“This stuff WORKS!”

It’s always good to know my soaps effectively clean and moisturize, but then again, I or anyone in my family could tell you that. We’re the reason I can never claim “Not tested on animals,” because my husband, daughter, friends and parents become my guinea pigs for each batch. What feels good, though, I’ll admit, is finding out my soaps will not just take care of the routine, run-of-the-mill, every day dirt, but that they’ll also do the job against serious dirt, too.

This is a small part of Jim, one of my best friends. Anti-seize

Jim’s really into motorcycles – he has two Buell’s – and, like most dedicated bikers, he does his own maintenance work. The silver stuff all over his finger is Anti-Seize. It’s an aluminum-impregnated grease that not only lubricates moving parts, but it also keeps them from rusting together. It’s thick, it’s nasty and it’s extremely difficult to wash off.

Jim’s also a coffee junky. So when I made my coffee mocha soap, I gave him a bar to test out, thinking he’d use it in the shower. Coffee mocha also has a pretty noticeable vanilla note, which also appealed to him. Here’s that soap:

Coffee Mocha Soap

The day after I gave him the soap, Jim IM’ed me, “This stuff WORKS!” I was a bit nonchalant about it: “Well, yes, I know it works. It’s soap. It’s supposed to.” That’s when he went on to explain to me about anti-seize and how effective the soap is even against that.

So, give the soap a try. I don’t think there’s anything magical about the Coffee Mocha scent, or about the little bit of baking cocoa I added for color. I think the magic comes in the soap itself and the fact that’s it really, truly soap. Let’s face it. Detergent’s great for clothes and dishes, but not for skin. Using the mess you get at the grocery store would be like having head-to-toe dishpan hands.

Getting Rebatched – How God Makes Us Better

Our pastor said yesterday that we’re like clay pots that get broken before being put back together in order to be useable. Being a soapmaker and not a potter, I can’t help but think in terms of soap, so instead I think that we get rebatched.

First, my reason for not completely agreeing with the broken pot analogy… Broken pots can be mended and glued back together. However, while they’re perfectly functional, they still have these vulnerable parts where the cracks are. Glue’s not quite as hard as clay that’s been kiln-fired, leaving the pot vulnerable to leaks.

When I make soap – or when anyone makes homemade soap, for that matter – there’s always the risk that something will go wrong. This doesn’t happen often, but it does happen, and a few weeks ago, it happened to me for the first time. I’d made some CPHP soap in cucumber aloe and was attempting to mould it in a plastic tray of guest-sized soaps. Done perfectly, I’d have ended up with 15 1.25-ounce bars of soap that smelled fresh and clean but that also had the nourishing properties of the aloe vera juice I’d put into it. They didn’t turn out perfect. The soap itself was fine. It smelled good, the lather was fabulous when I cleaned out the crock pot and it was perfectly functional. However, it wouldn’t come out of the mould. I tried. My husband tried. We even let it sit for a few days, thinking it’d shrink up some with its cure and it’d pop right out, but to no avail. The bars ended up rough and ugly. So, I decided, since this was, after all, an experimental batch, to further experiment and rebatch them.

If you’re a bar of soap, rebatching is HARD. First, I grated the soap with our cheese grater (sacrificing a fingernail and a bit of a knuckle in the process). Then I put it in a bowl with a bit of warm water and milk for a few hours to let it draw some of the moisture back into it. So, at this point, the soap’s been grated or broken and is being rehydrated. Then I stuck it in the oven for a couple of hours so it’d melt. Finally, on a whim, I added a bit of ultramarine green to it for a dash of color. The soap got “broken,” changed and heated up before it went back into the mould for several hours in the hopes it’d be pretty and functional at the end.

God does the same thing to us. When we’ve screwed up, God breaks us, adds things to our lives and makes things pretty hot around us, all to make us into something better. Even when we haven’t messed up, even when we’re doing all that we should and are walking closely with Him, God still might “rebatch” us to make us into something even better. It’s through our own trials, whether we bring them on ourselves or not, that make us better able to serve and help those around us.

The soap did turn out pretty in the end. The top is rough because the soap was thick – as it should be – when I put it in there. However, the soap still smells wonderful and is a lovely green. I’m thinking about sending it to a business a friend owns called The Purple Box to go out to her customers in sample packs.

Website Launch for Sara’s Soaps ‘n Such

It’s with great joy and no little fanfare that I announce the launching of my new website. It was almost there last week, but I spent two full days tweaking it, improving on it and adding even more amazing new products to it. Please check it out, but even better, order something! The site is http://www.sarassoapsnsuch.com/. It was a labor of love; in fact, a friend of mine compares it to actually being in labor and giving birth. I have to disagree; the website was much harder and took about as long.

So, what’s new? Well, you’ve heard me talking about my homemade soaps ; now you get to check them out. The ingredients are pure; the majority are naturally scented with essential oils, though I do offer scent-free and color-free soaps for those who are sensitive. Quantities are limited on the Ooh La La-vender soaps, but more will be ready in about a week-and-a-half. On the curing rack I also have Ylang Ylang, which will be ready Monday, 30 June, and Blue Ridge Breeze, which will be ready this Friday.

I’ve also put my bath teas on the website. Each one is a unique blend of flowers, herbs, botanicals and other natural ingredients designed to serve different purposes. My favorite is Ooh La La-vender. Its combination of goat’s milk and lavender buds makes for a purely indulgent, very relaxing treat. My daughter, who’s so sweet the mosquitos and ants just love nibbling on her, likes Itchin’ & Scritchin’ Tub Tea. This one is simply a blend of chamomile and oatmeal. Its light scent smells rather like apple-y pineapple, and the ingredients help descrease the size of the bites and provides relief from the itching.

There is even more new stuff in the works, such as lotion bars and an all natural itch-relief balm.

Be well.

On Becoming

One of the best soaps I make from scratch is my Ooh La La-vender, a goat’s milk soap with a purple swirl and a delicious lavender scent. Goat’s milk is wildly popular right now for its skin-nourishing properties, and lavender essential oil is always a much sought after aromatherapy scent. While lavender in lotions and MP soaps tends to stay pretty herbaceous/floral, in CP it develops more, resulting in a spicy, herbaceous scent with just the slightest hint of floral underneath. Both men and women have liked it with the men commenting that it’s a good lavender, simply because it doesn’t smell girly.

While Ooh La La-vender develops into this sensuous soap, able to transport the user to a state of aromatherapy-induced mellowness, the raw soap is anything but sensuous or mellow. In fact, it stinks! Imagine caustic scalded milk that sort of burns your airways when you smell it. That’s what this soap smells like as it’s in process. The addition of the lavender scent does nothing but layer on an initially strong lavender smell on top of the caustic scalded milk smell. The soap is becoming.

I think we’re like that, too. We don’t start out “finished,” any more than soap does. It takes work – experiences, decisions, beliefs, community – to complete the “becoming” process. Actually, unlike with soap, we as people never finish. Yet, in our process of becoming, sometimes we stink. Sometimes we may be somewhat caustic. Hopefully we’re often willing to be raw. We have to interact with people far different from us, just as lye interacts with oils and butters, in order to achieve optimal results. Our hope is that, upon completing this process, or perhaps even during it, other people can use us to enrich their lives, just as a good bar of soap will enrich ours.

The Homemade Soap Addiction Continues

I’ve moved from handcrafting MP soaps to also making CP soaps, and now I’ve drifted over into CPHP (crock pot hot process) soaps. All three of these soapmaking methods are enjoyable. With MP, I get to play with awesome designs and really creative designer soaps. With CP (cold process), I have the ultimate say on exactly what goes into my soaps and how much. I get to lovingly tend to the freshly-poured soap, insulating it, keeping it safe, then waiting more-or-less patiently as it sets up. Then I get to cut it, revealing each slice and in the weeks it takes the soaps to cure and harden, our entire downstairs smells wondrously of the curing soaps.

Once I got comfortable with CP, I decided on a whim to experiment with CPHP. Hot process is actually where soap began. Settlers didn’t have weeks to wait for soap to cure. Just imagine a woman standing over a black iron kettle stirring soap with a long wooden spoon over an open flame. That’s the root of HP. HP is like CP, only I use heat to speed through the gel phase, so when the soap is ready to pour into the mould, it’s actually fully saponified soap. Several hours later when it’s completely hardened and ready to unmould, it’s ready to use. In short, HP is ready to use immediately, but it takes a week of curing and hardening before it’s ready to sell.

HP is fun, because I have the ingredient control of CP, but the more instant gratification of MP. HP doesn’t set up pretty, though. It’s very glumpy when it’s still loose, so the top doesn’t look very smooth like with CP. That’s OK to me, though. As a fellow soaper said in an online forum we’re both on, the rough top just makes it look more homemade. My first batch was Aloe and Tea Tree. The batch I’m working on as I type this is going to be Lemon Verbena. I’m experimenting with an infusion of dandilion flowers as my colorant. As far as I know, it’s never been done before. The challenge is finding enough of them to infuse, as well as finding some that haven’t been chemically treated. Roadsides are good for this, though I understand that some city and county police officers aren’t always so understanding of crafters harvesting wildflowers (read: weeds) on the side of the road, though I didn’t have any trouble the day I harvested mine. Once I get this batch done, I’ll take some pictures to post.

Goat’s Milk and Lavender Soap and My New Mould

I’m happy to say that my second batch of cold process soap came out (and I mean really came out) much better than my first. My husband built this soap mould for me. It’s not very big – 107.something cubic inches, which holds about 4 pounds or so of soap. At this point, however, that’s all I want to make in a batch.

Beginning soapmakers are supposed to keep it simple – lye, easily obtained oils, water and maybe scent. We’re not supposed to be jazzing up our combinations of oils, using liquids other than water or trying to achieve fancy patterns and effects. I got a little crazy with this batch. First, I opted for goat’s milk in place of the water. I had it nice and slushy, and it still turned orange. Then I combined my oils, including shea butter and cocoa butter for super hardness and superior moisturizing. I got to trace in no time!

My new ultramarine violet powder colorant was burning a hole in the colorant shelf, so I had to use it somehow, someway. I pulled a little soap out, colored it, then went to work on the swirls. Fast forward a bit until we’re at the next day. The soap has set up completely and is ready to come out of the mould. I cut it into bars, and the swirls impressed me deeply. The majority of the soap is still sort of orangish yellow from the lye/goat’s milk mixture. The soap still will clean well, though.

Doing the seemingly impossible

Most people wouldn’t think this is any big deal at all. Then again, most people haven’t seen me backing out of my parents’ (very straight) driveway and still managing to drop a wheel onto the grass. Generally, I drive very well. I don’t take my time getting from Point A to Point B, but overall, I’m a good driver. I’m well experienced at U-turns and getting lost on occasion has given me some great opportunities to practice 3- and 5-point turns. I’ve gotten better at parallel parking, too. Backing into a parking place, though, especially between two cars, is rather nerve-wracking. I’ve pretty much always been able to do this in my car, but doing it in my husband’s truck when I can’t see over the tailgate very well, plus have this trailer hitch sticking a foot off the back is rather more of a challenge.

I’ve had to get better at it, though, since I use his truck for First Sunday. First Sunday in Pittsboro, NC is a fabulous event, even when the weather’s less than beautimous – the people are wonderful and the other vendors are as nice as they can be. However, parking to unload to set up is always something of a challenge. The roads leading into the Historic District are all two-lane, and the road where we set up has angled parking places, angled, of course, in the direction of traffic. That means, to back the truck into a parking place near where my space is, I have to drive – hopefully – into a vacant parking place across the street from where I want to park. Now, keep in mind, the parking places are angled, so the angles are completely different – one zigs, the other zags. While I’m doing this, I’ve got traffic stopped in both directions, watching and waiting for me to get my big ol’ truck (OK, so it’s really not that big, unless you’re used to driving a compact sporty car) out of the street. Of course, there are never 2 or 3 empty parking places so I can be as messy a parker as I want to be. No, I’m stuck squeezing my truck in between two cars, hoping and praying I don’t hit the cars on either side, and also hoping my trailer hitch doesn’t hit the tree behind me.

New Soaps

I made my first batch of cold process soaps on Friday. For those who aren’t so familiar with soap jargon, cold process soaps are the old-fashioned lye soaps. The idea of working with the lye was intimidating at first, but I just used all the safety precautions and had no problems whatsoever. This first batch is completely all natural – colored a pretty pumpkin orange with paprika and scented with a ginger bergamot essential oil blend. I’ll probably scent some batches in the future with fragrance oils just to get rid of them to make room for more essential oils. (My storage space is getting a bit crowded.) Today I ordered a couple of ultramarine pigments, beautiful, rich, natural colorants. Tomorrow I’ll likely buy some spices to use for other natural colorants.

The soaps came out of the mould today – rather ungracefully. That’s the last time I use a plastic mould for CP! I was able to hand-mould them into something approximating rectangles and can trim them when they’re cured in a few weeks. I’m excited about this new adventure in soapmaking and look forward to expanding this product line as part of my business. Start looking for these on my site around late May and early June.

Sensuality

One of the joys of my business is how I keep coming up with new and great (well, I think they’re great, anyway) products that will bring only good things to my customers. I believe that every person – man, woman, young and old – deserves high quality bath and body products. No one should have to settle for inferior products that are produced overseas in sweatshops and that are bad for your skin. Sensuality is also important and often terribly overlooked. When people hear the word “sensuality,” they think it’s dirty somehow, referring to carnal pleasures only. While carnal pleasures can indeed be very sensual, I’d like to encourage you to open your mind to envision what else falls under this umbrella of “sensual pleasures.”

Sensual pleasures are all those things we enjoy perceiving through our senses. What do you delight in seeing? Your spouse? A sunset? Your child at play? The mountains in fall as they’re burnished with brightly colored leaves? What do you like to hear? The sound of rain on the roof. The ocean lapping gently at the shore. A well-played piece of classical music. What tastes good to you? The way a bite of cheesecake melts on your tongue. The spices in a perfect piece of fried chicken. A juicy, red, ripe strawberry, just picked off the plant and still warm from the sun. None of these are bad things, and enjoying them isn’t bad, either.

While my products do engage you visually, their highest appeal comes in their scent and texture. Or maybe they take you to a new level of sensuality, more of a psychic sensuality – that satisfaction and contentment that comes only in knowing you’re doing something special for yourself. What smells good to you? What feels good? Can you imagine using a naturally scented product that captures you, wrapping you in aromatherapy benefits? Envision how soft and silky your skin would feel after using a shea butter and sugar scrub. Sink into a warm bath, fragranced with a deluxe herb blend and nourished with goat’s milk. These, too, are good experiences.

I offer experiences like this. When was the last time you actually enjoyed the soap you bathe with? When did you last like the way it treated your skin and made you feel? How long has it been since lotion was more of a luxury than a need to treat dry, damaged skin? Do you even remember the last time you allowed yourself the time to take a tub bath? I invite you to enjoy bath and shower time again. Treat yourself to mini spa treatments as you use my Revitalizing Body Polish, a luxurious shea butter and sugar scrub. Enjoy a 30-… Oh, go ahead, put the kids to bed, tell your spouse to give you some privacy and make it an hour-long vacation as you soak in an aromatherapy bath with a bath tea bag, allowing all your stresses and troubles to drown themselves in warm water, only to be swept down the drain with the bath water when you’re done. Bathe with soap that wakes up your senses, giving you a little boost for the day ahead. You really do deserve it.

Flipping for the Flops and Running for the Son

Motorcycles, Jesus, soaps and flip flops. It’d seem that in no way, form or fashion, these would never go together. Yet, they have and they’ll continue to do so for the next few days.

These flip flops are my newest soap creations, and they’re selling faster and better than even I had imagined (and I’m very positive about my products). In fact, I sold 24 of these soaps in 21 days!!! One of my soaper friends, as I was sharing my excitement over these soaps’ popularity, said, “You could say people are flipping over your flops.” That they are. Two of them are scented with custom scent blends (the purple and blue flowered ones) and the third (pink flower) is scented with a delightful Victoria’s Secret (type) scent – Sexy Little Things.

OK, so I’ve tied in flip flops and soap, but how about motorcycles and Jesus, and what in the world do they have to do with the first two? My dad’s in a Christian motorcyle group (Christian Motorcyclists’ Association – http://www.cmausa.org/), and this coming Saturday, 3 May, is their annual Run for the Son, an event to help raise money that will enable Christian bikers all over the world to share the love of God with people.

My dad has bought a few of these soaps to give to his home health patients and colleagues, and I decided, since he’s been supporting my business in this way, both in buying soaps and spreading my business name to people outside my immediate selling area, that I’d support this ministry that is so near and dear to his heart. I’ve decided to give a generous portion from the sales of these soaps to sponsor him in Run for the Son. So far, my friends, family and customers have helped raise nearly $100.00, just in the past 3 weeks since these soaps debuted. The sale of just two more soaps will get us over the $100.00 mark. Think we can do it? I do!

Each soap costs $6.00 (plus tax for fellow North Carolinians) and weighs a hefty 5 3/4 ounces. To give you a basis of comparison, a standard store-bought “bath bar” (which isn’t actually soap at all) weighs about 3 1/2 ounces. My soaps are handcrafted in small batches, using only the finest glycerin bases available. So, if you feel compelled to actually use them, then know you’ll be bathing with a delightfully moisturizing bar of “real soap,” as one of my customers calls them.

My website – http://www.sarassoapsnsuch.com/ – is one payment module bug away from being completely ready to go. However, feel free to browse it, and if you’d like to order the flip flops or any other products you see, you can pay through Paypal at orders@sarassoapsnsuch.com.