Friday, July 28, 2017

Soapy Friday - More Tomatoes and Masterbatching Math

Happy Friday everyone! We're finally going to get some rain today, but first, a tomato windfall.

I went outside this morning to pick "Oh, 12-or-so tomatoes" and this is what I came back with...



Oh well, no rest for the weary or wicked.

On to soap, shall we?

It’s been an exciting week of sorts in the soap department. First, I finally was able to try out my “Summer Melon” soap and it was perfectly smooth and silky to use…no grit or scratchiness at all and it smelled wonderful! This is the green light I was waiting for to go forward.

"Summer Melon" measured up 
I’ve also been using my “Lovespell” soap and it is amazeballs; I’m so happy!

"Lovespell" soap and bath bombs...coming to a friends and family soon!
Secondly, I am going to geek out a little and talk about science. Specifically, soap science. So, if your eyes start to glaze over, you won't offend me. :-)


I’ve been curious about what is called “masterbatching” in soapmaking, which is not to be confused with Masterblaster from “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome”. But wouldn’t it be fun if these two made soap?

Let's go make soap!
Anywho, masterbatching is where you pre-mix large amounts of your lye water solution and oils in separate containers and set them aside for when you need to make soap. If, say, you want to make soap, instead of individually weighing and combining all your ingredients each time, you’d have them all pre-mixed in separate “masterbatches”. All you’d need to do is scoop/measure out what you’d need from each and be on your merry-little-way. This saves a TON of time in prep-work!

Specifically, I wanted to learn about masterbatching lye water. I didn’t really know you could do this and could set it aside at room temperature. Traditionally, when you mix lye with water, it heats up to about 180°, and then you have to wait till it cools down to around 100° before you can make soap. This can take about an hour or more. I often mix my lye water solution first and then I have to go find something else to do until it’s ready.

If you masterbatch your lye water, it’s always ready when YOU ARE, instead the other way around. The tricky part about this is you often have to calculate, based on your recipe, how much lye water solution to add to your oils to make soap, as the lye and water are no longer two separately measurable ingredients.

For example, if you make a 50/50 masterbatched lye water solution (meaning 50% of that solution is lye and 50% is water) and your recipe calls for 4.61 oz. of lye and 9.15 oz. of water, how much of the concentrated lye water solution would you need instead of the 2, separate ingredients?

To go even deeper, if you needed to add MORE liquid to that 50/50 lye solution to make your recipe, how much would you need to add?

Ummm....

This is me in real life
IKR? It sounds like one of those annoying math word problems on a test. And believe me, I've been banging my head around trying to understand this, BUT I'm pretty confident I've got a handle on it. 

You see,  through this I've learned there are two types of people in the soapmaking world: Those who calculate their recipes based on water as a % of oils and those who calculate their recipes based on the lye concentration requirements for each recipe. 

Most "newbies" (including myself) and casual crafters have used the former. In fact, most DIY and craft websites use the "water as a % of oils" approach to calculate a soap formula. It's the easiest and most forgiving to understand and grasp, but it's not consistent and leaves room for error, as it assumes that ALL oils are the same and saponify at the same rate.

You see, each oil has it's own separate saponification requirements...some oils (such as olive oil) need more lye to turn them into soap, and some oils (such as coconut) need less. When calculating a recipe basing the water requirements as a % of  the total amount of oils, it assumes that all oils in the recipe, regardless of what they are, need the same amount of water/lye amount. 

If you are calculating your recipe based on the lye concentration requirements necessary for all the different oils in the recipe, it's more precise and reliable. I REALLY could go into nerdom and talk to the different percentages of lye concentration mixes and how they perform in soapmaking, but I think this is enough for now.  In fact, I'm probably not explaining what I have explained exactly right...it's complicated.

I've run some of my previous recipes back thru using the lye concentration vs. water as a % of oils approach and have been shocked and validated on the results and my hunches. This is why some of my recipes haven't been doing what I've wanted them to do and I'm confident that things will be going in a MUCH different direction from here on.

Friday, July 21, 2017

July Canning

Since I'm taking a small break from soapmaking, I've turned my attention back to the kitchen. Tomatoes are coming in, so it's time to get busy!

This week I've made Annie's Salsa, Dill Pickles, Crushed Tomatoes, and some Sour Cherry Jam. I also whipped up a batch of Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread, which was pretty amazing!

Plus, it's too damn hot to be outside!

It's been a busy week in the kitchen!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Garden in July

I'm not going to have a Soapy Friday post this week, as I'm waiting to see how some of my latest samples perform, so it's back to our regularly, scheduled broadcast. :-)

This has been the driest summer that we've had to date. Even 2015, as bloody hot as it was, had more rain than this summer (according to my records). And with temperatures regularly in the 90's with the heat index into the 100's, everything is suffering. My rain barrels have only filled up once, and have been completely drained. This has never happened. I've never been able to completely drain my rain barrels before a rain shower comes along and refills.

Even the turtles, which we spot on our property every year, have retreated to the cooler, damper areas of the woods. We haven't seen a turtle on our property at all this year.

And so it goes.

I've managed to keep the flower beds, hosta beds, and vegetable garden watered and alive. I've started installing Mister Landscaper micro-irrigation around the property where I can and it's made a big impact on my watering chores.

The lawn has only been cut once in the past 6 weeks as well. We found that keeping the grass taller has helped preserve it during hot-spells like this, as we don't have an irrigation system, nor do we water.

The tomatoes are starting to come in heavy. We had our first BLT last night for dinner, and I'm canning crushed tomatoes in the kitchen as I type. :-)


The back perennial bed is filling-out. I'm still getting used to the whole "The 1st year they sleep, the 2nd year they creep, and the 3rd year they leap" gardening concept up here. In Florida, it was growing season ALL year-long, so plants matured and filled-out quicker.



Even the perennial beds in the front of the house look dreamy. I need to thin and divide much of these plants over this fall.


I was mentioning to my friend Mary, how summer bums me out. I just can't wait for it to be over and I hate the heat, although I love the fresh produce! I live for the fall, winter, and spring.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Soapy Friday - Fall Leaves and Citrus Energy

Happy Friday everyone!

There wasn't much going on this week due to me waiting to see how my last couple of batches of soap perform after they cure...

But first, fall leaves in July! Can you believe this?

October in July?
It's been so dang hot and dry that our tulip poplar trees have already shed 10-15% of their leaves due to heat stress and lack of water. Usually, they start to drop a few leaves here-and-there in July, but I've never seen this much!

The veggie garden is starting to pick up, so I guess it's a good thing that I'm taking a small break from soap (sort of).

Maters are coming it
On to soap, shall we?

Like I said, not much happened this week, but I did manage to make a double batch of what I am calling "Citrus Energy" olive oil soap. I usually make my olive oil soaps 100% natural and only use essential oils, but I didn't have enough orange and grapefruit essential oils to make this batch, so I subbed in some "Energy" fragrance oil from Bramblerberry.com. It smells just like orange essential oil.

Waiting for release
I usually can unmold in a day, maybe two, but when I tried to unmold this morning, the bottoms were still a little soft, so I am going to let it sit for another day or two. I might have used too much fragrance oil, which upped my total liquid amount and is making the soap a little softer.

I did try another lotion recipe that contained only 7 ingredients: water, olive oil, emulsifying wax, vegetable glycerin, vitamin-e oil, a preservative, and fragrance oil. I liked how it turned out and made 5 sample bottles, which were given away to friends. I've been using the one bottle and I really like it. I made it with an "Anjou Pear and Lime" fragrance oil blend, which makes me think of summer and fall at the same time.

Of all the soapy things I make, lotion is the easiest and gives me the fastest gratification...basically it's ready to use right after you mix it and put it in the bottle (after cooling).

That's all for this week, friends!

Friday, July 07, 2017

Soapy Friday - Summer Veggies and Soap Trials

Happy Friday everyone! It's a short week for many, but they always feel longer to me as you have to try to fit 5 days of work into 3.

But first, a peek at the first summer tomatoes and eggplant from my veggie garden...

Future dinner
I didn't quite make my July 4th deadline for a ripe tomato, but that's okay. This little plate of loveliness will be grilled up and made into some yummy bruschetta for dinner tonight.

On to soap, shall we?

I gave my first shot at coffin bombs and they turned out pretty cute. The rose petals made the sides crumble off a little, but otherwise, I think it's a good start. I'm going to take them to my UPS lady today; I'm sure she'll be thrilled!

Coffin bombs...for people dying to take a bath!
I made some more 100% Olive Oil soap in "Peppermint Patchouli". I love to use peppermint soap in the summertime; it's so refreshing and cooling after a hot day outside. I'm pretty set on my Olive Oil soap ingredients and process and it's one of the most favorited soaps from my friends and family.

"Savon de la Bonne Mere Marseille" means "Soap of the Good Mother from Marseille" LOL!
I tried another batch of my "Old Faithful" 5-oil soap recipe with the 15% water discount to see if it would give me the same results and it did. I made a "Summer Melon" soap using a melon/peach blend of Fragrance Oil (FO). It turned out nice, but has a little soda ash on top.

"Summer" Melon soap
Making soap is a lot like making pickles: you don't know what you've got until they're ready, and that can take a while. So, I think I am going to hold off making more of my "Old Faithful" soaps for a while until some of the newer soaps cure and I can try them out in the shower/bath.

Need to test drive some of these soaps!
My earlier batches of soap over the past months had a tendency to be scratchy, even when I didn't add any exfoliating clays or charcoals. I think that was due to me not knowing about melting my solid oils down enough and the stearic acid within the oils wasn't dissolving.

I want to see how my newer soaps, where I've melted my oils clear, perform and feel in the shower/bath and I need to let them cure. I don't want to waste expensive ingredients on soap that doesn't measure-up.

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