Friday, April 27, 2012

Soap Challenge Week #5 ~ Mixing Your Own Scent Blend

Well....I'm a little late posting this challenge.  It has been nearly two weeks since I made the soap, and I am attempting to post these pictures before the link times out and the link for this week's challenge (which I'm going to attempt to make tonight) is created.  This week's challenge wasn't a huge challenge for me.  I am one of those people that finds it necessary to tweak every recipe I come across.  Maybe I just have difficulty with following directions.  As a result, from day one of my soap making journey I have been blending fragrances.

In the past I've created some great fragrance blends, and some pretty horrific ones.  I like to throw together fragrances that people don't expect to find paired together.  Some of my favorites have been lilac and blueberry, and one that I call "Faith" that is comprised of frankincense and myrrh essential oil, basmati rice fragrance oil, and ground cinnamon and nutmeg.

I did have some essential oils that I wanted to play with though.  What I was interested in creating was a lavender & peppermint blend....softened.  Both lavender and peppermint have a tendency to smell a bit medicinal.  What I wanted to play with was adding some floral and citrus notes in an attempt to tone down, or soften that medicinal bite.  I blended essential oils of pink grapefruit, lavender, peppermint, ylang ylang, and a chamomile neroli blend.

I decided to add some excitement by making a salt bar for this challenge, reformulating my previous salt bar recipe, and blending my own mica colors.  Just for fun I thought I'd swirl the soap in the mold if it didn't set up too soon.  So, how did it turn out? has it's good points and it has it's bad points.  It held up great through blending.  I was thrilled to death with it when I covered it and put it in the oven.  It looked great and it smelled great...a little strong, but I figured it would tone down a bit while it cured.

I pulled it out of the oven after about an hour to cut it.  The top was beginning to harden and I didn't want to wait until it was crumbly.  The colors had faded quite a bit.  I thought maybe it was a bit ashy, so I went ahead and began cutting.  Uh oh!  I started cutting a wee bit too soon.  It was still a bit soft.  It was falling to pieces!  So, after the first cut I just walked away for a ten minutes or so to give it time to finish setting up.  After that time passed, it was sufficiently hardened and ready to cut.  But the color was definitely a bit more of a pastel than I had hoped, and lacking the contrast I had envisioned.

The fragrance still had a bit of a bite.  I couldn't smell anything but the lavender and peppermint.  With a deep sigh, I decided to wait and see what happened.  Well, yesterday it had been nearly two weeks since I made the soap, so I decided I just HAD to test one of the end pieces.  Tell me I'm not the only one who does that! 

OH MY GOODNESS!!  I am in love with this bar.  The fragrance is alright.  It isn't all that I had hoped for.  It has an undercurrent of chamomile and neroli.  The ylang ylang is nearly impossible to detect.  But it's an okay lavender mint.  Still needs work before I'm thoroughly satisfied.  But the actual salt bar is amazing.  The bubbles must have been breeding because they just kept coming!  And they weren't big ol' airy bubbles either.  They were creamy and soft.  Water was actually lightly beading on my skin after I rinsed.  At first the lather looked almost oily or gummy.  I know....I'm making it sound REAL appealing!  But, after all, this recipe was super-superfatted since it had such a high percentage of coconut oil.  A little concerned I then added a wee bit more water and it recreated itself as a dense bubbly lather, with no trace of the questionable oiliness.  But the best part was after I dried off.  My skin felt so soft it was unbelievable.  I honestly kept catching myself rubbing the backs of my hands.  Soft as a baby's bottom!

Bottom line?  Okay fragrance; natural, a little medicinal.
Color?  Me no likee, but some folks love pastels.
Bar Quality?  A keeper!  Should sell well if I'm willing to share.

The colors I had envisioned
Freshly poured and swirled
The colors are already looking lighter
Unmolded ~ it looks ready to cut....but it's not!
First cut.  It's still too soft ~ almost like play dough.
Cut bars
More cut bars

I never did take any 'completed' pictures.  It has lightened slightly due to the salt content.  The fragrance has slightly softened.  Honestly, I think after curing, it is going to smell great!  But if they don't sell I won't mind a bit.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Soap Challenge Week #4 ~ Making Soap Using Alcohol

This is a completely new one for me. I've never made soap using alcohol.  Alcohol is reputed to be difficult to work with.  I've heard horror stories of foaming volcanoes when people add their lye to their alcohol.  I did learn after watching Amy's video and checking out several other sites online that I was better off starting with something with a lower alcohol content like beer or wine.  Since I didn't seem to have any wine on hand (Huh...that's strange.  Where did it go?), and since I had an idea forming in my head, I decided to go with beer. Beer is supposed to contribute an awesome lather to soap, and the hops in the beer are reputed to nourish the skin.  That sounded like it was worth giving a try!  I utilized some Yuengling Black & Tan for my liquid, and got started.  A few things were suggested to help diminish the potential for lye volcanoes.  First off, it was necessary to boil the beer to flatten it.  Second, adding the lye to the alcohol while it was sitting in an ice bath to keep the temperature down was also suggested.  

My vision was to make a masculine black and tan bar, lightly scented with Bramble Berry's black tea fragrance oil blended with carrot seed essential oil.  Bentonite clay was added to the entire batch for slip, and half of the soap batch was then blended with activated charcoal, for color, and because it is great for the complexion.  After all, even a manly soap should be loaded with nourishing goodies!  I used a divider to pour half black and half tan, allowing the soap to push back and forth slightly for variation, and then lightly swirled the halves together.  Overall, I'm pleased with it.  It smells heavenly!  I hope you enjoy it as well.
The liquid portion.  In all honesty, when I had finished lightly boiling the beer, quite a bit had evaporated.  Not willing to contribute another full bottle of beer for a measly two ounces of liquid, I added cold coffee for the remainder. 
Boiling beer.  
No more bubbles
Divided Mold
Beer sitting in ice water bath
Vinegar handy to neutralize the lye....just in case
Lye added to beer/coffee blend.  No problems so far!
Tan portion at trace  PERFECT!
Black portion at trace PERFECT!
Divider removed
Out of the mold the next morning
First cut
All cut, and looks and smells better than expected

Yuengling Black & Tan Soap ~ light masculine black tea fragrance

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Soap Challenge Week #3 ~ Piping Soap

Whew!  I was excited about this challenge.  Week #1 was in the pot swirls, which I have done before.  I just had to increase my level of challenge.  Week #2 was milk soaps, which I have done before.  I just had to get back on the horse (so to speak) after a terrible past failure.  But Week #3....well, I was a complete newbie for this challenge.  I have never piped soap before!  I have piped frosting before, but nothing real challenging in that arena either.  I've never taken a class or anything.  I've merely played around with decorating cakes and cookies for my family's birthdays.  So I was quite excited/nervous/anxious about this challenge.  I was so excited, in fact, that I knocked this challenge out at the first of the week.

I'm a little low on several of my standard soaping oils, and a little low on funds to purchase more oils as well.  So I decided to develop a new soap recipe.  Hey, it never hurts to branch out and try a new way of doing things.  Using the lye calculator at takes all the worries out of trying new recipes.  You can tweak your recipes; change your oils, change your super fat percentage, change your quantities...anything!  The best thing about this lye calculator is that it tells you the suggested range of such qualities as hardness, cleansing, conditioning, bubbly, creamy, iodine, and INS, and then shows you where your recipe lines up.  For example, for hardness the suggested range is 29-54.  Less than 29 and your bars may be too soft, and greater than 54 and your soap may be brittle.  This new recipe of mine listed the hardness as 46.  I can live with that.

I started with a very simple soap recipe that included palm oil, coconut oil, olive oil, shea butter, and castor oil.  The super fat percentage is 6% due to the fact that it is a little harder and bubbly than the soap recipes I normally follow, and the fact that I didn't use goat's milk in place of some of my water.  I considered a super fat of 8%, but hey, I was going to be piping this soap.  I figured the harder the soap (and simpler the recipe) the better.

I didn't take nearly as many pictures as usual for this recipe.  In part, it was because I just didn't have enough hands!  Mostly it was because I was having one of those days that my hands weren't cooperating.  I actually dropped my bottle of kumquat fragrance oil and spilled about a half ounce of it all over my kitchen counter, cabinets, recipe page...really just everything!  My soap notebook smells like kumquats now.

On to the soap!  I blended my oils and lye water to a light trace, and added my kumquat fragrance oil.  I then separated the soap into two portions, coloring one portion with titanium dioxide for the white cake mix, and the other with a blend of strawberry red, citrus orange, and purple liquid soap dyes for the icing.  The liquid dye was my first mistake.  I was going for more of a rose tinted icing.  I was thinking more along the lines of 'garden tea party' than 'fiesta!'....or more 'ladies pink' than 'kids pink'.  Anyways.....I lined an old muffin pan with paper cupcake liners and poured the 'white cake batter' into the cups.
I then waited for the 'icing' to reach what I thought would be proper piping consistency.
I'm guessing this will work

This looked like it would work to me, but honestly, my brain kept creating images of me piping this soap icing, and it just collapsing into a little blob.  I decided to just go for it anyways.  The few videos I viewed showed piping a star into the middle and using it to build upon.  Honestly, I think it is unnecessary, but it gave me an opportunity to test the consistency and get familiar with piping the soap .  If it looked horrible or turned into a blob, I could cover it up with the rest of the icing.
Perfect consistency!  Better than I'd hoped

All looked well.  The peaks didn't fall.  So I moved on.
They look like cupcakes!
They looked better than I'd hoped!  They looked like cupcakes!!  Of course I was WAY off on my estimation of how much soap to make, so I had a bunch of rose colored soap icing left.  I decided to make some cupcakes that were rose-colored all the way through.  Although the soap was a great consistency for piping, it wasn't so great for trying to fill the paper liners.  I was sure they would be full of all sorts of air pockets (and I was right).  I finished piping the soap and tapped some pearly white mica over the top.  I wasn't real excited with how that looked, so I added some cosmetic glitter and nonpareils on top.
Lots of cupcakes...sparkly!
Ready to be insulated
I did consider spraying the tops with alcohol to prevent ash, but didn't think about it until I sprinkled the nonpareils on top.  I was afraid at that point that the colors running would do more harm than some ash, so I just left them alone.

Drum roll, please...............................
White cake cupcakes
 Wow, that color changed!  Also, they did develop some ash on top.  It's not too bad on the cupcakes with the white cake.  However, it really is hard to NOT notice it on the ones with the purple cupcake.
Purple cupcakes made with excess 'icing'

On these, the cake portion doesn't have as even of a texture due to the fact that the icing portion of the soap had already started to set.  The real problem I have with these cupcakes comes from the fact that the colors did not integrate fully.
Blotchy purple coloring. * Deep sigh! * 

   I was truly expecting a disaster, and was surprised at how easy it was to pipe the soap icing.   I still think I'll be able to sell these cupcakes.  They smell fabulous, and although they aren't perfect, I still think they are pretty.  Anyways, perfection is overrated!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Change is everywhere we look here at the farm.  We have been home from the mountains for nearly three months now, and are attempting to catch up on all the necessary updates.  Of course, the animals have been working on a few updates of their own as well.
Curly and her new companions
For several years we have been slowly working on increasing the amount of our food that we grow and raise ourselves.  We have felt that God has been leading us in this direction for both personal health and financial reasons.  Much of our protein has come from our own free-ranging chickens and their eggs, and deer meat.  For me it has been a difficult transition.  I didn't grow up raising my own meat animals, or hunting.  At first it was a challenge.  But the respect and appreciation I have gained through the process has made it all worthwhile.  I know where my food comes from.  I don't waste a thing.  I work, feeding the animals and the soil.  I work the soil, and work to ensure that the animals we raise are well cared for, and their every need is being me.  I feel connected to what I put into my body, and thank God for every little morsel of nourishment He provides. 

We were trying to think of a truly economical protein source.  All our research led us to rabbits.  They are low maintenance animals.  They aren't expensive to feed.  They are easy to keep healthy.   They reproduce very easily.  They only have a 31 day gestation period.  They are small.  Their meat is lean and flavorful.  We wouldn't overflow the freezer come 'harvest' time.  Best of all, their manure is incredible fertilizer, and doesn't even have to be composted.

So, it was settled.  A friend hooked us up with some great medium sized rabbits.  A doe that will be ready to breed in June, a very young buck that will be ready to breed in August, and a pregnant doe. **Just so you know, I was really hoping for some that weren't so stinking adorable**

The young buck (gray) and young doe (white)

The pregnant doe

August 28 we put the nesting box in with the expectant mama....and nothing happened for two days.  Then, all of a sudden she started pulling her fur out like crazy.

Mama's bald patches
  I said, "we may have babies tomorrow".  Two hours later, we checked on her, and there they were!

There are four kits - three black, and one white, and all appear healthy.  Personally, I'm hoping they're ugly.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Soap Challenge Week #2 ~ Milk Soap

So, here we are on week #2 of the soap challenge suggested by Amy Warden of Great Cakes Soapworks.  This week's challenge was to make a soap using milk - cow milk, goat milk, soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk, yogurt, or whatever else floats your boat.  I used to make a luscious soap that contained fresh raw goat's milk, ground oatmeal, and fresh raw honey.  I didn't use any fragrance but it would smell like oatmeal and honey.  Yum!

Well.........I haven't made it in probably two years.  I know, I know!  I get requests for it all the time, but I just haven't made any.  Why, you ask?  I used to get gallons and gallons of goat's milk from a friend.  So much that we had all the goat's milk mozzarella and ricotta we could possibly eat and give away.  My goat milk source....dried up.  Also, the last time I made this soap I had some issues.  Serious issues!  I had huge pockets of unsaponified oil and caustic lye pockets.  I couldn't even rebatch the mess I was left with.  (or wasn't willing to)  But Amy issued a challenge and refusing a challenge is like refusing a double dog dare.  You just CAN'T do it.  I'm not skeered!

So I stepped up to the challenge.  I could have used coconut milk.  But I've made hundreds of bars with coconut milk.  It used to be in my standard soap recipe until one of the main coconut milk plants in Thailand shut down and coconut milk prices increased by more than 25%.  So, that just wouldn't have been a challenge.  Anyways, I truly loved the oatmeal, milk, and honey soap I used to make.  I just needed a little nudge.  Okay, maybe a shove.

Welcome to my oatmeal, milk, and honey soap making adventure.  Oh, it was an adventure indeed!

Goat milk chunks ready to be added
I like to make a strong lye solution and replace part of the water from my original recipe with goat milk, which I freeze and add to the strong lye solution.
The first bits of goat's milk have been added, and the lye solution has taken on a golden yellow color

All the milk has been added.  Just keep stirring!  Just keep stirring!
As  you add the frozen goat's milk, the fats in the milk bond with the lye and begin forming soap!  Your solution begins to look curdled.  But don't fret!  It will all smooth out once it is added to the oils.

All ready to pour

This is a light trace.  The oils and lye solution have emulsified and it looks like thin pudding.  Time for add ins!
I added the lye solution to the oils, and blended until it was emulsified.  I didn't want it to thicken too much on me because I thought I remembered that honey speeds up trace.  Apparently I was mistaken, because it stayed nice and thin as I continued to blend and poured the soap into the mold.  In fact, I had to let it set up for a few minutes while I cleaned up my mess before it was thick enough to decorate the top.
Ground oatmeal and warm honey added to the raw soap

I heat up the honey slightly before adding it to my soap.  I think it bonds better, rather than sitting in it's own lonely honey pockets.
Blended ad ready to pour!

Still a little too thin to swirl.  Excuse me while I go clean up my mess!

Now that's better

A little oatmeal on top ~ a girl's gotta accessorize!
Normally, I cover my soap with plastic wrap and cover it with towels to insulate it.  As the soap saponifies, it will heat up, and the towels will hold that heat in and ensure that the soap goes through a 'gel phase'.  Gel has many benefits, one of which is a deepening of color.  I really wanted this soap to stay a nice light golden color so I thought I'd try to avoid I didn't insulate it.  Honey is one of those substances that likes to super heat your raw soap and cause cracks and fissures on the surface.  Therefore, I kept a close eye on my soap to make sure it didn't gel.  It did!  So I set up a fan to blow on it.  Everything appeared okay.
Those dark areas are gelling!

The unveiling

Unmolded and ready to be cut.  So far, so good.

First cut

After the first slice in, you could see where the soap had begun to gel in the middle.  The color should even out a bit over the course of being cured.  But after I cut a few slices, I started seeing a problem. 

Oily pockets!  Oh no!!

 There were oily pockets!  Oh no!  Not again!  I continued to cut and it appeared to only be over the space of two or three bars.  I checked the pH.  They are okay.  I did a zap test to see if they were lye heavy (and to check if they were merely pockets of honey)  They weren't either.  They were merely oil.  I formed a theory, and I'll share it with you at the end of this post.  I continued to cut the soap, and hoped that some of the oil would be reabsorbed into the soap during the curing process.  I'll keep the two or three 'holey' bars for personal use.  The good news is that today, 24 hours after cutting, the soap doesn't appear oily, and the color is more even.
Fresh cut soap

Better than I expected (because I was worried)
Natural Oatmeal, Goat Milk, and Honey Soap

My 'Bad' Bars (still nowhere close to as bad as my last batch)
So....what happened?  The chemist in me has a theory.

When you make soap, your oils and your lye become 'dance partners'.  The reason you have to run your recipe through a lye calculator is to make sure your recipe isn't either lye heavy or oil heavy.  Or, as I like to one is left without a dance partner.  Lye is grumpy.  If you have lye particles left without partners, they irritate everyone they come in contact with, and just plain ruin the party.  If you have oil particles left without partners, everyone dancing by feels oily and slippery and not particularly clean, and they just want to go home and shower.  A good soap maker wants all of the lye to have partners so their soap isn't caustic.  They want just a few oils to be left without partners so that their soap is cleansing but slightly moisturizing as well.  Most of us 'superfat' our recipes to make sure we have a few oil particles left unchanged in our soap.  Normally I superfat at 5%, although I that percentage in certain circumstances.  For instance, when I make laundry soap, I don't superfat at all.  After all, my clothes don't need any moisturizer (or any oils left in their fibers).

Here is the thing.  I substituted fresh goat's milk for more than half of my water in this recipe.  Goat's milk contains fats, and water does not.  Some of those fat globules cut in and took on my lye as dance partners.  Therefore, there were more oil particles than expected left to be wall flowers.  And they weren't happy!  So they decided to leave the party.  Does that hurt the soap?  No.  It will be slightly lower in cleansing power and a bit more moisturizing.  Gotta hate that!  But it also contains oatmeal and honey, which are so soothing and healing to the skin, I think it will be a luscious and healing bar of soap.  That being said, I think the next time around I'm going to superfat at 3%.

Well, have a great day!  It's time for me to start planning for the next challenge.