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'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!


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 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 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.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Autumn Pumpkin Soap

I've been debating on making some sort of soap for the upcoming autumn season for several months. I had to stop debating and make a decision this week because I knew I'd be making a cold process soap if I was making an autumn soap and adding food stuffs (like pureed pumpkin) and it will take at least four weeks for cold process to cure before I can list it in my shop.

Once that was decided I started looking into the benefits of adding pumpkin puree to soap. Pumpkin has a lot of healthful benefits like vitamin C which is great for the skin. Vitamin C helps protect skin from free radicals that cause wrinkles and other skin issues. Pumpkin also has carotenoids that are antioxidants which can help improve skin texture. It contains potassium, copper, zinc, manganese and other minerals.

Now, mind you, these are only a few of the great benefits of pumpkin, and that's when it's eaten. How much of this transfers to topical use, and after going through saponification when making soap? Honestly? No idea. However, pumpkin is used for facial masks and creams for a healthy, bright complexion so maybe it will be a beneficial addition to soap.

To me, the coolest thing about using the pumpkin is...well, it's pumpkin. It's a natural ingredient and the tiny bits of pumpkin will gently exfoliate. It's also a sign of autumn, my favorite time of year!

When I started blending everything together the oils were at 88 degrees F and the lye solution was at 93. I wanted them cooler but I was getting impatient. Between the sugars in the pumpkin and heavy cream and lye reacting to each other and the palm oil (RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) Mass Balance) the batter came to a thick trace pretty quickly. It was quite pudding-like when I poured it into the mold.

Fresh in the mold Autumn Pumpkin Soap. Smells so good!
It was my goal to add autumnal scented essential oils, like cinnamon. Cinnamon is such a strong scent but once I started researching I decided I didn't want to add it to this soap. Cinnamon can be a major irritant for people that can cause skin issues and possibly breathing issues.

The clove oil, which can be a slight irritant, has been added in an amount that is below the suggested safe amount by IFRA (International Fragrance Association). I've also added ginger, vanilla and orange essential oils. Warm and spicy, it smells pretty autumn-ee! In hopes of there being a bit of orange color to the soap I also added a few ounces of annatto seed oil. (Keep in mind that essential oil scents are pretty fragile so you shouldn't have to worry about smelling pumpkin pie-ish after using it.)

Superheated up to 145 degrees F pretty fast, a few minor cracks on the surface.
Once I poured the soap batter into the mold it went into gel stage and heated up very quickly. It doesn't matter how many times I make soap, I still find the whole process so fascinating!

Freshly cut and going on to the curing rack for at least 4 weeks.
I'm really hoping that as the soap cures it turns the color that you see on top and the side edges of the bars. Time will tell...

Before I list any new soaps in the shop I test them myself and give some out to family members, I feel like they're pretty honest with their feedback! The soaps will be listed in the shop in mid-October if the cure is done curing. 

Friday, September 6, 2019

Reusable produce bags

My daughter and I often do our grocery shopping together and an issue that we face, like millions of other people, is what to do with the plethora of plastic bags we've collected over time. I remember about 20 years ago when older women started crocheting hats from strips of plastic grocery bags. I made the suggestion to Loren but she wasn't too excited about reliving that fashion statement.

The bags we've collected so far will probably go to the closest recycling bin but we've both decided it's best for us to avoid bringing it into our homes in the first place. Our goal, reusable bags of all sorts.

Yesterday I spent the evening making 18 reusable produce bags for both of us, they ended up costing about 25 cents each.

Fairly straightforward technique. Netting sewn into squares or rectangles with a drawstring. Yes the netting is made out of some sort of plastic but I hope they last for a while. I also plan on recycling them into dish scrubbies once they start falling apart. They should be fairly easy to keep clean, hand wash in hot soapy water and hang outside to dry.

Similar bags can be found on Amazon and/or ebay and they seem fairly inexpensive.

I am looking for a different, more eco-friendly, fabric for next time but these bags are weighed with the produce/bulk items so it needs to be a lightweight fabric. One of the larger bags I made from the netting weighs just over a quarter of an ounce, very light indeed. It will most likely be used for celery, kale, leafy greens and they're not usually sold by weight so it shouldn't be a factor in the cost.

Next week I'm hoping to make reusable grocery bags from these cotton fabrics...

I'm going to line the bags with muslin to add strength. I'm hoping to get at least 6 nice sized bags, possibly with enough bits of fabric to add pockets either on the inside or outside of the bags.