Friday, April 26, 2013

Summer Soaps!


I've been on a long binge of subdued greenish soaps, in part, because it's spring and part due to the large bag of spirulina powder I purchased from Mountain Rose Herbs. It's time for some more lively soaps. Inspired by a soapmaker I'm following, I tested out the tiger stripe method with a black and white soap. Now, this was turned out great!
Since Tigers hang in the jungle, I thought I'd do a jungle inspired essential oil blend to complement. The predominant scent in the blend was a new oil I just received in the mail--petitgrain--apparently squeezed from various citrus leaves and twigs. I added a little lemongrass and patchouli to anchor down the lighter scents. Now, this was something I know I've smelled before, but can't place it. It's been sitting on my dining room table for a week. Every time I pass, I can't help but pick one up and take sniff. What was I thinking? Even though the method is called tiger-stripe, I did a zebra with pink, and they don't live in the jungle. What essential oil blend would you use for a Savannah-scented creation? Funny, but everyone that's taken a sniff of this soap has the same reaction, "Ooooh, that's nice, but what is that smell?"--completely familiar, but untraceable   I have a feeling this oil will blend spectacularly with so many others. I may use it for the next project.

Tomorrow I'm going to start on a two-part soaping project. I want to do an elemental design--a beach scene--to herald in the upcoming season. Stage one will consist of making orange citrus scented soap balls. I'll make a small half pound batch of my cheap recipe, color it with turmeric or paprika and scent with a petitgrain tangerine blend. My usual CPOP, once I take it out of the oven and once cooled to a fond-able state, I'll roll out tiny little sun balls--future blazing summer suns for my elemental design. Next weekend, once I receive a few new supplies, including a shimmery aqua blue mica, I'll finish the soap. It's all in my head--screaming to get out. At last, I'm entering a more mellow time at work, the resumes perfect, my students settling in for the job search, while their starry-eyed career development specialist dreams of soap.


It is early spring--the soil is warming and seedlings slowly growing. Life is good. I'm very excited about my German Chamomile bed; the first flush of flowers are preparing to explode. I planted calendula seeds about a month ago and they are up and getting ready to sprout their first true leaves. My indoor warm weather plants are getting so big. I transplanted to larger containers and I hope I can contain them until it's safe to plant outside.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Split Pea Soap

Just one more soap batch before I hang up my soaper coat and focus more on the garden. I wanted a lime-ginger soap, so I planned a a recipe with a higher proportion of hard oils to give me the perfect fancy top. I'll use spirulina as my main colorant. For the top, I'll mix a little of the bronze oxide into some green for the top. I wanted to do a spoon-drop or faux funnel type soap using an essential oil blend heavier on the lime and  anchored with a little patchouli and litsea. I wasn't sure how much ginger to add so I kept it to a splash. I made sure I made my teenage daughter was sleeping so she couldn't give her two cents about the green. She hates natural colorants, tending to neon blues, pinks, and greens. They have their place, but I like the look of natural soap.

I mixed up my oils which were more on the beige side, due, I think to the rice bran oil I've been using. I divided into two equal proportions leaving one portion natural, the other with spirulina and started glopping it into my two pound wooden loaf mold. I put into the oven for an hour at 170 to force gel. I was really anxious to see how the inside looked. I knew it was like an ugly geode rock just waiting to be cracked to reveal glorious insides.  I let it cool completely and removed it from the mold. At this stage, I usually let it dry some more before cutting it up, but I am woefully impatient. I cut it, and sure enough, each slice showed a little drag. The line distinctions were blurry. My daughter, awake now, and as predicted, gave my creation a sniff and a huff. She said it smelled nice, but the colors boring. I disagree. I reminded her that the colors will lighten up with time and further evaporation, but if it's not neon, florescent in-your-face green, it's a thumbs down and not worthy for the soap dish. I reminded her, too, that different people look for different things in their soap. Scent is huge for me and soap feel. I want soaps that will good for my difficult aging acneic skin, but she just wants a pretty (soap) face....sigh.

Once my soap is cut, I like to keep it on the dining room table, centrally located between living room and kitchen, so I can make several passes at different angles throughout the day to ponder what went wrong, what went right.
Curiously, I was making pot of split pea soup for dinner and noticed how similar in color it was to my soap. Hubby said I should call it Split Pea Soap.

The Dirt
No major gardening this weekend, but I did wander the garden and thin out the sprouting cold season vegetables. My hubby and I went on a glorious 10 mile run in preparation for my friend's marathon, On My Own Two Feet, just a week away. I'n going to bring a soap basket to raffle off a soap basket to benefit victims of domestic violence. We passed a swollen lake swooning with water fowl: ducks, blue herons, and a white egret-like bird I've never ever seen. We passed clumps of emerging skunk cabbage a color green my daughter would love.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Soap Update-Modified Peacock & Mike's Pure White Soap

I really think my flower funnel design turned peacock is one of my favorites. I added a little bronze mica to the brown components and the totally neat-o thing is how the shimmer shimmied it's way into the adjoining spirulina green. I couldn't stop looking at it and posing it at different angles. It smells phenomenal. Bare spearmint is over the top for me, but adding cedarwood and patchouli really rounded out the scent. I think it's the perfect unisex soap. I packaged up some soap for extended family in Tallahassee,  but not too much of this one, since I want to hoard it for my soapy self.
I loved the silky feel of the peaks from the shea butter and rice bran oils. Get this soap wet and the sharp peaks are going to soften into molten bronze. I love it!

White's (Almost) Pure White Soap Update

I wasn't wild about this soap on a few levels--first, I didn't like the essential oil combination. This was the first time I've ever used tea tree in a soap, and I don't know--it reminded me of hormonal middle-aged breakouts since I use it in that capacity quite often. The touch of color was a good idea, but not the alkanet which turned a blue-grey color exactly the same color as veins of Roquefort, so in all, it reminded me of a slab of stinky cheese. I didn't make it for myself, anyway, and my husband and son both like it, except the hubby did balk at the bronze mica sprinkle on top and made me scrape it off with a vegetable peeler. It kind of did look like a dirty cheese rind. Now, on the bright side, this super cheap Crisco soap lathered like mad during a soap test on myself  (never the family dachshund, Lulu). It'll be ready in a few weeks to give it extra time to evaporate off excess water after the cold process/oven process. Here's a picture:


Finally, since planting my spring crops, it rained! The soil is warming up and I suspect my seeds will be up this weekend. The indoor seedlings are sprouting their first true leaves. If it didn't storm like nuts tonight, I was going to surround my little garden with wooden stakes adorned with rags saturated with natural rotten egg based deer repellent. We live in city limits, but sometimes you'd think we're out in a nature preserve. While I love wildlife, I wish they'd not go stomping around in my garden. My neighbors are squirrel and deer enthusiasts. They throw out peanuts and roll out barrels that actually dispense deer kibble. To each his own, but in order for deer to reach the free bounty, they cross our property first, nibble my apples, my sunflower heads, dance in my garden leaving deep hoof furrows, and nibble flowering vegetables.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Mike's Pure White Soap


The day started with lots of dirt. My hubby and I did an 8 mile run in preparation for my friends half marathon near the end of April, On My Own Two Feet, that benefits survivors of domestic violence and raises awareness of the problem We did a nice stretch of paved Bike and Hike, not so dirty really, but when I came home, I started into the real dirt. First, my 17 year old just passed his temps, so we endured a harrowing half hour getting him to acknowledge basic car mechanics and processes, which I've taken completely for granted for the last 4 decades. After, he tried putting the car in reverse before stopping and grinding all the gears, we called it a day and relegated him to garden duty. Finally, a hint of spring...we hoed half the garden for the spring crops, planting 3 varieties of lettuce, kale, brussel sprouts, broccoli, carrots, beets, and turnip greens. My indoor seeds are doing well, off the heat, and the first true leaves emerging after the seed leaves.

My husband, while he loves my soap, is requesting a personal  batch of plain white soap scented with his favorite patchouli blend. Plain soap is beautiful, but boring. I'm trying to learn different techniques, so every time I make a new batch, I'm inclined to try new color combinations and swirl patterns. My daughter and I share a shower, and literally, we have 6 or 7 bars at a time in our shower. It's not messy. We keep them dry on slatted wood holders sitting on the side of the tub. Hubby, however, keeps them wherever,  even though I bought him a nice wooden holder, yet 7-8 canoe-like soap remnants sit on the shower shelf dripping oxide blood down the shower side. It's really disgusting, and he knows it, but knows not know how to keep his handmade soap clean, dry, and contained. Due to this woeful inability, he's requested a pure white as all get out, made with Crisco, maybe, and unadorned.


Let there be soap for I am so dirty! Ok, I have never used New Crisco for my any of my soap formulations, and since my hubby requested something cheat and utilitarian, Crico he gets. He likes patchouli, so my fragrance blend is going to be a blend of patchouli, cedarwood, and tea trea. No color. I mixed up my oils and measured out lye and distilled water. When it came time for soaper showtime, I thought--what would a wee bit of color hurt. I'll use just a bit of light alkanet and do a droplet effect. So simple. Still mostly unadulterated white, but just a bit of life. You know what? I could sift on top just a tad of that new bronze mica I bought from Wholesale Supplies Plus. Mostly  white, but not so freakin virgin. Thank God. Oh, how fun. I mixed with my trusty stick blender to a medium trace. I poured out a teeny bit of the white and mixed with a tiny bit of alkanet. This time it was a nice light purple rather than the purple-black I mixed up for my last batch--goodness, this stuff strong or what? I poured out my white base and then poured my purple from way up high. I love this technique--so exciting to see the what happened deep within the soap the next day. I swear, it's so much like running or gardening, I can't even stand it. You just never know what you're going to get.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Spearmint Patchouli Flower Power Turns Peacock Swirl

I tell, ya, for several consecutive batches, I couldn't make a fancy topped soap to save my life; they  traced nicely and gave me all kinds of time to do nice droplet effects or swirls, but no peaks like on a pretty birthday cake. So, tonight, going with what I do best, I ran a new recipe to try in my 9 bar slab mold. I like to incorporate a few new concepts into each new batch. On this one I wanted to try new natural colorants, alkanet root powder and spirulina. from Mountain Rose Herbs. I read that spirulina is practically a super food amino acid laden nutritional bomb. I could whip it into smoothies for new my spring cleaning of the soul diet, since just a little of that stuff goes a long way in soap. A half teaspoon was alright whipped with vanilla yogurt and frozen fruit, but use a teaspoon, like I did this morning, and it tastes like an aquarium. My son told me I was a hopeless hippy eating fish food. Hmmm...what is this stuff going to do in my soap? Will it smell like the ocean? Best use a bunch of patchouli in this batch. I also ordered my first bronze mica!!

Ok, here's my vision: I'll make a patchouli-spearmint-lavender blend with a new recipe containing olive oil, rice bran (never used this one before--oh boy!) coconut oil, sunflower, shea, a wee-bit of castor, and just  to get rid of it--some palm kernel oil that I bought before I knew it was messing with orangutan life. I know there are sustainable sources of palm kernel, but I had no clue if it was. I only used it one other time on a wayward batch I screwed up due to poor additive choice. Note to self--never put dried lavender on fresh poured soup. It looked like cancer. Bad associations aside, I needed to use it up. My design was going to be that modified mini-dream catcher design that looks like flowers once it's cut. I wanted to pour a white base and then faux funnel alternating light alkanet purple, spearmint spirulina green, and mica bronze brown. I was so excited, I decided to soap during the middle of the work week. With the teenagers  voluntarily sequestered in their rooms and the hubby off to band practice, I could turn the kitchen into my super soaper lab! I got out my goggles and put on my former nursing lab coat, now turned dedicated super soaper coat, and got down to business.

When I started mixing, I was a little shocked at how fast it was tracing. Why could that be? I use well-behaved essential oils! I poured at 110 degrees. I poured out my base of white into the slab and proceeded to mix up my colorants. I started with the spirulina green and poured a circle, which sat right on top of the soap! Yikes, change of plans to a peacock swirl blobbing alternating lines of color. While I finishing my peacock, my daughter came out of her room (she usually does that once I'm done doing the boring set-up and measuring) and asked if we could eek out a few peaks using a whisk. Then I popped it into the oven for a CPOP. I like to use this with my slab mold, so I get a complete gel. I just took it out of the oven and it's dark as night. We'll see how it looks in the morning once it cools off.

Funny, how this soaping stuff is--only twice has my soap turned out like the vision in my head. The soap is always nice (except the brown lavender batch), but that's my goal...make the vision happen on a more consistent basis. On a positive note, maybe I've found the perfect fancy top recipe. I think it it's the palm kernel. It was the only NEW thing, except for the rice bran oil. Any ideas??