Sunday, December 22, 2013

Porridge Soap

I don't mean the soap looks like porridge, I mean I used it to make soap!
Asian calls it porridge, we eat it for breakfast; western people call it rice milk, I guess it looks white, smushed out just like milk.  Almond blended in water is called almond milk; soy bean blended in water is called soy milk; so of course rice in water is called rice milk, make sense?  I'm Chinese, I call it porridge.  I used brown rice to make porridge using 1:4 rice:water ratio.  It is much harder to cook brown rice into porridge than white rice.  The rice bran refused to soften up even after blending with a stick blender and double cooked.  I debated on filtering the bran out or keep it to soap.  The bran layer is what makes brown rice far more nutritious than white rice but it's also very chewy.  If I included the blended bran in soap it might look like ground oatmeal.  Personally I don't like ground oatmeal in soap, it swells up and becomes mushy in shower.  If I want the benefit of oatmeal I would rather use colloidal oatmeal, which is oatmeal flour.  Anyway, I decided to filter the bran out but was only successful in removing maybe 80%, good enough.  As soon as the lye hit cold blended porridge it burned and curdled into lumps.  It took forever to break all the lumps up and dissolve the lye, it looked yellowish and thick gel consistency.
Then as I tried to cool it down with ice bath it clumped up big time! Does that look like pudding or what?!
I was worried that I would have a hard time blend it into the oil so I added some more water to thin it down to at least pourable consistency.  Surprisingly I had no problem blending it with oil, no idea if the slow trace was caused by the extra water I added.  I had plenty of time to look for my colorants and fragrance; my initial plan was to make it unscented and uncolored afraid that the porridge would gel up the oil too.  I split it into 2 small batches to make 2 different looks.  I had one done with embeds and simple drizzle top and mica sprinkles.  That was ruined in10 minutes...  My husband came into the kitchen area and accidentally dipped his finger right into the soap... sigh.  This is the fixed version.
The other batch I tried out water mica swirl on the top.  Water mica swirl is similar to oil mica, the difference is using water as the medium instead of oil.  Water mica is way too fluid, hard to control the drizzle to me, ended up with just puddles of water micas on top.
Usually oil mica swirl would leave indentation on the soap top once the oil is absorbed into the soap.  I noticed the water version doesn't make any indentation, just looks like I took a brush and painted it on.
The lather of rice porridge soap reminds me of shaving soap made with bentonite clay.  It doesn't produce pile high foam,  but it's dense and lotion like, slippery almost slimy.  Well, just like the porridge puree!  This could very well be incorporated into shaving soap recipe.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Party Favor - Mini Cupcake Soap

It's not unusual for people to plan a party and source the party favor a bit too late in the game because it's always thought to be the least important piece of the puzzle.  If you are a cold process soap maker you would understand when I say it takes time to have a custom made soap ready so plan ahead, like 2 months ahead!  Well, but what if it's too late already?  This is where melt and pour soap comes to rescue.  
What is melt and pour soap?  It used to be made with detergent and glycerin, can be transparent or opaque, made to be meltable to form whatever shape you want it to be.  Nowadays it can be made detergent free and just like cold process soap but with extra process of glycerin and high % alcohol (or propylene glycol) to turn it transparent and meltable.  Melt and pour soap can be done at home but sure not as cost effective and quality is not as good in my opinion.  Most of us source it from a supplier or directly from a manufacturer.  The advantage of using melt and pour soap is you don't need to wait for cure time like cold process soap.  And if you are not happy with your design you can always remelt it again.  Nevertheless, I still prefer cold process soap most of the time.  Cold process soap allows me to customize recipes and be more flexible with designs.  In my opinion, quality can be far more superior than melt and pour soap.
Yes, those cherries are soap, usable soap.  The only thing that's not soap is the stem.  I collected and dried these stems from real cherries thinking one day I would need them.  And I did!  I must be a psychic or something!  The only problem with making soap in the form of food is that it can easily be consumed as food if one does not read the label! 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Neem Oil Soap

Have you ever smell the neem oil?  If I have to describe it, the best I can do is garlic peanut butter.  Neem oil looks muddy green and is very viscous, often solidified at lower temperature.

"Neem carrier oil has been reputed for its antiseptic, dermatological and dental properties. It is rich in fatty acids and glycerides and together with its healing properties, provides an excellent natural moisturizing base for skin care formulation. This oil has been used for centuries in traditional Indian Medicine to aid in the healing of topical skin disorders such as eczema, psoriasis, rashes, burns and acne."
In this experiment I want to use more than 20% neem oil in soap since no matter how small amount you use it stinks just as much so why not go all the way?!   Use olive oil, coconut, beef tallow, and apricot kernel oil in this made up recipe.  I also used essential oil mix of rosemary, basil, patchouli, and vanilla oleoresin 20x.  I was hoping the herbal scenting from the essential oils would somehow mask the strong neem oder, but it didn't work as well as I expected .. sigh.  In addition to the neem oil in this soap I also used carrot juice and heavy cream as liquid to dissolve lye.  Carrot juice and the vanilla oleoresin gave that earthy taupe color to this simple soap.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Penguin Sale! No actual penquin is hurt in the process...

I have a date with Antarctica penguins this December, online store will be closed to observe holidays during the last month!  Since I won't be doing any physical holiday bazaar this year I decided to have a store wide sell online till my stock runs out then off to vacation!
I will be listing items one by one as fast as I can while checking and rearrange inventories.  No custom order is included, in stock items only.
Click on the link provided and have a visit, book mark whatever fancy you and price will be marked down starting Sunday!  Happy holidays and remember to support handmade!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Soap Photographing

I'm like most of people started taking digital photos of my soap using a small point and shoot.  Some point and shoot cameras can be very high resolution these days, should be enough for what we need, right?  That's until I had a comparison with photos taken by my husband's heavy duty one.  While he went out of town for his 2 weeks business trip I had to fall back to my compact point and shoot.  This is the shot, after intensive photo correction, still looking awkward:
Indoor lighting is tricky with some colors, green is one of them.
I finally got a hold of my husband's fancy camera again and shot the cut bars of this exact log of soap.

Green is still the tricky color to get it right, but with minor photo color correction on my computer these photos came out so much better in details!  I started to wonder why I refused to learn how to use the "real" camera earlier.  It definitely take longer to set up, it's heavy, it's big, it needs a tripod, it needs to manually set everything.  But the end result just look so much more professional!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

BTMS and Caffeine Cream & Butter

I've only used BTMS for making my own hair conditioner because it makes my hair velvety and smooth without feeling oily, I have oily scalp, I wash my hair everyday.  Using BTMS to make leave on cream is new to me.  It all came about because I read a blog post by Soapqueen and she swears by it: Kissably Soft Lotion  As greedy as I am, I also want to 
adding caffeine powder, that's the tricky ingredient, I have no idea how it's going to be incorporated.  This is my first try:
As cosmetic law stated I cannot make any claims on what my lotion can "cure" or "help" any condition.  But hey, I'm doing this for myself because I'm curious about pure caffeine powder.  I heard using it daily with a certain percentage concentration can help eliminate cellulite because it reduces water retention.  I don't care how young or fit a girl is, 99% of us got unpleasant cellulite especially on our hip and thighs.  Oh... what a girl would do for beauty!
My first impression of this lotion formula is that it gives a powdery (or velvety) feel after applying on my skin, and if I rub harder it would produce residue.  I thought it failed, this cream is thick but should not be caky.  I continued to use it daily for another 2 days then I realized the caky powdery feeling is gone.  I'm thinking it's the caffeine powder, it finally got "wet" and completely emulsified into the cream.  After a month of using, I noticed my thigh skin is tighten and smooth, but stretch marks are still there.  I guess there's no such thing as miracle ingredient!  I use it under my eye sometimes to help my dark circle and puffiness, it's not a miracle cream, but for what it's worth, it's darn good!
As fall and winter seasons approach I decided to reformulate my seasonal body butter using BTMS and caffeine powder.  This is be my 4th batch:
 What I learned from dealing with caffeine powder is that it would only dissolve in hot water, almost boiling temperature.  It would dissolve clear but turn into cottage cheese stage once cooled down, that's what contributed to the caky texture I mentioned earlier.  I've since decrease the % from 7% concentration to 5% and finally settled with 3%.  This year's body butter is not anhydrous (all butter and oils, no water), it contains aloe juice, caffeine powder, 18% butter (shea, cocoa and mango mix), apricot kernel oil, sesame oil, emu oil, hydrolyzed plant proteins (film forming protection), marine collagen, hyaluronic acid (hydration retention), oat extract, and more.  The only synthetic would be the fragrance and preservative.
I used to make anhydrous whipped body butter but I just never like the greasiness and heavy emollient after feel.  I tried adding modified starch to cut the grease with not much luck.  In time the fluffy whipped butter will settle and harden again, making it hard to scoop out the jar.  My skin is very dry in winter, it really need hydration, not just occlusion or emollient from all that butter and oils.  That is the major reason for me to convert to liquid/butter oil combination.  With hyaluronic acid added, hopefully it would help attract and retain the hydration my skin desperately needs.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Design For Business Cards

Would you buy a brand name handbag or dress if the designer is wearing Target bought generic outfit?!  Not me!  There might be people who believe business card is just a tool to exchange contact information, as simple as possible, clean and get right to the point.  That might work for most of the industries, but not in area where design is essential.
Designing our business cards is similar to designing our product packaging, it's a never ending journey.  With so many cards flowing around the market, one can easily get buried.  How do I get my card noticed by general public?  How do I get my card into new customers who then want to keep my contact information?  More importantly how to design one that fits into the whole branding concept?
A year ago my business cards look like these:
This year I'm concentrating on eye catching bold statement that would make people want to keep my card and find out what I do.  With that in mind, these are my new business cards:
All contact information is now on the back of the card, it is a 2-sided design.  These are the 3 that got the highest votes when I proposed 4 designs to the online soaping community asking for public opinions.  The most common comment I got online is that #2 is preferred because it's clean, it's complimenting my branding colors (shades of purple), and most importantly, it looks like soap.  Funny thing is, when these new cards arrived my day job office, guess what cards my co-workers grab?  #1 & 3...  Reason is they are all amazed that soap can look like flower and cake!  Intriguing...  What do YOU think?

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Color Inspiration - Mulberry Frost Soap

This is what inspired me:

I made Mulberry Frost Soap:

A bit boring at the top?!  Agree, inside is so much better!

This new fragrance behaves like a lady, no trouble at all!  But it did stayed too cool that I got "frosted" inside too.  For this I don't mind, suites the name very well anyway!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Soothing Cucumber Soap

Hot summer ended, temperature has been ramping down and so is the production of my Dad's home grown Japanese cucumber from his backyard.  For a period of time we eat cucumber everyday, that's how crazy it gets, when they grow, they go off the roof!  Naturally I took one and pureed it to soap.  Cucumber doesn't have a lot of juice, and I don't want to use all the pulp nor do I want to cook it first before puree.  Some people cook the vegetable before soaping.  Personally I think that kills some of the nutrients, so I prefer and always soap vegetable (or fruit) raw.  This soap I pureed the home grown cucumber with coconut water.  The liquid came out a very beautiful dark green from the peel, but sadly I don't think that green would survive the saponification.  I used cheese cloth and filtered out most of the pulp, left some in for texture.
The beautiful greens you are seeing?  They are colorants I added knowing the natural green from the cucumber peel would disappear in soap.  See those green spots through out the soap?  That's the pulp.  I thought I would like the texture, but I keep on thinking it's pimples!  Next time I'll totally filter out the pulp and use juice only.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Toning Down Soap Design

Yes you read it correctly, I did say toning down!
Why?!  I don't know really, just going through cycles.  We are pretty much like the economy, up and down, when it's already at the very top, we got to come down in order to get back up, right?
Simplifying the design is hard for me at the beginning.  I'm so used to plan complicated design, running in my head the possible sequence before actual soaping.  Established habit is hard to change.  In order to not fall into the same routine, I had to force my mind to go blank and just act on instinct right on the spot.

This one started so nicely, I even got a chance to drizzle glycerin glitter on wet soap top:
Then I did something stupid...
I took too long to take photos of the wet soap that the bottom of the log started heating up badly.  I don't like the partial gel effect, that would make uneven color marks.  Once gelling started, you can't stop it, so I helped it with a push, I heat up my oven with low heat and popped the soap in to force gel.  I totally forgot the glycerin glitter on top!  I screwed up the top, again!  Last time I did it was early this year:
Seriously, I need to think 3 times before putting soap into an oven next time!  Anyway, the top is ruined, but the inside is actually what I expected.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Herbal Infusion Soap

Herbal (or botanical) infusion soap is time consuming.  It starts with infusing olive oil with desire dry herbs or flowers.
I usually pile up layers of botanicals in a container first like the left bucket, then fill it up with olive oil and let it sit for months in the dark cabinet.  It looks red on the right because the infusion contains alkanet and gromwell roots for natural color.  Typical botanicals I use: calendula flower, lavender bud, mint leaf, chamomile flower, white willow bark, and green tea leaf.  These are all skin beneficial botanicals though I cannot claim any cosmetic or health benefit or FDA would come after me!
Alkanet root produces natural red color for cold process soap.  Gromwell root is typical in Asia, used in herbal remedy and medicine, but it's difficult to find anywhere else. When infusing gromwell root in oil it would look plum red at first, then turns into purple or blue once the lye solution hits. It produces natural color for cold process soap ranging from plum to purple to blue depending on where and when the root is harvest.  This is how my gromwell infused oil soap, 40% olive oil:
I was hoping to get a real purple but my batch ended up blue...  That's why this time I'm infusing gromwell together with alkanet, maybe next time I will get the purple I want!

Next is a batch of castile soap I made using my herbal infused olive oil.  Castile soap meaning 100% olive oil.  The infused oil came out a pretty dark green, I was hoping that color would survive saponification, but it didn't.  I also pureed fresh mango with heavy cream to make this castile soap even more luxury!  I decided to keep this one unscented, but the natural smell of the botanicals together with the faint but noticeable mango aroma is surprisingly pleasant!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Dead Sea Facial Soap

This is my most time consuming soap ever...
Why?  Because it's made with 72% olive oil, organic brown egg, and real Dead Sea Mud (not powder).  It takes at least 9 months to get ready, I only do this once a year.
First step, I have to infuse botanicals such as calendula, chamomile, lavender bud, willow bark, mint, and green tea leaf in olive oil for 3 months.
The making of the soap itself is pretty standard except the part I have to temper the egg (both yoke and white) with the soaping oil before mixing with lye solution.  The final stage is the curing.  High olive oil soap needs longer curing time.  It's like wine, the older the better.  I have to confess, I don't like Castile soap (made with 100% olive oil).  Soap made with high % olive oil tends to be slimy, it produces less suds then let's say soap made with coconut oil in the mix.  And it has this slimy stickiness after wash.  Nevertheless, it's well known for its mildness to our skin.  Facial soap doesn't need to have lots of lather, but it needs to be mild, olive oil is by far the best choice in my opinion.  In order to cut down the slimy stickiness I compromised with a bastille soap recipe of my own.  Bastile is soap made with 72% or more olive oil mixed with other oil or butter to boost lather.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Winner of Soap Crafting Giveaway

Let's try this again since the 2nd prize winner of my Soap Crafting giveaway never show up.  I've given a week, and that I feel is long enough.  It is not fair to other participants.  I've posted the result on my FB page, on soaping group, asking soapers around and winner didn't contact me.  Until this afternoon, the 1st prize book winner finally emailed me!  Woohoo!
Now as promised, 2nd prize, a bar soap of Pine Fresh made with one of the recipe from the book, had been redrawn randomly by using List Randomizer and Sequence Generator.  And the new winner is:

Please email me at and give me your full name and address so I can send you the soap!  I'm going to make this one short, If winner doesn't respond I will redraw on Friday, September 13th, AGAIN!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Winners of Soap Crafting Giveaway Are...

Thanks for all the participants!  Almost 100 of you!
I used List Randomizer, inputed all names from the comments to generate a random list of numbers, then use a Sequence Generator to draw the 1st prize winner.
The winner for a copy of Soap Crafting book is: Laura D!

Then I added 2 names who just want to win soap, generated another random number list, drew the 2nd prize winner.
The winner for a bar of Pine Fresh Soap is: Sissi Caplinger!

Please contact me:
You have to give me your full name and address so we can get your prize out to you!
If winners do not respond and contact me by end of September 10th, I will have to draw again on September 11th.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Sample Product Marketing

Have you heard of Tantalizing Sampler?  It is a site that sells a gift box filled with all kinds of handcrafted products every 2 months.  It is a great idea for both the consumers and small handmade businesses.  Small handmade business like me can join and submit good size samples of the products I make voluntary in exchange for advertising and marketing opportunity.  Consumers can spend almost at cost price to get a mystery box whenever the site is offering, it's a great way for people to try new products they normally would not have a chance to discover.  This sounds like a win win situation.  If you are interested, here's the site: Tantalizing Sampler  Check them out, every box is different.  The next box is October, a great way to preview potential unique handcrafted presents for the holidays coming up.
Why am I blogging about other business?  Well, because I decided to participate in October sampler box myself!  I submitted boxes of trial size cold process soap paired with matching scented lotion, also trial size.

Let me show you the box from August Sampler, beautifully assembled, then shipped to each buyer. 
It costed $20 per box for the US customers and $35 per box for international for August box.  This is just to give you a ball part on pricing.  I heard October box is going to be bigger and more grant!  If you are interested, keep you eyes open for the October listing on their web site, you won't be disappointed.