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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Spring time soaps

Spring will be coming soon or maybe it's already here....I'm not quite sure yet.  I enjoyed a beautiful weekend with temperatures in the 70s and woke up to snow and temperatures in the teens on Monday morning.  But with daffodils and hyacinths popping up and Easter only a few days away, this girl's fancy has turned to spring time soaps.  Here are a few that will be at the upcoming market here in Monroe and listed soon in my Zibbet shop.

A new fragrance in my line-up, but I'm certain it will be well-received.  And I'm already looking forward to making another batch, because it soaped beautifully!
Cucumber Melon
I was getting requests for this scent way back in February!  This spring's batch came out just as I'd pictured it in my mind.
Honeysuckle



It's a rare, sad day that I don't have this soap in stock--Lemon Poppyseed Scrub.  I'm glad other people like it as much as I do.  I add a bit of rosemary essential oil with the lemon scent to give it a little bit of zest.

 I use poppyseeds, cornmeal and oatmeal to make it good and scrubby!

And for one more--I call this one South Pacific.  It's a fresh, clean, soapy scent that many guys like, especially my Mister.  As you may have guessed, I thought my first version, a simple blue soap with some white swirls, was a little bland, so I gave it a much more beautiful existence in a new white and aqua batch.

Happiness is spring soaping.  And spring just wouldn't be right without fresh floral and fruity scents after the cozy, rich winter scents.  Do you have a favorite spring scent?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Loofah--from vine to soap

If you've followed my blog for a long time, you've already seen a post on one of my favorite things to grow--loofah, but I think it's time for another one.  People are often surprised when they learn that loofahs are grown.  No, a loofah isn't a sea sponge, but the mature "skeleton" of a zucchini-like plant.  Everyone knows they are good for the bath but they also make great natural pan scrubbers in the kitchen.  They are so popular that I have to remember to tuck away any that I want to keep myself.

I raise three or four plants every year.  Like a zucchini or a cucumber, it likes to spread out with little regard to another plant's personal space.  Here is last year's crop.

Early in the summer, the loofahs remained neatly on the trellis:


But then they wandered over to the basil:


Cozied among the tomatillos:


And hung out with the butternut squash:


Harvest time was a regular treasure hunt.  But I ended up with about 20 loofahs from my four plants.

This is what they looked like late in the summer.  I peeled back some of the rind so you can see that it is, indeed, loofah.

After a frost, I could more easily peel the rind off the loofahs.  I let them dry, then cut the loofahs into smaller lengths and shook out the seeds.


It's completely optional, but I like to soak the loofahs in a bucket of water with a splash of bleach to even out the color.


Everyone who makes loofah soaps has his own method, but I prefer to slice the loofah for individual soaps. And, I found that a serrated knife works much more smoothly than wrenching through the sponge with scissors, especially after I wound up snapping the handle off.


And finally, here is the finished soap.  I'm calling it Garden Fresh.  It is a blend of tomato leaf and lettuce fragrance oils, colored with a touch of chrome oxide and tomato paste.  My loofah soaps are always a little more "rustic" looking, partly because it can be hard to get the soap into every little bit of loofah and partly because I want the loofah inside to be visible.


I'm already starting loofah plants in the house with some of my saved seeds and in another month, the cycle will go around again.  Whew.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Farmer's market soap--pumpkin kale

Last spring, I had the idea of creating a soap that represented some of the variety in my town's farmer's market.  The more I looked around, the more overwhelming the possible combinations--herbs, vegetables, dairy, fruits, even fats.  I could come up with a new combination every week as I looked around.  Maybe it was because my choices kept changing that I never settled on a set of ingredients and just did it.




Dehydrated ground pumpkin--it makes a wonderful addition to angel food cake

I recently narrowed down some of the abundance into my first version.  It may be March, but with the snow of the last two days (and still falling as I write), fresh vegetables are just a dream of the future.  So I used honey, dehydrated pumpkin and egg--all from the market--and dried kale.  (I used my own kale in this batch, not because it wasn't available in abundance at the market last summer, but I really couldn't justify buying anyone else's with a dozen fruitful plants of my own.)


Another decision dilemma--how to scent it? With an FO?  A vegetable-type fragrance, like cucumber, lettuce, or tomato leaf?  A grassy one? A clean ozone type?  Or maybe an EO? herbal? citrusy?  This time I used an essential oil blend of basil, rosemary, and litsea.

Layers of kale-speckled soap separated by layers of pumpkin-speckled soap

Layers separated by vanilla bean powder pencil lines

A slice of soap, representing the agriculturally rich region of the American Midwest.  I expect this to be a regular market offering this coming season, made in ever-changing versions to reflect the seasonality of ingredients.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

40 things....the remaining 33

I was in no way tempted to post 40 things about me, as SoapJam did recently. But then I realized how much I enjoyed SoapSudsations' post and the peer pressure got to me so I thought I should play fairly and join in. You already read my first 7 here, so here are the rest:


1. I have red hair and blue eyes.

2. I am quiet one-on-one, but become an extrovert in a group setting.

3. When I grow up, I want to be a host/guide on the PBS show Globetrekker. I want to do it all--stay in dodgey hostels, eat suspicious innards, and meet wonderful people. And snag local soaps.

4. I spent 6 weeks one summer living in a school bus, first on a beach in Alaska, then traveling south through Canada into the States.

5. I have worked with autistic kids for almost 13 years, as a therapist and doing respite care.  Love it!

6. I love to cook and bake, especially desserts.  That's why soaping is perfect.  There are no temptations to lick or nibble and I don't have to work my way through an entire dessert afterwards.

7. I dislike most modern television, it's mainly dirty humor or bloody and gory or sordid and perverted, so I watch shows from about 1950-1980.....I Love Lucy, It Takes a Thief, Get Smart, The Wild Wild West, Hogan's Heroes, and old black and white movies, and the best of all are listening to old radio shows.....now that's quality stuff.

8. I am a retired sock snatcher. I worked at a summer camp one summer, and on behalf of the girls' staff house, I snitched one sock from every guy staff member's loads of laundry. It wasn't long before they were wearing nothing but flip-flops and bemoaning the losses of their favorite socks. (They awoke one morning to find them all dangling from a tree.)

9. I think I have too many interests. In my enthusiasm, I am always getting sidetracked by them. The plus is that I am never, ever bored.

10. I have a degree in English and a minor in Geography.

11. My husband's first impression of me wasn't too favorable; he thought I was the high maintenance type. (HA!  I'm the "fashion by Goodwill" type. And, he now knows what I look like when I don't have to leave the house.) However, he later broke his own rule of never asking a girl out again after she turned him down once. :)

12. I've lived in 12 different places that I can remember and I still know the addresses for most of them.

13. Reading is simply the Best.

14. I prefer old things--furniture, books, dishes, cars, movies, linens, fashions, you name it.  And people, especially. I love their stories.

15. I won't tell a secret, but I can't keep a poker face.

16. I like tent camping. My favorite campground is a primitive one--one water spigot outside the park and only pit toilets scattered sparsely inside the grounds. Here is one of my favorite sites:

note the Bramble Berry box of food beyond the tent
And my other favorite site, first thing in the morning.
right outside my tent door
17. Unlike most soapmakers, I usually keep only one bar of soap in my bathtub, with an occasional sliver that I want to test.

 18. I'm not naturally a tidy person.  All I have to do is walk through a room and I leave a disaster in my wake (the curse of creative people, y'know). But I hate living in a messy house, so I am perpetually cleaning.

19. I was born across from a zoo. (Insert joke here.)

20. Depending on the day, I am between 5'9 1/2" and 5'10" tall.

21. My car is named Fred.

22. Most soapmakers also make candles, not me. I want to try beeswax candles someday, but I avoid burning most scented candles for long because they often give me a headache.

23. I was once assigned to trace my genealogy and present my findings in a college class. Imagine my surprise to find that my classmate had the same relatives from the little country of Luxembourg and that we were distant cousins.

24. Let's just say I'm not renowned for my athleticism.

25. Or my keen sense of direction.

26. And especially not for keeping my head in a medical situation.

Uff-dah.  I'm not done yet?

27. I'm glad I live where I can experience all four seasons, including winter, but my favorite season is autumn.

28. I am Indecisive (with a capital I).  From choosing an ice cream flavor to writing this post, I stall, procrastinate, and second guess myself far too long.

29. I see typos everywhere.  I can be glancing at a brochure or skimming a newspaper and they jump out at me as if they are highlighted.  And they bother me tremendously.

30. I once broke my nose when my head was in a chest freezer and the door fell on me.  For realsies.

31. Speaking of chest freezers, I love the smell of them.  They remind me of my grandma who used to take me to hers while she rummaged for popsicles or ice cream for me.  I guess my nose was at just the right height to smell inside.  (I would like to mention that I was on business and not simply savoring the aroma when the freezer door mentioned above crashed onto me.)

32. I whine about technology a lot.  Yes, I love certain aspects, including this blog, but I think we've lost more than we've gained, with our faces constantly staring at a screen instead of really living.

33. This is the most personal I will ever be in my blog--I have misgivings about publishing it, actually--so enjoy this heedless departure from privacy (and dignity--see #30).

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Soaping with Madder


I know that any color added to soap can morph into a surprise, but there is an added element of unknown when using botanicals to color my soap.  Some people jump out of planes or ski off mountains, but this is how I live on the edge these days.  Hmm.  If I weren't having so much fun, I'd be embarrassed.

I recently had my first go with madder.  So....whatsa madder?  It's a root--the root of the madder. Ahem. (I love puns...)

I infused 8 oz. of olive oil with 2 t. madder root powder for almost a week.  This amount worked out to be 20% of the oils in my batch.


I wanted something in the way of embeds to add visual interest.   I dearly love my soap balls but I don't want to over do a good thing.  I've recently done square-shaped embeds, so this time I cut a bar of white soap into slices.

I panicked a little that it wouldn't get dark enough--it was kind of a dusty peach--so I added 1/4 t. dried powder right before pouring. Madder powder can get a little scratchy, I've read, so I reined myself in from adding more.
Adding the infused oil












Right after pouring



















I legitimately had to get up early the next morning, but yes, after grumbling my way out of the bedroom, I was slicing into this batch at 4:15 in the morning.  Gelling had a dramatic effect on the color.  The dark rose was just what I wanted and made the little slices of white really pop.  Besides the plus of being a successful natural color, it's a shade that I have never achieved with another colorant.

Speckles of madder
And the scent?  Bramble Berry's Crisp Apple Rose and in my mind, madder provided the color that is this fragrance visualized.  Perfect.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Versatile Blogger Award



Well, that was a nice surprise to discover....  I have been nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award. Thanks much to Silvia of SoapJam (one of my most favoritest soap blogs) for thinking of me.

VBA RULES: 
(Copied from versatilebloggeraward.wordpress.com)
If you are nominated, you’ve been awarded the Versatile Blogger award.
  •  Thank the person who gave you this award. That’s common courtesy.
  •  Include a link to their blog. That’s also common courtesy — if you can figure out how to do it.
  •  Next, select 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly. ( I would add, pick blogs or bloggers that are excellent!)
  •  Nominate those 15 bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award — you might include a link to this site.
  •  Finally, tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself.
I chose 15 blogs, some old favorites, some new discoveries.  Some of the blogs are about soap and the rest mirror some of my other interests.


And now for 7 things about me:

1. I have struggled to learn how to knit for the last three years--I don't usually have trouble learning a craft--but after three years of on and off frustration, I just may finish half of a pair of fingerless mittens....just in time for spring.

2. I was a schoolteacher in an Amish one-room schoolhouse for two years.

3. I collect old cookbooks (pre-1960s) and do much of my cooking from them.

4. I was home-schooled from second grade until graduation.

5. I have visited 24 national parks (and hiked in most of them) but I have many more to go.

6. My home has two kitchens. :) :) :)

7. I love card games, especially solitaire card games--Blue Moon and Idiot's Delight (quite the ironic name) are my favorites.

And there you have it. :)

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Cobblestone Makeover

Remember this not-so-great batch?  It's ok if you didn't; it wasn't that memorable.  I had just resigned myself to the fact that my family was going to be using fruit loop scented soap for months to come when a commenter suggested that it be rebatched into a cobblestone soap.  Genius!  I've always used this method to use up scrap pieces of soap, but this was my first time reinventing a so-so batch.



I finally did it last week.  Chopped into little chunks, the colors really popped and the swirls were suddenly gorgeous.




I added it to another batch of soap of the same scent.  It so much easier on the eyes, methinks.


Thanks so much, SoapJam, for reminding of a great way to turn a less than mediocre batch into a beautiful soap!