Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Dog Shampoo

I have 2 adorable (and poorly-behaved) Yorkies.

Meet Hannah - she is nearly 8 years old, is a little crazy and is a tough mudder who can run with me for 5 miles and will steal the rawhide bones from dogs who are 10x her weight.

Here is Hobbes - he just turned 4 (which is unbelievable to me - where does the time go), he looks like an Ewok, he barks all the time, and he enjoys smelling high-quality cocktails.

These two hate baths, and I currently use some natural liquid dog shampoo to keep them squeaky clean.  I found this recipe from poster Nicholray on Talk Soap Forum.  I had the ingredients (except the lanolin) to make this CP bar soap, so I decided to give it a whirl.

16% avocado oil
20% castor oil
16% coconut oil
6% cocoa butter
20% neem oil
22% olive oil
Add tbsp ppo lanolin
3% sodium lactate (its a soft recipe without it just takes longer to set and cure)
2:1:1 ratio of lavender: eucalyptus: naiouli EO

I sized it so it would make only 3-4 bars in the column mold I have.  I forgot the sodium lactate, and made some changes to the EO blend, since I don't have naiouli (or honestly even know what it is...). The recipe certainly smelled like neem oil when I mixed it, but after curing for a couple days, I can smell the EOs and not the neem as much.  I hand-stirred to avoid the air bubbles, and this neem soap doesn't seem to have the bubbles that have shown up on the other bars I've cut with the wire cutter, so maybe I just need to be more mindful of the air bubbles as I mix.
The color is a nice yellow-ish color.

The soap cannot cure fast enough.  I have some dirty dogs in need of some cleaning :)

Who needs a bath?  Not me!!


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Newest Soaps

I have been pretty busy in my soaping area recently - I finally figured out a recipe I really like, even though it seems a little expensive, and I've been working on making some new soaps that will be using a consistent recipe format.

My first soap I made is slightly different than my new "standard" recipe - it's a very gentle soap for some friends who want uncolored, unscented honey soaps.  It contains honey, beeswax, mango butter, avocado oil and colloidal oatmeal (among other things).  It was created to be palm- and coconut- free.

Normally, I try to avoid power circles, but I think it looks pretty cool here with the stamp :)
I also was feeling the winter blahs, and I was out of stock of my Sunshine soap (scented with Yuzu FO and Orange EO), so it was time to bring some citrus into the house and improve our moods.  I felt so much better after making this soap!
Just looking at the bright colors makes me happy!  There are poppy seeds in the white portion for some exfoliation.
I also wanted to try to make a facial soap - I'm getting close to out of the cleanser I currently use, and I figured I may as well try to make my own!  I got this recipe from Amanda's blog at Lovin' Soap.  It has a bunch of really great-sounding ingredients, which I happened to have on hand:  avocado and babassu oils, mango butter, activated charcoal and lavender essential oil. Here is her recipe - I resized the recipe to fit my column mold, but I calculated wrong and ended up with a bunch of extra soap batter, which I poured into my cupcake molds for individual-sized soaps:

Avocado oil – 4 oz

Babassu oil – 8 oz
Castor oil – 2 oz
Mango butter – 4 oz
Olive oil – 12 oz
Rice Bran oil – 2 oz
Water – 9 oz
Lye – 4.35 oz
1/2 Tablespoon Charcoal

I wanted to make it a little swirly, so I put the charcoal in about 2/3 of the recipe and then swirled it in the mold. I also had bought some 3" column mold liners from her, since I've broken the bottom of my BB mold. The swirls weren't uniform throughout the mold - as you can see the bottom of the mold was much darker and the top of the mold got the nice light swirls. I like both looks, though, and I can't wait to try out this soap!

I also tried to make a dog shampoo for my two little yorkies - I'll post the recipe and pictures later. The recipe uses neem oil and an EO blend. It doesn't smell too neem-y, and I am excited for it to cure so I can give it a whirl!

Also, I am feeling more proud of my pictures - all of these pics are still taken on my iPhone, but I downloaded the Camera+ app and have been making better use of PhotoScape to crop pics.  I am still having trouble with resizing the widths so they appear uniform in my blog.  I'll figure it out eventually :)

Here's what my table looked like while I was taking the pictures above.  Gotta love being able to crop :)


Monday, February 25, 2013

Hey Everyone! Come see how good my wire cutter looks :)

So, as I teased in my previous post, I ordered (and received) this wire cutter from Bud Haffner's Etsy Shop.  Bud was great to work with and shipped out this cutter within the time that he committed to, which I really appreciate.  It arrived within 2 days of shipment and in great condition.  It comes with some instructions and also an extra wire.

Photo taken on the day it arrived (with the shipping box in the background...)

It is his 1" wire cutter, and it cuts 12 bars.  This version allows me to cut logs that are longer than 1 foot without first splitting them into smaller sizes.  I've never used a wire cutter before, and it took me a little bit of time to figure out the tightening of the wires.

Isn't this a beauty?
This cuts magnificently straight bars!  Check out how straight each of these bars look - this is just after cutting my first loaf - an unscented and uncolored basic honey / beeswax / mango butter soap. I haven't cleaned up the edges yet.

Close up of my first bars cut with the wire cutter.  Haven't been cleaned up yet, but they are so pretty and straight!!
I've really struggled with my miter box - I cannot tell you how this happens, but the bars tend to be curved in the middle when I use my miter box. I don't have any good photos of the soaps that are curved in the middle, but you can see clearly below that I cannot cut soaps straight even vertically with my miter box. 

One of these things is not like the others...

I am beyond thrilled so far with this cutter.  It has made everything so uniform, which will be great for labeling, storing, and consistency.  I am very happy with this investment.

The only issue I have is that it seems that a few days after cutting, these bumps appear on the soaps.  

I wish I had a photo immediately after cutting - these white spots / bumps weren't there yesterday...
Someone had mentioned that it happens with wire cutters - has anyone had this happen to them?  Suggestions on how to fix it??


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

New Fragrances in the Mail!!

I am super pumped!!  I just ordered my first order of fragrances from Wholesale Supplies Plus and it arrived yesterday, along with some new soap books I bought on Amazon - gotta give my Prime trial a workout!

I ordered the Caribbean Coconut fragrance oil to finally make a beach soap using some sand I saved from the beach where my husband and I were married last November.  I cannot believe how amazing it smells!  The bottle leaked a little bit, so the fragrance oil is stuck on my fingers and I can't stop smelling them...

I also ordered some other great fragrances that smell incredible, including:  Strawberries and Cream (request for strawberry soap from my roommate), Honey Almond EO & FO blend, Black Raspberry Vanilla (phenomenal!!), and Tobacco Caramel Type fragrance oil.  I really cannot wait to start to soap with these and others that I have purchased.  

I am also really looking forward to my Christmas presents from my husband.  He had bought me a multi-bar soap cutter from Bud Haffner's Etsy Shop, which should arrive tomorrow.  He also bought me a custom mold from Rich at Soap Hutch.  I can barely wait for when that arrives too!  Don't worry - I'll blog all about them when they arrive ;)

I don't have any pictures for this blog post, but I'd love to hear input from you all on the fragrances I've purchased, or which ones I should start to soap with!


Saturday, February 16, 2013

Improving Your Blog

I seem to be spending a lot of time on weekend mornings learning stuff relating to blogging, soap making, crafting, and personal development lately.  I suppose that it's good that I'm always learning, and I know the laundry and dishes will be waiting for me so my hands can work while my head is processing all this new information :)

This morning, I've been learning about improving blogging:  editing / creating blogs in HTML / CSS, attracting new readers, available classes on better blogging, finding blogging voice, and more!  I have mentioned that I love Google Reader to help me keep on top of blogs, but I wanted to document some of the specific posts and places I've been using to learn about improving my blogging so I can re-read later (and hopefully absorb more!)


Katrina at Pugly Pixel has put up some very informative videos on basics of HTML and CSS.  I have watched both, and I'm now inspired to work on updating this blog even more...  later, after I have some breakfast, wash the dogs, etc...  

I used to dabble in programming with my dad growing up - anyone remember 3-2-1 Contact Magazine or TV Show? - and also had some programming classes in college.  This is reminding me of why I'm not a programmer now :)

I loved this comic every month in the magazine.  That and the monthly BASIC program that my dad and I would work out on our computers.  This magazine and TV show were such great ways to get kids interested in science, math, and computing!

Finding Your Blogging Voice:

Kira at Her New Leaf guest blogged this post on Finding Your Voice for Noisette Academy.  I can certainly relate to her posts - I've found myself trying to imitate other blogs I found funny, thoughtful, charming, etc.  This has been a great reminder that people will read my blog for ME because it will be more genuine.

Primp My Blog:

Kira also wrote a series of blog postings (for both WordPress and Blogger users) on improving blogs at Primp My Blog.  This has really gotten me thinking, and in fact has taken me down a number of different rabbit trails on blog improvement.  This has really inspired me to re-look at this blog, my goals, and how I can be more purposeful about blogging going forward.  She really has some great tips and ideas, so make sure to check out her series!

Blogging Better:

Lindsay at Shrimp Salad Circus (love the name!) makes great use of blog post tags to highlight her articles on blogging better.  I had read the One Minute Makeover post on how to use pictures to look more professional.  And did you know you can schedule blog and facebook posts, and tweets, too?  Schedule Your Way To A Better Blog has some great tips on batch writing posts, but scheduling them to post over time so you're not releasing multiple posts within a short amount of time and diluting readership.  Since I tend to do my blogging on the weekends, this is going to be huge for me!

There are so many ideas I have now from the above - now to put them into action!


Sunday, February 10, 2013

How do YOU stay informed?

On this early Sunday morning, I was going through the 25-30 blogs I subscribe to with Google Reader, investigating new information sources, and catching up on reading about soap making, small business considerations, and being more awesome at life, and I wondered how others stay on top of it all?

There is SO much information out there on the internets.  And since anyone can put anything up there, it's so hard to know what's accurate!  Sometimes I struggle with my own education in this soapy industry - the hardest for me is identifying things that are partially true and knowing what is true and what isn't.  I try to conscientiously not disseminate false information, and that requires a lot of fact checking (and even then, sometimes I find later that I was misinformed)!  I often feel frustrated when people just click or share articles, thoughts, etc without checking whether they are correct first.

Who didn't see this at least once on Facebook last June, even though the actual destination date in the movie is Oct 21, 2015?
So, for me, I try to keep up with new information / techniques / ideas through all of these following ways, and I think my favorite format tends to vary with what I am searching for.  I love books for understanding the nuts and bolts of how processes work.  I love blogs (and Pinterest!) for inspiration.  I love forums for general "sniff tests" for information.  Here's what I use and why:

  • There are plenty of forums that I visit, which are helpful for me, including Teach Soap and Talk Soap Forum.  I like this format, because I can learn from questions and answers from other soapers.  Incorrect information is often identified and corrected relatively quickly by the prolific writers on those blogs.  I still will try to validate with other sources where possible.
"But don't take my word for it!"  <side note, I really loved this show growing up!  I loved to read anyway, but it's one of those shows that have stuck with me into adulthood>
    • I subscribe to so many blogs, for so many topics, and I add to that list weekly.  It is so great to see inspiration and ideas from others!  I get ideas for more than just my next soaping technique or ingredients, though.  I read blogs for news, for personal improvement ideas, for recipes, all kinds of ideas.  I love Google Reader :)
    • I love books.  I really do.  In college, I used to read at least one a week (wait... those were required books.  Does that count?).  Now, I'm probably closer to one a month for fun and one a quarter for personal or professional improvement.  Rereading this last sentence, I need to up my professional and personal development a little bit, but sometimes those books can be so dry!  My next soap making book will be "Scientific Soapmaking" by Kevin Dunn.  I'm excited to dig into that book.
    • There are in person information sharing networks, too, like classes or networking groups.  I haven't plugged myself into those too much yet - I haven't been looking too actively for soapy friends in my neck of the woods (but if there are any of you out there, we should definitely meet!).  I did start my soap making journey with a local class.  The only attendants were me, my mom, and my best friend.  It really opened my passion for this craft, and I'd love to teach when I can be a better knowledge source for those who want to learn.

    What's your favorite way to educate yourself?  Or do you have a method that I haven't considered above?

    UPDATE:  I forgot to mention TED Talks above.  Man, those are awesome.  I just wish I could find a way to listen to them while in the car - I don't have a way to hook up my iPhone to my car speakers on my 11 year old car.  Here is the article that reminded me about TED Talks.


    Saturday, February 9, 2013

    Over 1,000 page views!

    I know everyone has their own measure of success for their blogs, but I am so proud of this milestone.  I started this blog a little over 3 months ago, with the hope that I might be able to convince my mom and husband to read it occasionally, and now it has over 1,000 views!! 

    So, to celebrate, I decided to finally try to make some soap cupcakes.  I found an awesome sale on cake decorating supplies at Joann Fabrics and bought a bunch of stuff earlier this week to use as "soap only" decorating.  I had some Hot Chocolate FO from Brambleberry and some green sea clay I wanted to try out.   My recipe was supposed to make 6 cupcakes, using 25 oz of oils.  

    I used the FO for the base of the cupcakes, since it will discolor them to a nice dark brown.  I poured out about 18 oz of the soap batter for the base and mixed in only the FO, no additional colorants.  Already, you can see the discoloration from the FO:

     I added some peppermint EO and 1 tsp of sea clay to the portion reserved for the tops and waited... and waited... and mixed...  and got myself some breakfast and fed the dogs... and mixed again... and FINALLY the batter was at a thick enough trace to pipe the tops.  I realized now that I should have used a larger tip for the piping - the one I got was for cake decorating, not cupcake decorating.  Oh, well.  Here's how they turned out after I was done piping:

    The batter I poured was enough for 7 bases, but I didn't use enough of the "frosting", so I had enough left over for an extremely ugly cupcake. 

    The color was not as vibrant as I had wanted, so I found some body-safe pink glitter and sprayed the tops of this cake.  Now the cupcake is a weird patina color and looks kind of slimy.  Another soap that is definitely going into my personal stash :)

    I tried poppy seeds on a couple, both for some extra exfoliation and some visual interest (read: to cover up the poor job I did on piping...)

    All in all, I'm quite proud of my first foray into soap cupcake-making.  I know how I can continue to improve, and my soap area smells ah-mazing!


    Tuesday, February 5, 2013

    New blog look

    While there are many things that I am good at, visual design / marketing type of stuff is something I can definitely continue to improve myself on.  

    I started this blog with a free template that I thought was cute, but it didn't really gel with the name I had chosen or even with the type of blog I wanted to do.  So, after many frustrating hours last night, I have changed the look of my blog to more of a literary, story-type feel, which at least matches the title of my blog.  I had seen myself using this blog to tell stories about my soaping journey, recipes I have created, lessons learned, etc. 

    I may continue to adjust the blog design as I learn more about Blogger, and as I develop more fully the essence of this blog.  Just wanted to give you all a heads-up that this is indeed the same blog - just trying out some new things!

    Let me know your thoughts on the new design and layout - what you like and what doesn't quite work for you.  


    Friday, February 1, 2013

    My favorite soap!

    I am so excited - I think I've found a soap recipe that is perfect for the dry, scratchy winters we get here in MN.  I still have to use lotion about half the time after showering (maybe because I like the showers HOT, since the weather and the house are usually freezing in the morning when I wake up).

    I was playing around with some pistachio butter I picked up from Brambleberry when it was on sale as well as some sunflower oil that I had hanging around, and came up with this:  (cue angels singing...)

    OK, ok, this is not the most awesome picture I have ever taken or posted.  Just imagine the best possible version of this soap, with beautiful colors and swirls, clean edges, and an awesomely (lightly) scented with BB's Cranberry Fig FO.  I really need to learn more about lighting and photoshop...

    Oh soap, how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways:

    1. The lather lasts the perfect amount of time with my sponge.  I only have to load up my sponge once to get my whole body.
    2. The scent is nice and refreshing, but not overpowering.
    3. My skin feels so lovely and soft when I step out of the shower.
    4. The charcoal and clay are exfoliating, but not in a scrubby way.  I can't use scrubby soaps in the winter - it gives me either really dry skin or rashiness.
    5. The bar lasts a very long time, even with nearly daily use.
    6. It was surprisingly inexpensive to make.
    7. I could probably go on and on, but 7 seems like a perfect number to end this at :)
    I am so excited about this recipe!  I am going to try it out with some different designs, colorants and fragrances now to see how it behaves in other situations.  I also received an order of babassu oil in the mail this week, so I will probably work that in here, since it's such a great non-greasy emollient.

    Sorry for the pictures - I'll start working on better quality photos going forward, but happy soaping everyone!  Stay warm...