April 26, 2013

Mommie Dearest

The moment I put this into the mold, I knew it was going to be Mother's Day soap—mostly because of the fragrance—which I did in two parts.

The black embeds have Arabian rose fragrance oil. I did a hot process so I wouldn't have to worry about seizing or separating or ricing or whatever. I threw some scraps of soap in after the cook for a little contrast. The white is from the tops of my first Beach Bars and the pink is from an experiment using red Moroccan clay that I'll write about one of these days.

The over-pour has lavender and fresh anise essential oils which toned down the rose a bit—even though they weren't blended together. When it was first cut, I could also really smell the wine and cocoa butter I used. They've all melded together during the cure. It's a gorgeous fragrance. Unusual, yet familiar at the same time.

The final bar doesn't really have a Mother's Day look to it though. It's dark and chaotic. And that's why I'm calling it Mommie Dearest.

It's the perfect gift for anyone with a scary *mom who went ape shit over wire coat hangers or forced them to stay up all night watching old movies or eat raw liver. Or a million other things that wrecked their chances of being a normal adult.

It’s also the perfect gift for moms with a great sense of humor.

And gay men who love Joan Crawford.

Here's my sardonic product description:

Relive those painful memories you spent years in therapy trying to forget. Her cheap perfume covering up the smell of wine and Sambuca. The nights she locked you in the car while she entertained one of her boyfriends. The mornings you went to school nourished with a breakfast of Chips Ahoy cookies because she couldn't be bothered getting out of bed.

Arrives wrapped in crinkled gold tissue paper with a miniature wire coat hanger. $5

If there's any left after Mother's Day, it'll get a new name and a new description. I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, perhaps?

*My mother, by the way, is not a scary mom. She's very cool and I appreciate the terrific job she did raising me—although she did wash my mouth out with Irish Spring for being sassy (you can read about that here). And I think that's why I make soap today.

April 24, 2013

Son of Cardamom


I have a confession to make. Even though I now own a miter box, I still have issues cutting soap. I blame my silicone loaf mold. The soap is just too wide to fit into the box, so I have to cut the sides off first.

When I was doing this with the Cardamom, Coffee and Oatmeal, the knife hit that fun googie embed and went crazy. I ended up with quite a few bad-looking bars. And with the price of cardamom essential oil, I wasn't going to let those bars go to waste. (You'll find most soap makers hate waste. Not sure if it's a genetic thing or something that happens to you when you start making soap.)

I cut the wonky bars up and used them for this batch. Which I like even better than the first. I love the rich, chocolaty brown of the over-pour. That comes from using a stronger brew of coffee (Café Bustelo). I also used more coffee butter, but other than that the recipe is the same.

I ended up a little short when I poured the new batch over the embeds, so added that light brown strip with a good amount of coffee grounds for extra scrubbiness.  I think it looks like foam on a latte.

Last week, I found cardamom coffee in a dollar store up in Harlem. It smells great, but doesn't taste so good. Kinda weak and just off. No matter—it'll make great soap. Can't let anything go to waste. Even dollar coffee.

April 21, 2013

And the Winner Is…

The results are in from my poll of which photo of Guinness and Ginger my devote readers (and the general public) liked most. Thank you all for voting. It was a lot of fun and I do enjoy keeping my finger on the pulse of soap lovers and people who bathe.
So the moment you've been waiting for: Photo A won with a whopping 92% of the vote. Kind of like a democrat running for office in NYC.  A couple of emails I received said 'the vibrant background makes the soap very enticing' and 'it makes the soap seem more sophisticated.

Interesting to note, Photo B got 6% and Photos C and D managed to get 1% each.

Thanks again for voting. And reading.

April 11, 2013

Guinness and Ginger

Photo A
 It's kind of funny, my making soap with booze. I started out with White Star made with Champagne, but didn't get around to making soap with beer until months later. Usually, it's beer you start with since it's so much cheaper than Champagne.

Anyhow, I used Guinness after reading it makes a nice dark brown soap and olive oil pomace infused with the small amount of hops that grew in my garden last year.

A note about hops: It's an herb, a very useful one—and not just for making beer. It's also a sedative—just harvesting hops can make you feel extremely relaxed. Hops is also used to help painful swelling, bruises, rough skin and rashes.

And I love the way it smells. Nothing better than a good hoppy beer.

Unfortunately, hops essential oil is extremely expensive ($100 an ounce). Supposedly, the hops scent in beer does come through the soap making process, but since Guinness isn't a hoppy beer, I used ginger essential oil in this batch.

Next batch—and there will be another batch by the end of the summer—I'll use a super hoppy beer and leave it unscented.

Photo B
Now on to the photographs. The top one (Photo A) was done as part of a photo challenge on Soaper's Retreat run by Joanna Schmidt—who I consider to be the Queen of Soap Porn—not only does she take great soap photos, she blogs about them and inspires other soapmakers to photograph outside the soap box.

The challenge was to photograph a plain bar of soap with one of your favorite things in the background. I used an oil painting done by Gertrude Hock, a friend of my parents. I really like the way it turned out. And it kind of gives the feeling of the ginger scent. Which was unintentional. A happy accident.

Photo C
But, of course I wanted to photograph the soap with some Guinness. Makes sense, right? So I took a few bars to Perdition last evening, got myself a pint and took a bunch of shots on a table near the front of the bar that was open to the sidewalk.

And I'm not really happy with the results. I don't mind that they're a bit dark. That kind of captures the feel of a quiet pint in a bar, but I think they look clichéd. And as a writer, I hate clichés.

But I could be wrong about this.

And so, I'm asking you gentle reader, what you think. Please vote for your favorite photo with the cute little poll gadget located on the right of this post. I'm keeping the poll open until midnight on April 20th. I'll post the results on the 21st and use the winning photo as a product shot on the here.

Photo D
 Feel free to share this post with millions. And thanks in advance for your input.

April 6, 2013

Cardamom, Coffee and Oatmeal

This came as a suggestion from Brian Vinero. And it's fabulous! After it was cut and hanging out in the kitchen I had to stick my nose in its scent every time I walked by.

Cardamom is known as the Queen of Spices. It's been grown Asia for ages, but when the Vikings raided Constantinople, it made its way to Scandinavia and became quite popular for baking.

It's a stimulant and an aphrodisiac (gotta love that). Its scent is warm, spicy and very, very sexy. And the essential oil is very, very expensive.

To make this soap, I infused some olive oil pomace with cardamom and then created the googie-looking embed by tilting the mold. There's some oatmeal in it. And a half-assed swirl using coffee infused olive oil pomace.

The overpour was done with coffee infused olive oil pomace and twice-brewed coffee added to the lye with some trimmings from the embed, more oatmeal and coffee grounds.

Showering with this bar is like showering with a big, sexy Swede. It feels great in my hand, running it over my body, producing this creamy, fluffy long-lasting lather.

Afterwards, my entire apartment is filled with the cardamom scent and my skin feels soft, dewy and pampered. I feel energized and oh, so happy.

It's my favorite soap so far. As the Scandinavians say, "Uff-Dah!" 

From the lips of  Brian: "Ah, the scent of Scandinavia! The Scandinavians love their coffee, their oat bread and the scent of cardamom...and it is all here in Heather's latest lathering masterpiece. The coffee exfoliates, the oatmeal softens the skin and cardamom is an exotic tonic for all that ails thee..."