Friday, June 27, 2014

This Old House

Warning! This is a long one. Once again, I have not been great about blogging. Once again one of the reasons is being almost constantly sick with stomach bugs for the last couple months. I didn't consider when we decided to have four kids that it would mean sickness taking such a long time to make it through the family. This last round began with Judah on June 4th. Yes, I know the exact date, and at this time Rich is the last one to finally get hit. This was not a 24 hour bug either. It took about 10 days for each one of us to finally feel recovered and be done with symptoms. That means the whole month of June was spent cleaning up lots of bodily fluids. It's been pretty discouraging to say the least. On top of that, potty training has taken up lots of time recently. I have not made soap in about a month and a half. I've just been too tired and preoccupied, which leads me to the title of this post.

We bought our house three years ago now. We knew that it needed some work. How much work, we had no idea! When we moved in we had to pretty much immediately gut the bathroom and redo the roof. Besides painting the rooms, we kind of took a very long break from making any more improvements. Part of the break was also having another baby,but now that baby is not such a baby anymore and things are piling up. I think now we are ready to start round two of home improvements. Here is a huge list of things we are looking to accomplish in the near future.

One of the things we knew we would change eventually was the flooring. When we moved in, the carpet was fairly new. I hated the color, but there was no way we were going to replace perfectly good carpeting for no reason. Well, after three years of heavy traffic and especially after these three rounds of stomach bugs, I think the time has finally come. To be honest these pictures are pretty embarrassing. We try not to wear shoes in the house and I vacuum every day, but with six people and two pets in a small house the carpet is disgusting and we've worn pretty good paths. So tonight we ordered the laminate flooring that we will use throughout the house. The only floor that will not be done is the bathroom. I'm hoping that not only will the floor look nicer but that it helps with the allergy and asthma problems I have been having. We may be laying flooring for months to come, but I'm sure it will be so worth it! So here are the gross before pictures!

Our traffic pattern is pretty obvious here.

Here is a spot that our cat and dog have dug up :(

Not to gross anyone out, but here is what happens to your carpet when someone feels the need to announce to both parents that they are going to throw up before trying to make it to the bathroom.

And here is a vomit stain courtesy of the cat!

Even the linoleum in the kitchen has ground in dirt and this is even after sweeping twice a day and washing at least weekly! Yuck!

Yeah it's a mess!

We will also be doing new trim. Whoever did the trim last did not care about matching or making sure that the trim covered the whole wall.

On top of the flooring and trim we've also been hard at work replacing rotten spots in the soffits and staining the carport as whoever built it did not use treated wood. We have put one coat of stain on and are now going to start the second coat. What a difference the white will make. It feels so much cleaner! I've been dreading this job for three years because it is so tedious and time consuming but having it done will feel great.

We are also changing the door on the shed where Rich works from a barn door red to a blue that matches our front door.

The ceiling fan in our kitchen is also broken. With the weather heating up, we decided it couldn't wait much longer to fix. And while we're at it why not just make more work and move the whole light fixture? Our kitchen isn't all that large and the position of the lights in the kitchen is so strange. We are going to attempt to center the ceiling fan on the kitchen window. This way we won't need the ugly light with the pull string anymore so we can just get rid of it.

The last job for now that we are considering is replacing the interior doors. We only have four interior doors and we have thought about sanding them down and adding a fresh coat of paint, but some of them have strange patches and holes in them. We'll see what we think of that down the road and if the finances will be available after all the other projects are finished.

I'm thrilled to see the house shaping up, and I enjoy the work of it, but I also know that it will probably be several months before all the jobs are completed. Hopefully I can be patient enough! So stay tuned for before and after pictures.

Saturday, May 3, 2014


Well, after a good start, I have really neglected updating this blog. I think it's a combination of not having much to say and also being too lazy. When I have an extra half hour, the last thing that I feel like doing is trying to get on my husband's computer. It seems I no sooner sit down at the computer that the boys need something and what would be a quick 15 minutes gets drawn out to be an hour event. So what's been happening?

On the home-front, the boys keep growing and life keeps changing. We are normally relatively healthy people, but this winter and spring hit us with, what was for us, an unusual amount of sickness. Between run-of-the-mill colds, one bout of strep, and two rounds of a stomach bug; I feel like our house is infested with germs. Even several weeks after the fact, every little burp or gag has me cringing and running for a bucket. I think I am traumatized and I do not know how long it will be before I recover :). On a happier note, I've been planning out my vegetable garden for the year. It will be my second year attempting to grow some of our own vegetables. I started off fairly successfully last year, but my pumpkins started to get what I think was mildew which spread and killed almost everything. Hopefully I will be able to stay on top of it this year. We've also enjoyed spending more time outside with the boys walking and biking and being together. I hope to start running outside again soon, but I enjoy the convenience of the treadmill too much to make the effort :). We are also having fun planning out the summer. We have two weddings we will be attending, and we are trying to figure out when we will be driving out to Michigan. We may even make it to Illinois to visit with my sister's family for a while. It's been about four years since we were able to do that and I think now that the boys are older we would have a blast!

On the soap-front, I am still enjoying making soap as much as ever. I'm having so much fun experimenting with new ingredients and techniques. My kitchen is overflowing with curing soap. The more I use my soap, the more that I love how it makes my skin feel. I'm positive my skin has never handled the winter weather so well, and I'm sure that it has to do with using handmade soap. I think we are spoiled now and won't be able to go back to store bought soap ever again. I have a weakness for synthetic colorants and fragrance oils. I have so much fun using them and imagining the possibilities, but lately I've been thinking about starting to stock up on more natural ingredients as well. I'm also toying with the idea of opening up an online store on Zibbet. My thought it at first only selling to family and close friends. My husband is helping me to figure out how to set it up. I'm not ready for a full fledged soap business, but I would love to take steps in that direction. There is so much to learn about labeling, packing, and shipping. I think starting on a very small scale and working up is a good idea. I also like the idea of being able to offer custom made soap.

So hopefully, I will be more consistent in blogging, but there are no guarantees :). And now some pictures of what I've been working on lately.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014


We've had one sickness after another here lately. First, we all shared a head/chest cold that had us barking like seals. My nose has almost stopped running from that but now we are in the middle of a yucky stomach bug. I can't say that it's horrible because it's really a mild one, but someone in this house has been throwing up just about every other day for the past two weeks. It's just really slow moving and seems to be taking it's time going through the family. Cleaning up after someone's been sick is not my thing, but I really do think somehow it's different when it's your own kids. I have been reading soap blogs, but there hasn't been much time to make soap or blog about making soap. The one good thing is that our grocery shopping is really simple these days. We've pretty much been eating toast, saltines, bananas, and gatorade :).

I did have to share this one. I made it several weeks ago, but never got around to blogging about it. It is scented with White Ginger and Amber, and I'm happy with how it turned out. Somehow the soap batter was too thin when I started to pour, so I didn't think it was going to turn out. I've never had a soap move so slowly, but it was a lot more relaxing and fun then having to stress and hurry hoping that it won't get too thick too fast. The colors aren't very creative, but I do love the pink with the black and white, so I don't mind :). I think the stripes made it so my camera had a really hard time focusing.

Hopefully tonight, barring anybody throwing up, I will get a chance to make a batch. I have a couple scents and new ingredients that I've really been wanting to try!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Need for Speed

This soap moved crazy fast! Following my first experiment with yogurt I decided to do it again. I loved how smooth and almost silky it made my soap feel. Since I was using a very high percentage of olive oil, I decided to try a very slight water discount in my recipe. I wanted to be able to unmold the soap and not have it be sticky for weeks. A water discount is something I had been reading about and was very curious to try. I also tried to mix a bright purple. As you can see, it turned out more of a pink. I was scared that too much blue would make it too dark, but I think I should try more blue next time.

Everything was going okay. The soap traced quickly, but I was prepared for that and the batter seemed manageable. I divided the batches colored them and added the fragrance oil. I used Kentish Rains which smells so nice and fresh and light. As soon as I added it, the batter started to thicken. Oh no! I should have checked on it before I decided on a water discount. Okay work fast, I thought. My intention was to pour layers with black mica separating them and then putting a spoon all the way to the bottom and bringing it up all throughout the soap. Well, I knew I was in trouble by the second layer. I don't even know how to describe the texture. It was stiff and waxy! I went for it with the spoon, anyway. I'm a little bit stubborn. But when I scooped no new soap filled in to take the place and I couldn't even banging the mold on the table to get the soap flattened out. I tried to smoosh it back down with the back of my spoon, but even that didn't work perfectly. As a result, there are some pretty big holes in the finished soap, especially at the edges and top. And it wasn't very swirly in the end. A little disappointing for sure. There was no way to stop this one from gelling, so I just went with it :).

I love how the mica line separates the layers, though. I brushed some pearly white mica on top. I figured what did I have to lose? It looks a little gaudy to me, but not too bad. I unmolded and cut the soap after just twelve hours. It was already so hard that I had trouble getting the knife through it, but the texture is really nice and smooth. All in all, it turned out better than I thought it would with the problems that I encountered, and I'm excited to use it. My take away lesson is always double check the fragrance oil comments before you use it, and don't try too many new things at once :).

Monday, February 10, 2014

Power Circles

A little over a week ago my lye finally arrived and I was itching to get soaping. I love baking, but since my oldest son was diagnosed with celiac disease the fun of baking has kind of disappeared. Baking is either expensive or a real frustration when things don't turn out as planned. I think that's one of the reasons I have grown to love making soap. It involves all of your senses like baking ( except taste of course) and you don't get the extra calories ;). I also love the scientific side of soap making! I love learning about the properties of different oils and how to combine them to form the perfect bar of soap. I guess it uses parts of my brain that hasn't been used much since high school chemistry :).

With that said, I had formulated a recipe using that I thought sounded good. I measured out my oils and butters ahead of time and decided at the last minute to add yogurt to my recipe. I had some homemade yogurt sitting in my fridge that no one was eating. Instead of letting it go bad, I had the bright idea of experimenting. Up to this point, the only liquid I had used for my soap was water. I decided to use yogurt for half of the water in the recipe. I read that instead of freezing the yogurt and putting it with the lye and water, I could add it to the oils, so that's what I decided to try. Everything went fairly smoothly from what I could tell. I colored the soap with rose clay and activated charcoal and scented it with black raspberry vanilla. I heard rave reviews about that particular fragrance and was excited to try it. I am so sad to say, I really don't care for it. To me it seems very perfumey and heavy. It's not terrible, and thakfully I went for a light scent, so I don't think I will mind too much using it. I think when guests come over to our house I'll have them sniff it to get their opinions :).

From my reading, I seemed to remember something about not letting soap with milks in it gel and to keep them cool, so I decided to play it safe and pop the finished soap in the freezer. The next day, I pulled it out and unmolded it. I let is sit the rest of the day and cut it the next day. Let me tell you, getting nice straight layers is harder than it looks, and apparently I need lots more practice as this was not the look I was going for at all! I think next time I may need to let the bottom layers set up for a little bit before adding more on top??? I don't know. Oh well! I'll have to show you the most interesting thing I saw when I cut into the soap.

Do you see it?? There is a circle in the middle. I had read about power circles and it was neat in a strange way to see one in person. I don't care for the look, but it was neat none-the-less. A power circle is when the middle of the soap heats up and gels, but the rest does not. So not my most successful soap, but interesting anyway, and at least it's still a usable soap if not very pretty. And hopefully the clay, charcoal, and yogurt will be nice on the skin :).

Sunday, February 9, 2014


What is saponification??? Since I have started to make soap, my poor husband, mom. and sister have had to endure my talking about soap endlessly. They are very patient with me, but whether or not they understand (or even care) about my ramblings, I'm not sure :). I'm talking to my poor husband about trace, saponification, superfatting, and water discounts, and I get a blank stare :). So for my family and friends, I present to you the process of making cold process soap! I'm sure you are thrilled beyond measure. (And for those who care, saponification is simply the process of adding a base (sodium hydroxide) to an acid (oils and fats) to get soap and glycerin!)

So, I like to make sure that I have all of my ingredients weighed out and ready for action. Making soap is fairly simple process, but it does require precision in measurements. Too much lye, and you could end up with a harsh, brittle bar of soap that is not even able to be used. I have yet to have a soap that is lye heavy, knock-on-wood. I've heard that one way to be sure is the "zap test". The soaper will touch their tongue to a bar of soap. If your tongue feels like you licked a battery, your soap is lye heavy. Crazy right!

Once everything is ready. I suit up in my gloves and safety goggles (sorry no picture), and I add my lye to my water. The first time I mixed my lye water I was pleasantly surprised that my kitchen didn't explode :). The lye reacts with the water and gets very hot. Now comes the part of waiting for the lye to cool down. I'm still learning what temperatures I prefer to soap at. Once the lye is cool enough (so far I try to keep it between 95-105), I add the lye water to my oils. I get out my stick blender and start to pulse it.

This is the cool part. I love watching the oils come to trace. The mixture changes from a separated mixture to a more uniform mixture and starts to thicken. Trace can be from light to heavy. Anywhere from the consistency of a melted milk shake to thick pudding. Once trace is reached, your soap (because that's what it is now) is ready to be colored and scented.

This is when things get fun. Sometimes at this point funky things happen, like the fragrance oil can make your soap set up too much to even pour (that's a story for another post). If your soap behaves, there are countless designs you could make. The sky's the limit. So you grab your mold and pour and swirl and have a good time.

Once the mold is filled you can either cover it and insulate it, or you can choose to leave it uncovered, or even throw it in the fridge depending on if you want your soap to gel. Now gelling is when the soap continues to heat up in the mold and turns almost transparent and more liquid for a little while before it finally sets. To me, gelled soap seems harder and smoother and shinier. Gelling soap usually results in more intense colors as well. Ungelled soap seems creamier and takes longer to set up and get out of the mold. Like I've said before, I lean towards to texture of gelled soap, but I like the softer colors of ungelled. Your soap can be unmolded and cut within a couple of days. The soap needs to cure for 4-6 weeks. Curing helps the excess water to evaporate and produces a nice mild bar of soap. So that is my "dummies guide to soap making"! Thanks for bearing with me :). And thank you, Rich for taking pictures. I'm not talented enough to do both at once!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Crossing My Fingers!

Waiting not so patiently to get this soap out of the mold. I was going for a Tiger Stripe. We'll see if I actually got there :). The mold is teasing me. I can kind of see through to the edge of the soap, but I want to see the middle!