It's hot in the soap kitchen! (picture heavy)

There have been no posts for sometime and that is only because many batches of soap were being whipped up in the kitchen. My candle making cousin and I are getting ready for a sale around 'Diwali', more popularly known as the 'festival of lights' outside India.

Each batch of soap ended up surprising me. When I expected everything to go smoothly, I ended up with some pretty rough looking soap. And when I kept the design very simple anticipating overheating, the soap didn't even gel. Before I get all whiny, I'll just shut my trap!!

Here are some pictures:

Scented with
cedarwood, frankincense and grapefruit EO's
Swirled with red sandalwood and wheatgrass powder
Happy Surprise!
EO blend worked beautifully!

Madder root experiment.
Scent blend: Palmarosa and Patchouli
Almost seize situation.
Embeds got wonky from banging the mold on the counter

Plain Eucalyptus soap
Colored with wheatgrass
Went as planned, just couldn't do away with the soda ash

Like the swirls, but had a very hard time with this soap.
Mold lining bent, so not a perfect round.
Scent blend: grapefruit and vanilla.
Brown colored soap seized halfway into pouring! Yikes!
Got some solid air pockets in some soaps.
A lovely scent blend though!!

Leftover special.
Made with soap scraps and leftover essential oils.
These soaps are just for me!!

Scented with Vanilla fragrance oil.
Things didn't go too smoothly this time.
Controlled a slight volcano situation,
by smoothing out the soap with a spatula :D

Basil, lemongrass and citronella scent blend. Great blend!!
A dash of neem oil.
Scoop, glop, smooth!!
Scoop, glop, smooth!!
Design turned out not quite like planned, but not totally off either. 

Never in my wildest dreams did I expect Orange EO to misbehave.
Scent blend: Orange, pimento berry.
Jazzed up ever so slightly with calendula petals.

Orange, cedarwood EO blend.
Cocoa powder and turmeric swirls.
I like it! 

Lemon-eucalyptus, lemongrass and rosemary.
First batch of soap that I remade!
(the earlier batch was a hot seller)

Rosemary and peppermint soap with a dancing cocoa line!

The superstar!!! B)

There is yet another batch of soap in the mold and I am waiting for it to cool off. Hope everyone is having a great week! 


Soooo purple!!

I'm back with the very last purple trial. After this soap batch, I decided to call myself a pro, coz I now know how to exactly work with alkanet. How much root, how much powder, what oils to infuse in, for how long, how much infused oil to use to always get a consistent purple that is just right for a lavender soap. Did you fall for all that?? I lied!! :P

After making the easy batch by adding alkanet powder directly to soap, I realized it was too scratchy to shower with. The next time around I infused alkanet powder in olive oil and used that in soap. I got too light a purple and after curing it faded some more and turned somewhat grey. Actually I can't describe the color. In some angles it appears grey and in some angles it appears purplish. Or it is just my mind playing games with my eyes.

So for this batch I infused the alkanet root in olive oil and used 10% of that oil along with the base oils.

Quite a dark purple there. Next time a little less
infused oil. 

I almost forgot to mention, there was a soap volcano again. I might just become a volcano soap specialist one of these days. For now I will stop the lavender soaps, as I still have to try out some pinks.

Ta ta!!

Spice up the Myrtle

Myrtle and spice and all things nice!! That's what I kept saying all the while I made this soap. The soap gremlins were not too nice to me though. Just before making this soap, I was thinking of how it had been a while since I had any soap disasters happening in the kitchen. And with the kind blessings of Mr. Murphy, we had a soap volcano.

Lessons learnt during this soaping session:
- Try to keep it cool in the kitchen. Use a fan.
- Clove can not just spice things up, it can heat them too...especially soap. I knew this, but wasn't prepared.

Right after pouring the soap into the mold, I was trying to get things a little organised and I saw it happen right before my eyes. The soap was slowly rising and bubbling. All I could do was go WHOA! WHOA! WHOA!! Like that was going to calm the soap down. Then I ran with the mold (Note to self and others: DON'T DO THAT!! The hot soap could bubble out and fall on you) to the dining table, under the fan and tried to stir and release the heat. That wasn't working, so I WHOAED my way to the kitchen, grabbed a big pot and WHOAED all the way back to the table just in time to get the soap into the pot, before it bubbled onto the table. After a few moments of stirring and singing a 'Please don't separate and ruin the mold' song, the baby calmed down. I carefully tucked it into a blanket to catch any leaks just in case it decides to wake up and get angry again and tucked myself in for the night too. Thankfully nothing happened. I guess, I am one good singer!! ;)

Rustic looking Myrtle soap

Scented with Myrtle and Cypress essential oils

This was my first soap volcano, but not the last. Will share about another adventure soon!!

Lavender again

Last time the lavender soap was made with Alkanet powder added directly to the soap at trace. I did get a purple, but not one I liked. Plus the soap is speckled quite a bit. 

This time around the alkanet powder was infused in castor oil for some days. This castor oil I used along with the base oils (about 3%). Outcome:

I whipped up some air into the soap

I like it a lot more than the previous lavender soap, but I'll try again. After a few weeks of curing, the color is more greyish than purple and there is a layer of soda ash. Grrr!! I cling wrap the soap after pouring it into the mold and when it is time to cut, there is absolutely no ash at all. But a few days later it magically forms on the top. I wish there is some way to avoid it altogether.

Have a great day everyone!!

Honey, honey!!

It's been three months since I moved back to India and I have loved every bit of it. What a wonderful feeling to be back home!! I love that everything is so familiar. Casual chit-chat with total strangers, vegetable shopping at the farmer's markets, valuable lessons of honesty learnt from a ripe old granny selling vegetables at the market (I will never forget her), hardworking people who come door to door selling wares...anything from oils to steel utensils. :)

So, a few weeks back I opened the door to a person selling honey freshly taken out of the hive. Though I already had an unopened jar of honey I got from the supermarket, that didn't stop me from buying another kilo from the kind person at the door. He had just taken it out a couple of hours back. He filtered it right before my eyes and told me to store the honey at room temperature. I could see the beeswax in the big container and I asked if he could sell it to me. Didn't have much luck there, as it was already sold. But he promised to get me some the next time around. 

Time for a honey soap!! My generous cousin shared some beeswax with me, so it was time to get bubbly.  Made with coconut, palm and olive oils, beeswax and of course wild honey: 

I just love the honey color and lovely honey fragrance

Gelled almost the instant it went in the mold.
Just about avoided a volcano situation.
Thank God for fans!!!

Beehive pattern.
Some of the air bubbles were already popped.
I wonder who did it!! ;)

Beeswax makes some really hard soap.
Added  just about 3%.
Next post will be about how soap can climb out of the mold. LOL!!

Going for lavender and wheatgrass soap update

I love soap with natural colors. Granted, I can't get all colors with natural stuff and not to forget how fickle they are to play around with, but still, there is something that I just so totally love about them. This time around the quest was for a lavender colored soap. 

I read so much about alkanet and have been wanting to try it out for a really long time. The nudge to actually look for a supplier and order it, came from the very lovely Claudia from alegriamediterranea soaps. :)
Thank you Claudia, I'm going for lavender this time because of you!!

Outcome when alkanet powder was added directly at trace:

Immediately after pouring soap into the mold. A light cement grey

The soap gelled and darkened

Final outcome. 

Not happy with this lavender color. I remember reading that the color lightens while curing, but I still have to see that happen. Vegetable oils used: Coconut, palm and olive. High percentage of coconut oil. 

I will need to go for that lavender again. Just made another batch. This time the alkanet was infused in castor oil for a week. Fingers crossed! 

A few weeks back I made a soap with my cousin with Tea tree and peppermint EO and used wheatgrass powder to color it green. Here is how it changed over time. 

Taken right after it was cut
Taken right after it was cut

A month later
Slight fading

There has been a slight bit of fading, but I usually see that happen with all natural colors. Jennifer I hope you try out wheatgrass in soap. :)

Here comes the artist

I finally tried my hand at making flowers in soap and here's the outcome:

Turmeric soap meets cocoa flowers

Here's how they came out of the mold:

My art skills surprised me ;)

I love this mold. It is actually used to sort and store jewellery. It make great guest size soaps. And yes, I still see a soap mold in every container. :)
Scented with Orange EO and Lavender FO and colored with turmeric and cocoa powder. A vegetable soap with coconut, palm, sunflower and wheatgerm oils.

Couldn't escape the soda ash even with a cling wrap cover

More soaps in my next post...adios!! 

Going green again

Here's yet another soap colored with wheatgrass as I couldn't get enough of it in the castile soap, which by the way has still not set. Wheatgrass imparts a very elegant green to soap and me loves a green soap. So here I combined tea tree and mint essential oils to help a pimply teenager (my cousin). She wanted to see how soap is made and we had a blast that evening with a lot of weighing, stirring and giggling. The partly liquid coconut oil refused to come out of the bottle with a micro mini opening and we both had to squeeze it out with all our might. And when the stubborn thing actually came out, it was all over my clothes.
Here's a tip I found on the internet: rub shampoo into the oil stain without wetting the cloth and then put it in the washing machine with other laundry. Worked like magic. :)

Brown and green layers 
The brown swirls on top didn't work out like how
I wanted and since it was a very small batch,
a lot of air bubbles got whipped in

Coffee beans on top was my cousin's idea

Have a great bubbly week!!

Experimenting continues

The experimenting continues with so many things all around, just waiting to get into that soap pot. This time around it is for that light pink color.

Take 1:

How's that for a light pink?? Yuck!

Take 2:
A little too light, but I can live with this :)

I used Kumkum to color these. 
Kumkum is the red powder applied to the forehead by women in India, made by mixing turmeric or saffron with slaked lime.

I have been having serious shelf-life issues here. So this is also an experiment with wheatgerm oil. The first batch was made without and the second one with wheatgerm oil. I also ditched the olive oil for sunflower oil. Kept reading that olive oil could be the culprit, although I don't think substituting with sunflower oil was too wise, considering it's already short shelf-life. Will wait and watch. 

Happy soaping there!!

Three soaps with one stone...err mould!!

People have already hit two birds with one stone, so that would be boring to try again. Plus why would I want to hit a bird??

All the pent up soaping energy had to put somewhere, so many ideas swirling in my head and many more scribbled into many books. If I had to try one new idea at a time, I would be dead long before all the ideas get exhausted (exaggerating here). And what happens to all the new ones that keep popping up all the time?? So I decided to put three new ideas into one cauldron.

- Wheatgrass powder to get that green
- Room temperature method
- In the pot swirl

The stone was thrown right back at me. Ouch!! I could hardly seen any swirls, so decided to mix the whole thing up to get a homogeneous extremely light, barely there green (almost cream) color. A castile soap that refused to harden after more than 24 hours. No gel due to the room temperature method. Did I forget anything else...ah yes, some oils were slowly seeping out. I wanted to wait it out and see what happens. Patience is a virtue, which is definitely not mine. So.....

I threw the whole thing into a big pot and set it on fire. Not really! I hot processed it and added some more wheatgrass with a little water for a darker green. The beautiful scent of Mint and Tea tree was replaced with a grass smell. Yuck!! But luckily it sobered down and the nice scent surfaced out again. The soap is still resting in the moulds. I might have to leave it there for a couple of days.

Let me share some before and after pics:

Not much of a color contrast there,
so I stirred the whole thing up. It turned
a lighter green the next morning.

Post HP with added wheatgrass. Still very gooey to
Patience is definitely not my virtue but 'repentance in hindsight' for sure is!! All the joys of soap making!!
Will share pictures of cut soap as soon as it sets up...maybe in a year or two. LOL!!

Hanging up those invisible shoes

I finally hung up those invisible shoes that kept creeping onto my feet so often. Here I am back in India, in the city where I was born, grew up, went to college and got married. It feels great to be back after leaving this lovely city almost 9 years ago, right after I got married.

The past month was exciting and chaotic and I barely had enough time to breathe. After our tenants moved out, the house had to be painted and cleaned and furnished, well partly-furnished...I still have a ton of things to buy. I hated and loved every minute of the past month though. Hated that I had to get all the things done by myself in the fantastic heat and humidity, but loved laboring to get the house my husband and I so dearly dreamt of, in order.

Now that I have time to breathe and a little more to spare, things are going to get soapy again. :)

Before going back to Austria in January I made a couple of batches of soap so they would be cured and ready to greet me on my return to India. I tried my hand at the spoon swirl and let's just leave it at that. The color contrasts were very subtle, almost too subtle to notice any swirls. Plus I just wanted to finish using up the Lemon-Eucalyptus EO.

Another one was a coffee soap, made with brewed filter coffee. I love the scent and surprisingly after 3 months of curing it still smells like coffee. Maybe it is due to the 20-30% chicory added to the coffee beans in India. The soaps got generously showered with coffee beans for decoration, which have been falling off with every fondle.

Some of these coffee soaps I gave as Mother's Day gifts to my aunts and a cousin, all wonderful mothers who spend so many hours in the kitchen.

I leave you with a picture and promise to be back soon with more soap pictures of new creations.

Please don't notice the ribbon edges...again no time to breath
applies plus couldn't locate the scissors.

Soda ash on the top.... not too bad.
Missing coffee comments!! :D


If you are a north Indian I won't have to explain what it the title means, but for the rest of us (I hail from south India) this is what my husband had to say when I asked him what it means (I'm not going to give it out right away...I need to build up the excitement).

As soon as I got married I moved to Gurgaon, a city very close to New Delhi and Hindi is the spoken language there. Luckily we studied it in school and even though my Hindi was very broken with a strong south Indian accent, I could follow conversations. At this point of time I would like to thank the Bollywood industry whose films I watched over the years and learnt more Hindi from here than at school. Now who wouldn't like to watch some lovey-dovey scenes and peppy dance numbers instead of learning sentence formation. Grammar is for dummies anyways!! :D

So I kept hearing this term 'jugaad' almost everywhere I went. 'We cannot find a part for this problem we can do some 'jugaad' 'is what the mechanic would say. Some days back this word was floating in my mind while still in bed, so first thing after waking up I asked my husband (who spent most of his childhood in north India and speaks Hindi better than his mother tongue Telugu) what would the English word for jugaad be. While he pondered, I asked if it meant creativity. He said, it could mean creativity, but also something more.

Just found out there is a whole Wikipedia page for this word. There is also a vehicle called 'Jugaad'!! :) I saw it a couple of times around some rural areas, but never got a ride in it. So basically my post is a waste??? Hey wait!! I will show you how I did jugaad! :P

You know the whole pledge I took about not making soap till I get back to India because of weight issues (not mine, but the soaps that have to be carried back in my bags). But soon enough the soap itch was getting too much to bear. So I scratched some internet pages to see if soap bars could be converted to liquid soap....Hallelujah they could be!! Some of my very first batch of goat's milk soaps were lying in the cupboard and had lost almost all the scent, so I scraped them up and added them to just about steaming distilled water, like the recipe said. I don't know where I found the recipe...just google it if you want to try. 

The old Goat's milk bar. I added 3 bars, about 200 gms
to about 7 tea cups of water. The recipe wasn't strict about the water

Soap shaving...I am craving something caramel right now

Into the pot of hot water

I stirred in a little bit of pumpkin seed oil (the recipe said you could add any oil for some moisturizing). In the end after the solution cooled down in went about 10 ml of Lemon essential oil.

I think it's ready

After some time, two layers...separation??
I don't know.
I just shook the heck out of it till it mixed again.

Well the soap solution is quite nice. We have been using it for a few days now and it isn't drying out my skin like the store bought liquid handwash. This is how I tackled the no soaping situation.

Jugaad, according to Wikipedia is an innovative fix or a work-around a problem. Many solutions to everyday problems lie in this widely used concept in India.

Do share your jugaad stories...would love to read them!!

I'm off to jugaad something for lunch! ;)

Wrapped in paper

For a long time the soaps I made were only mine so I didn't bother too much about how to wrap them. After the soaps cured they were cling wrapped and stored away until it was time to cover myself up in bubbles.  Here is how I used to wrap my soaps.

Fast forward to December 2011. It was almost time for the first sale and I was reluctant to use cling wrap on all the soaps. First coz it was plastic and second it doesn't wrap the square shaped soaps so well. The fit is pretty perfect for a round soap where the label can be placed inside directly on the soap and then cling wrapped and knotted at the back but not so easy when it is a square or rectangle. I leaned very much towards something made of cloth, but then the bags were pretty expensive to buy or even get stitched. Handmade paper is also expensive, plus hard to wrap the soap in. Did I mention I don't have very artistic hands. Add to that my paper thin patience levels!

Then one day I went to a stationery store and there they had lovely tracing paper. Bingo!!
Thick enough to be used as a wrap, but easy enough to wrap the soap in. Plus it was an A4 size that could be printed on. I got the whole bundle and after many trials came up with this:

A strip of A4 sheet and the label

The soap tops are exposed for anyone to see the pattern if there is one and also to smell the soap.  A small pattern is punched into the wrapper.

The little pattern on the wrapper

The labels are also printed on the same paper and are slipped in from the top.Since it is tracing paper, the text on the labels is visible.

That chubby hand is mine :D

Only problem is that the print somehow seems to be slipping off this paper and onto the fingers when touched. Must think of some way to stop that. Printing on plain white paper works well but the tracing paper looks prettier.

For now I am happy with this wrapper. Need to do something about the label though. You might have noticed the name 'Amoda' is used.  Will tell you why and how we settled on the name in my next post.

Happy soaping!!