2016 Lessons

Things I learned in 2016

I would like to do this yearly or have reflections every six months or so. We’ll see. 

1) Having a personal crisis will show you who your friends are. You’ll never know how many people will stab you in the back until push comes to shove, or how many people will adamantly stay by your side in a jam no matter what. I’ve been incredibly thankful for everyone who stood by me this year. I remain cautious about trusting after being burned by so many people who I thought would at least ask my side of the situation, but instead jumped on the hate bandwagon. So sad for them that hating on someone is second nature.

2)Despite all that, it’s awesome to be Mimi. Tatum and Poots keep me going. Watching Tatum grow up this past year from tiny baby to independent one year old has been a treat. I wouldn’t have traded it for anything. Poots continues to thrive and become more independent. We babied her a little too much and she’s outgrown that, but she’s still very much in need of cuddle time sitting beside me and just hugging.

3) I learned that while I can’t live without coffee, I’m meh about alcohol. The last booze I bought was to make aftershave with. Not even joking. 

4) I learned that soapmakers fall into two categories: those of us who are anti palm products and who generally use lard and tallow (and other animal based products like honey, beeswax, and lanolin), and anti-animal products users who will use palm and palm kernel oils, and their by products. There’s a tiny subset which eschews it all and only uses oils and I’m still learning how to make soap like they do for my vegan friends. Hot process seems to be the answer, but it’s a skill I’m still learning.

5) I learned that creating your own successful skin care or make up line is about as hard as breaking into Hollywood. That doesn’t mean I’ve given up on the idea yet. I’m just being more realistic.

6) I learned easy stuff this year. How to make cold process soap. How to make hot process soap. How to make CPOP soap. How to make liquid soap. How to make a coconut free recipe. How to make a lotion, a cream, a body butter, a lotion bar, a pain relief stick, a muscle cramp roll on, an anti acne roll on, a migraine essential oil roll on, a calm balm, beard balms, beard oils, shaving oil, aftershave, deoderant, and of course, body and face wash. I’m sure there’s more. 

7) I learned -am learning – to write tutorials. I kind of suck at it, but I hope to get better. 

8) I learned that you don’t have to see someone daily, weekly, or even monthly to feel like they are an integral part of your life. Even if you only see them a few times a year, for a few days at a time, that’s enough to have a solid connection with them. How many people do we just say hi to online all winter long and then see semi regularly from May-Sept? It’s a goodish amount. It works for us. The winter months are long, but we survive. 

9) I learned I can survive a month at a time without my husband. I don’t like it, and after a few days I stop sleeping well, but the house stays together, animals get fed, kids stay together, and I can even handle a crisis without him (gotta give my ex credit and thanks for muscle power, though).  

10) I really wanted to get to ten, although I am having trouble thinking of a tenth item that is positive. Oh, I know. This year I donated several bags of clothes I wasn’t wearing and scaled my wardrobe way back. If I hadn’t worn it more then once the past year it got tossed. A lot of clothing went into three large garden trashbags. I learned over the course of the year I didnt miss any of it, and I even was able to add items to the bag that was left. It was a great experience and I plan to continue to downsize, although probably less dramatically from here on out, and also donate a lot of my costume pieces to the clothes swaps at the events I go to. I don’t dress up often anymore and would like to see someone else get some use out of these pieces (mostly corsets and tutus, a few neat hats). 

Modified OCM balm


I have been totally failing at the catchy (I thought they were catchy ?) opening puns. I’m sorry. I’ll try harder.
Perhaps you’ve heard of the OCM (Oil Cleansing Method)? I’ve been doing this to my face when I wear make up or when my skin gets to that irritated “in between” stage of combination skin, or when it has patches of flaky dryness and a T Zone that mimics an OPEC nation, complete with zits and giant blackheads. I’ve always found a certain decidedly gross satisfaction in popping and pus draining the big, ugly zits, but I’m generally very pleased that those days are behind me and get grumpy when a biggun’ pops up overnight. Thankfully, the OCM has been very useful, especially when I wear make up, at getting my face good and clean without over drying or causing breakouts. The other days I use plain soap-I’m really loving African black soap, ironically the one soap I don’t make these days-or I use the surfactant based facial cleanser I made recently after following Susan Barclay-Nichols “Newbie Tuesday series over at Point of Interest blog. 

If you are unfamiliar with the ins and outs of OCM, you can read all about it on Mommypotamuses page right here. (Mommypotamus: Oil Cleansing Method) I disagree with her at the end when she talks about castor oil and ricin, because I’ve done my own research and it’s not that drastic of a concern (not like palm oil, for example), but that’s enough for another blog post. Just be aware that I’m a huge fan of castor oil, I use it in almost every soap I make, and in a lot of personal care and cosmetic applications because it’s so amazing and versatile. In fact, instead of hair serums using silicones; any ingredient ending in “cone” like dimethecone, I advocate just rubbing a mixture of castor and broccoli seed oil between your fingers and smoothing over your hair. Go easy. A few drops is more than sufficient and it’s a short trip from “glossy” to “greasy”. 

My biggest complaint with the OCM is that it involves liquid oil. Oil is messy, and it gets onto things (dripping from your fingers or the container you’re storing your blend in, yuck), and those droplets of oil are insidious and get on things in the bathroom where they don’t belong. Worse, it seems like a microscopic film of oil gets on things and they collect dust and the yuckies faster than if they were oil free. So I set out to make an oil based cleansing balm. Something creamy, to be scooped with a finger, and drip free. I decided it should follow the same ratios as given for the typical OCM: 1 part castor oil (or other drying oil) to 3 parts moisturizing oil, a combination of light and heavy. But how to do that without making it 30% beeswax? Beeswax is a notoriously skin troubling item. It is a great thing; but known to clog pores when used in large quantities and 20-30% to thicken a salve is tipping the scales from cleansing to clogging.

I settled on using mango seed butter. You can read about mango seed butter Here. In a nut shell, it’s a hard, drying butter (unlike shea butter- which is soft and more greasy-and which you probably are much more familiar with me waxing poetic about). Mango butter is definitely not as hard as cocoa butter or as brittle, but it does leave your skin with a more dry after feel than cocoa butter. I think, of the butters, it’s the most like the dry oils. In fact, it’s finish on my skin is an even “cleaner” and “drier” feel than rose hip oil, which by far is one of the dryest oils I love and adore. (As an aside: I’m not using rose hip oil in this application because it’s expensive and because this is a wash off product, but I highly recommend using a mix of rosehip and argan to create a facial cream or lotion to apply as a moisturizer after cleansing.) I knew I would have to use a small amount of something even more firm, ideally beeswax, to firm up this even more, but I really wanted this to be beeswax free. So I settled on using cocoa butter, which does double duty by helping fulfill the “heavy oil” portion of the equation and gives the balm stability. Now, I’m up in the air about what role mango seed butter plays as far as being a light, heavy, dry, or moisturizing butter. It’s not truly a drying oil, because it’s loaded with moisturizing benefits. However, it’s definitely drying, as it sinks in your skin without a trace and leaves no greasy after feel, just like a drying oil does. So what to do? I decided to treat it as a “complete” oil, already encompassing both dry and emollient properties we need. So when I’m calculating dry and rich oils for the recipe, I still will have 1/3 drying oil, and 2/3 enriching oils (following the OCM recommendation for a basic cleansing oil for all skin types; I technically have aging skin which could be regarded as dry but that troublesome T Zone puts me back using the stronger oil blend). Mango seed butter stands on its own. Cocoa butter, however, counts as an enriching oil. 

I chose tea tree, rosemary, and lavender here, as they make up one of my favorite scent profiles, but my second choice and strong recommendation is to use a combination of citrus essential oils. You can also go scent free, or use whatever essential oils sound good to you. I was also thinking a balsalm fir and vanilla-like benzoin might be good here, and as always, I’m a huge fan of helichrysum and lavender, as both are anti aging and also skin goodies. Since this isn’t a leave on product I really would consider breaking out citrus oils and going crazy; something as simple as lemongrass or as complex as lemon, orange, lime, grapefruit, and bergamot. If it were me, I’d add a few drops of rosemary for depth. Now, I prefer to use the the tea tree, rosemary,and lavender combo (at a 1:2:3 ratio) because it’s just so great for your skin. I could write an entire post about that essential oil combo and it’s healing properties, especially tea tree and rosemary. Lavender…I can give you a few journal articles and let you draw your own conclusions, and they will be good. I may include a few drops of rosemary oleoresin in my next batch of cleansing balm and if I do I will add an addendum here with the results, so check back now and then and read old blog posts for new updates. I do add addendums as things I make work out, don’t work out, have to be adapted, etc. 

Before I made this, I had to educate myself on the differences, chemically, between oils and butters. I can retype everything that I read, but that’s plagiarism, so I’m sending you to a fabulous blog post to learn all about it. It’s interesting stuff and it will help you understand why you can wash your face using the Oil Cleansing Method using mango seed butter and a wee bit of cocoa butter. Check her out here: The difference between oils and butters.I

Now for the recipe:

 OCM “Oil Cleansing Method” Cleansing balm

14g mango seed butter.  (buy mango butter from Bulk Apothecary) (buy mango butter at Amazon: Mango Butter)

12g castor oil (buy castor oil from Bulk Apothecary -Castor Oil) (buy castor oil from Amazon-castor oil)
 

6g avocado oil (buy avocado oil at your local big box store or Wal-Mart for compatible pricing, otherwise, buy from Bulk Apothecary – Avocado Oil or even Amazon – Avocado Oil)

6g grapeseed oil (Grapeseed is another you should be able to find locally. Otherwise, but from Bulk Apothecary – grapeseed oil or try Amazon- grapeseed oil)

8g cocoa butter (buy cocoa butter-both regular and deodarized – from Bulk Apothecary – cocoa butter. You can also get regular cocoa butter from Amazon-raw cocoa butter and processed cocoa butter from Amazon-deodorized cocoa butter)

10 drops tea tree (buy tea tree essential oil from Bulk Apothecary – tea tree. Buy tea tree essential oil from Amazon- tea tree). 

20 drops rosemary (buy rosemary essential oil from Bulk Apothecary – rosemary. Buy rosemary essential oil from Amazon – rosemary). 

30 drops lavender (buy lavender essential oil from Bulk Apothecary – lavender all varieties. I use 40/42 for things like this but have a bottle of Bulgarian set aside for times when I’m going to be using lavender alone. You can also buy lavender essential oil from Amazon -lavender.

Possibly 10-20 drops rosemary oleoresin? Future experiment! You’ll have to do a search where to buy it, I can’t get it from my old supplier and don’t know what I will do when this bottle is gone. 

Makes one 2 oz tin, or if doubled, store in 4 oz jelly jar or 4 oz jar (I buy double walled jars from Bulk Apothecary for projects like this or use small mason jars, but I dislike having glass in my bathroom because of safety. Bell jars rarely break, but they do sometimes. Broken glass and small children are a bad mix. Buy jars from Bulk Apothecary – plastic jars. You can get mason jars at Wal-Mart and Target, and craft stores. You can also get 2 oz tins at craft stores and I believe on Amazon, a quick search should turn them up.

  
I don’t get any kind of kick back for “promoting” Bulk Apothecary or Amazon . I happen to shop there because I like their products and prices, and every Bulk Apothecary item I listed I have personally used, and every Amazon item I listed has prime shipping (and many of them I’ve used: I currently have that very mango butter). As for the essential oils, I get some from Bulk Apothecary, I buy some NOW brand, and if I’m buying them to use in soap, I buy the very cheapest (usually the Sun brand) because I have to buy 2-4 oz at a time and that can get expensive.

So give this cleansing balm a try. It took off make up easily, and was gentle when I rubbed it around my eyes. I didn’t do the thing where you use a hot washcloth and cover it with a towel. I just massaged in the balm, then wiped it off with tissues to see if it was removing make up (it was). After that, I got a washcloth wet with the hottest water that I could stand and wiped my face down. I did this a few times, rinsing the washcloth out well each time. Finally I splashed my face with warm water and parted it dry. It was clean, but still soft. I still used my moisturizer (it’s packed with healthy skin goodies and anti aging benefits so I never skip it) and I was pretty happy with the results. I don’t use the OCM every day, but I think this balm will work great for the times when I want to cleanse my face with oil; probably when I wear make up (in particular eye make up). I’m excited to have a little jar of it on hand. 

 

Revisited

One of my early blog posts was a picture of this soap, and a rant about the evils of palm oil and palm kernel oil and not much information about this terrific soap. Yesterday I sat down and plotted out ideas about making another batch and it occurred to me that I ought  to share the base recipe with my blog and decide if I wanted it square or round along the way (there are pros and cons to both). 

Gardeners Soap

Apricot kernel Oil 15%

Canola Oil 10%

Castor Oil 10%

Coconut Oil 30%

Lard or Tallow 25%

Olive Oil 10% 

14g fragrance (essential oils or fragrance oils) per 500g oils if desired. I like a pine, cedar, woodsy blend with frankincense, birch, and cade for smokiness. Essential oils get expensive, however, so buying a Christmas tree blend fragrance oil gets you something very much the same with 1/10th the cost and hassle. It’s not “all natural”, but if you order from Brambleberry, it’s high quality, paraben and phthalate free. Just a suggestion. That goes for citrus blends, for just about anything. Definitely for vanilla blends.  I have a Cedarwood and Amber fragrance oil I may use this time. It has the added benefit in that it turns your soap a nice, light tan, eliminating any need for colorants.

4% Superfat  and 33% water discount, soap at total room temperature. Room temperature lye solution, room temperature oils. Mixture will be only at light trace when you add pumice and cornmeal and that’s fine. Yes I know I said 4%. And I mean 4%. It’s still perfectly safe in case of lye glitch, but it’s less greasy and gets the excess oils off of oily, nasty, grubby hands. I personally might even drop mine to 3% after I washed my hands in a pinch with a bar of  1% “laundry soap” and had them get super clean when they were particularly gross with grease and charcoal. So 4% it is. You probably won’t be able to tell the difference between 5% and 4%. But you’ll get cleaner.  

Use 1 tbsp fine pumice and 2 tbsp cornmeal per 500g oils. If that seems like more than what you usually hear, it is, but this makes a hard, scrubby bar for taking off oil, paint, and other dirt and grub from hands.  I will also add sugar, 1/2 tsp per 500g oils and kaolin clay, 2 tbsp per 500 g oils. I add the clay to the oils pot and whisk it in before adding the lye. 

As for the recipe itself, you can use avocado oil in place of apricot kernel, and you can use all canola or all olive instead of splitting them up. I’m just having really good results with this particular blend, of 50/50 canola/olive for my bulk liquid oils. Adding some “higher octane” oil like avocado or apricot kernel rounds out the fatty acids and with the hard oils ends up a great bar of soap. 

 What to do if you don’t use lard or tallow? First of all, go read this page I wrote about the topic and then you can make appropriate substitutions. I hate it, but you can use palm oil. You can also use shea butter with a longer cure time. You can even try a hydrogenated vegetable oil, like soy with a much longer cure time. I’m told that works somewhat well. However, nothing quite replaces animal fats in soap. Please read the link. 

How do I know how much lye and water to use? This post assumes you’re at least a novice soap maker who can use a soap calculator and has made soap before. If not, you need to do some research, watch some YouTube videos on soap making… I suggest hitting Soap Queen, Humblebee and Me, and Candle and Soap online and possibly on YouTube for how to instructions and videos. I did a beginning soap blog post but it was truly horrible and I don’t think anyone could learn anything from it. On my “About” page, you can find information about where I buy supplies, what soap calculator I use, etc. Stuff that you may find helpful and/or vaguely interesting. 

I think I will make our next batch in the tube mold. Our tube mold is just 3″ PVC pipe, cut to 12″ section. It holds 1000g of soap. In an odd blend of Imperial and metric, both my molds hold 100g of soap per inch 😉 We have pipe left, I keep meaning to have my husband cut me another, shorter, section since I tend to make smaller batches from time to time. I can put anything from 500g and up in the mold I have now, but if I want a tester batch, having molds that are only  4 and 6 inches tall would be awesome. The log mold is easy to use. You grease it up with mineral oil or petroleum jelly, and seal the end well. I sit mine upright in a coffee can once it’s filled with soap. I know some people actually put rice around it to keep it steady and with a more liquid soap I may need to do that someday but so far I’ve only used it for basic, single colored soaps. I am having a soap making extravaganza very soon, and I will need all my soap molds to make gardeners soap, shaving soap, beer soap, Neem Oil soap, and rainbow rimmed soap all in one day. Maybe two days, lol. 
Enjoy the recipe. Happy soaping! 

Soap Challenge Club! 

I got ambitious, again, and signed up for the next THREE months of Soap Challenge Club. The prizes this month are awesome, with a cash prize and a bar mold from Brambleberry up for grabs. There’s only a slim chance of me winning as a beginner and against hundreds of more experienced and more talented people, but dang it, I’m going to certainly try my best! 

Here’s what the October Soap Challenge Soap looks like: 

I did not make this soap, it was made by Amy Warden of Great Cakes Soap Factory. But the challenge is to make a wood grain patterned soap, and there are many ways to achieve that look. I have an idea of how I plan to do mine, but you’ll have to wait for that blog post to find out how I did it. Don’t worry, it’s coming up soon as the deadline is in about two weeks. Not much time to research the techniques, develop a slow tracing soap (a problem I had in the last challenge), and get it done. 

This time, for the wood grain technique, you can make an entry for the all natural category (doesn’t use any synthetic ingredients) or the regular category (uses some synthetic ingredients, even just titanium dioxide), and if I’m understanding correctly, you can make an entry for each. Because I intend to use oxides as well as clay for my colorants, I’m fully in the synthetic category, but it would be nice to know if I could at least try an all natural bar if I wanted. I have black walnut extract, cocoa, cinnamon, rhassoul clay, and any pureed fruit or veggie will oxidize to brown during saponification so there’s that. I could make an all natural bar, I guess. I might just do that. First I have to find out if you really get both entries. 

The November soap challenge soap looks like this: 

And it’s called Cosmic Wave technique. My guess is it’s going to be crazy difficult, even though it looks deceptively easy. It’s being guest taught by Tatsiana Serko of Creative Soap and I think she’s a creative genius. She also makes really cool soap cutters. 

Finally, in December, we are doing something I’ve been wanting to try for awhile on my own and just haven’t done. Tiger stripes. 

Once again, none of these soaps were done by me, but all by the instructors who teach the tutorials for the soap challenge club and answer our questions. They are also part of the judges and they review every blog, FB page, or other way you post your entry. I think it’s a lot of dedication and I wouldn’t want that job, lol. 

I’m looking forward to making each soap and planning to place an order for some non-accelerating oils from Brambleberry so I can make them smell amazing for gifts (assuming they all turn out better than the last soap challenge). There are some great woodsy blends out there for the first soap, and I’m going to try to find a scent for November that works with sea green (maybe an ocean scent?), meanwhile for December, I need something very hippie and full of sunshine as I plan on using red and orange with brown for contrast. So a citrus blend! 

I’m off to the Brambleberry website to shop and price check some things. I’ll be making that wood grain soap very soon. You’ll get it all in pictures here!