Tuesday, 29 September 2009

New Soaps - Broken Camera

I'm finally ready to show off some of my soaps! I'm so pleased and thrilled.... I no doubt needed a change in my life, with new challenges to face, new magic to learn to weave.

On the down-side, my camera is no longer working as it should. Fair enough, I've had it for almost 5 years, and it has taken thousands and thousands of pictures. Still, I was hoping it would be a bit before I would have to purchase a new one.

In the meantime, I've borrowed my daughter's camera.... and I'm desprately trying to figure out how to use the macro function (which should be easy enough to figure out.... but isn't always). So not all the pictures are as great as I would like them to be.

First picture: Wild Flower Soap. This soap is made from the last of the wild flowers picked from my sea side cabin.... with wild rose petals placed on top.

Christmas Spice Soap: soap made with the spices of All Spice (Allehånde krydder på norsk), cinnamon and a bit of oatmeal. This is the soap that is stinking up my hallway.... and no one is complaining.
Mint Soap: White Castille Soap mixed with fresh mint leaves. Mmmmm......

Cucumber Soap: this is cucumber soap mixed with bits of diced Castille soap. A really cool pattern.

Coffee Soap: made from both coffee with coffee grounds added. According to all the experts, this soap is what is needed for those working with fish, onions and garlic. And it feels really great on the hands.

Man's Soap from Juniper Berries: my first 'male based' soap made from juniper berries (einebær på norsk). I've chosen these berries both for the smell, but also because juniper berries have had disinfecting qualities.

One of my first Heather Soaps (Lyng på norsk). I've given many of these away to great reviews. I'm looking forward to making more of this soon.

Below is a simple soap with some Cherry Juice swirled into it.

And below is some Rose Hip soap (Nype) that I took out of it's form tonight.

Here it is before the big moment....

Gorgeous colors of reds, oranges and dark pinks....

And here they are all cut up.... ready to be dried.

I can't wait to try these ones!

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Another Weekend of Good Work

After many weekends at home, we finally were able to escape to our cabin and do some of the work that we actually enjoy.

We have started to cut down some trees, to prepare for our wood storage for 2010. Here's my husband busy at work.

We only cut down one small tree this time, as we intend to come many weekends over the autumn, and perhaps even into the winter time.

So this is what it looked like when it was all loaded up into our trailer.

We also started digging down through the soil to find solid rock, in order to start making foundations for the last part of the balcony which will be built next summer. For those who have forgotten where we were to dig, here is a before picture.

Pretty steep, which made the digging quite difficult. And, as our bad luck would have it, we couldn't actually find solid rock. Just lots and lots of very large tree roots. Digging around in the basement we were able to find a rusty saw to cut them out of the ground with.

We're not quite finished with this job, but as one can see we've removed enough earth to make the ground even steeper than it was before. And making it that much easier to work with. But luckily we can't imagine it can be more than a couple of hours more of work.

Below is my super cool, race car driving, brother-in-law, now having fun with his new toy. He has purchased this excavator to help with a lot of the work he is doing on his cabin. However at this point he is doing a small favor for my parent-in-laws.

We intend to be on his good side for quite some time as we have some reconstruction of our pathway that needs to be done.... which will be a lot easier with one of these.

Finally, I got to spend 5 or 6 hours over 2 days walking over 10 acres looking for fun ideas to make soap with. What is left of the fruit is over ripe, but this is fine as I have gathered it for color purposes only.

Here is the last of the red currants that could be plucked.
And this is not a great picture of the rose hips that I have gathered. Once I take out the seeds, the color should be stunning.

I was also really suprised to see how many wild flowers there was left this late in the year. I think I must have picked a whole bread bag worth of the. All of them are now lying nicely between pieces of paper towel, squished between magazines. Here is a picture of the first collection of flowers done early Saturday morning.

I have also put on my rain pants, and kneed my way through the blueberry bushes, tittebær bushes (a cousin to the cranberry, it grows on tiny bushes just centimeters from the ground). I've got exciting ideas of mixing these with orange and lemon zests.

I was also able to start picking a little bit of juniper berries, even though they are not quite in season yet. Most of them are still green. This is what can be seen in the smallest bag at the bottom.

I must say that I am really excited about adding a bit of juniper extract to my soap, as juniper has a disinfectant quality that has been used by many peoples in the days before modern medicine. More info on this as I experiment.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

A Whirlwind Weekend of Creativity

It's been a busy weekend for me..... with lots of creativity, combined with general house keeping, being with the kids, running errands, going out Friday night with my friends, etc.

Right now my world seems to be revolving around soap making. It's become almost an obsession for me. And now that I've made a few batches that have turned out seemingly perfectly, it was time to try something new.

I have made a batch of cucumber soap! Here is what you start with:

And then you give it a whirl with your favorite slicer and dicer.

Until it looks like this:

And here is what the soap looks like before it gets poured into the molds.

This went so well, that I thought I would try making some soap from some blueberry juice.

But oh no! When you add the lye to blueberry juice, it turns a shocking orange color. Oh well, I thought. I'm sure I'll come up with some clever title that will make the soap seem really appealing.

This soap making was done on Saturday night, after the kids had gone to bed. Sunday afternoon, I decided to try what is called the French Milling Process. It is also referred to as Hand Milling, but I think the first name sounds much more romantic.

My daughter has been asking me for weeks to let her help me with making soap. This of course is not an option because of the lye involved. However, I was willing to let her help me out here.

I decided to remake soap using heather, the national flower of Norway. Coincidentally enough, there was a big heather bush by my neighbors driveway - I stole a bit from there (I don't think he checks out this blog at all). The thought was that if this soap was a success, I would make the effort to do a bit of mountain hiking and gather some heather where no one would miss it.

It became my daughter's job to remove the small flowers from the even smaller branches.

In the meantime, I would grate some of the soap I had made previously and begin the remelting process.

Now, I'd only seen the French Milling procedure preformed once on YouTube. The woman there used double zip-lock bags and simply tossed the soap into the boiling water. I did not have any zip-lock bags, but simply thought 'It can't be any harder than melting chocolate. I'll simply use the same method.'

In the meantime my daughter dutifully continues her work. She's an interesting girl. Sometimes she's like many 5 year olds and works for a few minutes and then wants to go back to playing. Today however she worked at this for over 20 minutes, and never complained once.

Here's her at the beginning of her job:

And her she is having completed her work. Even I, who expect wonderous things from my children was really impressed.

So the thing that I learned about using the French Milling process is that it is NOT like melting chocolate. It takes a very long time. I have since found out that it can easily take over a full hour for the soap to melt, as did mine. But in the meantime I vaccuumed the floors, put the laundry away and cleaned up my workspace on the dining room table that my husband has been after me for days to get done.

But the soap finally melted, though it never did reach a liquid stage. Instead it became almost like a candy/toffee mixture and I in my great impatience just wanted to get things done. So I added a few drops of natural cherry coloring that was sent to me from Canada a number of years ago. Then I added some of the heather flowers.

Then I started to put the soap back into a mold. I had never done this before. In addition the soap was clearly a different consistency than it is when first made. So I found myself pushing and squishing it into all the corners of the plastic container.

I must admit I was quite unsatisfied with this idea of mine. In a desperate attempt to find an unplanned solution, I took out my muffin tins and lined them with cupcake holders. And I made little soap candies.

Very and so totally cool.

After I washed and cleaned up that mess, I saw I had a little bit more than an hour before Hubby came home from work (weekend shifts.... blah!). So I decided to hunker down and get the last of the work done, so that my evening would be free.

The soap that I made on Saturday night would come out of their molds. I was excited to see what would happen to the colors of the cucumber and blueberries during the chemical process.
Difficult to see here, above, but the blueberry soap had turned weird terricotta color. I'm still concidering what to do with this.... if there's any way to fix it, add to it, etc. Or perhaps our family will have a lot of soap that doesn't really look so great.

On the other hand, the cucumber soap turned out fantastically! A beautiful light yellow/green color with dark green specks. This really thrilled me and I plan to make more as soon as possible.

Now the picture below does not do justice to the soap. This is the cucumber soap and the color is not showing through as nicely as it is in real life.

And wouldn't you know that the blueberry soap looks much better after being photographed that it does in reality. In real life it's much more of a grey color.

So this is where I am in my journey of soap making. Next week I plan on making more cucumber soap.... that was so cool. And coffee soap. Look forward to updating....