March 28, 2012

Scenes from Today

 Soap soldiers all lined up to get their "cure" on.

Just cut-the scent is UN-be-leivably delicious.

March 24, 2012

Today's Subject-Tips for Working with Honey + A Sale!

“Well," said Pooh, "what I like best," and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called.” A. A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

Mmmmm honey, the anticipation of it's thick flavorful offerings-it's good for so many things-one of which is soap. There aren't many ingredients I won't sacrifice for the sake of soap; herbs, teas, beer-are all fair game. I have to admit though I have a soft spot for honey, as I measure out each deliciously fragrant spoonful of honey- I have to admit I'm a bit remorseful, wishing instead that I were enjoying it decadently drizzled on a delicious scone, or perhaps enjoying a touch in my morning tea. However, knowing it's extraordinary contributions to soap, and ultimately the skin-I willingly make the sacrifice.

Honey, like glycerin is hygrogropic meaning it attracts water-moisture to your skin leaving it soft and dewy throughout the day. Honey also boasts natural anti-oxidant and anti microbial properties along with a litany of other beneficial properties making it a perfect "food" for your skin.

On the downside, honey is notorious for being a bit troublesome to work with in terms of soap making, so I thought I would share with you a few tips that I have found that make it a bit easier for me. I use a fair amount of honey(1 tbs. per pound of oils) to make my Orange Honey Drizzle with Oats soap;a soap I've been making now for  probably a couple of years-it's my very favorite of all time and if I had to choose only one  soap to use from now on it would be this one-hands down. I love that it smells good enough to eat and even more importantly the way it makes my skin feel.

* I'd like to add a change right here-in the above paragraph I stated that I used 1tbs. of honey per pound of oils. Previous to switching to this mold I was using a silcone mold, and so I never experienced any sticking issues-the mold below is a transitional mold(a move up in batch size) that I just started using. I line with freezer paper and with this batch I experienced some sticking to the paper on the bottom of the block. I'm thinking the next batch I will pull back on the honey just a bit. I'm thinking  I might go 6tbs. to the 8 pounds of oils to see if the sticking issue is eliminated by a bit less honey. This is to say, that you might need to play around just a bit with your honey ratio as well to avoid overheating, sticking etc.
So here we go-

  • Working with honey can be a sticky,icky mess. I find that if I lightly coat my measuring cup+ tablespoon with vegetable oil the honey doesn't stick to my cup or spoon making things much easier to deal with. 
  • Secondly, if you've ever made soap with honey and thought it was all integrated only to find those caramel colored splotches in your finished product-you know how frustrating integrating honey can be. I find that adding just a bit of water to my honey and slightly heating it makes it much easier to fully integrate into my oils. I like to get my oils to emulsification first, then slightly heat my honey/water in the microwave-just so I can tell the honey is loosened and a bit watery and then I add it to my base oils being sure to stick blend a bit to get it nicely mixed in. Adding a bit of water to the honey is okay for me because I use a water discount anyway so adding a bit back does not make my batch too wet and it saves me the frustration of honey that does not get mixed into the batch well-so sad when that happens(and it has happened-thus these little tips.)
  • Also,when soaping with honey (a hot additive due to it's high sugar content) you need to be careful. I find that letting my lye get fairly cool(I tend to soap with my lye around 110 degrees Fahrenheit.) and my oils even cooler-works well for me. In my experience, soaping on the cooler (esp.with ingredients high in sugars) side is very key to avoiding cracking and even worse a volcano. This brings up an important tip-if you suspect you may have a volcano incident on your hands (with beer, wine, honey, coconut milk, goat's milk or anything with lots of sugars)-put your mold over a tray of some kind to catch the mess and watch your eyes as it can spew raw soap all over. I've never had a volcano happen, but know people that have and it is a a mess to be avoided. I have had cracking on top-a precursor to a volcano.
  • Avoid over insulation of your mold. I use a wood mold and while I used to insulate and still in the cooler months throw a light towel around my mold-I don't insulate at all in the warmer months. It's always important to consider the ambient temperature of your soaping environment.Ambient heat with an already hot batch equal trouble.
 I add a bit of water to my honey and heat this mixture slightly before adding it to my soap at emulsification. Notice how the honey/water is not thick, but a bit runny instead. This makes for a much easier and successful  integration of honey into your batch. Sorry for the less than clear image- I was trying to get this shot dialed in with one hand,hopefully you get an idea of the consistency of the honey here.

Freshly poured batch-the top is a little crazy,but I'm not overly concerned because the top will be trimmed. One of the challenges in working with honey is that it also attracts ash(due to it's hygroscopic nature)-by trimming the top I don't have to worry about this. I will cover this soap with the lid to the mold,but will not insulate.

This is a hot, hot batch of soap in the throes of gel-this is a very good example of gel for those who've never seen it before. Gel starts in the very core of the soap and works out-sometimes the corners(the coolest part of the mold) don't gel.

The finished product-Orange Honey Drizzle with Oats- A generous drizzle of aromatic Citrus Honey and Sweet Orange essential oil mingle with hand ground colloidal oats; this wholesome soap is like breakfast for your skin.

And because this is my very favorite soap and I would love to share it with you-please enjoy 10% off of Orange Honey Drizzle with Oats today through Tuesday.

Oh! and be sure to tell share YOUR  favorite tips for working with honey or perhaps your horrible volcano stories..

    March 23, 2012

    Beautiful Photo Friday

    Today's Beautiful Photo Friday features one of my favorite tools-my little Molcajete. A Molcajete is a stone tool, the Mexican version of the mortar and pestle. I use it often, especially for hand grinding my oats for Orange Honey Drizzle with Oats (featuring citrus honey,sweet orange essential oil and hand ground colloidal oats.) Why not just throw oats in the spice mill you ask? Well for two reasons 1) I enjoy the process of grinding the oats-it's meditative and adds a more personal touch 2) using the Molcajete allows me much more control over the texture I want my oats to have-I don't want to completely annihilate my oats to the point of oat flour. I do want oats that are not whole with a certain proportion of oat flour-a Molcajete is perfect for this. A Molcajete is a beautiful thing.

    March 19, 2012

    Making the Cut

     Preparing to cut Lavender shave rounds.

    Freshly cut Lavender shave rounds-I handle soap with gloves because the smooth surface it prone to fingerprints.

    Freshly cut Lavender and Clove shave rounds-not yet cleaned up. I wait until the soap dries out a bit and then it's easier to clean up the rough edges.

    Yesterday was a day of just puttering around the house. I did a bit of this and that-took the houseplants outside for a good feed and watering, laundry, a bit of housekeeping and cutting of soap. Above, is a pictorial tour of the soap cutting process. Beginners often wonder how soap is cut so uniformly, so here is an inside look. In the beginning we all struggle through with hand cutting our soaps, for some it remains the preferred method(as some seem to have the knack to do it by hand.) I was never able to really get the hang of it by hand bars are not quite as challenging to cut by hand as rounds (ime.) While a nice cutter is an initial investment-it makes life so much easier and is a piece of equipment you will not regret. With a nice cutter you will have much less waste,nice uniform bars and rounds, and much less frustration.

    * I should add that with proper care-your cutter will last a very, very long time. I purchased my cutter within the first year of soaping and have had great luck with wires etc. I give it a thorough cleaning once in a while and wipe it down after each use-with proper care it is a true workhorse.

    March 18, 2012


    Recently, I have had some issues with my silicone molds and lots of sweating/condensation. The soap is still lovely to use, but the condensation was leaving pock marks on the outside of the soap-not very attractive. I tried several different things-removing all insulation,soaping cooler,un-molding as soon as possible etc.- but to no avail. I could try to stop gel altogether,but my formula wants to gel and I prefer to gel. Sooo, I am having to go to a completely different mold(a block mold my husband built, but I never used because it needed a splitter to go with it.) Now, with a bit of adjustment for the mold itself and a new combination splitter/planer in the works I will be moving up a bit in batch size. At first, I was a bit intimidated by the thought of a larger batch,but after actually making it and going through the motions it was very manageable. It think it's going to work out well.

    I will most likely be selling my current (very nice silicone molds) once I see that all is going to work out well. I think they would work out very nicely for someone who doesn't gel or with a formula that perhaps doesn't heat up as much as my formula does (although no guarantees.) They are very nice and well made molds. More deets as I see how things are working out.

    March 17, 2012

    Scenes From Today

    It was a beautiful day today here in Lubbock, Texas.

    A volunteer Cilantro plant that came up in my front bed-survived the winter-the leaves at the bottom are the traditional cilantro shape and the upper leaves are delicate and feather like. The flowers; tiny white jewels among the feathery green.

    Feathery green Cilantro-the leaves and seed are known as Coriander

    What used to be a tiny Aloe Vera

    My favorite pot-mosaic of broken plates, buttons,and bottle caps.

    March 14, 2012

    Tis the Season

    Tierra Verde Shave Round 3.75 ounces $5.00

    Tis the season to pay even  more attention to shaving needs-shorts and bathing suits are on the horizon. Read what one happy customer has to say about her experience with a Tierra Verde Shave Round-"I admit, I "stole" a lavender shaving round of yours intended for hubby and use it for my legs! Loving it!" 

    Tierra Verde Shave Rounds come in 2 scented options-Clove and Lavender and 2 unscented options Olive Oil and Goat's Milk and Fresh Aloe.

    March 13, 2012

    Quote of the Day

    “Some people won't be happy until they've pushed you to the ground. What you have to do is have the courage to stand your ground and not give them the time of day. Hold on to your power and never give it away.”
    ― Donna Schoenrock

    March 12, 2012

    Then and Now

    Yesterday, I happened to come across an interesting question regarding wheat grass and it's staying power. One person was asking if the beautiful green color that is the result of using wheat grass as a colorant would "stick," and one of the responses to this question was "no-wheat grass has a large amount of chlorophyll in it that keeps it from being a stable colorant (unless is is kept in conditions that do not expose it to light.)"

    Backing up a few months, I first spotted wheat grass used as a colorant over at Simply Soap in Australia when she did an experiment using varying amounts of "wheat grass powder" to get different shades of  the most glorious green. I asked her about how it was holding, and if she was noticing the color fading at all and her response at the time was that if there were any fading it was imperceptible, so I went on the hunt for wheat grass powder. Now, wheat grass powder is not an inexpensive means to coloring soap-I'll tell you that right off, but if you're like me and prefer a natural colorant and are infatuated with green-this is a great way to go.

    The following are some of my projects in which I used wheat grass powder.

    1) Tree Hugger- this was my first go at using wheat grass powder. I wanted a light green,but didn't really get the satisfactory green I was looking for-instead it's a bit towards the olive(which isn't bad-just not what I had envisioned.)

    Then-The next trial was a batch of Fir Needle that was first made back in October of 2011. I used a bit more wheat grass and got a more true green that I was looking for-this image has is a bit too light-the green is actually a very pale natural looking green.

    "Fir Needle" Oct. 2011

     Fir Needle-Feb. 2012

    Now-Here is a bar from the same batch, but taken in February of 2012. The color is more true as the light is much better. I am unable to detect a pronounced difference in the color at this point. The soap is obviously stored out of direct sunlight, but at this point appears to be fairly stable in terms of fading. So, the question is-given more time-will this indeed fade to brown or keep it's glorious green? I'll keep an eye on this a keep you informed of any changes,but so far so good.

    March 11, 2012

    Sour Grapes

    This morning I woke up to comments from "Anonymous" spewing vile hateful words regarding the recent Cocobong review. In all the years I have been blogging I have never, never had anyone leave comments like that. My experience of the soap making community has been nothing but pleasant - thank goodness you are not the norm. You didn't even have the "huevos" to leave your name and according to your comments-"I'm pathetic?"

    I'm sorry that you feel the way you do-but YOU are not worth a moment of my worry. That is all.

    March 10, 2012


    Fir Needle

    I've been reflecting a lot lately on my soap journey(it's been almost 4 years)and the time has truly just flown by. I've never been the kind for person to stick with anything for too long-whether it was a lack of discipline, or perhaps things just weren't a good "fit." I've left behind a trail of things tried and soon abandoned. Soap has been somehow a different ever intriguing journey. I floundered just a bit in figuring out my "soaping" style. I once thought to be successful I had to emulate the soaping styles of the ones I saw as the soaping "greats," but it was recently when I started giving in to my own inner voice that I've felt a peace about my own style. I once thought that my style of  uncomplicated and "simple" soap would never sell. I was convinced I would never be successful until I could make soap like some of the greats even though it meant compromising the soaping style I felt a connection with. It's only been lately that I have realized how fitting and important my soaping style is to me-and that it's really an extension of the things I find make me happy in life. Things like the season's first taste of homegrown vine ripened cherry tomatoes bursting with sweet acidic juicy goodness, the sweet ozone smell of rain, fields of sunflowers tilting there heavy heads to greet the sun,the scent of whispering conifers on a crisp fall day, passing panoramic fields of lavender on a winding New Mexico road, the beautiful essence of floral in a thick gooey taste of farmer's market honey, the changing Season's fresh palette.These are the things that make me purr, the things that make life great-I guess by my very nature I am simple and uncomplicated and so my soaps are a natural extension of who I am-uniquely and authentically me.

    March 7, 2012

    I Admit

    Tree Hugger-an arboreal blend of eucalyptus and cedar perfect for any tree hugger. This blend smells like cedar after a rain; smoky, spicy and slightly sweet with a hint of camphor.

    Okay, I admit that I was pretty darn excited (I might have done a very discreet happy dance inside) to quite innocently run across Cocobong's blog post last night. I had no reason to suspect it was a "review" post or that a sampling of my soap would be included, but there it was. I was so relieved to know that something I put so much into was received so well -because that's why we put our hearts into this mad obsession after all right? 

    I have been tossing back and forth weather or not I wanted to keep Tree Hugger as part of my permanent line. I know I can do some tweaking to make it just a bit better-(now that I know the secret to get rid of the clumpy td and how much wheat grass powder to get a better green) and it has a special place in my heart with or without the wonderful Cocobong review + it sells well at market-I think I'll be keeping it around.:-))

    A big shout out to Lynda and C'bong for their kind words of encouragement!

    March 5, 2012

    A Great Way to Start the Day ;-)

    A glowing review is music to a soap maker's ear.

    "Michelle Lang, owner of Tierra Verde Handmade Soaps, creates 100% natural soaps.   Scented with fine essential oils and colored with natural pigments, then beautifully wrapped in recycled paper, soap doesn't get more natural than this  :)   

    My first order from Tierra Verde was a bar of Tree Hugger.   Wonderfully scented, with beautiful natural colors, this soap was a pure treat to use.    I love finding good quality all natural products!

    Celebrating her updated website, all bar soaps are 15% off until March 9th.     I just ordered a bar of Fir Needle and the shipping was only $2.10 (very reasonable).    This is the perfect time to try Tierra Verde soaps, if you haven't yet!!"

    To see the full review go by Lynda's blog "Handmade Soaps and Other Obsessions"- Thanks Lynda-I'm so glad you enjoyed your handcrafted soap.

    Also, don't forget all bar soaps are 15% off thru Friday-March, 9 at Tierra Verde Handmade Soaps.

    March 4, 2012

    It's New and Improved + 15% Off

    All Natural Hand Balms-1oz. $7.00

    The new updated website is live and to celebrate-all bar soaps are 15% off thru March 9.

    Special thanks to my husband for his hours and hours of tireless work. (<3 U.)

    Shades of Green- Part Deux

    Faux Funnel Swirl-Spearmint 3 shades of green + white

    Well, here are the results of my first Faux Funnel swirl-my gradients aren't as pronounced as I had hoped,but still I think that for my first try I'm pretty happy with how things came out. I see some clumps of td that I need to work on-I ran it through a strainer + used the stick blender in my td  mixture before separating it out into the green and still  there are a few clumps. What do you find is the best way to eliminate td clumps?

    March 1, 2012

    Shades of Green

     Amy's Faux Funnel Swirl in white+3 shades of green scented with Spearmint

    Amy's Faux Funnel Swirl Technique with a little bit of swirl on top-Spearmint

    I've been eyeing Amy's Faux Funnel swirl technique for a while now, and was pondering a soap to try it on. I really liked the "Orange Bliss" soap she just posted about with the gradient-so I decided to give it a swirl err I mean a whirl. I used an oxide green and titanium and as Amy's video shows how to create a gradient look-I chose to use green (cause orange would have been an odd choice for Spearmint.) I wanted to use an essential oil I had plenty of and one that wasn't too expensive in case it just didn't work out-so I settled on Spearmint. I think the white and 3 shades of green will be nice. I'm not sure if the colors might have been too loose towards the bottom causing them to mingle a bit too much-but we'll see. I haven't worked with oxides or td for a while now, so this was a bit of an experiment in more ways than one. I wasn't very happy with the top of my faux swirl so I lightly swirled with a skewer to break the pattern up a bit.

    The photos are perhaps not the best-I haven't found a nice angle for taking photos of soap in the mold,but I hope this gives you the idea. I didn't take the time to set up this photo properly-clearly(or not so clearly) I should have used a different aperture setting Oops!

    Oh, and I also made a larger than usual mess in the kitchen-don't look dear...

    Update (3-3-2012) I did finally get the kitchen clean. I used every measuring cup in the house for a different color-sooo, I had several measuring cups to deal with + the soap bowl and a couple of stick blenders-fun!! Amy, it's all your fault too!

    I took the soap out of the mold last night and I'm just not sure if it is as pretty as Amy's (she has the faux funnel pour down folks) but we'll find out soon. I will be cutting it either this evening or tomorrow-it was a bit sweaty upon getting it out of the mold which means a bit soft. I like to let my log harden up a bit before cutting so that I don't damage the soap when I pick it up + I feel my cutter goes through a bit better. I'll keep you posted. I'd forgotten how lovely Spearmint as a single note smells-just so fresh and clean-a great scent for summer.