Merry Christmas

It has been a while since I posted and this has constantly been on my mind.  After all, this blog and soapmaking are my babies – born one month apart.  It’s just that it is much faster for me to post pictures and updates primarily on Instagram, and secondarily on Facebook.  I hope you follow me there!

Last Sunday was my last day to make soap for the year.  It’s nice to see my kitchen free of soapmaking clutter!  There’s still a lot of things to do and finish before my husband and I leave for Tokyo, where we will be spending the New Year.  I am really looking forward to this break and to see Maya again!

For those of you who have been following my blog, you know that I have a beloved shih-tzu named Chewie. He is currently in doggie hospital for ehrlichia, a serious bacterial infection transmitted by ticks.  Not only that, he needs his gallbladder removed for stones, but I am still hoping that the reading is wrong, or that the stones would miraculously dissolve, so that he would not require surgery.  He is staying in the hospital until we come back.  Please send him prayers and healing energy.

To close the year, I leave you with these holiday soaps I made.  See you again in 2016!  Wishing you all a Joyful Christmas and a Happy, Healthy, and Peaceful New Year!

Gift Basket 2

Gift Basket

jack frost

Jack Frost

Mistletoe

Mistletoe

Nutcracker

Nutcracker

Red Currant and Pine 1

Red Currant and Pine

Vanilla Mint

Vanilla Mint

 

Luxe Naturals

Citrus Cypress – This is the same as the Japanese Indigo Soap I made earlier this year, minus the indigo, and with the addition of Australian red clay and bamboo charcoal for a new look.  I still plan on doing more experiments with indigo but using clear-colored essential oils.  This soap has cypress, petitgrain, lemon 5-fold, orange 5-fold, cajeput, and basil – too yellow to use in an indigo soap, but perfect with the current look.  I really love the smell – so fresh and uplifting!

Citrus Cypress _1

Citrus Cypress

Orange Ylang Ylang – I was a little bit apprehensive when I made this.  Ylang ylang is known to accelerate trace or even seize soap.  Luckily, everything went smoothly.  Pure ylang ylang is so strong that a little goes a long way.  I blended it with lavender, orange 5-fold, copaiba balsam and ginger, and anchored them with kaolin and French pink clays.  This soap has olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, cocoa butter, orange wax, fresh yogurt, and goat’s milk.  If this soap were a woman, she would be someone confident and sexy, yet down to earth.🙂

Orange Ylang Ylang 3

Orange Ylang Ylang

Shikon and Bamboo Charcoal – This is a remake of the one I made last February.  The only difference is that I lessened the amount of shikon.  I found the first batch too dark; I think this new batch looks better.  But knowing me, I will probably continue to tinker with the recipe.  This has lavender, rosemary, cajeput and patchouli for their restorative properties.  The smell is herbal, a bit camphoraceous, and earthy.

Shikon Charcoal

Shikon and Bamboo Charcoal

 

Triple Mint Dead Sea Mud

I love all things minty.  Inhaled, I find it soothing, comforting and at the same time energising. My taste buds have a thing for it, too.  I was in mint heaven when I visited Australia a few years ago.  They have a mint version of almost all their chocolates!  Have you seen mint KitKat before? I was so thrilled to discover it, and of course, I had to have my stash to take home.  :)

I already make several soaps with mint, but I am always thinking of more variations.  This latest one is a Dead Sea Mud soap, aimed at acne-prone skin, yet none-drying.  It contains more than 50% olive oil, with coconut oil, cocoa butter, and castor oil making up the rest.  It also has fresh yogurt for its skin refining qualities.  For a spa-like scent, I used essential oils of Japanese Mint (mentha arvensis), spearmint (mentha spicata), peppermint (mentha piperita), cajeput (melaleuca cajeputi – a cousin of Tea Tree), Siberian fir (abies siberica), and dark patchouli (pogostemon cablin).  

Dead Sea Mud 1

Dead Sea Mud Collage 2

My M.I.L.’s New Favorite

Since I’ve known my my mother-in-law (nearly 8 years), her all-time favorite scent has always been lavender.  But ever since I gave her Honeysuckle soap last year, she has declared it as her new favorite.  Poor lavender.  She hasn’t given it a second glance since she fell in love with the heady and sexy honeysuckle.

Honeysuckle 2

I have never smelled the real flower, so I don’t know if what I have is the real deal.  I bought several honeysuckle fragrances from various suppliers, and they all smell different.  I made a blend of the ones that I like and added a little bit of other floral elements to bring everything together.

Honeysuckle 3

I think this is my 4th time to make Honeysuckle, and so far this is the best looking.  I love the bright colors and the soap batter was behaved enough for me to make hanger swirls.  Typical of most florals, this usually becomes thick quite fast, and in the past, the yellowish fragrance oil had a tendency to turn pink into peach.

Honeysuckle 1

I thought I was not into florals, but it is becoming apparent that I am wrong.  To my surprise, many of my top picks are florals, including honeysuckle.  What’s your favourite floral?🙂


 

Something Blue for Father’s Day

If my father were still here today, I am sure he would have enjoyed my soaps.  He loved smelling nice and clean.  I remember he would buy a lot of bath products during his travels, and he had a row of cologne bottles and after-shaves on his bathroom counter.  He also liked designing and fabricating things, like the mini island in our kitchen which also served as a huge chopping board.  The surface was solid wood with a thick stainless steel frame.  I bet he would have had fun helping me with some of my soaping needs.

Father’s day is just around the corner and this year I remembered to prepare early.  I try to have a good variety of colors for my display, but currently I have more blues than usual. Yes, it was by design, but coincidentally blue is one of my favourite colors to soap with.  I like how there are so many different shades and tones to choose from and I think all of them are beautiful.  They tend to stay true to their colour, and unlike yellow and orange,  I don’t need to use as much.

Vetiver and Sage 3

Vetiver & Sage – fresh top notes of lemon, grapefruit, rosemary and sage, balanced with light florals, sandalwood, patchouli, vetiver and musk

Deauville

Deauville – a breezy unisex blend of orange, ginger, ozone, hyacinth, vetiver and light musk.

Ocean 1

Ocean – smells fresh and soothing with ozone, marine and watery notes, and eucalyptus.

Tropical Sunset

Tropical Sunset – bottom blue part is scented with coconut cream; upper part is a delicious fruity mix of lime, pineapple, papaya and passionfruit.

Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads!🙂

 

Soap Favors for a June Wedding

Have you ever wondered why June is the most popular month for weddings?  Perhaps most of you already know, but I didn’t until I read The History of June Weddings.

In essence, it was all about practicality in the olden days.  June meant warmer weather and a good time to take one’s annual bath.  Since people were at their cleanest and least smelly during this month, it would logically be the best time for a union. Children conceived during the honeymoon – referring to the first full moon after the summer solstice on June 21- would be born the following spring, thus escaping the harsh winter and not interfering with the fall harvest.

Nowadays people are clean all through out the year, and unless one is a farmer, no one has to think about harvest, yet June’s popularity for weddings hasn’t waned.  Undeniably, it is a beautiful and colourful time of the year.

Last month, I was approached by a lovely young couple to make 220 soap favours for their June wedding on the 13th, which, coincidentally, was also my birthday!  They chose Lavender Mist and Ginger Apple for their scents, and their only request was to have a custom stamp reflecting the design on their invite.  They were fine with my normal packaging, but I personally wanted something more special for them.  And this is where the saying “if there is a will, there is a way” applies.

I have seen on Pinterest cute packaging ideas featuring a doily folded on top of a paper bag, with a ribbon securing it.  I thought doilies evoked the perfect feel for a romantic wedding, and since I love those stuff, I’ve managed to hoard a small stash.  :)  The idea was there but how to execute it?

MC Apple 3

For me the problem is usually about finding the right materials.  I could not use my normal plastic packaging since it doesn’t have side folds and would not fit the look I was going for.  I went all around town and couldn’t find the right plastic with the right size for a single bar of soap.  I had some custom-made plastic bags for my granola, but it was too big.  At that point, I had to improvise, yet remain mindful of the amount of time it required. In the end, I found an efficient way to tailor fit the plastic for the granola by chopping a good 6″ off the top, adjusting the side fold to follow the back border of the soap, and folding and taping the excess plastic at the bottom.  Plastic has a tendency to slide and dance around, so making those folds was very challenging.

After I conquered the plastic part, I had to deal with punching the doily with plastic sandwiched in between.  My single hole puncher had a hard time punching through all the layers.  Surprisingly, my smaller hole puncher did a better job, but every now and then, it would get stuck after punching and would not open.  This required prying with the handle of a spoon, and sometimes doing so would rip the doily.  Originally, I was going to make two side by side holes for the ribbon, but no way was I going to punch more than I had to.  I settled for a single hole, and as you can see, that worked out fine, too.  :)

MC Lavender Collage

Lavender Mist

MC Apple Collage

Ginger Apple

I was really excited to make these soap favours and it pushed me to be creative.  I am very thankful to the couple, Manolo and Chinggay, for giving me the opportunity to make their wedding favours, and for allowing me to blog about it.  I wish you both all the love and joy a marriage can bring.  :)

Glorious Spring

Yesterday marked my 2nd blogsary, and I am sorely reminded that I have not posted anything the past 6 weeks. It’s not an excuse, but my husband and I were on holiday in Japan last month, and it takes me a while to get back to the swing of things.  I didn’t have problems getting back to soaping, but I haven’t picked up my camera since arriving.  I did take a lot of photos in Japan, so that is what I will be sharing today.

March to June are hot summer months here in the Philippines, so spending early spring in Japan was a cool and refreshing welcome.  We were lucky enough to catch the famed cherry blossoms, even though it was already towards the tail end of its short season. The blossoms were already falling from the trees – appearing like snow on the ground – but still a splendid sight to behold.

Sakura

Cherry blossoms or sakura in Japanese.

I met Maya last October and I was so happy we were able to meet again and spend a whole day together!  As cherry blossom viewing can be a very crowded affair,  Maya took me somewhere quiet: the Aoyama Cemetery.  Maya explained that the Japanese don’t view death as something terribly morbid or sad.   The cemetery was beautiful and serene, and felt more like a park than anything else.

Sakura Aoyama

Cherry blossoms in Aoyama Cemetery.

After Aoyama, Maya took me to the Imperial Palace grounds. In stark contrast, it was teeming with people.  I even bumped into my business partner and his family!  How random is that? Maya and I didn’t have photos the first time we met, but this time, we made sure to capture the moment.

Japan 1

Maya 2

I love this photo of Maya with her hair blown by the wind.

Everywhere I look, there is always something that catches my eye. These camellias are just stunning:

Camellia

And it’s not just the flowers.  Even tree trunks have awesome camo patterns!

Camo

From Tokyo, we took the train to go to Kyoto, the former imperial capital of Japan. One of the highlights of our trip was our relaxing and picturesque walk along the 2-km cherry blossom-lined Philosopher’s Path.

Philospher's Path 1

Philospher’s Path

I don’t know the names of these flowers, but I found them along our walk. Aren’t they so cute and beautiful?

Flowers

On one end of the Philospher’s Path is the Silver Pavilion or Ginkakuji Temple.  Because of a friend who’s a moss lover, I couldn’t help but notice and be in awe of the lush moss that covered a significant part of the temple grounds. My friend was so jealous when I showed him the photos.

Kyoto

Silver Pavilion or Ginkakuji Temple

Ahh, spring. What a lovely lovely time of the year.  It’s nature in all its shining glory.🙂

 


 

 




Rice Water Fil-Castile

A friend of mine introduced me to making porridge with glutinous purple rice, and ever since then, I would buy a small pack whenever it makes its sporadic appearance in the supermarket. The high amount of amylopectin is responsible for its sticky quality –  yielding a thicker and richer porridge compared to one made with regular rice.

As I was preparing to cook some glutinous purple rice last month, I remembered reading somewhere that rice water, or the water used for washing rice, was good for the skin and has been used by Chinese and Japanese women for centuries.  Without doing much research, I went ahead and soaked rice in distilled water at a 1:1 ratio.

Purple Rice 7

Purple rice water

I also had some shikon roots going through a second infusion. It was much lighter than the first infusion so I thought if I used it together with the purple rice water, I might get a lavender-colored soap.  Wanting to keep things simple, I decided to use these 2 ingredients in my 2-oil Fil-Castile formula.  And instead of my usual unscented Fil-Castile, I added essential oils of lavender and rosewood (all-natural blend since the real thing is endangered and too costly.)  At the last minute, I added bamboo charcoal to have some kind of design for the top.

Purple Rice 1

Purple Rice 3

In stark contrast to the dark purple colour that I got with my Shikon and Bamboo Charcoal Soap, this second-infusion batch had a greenish hue when it was wet, and dried out to a greyish bone colour.  The colour I had hoped for was not there, but it smelled nice and expensive.😀

Purple Rice 2

Purple Rice 4

I finally got to test a bar a few days ago.  It was slimy, pasty, and barely bubbly.  If I really wanted to, I could create a little lather by coating my hands with wet soap and rubbing them together for a few seconds.  But if I just glided the bar on my body, there was no lather and the soap was so slippery that it kept jumping out of my hands. Because I like using soap with a good lather, this soap rates low in usage pleasure, but it leaves my skin feeling very soft.  My conclusion is that I used the wrong type of rice, but rice water is certainly good for the skin.

As for my sticky purple rice porridge, it was delicious. After cooking it and adding enough water to make it into the consistency I wanted, I seasoned it with a little himalayan salt, added coconut milk for richness, and coconut nectar for sweetness. I forgot to include it in the photos, put I also like to sprinkle it with toasted Japanese sesame seeds, either the white or black variety. Yum.

Purple Rice 5

Glutinous purple rice, coconut milk, coconut nectar/syrup, himalayan salt

Purple Rice 6

Glutinous purple rice porridge.