Monday, January 30, 2012

The Magic of FotoFuze

I have been selling online for over a year (my soap shop, and previous shops on Etsy and ArtFire), and I cannot believe that it has taken me this long to find out about FotoFuze!

I was turned on to FotoFuze after visiting the Etsy forums one night... After reading so many rave reviews about the site, I HAD to check it out... And I am SO GLAD that I did!

FotoFuze is a site that works with your photography. I take my images and import them directly from Etsy. I can then highlight the object in my picture, and the site whitens the background! I have heard that it also works great with black backgrounds, but I havent experimented with those yet.

Check out these before and after pics:

Isnt it amazing! The site is easy to navigate, and their tools are simple and quick to use. They even have video tutorials for those of us who are visual learners!

Make sure to check out this site if you sell online. Your photographs will thank you!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Kudzu Experiment: (Finally!) Making Soap

It's finally time to make my kudzu soap!

If you need a recap, here are my first and second blog posts on the Kudzu Experiment.

For both batches of soap, I made tiny 3 ounce batches of soap batter. Both batches contained the same oils: olive oil, coconut oil, and castor oil, which makes a mild and bubbly bar of soap.I did not use a fragrance oil or essential oil in either batches.

First, lets take a look at my kudzu-infused oil soap...
For this batch, I substituted my kudzu-infused olive oil for regular olive oil. The oil had a rich, forest green color, but once the lye/water mixture was introduced, it morphed into a creamy green shade. The batter did not a or d (accelerate or decelerate, which is the speed that the batter traces), which is fantastic!
Coconut oil, Castor oil, and Kudzu oil
Mixing everything together!

 Next, lets take a look at my soap with kudzu powder...
With this batch, I waited until the soap batter had reached a medium trace before adding the powder. This ensured that the kudzu did not all sink to the bottom once the soap was in the mold, but stayed suspended throughout the bar of soap. Before adding the powder, the soap batter was egg shell white (a nice off-white, traditionally what I get with this recipe), but once the powder was added, the color changed dramatically to a rich green with dark-green specks. This kind us surprised me a bit, because not all plant additives to soap will change the color throughout, but rather just make the soap speckled.
The powdered kudzu has always had a green tea-like scent to it, and I sniffed this soap in the mold last night, and it retained the smell! I'm very anxious to see if the scent lasts through the cure... Usually, with other plant matter, they dont!
After adding the powder!
Coconut oil, Castor oil, Olive oil

I had a little left over from each batch, so I mixed them together and made two more bars, which will be interesting!
Batch #1 in top, Batch #2 bottom middle, Mixes of the two on the bottom sides

 These soaps will be in the mold over the weekend. Usually, soap can be unmolded in about 2 days, but when I made up this recipe, over half of the oils are olive oil, so the soap will still be soft. I cannot wait to see what these babies are going to look like after their cure!!
I will be posting a YouTube video of the unmolding (yay!), and I plan on making a second video trying out the soap in about 4 weeks, so keep an eye out for those!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Are you one of those folks who is dying to try my lip balm, or cannot wait to bathe with one of my sweet, silky soaps, but you do not want to use PayPal as a payment method? Or, do you find using PayPal to run credit cards confusing?

Well, this is your lucky day! I've opened a second shop on a new site called! WePay is very interesting... You can shop and pay for your items all at once, without using a separate credit card processor! Awesome! The site is not soley deticated to handmade/vintage, and it is brand new, so it needs all of the love it can get!

Do not worry, I am not abandoning Etsy! I love Etsy and my Etsy shop, but I wanted to give my sweet customers an alternative to Paypal!
Here is my new shop! I will be slowly moving my items over... They should all be live next week!

Have a wonderful evening!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Hydrotherapy: Relax and Soak

Baths are not just for kids anymore! A warm soak in the tub can be one of the most relaxing parts of the day. By adding a few small touches, you can make your soak a true therapeutic experience.

Set the mood!
To really get the best our of your hydrotherapy, set the mood! Lower the lights and light some scented candles or incense. Grab some warm, fluffy towels and set them near the tub. You can even bring your favorite music or that book you've never had the time to read!

When pouring your bath water, try to make it nice and warm, but not hot. Hot water can actually be drying to your skin, and is not healthy for people with blood pressure or kidney problems. A good temperature for a warm bath is right under 100 degrees.

Unscented bath salts and Loofah
Another nice touch to a bath is a scrub with a loofah. A loofah sponge comes from a Mediterranean plant, who's fruit is dried to make the sponges. Loofahs are wonderful at polishing the skin without over-scrubbing! They can be very relaxing. Take your loofah and wash your body in small circles for a relaxing experience! 

One more thing that you can add to your bath to make it even more relaxing are bath salts. Salts, like epsom salts, can be added to relax the body and relieve muscle aches. You can also use commercial or handmade bath salts as well. 

If you prefer a scented bath without the salt, you can add your own essential oils to your bath. Only add a few drops! A little goes a long way with essential oils! Here's some essential oils suggestions:
  • To Relax, try lavender, ylang-ylang, or rose
  • To calm yourself, try chamomile or neroli
  • To invigorate and energize, try grapefruit, lemon, or other citruses

A nice, relaxing bath helps everyone to center themselves and feel refreshed! Give hydrotherapy a try after a long, hard day!

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Kudzu Experiment: Prepwork

Dried Kudzu
Here's the second installment of my kudzu experiment!

My kudzu leaves have been drying for a few (quite a few!) weeks, and they were ready to grind once they became brittle to the touch. A few people I know will grind herbs and other things using a blender or magic bullet, but I prefer to do it with a mortar and pestle.

Grinding the old fashion way!
The leaves were quite easy to grind. I would only work on one leaf at a time, or I had trouble with spilling. Also, when grinding the leaves, be very careful to remove all of the stems, because they will not grind up in the mortar and pestle.
Oh! And the kudzu smelled lovely as it was being ground up... similar to the smell of unbrewed green tea.

Once I had the leaves ground up into a powder, I decided that the best way to experiment with the kudzu would be to use it in soap in two ways: for one batch, I will add the powder straight to the soap batter and for the second batch, I will use kudzu-infused olive oil.

Ground Kudzu
To infuse oil with kudzu (or any herb you wish), you will need:
-A glass jar with a tight fitting lid (mason jars work fantastic!)
-A carrier oil (I prefer to use olive oil)
-A n unsealed tea bag
-About 3-4 tsp of your herb
-A pot (You'll need this to do a stovetop infusion)

You'll start by pouring your herbs into the tea bag and placing the bag in your jar. Pour your carrier oil over top of the bag, and seal up the jar.
After that, you can infuse your oil one of two ways. The traditional method is done using natural sunlight. You will need to place your jar in a window that gets lots of warm sunlight. The infusion will take about 6 weeks to completely finish.
Infusing: Stove Top Method

The second way is to do a stovetop infusion. You will place your jar in a pot with water, and place it on a low heat for a period of between 6 and 8 hours. The infusion will be sped up by the heat. Make sure to check the pot periodically and add water as it evaporates. Make sure to never leave your stove unattended, or leave the house with your stove on! Safety first! Your jar will be hot to the touch when it is finished, so take care when handling. Make sure to let your oil cool before using it.
Kudzu-Infused Olive Oil

I will be making my two kudzu soaps soon, so stay tuned to see how they turn out!

Monday, January 9, 2012

New Supplies for January!!

Translucent Lip Balm Tubes

For my birthday this year (I celebrated my 28th on January 2nd!), my husband gifted me with a supply order for my shop! Best. Gift. Ever!

The very first thing that I grabbed up was a set of translucent lip balm tubes with caps, as well as tamper-evident wraps for the finished product. Since I started making lip balms, I've had a few people (my sister was the most vocal!) who have asked for tubes instead of tins. So, I obliged!

Next, I knew that I wanted to add to my lip balm line with a new, fresh flavor. I wanted to pick one that was different from my other flavors... So, I chose this fantastic Cherry Berry! It smells like sweet, tart cherries, with a mix of strawberries and blueberries. To make the lip balm perfect, I am going to tint the balm with either a rosy pink or a nice red.

New Fragrances and Flavors! Yum!
One of the great things about ordering from Rustic Escentuals is that when you order more than $15 in product, you get the option of picking out two 1 oz. Fragrance oils for free! When choosing my fragrance oils, I decided to go a more masculine route and picked Green Irish Tweed and Lumberjack. Green Irish Tweed is a classic cologne scent that smells sweet and musky. I felt pretty confident about the GIT, but the Lumberjack was a bit more of a leap-of-faith. And I am so glad I took that leap! The Lumberjack scent smells amazing! It is very woodsy, and reminds me of a fireplace burning pine logs with a hint of sweet floral undertone. It was a fantastic leap of faith!

The single best thing about Rustic Escentuals is their amazingly quick shipping! I ordered from them early monday morning, and my package was in by wednesday! And their customer service on their facebook page is some of the best that I have ever encountered!

All in all, I am silly excited about my birthday present! I cannot wait to get started on some great smelling men's soaps and some berry awesome lip balm!

Happy creating, dolls!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Many roads with one destination: Soap!

Cold process soap... Hot process soap... Melt and Pour soap... CP Oven Process Soap... Handmilled... Rebatched... Wow, there sure are a lot of soap making methods out there! When shopping for that perfect bar of soap, what does all of this mean?

Well, all of the above are methods for making soap... each one is a little different from the last. Today, I will break down the top 3 methods for soap making, as well as their benefits: Cold Process, Hot Process, and Melt and Pour.

I'll start first with the method I use most often: Cold Process. The cold process method involves mixing a water/lye solution with various oilsat a temperature of between 100 degrees and 90 degrees. Once the soap batter reaches trace (or, becomes the consistency of thick pudding), scents, dyes, or other additives can be added, then the mix is poured into a mold. The soap is safe to use once it has cured (or, set out of the mold to air dry) for approx. 6 weeks. The long cure time allows for the lye molecules to react with the oil molecules to form glycerin, which is the cleaning agent in soap. This reaction is called saponification!
Cold process bars of soap are well known for their creamy, solid bars. I prefer the CP method over the others because I like the instant gratification of seeing (and smelling) my soap, as well as the anticipation over the cure time before I can test the soap myself!
CP soap (and HP soap) has the benefit of being made from all natural ingredients. Some synthetics can be added to the soap in the form of fragrance oils and dyes, but scary synthetics (like propylene glycol) are often left out.
You can find photographs of my soap making process here on my facebook fan page! My etsy shop is full of cold process soap, and here are more Etsy soap makers featuring CP soap!!

Hot process is another popular method for soap making, and it is quite similar to cold process. With the HP method, soap makers use the same lye mixture and the same oils, but they speed up the saponification of the lye and oils by adding heat to the mix! The oils and lye mixtures are added together in a crock pot or similar heating source, and are essentially cooked over a period of hours. The heat encourages the molecules to form glycerin faster, and the soap made with the HP method is ready to use almost immediatly! (The HP soap makers that I am familiar with still like to cure their soap for a short period, to ensure that the lye is completely gone.)
Hot process soap is often identified by its rustic, rough look. When the soap is ready to go into the mold, it often has a very thick consistency and has to be spooned into the mold, rather than poured. This can lead to air pockets which give the soap its signature look!
Check out this link to Etsy to view some amazing HP soaps!!

Melt and Pour soap rounds out the top three when it comes to soap making, and it is often the method that most soap makers start out with. M&P is essentially safer for the soap maker, because instead of working with caustic lye (very dangerous if handled improperly!), M&P soap makers are working with premade bases, which can be headed up and poured into various, intricate molds. Melt and pour soap makers can make some amazingly beautiful creations, and melt and pour soap can be added to CP soap or HP soap for an added burst of color.
To make M&P soap, just head to your local craft store! Most craft stores sell premade bases that can be melted down, as well as the colors, fragrances, and molds needed to make your soap your own! The downside to the craft store kits lies in the list of ingredients to their soaps... if you are looking for a more natural base, there are many vendors online that can help!
Check our this link to Etsy to view some gorgeous M&P soaps made by amazing artists!

Comment if you are interested in learning more about soap making, or contact me on my facebook fan page... I love to talk soap!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Tutorial: Homemade lollipops

Today is my birthday!! I just turned 28 (oh man!), and I figured that a great birthday present to you all would be a new tutorial! So... lets make some lollipops!!

You will need:
2 cups Sugar
2/3 cups corn syrup
3/4 cups water
flavoring (LorAnn's flavoring is fantastic!!)
Lollipop sticks
Lollipop mold (or, you can use a greased baking sheet)
Candy thermometer

1. Mix together the sugar, water, and corn syrup in a pot on medium heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved.
2. Bring your pot to a boil. Dont stir!! (This was hard for me... I am a chronic stirrer!)
3. If you want to add coloring, add it when the mix is about 260 degrees. Just toss it in. The boiling will stir it in.
4. Turn the head off when the pot reached 300 degrees (This is called the hard crack stage on a candy thermometer). When the boiling stops, add your flavoring and stir it in. (Yay! we get to stir!)
5. Pour the candy into your mold, add your lollipop stick, and twist the stick to cover it with candy. (If you are using a baking sheet, you can either draw circles with the candy and add sticks, or pour it out, then score it with a knife).

Once the candy cools, enjoy!!
Hint: You can use kool-aid packages to flavor your lollipops, but take care not to burn the sugar! Burnt kool-aid lollipops taste horrible!!

Dress up your lollipops with a cellophane bag, a sticky label, and a bow, and you've got a great looking gift!

Happy candy making! And happy 28th birthday to me!