Thursday, December 27, 2012

Living in Winter Thinking of Spring

It's only December but my mind is already in Spring!  Can't blame me for wanting to skip Winter when it's so colorful in the Spring with all kind of blooms.

Let's start with the first bloom of Spring - Ume Blossom.
Ume is Japanese word for plum.  Plum trees can blossom as early as February.  They look very similar to cherry blossom which happens usually in the early April.

Sweet Pea

 Wild Honeysuckle

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Avocado Goodness

Yes, cleaning left over in the kitchen again, to soap that is!
I pureed half avocado with coconut water and froze into ice bars to melt my sodium hydroxide.  I always want to try soaping with fresh avocado to see what it brings to the table but avocado isn't exactly price friendly.  This left over came about only because I forgot about it in the refrigerator and it didn't look too appetizing after 2 days... so into the soap it went!
Inspired by this photo from Design Seeds:

What do you think?  Dead on?!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Full Moon Soap - Using Evaporated Goat Milk

There are people who swear by fresh goat milk soap.  Then I saw evaporated goat milk in a can in the supermarket, it says on the back, double strength!  Can't go wrong with double strength!  Got to try for sure!
I froze the milk into ice cubes and used it to melt my lye.  The difference in using this evaporated version from regular fresh goat milk is that my lye solution got really thick, almost like medium trace already even before mixing into the oil/butter!  And it started with yellow color.  Don't know how this is going to effect my final soap colors because I added titanium dioxide and colorants.
 This is what I bought from the store:
I think you can find it in any supermarket.

And, this is the soap, finished the night before full moon, cut the day of full moon!

This is inspired by a color scheme from Design-Seeds
What do you think?  Dead on?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Blind Milk Soap Test Results

About 3 weeks ago I called for 8 milk soap blind testers and I sent them each a package containing 4 individually numbered and wrapped soap samples like the set in the photo above.  If you have not read the post yet, you might want to read it first: Calling for Milk Soap Blind Testers
3 out of 4 samples are very similar in color, only #2 is much lighter.  All testers had been given simple instructions to clean their hands with soap or detergent first before testing my soap just to be more accurate.  Then they were asked to answer a few questions from me:
1). Which on lathers the most?
2). Which one produces the creamiest lather?
3). Which one is the most moisturizing 5 minutes after wash?
4). Please take your guess on which soap is made with what milk.
Some testers just answer my exact questions.  Some actually took time and gave me comparison informations far beyond what I asked for!  Thanks a whole bunch!
Now a lot of information I received are disagreeing with each other, but I can clearly draw 2 conclusions:
1). Most of testers prefer coconut milk soap, it wins the overall performance category, yay!
2). Fresh goat milk soap is not more superior, it's a myth, just a label appeal because of the price and perception.  BUT, it does produce more big bubbles and suds more than other milk soap.
Ok, let's talk about breast milk.  In my opinion breast milk quality is hard to control, it really depends on the person's diet.  Apparently my donor is too skinny, her milk contains very little fat!  Haha.

Anyway, here are the correct answers!  Did you guess them right?!
#1 Goat milk (full fat)
#2 Coconut milk (70% concentration milk)
#3 Cow milk (full fat)
#4 Breast milk

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Seasonal Soap using Seasonal Ingredients

Additives in soap can be very seasonal.  Let's see what I got this year for fall and winter:
Ginger Apple
(used freshly juiced ginger root)

Can't skip pumpkin for fall!
Pumpkin Chai
(high % of unrefined virgin pumpkin seed oil)

And Oktoberfest beer soaps!
Ginger Lime
(Paulaner Oktoberfest beer imported from Germany)

and another one
Dark Star
(Weihenstephaner Oktoberfestbier imported from Germany)

So what's your seasonal creation?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Oh Soy Wax, Why Are You So Difficult?!

Can you believe it is holiday season now?!  I'm a bit stressed preparing for holiday shows.  I don't sell in markets, only selling online for the sake of it.  The only physical markets I do are the Christmas shows.  Preparing for markets is sure getting on every single nerve of mine!
Making candle is not my main focus, just something to provide for the holiday shoppers as another choice for gift giving.  It is consider just an embellishment to my bath and body products.  Last year I used Ecosoya Advanced wax, it is a soy wax blend, it is probably the most bullet proof base you can use to make beautiful candles.  It was, every single pour perfect and no fuss!  BUT, yes, big but, the hot throw is not to be desired...  For those of you who do not make candle, hot throw meaning the scenting power when a candle is on fire burning.

This year I decided to switch to a high soy wax content base, to be more precise, 98% of soy wax with 2 % botanical oil.  Higher soy wax content means lower melting point and greater fragrance throw.  I was very excited to test this wax out.  Fall and winter holidays are the perfect time for some romantic burning candles!  Well, my grand plan only will work if this soy wax would cooperate!  The frosting and pot hole by the wick issues are driving me bunkers!  After consulting with other candle makers, I'm forced to accept the nature of the beast... sigh.  Alright, so I embrace it since I can't fight against it, right?!
HOW?!  So frustrating...  Then I gave up for a month, didn't want to deal with it.  Until now I have some time to think about it again I decided to quickly cool down what I pour in the jar then top it off with soy wax icing.
What I mean by soy wax icing is by beating the warm wax with an electronic hand held whisk the same way as making whipped cream.  There, I think I found my solution, and it actually adds visual interest and texture!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Cupcake Gone Wild

I don't make cupcake and cake soap that much but when I do, they go wild and out of control!
This is eye candy post today, sorry, no tutorial or experiment!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Calling for Milk Soap Blind Testers!


Awhile back I wrote a post about making breast milk soap, read here if you have not yet: Controversial Milk Soap
I have always wondered the actual difference between all milk soap, ok, not all, but I'm talking about "fat" milks like cow and goat milks.  Amount all the plant "milks" only coconut milk has enough fat to compare to animal milks.  I used same recipe, same lye discount, same lye concentration... etc., to make 4 batches of milk soap: goat milk, cow milk, breast milk, and coconut milk.  Now they are ready to put to blind test!

I'm looking for 8 US testers.  I will mail all 4 samples with numbers on them to selected testers.  Since this is a blind test, I won't reveal the answers until I get everyone's report back.  I will include a simple steps of how I want them tested and a couple questions for testers to answer back to me.
PLEASE, only if you are willing to test breast milk soap, if not, do no apply.  If you wish to test, please leave a comment and email me at: 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Am I Capable of Making Simplicity?

What and how does one perceive simplicity?  Is there to a point where simplicity = boring and uncreative?  Or even worse, sugar coat your creation as simple beauty because you are hitting soaper's block (similar to writer's block)?
As I pushed for more and more complicated design combinations this year, which required much time consuming planning ahead, the reverse question is, am I capable of finding my simplicity root?!  Or, am I just plain hitting soaper's block?!  But, the most important question I need to ask myself is, what do I perceive simplicity?!  I have no answer yet...
This is my Oatmeal Milk & Honey soap, made with local goat milk and honey with added colloidal oatmeal flour, simply, unscented, without "make up"

And this one, scented with matching synthetic fragrance oil with added titanium dioxide and pencil lined with red mica:

Or would you prefer my usual complicated project like this:

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Bubble Bath Struggle

I can make bath bomb (or bath fizzy) very easily and it works perfectly in the tub every single time.  But I really want some pizzazz to this, up a level to something more luxurious, or should I say fun?!   What kind of a bath is it without some bubble?!  However, I think I struggled to find the perfect combination of ingredients that holds the shape I want it to look.  The easiest rout is to make a dough and roll it into something like a sushi roll then cut it into pieces like what Lush does to their patent product Bubble Bar.  But as restless as I am, I would not be satisfied with an easy way out.  I had a vision of a bubble cube!

Oh~ only if I knew what I got myself into... It all sounded easy, no problem if I use silicone mold.  The problem is the binding agent.  This is a product somewhere in between a bath fizzy and a bubble bar.  It is a bubble bath bomb, meaning it fizzes to help dissolve in water easier but it also produces bubble.  If you have used a bath bomb or bath fizzy before you would know any liquid would set off the fizz action.  How to produce a perfect cube with sharp corners is my hardest challenge.
1st try: I used witch hazel spray, the same method as I bind bath bomb, and as you can see from the photo, a big 2" cube did not hold well.
2nd try: I used a synthetic liquid form of surfactant.  This one went well, but it got wet and started to behave a little like bread dough, hard to unmold.  It took a whole day to harden before I can attempt to take it out in one piece!
3rd try: To speed up the lengthen process, I attempted to freeze and hot air dry the cube.  Well, it all went well until the cubes were out of the freezer defrosting.  The moisture the frozen cubes attracted set off the fizz...  Not bad, just not the smooth texture I visioned.

My conclusion, maybe I should just be patient, stick with the 24 hour drying time and not fight with the nature of this recipe.  I tried my best to formulated to use mostly natural ingredients but in this case I still need to use a synthetic surfactant as a wet binding agent.  Here's the list of my ingredients:
Baking soda
Sodium laurel sulfoacetate
(a natural surfactant derived from coconut & palm oil)
Citric acid
Mango butter
Goat milk powder
Cocamide DEA
(this is the synthetic surfactant)
Polysorbate 80
(to emulsify mango butter to disperse into water)

Now, the best thing about this experiment is that I got to be my own guinea pig!  Um... bubble bath...

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The 200 Post!

This is the 200 post!!
Let's see it again after another 100 posts what the analysis of wordle says this time:
Ah~  Of course the word 'soap' is still the biggest!

Monday, October 1, 2012

First Encounter with Vanilla Oleoresin 20X

If you are a soap maker you would know most of the time we use vanilla fragrance, which is fake and synthetically created in a lab to imitate the natural scent, for our soaping creation.  Why?  You might ask if you are not a soap maker.  It is because natural vanilla extract does not survive saponification.  But, I'm talking about an expensive concentrate, 20X means distilled to have 20 times the strength compared to regular extract.  I'm excited to get a hold of this as this is not cheap!  Before I can put my nose up to an actual bottle of this all I knew was that people have been bragging about how warm and yummy it smells like and exactly like the real extract you would use to bake.  Well, I'm not a baker, growing up in Taiwan as a Chinese means not costumed to using oven, why bake when there's a bakery on almost every few blocks?!  Naturally I had no idea what a real vanilla extract would smell like, all I knew about vanilla was the synthetic imitation.  And this, does not smell like the fake vanilla I've known in my entire life!  Is that good or bad?!  Anyway, it is very brown, very thick, and would not mix with any essential oil or fragrance oil, in other words, not oil soluble.  Since this still contains lot of vanillin, it'll oxidize and brown the soap still.  This is my all essential oil version of Spiced Orange Cream, a blend of sweet orange 15X, vanilla oleoresin 20X, cassia, fennel, and benzoin.
I purposely left the top unscented so it can stay as white as possible.
Some said if there's a lot of vanillin the browning effect will bleed over and eventually brown the unscented portion.  Well, it has been more than 4 weeks now and I'm proud to say it didn't at all!
By the way, the brown tiny speckles are the banana seeds, I used fresh banana together with butter milk for this yummy creation!