Saturday, April 28, 2012

Faux Funnel Soap was Fun!

Lavender Lime Faux Funnel Pour Soap

This week's soap challenge was a fun one for me! Amy Warden of Great Cakes Soapworks has been hosting a series of soap making challenges and although I've done all of them but one I think I've liked this one the best. Called the Faux Funnel Pour soap, it simply means pouring a series of colors in the same order into the soap mold till all the soap is gone. Some people use very vibrant colors, others subdued but they always have a free-form like appearance when the soap is finished. I chose 3 colors plus the base - yellow oxide, ultramarine pink and lavender fields (another ultramarine). I usually use clays and herbs to color my soaps so this is a change for me. To go along with the colors, I thought I would try a combination of Lavender and Key Lime Essential Oils.

Ultramarine pink, Lavender Fields, Yellow Oxide.

Colors in the cups mixed with soap. 
I think I could have added a little more.

At Amy's suggestion I made sure to use lots of liquid with no discount and a known soap recipe. Even following those tips, my colors set up very quickly once I stick blended them. So, pouring was okay in the beginning but quickly became more of stir, stir, stir and spoon, spoon, spoon then a nice fluid pour.

Soap was getting thick already and I was only halfway through.

I poured a little differently then Amy's tutorial. I only poured in one spot, but the spot moved itself from one end to the other as I was pouring, so I always followed the top circle. To make sure I didn't have too many air bubbles I smacked down the mold several times while I was pouring.

Finished off the top of the soap with the yellow which looks orange, 
and added some nice waves.

Finished soap out of the mold - 
seemed to be more orange than yellow but I like it!

Finished soap cut. I think it turned out really nice!

You can see the variations from one end of the soap mold to the other. It almost looks like two different kinds of soap. My ultramarine pink turned more like purple in the middle of the soap, so I got an extra color in the mix for free. I'm looking forward to next week's soap challenge - thanks so much Amy!

These soaps will be available for sale starting June 8. I've been accepted to be vendor this year at the fabulous Colorado Farm and Art Market and I'm so excited to be a part of that group! If you're local to the Pikes Peak area please stop by and say hi. I'll be there every other Saturday starting June 16th.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Everyone needs a Challenge

Last week I signed up to give my skills a challenge - a soap making challenge that is. Amy Warden of Great Cakes Soapworks  has graciously offered to hold a 20 week soapmakers challenge - 20 weeks of learning something new and improving my skills - how could I pass that up? So for the next 20 weeks or so I will be trying to challenge myself to become a better soapmaker, learning from the pros and getting a chance to see how creative all of the participants are. The first week of the challenge was an "in the pot swirl", which means that you swirl your colors together before putting them into the soap mold. The challenge was to do 1 color more than you've ever tried before. Since I've only done 1 color before, it was time to do 2.

So, I needed some inspiration for the colors of my soap, and what better inspiration than looking to the gardens! It's almost seed starting time here in the sunroom, so I thought I would color my soaps to remind me of the colors of one of my favorite herbs to grow - Calendula. The photo above is some calendula that was growing in my gardens last year. The beautiful shades of yellows, oranges and golds shine brightly in the garden and bring soothing properties to anything made with calendula petals. Now to replicate those colors with some natural colorants! I chose two spices I had on hand - Turmeric and Hungarian Paprika. 

Colors of Spices in the Jars.

Colors of spices after mixing with oils, 
ready to be swirled into the pot.

The colors were easy to chose, the fragrance not so much. Normally I always use essential oils for everything I make - no artificial fragrances. But this was a test of swirling and it was mostly educational for me and I wanted something that would behave while I was mixing. I decided to use up some fragrance oil I had received as a free product - a Lemon Verbena Fragrance Oil. It is a very lovely, herby smelling scent that reminded me of my herb gardens in summer time, so into the soap oils it went. 

Swirled Soap in the mold before doing top swirl.

Top swirled with remaining colors.

My swirling attempt looks pretty good I think but the colors could have been a little more distinct from one another. When the soap came out of the mold, the colors were less vibrant and had somewhat mixed together, but still remind me of my calendula flowers in the summer.

Cut calendula inspired soap!

Next week's challenge is making soap with milk. That will really be a challenge for me because I've never done milk before. I'm excited to learn something new!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Great Ingredients: Grapefruit

Sometimes happiness comes from the simplest of things.The Grapefruit (Citrus paradisi) is hands down my favorite fruit, especially the Texas Reds that are at their best in the winter time. The juicy, red flesh and sweet/tangy juices are pure bliss in a nicely packaged round ball. Grapefruit juice is a great pick-me-up and fresh squeezed from the remains of eating the insides has no match. I love the smell it leaves in the room, and the freshness it gives to my sink and garbage disposal. I also love putting a few drops of Grapefruit Essential Oil on the shower floor to let the steam disperse the smell and goodness into the shower.

Grapefruit is also a "great fruit", having many well researched beneficial properties for you including loads of Vitamins C and A, many vitamins and minerals and are high in antioxidants.  While I'm not trying to sound like a grapefruit commercial, I will say that grapefruits are fat, sodium, and cholesterol free and low in calories.  Nothing artificial, only pure sweet/tangy goodness.

A member of the citrus family, Grapefruit is also used to produce essential oils from its peel.  The peel is cold-pressed to extract the oil which is then used in fragrances, aromatherapy, skin and body products, and sometimes household cleaners.  White, Pink and Red Grapefruit all produce essential oils with the Ruby Red variety having the most intense fragrance. I tell my family that Grapefruit is the "cheery fruit" because it's uplifting to the spirit, refreshing to your senses, makes you feel happy and gives you energy.

Grapefruit is not without faults though - there is some research that shows Grapefruit juice can negatively interact with certain prescription medications. In general Grapefruit Essential Oil is thought to be non-toxic, non-irritant, non-sensitizing, and non-phototoxic; however there are conflicting studies that say it may be phototoxic when used in skin products.

If you're wondering what to do with those Grapefruit peels after you've eaten the yummy insides, you can do like I do - use them in the gardens to provide a non-toxic smelly deterrent for deer in your yard. The garden post is about using oranges, but I also use grapefruit all the time.

So the next time you're at the grocery store, think about picking up some nice, juicy Grapefruit or a big bottle of freshly squeezed juice. Smell how uplifting it is, taste it's tangy goodness, and make it a part of your diet.  If you'd like to experience what great things grapefruit can do for your skin, check my Dragonfly Dew website for Grapefruit Moisturizing Lotion Bars. Great for those on the go, the lotion bars instantly melt on your skin, and the grapefruit essential oil really smells great!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Beauty of Beeswax

Pure Colorado Beeswax gives these lotion bars 
their beautiful yellow color.

Beeswax is magical, gold goodness created by tiny keepers of the flowers. The bees buzzing through the gardens are always welcome here. Considered by many to be a by-product of the bees' true missions of pollination and making honey, beeswax can be just as important to our health as the sweet, slippery golden honey that we use in our foods, medicine and skincare. Beeswax is also a necessary building block for the bees themselves, using it to build the combs which honey is stored, young bees are raised, and pollen is kept.

Seeing bees collecting pollen in the garden or 
out in nature always makes me happy.

Bees gathering pollen must fly the equivalent of 6 times around the earth to produce 1 pound of beeswax. Thinking of the enormity of that number makes one realize just how amazing the abilities of bees and other creatures of nature are. Such small insects perform feats that we as humans would not be able to do. Have you ever seen the animated film "The Bee Movie"? If you haven't you should watch it just for all of the amazing insights into the world of bees. Honey and beeswax in their pure, unfiltered state are so helpful to our health. Beeswax for your skin helps retain moisture, provides a protective coating from the elements, and provides glide and smoothness for lip balms, butters and glosses. 

100% pure melted beeswax from Haefeli's Honey Farms, 
a small honey company located near 
the Great Sands Dunes National Park in Colorado.

Pure beeswax has a lovely golden color and a characteristic beeswax smell. I purchase my beeswax from Haefeli's Honey Farms in large chunks and then melt it down and pour it into small muffin tins for easier use when creating my lip balms, lotion bars, salves and other products. The whole workshop smells amazing when I do this, much like burning several beeswax candles all at once. I admit I tried beeswax pellets a few times for convenience, but they just can't compare to the pure gold beeswax I get from my own state and these very fine beekeepers. 

The beeswax "muffins" after they harden and 
I take them out of the pan. Each weighs between .3 - .6 oz. 
which are perfect when creating my blends.

There is sometimes controversy about using beeswax in products, especially for vegans. Being that beeswax is a by-product of bees and bees are "animals", it's thought that if you are vegan you are using an animal by-product. I'm not sure that I agree with that but to each their own. Bees are insects which just happen to create beeswax while doing their most important job of pollinating our plants and making honey. That is their purpose in life. If honey bees didn't pollinate then many of the fruits, vegetables and grains that people eat would not be available. Just as we build places to live and work, so do they build their own complex hives made partly out of beeswax. Bees are workers of magic and I believe their gifts of honey, propolis and beeswax make our lives so much sweeter and healthier. What do you think? Are you a beeswax lover like me? You can make your yard and garden more "bee friendly"by checking out some of the articles and ideas we have at Beautiful Wildlife Garden where I hope you'll join me.

If you would like to see the bees in action, here is a short video I took last summer. You can here the birds in the background, see the beautiful flowers and drink in the sunshine. Enjoy!

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