Tuesday, March 31, 2009

more soap + diaper cream/lip balm

on a bit of a soaping kick i guess, now that i actually have the ingredients to make it. tonight i made oatmeal, milk & honey (omh) soap which i just love because of the scrubby oatmeal in it. and bramble berry's omh fragrance is so wonderful.

same basic soap recipe as the baby soap though i ran out of corn oil and used soybean instead. don't forget to recalculate your NaOH for the proper oils if you sub in something different.

for omh soap, i use goat's milk instead of water. this was a full can (12 oz.). i forgot that it's usually a good idea to NOT discount when using that much milk. in other words, the recommended amount of water is 25-33% of oils, so in this case (a 48 oz. batch) the recommended amount was 12-18 oz. use the higher amount if you are a beginner or don't know how a fragrance will act; because the lye solution is somewhat weaker, the batch is more forgiving. i usually go with the lower amount so my soap will cure faster and because i (generally) know how things will behave. milk however heats up a lot, very quickly, and so it is better to not take much of a discount (if any) when subbing it in for water.

that's what happened when i added NaOH to the goat's milk. the color and chunky separation were to be expected; the NaOH reacts to the proteins and fats in the milk. what was not to be expected was how this kind of turned in to a bit of a volcano, and i barely got it to the sink in time before it bubbled over. that's why there are chunks on the side.

this can all be stirred back together, and should be before adding to the oils. it will reek of ammonia.

at trace i added 3 tablespoons of bramble berry's omh fragrance oil, about 1 cup of rolled oats, and about ¼ cup of honey. the oats kind of float in a lump on top so i set my stick blender down on top of them and pulsed to break them up some.

in the mold. the lighter chunky bits are the oats (not the reflections from the kitchen lights). it won't look quite so liquid poo-like after it comes out of the mold. it reeks to high heaven right now (the ammonia from the lye-milk solution) but that will go away in a couple days. no need to insulate as both milk and honey generate heat in soap.

also made the diaper cream tonight, a semi trial run. semi in that i tweaked the recipe a little bit to include a bit more liquid oils so it would be creamier and not quite as solid. also in that i will definitely need to make more of this, i'm sure we will go through it. i also subbed in soybean oil with vitamin e (picked up at trader joe's for relatively cheap) for the sweet almond oil, and i added a bit more zinc oxide than i thought i would initially.

the three squat tubes in the back are the push sticks, the two skinnier ones in the front are oversized lip balm tubes (½ ounce instead of the usual 0.15 ounce). i have no idea why they cave in at the center, they have always done that as they cool. this is not a problem unique to me. i smeared a bit of the scrapings from the cup (by the way, this is best made in a small measuring cup so you can pour easily) on my hand and it is just as i had hoped, smooth and moisturizing and creamy. should be perfect for little bottoms.

Monday, March 30, 2009

soap tutorial with photos, part 2

getting to this point (part 1) is here.

9. soap stays in the mold for approximately 48 hours. i had a busy weekend so this was a bit more than that. it's not an exact science, so if you get impatient after 24 hours or forget for a day or so it's not the end of the world. just don't leave it in the mold for 6 weeks or you might not be able to get it out. see how the color has changed to that pretty cream? the tiny dark flecks are what slipped through the strainer when i infused my oils and are not a concern to me. the blobbiness in the middle is because i tend to pour my soap at a slightly heavier trace, so it is a bit thicker. i could easily remedy this by being a bit less enthusiastic about blending, you find your own style. mine is with a somewhat imperfect "other" side to the bars.

don't worry if the scent is a bit strong, it will dissipate some during the cure. also, if you used some "funky" ingredients in your soap (like subbing milk for water in the lye solution) it could smell really odd, but that should go away. goat's milk in particular can give off an ammonia smell, like cat pee, for a couple days, but don't worry, you won't have to wash with cat pee soap.

10. soap out of the mold; this is the "backside" which is the pretty side because it has been against the smooth inside of the mold. dunno what that paw-print-looking dark spot is but i'm sure it will clear up as the soap cures. if it doesn't, well, to me that's the beauty of handmade soap, minor imperfections like that. because my mold is specifically for soapmaking, there are cutlines on the bottom to ensure that i always cut even bars. you can get them without cutlines, i just knew i would always have wonky bars if i did that because i'm like that. imperfections are one thing, wonkiness is another.

another thing, i always turn my soap out onto a piece of waxed paper on a cutting board, so i have a smooth surface (cutting board) to work on but no mess (waxed paper). that's just my personal anal retentiveness.

11. 12 cut bars of soap. i use an inexpensive dough scraper, but for a long time i just used a knife. the advantage of a dough scraper is that the edge is even, whereas a knife edge gets wider as you go farther back up the tang. that's just more for aesthetics though.

you can see the unevenness on the interior, kind of like under-done brownies. this is fine. sometimes there are little air bubbles; these are fine as well. what would be concerning would be if the air bubbles were filled with oil or watery liquid; that could be unsaponified lye solution and burn your skin. don't use the soap if that happens. (it shouldn't.) if there are pockets of flaky white NaOH, don't use that soap either; it's dangerous. more than likely this will not happen; i've never had it happen. just be aware of what "bad" looks like.

12. finished bars ready to be stored for curing. i bevel the edges of my bars with a potato peeler (you can see better here or here) because i like the way it looks and feels when you first use it, and it helps smooth out any mistakes i made when cutting. i do it before the bars go in the box because it is easier but you can do it after the cure if you want. you will notice as you cut that your soap is firm but soft to the touch, kind of like zucchini. it is certainly solid but you could nick the surface with your nail, and possibly a bit "sticky" feeling. two of my bars were stamped with a soap stamp as an experiment. i have this stamp and i never use it, i think because i can never get the hang of it to make the stamp look as nice as i would like.

you can cure your soap however you want to. lots of people use cooling racks but i don't have any. if you are making more than one batch or don't have a lot of space you probably need something stackable that doesn't take up a lot of space. at first i just spread out a paper towel and stood the bars on end. now i use a very high-tech system of two soda flats (these are beer ones i picked up at the grocery store) nested together. the boxes are free, breathable (not airtight), will stack on top of each other, and i can stick post-its on them so i don't forget what kind of soap is inside. i line them with a paper towel to absorb any moisture and i will flip them over in a couple weeks. basically you just want to be able to have air move around the bars on all (or as many as possible) sides. you are drying out the water weight in the soap to make a firm, long-lasting bar of soap. it is useable right now, but it would dissolve a lot sooner in the shower than if you were patient and cured it. curing takes 4-6 weeks.

after soap has cured, you can use and enjoy it!

Friday, March 27, 2009

soap tutorial with photos

detailed instructions here. this is the baby soap recipe, just a very gentle all-natural soap. i love this as face soap.

1. i infused my olive oil with lavender, yarrow, and slippery elm bark by heating the oil gently with the herbs in it and then letting it "steep" on super low heat for a couple hours. then strained through a fine mesh sieve to keep the pokies out. obviously not required but i wanted to get as much "nutrition" in the oils as i could since this is for kiddo and faces.

2. combine oils and melt together if needed. the large white "chunks" are coconut oil and shea butter.

3. measure NaOH carefully. also be careful if the air is relatively dry; NaOH granules can get staticky and fly around and land on your skin. wear gloves.

4. pour NaOH into water and stir stir stir. the lye solution will be cloudy at first. allow to cool to lukewarm.

5. pour lye solution into oils. see how the lye solution has cleared up? stir stir stir, preferably mixing with a stick blender.

6. continue blending until trace is reached. see how opaque the soap is now? you will be able to feel a difference in the raw soap as well; it feels thicker when you stir. this is the point where you would stir in any additives, fragrances, or colorants. this is also the point at which you would add any additional oils for superfatting (the calendula oil in the recipe).

7. pour into your prepared mold; cover and place in a warm spot. i generally warm my oven (about 170º) and keep the soap in there; it's out of the way and stays warm. however i have a wooden mold; i would not recommend this for plastic molds or cardboard shoeboxes. silicone baking pans would be fine in the oven of course. we're approximately 1½ hours in at this point, including a little over an hour to allow the lye solution to cool. (from mixing oils and lye to this point is generally only about 15-20 minutes.)

8. gel stage, approximately 2½ hours after start, 1 hour in the mold. the gelling soap is the mustard color in the center. the end result will be whiter, like the soap at the edges of the mold. soap stays in the mold and in its warm place for approximately 48 hours.

i'll post a couple more photos in a couple days, when i unmold, cut, and store for cure.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

should be a great weekend!

this week i am thankful:

1. that brian comes home tonight! he's been on yet another business trip this week and while it's nice to have the bed all to myself since i am huge and uncomfortable right now, it's rather lonely. i didn't get married because i wanted us to be apart all the time. fortunately this is the last business trip for a while. he purposely got them out of the way now instead of having to go in may when kiddo comes.

2. that alice is coming tonight! i am so so excited to see her. we've been best girls since junior high, more than half my life. i've known her longer than pretty much anyone else in my life (family excluded). she's staying for the whole weekend and i'm so thrilled.

3. that i'm off of work tomorrow! because alice is here. but it's also just nice to have an extra day off, an extra day to sleep in, and extra day to be lazy (though we're not going to be that lazy, we have plans). and since i'm taking off a friday and not a monday (or any other day) there ought to be less of a pile on my desk to catch up on come monday.

Monday, March 23, 2009

now i can even make my own dirt

i went to a composting workshop sponsored by our city this weekend to learn how to compost. i was inordinately excited about this because i had halfheartedly tried composting before without any success. it's not terribly difficult but apparently there is a "right" way and a "wrong" way (or rather, a more efficient way) and i wasn't doing it "properly" which is why i was not having a lot of luck at it.

the workshop instructor called composting "nature's recycling program," because there are no landfills or recycling centers in nature to haul away the dead crap and waste. composting is just the process by which nature breaks down all the stuff it doesn't need anymore and transforms it into this nutrient-rich stuff called humus which is not soil but a very nice soil amendment. so it wouldn't be a great idea to fill my proposed raised beds (for my garden, i'm so coveting raised beds AHEM brian) 100% with compost, but mixed with other dirt it will be great.

compost needs four things: carbon materials, nitrogen materials, air, and water. carbon materials are "brown" things like dried leaves, newspaper, sawdust, coffee filters or tea bags, and dryer lint (!). nitrogen materials are "green" things like kitchen scraps, grass cuttings, coffee grinds, and fresh prunings. you need about a 3:1 ratio (50-50 at most) of brown things to green things. aha! my previous compost pile was mostly green things, which can make the pile kind of stinky and doesn't break down as quickly as if there were brown things in it. the instructor said to think of the green things as fire and the brown things as fuel: you can't have a really good fire without the right proportions of each, even though you might have a fire.

part of the composting workshop - and what really drew me in, i'll admit - was that every participant got a free composting bin and free compost. so there are two delicious bags of compost sitting in my garage (awaiting my raised beds, AHEM brian) and i set up my new free bin yesterday. i filled it first with some old trimmed branches (to create a nice airspace on the bottom), then with grass clippings, then shredded newspaper, and then watered it on top. the water helps sustain the decomposition process and has the nice side benefit of keeping the newspaper shreds from blowing away. then another layer of grass clippings, another layer of newspaper shreds, and a bit more water but not so much that the pile is soggy. i'll turn it (basically stir it up) every week or so and (supposedly) in a couple months i will have beautiful black compost for my raised beds! (AHEM brian)

again this was all sponsored by our city and i would bet it's not unique to us. another cool thing was that they subsidize the purchase of two fancier composting bins, this one for only $20 and this one for only $40. both have lids which would be wonderful for us as i do hoard kitchen scraps for our clean greens bin, but they can go in the compost pile. without a lid, i need to be careful to bury our kitchen scraps so we don't get rodents or yucky flies. i am coveting that bio-stack one.

you do not need a bin to compost; you can just do it in a pile in the yard. or you could make your own. be sure not to put "icky" things in it like pet droppings, diapers, or meat or bones; remember, you are (theoretically) using the compost to provide nutrients for your vegetable garden (AHEM brian), so you don't want that stuff in your food supply. more information about composting is here.

by the way, did you know that newspaper has a grain? this now makes sense to me - it's made from trees, and wood has a grain, so. if you tear your papers lengthwise, along the grain, they will tear into nice strips, but if you tear cross-wise they will just rip into chunks.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

happy spring! (almost)

this week i am thankful for:

1. prenatal yoga. it is so nice to get out and stretch my body. granted, it doesn't feel like "real" yoga, but i'm not as agile as i used to be anyways.

2. springtime and nice weather! it is supposed to be 70° and beautiful here today and it was gorgeous yesterday. i just love this time of year when it is beautiful and not unbearably hot. it does good things for my spirit to wear cute dresses and show my arms. the only problem is, i have to work so i can't be out enjoying the sunshine until the weekend.

3. my bramble berry order that just arrived! yay! with my yummy fragrance oils, and they still give free samples! (have i mentioned how much i love bramble berry?) mine is matcha tea, for which the website gives this description: "To add to our Tea Collection (Green Tea, Black Tea, Red Lychee Tea and Tea Ceremony), we've found this specialty tea fragrance. Matcha Tea is a fine powdered green tea, used in Japanese tea ceremonies. In food, it's also used to flavor soba noodles, green tea ice cream and a variety of Japanese confectionary. Our version of this fragrance smells strongly of Matcha Tea Leaves with just a touch of Bergamot, Fresh Lemon, Grapefruit and finished out with Rose Petals and Sandalwood. It's amazing in cold process soap and also makes a delightful scrub." i'm so excited, i can't wait. EXCEPT, where is my camden grey order??? because even with the bb order, i'm stuck until i get the cg one with my oils. it's so hard to be patient when i have so many delicious things waiting for me in that bb box.

update: the ups tracking email i got today says my cg order won't arrive until march 26. boo hoo! patience, patience, patience...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

soaping site "guide" and thoughts

when i started soaping nine years ago, it was because i figured soap had been around for hundreds of years and people were making it themselves long before big companies started manufacturing it. so why couldn't i make soap too? if pioneers could do it two hundred years ago then surely i had the technology at my fingertips to make a bar of soap for myself. i love that you can find out anything on the internet so that is where i turned to for instruction. here are some sites that i have used and loved:

- kathy miller's soaping site. tons of information and recipes for the new and experienced soaper. i especially like her page on the properties of oils which has been invaluable when creating my own soap recipes.
- the dish forum, a gathering of "soaping minds" from all around the world. you do have to register to get access, but it's free. there is a wealth of information there and they never mind answering the same old questions from newbies.
- majestic mountain sage's lye calculator. i've heard there are other lye calculators out there, but this is the one i always heard recommended and what i always use. you just punch in the amounts of each oil you are using and it will automatically calculate the amount of NaOH you need to use, depending on your amount of superfat. or you can calculate NaOH the old-fashioned way, using a pencil and paper and sap values. (imho it's good to know how to do this anyways, but the mms calculator is awfully convenient.) i calculate my NaOH for every single batch of soap i make, after measuring my oils. maybe a bit tedious but i figure it is better to be safe than sorry. the mms website also has great information on fragrances and recipes, and the lye calculator includes basic instructions, water ranges (depending on the discount you prefer to take - new soapers should take less of a water discount/use more water), and a convenient resizing tool.
- teachsoap.com, anne-marie faiola's teaching website. anne-marie is magic behind bramble berry, one of my favorite supply sources. this is a great website.
- ann bramson's book, soap. it was published before i was born but basic soaping techniques have not changed since then. she also has interesting information about rendering your own tallow and suet. i did that once, just to see, and it was more work than i care to do. besides, though i am not a vegetarian so have nothing against eating meat... i like the idea of all-vegetable soaps better.
- susan miller cavitch's book, the soapmaker's companion. somewhat controversial and can be problematic so i'd recommend reading all the reviews, especially the bad ones, as well as getting as much information from other sources before digging into her book. that said, it was helpful for me as a beginner soaper... but i don't refer to it that much anymore. also, her recipes make somewhat large batches (and use a lot of exotic oils) so if you do make one of them, use the resizing tool on the mms website.
- anne l watson's book, smart soapmaking. i have not read it personally but it gets great reviews. when people have nothing bad to say about something, there's got to be something to it, right?

supply sources i love:
- bramble berry. have i raved enough about them yet? i especially love their fragrance oils and that anne-marie now carries cybilla's line. also way back when, they used to include a sample-size of a fragrance oil in each order. (i have not ordered in forever - just put in my first order in a long time actually [been using up my "stash"] - so we'll see if they still do!) i always thought that was neat and really appreciated it. it worked, too - got me to try fragrances i might not have otherwise tried. there is a lot more than just fragrance there so poke around some.
- camden grey. great source for essential oils and other supplies at great prices. beware though, they are usually best as a "bulk" supplier. for example, the smallest amount of 76º coconut oil you can buy from them is 7 lbs. that's nothing for the small business soaper, but it lasts me a long time.
- the essential oil company. i could go completely overboard ordering from them. i have in the past. i think camden grey might be cheaper though.
- sweet cakes. delicious fragrances. yummmmm.
- upland soap factory for molds. obviously this would be a bit of an investment so i wouldn't spring for one until you're completely addicted to soaping and have enough experience to know you're never going back to mass-produced soap. i do adore my 12-bar slab mold from them. next to my stick blender, it is probably the best (and only?) investment i have made for this addiction.

obviously there are a ton more great websites for information and supplies, these are just the few i use most. hopefully they will work as well for you as they have for me.

Monday, March 16, 2009

lip balm tutorial

lip balm is so uber-easy to make that i am not sure why anyone buys it. except that i get lazy and brian really likes the "virtuoso" ones from trader joe's, have you tried them? wow are they wonderful. and if you look at the ingredients list, it isn't much. because you don't need much to make lip balm.

here is the recipe for diaper cream which is just a fabulous lip balm recipe with zinc oxide added. if you add zinc oxide to your lip balm you will have white lips. (remember zinka?) it's fine with me if you want to do that but your significant other may not appreciate it. even more simplified, all you really need is beeswax (or some other kind of wax; jasmine wax would be lovely here also) and oils. for simplicity's sake, let's do this:

1 part beeswax
1 part coconut oil
1 part sweet almond oil

coconut oil is solid at room temperature, which is why it's nice in lip balm. too much beeswax and your balm will be too solid and kind of grainy and it just doesn't feel nice. using partly solid oils (like coconut oil, shea butter, or cocoa butter) helps the balm stay solid without being hard. for the liquid oil, i like to choose something that is light and does not have a lot of "flavor." i personally am not a huge fan of olive oil in balm but you do what you want. jojoba oil is nice also but a bit thick for my taste.

to make the balm, just mix everything together in a small measuring cup and nuke it in the microwave until everything is melted together. stir it well because the beeswax can take a while to melt. the only thing about it is to heat it enough so the beeswax melts but not too long, because then it pops all over the microwave and you have a mess to clean up.

when it is all melted and blended, just pour into small lip butter pots or propel/repel tubes and let it cool. the balm recipe is also fabulous as an extra-strength cream for elbows or feet (or chapped hands) or as a massage bar; i like push sticks for that. or you could use this recipe for solid perfume. when i first started making my own stuff (before i bought packaging) i used those little containers that you get at the salad bar, just be careful you don't melt through them (swipe a couple of the really sturdy ones).

if you want to get fancy, you can add some vitamin e (tocopherol) to the oils; just pop open a capsule or two and squeeze it in. i like lavender and tea tree eos in mine, just two or three drops of each is fine. be careful with eos, most are not great to go directly on skin. you could shave a bit of an old lipstick in for a light pigment if you wanted, but don't use food coloring or you'll stain not just your lips but your fingers and your teeth too. honey is humectant (draws moisture to the skin) so you could put a couple drops in, not too much or else it will be sticky and be aware that it will separate out if you leave the balm in the car and it melts. if you wanted to be super fancy and spoil yourself, you could infuse your oils (including the solid oils - melt them and then mix with the liquids first) with soothing herbs like lavender, yarrow, slippery elm bark, comfrey, or chamomile. be sure to strain well so you don't have pokies in your balm.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

blogiversary giveaway winner!

happy blogiversary to me! (it's today.) thanks to those of you who participated in my blogiversary giveaway. surprise, this is what the giveaway cozies turned out like:

in the yellow daisy one i made for myself, i just interfaced the two pieces with a super-sturdy interfacing to "insulate" the cozy. it worked fine but let through a bit more heat than i think would be practical. these two i lined with a piece of felt so they ought to keep your hands from getting burned a bit better than interfacing would.

my random winner for these (as well as a $5 gift card to starbucks, so you can actually use them) is kelly! kelly, email me your address so i can pop your prize in the mail to you. everyone else, pop on over to her fabulous blog and check her out. and check back with me in a couple weeks, i liked hosting this giveaway so much that i want to do another one. that one will be around my birthday (may 1) so check back before the end of april to enter that one.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

basic cp soap tutorial (long, sorry)

cp = cold process. cp is the method by which i make my soap and refers to the fact that (generally) no additional heat is added to the soap mixture to assist the chemical reaction. the heat generated by the soap itself is enough to complete the reaction.

basic chemistry lesson is here. i recommend reading it because imho, if you know what is going on in your soap pot you can better control the outcome. i.e. soap you enjoy versus icky soap.

do not use drano or any other "mixed" drain cleaner. red devil lye is what i use and what i have always heard recommended for soaping. it is straight NaOH and usually found in the drain cleaner aisle. it will be in granule or flake form, usually in white 18 ounce bottles with a red lid. if you shake it you can hear the granules inside. unless you can get your NaOH direct from a chemical company and you know 100% for sure that it is pure NaOH, i'd stick with red devil.

a note of caution: you do need to work with a strong base in order to complete the chemical reaction, so be careful. NaOH can cause severe burns if you are not careful. remember that scene in fight club where brad pitt kisses edward norton's hand and then pours NaOH on it, and he screams and writhes in pain from the burn? i don't know how realistic that is, but just keep it in mind. wear goggles and gloves. NaOH in solution can be even more dangerous because it is dissolved in water and therefore reacts easier with oils than NaOH in crystal or flake form. and it is HOT. raw soap can also be dangerous because the saponification process is not complete so there is still free NaOH floating around in there. at my house, i always let my husband know when i am making soap so he can stay out of my way. that way he doesn't bump me or cause an accident when i am handling it and possibly spill something on myself or himself.

that being said, don't freak out - just be careful. you use sharp objects and play with fire every night when you cook, and you know that as long as you take the proper precautions (you don't leave potholders too close to the burner, you're not careless with the knife when chopping carrots), no one gets hurt. same with soaping. treat NaOH and raw soap with the same respect you treat your knife and burner, stay aware, and you'll be fine.

the baby soap recipe is a good one to get started with; if you can't find pure shea butter, just leave it out and reduce the amount of NaOH to 5.625 ounces. please note that all oil and NaOH measures are in weight, not volume. so you will need your kitchen scale to make soap. also in that recipe, if you can't find calendula oil, don't worry - it's not critical to the recipe. coconut oil can be found at your local natural foods store, same with essential oils. if you don't like lavender or tea tree, use something else. my general rule of thumb is approximately 1 T. eo to 1 lb. soap (by oil + NaOH weight).

coconut oil is solid at room temperature, so you may need to nuke it in the microwave for a minute or two to soften it up enough to get it out of the jar. as far as olive oil goes, better soap is made from lesser grade oil, so don't bother using your expensive extra-virgin. just get the cheapest stuff you can. same with corn oil. it's just soap, people, not gourmet cooking.

you do not need special equipment to make soap. you do need a non-reactive pot, so don't use aluminum or copper if you have them. your regular stainless soup pot is fine, the soap will not soak into it and make all future soup taste funny. it is very helpful to have a stick blender (sometimes called a soup blender or an immersion blender) on hand as it makes stirring a lot easier, but you can stir with an old wooden spoon. kitchen thermometers are very helpful for novice soapers.

you can use anything for a mold as long as you can get the soap out of it in the end. i currently use a silicone-lined mold made especially for soaping, but when i started doing this the best thing i found was to use a shoebox lined with freezer paper. not waxed paper - freezer paper has a plastic coating on one side; use the smooth plastic side facing the soap and crease well. if you have a silicone baking pan, that would be wonderful also because it would be easy to remove. plastic tupperwares work well also but i'd spray them with pam first and you might have to pop them in the freezer if the soap doesn't remove easily.

basic instructions:

1. have your ingredients measured and ready before you start. sometimes things can happen quickly when soaping and you don't often have time to pause and measure specific amounts of eo's. so just have everything ready to go before you begin.

2. measure water into a glass pyrex measure; it's best to use cold cold cold water. measure NaOH and carefully pour into the water, stirring constantly. do not pour the water into the NaOH as this could cause a "volcano" reaction. the initial reaction will fizzle a bit and give off nasty acrid fumes, so i find it easiest to do this under the hood vent on the stove (while the stove is off but the fan is on) while holding my head back as far as possible. keep stirring until everything is dissolved (i use a stainless dinner spoon) and then allow it to cool to about 100º-120º, about lukewarm. do not stick your finger in the solution to test it.

3. measure oils into a large non-reactive pot and melt them together. allow to cool to about 100º-110º. oil takes a lot longer to cool than NaOH solution so be judicious about using heat. i usually heat just until the coconut oil has barely begun to melt and then stir so the warmed liquid oils can melt whatever is left solid. oils should also be about lukewarm. the idea is that the oils and the NaOH solution will be approximately similar temperatures when you mix them. if they are drastically different you could have an adverse chemical reaction. you can play with that on your own time, for this tutorial we're going to play it safe.

4. stir the NaOH solution again in case anything has settled; sometimes a "skin" forms on the top or you get little "floaties" in the solution while it is cooling. don't worry about these, they are not a problem. and see how the solution has gone from cloudy white to relatively clear-ish while it cools? that's why i tell my husband when i'm soaping, so he doesn't mistake NaOH solution for something innocuous and hurt himself. and so he makes sure the cat is not underfoot and not trying to drink the solution, thinking it's water. carefully pour the NaOH solution into the oils, stirring with a large non-reactive spoon.

5. keep stirring. and stirring. and stirring. (this is where that stick blender comes in.) see how the oil turns cloudy and you are starting to get more opaque streaks? that's soap starting to form. stirring by hand can take upwards of 45 minutes so i cannot recommend a stick blender enough. i got mine at the drugstore for $17 and i use it for everything, not just soap. stir until your soap mixture is about the consistency of cream soup. this point is called "trace," because you can drizzle raw soap onto the surface from your spoon and your squiggle will "remain" on the surface. other than the cream soup analogy, i don't know how to describe trace but you will know when it happens. if you use a stick blender it will usually be after about 5-10 minutes. if the mixture gets thick and gloppy you've gone past trace and you need to get it into the mold.

6. trace is the point at which you add anything that you might want to add to your soap - essential oils and other fragrances, colorants, and additives like oatmeal, milk, or honey. (you can also use milk as part of your water but be aware that the reaction with the NaOH will make your soap smell like cat pee at first, the smell does go away.) milk and honey will raise the temperature of your soap and discolor tan to brown so don't use them if you want white soap and you probably don't need to insulate. the baby soap recipe will make a nice, creamy-white bar. stir stir stir to be sure everything is blended.

7. pour the raw soap into your prepared mold. don't scrape the pot with a spatula. the idea is that you could inadvertently be scraping raw NaOH solution into your nice batter there. i do scrape the sides lightly with my wooden spoon because i don't like the waste, but i never use a spatula.

8. cover and insulate your mold and put it in a warm spot (or at least, not a cold drafty one). i just pack towels around mine and leave it in a warm spot in the family room. soap is not going to leak out of your shoebox (if you've lined it properly) and if you push it into the corner no one will mess with it, unless you have little kids. be sure to insulate well; this conserves the heat needed for the reaction. if you insulated well and you peek at your soap in 2-3 hours, you will see the center especially looks kind of jelly-like. this is called the gel stage, and if you hold your hand down close to the soap you can feel the heat from the reaction coming up off of it. don't worry if your soap does not gel, it isn't unsafe or anything if it doesn't.

9. allow to sit for at least 24 hours, preferably 48, before unmolding and cutting into bars. this is so it will be firm enough to cut, but you'll notice that your soap is still a bit soft - you can leave fingerprints and indentations on the surface.

10. allow the bars to "cure" for 4-6 weeks to allow the water weight to dry out from them and allow the bars to firm up. you don't have to allow them to cure, but your soap will last a LOT longer in the shower if you do because it won't just dissolve under the spray. don't worry if a white "powder" seems to form on the sides of your bars. it's called soda ash and there doesn't seem to be a reason why it forms. sometimes it does a lot and sometimes it doesn't, and most often it does on the side that was exposed to air while in the mold. it's not harmful, and if you don't like the way it looks you can scrape or wash it off.

11. enjoy your handmade soap! i have found that the first time i use a bar it will be a bit "sticky" on my skin (kind of slidey, slidey, stick); i think that might be mild soda ash formed during the cure. in my experience it goes away after one use. also, i bevel the edges of my bars with a potato peeler. it's personal preference, but i like that there isn't a "sharp" edge when i first use it, and it also helps to hide any little mistakes i make when cutting.

a note on cleanup: i just stick everything in the dishwasher afterwards, because then i KNOW it has been thoroughly cleaned. i'd make sure to rinse out the soap pot well especially, i usually scrape it with the wooden spoon while running water into it while it's in the sink, to get the big raw soap chunks out. (don't worry, they work as a gentle drain cleaner.) i think when the dishwasher leaked it was because i forgot to rinse my soap pot and probably made too many bubbles in the dishwasher, so just get the big'uns off. i usually try to wait until the dishwasher is mostly full so i'm not running an empty washer nor allowing the NaOH-solution-glass to drip on the dishes underneath and then hubby moves a dish and burns his hand. if it is mostly full then i can just put the soap dishes in the washer and run it immediately once the soap is in the mold and insulated.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

so not playing in the deep end today.

don't forget to enter my blogiversary giveaway! you have until 8pm pdt on friday, march 13, 2009. who doesn't like free?

this week i am thankful for:

1. my husband coming home tonight! he has been on a business trip back east all week. it's nice to have the bed to myself and use all the pillows to prop up this enormous watermelon that thinks it is my belly, but the bed is chilly without him to cuddle up next to. and between him being in meetings all day, me at work all day, and the three-hour time difference, we hardly get a chance to chat during the day. it sucks. how do women do this when their hubbies have to take lots of business trips, like all the time?

2. girl scout cookies. heck yeah. and not only are they heavenly and delicious (my favorites are thin mints and samoas, the coconut/caramel ones, how about you?) but they support a fabulous organization. my sister and i were both girl scouts when we were young and my mom was a troop leader and very involved. i want my daughter to be a girl scout too. what a great organization.

3. jon & kate plus 8. shallow, i know. this is a shallow t3 this week, i guess. i am seriously addicted to that show, i know how uncool it is to admit it. like saying you loved nkotb way back in 1991, i remember kids getting beat up for that. whatever, i bet you like some crappy random stuff too that you're embarassed to admit. seriously though, how cute are those kids, especially the little ones? those kids never fail to make me laugh. and whenever i wonder how i am going to manage with this kiddo - talk about putting things in perspective.

Monday, March 9, 2009

blogiversary giveway!

don't know if i should have celebrated my 100th post but i didn't. so, i'm celebrating my one-year blogiversary. and because you are all so sweet to me with your comments, i'm going to be sweet to you with a giveaway. i have found i really love blogging, even if it is just random things that are of no interest to anyone but myself. even if i have a "loyal" following of about three people. i really appreciate that you are reading this and the comments i get are very encouraging to me. not just encouraging like hey, your sewing is nice or have a great day, but also encouraging to know that occasionally, there are other people in the world who notice my blog and take the time to let me know that something i wrote interested them in some small way. so, thank you.

a little background: i try to be a socially and environmentally responsible as i can be, but let's face it, i'm probably just like a billion other people out there. i'm not changing my life or turning my world upside-down to do so. i admire people who do because i just don't have that kind of energy or passion for that cause. i don't have the money to be able to consistently make socially responsible choices, which means even though i detest wal-mart with a passion because of their business practices and the way they treat their employees, i occasionally buy a cd there. (don't get me wrong - i don't make a habit of shopping there. our wal-mart is pretty grungy, for starters.) i recycle all our cans and bottles and newspapers and tin foil and yogurt containers, pretty much anything that has a recycle sign on it, but i'm not great at re-using. we are slowly switching to cfls. i bring my own bags to the grocery store. i try to line-dry as much as possible to save energy but brian complains bitterly about "crinkly" shirts so i certainly don't line-dry as much as i could or should. i like supporting the little guy but i'm not going to drive 8-10 miles to the other side of town to go to the independent coffee shop when there is a starbucks less than a mile from my house.

so when we went in to said starbucks two weeks ago for an afternoon treat, i discovered that they were no longer just giving away those cardboard mug warmer thingies with your coffee. you have to ask for them. they're still free - you just have to ask. the barista told me it was because they were trying to do their part to save the environment by not just handing out that much paper with every drink if not everyone desperately needed one. i don't know if that is just that one shop or the company as a whole, but i appreciated it. it's a tiny little thing, but it's tiny little things that can add up to a big thing. and on a completely capitalist note, if it helps keep their costs down then maybe they won't raise the price of my latte by a nickel if the price of their stock goes down.

for a big company that puts a lot of little companies out of business, i kind of like starbucks. they pay their employees well and have a good corporate culture. they always seem to be up there on the forbes list of the best companies to work for. and they're kind of like mcdonald's in their ubiquitous-ness - when you order a big mac, you always know what you're going to get. same at starbucks. which brings me to my giveaway: i went home and thought, that is GREAT about not giving out mug warmers. i've been meaning to make myself one anyways for a while, so this gave me the push i needed to do it:

(yes, that is a coffee roaster and yes i roast my own coffee and yes i'm kind of strange like that. but if you've been reading for any length of time you know that i do a lot of random things.) i can keep it in my car or my handbag and never have to get a cardboard warmie thing again. and i want you to do your own little tiny part too, so i'm giving you two, one for you and one for your sweetie or your best friend or your kid or just to keep around for when you treat someone to a coffee. i'm also including a $5 gift card so you can go try out your warmie thing.

so leave me a comment if you would like to be entered and let me know one small, simple way you are trying to change the world around you. please also leave me your email address (feel free to munge it) so i can get in touch with you about sending you your prize. you have until 8pm pdt on friday, march 13, 2009. i'll plug the results into random.org and post the winner along with a picture of the actual prize (i haven't made the prize ones yet, the yellow daisy is MINE you can't have it) on blogiversary day, march 15. i'll mail it anywhere in the good ole us of a so if you're out of the country, i'm sorry, but you can still have the satisfaction of having won and i'll choose another winner.

and yes, i know how long and verbose this is, but if you've read any of my blog posts at all you know that's just part of my charm, that i take forever to say things. have fun with this and thanks for reading!

update: i have been informed that they are not in fact called coffee warmie thingies. they are either coffee cozies or reuseable coffee sleeves. am i the only person in the world who didn't know this?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

baby recipes

planning on making my own "toiletries" for the kiddo, brian thinks i am a bit nuts but is willing to let me. maybe because i've "proved" myself in the past by making my own stuff for my own use. he and i and lots of other people have used them and not died yet or had their faces melt off so i guess he figures our gal will be no different.

baby soap:
20 oz. olive oil
10 oz. coconut oil
10 oz. corn oil
2 oz. shea butter
10 oz. water
5.875 oz. NaOH
1 T. lavender eo
1 T. tee tree eo
1 oz. calendula oil

diaper cream:
1 oz. sweet almond oil
1 oz. shea butter
1 oz. calendula oil
½ oz. coconut oil
½ oz. beeswax
½ oz. zinc oxide
a few drops lavender eo
a few drops tea tree eo

bandicoot's ooh lotion:
20% olive oil (or maybe some sweet almond and/or shea and/or calendula subbed in?)
5% e-wax
5% stearic acid (possibly less for a thinner lotion?)
6% honey
1% citric acid
63% water
germaben ii
a few drops lavender eo

cloth wipe solution:
1 tsp. white vinegar or liquid soap (we'll see which works better)
1 T. calendula oil
a few drops lavender eo
a few drops tea tree eo
¼ c. aloe vera gel
½ c. water
germaben ii

baby powder:
4 oz. cornstarch
4 oz. arrowroot
1 oz. white kaolin clay
1 oz. powdered lavender buds
1 oz. powdered calendula petals
6-10 drops lavender eo

because it is so gentle and basic, the baby soap is also nice as a face soap. i might infuse the olive oil with lavender, yarrow, and slippery elm bark. likewise, remove the zinc oxide and the diaper cream becomes a very nice lip balm. baby powder is also nice for big girls as it is talc-free. and interestingly, the wipe solution (with vinegar, not soap) is very similar to a facial toner recipe i make and love; i am thinking i could maybe sub in citric acid for the vinegar, if i wanted to cut out the vinegar smell?

Friday, March 6, 2009

yummy leek "tart"

here is the recipe for that leek "tart" that i mentioned yesterday. it was easy and delicious and got a hearty b-man stamp of approval. i keep putting "tart" in quotes because it was supposed to be made in an 11" tart pan, but i don't have one of those so i cut the recipe down and made it in a 9" pie pan, more like a quiche. so, i don't know if it would really be considered a tart or a quiche or something else (maybe like a timbale?), but it is in that same family of yummy french egg-based dinner pies. not quite as custardy as a quiche but not crustless like a timbale. whatever you call it, it was really good. so good that it was gone after only a day and a half, quiche doesn't even go that quick at my house and quiche lorraine is a dinner standby. way better than the recipe in joy of cooking. this one i got from an old copy of mil's more magazine that she left at my house last time she visited.

loire valley leek tart

1 pie crust
1½ lbs. leeks, white part only
6 oz. sliced bacon
2¼ T. butter
2¼ T. flour
1½ c. milk, room temperature
½ tsp. kosher salt
¼ tsp. pepper
2 eggs, lightly beaten
¾ c. shredded gruyere (or swiss) cheese

preheat oven to 350°. line a 9" pie pan with crust; refrigerate while preparing filling.

slice leeks in half lengthwise and wash thoroughly; slice each piece again lengthwise and then crosswise into ½-inch pieces. microwave in a large bowl on high for 6-8 minutes until soft, stirring twice so they won't scorch. remove with a slotted spoon and discard any liquid. cook bacon until crisp; drain, let cool, and crumble.

in a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter; add flour and cook 1 minute while stirring. slowly whisk in milk and continue whisking 3-5 minutes until thick and smooth. add salt and pepper and cool slightly. add leeks, bacon, eggs, and cheese to flour mixture. pour into pastry-lined pan. bake 25-30 minutes until puffed and golden brown. serve warm with dry white wine.

* for an 11" tart pan, the original amounts were:
1 pie crust
2 lb. leeks
½ lb. sliced bacon
3 T. butter
3 T. flour
2 c. milk
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
2 large eggs
1 c. shredded gruyere cheese

Thursday, March 5, 2009

hey! check me out!

seriously, check me out! (i am inordinately excited by this, can you tell?) and while you're at it, check out the rest of sweet pea's blog. my favorite part is her super-shopper-ness and recipes. i think that girl could stretch a dollar from here to the moon. if you found me from newlyweds, welcome and thanks for visiting!

like last week, this week has been really busy and i have not found time really to post. besides, what is blogworthy anyway? i am pregnant and this kid is consuming my life and who wants to hear about that? we took some maternity photos this weekend, once we decide which ones we want i will post, because i really like them. i'm nesting like you would not believe. my prenatal yoga class is again tonight. i made a cute little thing that i will post about next week for my first blogiversary, because i want to do a giveaway, so check back with me sometime next week. i'm inordinately excited about that too, i think a giveaway will be fun, and i really like this little thing. i made a really yummy (and easy) leek tart last night that brian loved so maybe tomorrow i'll post the recipe.

in the meantime, this week i am thankful for:

1. t3. "way back" when i started doing t3 i had no idea how much i would enjoy it. and some weeks it is really hard to think of three things from the past week that i am thankful for. seeing others consistently be thankful has encouraged me to not just drop it altogether. i suppose this is my version of a gratitude journal (though at my house i also keep a blessings jar - a large, old vase into which i drop little slips of paper on which i've written down something that i'm thankful for). t3 helps me relax and refocus some when i lay in bed wednesday nights, recounting my week and deciding what i want to be thankful for.

2. my silly, wonderful husband, who made our maternity pictures a lot of fun and helped me relax when we did shots of me wearing only jeans and my bella band over my chest. i explained to him later, i wanted pictures of the belly and i knew i was going to have to "bare it all" (or at least, more than i am used to!) for that to happen. it was just a little unnerving an uncomfortable to come out of the dressing room with my shoulders bare and stomach hanging out for someone to photograph. i felt very naked and exposed, even though i wasn't really, and brian really helped me relax and have fun with it.

3. my fabulous provider husband, who manages our finances and keeps us on track. i understand the concept of a budget, but i just don't get it in practice, which is why i don't manage the money. we sat down last night and had The Chat about how much money we have and how long i am going to be able to stay home after the kiddo is born, and while the conclusions we reached are not what would be ideal (me becoming a sahm), we will be able to manage more than i would have expected. if it were me doing the budgeting, we'd have been up a creek a long time ago, so i am glad that he takes care of our family in this respect.

what are you thankful for today?

Monday, March 2, 2009

serious nesting issues

brian asked me the other day if i feel crazy or different or anything (anything that could help him, please!) when i go all hormonal off on him, and i don't. i feel perfectly rational and justified and MY HUSBAND IS JUST BEING A JERK it's so not me and has nothing to do with the 18 additional pounds i'm carrying or the demonically high levels of radioactive hormones coursing through my veins. honestly, i do feel perfectly normal, except for this raging nesting instinct that has been rearing its head for the last month or so, and oh Lord we have another TWO MONTHS of this?

that nesting instinct has manifested itself in the nursery, where i have been sewing insanely for the kiddo and doing what i can to prepare for her arrival. i know i have lots of time still, but who am i to fight the hormones and body chemistry that God has blessed me with? ergo, we bought a crib and i promptly had to make bedding for it:

not only the quilt but the other linens as well. it all kind of snowballs, doesn't it? then the rocker (that mil rocked brian in as a baby) needed a pillow, for back support. and the underside of the crib was just plain ugly to me and needed a skirt, though i hate skirts. then i was not thrilled with the pink sheet over the mattress. and then, and then, and then.

the name on the wall, that was all brian, by the way.

we also got an inexpensive bookcase which i felt the room really needed to balance the crib and rocker (and the soon-to-be dresser). i really wanted this one but apparently it is discontinued IT DOES NOT SAY THAT ANYWHERE and unavailable. the other one does not actually look as awful as it does online:

most of those books are from my childhood though some are from brian's and some are from when i was tutoring in college. and the pregnancy books. the beatrix potter breakables go up on shelves once the dresser gets here and we are able to hang shelves. mostly this stuff was all on the floor and it helped my hormones to get it up off the floor, organized, some semblance of put away. i will be so much better once the dresser arrives and i can get to work organizing the crap that is currently in boxes and bags in the closet, and then i can kit out the closet with shelves, hooray!

cross-posted at baby stenz