This week, I’m going to let video rule the post. A couple of weeks ago, I made and poured a batch of Outer Banks Beer Soap. I didn’t record the making of this soap, because no one wants to watch saturated fats melt (5 minutes of boredom) or my mixing the soap (30-60 seconds of noisy boredom). Here I’m showing the pouring of this soap followed by the slicing of it.
So, what do you think of this little sneak peek? I don’t do them often, but every now and then, it’s fun showing off how we make the magic that we do.
It’s spring. Well, it’s supposed to be spring, anyway. Everything in me leans towards cleaning – cleaning up and cleaning out. The soap rack is no exception. As I’m constantly making new soaps and restocking my supplies, I also spend time getting rid of soaps that aren’t saleable. Usually these go into donate piles with one or two meandering upstairs to the basket in our bathroom.
One Monday, my younger daughter was waiting for her sis and me to catch up with her at the church where my teen goes for her language arts class. My daughter had noticed a sign with a bin underneath; one of this church’s ministries was collecting toiletries for migrant workers. Being especially compassionate towards non-native-born Americans at this particular point in our nation’s history, she said, “Mom, you could donate some soaps.”
My initial reaction was consternation; I don’t have any soaps on hand that I’m discontinuing completely. As we were sitting at breakfast the next morning, though, I looked up at my soap rack, which was behind her. And I paused, my mind calculating its unseen contents (the shelves are high from a sitting position). She said, “What?” And I smiled.
“I have some soaps we can donate,” I told her. Her dimple popped out and she got excited. I didn’t have many; you can see the pile isn’t terribly big. I had some Burberry soaps that didn’t behave well in the mould and came out all weirdly quadrilateral but not particularly rectangular as they should. And I had some cucumber soaps that were eventually to have these beautiful dragonflies applied to them before I determined that those soaps are cost-prohibitive to create and discontinued them. One of those bars made it to the basket; its age will guarantee a mild soap and a wildly fluffy lather.
While I was busy elsewhere, the Hubby and she pulled down and wrapped the soaps. She was so excited to bag them up and put them in the bin! That felt good to me, too, and the space on my rack was certainly welcome.
Do you ever go to the beach and wish you could bring something back home with you? Other than the tons of sand in towels, beach toys, and shells, that is?
When I was growing up, we had really hard well water. After a while, of course, the minerals from the water would build up on our hair. Every time we went to the beach, Mom would luxuriate in how the soft beach water made her hair feel – soft, light, and conditioned. When my parents built their house some 20ish years ago, one of their top priorities was a water softening system, because Mom wanted her hair always to feel soft and not weighted down.
Also when I was growing up, my grandparents had the best water. They lived 20 minutes from us (so nowhere near the beach), and that water made the most amazing coffee! It was so good and turned this one-cup-a-day drinker to a 3-cup drinker while I was at Grandma and Grandpa’s. When I was in high school, my grandparents got a place at the beach so Grandpa would have someplace to stay when he was fishing. Welcome beach water! It had the same sweet flavor of my grandparents’ water, but even better!
Fast forward several years to my meeting Peter and spending time at his parents’ beach house. I was living in a place with awful municipal water; I had to add lemon juice to make it palatable to me. But the beach house… One sniff and I knew the water would be as incredible as at my grandparents’ home. I tasted it and was sent back to their house while I was growing up. Cup after cup of the smoothest coffee went down while I sat or stood on the dock, savoring the delicious flavor dancing on my tongue.
Fast forward a few more years, and since we couldn’t bring enough water back to keep me satisfied, we went to where the water is. We moved to the beach, and the water is almost as smooth and soft as what my Grandparents had. (And I certainly drink enough of it!) A little farther east, and we discovered the water at Kure Beach is reminiscent of that which was at the beach house. I can bring a little of that back with me, and I do every time we’re there.
Moving to the beach isn’t an option for many people. Some can’t afford it, some prefer living elsewhere, and still others love the idea all the way up to hurricane season, when the idea doesn’t seem quite as winning. When you can’t turn your vacation into something more permanent, you can bring the beach back home with you (no vacuuming required).
Wherever your vacation takes you along our glorious North Carolina coast, we have a soap for you so you can savor those vacation memories just a little bit longer. Starting on the northern part of the coast takes you to world-class surfing, wind-swept dunes, and wildly primitive beaches. Outer Banks Storm captures this area with its rustic cedar-shingled homes and the sharp tang as a storm blows in from the sea.
Go south just a little bit and the southern Outer Banks takes you to Crystal Coast Morning. You know those mornings at my in-laws’ beach house I mentioned? I captured them in this scent – sans coffee. Zippy and fresh, this scent is like waking up on a late autumn morning to an empty beach in the off-season when the air is pure and crisp and all that tickles your ears are the sounds of waves kissing the sand.
Keep going a little further south and you arrive at our gorgeous Cape Fear beaches. The Cape Fear River meanders its way from mid-state to the ocean and lends its name to this region. Surf City, Topsail, Wrightsville, Carolina, Kure Beaches… Each wonderful in its own right, depending on what you’re looking for. We generally go to Kure Beach. It’s a quiet beach with a fishing pier and lifeguards, as well as a public bath house and free parking. And I mentioned the water, right? Kure Beach Afternoon is pure ocean with a slight tangy zip underscored by a whisper of sunscreen. It’s hanging out at the beach with a bunch of other local home educating families on a beautiful late summer day as clouds scuttle overhead.
And finally, we come to Ocean Isle Beach, easily one of the jewels of our Brunswick County Beaches. This island is paradise just after the season ends when it’s still warm enough to enjoy the beach but the isle isn’t thronged with tourists. My teen and I enjoy weekends away each year to a resort on the island. Wide, powdery, sandy beaches; calm waters; and the rustle of palm fronds overhead as we sit on our balcony or float in the pool. It’s a beach vacation made for chillin’ and sipping something cold and fruity while all the stress melts away. That moment became Ocean Isle Beach. A crisp ocean scent mingles with sweet fruits as you remember what it was like to watch your cares blow away on a warm breeze.
Which one of these jewels of the beach would you want to bring back with you? What memories will you love to capture in your shower?
They’re he-ere! The absolutely adorable flip flop soaps are poured and nearly wrapped, all ready to deck your bathroom in coastal Christmas flair. I decided to take you behind the scenes and show you how I make these soaps. They’re a bit of work, but the results are so totally worth it! Check it out!
These charming soaps come in two festive scents: Sleigh Ride, a brisk fragrance that blends mint, vanilla, and pine; and Christmas Spice, a lovely spicy seasonal scent that has been a favorite among my customers for fifteen years. Not only would these look awesome in your bathroom, but they make unique stocking stuffers and thoughtful gifts for the beach lovers in your life. I invite you to pick yours up today. Quantities are very limited, and I don’t think these will be around for long.
Do you have troubled skin? Problem skin? Skin that acts like a hormonally moody teenager – acting right one moment, irritating you the next? Then have I got a soap for you! At event after event, through Facebook messages and emails, customers often ask me,
I have psoriasis and eczema. Do you have any soap that will cure that?
My answer is always, “No. None of my soaps will cure skin diseases.”
However, I have a lot of customers who have tried Au Naturel (formerly known as Soap of Milk & Honey – and Oatmeal) and have come back with nothing but praise for it with reports that it has helped their skin tremendously.
So, what is it that makes people desire this soap? It’s true that it won’t cure anything. The goat’s milk is vitamin-rich, containing vitamins A & E, both excellent for the skin. The oatmeal helps soothe skin. The honey acts as a humectant in addition to the naturally occurring glycerin, drawing moisture from the air to the skin. There is no added fragrance in this soap, and it has a lovely natural toasted oatmeal scent that comes out as the soap saponifies. If I had to sum up what, exactly, makes this soap so skin-friendly, I’d say its nakedness makes it shine.
Because very little I experience in my life as a professional soapmaker and vendor surprises me, having people tell me last year that they needed soap that’s even more naked than Au Naturel about knocked me off my feet. I learned that some people are very sensitive to oats and can’t use products containing them. Yet, they wanted an incredible goat’s milk-based soap without fragrance or oatmeal. For those people, I whipped up this little gem in January.
To call this a Castille soap would be a misnomer, though its only oil is olive oil, so it has the gentleness of Castille soap. It contains goat’s milk, with all its rich moisturizing properties and vitamins. It also has honey to lend its moisturization. This little jewel is Nude Beach, an ultra-gentle soap that will make your skin feel spectacular. Like Au Naturel, this one, also, is unscented.
So, which is it? Do you want to go Au Naturel or take a detour to the Nude Beach? Either way, both of these soaps will be kind to your skin, whether it’s young or old, particular or easy-going.
It has recently come up to me: “How come this soap is so much more expensive than soaps like The Perfect Man?” The soap is question was smaller and lighter, and certainly would lead someone to wonder how come it carries a higher price per ounce than soaps made with the cold process method.
Let’s take flip flop soaps as an example. Flip flop soaps weigh in at a hefty 5.75 ounces and sell for $10.00 each. In contrast, The Perfect Man weighs in at a smooth 5 ounces but costs two dollars less per bar. It all comes down to ingredients and labor.
This soap base costs more per ounce than an even larger quantity of oil or lye. Because of the limitations of moulds and the amount of soap I can make per batch, I could make three soaps, start to wrapped, in 12 hours; there is a lot of wait time in there in which my mould is tied up, unusable. On top of that, it takes about ten minutes to make, wrap, and label each bar of soap with those fabulous layers, not including the wait time, which I spend doing other things. By contrast, I can make 33 bars of soap in 40 minutes (with another 15-20 for wrapping/labeling). The soaps do have to sit for weeks to saponify and cure, but there it is: 33 bars in one hour versus 6 bars in one hour.
Here’s another of my melt & pour creations…
This little gem took a full 20 minutes to make. Yes. TWENTY minutes. A full third of an hour. And that doesn’t include wrapping and labeling.
While making these soaps can be enjoyable every now and then – it’s fun to watch a bar develop, layer by layer – they simply aren’t cost-effective to make for sale. That pelican was a diminutive 3-3.5 ounces but retailed at $12.00. Sure, he’s cute, but as fabulous as my soaps are, I don’t expect my customers to pony up $12.00 to look at a bar of soap.
Instead, I would much rather play with cold processed soap, experimenting with swirls and colors, playing with scents and sometimes, being completely WOWed at what’s revealed when we slice up the slab or the log of soap. Even though I might use the same colors and techniques between batches, because of the very nature of the creation, no two will ever be the same, and that’s exciting to us.
As our business has evolved and continues to evolve, expect to see much fewer novelty soaps and a greater number of artfully designed soaps using the cold process method. We enjoy having so much control over both the ingredients and the design, and, frankly, we don’t have 10 minutes or 20 minutes to spend making one bar of soap. We do, after all, want to clock out at some point during the day!
I love spring bulbs. Daffodils and hyacinths are my favorites. Planting bulbs in October’s chill is hopeful. We’re anticipating seeing those bright blooms after six months of cool (or cold), dark days. And the smell! Oh my goodness, there’s nothing like the subtle sunny smell of a bright yellow daffodil or the sweet aroma of a pastel rainbow of hyacinths. When I was a child, we had daffodils lining our driveway and hidden among the natural areas in the yard; I still smile thinking of those yellow spots amongst the greens and browns.
Several years ago when we lived in our townhouse, we planted some bulbs. There were so many! We’d gotten a little bit crazy, and in the back in front of the raised bed were crocuses and tulips, and in pots, one on either side of the sidewalk leading to the front door, were hyacinths. I was thrilled the first time I saw the first bud peeking up between the green leaves – thrilled, that is, until the snow buried the young blooms. Obviously, they didn’t do well that year, and, frankly, I was a little disappointed when my mystery bulbs of promised “assorted colors” turned out just to be pink and lavender. Don’t get me wrong; they were pretty before they got the deep freeze, and they did smell nice, but I’d hoped for more variety.
Then came the next spring. I did not realize that these bulbs I’d planted so lovingly a year-and-a-half before were technically tubers and had multiplied. Greatly. And the colors I’d longed for had arrived. Now, in addition to the pink and lavender, I had rich purple, white, dark pink, and yellow blooms, and each time I passed them, their sweet aroma with that hint of spice greeted me. I was in love!
My bulbs didn’t survive the move and resettlement. Trying to finish settling into a new home with a new baby and new routines just didn’t leave much energy for dealing with bulbs. Other plants grace the yard, different blooms and colors, but I still look forward to the autumn when I can see the freshly mounded dirt under which my bulbs are buried and the excitement of the little green shoots giving way to riotous blooms of color come spring.
To sort of tide me over until that day comes, I found a lovely hyacinth fragrance that perfectly reminds me of those glorious flowers. Some floral scents just don’t translate well into their fragrance oil counterparts, but this one is simply lovely. Yearning for a bit of springtime? Grab a bar of this gorgeous hyacinth soap to experience spring in your shower (especially for you folks that are having a white Easter). If you like spring flowers, you’ll love this soap!
It started with an angel. Long story short… Boy meets girl. Girl needs angel for her Christmas tree. Boy suggests this shop at the beach (not knowing that Girl LOVES this shop). They go to the shop, buy an angel, start a flotilla tradition. At one point, Girl sees people watching the flotilla from large balconies of an inn while sipping wine or hot chocolate – and not grappling for space on the boardwalk. Girl thinks, That sure would be nice. Over time, that becomes a reality, a part of the tradition.
That inn – an interesting hybrid between a bed & breakfast and a hotel – offers lovely, well-appointed rooms, great views, convenient location, and quite nice toiletries, one of which is lemon verbena soap. We’re talking real soap like what we make, not mass-produced syndet bars that leave the skin dry and itchy. One sniff, and I was hooked. The scent was lightly sweet and sharply lemony at the same time with beautiful green notes and just a tinge herbaceous.
It took me forever to find a similar lemon verbena scent. I found what was marketed as a lemon verbena essential oil, which was pretty nice, only to find out later it was a blend of synthetic and natural ingredients. L’Occitane‘s Lemon Verbena is fabulous, but too strongly lemon for what I was seeking. Imagine how excited I was when I found both a duplication of L’Occitane’s Lemon Verbena and another lemon verbena fragrance at one of my suppliers’ online stores! The L’Occitane is still too lemony, and the other fragrance is a bit too floral. But when I put them together in just a certain way… Whoa!!! It’s perfect! Lemony, green, floral, herbaceous.
I found my lemony love in this Lemon Verbena soap. it’s like sunshine in the shower, perfect for cold days, grey days… Shoot! It’s perfect for any day that you need your eyes opened. Yes, I’ll admit, I did have to steal a bar for my shower, but there are still several bars of this dream soap left for you to fall in love with.
The discussion came up with a customer: The question was, “Why is this soap so much more expensive than this other soap?”
That’s a fair question, certainly. Soap A (the less expensive one) requires a one-time pour with mica accents finger-brushed on top. Soap B (the soap in question) COULD just take a one-time pour of a single color of soap, but this customer was expecting it to be colorful, and “colorful” meant several individual pours of different colored soap. This took time, and since I’m a professional, time = money. And I had to craft each soap individually.
And as I make slabs of soaps, the types I can whip up in one glorious pour, I think of what it takes to make various soaps. I’ve made soaps before that are a simple scent and no color, or a scent and just one color. Those are quick and simple to make. Then there are the soaps with elaborate swirls and multiple colors, or soaps that contain interesting botanicals and custom created fragrance blends. Truth is, I could whip out batch after batch of no-color scented soap, but that would be so boring! We LOVE color! And design and fun, unique fragrances, and everything else we bring to our soaps! But creativity, again, takes time, and time is money, even when you enjoy what you do.
I tripped across this great video today that takes a look at the relationship between time and creativity.
I thought that I would change up my blog. I was thinking of one of my friends at the time I was writing this and decided that I would act as if I was talking to her and came up with questions she might ask. Hope this answers some of your questions!
Friend: What does the soap look like?
Me: The soap is pink with a fun amount of sparkles and a mango sorbet fragrance. With it being my first soap I would add a hint of blue to the pink color in the future. Mom says that I should start with one color, but I added sparkles to get close to the desired effect.
Friend: What good qualities does your soap have that will make people want it?
Me: It will be a small bar which will be easy for kids (and adults) to hold. Its fun fragrance will (ahem, should) make kids look forward to showering without bubblegum (take it from a young spurt, bubblegum can smell icky or get tiring). The soap has sparkles which gleam in the light some. It is very moisturizing, lather is a definite, and it is hard. I was rinsing off my cutting board after cutting it and I had a great lather. I love the soap (I kept a bar for myself).
Friend: If you were to sell it, what would you call it?
Me: Pink Paradise* or Pink Paradise Falls**. I’m leaning towards PPF, though if I do PP then I can do a series with Blue Paradise, Green, Orange, Purple, etc. I think that I’ll make another PP next year for sale, then every other month another color. I will be doing another soap (for sale) this year with the same recipe, and it will be Christmas-y. That will be sold online and at the Triangle area EPA show in November. I also do a show here called the Pender County Spring Fest.
Friend: How did you think the soap would turn out compared to how it turned out?
Me: I thought it would turn out sharper, more vivid, pinker. The top looks pretty and if the whole soap were that color, then the soap would look beautiful. The top is a powdery pink that, in my opinion, looks like pixie dust. The bottom is a sort of magenta, but not that dark, mixed with sparkles that add a welcoming touch. I really thought that the sparkles would come out more, that it would be darker or lighter.
Friend: What were some of your feelings as you made this soap?
Me: I was feeling exhilarated, happy, worried, slightly panicked, joyful, and free. I can make whatever I want (within reason) on any soap, swirl, etc. I was also very happy that Mom said I could. Truth be told, I don’t like Melt & Pour as much. They take up time freezing them and you have to monitor it. You can make a CP and leave it alone.
Friend: Give us some brief how-to’s.
Me: First, gather your supplies. Since I’m doing small batches then everything can be done in a 4 Cup measuring cup. Bigger batches are done in buckets.
4 cup measuring cup (4 cupper) Small container (yogurt container sort)
Spatula Wooden spoon
Big container (such as the containers you get when you order a quart of Chinese soup)
Oils, Lye, etc.
Goggles, Gloves, etc.
Soap rag (old baby diapers, washcloths)
Not all of your oils are going to be liquid. Put on your goggles, gloves, etc. and get the smaller container. Measure out your lye. In the big container, measure out your water (or ice). With the wooden spoon stir lye and water together but be sure to hold your breath; otherwise the fumes can hurt your throat. Once dissolved, set aside. You can take the protective gear off. Now measure out your solid oils. Mine were coconut, palm, and cocoa butter. Melt them in the microwave until liquid. Now you add your liquid oils. Mine were olive and avocado. Mix all your oils together and set them aside. Take another small container and scoop some of the oil mixture into it. Add your color to it and stir until smooth. Set your color aside. Measure out your fragrance and set aside.
Put your protective gear back on. Dump lye mixture into the oils. Take the stick blender and bring the mixture to a trace. It will be mixed together but thick. If you’re making tomato soup and it’s just out of the can, that’s about how thick it should be. Add the fragrance. Now you have one of two options. The soap will be a creamy white. You can add the color mixture now and stir the fragrance and color in, OR, you can stir in fragrance then add color. If you do option #2 then you have the option of not stirring the color in all the way and getting a swirl. Either way, when you get done, put it in a silicone mould, scrape it out (this is where the spatula comes in), and cover it with a box lined with cling wrap. Insulate your soap by covering it with towels and let rest for at least 24 hours before unmoulding. Take the soap rag and wipe your equipment before rinsing under warm water. “Make” it in a soap program and it should tell you how many days it has to cure (you can use it after it cures, usually about a month).