A Bluebird of Happiness and Springtime Soap

Traditional Soap Making

The great bluebird quest began one winter day when a lone bluebird sat on our deck rail and looked out at the world.  That very Spring, I bought a bluebird house and put it up where I thought they might like to live.  We had visiting bluebirds but none of them ever stayed. I thought something was wrong with the house or that it wasn’t located properly.  Fast forward two years to right now.  There is a cute little bluebird family that has taken up residence at my house.  I even planted blueberry bushes yesterday in their honor (blue birds like berries), although there won’t be any blueberries for a while.  The bluebirds’ presence indicates to me that Spring is pretty much here or will be in short notice.  Their presence gives me a reason to smile on some days when smiling is pretty much out of reach.  I hope they stay for a while.

Maybe I should go and make some springtime soap colored a delicate blue and scent it with the sweet scent of berries, flowers and cedar trees.  Or, not, but the bluebirds are such a breath of fresh air and inspriation after it feels like an entire year of winter.      “And when he sings to you, Though you’re deep in blue, You will see a ray of light creep through, And so remember this, life is no abyss, Somewhere there’s a bluebird of happiness. Life is sweet, tender and complete, when you find the bluebird of happiness.”  Bluebird of Happiness, lyrics by Edward Heyman & Harry Parr Davies, 1934

 

 

New Soaps and an Explanation

I recently added two new soaps – Fleeting Moment (Cherry Blossom), and Strawberries and Champagne.  I love these two and they were fun to make!  I was able to experiment with crushed roses on top of the Cherry Blossom and making a pretty white swirl in the other.  These techniques are not new but I do not often do them.  I have other soap I would like to make but time is always an issue.  Here’s a picture of Cherry Blossom.

Soaps

Fleeting Moment

You may be able to make out the roses on the top which will not be falling off!  Next time, I will crush the petals a bit more.  This was a soap I made on request.  If you would like to see more requested soap, let me know!

Naming Soap

Anyone who has been around here for a while knows that I sometimes change the name of soap!  Sometimes?  One favored customer would say always!  I have slowed down naming soap quite a bit.  You see, to me, each soap has a personality and sometimes it takes several times before I have it nailed down.  Some soap needs a unique name, while others just need a name of basically, what they are.  

Some examples of how much fun soap naming is can be found in the Southern Collection.  Since I am Southern, I often take for granted the uniqueness of the South and there are words and phrases that my past generations used that are now being forgotten that should be considered precious!  Going further than that, there are different words and phrases from different areas of the South.  We drop the g’s on the end of words, we stretch out the pronunciation, and so on.  So, names of soap such as Mornin Y’all is pretty much how it is said ’round here.  A few things I remember from my childhood are never spoken anymore, as far as I know.  One thing my mother often says now is “Well, I declare,” as if that explains everything that needs explaining.  And that may be the name of my next new soap, “Well, I declare!”

Handmade Soap

 

The Benefits of Having Salt in a Soap!

I have made several soap varieties that contain mineral salts.  I’ve used Dead Sea Salt as well as Himalayan Pink Salt.  There are MANY other salts from various parts of the world as well that I have not used!  Although salt is an exfoliant by nature, it also contains minerals, such as magnesium, calcium, and potassium.  Our skin is naturally supposed to be mineralized but many of us lose that balance, especially as skin ages.  Salt can help with that as well as softening the skin.  When salt is introduced to water, it softens and melts and so a soap that contains salt will act the same when mixed with water and applied to the skin.

Once a few years back, I made a true Salt Bar that contained so much Dead Sea Salt that there was not much soap to go around!  It was so solid I had to cut it the same day that I made it.  It was a very different sort of soap and I loved the truly unique quality of it.  Of course, it was pretty rough, especially since I used course salt (next time I would use fine), but once put under water, and rubbed on a washcloth, then applied to skin, it was amazing!  I am considering making that again as time would permit.

The biggest source of salt is from oceans and seas.  Salt is often obtained from deep shaft mining of ancient water deposits deep in the earth.  Salt may also be obtained by solution mining where brine is pumped out and taken to a plant for evaporation.  And there is also solar evaporation which would be my favorite method, if I could choose.  The salt that I have used in my soap comes from this method of extraction.  Salt is truly a gift and is one of the most abundant minerals on Earth.What-is-salt

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National Chocolate Day

I’ll bet you didn’t know that today is National Chocolate Day!  I think that’s one of the days that can definitely be celebrated.  I’m sure there is someone who doesn’t like chocolate, but I can’t think of anyone!  One of my favorite treats is No Bake Oatmeal Treats.  The name fools you into thinking that it’s all about the oatmeal, but really, it’s all about the chocolate.  Here is the recipe:

1/2 cup butter (or marjorine, but the real thing is better)

2 cups of sugar

1/2 cup milk (dairy or non-dairy)

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (can use almond butter or sunbutter)

2 teaspoons vanilla

3 cups quick cooking oats

DIRECTIONS

  1. Add the first four ingredients into a 4-quart sauce pan.
  2. Bring to a rolling boil and hold for 1 minute.
  3. Remove from heat.
  4. Add peanut butter into the hot mixture and stir until melted.
  5. Add in vanilla. (almond extract is good also, but I only use 1/2 teaspoon almond and 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla).
  6. Mix in the oats and drop by tablespoons onto wax paper.
  7. Let cool until set.Chocolate Day

 

Using Natural Colorants in Soap

Whenever possible, I make it a point to use natural colorants or no color at all in my soapmaking.  Although, it is very nice to use a bar of soap with beautiful color throughout, it may be artificial dye.  If you are going to use (or make) a natural soap, it seems only logical to use the most natural ingredients as possible.  It can be claimed that a soap is natural even using a synthetic fragrance oil (I use them often) and an FDA approved dye.  Since I often use fragrance oils combined with essential oils, I feel that further use of synthetic dyes would just complicate the practical nature of my soap – practical in that I am making it to be good for skin, as much as possible and as close to natural as I can make.

Since I have had eczema, several things have become clear to me.  One is that I am not sure what triggered it, although I have gone over it often.  Secondly, once triggered, certain things will make it worse.  Avoiding colorants, preservatives, and strong fragrance have certainly helped.  I believe that had I not already been using my own soap, my outbreaks would have been worse.  Everyone certainly has different triggers too and not one thing will work for everyone.

It’s fun to work with natural colors!  I have loved working with clays especially, such as Berries and Cream which has rose clay, or Dead Sea Mud, which has actual clay from the Dead Sea (I’ll probably never go there).  Obtaining certain colors by natural means can be challenging or easy, depending on which color you are going for.  Taking into account the skin benefits, choosing natural colors can be very satisfying and just take soap to another level that could never be achieved using dyes.

The few times I tried using dyes were also a complete fail!  Some of them are tricky, whereas using natural colors just imparts an earthy feel and they are very, very forgiving.  We all need forgiveness, right?

Custom Made Soap

Of course, I love to make soap and occasionally I am asked to make a specific soap for a customer, which I am happy to do lately.  I have made soap that is scented a certain way, colored a certain way, and packaged a certain way and all of that is fun and challenging.  Since time is a factor, I usually ask for plenty of lead time and in some cases the entire batch of soap must be purchased unless I can carry it on my website to sell the remainder.

Making custom soap is also possible for special occasions such as weddings or family reunions, baby showers, and more.  My half bars, or soap minis, are perfect for favor soap gifts and can be labeled with a custom label that says pretty much anything you’d like.

Also, custom soap can be individualized with ingredients.  Some fun ingredients to try might be seeds, oils, herbs, and butters.  Just about anything can go into soap!  I also like to use different milks and in fact, I started out making soap from cow’s milk.

If you or someone you know is in need of a unique gift or favor, consider soap as an option! images (28)

New Soap (I’d like to make)

So, today I’m making new batches of Berries and Cream and Honey Bee Mine, two of my bestsellers.  But, I’d REALLY like to be making something new!  Although, those two are great, I really love to experiment with new soap and ingredients.  Some of the ingredients I’m looking at utilizing are not very different from things to cook with!  Soaked lentils, ground up coriander seed, and other ingredients come to mind!

I’m also wanting to go ahead and make soap for Christmas!  Did you know that Christmas will be here before you know it?  This year, I’m determined not to let it sneak up on me as it does every year!  We’ll see, it probably will anyway because right now, it’s still pretty warm here in the South and high school football is underway.  Speaking of that, my Pumpkin Soap made with goat milk is a great, warm soap for the fall.  It has notes of ginger and spice and is so great in the kitchen for hand washing as well.  Apple soap is also for the fall and I wish I had time to make more fall-ish soap!  Oh well, for now it’s wishing for Lentil Soup and soap!

Lentil Soup

Lentil Soup

Fall Soap Scents

It is officially September and every year I THINK I’ll have time to make some soap devoted to the scents of the season – Pumpkin Pie and Apple (Apple Cider and Orange Peel) are the only two I have at the moment.  I’m tired of those though.  so I may come up with at least one more.  I’ve been wanting to use more essential oils so spice notes, such as clove and cinnamon come to mind…

Fall Soap

Fall Soap

 

What is the Cold Process Soap Method of Soap Making?

In a nutshell, the cold process method uses its own heat that is generated from the reaction of the alkali (sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide) and the oils (fats).  The reaction is called saponification and when the reaction occurs, soap is formed.  In making milk soaps, I prefer this method over hot process and other methods.

Milk soap generates even more heat than soap without milk and the temperatures during saponification go very high, sometimes too high.  If the temperature of a milk soap is too hot, it may separate in the mold or form tunnels and alien shapes!

The secret when making any milk soap is to start with cooler temperatures so that you end up with cooler temps at the end.  It is also preferable to do this to avoid the “gel phase” and have your soap come out with a creamier texture and color, however, avoiding the gel phase isn’t always easy.  I myself can never avoid it due to the type of molds I am using.  They hold heat.  Milk soap is best made in a slap mold with more surface area.  I learned this the hard way!