Monday musings: Handmade soap and good, clean fun

Monarch butterfly egg on milkweed

That tiny white dot near the middle vein of the milkweed leaf is a monarch butterfly egg!

For the last week, monarch butterflies have been busy laying eggs in my milkweed patches. I love monarchs and I grow milkweed every year with the hope that I’ll have a successful caterpillar. It hasn’t happened yet but maybe this is the year?

Handmade soap

There are so many creative soap makers that inspire us. Check out some of our favorite finds on Pinterest! (Are we pinning buddies there? We should be.)

Good, clean fun

If you’re not following us on Facebook, here’s some of the fun you missed:

  • The science of cute – Next time your boss catches you looking at cute animals online, just tell them it’s scientifically proven to make you more productive.
  • Rudeness is contagious – Just be kind.
  • Watch your tone – This would be a useful tool for those times when being kind is difficult.

Previous musings from Emmet Street you might have missed

When I’m in a mental slump at work or at home, there really is nothing like furry animals doing adorable things to a catchy soundtrack to break me out of it. The one animal that is guaranteed to put a smile on my face is the sloth. A 30 second video of a sloth eating an almond leaf is all I need brighten my day. Even Sir David Attenborough can’t resist the slow moving power of the sloth!

What’s your favorite way to destress and unwind after a rough day at work?

How I learned to make handcrafted soap

My visit to the Otion soap bar in Seattle

My visit to Otion: The Soap Bar, Bramble Berry’s store in Bellingham, Washington.

Isn’t the internet awesome? Without the internet my productivity would plummet because I’d have no adorable animals to ooo and ahh over in the middle of a stressful work day. I wouldn’t be able to prove Matt wrong when he misidentifies an actor in a movie (thanks for all your help IMDB). Most importantly, I would have never started Emmet Street Creations or even found the fulfilling craft of artisan soap making.

For me, it all started with an internet search for handmade Christmas gifts. I found an article by Martha Stewart illustrating how to make melt and pour soap and after one weekend, I was hooked.

I spent hours looking at every resource I could find related to soap making. I quickly became overwhelmed by the amount of information available. How could I, a novice soap maker, know who to trust? How could I be sure that the recipe some stranger posts online is actually safe to use? I nearly gave up before I even started.

Then I found her. Anne-Marie Faiola, The Soap Queen.

I stumbled across her blog and I knew I was seeing something different. The blog is full of tutorials for all skill levels, inspiration, troubleshooting guides, business advise and even the random food recipe. (I highly recommend the banana quinoa pancakes.)

Before I ever made my first batch of soap, I did weeks worth of research. I started where every aspiring soap maker should start, with the Basics of Cold Process Soap Making. This four part video series by Anne-Marie is a quick and concise overview of the soap making process. I watched this series several times and took detailed notes about everything from lye safety to the tools that Anne-Marie used. I read “The Soapmaker’s Companion,” by Susan Miller Cavitch, from cover to cover, twice. I carefully gathered all of my soap making tools and supplies. Once I felt like I understood the process completely, I dove in and made a batch of plain, unscented soap. It came out perfectly thanks to my hours of preparation!

The Soap Queen’s blog is the official blog of Bramble Berry, the soap supply company Anne-Marie created. To be fair, one of the goals of the blog is to sell Bramble Berry products by showcasing all the wonderful things you can make with them. But, it’s more than just a marketing ploy. If your business succeeds and you sell more products, then their business succeeds because you’ll come back for more supplies. It’s in their best interest to fully test their recipes and products to ensure they are giving you only the best information. They even make themselves available to their customers to troubleshoot why something might have gone wrong in a batch of soap.

Thanks to Anne-Marie and the Soap Queen blog, I can now formulate my own recipes, decide on my own color and scent combinations and figure out what I did incorrectly when a batch goes wrong. I can also look at other resources with an objective eye and decide if the information is good or bad.

If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “I’d love to learn how to make soap,” then start with Anne-Marie and the Soap Queen blog. You’ll be happy you did!

P.S. The opinions in this post are completely my own. I have not been provided with any products or compensation to write about the awesomeness of Anne-Marie and Bramble Berry. 

Monday musings: Handmade soap and good, clean fun

Drop swirl handmade soap

Last week  I made my most ambitious soap to date and I was finally able to slice it. It turned out better than I hoped! This colorful design, scented with cannabis flower fragrance oil, was made using one of my favorite soap making techniques, the drop swirl. This technique simply involves pouring alternate colors of soap directly into the mold in a back and forth motion. Check out this video from Modern Soapmaking to see how it’s done. Soaps made using this technique are like snowflakes, no two are ever alike. And there is no way to know what the soap will look like until you slice it.

Handmade soap

There are so many creative soap makers that inspire us. Check out some of our favorite finds on Pinterest! (Are we pinning buddies there? We should be.)

Good, clean fun

If you’re not following us on Twitter, here’s some of the fun you missed:

  • Help an urban bird – Cities are home to 20% of the world’s bird species. These innovative bird house give them a helping hand.
  • How did this happen? – I didn’t plant anything in my fire pit this year so the four different types of squash that are now growing out of it where a happy surprise. I suspect the seeds came from my composting efforts.
  • Setting your face on fire for beauty – Don’t try this at home. Actually, don’t try this at all. It just seems dangerous.

Previous musings from Emmet Street you might have missed

Instead of setting your face on fire, try a simple cucumber yogurt face mask. You’re face will feel refreshed and your skin will actually feel tighter. While you let the cooling mask do it’s work, sip on a delicious glass of water infused with cucumber, lime & mint.

Dealing with a surplus of garlic: 3 tasty ideas

Garlic bunch

 

Last fall, I planted 40 cloves of garlic in my herb garden. I spent the spring binge eating garlic scapes and a few days ago, I harvested 35 bulbs of garlic. (Some of the plants didn’t survive the winter.)

If you are wondering what I’m going to do with so much garlic, you aren’t alone. I’ve been wondering the same thing since last fall. Of course, I’ll give some bulbs away and put a few in storage for winter use. But I’ll still have quite a lot of garlic left after that.

I’ve been searching for recipes for recipes that call for a lot of garlic and I thought I’d share some of my favorite ideas.

  • 44 clove garlic soup – Using 44 cloves of garlic would certainly use up a large chunk of my stash. And I should be safe from vampires after eating this.
  • Creamy Roasted Garlic Butter – I might have drooled a little at the thought of slathering this on a big hunk of bread.  Bonus: I can make a bunch and freeze it!
  • Garlic Powder – Anytime I can break out my dehydrator, I’m a happy woman.

Do you grow garlic or have you received a large supply of garlic recently? How do you plan to use it? Share your ideas in the comments, I’d love to them!

 

Monday musings: Handmade soap and good, clean fun

Cannabis flower soap

Ever since The Grateful Dead announced they were going to do some reunion concerts, I’ve had a plan to make a psychedelic swirled soap. I was excited to find a fragrance oil called, “Cannabis Flower” a few weeks ago. It’s a really nice scent that smells very green and herbaceous with floral undertones. Last week I used it to make a five color swirl soap using hemp seed oil. I can’t wait to slice this soap to see how it turned out inside!

Handmade soap

There are so many creative soap makers that inspire us. Check out some of our favorite finds on Pinterest! (Are we pinning buddies there? We should be.)

If you are interested in seeing more great examples, check out the Ebru soap challenge from Amy Warden of Great Cakes Soapworks. Some day I’ll work up the courage to enter one of her challenges.

Good, clean fun

If you’re not following us on Facebook, here’s some of the fun you missed:

Previous musings from Emmet Street you might have missed

Summer has finally started here in Ohio, this last weekend we had temperatures in the 90s! Is it sweltering where you live? Stay cool with a tall glass of lavender vanilla lemonade.

Warm temperatures means outdoor actives and with outdoor activities come outdoor pests. Check out these tips for staying tick free this summer.

Don’t forget your pets feel the heat as much as you do. Never leave them closed up in a hot car. Just a few minutes can kill. Try some of our other ideas for keeping your canine friend cool.

Soap making secrets: Using indigo powder as a natural colorant

Soap making secrets: Using indigo powder as a natural colorantA few weeks ago, I spent some time at the Cleveland Botanical Garden and was so inspired by the herb and dye gardens that I decided to work with indigo powder as a natural colorant in my soap.

Indigo is a plant-based dye that has been used for thousands of years as a dye for cloth and pottery. Did you know it’s also used in bath and body products? Plant-based indigo powder is thought to have anti-inflammatory effects on the skin, which can help reduce the irritation of dry or sensitive skin. But the main reason I wanted to use it in my soap was for its color.

I used indigo powder in two different ways to achieve different looks.  For the striped soap on the left in the picture above, I mixed a small amount of indigo powder with olive oil. I then added the mixture to a small portion of the soap batter to make a dark blue layer. This soap is scented with a nice unisex blend that has fruity notes of lime, lemon zest and apple, along with floral notes of lily of the valley and rose.

For the second batch, I wanted the entire soap to be one color, so I mixed the indigo powder into the water portion of my soap recipe. Once it was diluted, I added the lye. I scented this soap, shown on the right above, with the juiciest smelling blueberry fragrance oil. I can’t stop sniffing it!

If you’re a soap maker interested in learning more about how to use indigo or other natural colorants in your formulations, I recommend reading this post by The Soap Queen, Anne-Marie Faiola. It’s loaded with great tips on usage rates of several natural colorants.

As I researched the use of indigo in soap, I learned that this stunningly beautiful dye has had a long and tumultuous history. If you’re interested in learning more, listen to this NPR interview with Catherine E McKinley, the author of “Indigo: In Search of the Color that Seduced the World.” I’ve added this book to my reading list!

I also learned that extracting dye from indigo containing plants is a difficult and arduous task. Because of this, most indigo used today is synthetic and not plant derived like the powder I used. But, I stumbled across a small company called Ricketts Indigo that is dedicated to using traditional methods of extracting dye. They create gorgeous cloth, towels, handkerchiefs and other items that are dyed with the indigo they grew and processed. Their shop is full of beautiful items that would make the perfect gift for anyone who uses the color indigo in their decor.

My indigo-inspired soaps will be available for purchase in the Emmet Street Creations Etsy store in mid-August. They’d make the perfect gift for that hard to buy for guy or gal.

Monday musings: Handmade soap and good, clean fun

blueberries copy

With all the rain we’ve had, my garden looks frightful. My tomatoes are stunted and my cucumbers are growing at a slugs pace. Oh, and the slugs are out of control! So, I was excited to discover that the hospital near my house is hosting a farmer’s market every Friday afternoon for the rest of the summer! I’m thrilled to be within walking distance of fresh produce straight from the farm. I plan to fit in a weekly visit in between making new batches of soap.

Handmade soap

There are so many creative soap makers that inspire us. Check out some of our favorite finds on Pinterest! (Are we pinning buddies there? We should be.)

Good, clean fun

If you’re not following us on Facebook, here’s some of the fun you missed:

Previous musings from Emmet Street you might have missed

Being lactose intolerant, I’m always on the lookout for decadent recipes that use less dairy, like this vegan chocolate chia pudding. When I can, I substitute milk with soy or almond milk, as I did in this wild mushroom soup. So, when my Pinterest feed recently blew up with recipes for an Alfredo sauce using cauliflower instead of milk, I knew I needed to try it. The method of making this sauce was very similar to Kelly’s creamy mushroom soup. The result was nothing short of amazing. It was thick and creamy and it clung to the pasta just like an Alfredo sauce should. (I took the risk of leaving the parmesan cheese in the recipe because cheese is my weakness.)