14 dic. 2010

New babies in the family

Say hello to the new babies in the family!!

These new babies are part of the samples I'm to hand in this week. They are all naturally scented and colored, which was tricky specially for the orange one. For sure this gave me the opportunity to make lemonade, figuratively speaking. I had the base product and had to come up with wonderful creations. It was hard at first, trying to think outside the bar, but then it started flowing so naturally it was a wonderful experience. As I write, I have them sitting down beside me and they smell so wonderful!! let me introduce you to them...

Lovely Chocolate-Mint, although I have the "fake" version of this, the idea was to create a more natural version. For this, organic chocolate was used for it's fragrance and color - a deep brown color. The white parts contain spearmint EO and nothing else. It is a delicious fresh smell. I was amazed with the chocolate, I used about 1/2 oz to color around 8 oz of soap, i thought it was going to be a light color, but it turned out this rich brown color. Loved it!!

Full Moon Over the Dessert - a shampoo bar with fresh mint and lemon grass EOs, an invirogating mix of fragrances. This shampoo has a long list of oils, waxes and butters, perfect for keeping hair healthy. Green color was given by the seaweed mixed with the base soap.

Orange chocolate soap, a lovely mix of organic chocolate and sweet orange EO. Coloured with powdered anato (achiote), a very common spice in Costa Rica, and mixed with orange peel to give a little exfoliating action. Lovely color, lovely texture - but alas you cannot eat it :(

Calendula Honey soap, a very simple soap base with coconut milk, mixed with calendula flowers and honey. This soap is a very smooth bar with great calming properties. i fiddled around with adding fragrance, but the calendula flowers give it it's own unique aroma. Of the natural soaps, this is the most natural there is.

Finally, a simple shampoo bar, full of nutrients and moisturizers, colored with seaweed for that beautiful pale green, and fragrance with Lemon Grass EO. A must for hair care, and body care, and face care. shampoo bars are wonderful that way, they are supersoaps, there's no reason not to use them for all your soaping needs. They are also fabulous for a trip abroad since you don't need to take 2 oz shampoo bottles plus the soap...you can take any size bar of soap and use it for everything.

Hope you've enjoyed them, they are my new favourites.
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11 dic. 2010

Soap Base in the making

Hey everyone,

Life has been hectic around here, work gets in the way LOL. Today I whipped up a 2lb batch of base soap, to be turned into 3 beautiful creations: Chocolate orange soap, chocolate mint soap and calendula soap. All using only organic chocolate and essential oils. This is part of the samples I want to turn in next week.

Oils and lye mixing. As usual, I reduced the water to 30% and substituted the remaining with coconut milk. This gives the soap an extra yumminess that I've come to love. Oils used were Olive, Coconut, palm, sunflower oil and Shea butter.

Here the mixture is starting to trace (light) so I added the coconut milk, mixed for a little while longer and transferred to my preheated crock pot, for the hour long cook. I realize that hot process is a little harder to handle when you want to accomplish swirls, but just by doing the extra step of cooking I don't need to keep it sitting on a shelf for 4 weeks. I still get away with nice swirls and colors, and get to use my soap the next day. LOVE IT!

Hopefully by tomorrow, the samples will look half as good as these soaps from SUDS...they're amazing!!!
Or these calendula soaps by Sabons Carmeta -WOW!!
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8 dic. 2010

Care and Share Artist's Market

As promised, these are the pics from the artist's market last Saturday. I loved the fair, there was a lot of movement and people liked the product a lot. The crowd was really young so the best seller's were the colorful soaps with a lot of fragrance.

Parents liked the more natural ones, like Ginger and cinnamon soap or beer soap. This one person took 8 bars of beer soap! That was a hit! The other favorite was the chocolate mint soap, I was left with one bar only...have to make more of those :) Bath salts are not a big thing :( Too bad because I love to make them!

Jewelry started moving also, which I was kind of worried about, no one seemed to like it at the other fair. I need to work out a better set up for it though, looks crowded and people are afraid of even touching the jewelry - not sure why. I need to practice practice practice.

I changed the look of the table a lot from the other fair...included a lot of earth tones, several levels and color but not competing with the product. It made the product stand out a lot more than the ugly blue color we had at the other fair. I also included gift baskets, which I thought would be a great hit with Christmas just around the corner, but I ony managed to sell one of those.

Overall I'm really happy with the outcome...it gave me the boost I needed to continue creating beautiful soaps :)
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7 dic. 2010


Waiting...for the soap to cook. I would not write about this unless it was a monumental thing..and it is. It is my first official product sample developed for another person tha is not me.

I was approached by a very nice woman on the fair the other day (I'll write tomorrow about the fair..I promise). She wanted to include soaps in her body care line, and wanted to try my products out and see if we could come to an arrangement. I met with her today and everything went better than I ever could have imagined. She ended up buying some of my ready made product and she gave me some butters, EOs and callendula flowers to develop some samples for her store.

I'm so happy :)

So now, I'm waiting for my liquid soap to cook, which is currently in the not so liquid - can't stick my spoon on it - stage. I still have about two to three hours to go on this one, but so far it's looking really nice.

I think I'll use the lemongrass EO on this one.

I forgot to say, she does not want artificial ingredients on her soap, no fragrances or colorants. I love a natural bar of soap so it's a match made in heaven :) Plus I get to experiment more with natural colors :):)

I'll let you know how my soap goes...bummer I have to let it "rot" before I can try it :(

If your feeling daring, please try this book by Catherine Failor, on Liquid Soaps. It's simple and to the point - it's only missing "Don't Panic" writen on the cover in nice friendly letters. Well actually it says Liquid soaps in nice friendly letters, so that will do :)

Also in spanish: Jabones Liquidos (Spanish Edition)

2 dic. 2010

What's in your pot?

The rebatch pot that is. I began this week feeling my soaps were ugly. So this week has been dedicated to remelting, adding colors and scents to my soap.

I've managed to do a tri color set with three lovely fragances. Hard to do with HP soap, but not bad at all for my first try with layering:

And this morning I did a two color/fragrance soap. It was fun since I made yellow soap balls, rolled them in cocoa powder and embedded into green soap. I'm waiting for it to cool down so I can go and cut it.

However, I did not take into consideration my stupidness. Since I do HP soap, it's not as liquid as melt and pour, so I was afraid the green soap would not flow around the yellow balls. So I banged the mold against my work table a couple of times. I was also worried about it getting hard on the pot instead of the mold so I kept going and banging it. When I finished I noticed it was thicker than usual...it checked the sides and they were ruined!!! I banged too hard and the mold twisted...I tried banging the other way with a rubber mullet, but I don't think the mold will survive :(

Hope the soap did not suffer too much :( Ill take pics of the cutting and post them.

Next time I'll stupid proof my station.

23 nov. 2010

Coconut soap recipe

Thought I'd share one of my fave recipes of all times: coconut soap. It's a really easy recipe with wonderful results. The soap is really soft on the skin and smells spectacular!

First off..prepare the lye...as with all recipes, double check the lye and water amounts with your own favourite lye calculator. I used 3.5 oz of lye diluted in 2.25 oz of water. If you followed my advice earlier...you'll notice that the amount of water is short by 6 oz, this is because we'll add the remaining liquid at trace, substituting the water for coconut milk (not cream - milk). LYE IS DANGEROUS, use protective gloves, goggles and long sleeve shirts. Should you get some on your skin, dip in white vinegar and get to the ER. Even if you don't think it's too bad, it will keep burning if left unattended. Please be careful...no children or pets around please.

Add the lye to the water...NEVER the water to the lye as it will produce a volcano effect, with extremely corrosive liquid.

Once you've prepared your lye water mixture (outside preferably) set it aside to cool down a bit. In the meantime, start preparing your oils. I do my soap using the hot process in the crock pot, so at this time I fill it with warm water and turn it on high. Measure and melt the coconut and palm oils in the microwave...usually 3 minutes on high. I then weigh my olive oil and add it to the mix. By the time I have everything ready, the lye is almost the same temperature as the oils, and with hot process it does not really matter. I use 12 oz olive oil, 10 oz palm oil and 3 oz coconut. I have extra sensitive skin, any more coconut and it gets really drying for me.

Now I'm ready to soap. I put my oils in a mixing bowl, then slowly add the lye/water mixture, stirring slowly with a spatula. When I've incorporated all the lye, I mix everything on the slowest setting in my stand mixer, using one whipping thingy (don't know what it's called). If you use both the chances for getting lye bubbles are too big, so use just one thingy. It takes like 2-3 minutes for it to begin tracing. Add the 6 oz of coconut milk to the soap mixture and blend for a couple of minutes, the mixture should be nearing full trace by now.

At this point, empty out the crock pot, which should be fully warmed up. Be careful because the water is near boiling. Turn the pot to LOW and put the soap mixture in, cover and let cook on LOW for about one hour. I said low twice and in bold because it's important to be at the lowest setting, otherwise you'll have burnt soap which smells nasty and needs to be thrown out.

After one hour, check to see if the soap is "done", meaning it has completely gone through the saponification process. You can do this by checking the pH with lithmus strips, or phenolph___, or more simply use the zap test, which implies taking a little bit of the soap, cool it in your hands and put your toungue to it, if it zaps, the soap is not ready...if it does not zap, then it is done.

If your soap is not done, give it a good stir and put the lid back on...cook for another 30 minutes and re-check. Continue this process until you no longer get zapped. Don't confuse getting zapped with getting burnt....make sure soap is cold enough to put to your tongue. Also, don't suck on it...it's just touching with the tip of your tongue. Lye is dangerous, ingesting ay amount merits a trip to the ER...lye burns do too. Should you get in trouble with lye, white vinegar may help...dip the skin in vinegar and get to the hospital quick - here's a helpful video of what lye does to skin (minute 2):

Once the soap has cooked competely, add coconut fragrance and put in oiled molds (I oil them with PAM).

Once cool to the touch you can unmold and enjoy!! No need to air dry for four weeks, although a couple of weeks help set the soap and will make it last longer.

Enjoy soaping!

19 nov. 2010

Cool fact Friday - CR regulations for making soaps

Did you know it takes around 7 steps to legally sell soaps in Costa Rica?
  1. Permit for "Soil use"...basically you need a permit to establish a factory in your city
  2. Health permit
  3. Municipal permit - not the same as #1
  4. Tax permit
  5. Invoice legalization
  6. Books legalization
  7. Chemical formula inscription - one per product you are producing...so if you make castile soap and castille soap with poppy seeds for exfoliation...you need to have two permits since the formula changes between the two...oh...and FYI...since soap is classified as a cosmetic, it defaults to a Grade A dangerous product and you get charged $100 for each inscription
All of these can take up to 6 months before you are legally able to sell soaps...what a difference from other parts of the planet.

One last "fun" fact...you actually need to have the chemical formula signed by either a chemist or a chemical engineer to be valid...just to make it fun for all of us soapcrafters.

Needless to say...I'm a little discouraged but moving ahead. Need to check with my local offices is I qualify...I'll worry about the inscription later.

18 nov. 2010

Soaping Corner!!

Finally! I have a soaping corner :) As part of my plan to go "commercial" a.k.a. sell my soaps, I need to have a dedicated space for making my soaps. We have this really big storage area, that has a huge sink kind of thing, so I set up my corner there. I repainted a horrible mural that was there.
I moved all my soaping stuff to the space beneath the table...
and set up nice shelving space with my soaping goodies.

It turned out really nice, i'm not in anybody's way and can work easily.

Hopefully the appraiser guy will think the same.
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12 nov. 2010

Computer crashed!! Had to format and start from scratch :( - Cool Fact Friday

Well...I've been MIA because my computer blue screened on me. I had to format it and reload all the software (which was the painful part). I'm still running jobs in the back, hope to be 100% by this afternoon.

Thankfully I didn't lose much, lost some business pics I had acquired and the soap formula/label templates I was working on. But so far I haven't missed anything really really important.

In the midst of losing my (virtual) life balance, I got the fragances fom Elements Bath and Body. They're everything I expected them to be :) And the package included goodies!!! I'm so happy I wish I could run and go make soap right now!!

Thanks for the great service EB&B!!

Today is Friday, so here's your cool fact for today: ""good, mild, completely saponified soap is generally more or less alkaline with a pH between 8 and 10" - thanks to Kevin Dunn in Scientific Soapmaking for this very interesting fact.

Many commercial soaps boast their neutral soap qualities, however they still give me allergies. My soap, which is around pH 9, is wonderful on my skin. Guess it has nothing to do with alkalinity and more to do with what goes in the actual soap formula.

Happy soaping!

9 nov. 2010

Banana Egg soap

I went ahead and did it! I made the banana egg shampoo I wanted to do! In the end I did a normal HP soap with the addition of avocado oil. I also pureed 1 banana and 1 egg to add at trace (having reduced their weight from the water contents of the formula). I turned out great! It doesn't smell like banana or eggs, which was one of my concerns. It did take a while to trace and to cook, I took it out still zapping a little, so I'll have to wait a couple of weeks before I test it, but I do like the final product :)

I also tried using one of the pyrex loaf molds and they turned out pretty nice! I got 7 4oz bars of handsome soap :) They're 1" thick and hefty...a perfect bar...so I'll do some rebatching tonight on those that are just not up to my standards. I'm also thinking about packing the smaller round bars into 5 packs and selling them like that. Also on the rebatching thinking about molding using a frosting sleeve and little "besitos" or flowerettes, packing 10 into a bag as gifts - kind of one use soaps.

As you can see I'm trying to bring variety into my fair table. December fair is getting closer :) I'm a little disheartened as the regulation here for soaps is quite rough, but I'll persue as far as I can. need good vibes right now.

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8 nov. 2010

Busy weekend - two batches

Wow...did I have a busy weekend or what! I whipped up two batches of soap. One coconut (my favorite), and one with nori sea weed (I was feeling daring). They both turned out wonderfully perfect. It almost took me more time preping the ingredients than it took the soap to reach trace!

Below I'm mixing up the oils and lye. I reduced the amount on both to 2 oz, vs the 8 that were needed. The remaining 6 I substituted for coconut milk in the case of the coconut soap, and for sea weed pureed with water for the sea weed soap.

I used my mom's Black&Decker because it had a whisk and very slow speed, but it was interesting because I initially mix the lye in with a spatula, and I almost didn't have to mix it, it was almost tracing right there.

It took no more than two minutes for the soap to trace. Amazing!

I put in the additional 6oz of sea weed puree in this case, a bit more mixing and the soap was at full trace.

So I transfered it into the cock pot...

One hour later - perfect soap! And no zapping! I fragranced and did some in the pot swirling with green and blue - which turned out yellow and purple in the final product.

I'm so proud of my soap!!

I also translated my webpage to spanish, for those who prefer spanish...come check it out! Madero Negro - Jabones Artesanales

Told you - busy weekend!
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5 nov. 2010

Cool fact Friday

For today's cool fact, I'll go to Catherine Failor's book "Liquid Soaps", on it's additive section: "Addition of fats - Sulfonated Castor Oil is the only appropriate agent for incorporating more fats into liquid soap. This oil lubricates like any other oil but is completely water soluble, while other oils will make your liquid soap unclear by releasing free fatty acids into the soap."

Cool huh? A water soluble oil! Am I a soap geek or what?

You can get the book here: Making Natural Liquid Soaps: Herbal Shower Gels / Conditioning Shampoos / Moisturizing Hand Soaps

On the top is my delicious mint vitamin soap. It's two hot process soaps that I've remelted and layered, with a thin dusting of cocoa in the middle for show. I wish you could smell it! It's both fresh and uplifting, with all the benefits of the multivitamin soap and the refreshing action of the mint. Now available in my website: http://www.wix.com/irefercr/maderonegro

Happy weekend everyone!
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4 nov. 2010

Lavender revisited

Like I mentioned yesterday, I rebatched the lavender soap that had lost it's scent. I realized I only had 4 bars left, so I decided to go with the round tube mold rather than the normal "log" (bread pan). I tried to make purple but it turned out a beautiful dark turquoise, so I'm aiming it towards the boys (that I'm convinced secretely like nice smelling soap).

Also shown is my cutting tool. A ver, very, very ancient hand saw on which I replaced the metal saw with high resistance fishing line. It cuts beautifully once you get the hang of it.

The website continues to grow as I get inspired by it :) I already had one non-family viewer stop by :)

Happy soaping!
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3 nov. 2010

Banana/egg shampoo bar

I had the idea of making a shampoo bar that has both banana and eggs in it, mainly because my hairdresser recommended I mix these two up and apply to my hair to keep the blonde tresses from turning green or loosing the luster. I'm still investigating on how to actually do a shampoo bar as my expertise (ha!) is limited to CP and HP soap. I guess my biggest concern is the base product availability here in Costa Rica.
I'm guessing I would also have to include preserving agents into the mix, and I don't really like using those, but I am worried about the shelf life on the product since it contains two raw products. Also I dont want it to smell like rotten eggs after a few weeks. I suppose I could add it at trace and they follow the normal HP process, hopefully not losing the agents that prevent the hair from growing green.

Any ideas are welcome! In the meantime I'll keep investigating.

I'm going crazy because I can't get the coconut oil anywhere, hopefully I'll get some this weekend and then I need to mass produce for the next fair. I'm also entertaining the idea of going to the local farmers market and get a booth, though I have no clue how to do that.

Oh well...lots of investigating to do, also need to write my business plan, as a project manager I feel lost without it. Any ideas ther are also welcome :)

For now, I leave you with a lavender soap I need to rebatch today, I'll be changing the pink to purple and adding a LOT more fragrance as this one seems to have lost it. I hate lavender, but it's one of the favorite smells for soap buyers, so I have to keep the crowds pleased.

2 nov. 2010

Vitamin E usage

Hey, I just found out Vitamin E proportions to use to preserve soaps (cosmetics). The right proportion to use is anywhere from 0.5 - 4% of total weight (oils + liquid). I've been thinking about using it to preserve my soaps as I use a lot of herbs and yummy goodness thingys. What has always stopped me is I did not know the proportion - but now I do :)

Here's an explanation on the benefits of Vitamin E - courtesy of Elements Bath & Body: Vitamin E, natural mixed Tocopherols, are nature's perfect antioxidant. They are easy to incorporate in formulations containing oils or butters, such as soaps, creams, lotions, lip balms, massage oils, body butters, scrubs & more. It is also used to assist in slowing the oxidation process in your fixed oils. Tocopherols can only prevent oxidation, not reverse it, so add Vitamin E as early as possible. Vitamin E is an essential fat-soluble vitamin composed of 8 naturally occurring compounds.

I also made my first fragrance oils internet purchase from them (Elements Bath & Body). I bought $50 worth of fragrances...can't wait for them to get here :):) I have a head full of plans for all of them :) plus I'm already working on a wishlist :0

Another sad note for today - lost 6 of the fish we bought yesterday for DD. We don't know what's going on :(

Unmolded and cut castille soap yesterday, it still zaps like crazy. I'll re-melt and mold into the nice molds and will let it sit for a few weeks, let's see how that works out.

For now, I leave you with my beautiful Gourmet Milk, Honey and Oats soap, soon to be available at my online shop

1 nov. 2010

Preparing for the Dec 4th fair

Hey everyone! I'm currently caught up in the world of soaps. Since I have made so many and still have a craving for more, I'm jumping in the fair market to get rid of the surplus. I did one Oct 24 which didn't turn out as good as I hoped, but I did get to sell like 20 bars of soap.
I'm now traying to prepare for the next fair, Dec 4th. Me being me I'm freaking out because the sales I had were not enough to give me an idea of which is the most liked product :( So I'm preparing castille and more coconut (which was the top seller with like 5 bars). I did have a request for lemongrass soap...so I probably should make that one also. No one bought the bath salts buhuu :(
I also had jewelry in the same table, which I don't think was a good idea...too many things to look at plus everyone and their mother had jewelry also (with a few exceptions).
So, looking for ideas...what is the soap that you like the most? Thinking also about making beer soap and wine soap, I'll see how that goes.
Three sad notes, I had to put my dog down last week...tears still fill my eyes whenever I think about it. Today we discovered 7 of our daughters fish were dead (terrible news also) and my recipe notebook has gone missing...so I don't have any of my soap recipes, will need to start all over again :(
Last week was a bad week...hope this one is better.
My hubby had the idea that I should begin to digitalize my recipes, but it's so much nicer to have them handwritten in a notebook - I dream of the day my daughter shows her granddaughters the notebook along with a story on how her mommy made these beautiful creations.
Anyways, enough dreams...let me tell you what I cooked up yesterday: I made delicious Castille soap - or at least tried to. After a few hours cooking, it still zapped me :( I got it out of the pot (lest we repeat the burnt soap tragedy) and figured I could cure it as I would any other CP soap. Hope it turns out OK. I'll use that as a base for pure castille soap and spotted castille - to which I add poppy seeds for color and a smooth expoliating feel.
Will let you know how that goes. In the meantime, here's spotted castille from my last batch:

Will also be opening a web store shortly, in the meantime, you can visit and ask me how to order: http://www.wix.com/irefercr/maderonegro