synergy" type soap because the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
 Basically, it's four checker squares created with four different colors with an ITP swirl to boot! I used alternating squares of yellow and green for mine and ditched the ITP swirl as unnecessarily complex. The yellow color  is from Brambleberry's Brazilian yellow clay. The spirulina, as fish tank smelling as it is, makes an awesome deep leaf green. I used a rosemary, cypress, and litsea blend with just a touch of petitgrain.  This was a fun, albeit challenging technique since it requires about 6 hands. Here's how you do it: Bring soap to moderately thick trace. Rig up a divider down the middle of loaf-mold (lengthwise) or hold it if you don't have the mechanical abilities for rigging and pour the green down one side and the yellow down the other. I recruited my soap curious neighbor to hold the divider while my daughter and I did the pouring. Now, slowly lift the divider out of the soap allowing your thick soap to lay side by side, snug as a bug. Now, have someone hold the divider on top of the two layers and pour again, but this time, use the yellow and green on opposite sides.  I love how this turned out...not as nice as the Soaping 101 lady (what is her name anyway?) but still nice. Check her out on YouTube Soaping 101....she has dozen of different soaping tutorials.

Goat Soap

Who knew this stuff was so awesome! Here's my first batch..very basic, but man, oh, man, this stuff can help with whatever ails you. I've noticed it helps my menopausal acne flares. It helps my daughter's adolescent flares. I did some reading and no wonder this stuff is treasured...it's most like the Ph of skin, loaded with vitamins and minerals, and contains alpha-hydroxy acids for overall skin rejuvenation.
It's unlikely to cause sensitivities making it a natural choice for those with dermatitis or eczema. I added no other scent because I wanted to experience the real smell of the she-goat wonder, and two, because I wanted this to be facial soap for all skin types. OK, get ready to gasp goat-milk soapers...I used cold-process oven process! Yep, crazy, but I did. I read a forum where goat soapers were debating to gel or not gel their soaps. There are pros and cons to each method. If you let it gel, it's going to be an off-white or beige color. If you cool it and don't allow a gel, you risk gelling anyway, cause it wants to heat up and you might get the unsightly blob of half-gelled half not look. If you avoid the gel, it could be crumbly. One lone poster, pipped in that she gels her goats soaps just fine, so I did. I'll tell you what, I won't do it again. It did work...the soap is amazing, but it was weird. When I CPOP a soap, my recipes go through a gel in half an hour to an hour in a warm 170 oven. This soap took over an hour before it showed signs of starting to gel, then all the sudden, it was super hot and soupy. I thought it was ruined, but after taking forever to cool down, it was honest to goodness gelled goat soap. It's my new favorite.

Since I had leftover goat milk, I tried it again, but upped the yumminess factor. I was taken with the sweet nut-like smell, so I did a chocolate, honey, almond soap--no other added scents. I slightly toasted a tablespoon of finely ground almonds before adding them to my batch. Wow. I love it. This is one soap I'd almost dare my mother to wash out my mouth with. Yeah, I know--I'm a little old for that stuff. My mother has long ago accepted my "slips of the tongue."

This time I did it the conventional way--cold process, but I did slightly insulate to force gel. This heated up pretty quickly due to the added honey, I guess. I haven't put this on Etsy as I'm tempted to hoard this batch. It looks a little grainy, I think, from the added toasted almond meal, but it sure is nice and provides a little scrub action. Who knew the power of the she goat??  Amazing.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Cindy's Scentuals: Soap, Bath, & Body

Even though I had vague swirls of doubt and apprehension running through me like thin traced soap, I decided to kick my soap hobby up a notch. While I'm building an Etsy shop, writing descriptions, policies, figuring out the mysteries of shipping and handling and making the soap to go along with it, I've sent in all the stuff to the state to start a business. I just sent in my transient vendor's license application just this morning. Since I'm heavily olfactory-wired, and cannot pass up a bar of soap without picking it up and sniffing, I knew Scent had to be in there, and soap is oh so sensual, once you've got it lathered up real good and it's washing away the day's dirt and doldrums...so scentual it is...Cindy's Scentuals!

Now, it seems like there's a heck of a lot of soap on Etsy...gorgeous sensuous soaps made by upteen-zillion soap makers, so I don't know if my soap will get any hits or not. To ensure that I don't have soap sitting around for months, I applied for a few local craft shows in October and November. The one in November is a smallish one, at my kids' high school to benefit the band boosters, and only $40 dollar entrance fee. There was no review or anything. I think they'll take anyone who'll sit behind a table.

The other one is a two day show and kind of big and intimidating. When I e-mailed the show manager, I had no idea it was one of those you have to be "selected" for. I just asked her how much a booth is. Opps. She said we could discuss that once I sent her in 3 or 4 photographs of my work. I sent them off and then she said e-mailed back to tell me I'd be a good fit! I was having an interview and I didn't even know it. This is really funny to me cause that's what I do for a living...write resumes, interview, and place students! I didn't even know I should be nervous. Ignorance, is surely bliss.

After I had a chance to revel in the glow of soaping acceptance, the reality set in. What kind of traffic does this show get? It's not one of the huge ones, but it's a good size and well-advertised. It's run by Avant-Garde Craft Shows. Well....sheesh...how much soap should I make for a two day show? One hundred bars? Two-hundred. I figured the lady knew I was a newbie, so I just came out and asked, "Do you think 150 would do it?" She thought it would, but really, it's completely up to me. I might need to move up to a bigger mold!  What if I run out? Or worse yet, what if no one likes my soap and stuck with 150 bars of soap?

In the meantime, I'll read all I can on pulling off your first craft show...and make soap. This morning I made my first ombre soap with deep aqua to light aqua gradient
. I threw in a cocoa line and some orange soap balls left over from my landscrape soap. I'll be cutting soon.

Also, I finally made that batch of goat's milk I was scarred to death of, but that needs a whole post.





Sunday, June 16, 2013

Soap Vacation

Now, this does not imply that I needed a vacation from soaping; however, I did need one from work, so while we were scheduled to set out for a Florida family union on the panhandle, I flew down a few days early to help out my sister. The flight was harrowing. It was bad enough I was sitting in the far back of the plane across from the bathroom, yet over half way through the flight, the flight attendant started reviewing crash landing protocol. I looked at my young 20-something seat mate and asked him if this was some new fangled safety thing. He tried to look cool, but shook his head. The flight attendant was making her way to the back , but stopped a very long time to instruct the unfortunates sitting in the exit row. "Hey, is something  wrong?" She smiled and said that we might have a bit of a rough landing since we lost an engine, but it happens all the time--"don't you worry about a thing." For the next 15 minutes, I pondered my husbands imminent single fatherhood and that I may never make another batch of soap again. I haven't even make goat's milk soap yet! Why have I put it off??? I have feared making goat milk soap and now this!!

We landed just fine. The flight attendant blatantly lied about how losing engines happens all the time. As soon as I landed, I called my retired pilot father. He said I should be grateful something exciting like that happened, cause in 30 years of flying, it never happened to him. It only causes a problem about one out of 99 times. Phew!!

My sister expressed some interest in learning how to soap, so I called hubby and asked him to throw a few supplies in the car. I've taught my little sister many things and I was happy to teach her soap, because I know she'll take it to a new level once she gets the hang of it and help me figure out the various soap mysteries that still elude. We'll be soaping sisters. Here we are when we just arrived to our beach house on St. George Island, Florida...right off Gulf coast in Northern Florida. She's the one on the left.

My sis is a master planner, so we planned to do our soap session near the end of our stay in the middle of the afternoon. We spent most of the week on the beach, but one day, ventured into Apalachicola for some shopping. I couldn't believe the the first shop I set eyes on was Rose's Botanicals The Soap Factory and Gift Shop. Rose's shop was beautiful and I really wish she was there, but her sales clerk gave me a quick bio. She's started as a gardener growing herbs and ventured into soap from that--been making soap 20 years! I wish I took a picture of her store, it was so beautiful, but I was too busy smelling every scent available of her her beautiful goat's milk soap. And to put a Florida spin on it, she had a whole wall of natural sea sponge embedded soaps. I bought a plain shell-shaped goat soap and this one...isn't it cool? I can't wait to try this...a built in sea sponge, how cool. Its scented with a lemon verbena. The sand dollar on top was one of my husband's swell finds on our morning beach runs and perfect to adorn Florida soap.  It's not addressed on this label, but most of her soaps use a combination of essential oils and
Rose's Botanicals--Natural Sea Sponge Goat's Milk
fragrance oils.

My sister bought one of her healing creams and I must say it's good stuff as we used it on my tough-as-nails 76 year old mother who fell down a few stairs and a passel of kid sea surf scraped knees. Good call sis, since we arrived just a day after a tropical storm passed through and those waves were rough.

For my sister's virgin soap voyage, I decided on a simple carrot soap using just three oils: olive, coconut and Crisco. I ran a recipe through Soap Calc and hoped it would be thick enough to support an ombre technique. I made two batches of lye for the carrot batch and the plain batch. It took forever to trace. I should have abandoned the ombre plans, but went ahead anyway. I was sweating bullets and screwed up. I wanted to add just a little white soap to my carrot soap, but slipped and added the whole thing mixing the white and carrot soap to pale orange--teaching technique while soap making proved too multitasking for my one-track brain. Sigh... I scented with a touch of lavender and it's marvelous! Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of the final product. Really, carrot soap needs no adornment.

On the long drive home, I contemplated future summer soaps. Definitely, I'm going to make a calendula-infused soap. I was working on drying a bunch of chamomile. I dried it a few days on a screen and thought it was dry enough to store in a jar. Wrong! I came home to slimy moldy chamomile. This time, I'll put in in a low oven to dry out more thoroughly.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Beauty Feats and Flops

In between soap batches, I've been quite busy experimenting with homemade beauty products. Here's a running list of current feats and flops:

The Feats

Eye makeup remover: I stumbled on this super simple recipe from Babuska's Beauty Secrets: Old World Tips for a Glamorous New You, by Raisa Ruder and Susan Campos for eye make-up remover. I never liked traditional store-bought removers because they stung my eyes and Baby Oil never did it for me, so for too many years I've been scrubbing it off with store bought (horror) soap. This concoction was so simple, but so effective, it's almost ridiculous. She suggests a blend of canola and castor oil. Castor oil is reported to increase lash length in time. I substituted another oil for the canola, still light and lovely, and wonderful--sunflower. It's one of my frequent soaping oils, similar to olive, but a bit more fluid and cheaper! This was a very entertaining book, a Russian born esthethician, reminises on all her babuska taught her about simple beauty that won't bust the budget. She convinced me to happily put sour cream on my face.

Cleansing Grains: If you want your skin to look your best, you must exfoliate! I made my first cleansing grain based off a Crunchy Betty recipe, but over time, it's morphed into my own sweet thing. I use this at night and follow up with toner, then oil moisturizer. Here's my recipe: finely ground oats, almond meal, fuller's clay, powdered thyme, ground adzuki beans, and a touch of tamanu oil. The almond meal and adzuki beans provide exfoliating action while the oats and oil soothe. Warning: you only need a small amount to be effective.Con--it can be a bit messy, but oh, so worth it.

Sugar Scrub: This is so easy it's ridiculous and so effective you'll think you spent a fortune on it. Mix equal parts sugar, baking soda, and epsom salt. Add just enough light oil (ex; sunflower, avocado, apricot kernel, or grapeseed to achieve wet sand-like texture. Add essential oil blend in quantities appropriate for amount. Hint: essential oils can be expensive, but remember--they last a very long time since you use sparing drops for non-soap preparations. Also, there are several essential oils, especially the mints and citrus oils that are very inexpensive. Lavender is a must, but moderately priced as is patchouli. Chamomile is a work horse but I've been too cheap to invest so far. Soon!

Lotion Bars: What can I say, but these things are fabulous. Actually, while I was researching how to make cold process soaps, this was one of my first ventures. I've never liked to use lotions, for some reason--maybe the goopiness on my hands, I'm not sure, but lotion bars--these things really intrigued me. They're made with equal portions of beeswax, a hard oil like cocoa butter, shea or mango butter, and a liquid oil like olive, apricot, hazelnut, avocado..the possibilities almost endless. I melt my beeswax first, in the microwave on several 30 second bursts (it seems to take forever because beeswax has a high melting point) then the butter, then I add the liquid oil till everything is blended and completely melted. Here's where you need to move quick, because beeswax starts to harden up lightening fast...pour into molds, mix in fragrance or essential oils, then pop in the freezer to harden up. Seriously, in 10 minutes they're ready to pop out and glide  over your skin. I like to use them right after I get out of the shower, rub them all over and get on with my day. They suck right into your skin and don't leave behind the unpleasantness I associate with lotion. They're small and portable and much less bulky than big lotion bottles for traveling.

Lip Balms

These are another super cinch to make--similar to lotion bar, but using more liquid oil to give it nice glide...few drops of peppermint essential oil make it divine! I recycle old chapstick containers rather than buy new. My daughter swears by my formula and won't use anything else!

Masks

Stay tuned on this one--I have dozens of fabulous masks that it deserves its own post.


The Flops

Homemade Deodorants: 
Ok, I know many people have used these successfully--it just didn't work for me. I'm a uber-sexy strong smelling women if I don't deodorize properly, but as much as I wanted to use homemade deodorants, it just wouldn't work! First, I heard that a little baking soda and tea tree dusted on the pits could do wonders and yes, it did, but after five days left a raging red rash under my pits. Hmm....so I toned down the baking soda with a little cornstarch...that didn't help either. Next, I tried good ole apple cider vinegar swabbed every morning with a cotton ball. It smelled like heck, but worked, but I didn't like the cotton ball business. Finally, I went for the crystal thing sold at stores. It works marvelously and looks like it'll last a long time. It smells like nothing and doesn't create greasy nightmares in the pits in my clothes.

Homemade Shampoo

This particular venture was such a dismal failure that I can't recall how I did it. My hair looked like greasy straw. My daughter was horrified, as well so we threw it out.




Monday, May 27, 2013

Everything I Learned about Beauty I Learned From Soap

Reading my blog, you'd think I'm all about the soap since every single post has been dedicated to it. Yes, my primary focus is the soap, but there are so many things to do with all the lovely oils that make up these delicious recipes. Who knew that different oils would have such vastly different qualities!

I started down the natural beauty product road after a particularly nasty bout of dandruff and headlice courtesy of some younger relatives my daughter had a sleepover with. Me and Liv share a bathroom and often brushes, so there you have it. I was horrified, of course, and couldn't stop itching so I vowed to battle the wee-beasties as soon as possible. I have long thick curly clean red hair. Lice love me. I use very few chemicals in my household, so I wasn't too happy about having to do the RID treatment, but I needed them out. And the dandruff? What was with that? I"ve washed my hair daily since I was 12 due to excessive oiliness and at the age of 47, it  hadn't slowed down. My hair was oily and my skin even worse. My pores were large and clogged despite Retin-A and dermatologist recommended cleansers. There had to be a better way.

Shortly after this horrific incident, I went to a fall festival and bought some beeswax based all organic beauty products...a soap, a lip balm, and a lotion bar. This sparked my daydream of learning the soap making art my grandmother was so proud of. While I was learning my craft, I bought several handcrafted soaps from local masters, like Chagrin Valley Soap and Salve, including a shampoo bar I was intrigued with.

I read up on the virtues of shampoo bars, but quickly learned that there was much pain to reap until the pleasure of silky locks was realized. Apparently, modern shampoos contain numerous nasties like sodium laurel sulfates that strip our scalps and provoke them to produce more grease to reach equilibrium and so on and so on the cycle rinses and repeats--grease, wash, grease, wash...money down the drain and dried out hair! Well, this no-poo thing was very difficult. I was warned about the weird feeling your hair might have initially and no kidding...it was weird. The only way I can describe it was my hair was clean and soft but still greasy looking, especially the under layers. The Chagrin Valley Soap & Salve lady said a rinse of diluted vinegar could help and it did, but my hair still felt weird. Several people said you need to try different shampoo bar formulations until you find the right one. I did and the weirdness persisted. I decided to compromise with  a sulfate-free shampoo, like Aubry Organics; all their shampoos did really well with my hair. I continued on with the diluted cider rinse, despite my daughter's distress that the bathroom smelled like a giant garden salad. After a few weeks of using the organic shampoo and cider rinse, no more dandruff and my hair was so soft and shiny!  I finally won over the girl by adding in a drop of two of lavender or cypress to the vinegar. If this stuff could win over a 14 year old, it must be good.

Here's a few other awesome beauty products I discovered as a result of being a soap maker. One of the first beauty blogs I ever read was Crunchy Betty. She's a huge advocate of the oil cleansing method. While I don't use oils to cleanse, I do use her oil advise for moisturizing, which goes against the grain of all advise brainwashed into me since puberty, that I should avoid all oils like the plague. Well, I was intrigued with the concept that modern skin oiliness is often an over-reactive compensatory mechanism to harsh soaps and detergent laden cleansers. Crunchy Betty has oily skin, so I tried her recommended blend of johoba with a small amount of tamanu oil. Tamanu is an oil recommended for acne and treating acne scarring. It's very dark brownish green and smells to me like
butter pecan icecream. For a one ounce blend I'll use .75 ounce johoba and .25 ounce Tamanu, fortified with essential oils known to be good to my mature, but oily, acne prone skin. My favorite essential blend is 20 drop per ounce blend of  carrot seed, lavender, frankincense, patchouli, and vetiver. Love it.

 And guess what? Since I've been using this oil as my moisturizer and cleansing grains or homemade soap for my cleanser, two major things have happened: my skin is much less oily and my pores are not visible from 3 feet. They aren't even visible at 6 inches! This is crazy stuff. I've been under dermatological care for 30 years and I never achieved this? My skin was so oily, I started to develop clusters of flat-like warts on my forehead which my laser pushing doctor said were massive oil glands, like oil glands on steroids, that could only be removed with laser. Well, screw that expensive stuff. I've tweaked my oil formula.; now, I use meadowfoam oil in place of the jojoba, which is similar in nature, but much more effective on my skin and much less expensive. Johoba oil is harvested from berries plucked off five year old bushes driving up the cost for those bushes to mature. Meadowfoam is harvested from a much more sustainable prolific northwestern U.S. apine flower.

I made a blend for my 76 year old mother plagued for years with pasoriasis. My mother has given me persmission to publish her robust testimonial that this stuff is amazing. Her skin looks an easy ten years younger with the crusty patches clearing up. She struts around the house feeling her soft smooth skins and giggling. It's so cute. I recently sent mom a large replacement bottle, 2 ounces, and dared suggest she share with my brother, her son, genetically cursed with similar skin, and she said, "Oh, he doesn't need that stuff!" So, I sent my suffering brother his own bottle. He reports good results so far.

What I want to say is not...hey, this stuff will cure anything...it's just that all that other commercial crap will do so much harm. Stop the harm and good things happen. You may disagree, and that's ok...I'm hooked!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Unadorned Chamomile

Dirt

The long Memorial Day weekend started with a huge disappointment. On the heels of a 3-4 day summer- like warm stretch, a cold front came through and cooled off the weather into the 50's. Although cloudy and blustery, there was no rain when we could certainly use it. The hubby took me out for Indian food and then we stopped by my friend Melissa's place to support her while she goes through too many changes. On the way home, I gave no thought to the weather since weather reports called for frost warnings on Saturday night and not Friday.

In the morning, my husband told me that the late news indicated the whole area could go through a freeze warning, so sweet thing, at 11:30 pm, slogged out in his slippers and covered the warm crops with sheets. Alarmed, I whipped off the sheets and stood speechless while I contemplated limp blackened leaves drooping off stalks.  These were the plants I started indoors under lights, babied and fussed over for 6 weeks and now this. The sheets didn't work...it was just too cold getting well below freezing on Memorial Day weekend. In 17 years of gardening, this has never happened, but gardeners soldier on.

To add insult to injury, I found out my electronic scale was weighing me 12 pounds under what I actually am. Now, that sucks, so here I sit hungry, cold, and miserable with nothing but soap to placate.

Soap

I infused my olive oil with dried chamomile from the herb border using the double boiler method. I slowly warmed it up going no higher than 120 degrees until I could smell the chamomile, then, removed it from the heat, cooled it off, then heated it back up to the same point. While the herbs were still warm, I poured it through several layers of cheese cloth squeezing out the sunny goodness. I used a very light olive oil to start but the final infusion was golden greenish. I made a tiny batch of salve which I LOVE.

I was grossly undecided on what to do with this batch. The recipe was easy--mostly infused olive oil, coconut, palm kernel flakes, mango butter, castor, and avocado oil. I wasn't  sure exactly what color this would produce, but I was guessing a very pale yellow.
 I researched hundred of pictures of chamomile handmade soap, and frankly, some of it was darned ugly. I've done a tea soap before and I know they turn dark, so I decided to not augment with chamomile tea and no way was I going to waste chamomile essential oil in cold-process soap. Actually, I don't own any chamomile essential oil since it's so pricey. The infusion was pretty strong smelling, but I didn't know if it would withstand the rigors of the cold process. I added no other scent per hubby's request, along with his request for no swirls, glitter, mica, or fancy tops. It's so hard to refrain, but after my carrot batch, I'm appreciating monochromatic simplicity.

It took forever to trace due to the high olive oil; the final traced soap looked like pale yellow banana pudding. It also took forever to gel in my warm oven using the CPOP method. I was hoping I could still smell the chamomile in the final sliced soap and I could! Yeah! I had to add just a wee-bit of adornment--a simple stamp dipped in a trace of bronze. He shouldn't flip about that....

If anybody reads this, I apologize for the boring and minimal picture content. I have no idea how those super soaper blog people can soap and take pictures of every step! For now, my blog helps me assimilate knowledge I gain with each new batch, but hey...how bout this? I can finally hold my stick blender with just one hand! Whoo-hoo!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Impromptu Spoon Swirl Masterpiece

Soap

This soap was impulsive and unplanned...the hubby was playing a gig  and I was reading on the couch when I decided to surf a little soap porn in private. I ended up on watching the Soap 101 Lady make soap. I love listening to her no-nonsense raspy voice and watching her capable rubber gloved hands texture a mean soap top. I watched her tutorial on Spoon Swirl Technique which I can't believe I've never stumbled upon. I had to do it. I'm getting pretty good at setting up my stuff. Still, sometimes it takes me an hour and a half to get ready for soap showtime and it was already 10 pm.

I chose my daughter's favorite color combination--aqua blue, black, and white and whipped up a new recipe on Soap Calc incorporating some new palm kernel flakes ordered from Wholesale Supplies Plus. I mixed to a medium thick trace, scented with a lemongrass essential blend following Ms. Soap 101 exact directions, then swirled  3 times down one side of the soap, 3 times down the other, and 2 times down the center. Awesome. My lovely daughter, enticed by her favorite colors and a new technique, ambled out of her purple teenage cave to help. We embellished with a little aqua mica mixed in oil and glazed on top. Here's how it turned out. The recipe consisted of olive oil, coconut oil, palm kernel flakes, mango butter, and sweet almond oil.. We love this soap. Unlike the last batch, this one matches the one in my head!

Dirt
 My next soap is going to be a chamomile infused soap. I haven't decided what combination to use. I haven't been able to justify the cost of German chamomile essential oil, but it's a cinch to grow, so here it is...daily picked and tossed on a screen to dry and waiting for a good olive oil soak.  This is the annual German chamomile that I started from seed late last summer. It remains a low mound till spring then over a few days grows near 2 and half feet tall and starts making flowers. I pick them daily, once the morning dew dries off around 10 am, then pop their lovely little heads into my hand along with a cursory check for wee-beasties, and then onto the drying screen. The ferny stems are too fragile to bundle and hang upside down and aren't where the essential goodness is anyway. I was a little confused whether I should dry them in a hot dry place with direct sunlight (my sun room) or in a cool dark place. I checked with the ultimate authority, Mountain Rose Herbs, and they suggest a cool dry place out of direct sunlight which could fade and affect flavor. We'll see how they look this weekend. I've really enjoyed having these back in my herb border. I grew them many years ago, but never did anything with them...just plucked them and stuck them up my nose mostly. Nice they will finally serve a more noble purpose in my soap.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Reverse Watermelon?

Soap


Here we have it again...yet another soap that was so far off what I envisioned, it's not even funny. Even though I'm not laughing, it's still beautiful. My husband said it looked like a reverse watermelon, and since I"m going for a light summer theme, reverse watermelon it is! When I look at it, I think..mild breezes on the Gulf at sunset, but that's not what I had in mind at all. The bottom layer was supposed to be a smooth pallid aqua blue with dark blue confetti specks, then a straight black mica line, over that, another pallid smooth aqua layer to be intersected by a pink and white in the pot swirl. My mica line looked like black foam on choppy seas.  What was I thinking? I used sunflower in my recipe to give me more time to play. Sure enough I had time to play..more than I needed, as I  had a heck of a time topping the mica layer because it was still fluid. So, I hemmed and hawed, daintily poured my soap over a spatula to not break the mica line, and wouldn't you know it, by the time I added in the pink in white in the pot swirl, it was thick as thieves. Sheesh! Why didn't I try the IPS with the bottom layer? Stupid. This soap making business will drive me to the brink of insanity. When will I know what I'm doing? Two years? Given all that goes into making a soap just like the one I have in my head, I figure I'll stick with small two pound batches and use more Crisco.

Still, I love this soap. It's very girly unlike my last several batches. It smells like a cottage garden in June--lavender, palmarosa, geranium, marjoram, and a touch of litsea.

Dirt

There was dirt today, as well. My cool crops are up and growing: lettuce, beets, carrots, brussel sprouts, kale and broccoli. My son loves to dig up the garden and hoe into manageable delicious worm riddled chunks. He's such a good boy. His sister is more helpful around harvest time..an excellent bean picker if you need one, but not too interested in early garden prep.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Landscape Soap

I've been thinking about my landscape soap for a long time, then suddenly on Friday night around 9:00 pm, I was compelled to bring the image to life--a beachscape--more exactly, the coast of the Florida Panhandle, one of my most favorite places, the Redneck Riveria--St. George Island. Us weary northern folk have hailed there numerous times for respite and family connection. Somehow, my entire family of origin, except for myself, abandoned middle child,  has ended up in Northern Florida, and while I remain the lone middle child abandoned in northern climes, I don't mind at all frequent visits to the coast. My soap is a tribute to these beloved visits.

There are so many things that can go wrong with a landscape soap, so I'm very proud how my first landscape design turned out. Upside down, I made the sky first, using a pointillism technique with light and dark aqua mica and natural soap mix, followed by a cobalt blue ocean. I embedded carrot soap balls at various cut points in the log, as my sun, then finished with light and dark bronze mica dunes. I used my three pound max wooden loaf mold, usually used for two pound batches.
I thought it might be better to use the full 3 pounds to get the whole landscape. Actually, two would have been sufficient, as these turned out to be wide and ginormous bars. I decided to cut a few slices into smaller hand bars. Since I use mainly essential oils to scent, I wasn't sure what to use, but settled on a nice citrus blend using tangerine, patchouli, petiitgrain, and litsea.

This was a stressful soap. With so many colors and the various layers needing to be at a certain consistency, I was a mess. My daughter, normally a good assistant, wasn't in the mood at 9:30 on a Friday evening for a stressful batch of soap. I totally forgot to do the mica line between sky and ocean layers. I have no idea how soapers are able to videotape their soap travails; it's all I can do to make the soap and not wreck the kitchen too much. Maybe, in time, I'll get it together enough. God, I love soap. I wish I could take a bath all day long,