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....


BlueTerracotta said...

Soap making looks like fun and the end result looks great too! I'd love to try the cucumber soap. I wish you all the best with this project :)

ira said...

Wow the soaps looks so delicious Nicole. I wish a great succes for your new business!:)