March 17, 2013

On Curing. And Writing.

I've posted about most of the soap I've made over the winter. There're still a few curing, but I don't like blogging about my soap until it's finished curing and I've actually used it.

Curing is an interesting thing. Technically after doing a hot process or cold process/oven process batch of soap, it's safe to use within 48 hours. But it's not going to be great soap. It needs to cure. To sit in a well-ventilated area where the water can evaporate. After 4-6 weeks, you'll have a harder, milder more finished bar.

And now I shall segue into writing.

I started a mystery novel this past January—a cozy mystery. It's my first attempt at genre fiction. I won't divulge too many details—that will jinx it, but I will say that the heroine makes soap and it's set in Hell's Kitchen. I've just started Chapter 9.

As I'm writing, I'm submitting my chapters to my fellow writers in a workshop led by Elaine Edelman (a phenomenal editor, writing guru and motivator) for feedback. It's a very good group—an interesting mix of writers and none of those freaks that sometimes lurk in workshops (the ones with these opus novels that are generally unreadable). I'm getting some excellent feedback and taking lots of notes.

But I'm not going back and re-writing any chapters. Not yet. Instead I'm writing forward with the suggestions in mind. Reshaping the plot, fleshing out the characters and adding twists.

March 9, 2013

Neroli and Black Pepper

Miguelina! was insanely popular—I think it was mostly because of the fragrance. Who can resist neroli?

Neroli (Citrus Vulgaris) comes from the bitter orange tree. It's said to have gotten its name from the princess of Nerola, Italy, Anne Marie Orsini who used the essential oil in her bath and to fragrance her gloves. Neroli is thought to be an antidepressant, a sedative and an aphrodisiac. It's also said to help regenerate skin cells and promote smoother skin.

And of course it smells heavenly—spicy, honey-ish and very floral. In perfumery, it's used as a both a base note and a top note.

When I created (that word sounds a little pompous here, doesn't it?) Miguelina's fragrance I blended the neroli with some vetiver, clove and tea tree essential oils. Since I was out of those when I made this batch, I used ylang ylang, may chang, orange and black pepper.

Black pepper (Piper Nigru) added a dry, warm pungency that I think makes the blend more sophisticated.  

Soap-wise, I played with melt and pour embeds again, but this time I let the embed go through the whole loaf of soap. I like the effect and how the light comes through. And it made it easier to cut. No whacky splintering.

March 1, 2013

Plan Bee

Using embeds from my failed experiment with beeswax and honey; I have produced the most amazing patchouli soap ever. Well, it's the most amazing patchouli soap I've ever used.

The lather is fluffy and intensely fragrant thanks to a generous dose of patchouli essential oil (versus the fragrance oil I usually use) blended with orange and may chang essential oils.

But I think the real amazingness comes from the embeds being rolled in powdered patchouli, star anise, jasmine, sandalwood, frankincense and Boswellian resin. It takes the fragrance to a completely different level.


The embeds

I plunked the embeds into a basic soap batch containing olive oil that I'd infused with calendula petals.

Calendula (calendula officinalis, also known as pot marigold) has anti-inflammatory and antifungal properties. It's used to treat chapped skin, burns and acne and yeast infections. It also repels eelworms and asparagus beetles if you happen to have a problem with them.

I grew a bunch of it in my garden last season, but unfortunately, I grew a type of calendula with very tiny flowers, so I ended up with only a small amount of oil and the soap didn't have the sunny yellow color I'd hoped for.

Such a pitiful amount

I am going to grow more calendula this year—the kind with huge flowers. I'm also going to try my hand at growing some patchouli.

And speaking of patchouli, I think it deserves a little attention. It has the reputation of being used to cover up the smell of unwashed hippies, but it's more than that.

Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin) has been used for centuries in Asian medicine to treat dandruff, dermatitis, eczema, chapped skin and acne. It's also thought to be a cell rejuvenator and may help to heal wounds and reduce the appearance of scars.

It's also a great insect repellant. In the 1700 and 1800's, silk traders would pack their cloth with dried patchouli leaves to prevent moths from laying their eggs. Its scent became an indicator of 'real' Asian fabric, therefore associated with luxury.

Aromatherapy-wise, patchouli is relaxing yet stimulating. It's believed to be helpful treating impotence and sexual anxiety. And it's an antidepressant.

So there, stick that in your bong and smoke it.

If you like this blog, check out my new one: The Haley Maxwell Soap Making Mysteries