Thursday, May 9, 2019

Bloomin' Arizona...

Last year we planted some flower seeds in a flower bed in hopes of bringing some life to the bare strip of dirt. The plan was to plant herbal types of plants that flower to benefit the bees, butterflies and humans in the area. I also wanted plants that dropped seeds in hopes of a perpetual flower garden.

I ended up choosing Borage, Purple Cone Flower, Lavender, Hyssop and Calendula. The Borage was mainly planted for the bees. The Purple Cone Flower, aka echinacea, I will eventually be harvesting roots for boosting the immune system and tea for headaches. Lavender, I was hoping to dry it to add petals to my Amanda Bavender Lavender Soap and making lavender tea. Hyssop was another thing I wanted for the bees but it is supposed to be good for coughs, colds, etc. (I have a Hyssop oxymel in the pantry made with my own flowers!). The Calendula is great for skin, I use calendula oil in several of my soaps. It's also great for a detox beverage, anti-inflammatory, etc.

I'm sure I'm not the only person that feels like gardening is more of an experiment than an accomplishment but ya can't give up. Last year the Borage went crazy and basically took over the garden.

This little bee was okay with the Borage barrage.

Quite a few of the Purple Cone Flower seeds were successful but I found it interesting that they didn't get more than 6-8 inches tall. They did bloom, however, and the flowers were the normal size. A few of the Calendula sprouted and bloomed but the Borage overshadowed them and all but one of the Lavender seeds.

Another kind of interesting...or weird...thing is the Lavender (lavendula augustifolia) ended up with white flowers, which isn't a problem, but there is absolutely no scent other than green (you know that smell of a plant that has no flower or herbal just smells like a green plant? That.) and the flower buds are kind of strange. I admit I'm not a Lavender expert but from the images I've seen, the flowers grow around the end of the flower stem, mine seem to grow on one side of the stem so that the end of the stem kind of curls. Also, the plant grows like a ground cover rather than the small bush type of plant I was expecting...I call it Lazy Lavender. I've looked it up numerous times to check and recheck to see if it really *is* lavender.

Anyways, the Hyssop struggled through the summer, mainly due to being covered by the Borage. But when I took out the Borage (highly recommend gloves for this...highly) late last year, the Hyssop started to thrive, and it did so over the winter and now it's getting it's revenge on the Borage by taking over the flower bed.

Hyssop going crazy and the Lazy Lavender kind of just hanging out.

I haven't seen any signs of the Borage seeds sprouting (I harvested many but the plants had to have dropped hundreds). But along the fence the Purple Cone Flowers have done really well this year. Pretty much reaching their normal height. You can see one of the flowers in just about the center, top of the picture above.

Purple Cone Flowers, first bloom this spring and so many buds!

I'm pretty excited about the flower bed, it's looking beautiful and the bees seem extremely content.


Friday, April 19, 2019

Cory's Arizona Sunshine Soap

At the end of March my cousin, Cory, visited from Oregon. While I'm sure she visits AZ to catch up with family and friends, I think a big part of her visits here is the Arizona sunshine. She loves the sun and the warmth that Arizona has to offer, especially in March. It is a really beautiful time of year here.

Cory and I at Mangos Mexican Café in downtown Mesa, AZ.

While Cory was here she would come pick me up so we could hang out and every single time she had a Dutch Brother's mocha latte for me and an iced tea for herself. I felt very spoiled! We shopped at antique stores, ate out and spent several hours learning how to play the "Ticket to Ride" board game (thanks for your patience, Will!).

It was great visiting with her and I was especially excited because she wanted a soap specially made for her and she agreed to help me with it. I love showing people how to make soap, especially when they show an interest in the process.

We used the cold process method to make Cory's soap because I wanted two shades of orange. I wanted her to do the hanger swirl and also swirl the top. Unfortunately, both shades of orange are so similar you can't see a difference. Soaping seems to be a perpetual learning experience but I will know better for the next batch.

Cory's Arizona Sunshine Soap

The soap will be listed in my shop at the end of April. I've been using a sample and it's safe enough to list now but I want to give it one more week just to be safe.

The soap has a lovely, creamy lather from the oils and butters (castor, coconut, grapeseed, avocado, olive, sweet almond oils, cocoa and mango butters) and it has a lovely citrusy scent from the orange and tangerine essential oils.

I can't wait for Cory to try it, I hope she loves it!

Sunday, March 31, 2019

And the winner is...

The winner of Joy's Handcrafted Soaps first giveaway is Christa Lammers!!!

Friday, March 8, 2019

Soda ash...

I remember the first time soda ash appeared on a batch of soap I made. I thought I had done something horribly wrong and the soap was ruined. It's not a good feeling when you think about the money and hard work you put into the soap (this was before I used a stick blender and there was much stirring to get the soap batter to come to trace).

Before tossing it I started researching the thin white layer that had formed on the top of my soap. I was relieved to learn that the soap wasn't ruined and it was a natural reaction of unsaponified lye reacting to air. Soda ash is just sodium carbonate, you may have seen it at the store, it's also known as washing soda.

Soda ash normally washes off the first time the soap is used but it doesn't look very nice on a new bar of soap.

The Minty Loofah Foot Soap, quite a bit of soda ash formed.
There are many suggestions on preventing soda ash, some quite helpful. You can cover the soap with plastic wrap after pouring it into molds preventing air from getting to the soap. You can also lightly spray 91% isopropyl alcohol on exposed areas. I have just purchased this for the first time and plan on trying it on the next cold process soap I make.

Since the Minty Loofah Foot Soap had already formed soda ash I found that many soapers suggest steaming the soap to remove the soda ash so I gave it a try.

The Minty Loofah Foot Soap after steaming off the soda ash.
There is still a bit of soda ash on the bars but it looks quite a bit better. Steaming also made the bars a bit shiny which is kind of cool.

Hopefully I will be able to prevent soda ash from forming in the future but if not, at least I can steam most of it off of the soap. It's always nice to find helpful tips from others who have faced the same issues.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

My first giveaway!

I'm having my first giveaway and I'm really excited about it!

Selling online is very competitive and truth-be-told I'm kind of a horrible sales person. I want people to try my soap, love my soap and use my soap. I really believe in my product and have had such amazing feedback and that drives me to continue to research oils, butters, essential oils, etc. and make more soap.

My first giveaway is a way to reach out to more people and I'm asking for your help to do that, and here's how.

Follow my Joy's Handcrafted Soap Board on Pinterest = 1 entry
Repin a Soap from my Joy's Handcrafted Soap Board on Pinterest = 1 entry
Follow me on Twitter = 1 entry
Retweet this Giveaway Tweet = 1 entry
Follow me on Instagram = 1 entry
Follow Joy's Handcrafted Soaps Blog = 1 entry
Comment on this post with the soaps that interest you the most from my shop = 1 entry
Like me on Facebook = 1 entry

That's a total of eight entries! I will be putting each entry in the Random Name Picker, so if you have eight entries your name will be added to the list nine times, if you have three entries, your name will be added three times, etcetera etcetera.

The winner will be picked and announced at approximately 8pm AZ time on March 31, 2019.

 And the prize?

The winner will receive three bars of soap, of their choosing, from my shop! Completely free of charge. You can choose soaps that you would like to try, or as gifts for others.

Rules? Yes, there are two.
1. I only ship to US addresses.
2. No immediate family, which means my parents, kids, grandkids, sibblings, nieces and nephews. Y'all know where my soap is anyway. =)

Good luck!

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Cleanup after soaping...

Cleaning up after making hot process soap is easy, it's already lathers and cleans right up.

Cleaning up after making cold process soap is a bit different. The soap batter hasn't saponified yet so it's basically oils and lye solution. First, the lye is still active and can burn your skin if you don't rinse it right off. Second, the oils are still oils and...oily. I used to make sure I wiped as much batter out with paper towels as humanly possible before washing the oily oils down the drain. But, ew.

I got to thinking, if I let the dishes and utensils I've used set for a day or so (just like the soap in the mold) the remaining batter will just turn to soap which will make it a breeze to clean everything. Yeeeah, it took me a while to figure that out but it makes cleaning so much easier!

So this is how I cleanup after cold process soap making. Everything is sitting outside turning into soap. I'll scrape off the remaining bits and put it in my scrap bag which will eventually be made into soap for my home.

There are no kids or pets around so there's no worries about accidents happening.

The Calendula Aloe Vera Soap is cut and curing on the racks. It should be in my shop around March 29!

The rosehip powder makes some pretty interesting patterns.
I layered this soap in the mold, sprinkled rosehip powder and did a hanger swirl (literally, you use a hanger to swirl the batter). The rose hip should gently exfoliate. The orange and vanilla essential oils smell fresh and summery. I think the soap may darken up, soaps with vanilla essential oils generally do. But we'll see.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Why I don't sell shampoo bars...

I've been making shampoo bars for myself and family for over a year after a request by my daughter. It's been an experiment more than anything because there are so many different things that a shampoo bar has to address and so many different hair types...not to mention hair dyes.

I didn't realize that you couldn't just make soap and use it on your hair. Well, I guess you could but some strange things can happen. Hair can get greasy feeling, stiff, dry, crunchy...anything but soft, shiny and manageable.

Since I haven't been able to figure out a recipe that will promise great results without stripping hair dye, I'm just going to continue to make it for myself and my family.

The last batch I made was just castor oil, coconut oil and argan oil and I used the hot process method so I could control the superfats, which was the argan oil. It worked really well and my hair was amazingly soft. I did have to use a water/apple cider vinegar rinse to keep my hair feeling that way but I did that when I was using regular shampoo, too.

I mixed it up a bit this time around, still using the hot process method, and added jojoba oil along with the argan oil for superfats and lavender essential oil and vanilla essential oil. That's it, no chemicals and no collection of plastic bottles.

They're not the prettiest shampoo bars, coconut oil makes a brittle bar of soap. The batter was quite fluid when it was hot but while letting it cool enough to add the essential oils it started solidifying in chunks, as you can see in the picture. 

I tried one out today and so far I'm really happy. They create a ton of foamy lather, smell wonderful and my hair feels extremely soft. I didn't use the water/acv because I want to see how the shampoo bar effects my hair without it. My goal is to put together a recipe that does what I need it to without using the water/acv rinse.