Tuesday, March 26, 2013


I have been paying attention lately to how popular this blog seems to be getting, which makes me really proud!

One new measure of popularity that I seem to have achieved is my very first spam comment!  I haven't come up with a plan for how to deal with spam comments yet (I hadn't figured I'd get them yet...)

Image from Tom Sweeney,

Question for you bloggers out there - how do you deal with non-offensive spam comments?  I do not mean for illegal things or porn sites (which will immediately be deleted), but in my instance, a comment was made with a link goes to a website that sells dog shampoo.  Up until now, I haven't moderated comments, and now I need to develop a plan to address spam.

I'd love to hear how you deal with it!


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Dog Shampoo Bars Update

The dog shampoo bars are finally able to get animal tested :)  Fortunately, the two dogs were very dirty and stinky; perfect test subjects!  I only wash them about once a month, and with all the melting snow outside, they're definitely in need of a bath.

They hate baths - I'm sure they find them extremely degrading.  This is how their baths normally go:  I convince one unsuspecting dog to come in the bathroom with me.  I stick it in the bathtub (and they both start to freak out).  I get the one in the tub wet, get it all sudsy with my liquid dog shampoo, rinse it off, and wrap it in a towel to dry off a little.  Then I *try* to dry the first one with my hair dryer.  The wet one will run around the bathroom, rubbing his / her head, back, sides, and everything else on the floor (or me) as I try to get them to sit still while I attempt to get them as dry as possible.  Once released from the bathroom, they both run around the house like nutburgers, rubbing their entire bodies all over the carpet, furniture, and anything else they can find.  Then, it's time to repeat the process with the other one, who is so much harder to corral into the bathroom, since he / she knows what's coming...

So, with that bit of background, here's how today's dog bathing went.

Hobbes (on the top) was the unsuspecting first dog.  The soap bar I made is right next to their usual shampoo from a big box pet store in the picture on the top left.  This part went as expected with both Hannah and Hobbes.

Then, it was time for the washing.
Man, wet dogs are nearly impossible photo models!  They also look so tiny when wet, like oversized rats.
It's tough to see from this picture, but the soap wasn't bubbly at all. It was definitely a creamy lather.  I rubbed the bar on their wet backs and chests, got a little more water on my hands, and spread the soapy lather on their legs, feet, and necks.  I didn't wash their faces, as I am sure the soap would sting their eyes...

You can see that they do have the soap lather all over, and they didn't seem to mind the smell of the soap (neem oil, tea tree, eucalyptus, and lavender).  I rinsed them off, towel-dried them, and here's the surprising part:  Neither one ran round like crazy headless chickens when I released them from the towel!  They sat very nicely while I hair-dried them.  Hannah was her normal crazy self after I let her out of the bathroom, but she didn't act nuts as long or as intensely as in the past.  I'm not sure why this is - maybe the soap didn't irritate their skin as much as the liquid version?  Not sure.  I will test again next month to see if I get the same results.  This alone is enough reason for me to continue to use this soap :)

Finally, they were dry and ready to be bribed with treats for "final pictures":

It's hard to tell here, but their hair is so nice and shiny (and soft!!)  They both have different kinds of hair - Hobbes has a lot of thick, fluffy hair, and Hannah has less hair and it's courser and more wiry. They both feel amazing right now, though, and they haven't been rubbing themselves on the carpet or itching at all.  Since I washed their heads and faces with a wet washcloth (and not soap), I can definitely tell a difference between their clean hair and the unwashed hair on their heads.

While I wish this soap was bubblier, it seems to be a winner for the two puppies!  If anyone else has tried the recipe, I'd love to hear your feedback on it.

Hobbes wanted to show off what a good helper he is and also his football sweater, which we'll (hopefully) be able to put away soon!  Hello, Spring!
Have a great weekend everyone!


Saturday, March 23, 2013

New Soap Hutch Mold!!

I am so excited (does it seem to anyone else that I start many of my posts with "I am so excited"?) - I got Rich's Soap Hutch soap mold in the mail in the past week or so, and I couldn't wait to use it!!  Rich at Soap Hutch was such a pleasure to work with - we talked on the phone and emailed a number of times to make sure my mold was just right.  He has the capacity to make a custom mold for each order, and he was very interested in making sure he knew exactly what I was looking for.  After a number of conversations, we got the specs settled, and I just had to wait as patiently as possible for it to arrive.

It was definitely worth the wait.  It is such a beauty!  It's configured to make either 2 or 3 10.5-11" long logs, a 9-square divided slab, or smaller logs as I need when working on new soaps.  As he put it, it's a great mold for design and creation (and also good for general production for me based on my current soap volume!)
Here is the slab mold set up - I have pictures from previous posts on the 9-bar divider.  

Here are some photos of the log settings - The slab mold can be divided into 2 3.5"x11" logs.  
With 4" tall walls, there is plenty of room for fancy tops on these logs.

It's a little difficult to see here, but there are dividers that can divide the logs vertically into 2,3,or 4 parts.  You can set the divider at any of the 3 grooves in the end pieces.  I cannot wait to design with this :)

It also has blocks to divide the logs into smaller blocks, so I can play around with  smaller batches to try out FOs, colorants, recipes, etc.  This is going to save me a bunch of time and bucks.

The slab can also be configured to make up to 3 2.5" wide logs:
Here is the configuration for 11" long logs.

You can see here that the logs also come with vertical dividers to divide the soap logs in half, and they also come with blocks to make smaller recipes that are narrower.

In short, I love this mold!  I am so happy to be using it, and expect to see it in many pictures to come!


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Salt Bars (with safety update)

Up until recently, the only divided molds I have had are fancy-design cavity molds.  This is fine for regular soap, but I wanted to try my hand at salt bars.

Jenny at Lather Be Soaping posted this tutorial on salt bars, which explains a lot about why coconut oil (and the high percentage) and other things - definitely go and check out her post for more information and some pics of a beautiful bar of soap.  I wanted to try out making my own bars, and I got my hot little hands on some pink Himalayan salt to use.  My husband uses Himalayan salt blocks to cook steaks (which are delicious, by the way!), but I went and bought medium-ground salt for my soaps :)

I used the same recipe Jenny uses on her blog:
80% coconut oil
15% avocado oil (I love avocado oil!  I use it in all my recipes)
5% castor oil

I superfatted at 20%, since such a high % of coconut oil can be very drying.  My problem was understanding how to size this recipe.  I wasn't sure whether the salt would dissolve into the recipe or if it would add additional bulk to the recipe, so I sized it to fit a 9-bar mold for bars that were 3.5"x2.5"x1.25" (or approx 40 oz oils).  I added 36 oz of salt to the recipe at trace, since you can use a salt weight of anywhere from 50%-100% of the weight of the oils used.

I definitely over-produced :)  The salt does add additional volume to the bars (duh in retrospect), and it made nearly double what I was looking for.  Therefore, I needed to cut the bars in half to get them to a size that can be held (and used).

Here's a pic of the soap being mixed:
The salt didn't mix in as well as I thought it would...  I had to do the same thing as Jenny and switch to a whisk.  MUCH easier after that :)
Here it is in the slab mold before I put in the dividers.  One note on sliding in the dividers - I don't think I pushed hard enough on the dividers, and there was a layer of soap stuck underneath the dividers when I tried to unmold.  I haven't had this happen on my other soap recipes in this mold - may have been the thick batter and saltiness.
Love that pink color!
And here are the cut bars.  They got pretty crumbly around the edges when I tried to cut them.  I waited about two hours until they were solid-feeling (but still warm), and then cut with my miter box.  The soap was much crumblier than I had anticipated - probably because of how much undissolved salt was in the bar and I may have needed to cut them a little sooner...
The color is nice, but all the edges are kind of crumbly.  A couple days after cutting, though, and already the lather is feeling lotion-like.

I have a feeling that even though the salt bars may have won this round, I am going to win the battle!  (muah haha)

SAFETY UPDATE:  I realized after this posted that I am showing a picture of my bare hands with the caustic soap batter above.  When I soap, I follow the safety precautions prescribed by numerous blogs, including Soap Queen (Google cold process safety procedures if you're new to CP soaping and want to try it out).  I had removed my gloves to grab my camera to take this picture so that I wouldn't get soap batter on my camera from my gloves.  I just forgot to put the gloves back on for the picture.  Any soapers that are new who want to try this recipe, PLEASE PLEASE follow good safety practices for soap making.  

Listen to Sweet Brown - Lye Burns: Ain't nobody got time for that! :)


Monday, March 18, 2013

New weekend soaps

I am working on a post on the new Soap Hutch mold I got recently to talk all about this amazing multi-purpose mold that Rich made for me.  He has been such a pleasure to work with and great at communicating on details of the mold.  I will get into the features of my great Christmas gift in the blog post I'm working on, but for now, just know it's awesome :)

So, since it has a 9-bar divider function, I wanted to utilize it and also play with a chopstick swirl.  One of the nice things about this mold is that it's 4" tall, so each of the 9 divided sections can hold up to 3 bars of soap, or 27 bars total in one mold!  This means that the bars that I swirled had additional layers of depth and design - I really enjoyed seeing how the middle bar of each 3" block turned out.

The blocks all looked so grey from the activated charcoal I used for one of the colors.

Check out how great the swirls inside look:

And the scent is heavenly (Black Raspberry Vanilla).  I did notice, though, that on the tops of some of the blocks, there was this strange yellow-ish color developing in the white portion.  I'm not sure what caused that, since the color didn't make it through the entire block - it was only on the top bit that was exposed to air.  I really struggled getting the soap blocks out of the mold, because the liner on the bottom of the mold was stuck to the plastic bottom of the mold - it took me forever to separate the liner from the mold.  The swirls turned out so beautifully, though, I will definitely use it again!

I also made a hot process lavender soap in my trusty old crock pot.  I have a lot of trouble getting the tops to look smooth with HP, so I poured it into BB's vertical mold to keep all the sides flat and even.  I colored it with alkanet root infused in olive oil (3 heaping teaspoons in 12 oz olive oil).  I was worried about the color, since it was red-looking when I infused the OO over heat, the color turned a pretty purple when I mixed the soap batter, and it became an ugly grey color when it was cooking in the crock pot.  I wish I had thought to take pictures of the colors.  I will make another batch soon and will take pictures to show off the weird color morphing.

The final color ended up pretty great, though - I apparently was having a purple weekend, which was fitting that the Prince station on Pandora was my soaping music :)  I love purple and the Purple One!

I love this color - you can see the change from when it was first cooked (in top left) over a few days curing.  Gorgeous, if I do say so myself!
I need to work on a few more blog posts on the Soap Hutch mold as well as a salt soap I could finally make with the divider mold.  Expect more soon!

Happy Monday - 


Saturday, March 9, 2013

Non-soap facial cleanser

I have had some issues with my face lately...  I have been changing my nutrition around a little bit, altering some of my daily habits, but unfortunately, my face has been SO DRY and full of break-outs lately.  It's been driving me crazy!

I've read about people who wash their faces with oil-based cleansers and some of the benefits of washing with oil.  One blog that I enjoy, LisaLise, has a blog that is full of great information on the ingredients in hair / face / body products.  She writes a lot of about preservatives, ingredients and how they react with skin, how they react in products, clinical trials to support claims, such as whether "noncomedogenic" equals "able to unblock pores".  Her research has been so helpful for me as I've been trying to understand how products and skin interact.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Strawberries & Cream

It seemed like a good idea for me this weekend to attempt a soap with cream again.  This was partly because I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it, after all of my ruined attempts, and partly because I had a partial container of cream in the fridge that was going to get tossed if it wasn't used quickly :)

One roommate has asked for a good strawberry-scented soap, and I found this Strawberries & Cream FO at Wholesale Supplies Plus that seemed like it would fit the bill.  It got some good comments from reviewers, and it's definitely time to think about some fun late spring scents.  This FO does have a 5% vanilla content, so I needed to plan the colors and design accordingly. 

I replaced 2 oz of water with cream (approx 20% of liquids are cream) in my 2-lb mold recipe (approx 20% cream) and stick blended the cream into the oils instead of mixing it with the lye water. I had read this tutorial from Amanda over at Lovin' Soap, and this seemed to be easier (and quicker) than trying to mix the cream in with the lye.

Since this FO has some vanilla and will discolor to some degree of brown, I didn't want to fight with the color too much, but I also didn't want a brown Strawberries and Cream soap.  I decided to use some of BB's Super Pearly White Mica to color the entire batch to give it a bit of a sparkle and then to color the portion that was scented with the FO with some of BB's Merlot Mica.  I also used cranberry seeds in the colored and scented portion to make it look a little more strawberry-like.

Here's what it looked like after I poured it on Sunday:

I really love how the color turned out!  Since I didn't want the colors to be too dark, I tried to keep this soap from gelling by putting it in the "icebox."

I cut it today with the handy-dandy wire cutter, and I noticed that I got a bunch of air bubbles.  I wonder if it's from cutting it and dragging the cranberry seeds through the soap?  The soap color got a little darker, but not too brown.  I'd be happy if the soap stayed this color - only time will tell :)

These pictures were taken right before and after cutting - after curing for a few more weeks, I will polish them up a bit more so they look more smooth and shiny.
The scent out of the bottle smelled like a strawberry milkshake, and both my roommate and I love it!  After 3 days, it seems to have faded and taken on a more plastic-y smell, so I'm hoping it's just the mold I was smelling and it will will smell more true after the bars cure.  Cross your fingers!

I will wait with baited breath to see how this soap does after a nice cure - I am hoping I've beaten my cream issues once and for all!  I also hope this soap stays this nice color - reminds me of the Strawberry Shortcake dolls I used to have as a little girl.

Here's one gratuitous pic of my dogs for good measure - this shows perfectly their relationship, even though this picture was taken nearly 4 years ago: