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!


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. 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.