A Soap Massacre

In honor of Halloween, I bring you a soap massacre for your viewing displeasure.

Warning: The following content may cause you to cringe.

Massacred Soaps

Several Pumpkin Soaps and one sad White Tea & Ginger Soap met their match when the triplets found them!

Slashed White Tea & Ginger Soap

Slashed White Tea & Ginger Soap

The triplets struck again! Sometimes I forget that I can’t leave ANYTHING within their reach that I don’t want destroyed! I really blame myself.

Soap Massacre

Pumpkin Soap cut in half after a few practice slices.

You see, I’d cut five loaves of soap at about midnight when I was completely exhausted. Rather than haul them all out to the garage to cure, I left them on my kitchen counter where I’d cut them (it was too cold to cut them in the garage). I planned to take them out first thing in the morning.

But the triplets had other plans. They found the soap the next morning while I was changing the baby’s diaper! After climbing on the stools at our breakfast bar, they found the soap cutter. Thankfully it’s not sharp at all; at least I remembered to put away the large knife I used the night before! Within three minutes, they’d cut through two bars completely and managed to partially slash several others. And boy, were they having fun! Shavings all over the floor. Chunks of beautiful soap strewn about.

Soap Massacre

At least I got to see another view of the cool swirls in the soaps!

I heard the giggling coming from the kitchen and knew something was up. When I walked in, the girls just looked up at me and got very quiet. They knew! It amazes me how that filter develops. They immediately started to pick up the chunks of soaps and hand them to me. “Look, mommy! We cut the soap! We’re picking up now! We’ll help you!”

Needless to say, I immediately hauled all of the soap out to the garage!

Oh well. Worse has happened. Much, much worse. Now I just have several pieces of bars that I’ll get to use! Or, I can turn them into samples I suppose. Another lesson learned!

Pumpkin Soap

Because I’ve been so addicted to all things pumpkin lately, I just had to make a pumpkin soap! Full of great-for-skin vitamins A and D as well as antioxidants, pumpkin is a beautiful color and such a wonderful fall fragrance. Since I can’t wait to show you, take a first look!

Pumpkin Soap

Perfect Pumpkin Soap

There are several pumpkin soap recipes floating around in cyberspace, so I basically scoured and combined them, making up my own version. I decided to make a large double batch of this soap since I think it will be popular (if not with other people, then with me).

I began by making my lye solution with a slightly discounted amount of water, taking into consideration that I’d be adding in pumpkin puree which adds some liquid to the soap. I also added a small amount of sodium lactate to ensure that this soap hardens appropriately. Using my favorite recipe, I melted my oils and butters and let them cool to about 100 degrees. Then I added canned pumpkin puree (just pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling) and stick blended until smooth. 

When the lye solution and oils were at room temperature, I combined and blended them to very light trace. Because the fragrance oil contains a bit of vanilla which will turn brown over time, I separated off a bit of soap to leave unscented and color white. Then I added the lovely, spicy pumpkin fragrance to the rest of the soap and mixed it by hand in hopes that it wouldn’t accelerate trace too much. The soap turned out to be a soft orange color thanks to the pumpkin puree.

Next, the fun colorful swirls began! I colored one cup of soap a lovely bright orange, and another two cups of soap a deep red-orange. I added the bright orange to the deep orange cup, creating an in-the-pot swirl of the two colors. I poured about half of the main batter into the bottom of my mold, then added the orange colors from high above down the length of the mold. Right above the orange pours, I added in the white soap and then some more uncolored main batter. I added on the last bit of orange, white, and uncolored soap, then finished by swirling the top with a bamboo skewer. After a spritz of alcohol, I put the soap to bed in the slightly warmed oven. My house smelled like I was baking pumpkin pie! Yummy!

It was such a joy to make this soap! Unlike my other soaps of late, this soap did not accelerate too quickly. It was the perfect consistency to work with, giving me lovely fluid swirls until the very end of the molding process. AND… I remembered to add every single ingredient that I’d planned to add! Haha! Triumph! 

There was one small hiccup, and it was during incubation. I was away from home, so I couldn’t check on my soap! It overheated a bit and cracked down the center in the middle of each mold.

Pumpkin Soap in the molds

Pumpkin Soap in the molds. See the cracks down the center of each loaf?

Pumpkin Soap loaf

Here’s an up-close of the larger crack. It only affected a couple of bars after cutting, and it really isn’t too terrible.

The overheating also caused the white portion of the soap to crackle, and I love the effect it created!

Pumpkin Soap

These two bars have a lot of white, showing off the awesome crackles!

Pumpkin Soap

Look at these crackling white waves!

The final product turned out quite beautiful. The in-the-pot orange and red-orange swirls topped with white looks similar to the Holly Swirl technique.

Pumpkin Soap

Lots of beautiful swirls in this Perfect Pumpkin Soap.

I’m hoping that if the small amount of vanilla in the fragrance causes the soap to turn brown, perhaps it will still be different tones because of the colors. The white should remain white since I left it unscented. As usual, time will tell.

Pumpkin Soap

Another shot of Perfect Pumpkin Soap with dreamy swirls. It looks and smells good enough to eat!

Since this project was so fun, I’m really excited to start using more foods in soaps! What foods would you like to see? I’m thinking strawberries and cream, or maybe bananas and blueberries, or how about oranges? Maybe something that combines them all…

Crochet Pumpkin Hat

With fall securely here, I’m loving all things pumpkin! About a month ago, I made my first batch of pumpkin muffins this season, and I haven’t been able to get pumpkins off my mind since.

I wanted to make something cute for the baby to wear on our annual visit to the pumpkin patch. A Pinterest search led me to this free crochet pumpkin hat pattern by Cathy Kurtz.

Crochet Pumpkin Harvest Hat

Crochet Pumpkin Harvest Hat

I used a size G hook with Red Heart Super Saver yarn as suggested. It was a pretty quick pattern to work up, not too difficult, and fits my nearly 9-month-old perfectly. Take a look!

DSC03475

I love the hat, but I love the chubby cheeks even more!

I especially like the front post double crochet stitches that create the ribs, making this hat really look like a pumpkin. And that stem! The curly vine and leaf on top are just too cute. In these pictures, they’re a bit obscured by the bow that I clipped on top to make sure everyone knew this little pumpkin is a girl!

IMG_1104

My little pumpkin sitting in the little pumpkins!

This is by far the cutest pumpkin hat pattern I’ve found! We’ve gotten lots of compliments on this one.

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Can you tell I’m a bit enamored with this sweet baby?!?!

If you like this hat, you might like the other free patterns on my Pinterest board. Happy harvest hookin’!

Crochet Ruffle Socks and Booties

Colder weather has me wanting to stitch up lots of cuteness for the baby! She’ll only be able to wear adorable crochet footwear for this season before she starts walking and needs actual shoes, so I have to make the most of it. They really do grow up so fast!

Here’s a look at my newest projects fresh off the hook.

Crochet Ruffle Socks

Crochet Ruffle Socks

I used a pattern called Frilly Feet by Christy McMahon from the Spring 2012 issue of Crochet Today! magazine. You can see their picture here, as well as purchase that May/June 09 issue of the magazine where the pattern originally appeared. If you know the basics of making socks, you simply crochet every other row of the leg using the back loops only. This will leave you with a front loop in which to crochet shells, creating cute ruffles.

Crochet Ruffle Socks in action

Crochet Ruffle Socks in action!

I used a Size E hook with Premier Yarns’ Deborah Norville Collection, Serenity sock weight yarn in the color Pink Sugar. I just love these socks, and they really weren’t too difficult to make.

Crochet Ruffle Socks on my cutie!

The socks just add to the cuteness!

After making the socks, I wanted more cute footwear! I was cruising through Pinterest and found this adorable free pattern for cuffed booties.

Crochet Cuffed Baby Booties

Crochet Cuffed Baby Booties

Sarah’s Repeat Crafter Me blog is super cute, and her instructions include a video for the first several rounds of the bootie. I even learned a new way to decrease stitches! She also has an example of boyish cuffed booties for those of you with boys. I used a Size G hook and Red Heart with Love yarn. The booties were really fast to work up, and I just love them!

Crochet Cuffed Baby Booties

No cute photo of the baby wearing these (yet, anyway). She was entirely too wiggly and trying to chew on the booties during our photo shoot! They are super cute on her, though! At 8 months old, they fit her well and should have enough room for her to grow into them for the next few months.

Both of these projects would make great gifts for the new babies in your life! I’ve pinned a few other really cute free patterns on my Pinterest board if you’d like some more ideas! 🙂 Happy hookin’!

A Big Batch of Soap

There’s a running theme in my soap making experience. Expect the unexpected; things never seem to go as planned! Even the best made plans don’t go as anticipated, and changes abound. Maybe it’s the excitement of making a new soap or trying a new technique that makes my brain run haywire in the middle of a batch. I’m not sure why this happens so frequently, but I’m hoping things will get a little easier with more time and experience. What’s really encouraging is the fact that no matter how many changes I make in the middle of a soap, somehow the combination of fat, water and lye still turns into soap. It’s a little miracle every time!

All of this was true in my recent attempt at making a triple batch of soap. My typical recipe uses 3 pounds of oils to make 4 pounds of soap, and I pour into a loaf mold that makes 12 bars. I recently had a large order placed, and it included 3 loaves of Oatmeal, Milk & Honey soap, so I thought I’d try to make it in one big batch. In my mind, it would be easy to measure out three times the ingredients, and it would take less time overall to get it done. Wrong on both accounts!

The first thing I didn’t anticipate was how long it would take to make the lye solution with 100% oat-milk. I made it very slowly in my usual pitcher, but it was much more difficult because of the large amount of lye and milk. It took f.o.r.e.v.e.r! I had the pitcher sitting in an ice bath, but due to such a large volume, the milk heated up quickly and turned darker than usual. Because I’d infused the milk with oatmeal, it was lumpy and soupy and very much like pudding. It was quite difficult to stir, and I couldn’t really tell if all of the lye had fully dissolved. Lesson learned: use a bigger container to make large amounts of lye solution!

After finally finishing the lye solution, I added it to my giant pot of oils a tiny bit at a time, looking carefully for chunks of undissolved lye. Lo and behold, I found a few! Oh no! I mixed and stirred and took out a few pieces that simply wouldn’t break apart and blend in. This soap will be a bit more superfatted than I intended, but I think it’ll just be that much more moisturizing.

The next thing I didn’t anticipate was how difficult it is to simply manage the weight of such a large volume of oils. Stick blending the soap to light trace took longer than normal.

Big Batch of Soap in the making

The entire tip of my stick blender was completely immersed in the batter when I tried to reach the bottom of the pot. With my current equipment, I couldn’t make a batch any bigger than this one (and I don’t think I’d want to try any bigger anyway).

I usually separate off a bit of soap to turn white, add honey and fragrance to the main soap, then do an in-the-pot swirl and pour the soap into the mold. In this instance, it was difficult to pour just a small amount of soap out of my giant heavy pot, but I muscled my way through! (I’m such a klutz; in my mind’s eye, I can see myself spilling this entire pot of raw soap all over my kitchen!) I added honey to the main soap and blended it in. After I colored the smaller amount white, I added it right back to the main pot. I was excited about how everything was turning out, going smoothly. Hubby was taking pictures for me. Life was good.

Big Batch of Oatmeal, Milk & Honey

The in-the-pot swirl was going perfectly, with nice fluid soap.

And then I realized that I’d forgotten to add the fragrance! At this point, I knew that the distinct in-the-pot swirl was out the window. I dumped in my fragrance and lightly mixed it into the soap, turning the entire batch a lighter color, with a only a few wispy swirls of white to be found. I again muscled my way through pouring the soap into three molds, then covered the top with bubble wrap and stuck them all in the oven.

Big Batch of Oatmeal, Milk & Honey

From this vantage point, you can still see some white swirls in the soap. Unfortunately, it’s not as noticeable in the final cut bars of soap.

As usual, I had no idea what to expect when unmolding my soaps the next day. Would there be chunks of undissolved lye in there, ruining the whole big batch? Would there be any swirls left at all? Did I mix the fragrance in well enough? Would it even be soap?! 

After cutting through all 3 loaves, I’m happy to report that I found no lye pockets! The pH is great! Woohoo! I did find a few tiny pools of fragrance next to small pieces of oatmeal, but they are disappearing as the soaps cure. I’m not sure if they reabsorb or evaporate out, but they are disappearing. Immediately upon cutting them, most of the bars didn’t have a noticeable swirl, but the colors are changing a bit as they cure, showing off more white! They have a nice gentle look overall.

Oatmeal, Milk & Honey (Big Batch)

See the wisps of white in there? I’m so happy that a few still came out!

I have made so many different batches of Oatmeal, Milk & Honey soap, and not a single one looks like another. Consistency is apparently not my strong suit, and I’m learning to be OK with that. It simply means that each batch is unique, individual, a small work of art. That’s the definition of hand crafted, right?

Oatmeal, Milk & Honey (Big Batch)

Oatmeal, Milk & Honey

I’m amazed at people who are able to create soaps from large batches. This batch that made 12 pounds of soap isn’t even very big compared to others I’ve seen online. And this soap isn’t too terribly intricate, either! Not lots of colors, no difficult technique. I can’t imagine trying to do a fancier soap with this much to work with! I think I’ll try about 8 pounds next, but it’ll be a while before I try to make another triple batch.

To my fellow soapers out there: How big are the batches that you typically make? Have you found it easier to make smaller or larger batches? Do you have any tips for making big batches? Pros and cons? I’d love to have a conversation about this with others who have experience!

Dandelion Zebra Swirl Challenge

This month’s Soap Challenge Club was most definitely a challenge for me! First of all, my five kids passed around a cold virus during the last month. Yes, it took a full 3 weeks to hit all 5 kids, and a total of 5 weeks for everyone to get well. It was a doozy! Everyone had high fevers with terrible coughing and runny noses. Lots of all-nighters pulled around here, and we’re still not back into a good sleep schedule!

Because of all that, I took a couple of weeks off from soapmaking. I’ve been itching to get back to it after seeing the beautiful soap created by Vinvela Ebony on her blog Dandelion SeiFee, as well as the examples made by Amy Warden, creator of the Soap Challenge Club.

The Dandelion Zebra Swirl is October’s challenge technique. After watching Amy’s great tutorial, I really didn’t expect it to be that hard. But alas, I found this one to be very difficult! To make this soap, I was simply to pour one color of soap into the mold, insert a flexible cutting mat into the mold, pour different colors down the mat to form stripes, and then remove the mat and pour the remaining soap batter to fill the mold. My problem didn’t come with the actual pouring technique, but with the consistency of the soap that I was trying to pour.

Amy suggested using a recipe that was slow to trace as well as a fragrance that isn’t too floral or too spicy. I altered the slow-moving recipe a bit to accommodate the oils that I had on hand, using 35% olive oil, 30% palm oil, 25% coconut oil, 7% sunflower oil, and I also added 3% castor oil because I really love how it boosts lather. I’ve never used this recipe before, so I didn’t really know what to expect. I also added yogurt to the oils as 50% of my liquid.

My first problem: I was making a total of 3 batches that day. Result: I accidentally used the wrong bowl of oils to make my first attempt at the challenge soap! It was my regular soap recipe which has more castor oil as well as avocado oil and shea butter, and it tends to trace pretty quickly. I blended the lye solution and oils (both at room temperature) for just a hair too long and everything got hot and thick really fast! The scent I used was Pixie Dust, and I think it may be a hint too floral as well, perhaps aiding the quick trace. And of course, I didn’t realize I’d used the wrong bowl until I’d already added the fragrance and started coloring the soap.

Here’s a look at pouring my first attempt of the Dandelion Zebra Swirl.

Pixie Dust

See how the soap is too thick already!? And it’s only the first pour… Uh oh.

Pixie Dust

Half way through my “zebra” stripes, and the soap was beginning to pile up. I like the colors, though!

Pixie Dust

Last “pour” of the main soap batter, and look how thick it was! I had to glop it on top and then use a spatula to scrape all the soap down the mat as I pulled it out of the mold.

Pixie Dust

The top turned out beautifully, even if I had no idea what the inside would look like! Of course I christened the soap with pixie dust, a.k.a. iridescent glitter. My girls love how sparkly it is!

Somehow, like usual, the soap turned into soap and the result isn’t nearly as terrible as I expected. Just because it didn’t go as planned doesn’t mean it isn’t a work of art!

Pixie Dust

Look at the picturesque mountain sunset depicted here. This cut of Pixie Dust scented soap is beautiful! The colors in person are quite striking.

Pixie Dust

Here’s another view showing the bright colors and shimmer on top of Pixie Dust soap.

After using the wrong oils as well as using up the fragrance that gave the color and scent combo I imagined, I had to rethink my plans and try again. My second attempt at the Zebra Swirl technique turned out better, but still not quite as easy as I’d have liked. Even with my version of the slow moving recipe, the soap still traced faster than I wanted, and I was unable to get the very fluid pour that Amy had in her video. I had to tamp my mold down after some pours to get the soap to slide down the mat, and at times I had to use a spatula to push it down.

This second attempt is made with Blowing Bubbles fragrance oil. Inspired by the iridescent qualities of bubbles, I chose to color the soap with aqua, blue, purple, pink, and yellow. Like the first soap, I used yogurt as half of the liquid in this recipe as well.

Blowing Bubbles

The first 2 stripes of Blowing Bubbles being poured onto the mat. Thinner than my first attempt, but still not as fluid as I’d like.

Blowing Bubbles

The first set of stripes are complete, and the colors are quite striking!

Blowing Bubbles

Soap’s getting thicker. Uh oh again.

Blowing Bubbles

Getting to the end of the zebra stripes, and I’ve begun tamping the mold and scraping soap down the mat again.

Blowing Bubbles

I really look forward to topping soap with pretty colors!

Blowing Bubbles

Is there anything more fun in life than making pretty swirls on top of soap? Ok, yes. But it really is fun!

Once again, it was difficult to let that soap set up in the mold. I couldn’t wait to see how the inside turned out! It doesn’t look as clean as the examples, but it turned out pretty. I have yet to figure out how Vinvela got her colored stripes all on one side of the soap! Maybe my cutting mat was just too flexible? Or maybe I didn’t pour enough soap in the bottom of the mold first? I’m thinking I didn’t pour enough main batter soap behind the mat before I removed it from the mold, but I’m not certain. Any suggestions you might have are very welcome!

Blowing Bubbles

Blowing Bubbles soap made with the Dandelion Zebra Swirl technique.

Blowing Bubbles Soap

Look, Ma! Two whales kissing! (I had no idea I could create such cool artwork in soap!)

All in all, this was a fun challenge again. I learned a lot, and I’ll keep trying to perfect this technique. I’m going to try some other slow moving recipes to see if I can get the correct consistency for this type of swirl. As usual, I’m really looking forward to seeing what everyone else created! Thanks for stopping by!

Stovetop Yogurt

My recent ventures into making soap with yogurt led me to make yogurt from scratch. Crock pot yogurt turned out ok, but me and my girls weren’t crazy about its texture and consistency. It was really runny, which was great for the soap I made, but not very appetizing.

So, of course, I had to try again. I like to do things at least until I do them well. Can’t help it. Perfectionist, anyone?

This time, I decided to go with the tried and true method of making yogurt on the stovetop, then incubating in the oven.

I started by heating half a gallon of milk in a heavy stainless steel pot. Once it hit 180 degrees, I put the whole pot in an ice bath in the sink until it came down to 120 degrees. That only took a couple of minutes. At that point, I whisked in 3 tablespoons of yogurt containing live active cultures. I also added in about a tablespoon of vanilla extract and about a third of a cup of sugar. (My girls also weren’t crazy about the plain yogurt I’d made in the crock pot; we all like it sweet.)

Next, I poured everything into glass jars, making a nice mess in the process. Typical of me.

Stovetop Yogurt Mess

How did I manage to make such a mess?!

Ready for the oven

Here’s the heated milk ready to be transformed into yogurt in the oven.

I preheated the oven to 200 degrees, turned it off, then placed the glass jars inside on a sturdy cookie sheet. I left the light on inside the oven to help maintain the warm environment, giving those little yogurt guys the perfect place to make themselves comfy and multiply. After 8 hours in there, I pulled out the jars. What a difference from the crock pot yogurt!

The whey had separated quite a bit throughout each of the jars.

Yogurt fresh from the oven

See how the whey was already separated, forming what looks like bubbles around the inside of the jars?

Pouring off the whey

Pouring off the whey

I could easily pour off the whey, leaving a thicker, creamier yogurt. I decided to strain half the batch just to see what difference it would make. I let it sit in a mesh strainer lined with coffee filters for just over half an hour, then I plopped it into the mixing bowl and whisked until it was smooth. The strained yogurt (aka Greek yogurt) is much thicker with a more concentrated tangy flavor. I can turn the jar upside down without spilling a drop! The unstrained yogurt is more fluid, but it’s definitely thicker than the crock pot yogurt (yay).

Yogurt success!

Yogurt success! Thick and creamy and delicious. Doesn’t this look like soap batter at trace?!

The triplets are loving this stovetop yogurt! They can’t get enough of it. And the baby drools when she sees us eating it! She’ll have her turn soon enough.

The triplets eating yogurt

Here are the triplets getting their first taste of the new yogurt. They love it! Notice that Chloe (on the left) has already spilled it on her pants? We’ll blame this one on mommy for letting them sit on the kitchen floor. We were all just so excited to try it! Who needs tables?

Homemade granola and yogurt

And I even made some homemade granola to go along with our homemade yogurt. YUM!

I’ll probably be making yogurt like this from now on. It really wasn’t that much harder than the crock pot method, and my whole family prefers the second result. But I won’t be making any soap with this stuff! It’s all gonna be gobbled up before I have the chance!