Thursday, December 12, 2019

Imperfect soap...

Sometimes I have to kind of laugh when I look at the soap images on my shop page. I see all of the little imperfections on my soap bars. Marks from knife cuts, finger smudges from handling the bars while moving the bars to drying racks, not so perfect edges or corners, some soda ash. I think there's a couple of coffee ground drag marks on the Gma's Jittery Mocha Latte Soap picture.

I do have a device that cleans up the bars, it bevels the corners and smooths the flat surfaces. My Dad built it for me and it works great! The thing about doing that is it can take off quite a bit of soap. I would either have to sell smaller bars or make the bars bigger to account for any trimming. Then I have to do something with the trimmings because I'm not going to just toss them.

It's possible to rebatch the trimmings by melting them in a crock pot to make bars for personal use. I have three lunch bags full of these plus 16 bars of rebatched soap at the moment.

As much as I would like my soaps to look perfect, I made the call to stop trimming them. Once the soap is used, all of the imperfections disappear. It's like magic...or something. It's soap. I realize people may want perfect when they buy something but the thing most important to me is how the soap treats skin. How it is made with only natural/organic/nonGMO oils, butters, scents, botanicals and colorants. The finished bars have no harsh chemicals (yes, I use lye but it's no longer in the soap once the soap has cured, it's science), no unpronounceable ingredients (though I do have trouble saying Ylang Ylang and for years I pronounced Calendula CalenDULa).

Minor imperfections are...well...rather minor when it comes to something that's going to disappear as soon as it's used. I really think the amazing properties of my soaps speak for themselves...if they could speak.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Going cold...

When I first started making soap I used the cold process method. After mixing the oils and lye solution you pour the soap into a mold of some sort and wait for four or more weeks before you can use the soap. Saponification doesn't usually take quite that long but you want to be sure there is no live lye in your soap and you want to give the bars a chance to harden.

With hot process soap you basically cook the soap batter either by heating it in a crockpot until it volcanoes and goes through applesauce, mashed potato and Vaseline stages, or by soaping at high temperatures (in the 200F area) in a stainless steel pot/plastic container, all of the stages happen pretty quick when soaping that hot. It's pretty fun to watch this all take place within a half hour.

There are a few advantages to the hot process method. First, it's fast, once the cook is over, saponification has taken place and you can use the soap immediately. Usually you give it a few weeks to evaporate some of the moisture and give the bar a chance to harden. Another advantage is you're able to add the superfats to the soap after saponification so you can add the really good fats then, giving you the chance to control which awesome oils aren't eaten up by the lye. It's good practice to use the more pricey oils at this point. It can also help to add essential oils after the cook so they're not superheating and loosing their oomph.

There are a couple of disadvantages to the hot process method as well...at least for me. One is, the soap batter is pretty thick and while it's possible for some soapers to get some amazing swirls, it's not as easy to get the pretty bars that you get with the cold process method...at least for me. Another disadvantage is that there can be quite a bit of stirring of the hot batter which is like stirring a mix between brownie batter and cookie dough.

Due to the job I have, my hands and wrists already take a beating and stirring a thick batter gets extremely painful. Over the summer I've been working on cold process soaps because it's not as hot as working over very hot soap batters. Making the cold process soaps made me realize how much easier it was on my hands and wrists and I'm thinking I may have to go back to that method.

One concern I have is not having the ability to choose which oils/fats will superfat my soaps. I'm not even sure it will be noticeable. I'm going to give it a try and see if there is any difference in the properties of the soaps. Quality, moisturizing soaps is my number one goal. I'll do what works best to achieve that!

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Christmas Soaps

A few months ago I started thinking about various soaps to make for my shop that represent the upcoming Holidays. There are still some bars of the Autumn Pumpkin Soap available for now but I wanted some soap for Christmas as well. Making organic/natural soaps can make that a little bit tricky.

It's been difficult to find a natural colorant that makes soap a Christmas red so I passed on that pretty quick. And many of the scents we associate with Christmas (cinnamon,  nutmeg, clove) can only be used in very minute amounts because they are "hot" oils that can be irritating to skin.

I asked for input on Facebook and received some great suggestions!

I ended up with three different soaps, Gingerbread Soap, Eggnog Soap and Christmas Tree Soap. I used the bare minimum of essential oils but like any new skin care item I really...highly...recommend you use these only on your hands and wrists at first to make sure you have no issues with the essential oils. And as always, check the ingredients lists to make sure you have no allergies to anything in the soap.

Gingerbread Soap

The Gingerbread Soap has some pretty awesome moisturizing oil: avocado, castor, coconut, shea butter, etc. It also has a bit of annatto seed oil and cacao powder for color, maca powder and apricot seeds for a bit of exfoliant, ginger essential oil and a bit of ground nutmeg sprinkled on top (didn't think ginger would show up very well). I love the little orange speckles and it smells so good! The bars are a bit shorter but they are also wider. You can see that it went through a partial gel, there's a darker oval that reaches almost to the edges of the soap.

Eggnog Soap

I love Eggnog, so rich and creamy and...noggy. Pretty amazing oils in this soap, too! I added a tiny bit of turmeric to the bottom to give it a creamy color and left the top plain for a bit of whipped cream. It also has nutmeg sprinkled on top, bentonite clay and nutmeg essential oil. It smells amazing!

Christmas Tree Soap

I love the way this soap smells! It has fir needle and cedarwood essential oils and it smells very Christmas tree-like! Spirulina powder was used to add color for this "tiger stripe" swirl. Still getting the hang of those swirls. 

All of my Christmas soaps will be listed in my shop on December 1st and there is a very limited quantity available!

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Gma's Jittery Mocha Latte soap...

I started making this soap because so many people love coffee and coffee has great benefits for the skin. The first batch I made had coffee as part of the water in the lye solution and coffee grounds as an exfoliant.

Current Gma's Jittery Mocha Latte soap...

It is a pretty great soap with castor, coconut, grapeseed, olive, sweet almond and avocado oils, as well as cocoa butter. It also has yogurt and heavy whipping cream. I really wanted this soap to smell like coffee and I have searched for a roasted coffee essential oil for months.

During that search I started reading about the benefits of coffee bean oil (not essential oil) and there are a lot of them. I'm one of those people who kind of take miracle cures/fixes with a grain of salt even though I've had tremendous luck with essential oils for so many different things.

Some of the claims that coffee bean oil proponents promote include...
  • Reduces acne
  • Diminishes cellulite
  • Soothes insect bites/stings
  • Soothes puffy eyes
  • Acts as an antioxidant and fights free radicals 
  • Reduces fine lines/wrinkles

I definitely felt like it was worth the investment to add this to Gma's Jittery Mocha Latte Soap. To make recipes for soap I use a soap calculator (SoapCalc) that lets you...well, calculate soap ingredients. Most importantly, it calculates the safe amount of lye to use in your batch.

When I want to see the properties of a specific oil, I just add that one oil to get an idea of what it does for soap on it's own. So here are the results of coffee bean oil...


I mainly pay attention to the top 5 "Soap Bar Quality" numbers and I can see that coffee bean oil adds hardness to the bar, is conditioning and provides a creamy, rather than bubbly, lather. So it seems like a good addition to soap because SoapCalc is going by the oils properties (fatty acid chains and stuff), not by what the internet says about coffee bean oil. You can see that it has no cleansing properties in and of itself, however if you're using it to wash your hands your hands will still get clean...because you're washing them. In comparison, check out what happens if a bit of coconut oil is added...


It becomes a much harder bar, it has great cleansing qualities and now it has some bubbles. But, the conditioning and creamy qualities go down. Ahhhhhhh! I can spend hours working on recipes to get the best possible properties I can. So why does this happen? No idea. Obviously coconut oil has different fatty acid chains and they may react to water molecules in a whole 'nuther way.

Anyway, what was I talking about? Coffee soap! So I made more Gma's Jittery Mocha Latte Soap yesterday and added roasted coffee bean oil and coffee essential (I wasn't sure if the coffee bean oil scent would stay through the curing process). I just have to say that both of these smelled amazing! I was pretty excited about making a coffee soap that smells like coffee.

So the batch was mixed and I split a tiny bit of the batter off. To the larger portion I added organic cacao powder...it is a mocha latte, afterall. I left the smaller portion as it was and poured...

Textured the top with a spoon and sprinkled ground organic coffee and organic cane sugar on top.

Now I just clean the kitchen and start waiting to see if it gels...

The soap did gel, the hottest temperature reading was 114 degrees F.

And this morning it was ready to slice...

You can see the lighter drop swirl at the top of the bars.

This soap should darken a bit, at least the part with the cacao powder, it's a bit hard to see but there is a darker rim around the sides and bottom of the soap. This "discoloration" is part of the curing process. I was a little perplexed by the fact that the coffee grounds look like they're encased in air bubbles, I try pretty hard to eliminate air bubbles in the soap before and after the pour.

The biggest issue I have at the moment is that...I smell very little coffee. I didn't necessarily want it to be a hit-you-in-the-face coffee scent but I didn't want it to be a I-think-I-smell-coffee-but-it-might-be-my-imagination scent either. I'm hoping when the "new soap smell" wears off, the coffee scent will shine through. If not, at least it will have real coffee, coffee grounds and coffee bean oil. That's about as coffee as I can make it and it will be listed in my shop at the end of October.

If you can't wait until then to grab a bar of Gma's Jittery Mocha Latte Soap, there are a few bars of the original version left in the shop.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Re-using plastic grocery bags...

A few posts ago I joked about how back in the day crocheted hats were the thing to make with saved up plastic grocery bags. I'm not exactly sure how it started but the thought of repurposing plastic bags was kind of new then.

When stores started using plastic bags instead of paper bags it was like, yayeeeee, we're saving trees! Well, we all know how that turned out. I've never been a fan of plastic bags, sure, they have handles but sometimes they're just plain useless. You often have to do the double bag thing so then you're stuck with one more bag to dispose of.

Anyway, after that last post I decided to see what other things people were making with plastic bags. Some are actually kind of cool. I'm not affiliated with any of the links, or any links, (my family does claim me sometimes, though).

I searched the webs for plarn crochet projects (plarn is basically plastic yarn), there were tons to choose from. There's also knitting and weaving projects as well.  

If you have an overabundance of plastic bags and are looking for something crafty to do you might check out a video or two on how to cut the bags. It might seem like a no brainer, cutting bags into strips, but there are a few secrets to it that allows you to cut the bag into one long strip so you're tying fewer strips together. 
















I wasn't able to find the owner of these cushions but if you can crochet you will most likely be able to find a pattern for a ball and scale it up a wee bit.













Had to include the hat!

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Concert time!

Last week my daughter and I went to see Breaking Benjamin, Chevelle, Three Days Grace, Dorothy and Diamante. Loren bought the tickets as my birthday gift!

Chevelle is one of my favorite bands and she and I have seen them together twice before...back in the day...a lifetime ago.


I admit I wasn't very familiar with anyone else's music but I've listened to Breaking Benjamin since Loren got the tickets in February. 

The concert was at the Ak Chin Pavilion in Phoenix. We've never been there before and to be honest, I rarely go to Phoenix...it's big...and not being familiar with it, slightly confusing. 

We decided to leave with plenty of time to get some t-shirts and a beverage before we found our seats and since we were mainly there to see Chevelle and Breaking Benjamin we didn't feel the need to be there when the gates opened so we hoped to avoid that rush.

So not being in a rush was a good thing because they had I-10 West closed for construction. It turns out, I-10 West is the highway we needed to get to the concert. Luckily we have map apps that can feed us that info before we get in the car. Not so lucky, sometimes the map apps seem to find weird ways to get you where you're going, but it did get us there.

We decided to splurge a bit and paid for reserved parking. Not being familiar with Ak Chin Pavilion, we had no idea what the parking was like or how far away we'd be or how long it would take to get to the gate. It was a good choice, we parked right outside the gate!

Ak Chin Pavilion is definitely set up well for big concerts and on top of that they do it well. Plenty of security and police officers, the vendors were efficient and speedy so even the long merch line moved quickly. And the bathrooms were clean, yeah, that's a thing.

While we were in the merch line getting our shirts we caught the last bit of Dorothy, she sounded pretty cool, though I'm not very familiar with her music.

Setting up for Chevelle
We got to our seats just before Three Days Grace started so we made ourselves comfy and waited.
Not going into a detail but the show was pretty amazing!

Chevelle

Big screen pics!

I love those guys!

Breaking Benjamin

Loren enjoying the show.
One of my favorite music moments is when Breaking Benjamin did a medley of covers, Pantera, Nirvana, Metallica and Rage Against the Machine. Metallica is one of my all-time favorite bands and I told my daughter that's probably as close as I'll ever get to seeing them live.

I will try to see Breaking Benjamin and Chevelle anytime I get a chance. And to be able to have that time with my daughter was priceless!

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Sweet Erica's Honey, Oats and Goat Soap

I absolutely love this soap. Milk soaps have pretty amazing qualities and have been used for centuries as a luxurious soap. Goats milk soap has a distinctive scent, its a lovely rustic scent that reminds you there's milk in the soap. It's quite lovely and I don't know if it's my imagination but I smell the oatmeal as well!

Milk soaps contain lactic acid which is a gentle exfoliant, it helps remove dead skin cells (who knew!) and goat's milk (and other milks) contains vitamin A which is helpful in moisturizing and maintaining healthy skin.

I love the orange bars of the Sweet Erica's Honey, Oats and Goat Soap but I wanted them to be more representative of the oatmeal color of the very first oatmeal soap I made. Its such a lovely, creamy color and the oatmeal has been blended to a powder so it's not too scratchy. I love seeing the speckles of oatmeal in the bars.

So I went old school with this batch and used the cold process method (it seems to be a bit nicer to do in the summer). I was very fortunate to have my son, Tyler, here to help I definitely needed the extra pair of hands! 

Mixing lye into milk sometimes takes an extra step, it's not always necessary, it's more of an aesthetics thing. To keep the milk from turning a dark orange when adding the lye you can freeze the milk first. Freezing keeps it from overheating (and possibly scorching) when you start adding the lye. Then you add the lye to the milk ice cubes a tablespoon or so at a time and stir...a lot. The frozen milk starts to melt pretty quick and you just keep slowly adding the lye and stirring...a lot...until all the lye has been added and the milk cubes melted. Then you stir...a lot. 

It's interesting to note that the lye and the fats in the goat's milk are already starting to saponify in tiny amounts during this process and tiny beads of soap start forming. The goal with all of the stirring is to make sure all of the lye has been dissolved. I always pour my lye solution through a strainer and the little tiny beads of forming soap made that a bit more difficult than usual but it eventually happened.

Fresh in the mold...love that color!

The soap smells as good as it looks! 

Oatmeal speckles!

When I mixed the lye/milk solution into the oils the lye solution was at 78 and the oils at 85. Nice cool temps for making milk soap. The soap did gel slightly and heat up to 118, surprisingly cool. But when I cut into them...


I had a slight moment of panic. I thought the soap had the...dun dun duuuunnnnn...dreaded orange spots (DOS, and yes...as silly as it sounds, it's a thing). I've heard of it but I've never had a soap with DOS...that I can remember. I did some searching, the pictures of DOS look nothing like this and the reasons behind DOS don't apply to my soaps. So if it's not dreaded orange spots, what is it?

Okay, so here's the story. When I warmed up the oils, honey and shea butter enough to melt the shea the temps were higher than my lye/goats milk solution. I was hoping to get the soap in the mold so I stuck the pot of warm oils in an ice water bath in the sink to bring the temperatures down. If you remember the name of this soap "Sweet Erica's Honey, Oats and Goat Soap...yup, that's honey. When I placed the pot of oils and honey in the ice water bath the honey solidified from the cold. I noticed it towards the end of the pour but forgot about it until I saw the spots. I think in my head (it's crazy in there sometimes) I thought the soap would superheat (milk soaps often do) and the honey would melt/blend with the soap batter as it heated.

So now you'll get the lovely properties of honey directly on your skin and since it's in soap it washes right off. Win-win, right? Well, we'll see. The soap will be perfectly safe to use and unless something crazy happens before it's finished curing, should just be soap with a few bits of honey here and there. It should be listed in my shop in mid-October.

Moral of the story? Wait until the oils and lye solution are emulsified before adding the honey.