Friday, August 31, 2007

Soap Making

I come from a frugal family. We were disinclined to treat our environment as disposable and used what we had.

The local butcher would wrap our meat and tie it with string which was always saved. Pieces of tin foil was washed and flattened for other uses. Food scraps went back into the garden.

Mom always saved her bacon grease to make the most tasty potatoes and chicken ever fried.

At some point in time, Mom decided to save other oils left over from cooking and made soap out of it.

This picture show Pam and Mom making soap the old fashioned way.

The oils were cleaned, rendered and then added to the pot in the amount that her original recipe called for along with a can of lye. She always said that the most difficult part was to find some type of fragrance that would hold so I'm sure she used some of the vanilla extract that was used for cooking along with small amounts of perfumes and colognes that were off duty. I wish I could find the formula right now but it isn't at hand.

Sometimes the soap that my Mom and my sister-in-law would make was terrific and other times it was on the harsh side and best for laundry. It sure was nice most of the time.

Soapmaking has advanced quite a bit. We now have calculators that tell us how much sodium hydroxide to add for each oil which has a specific number for saponification. We now use digital scales to weigh each ingredient and this is often done in grams. Best of all is knowing the properties that each oil add to make a well balanced conditioning soap with a lather that creates big fluffy bubbles and small creamy bubbles that cleans yet leaves your skin moisturized.

We also have access to some very fine skin-safe fragrances that are manufactured just for soaps and lotions. Many herbs and clays make fine natural colorants. We also have oxides that have been processed for some fun colors.

The one big difference in a handmade soap and commercial bars is naturally occurring glycerin. The handicrafter leaves the glycerin in the soap while the big boys take it out and use it for other products. Our skin loves glycerin. This is a product that commands a high price in the marketplace and I'm sure that the big manufactures actually make glycerin and soap is the by-product.

Most commercial soaps are made using beef tallow, coconut, and fragrance. If you look at the ingredients on a bar of soap you will see the INCI (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients) name of sodium tallowate and sodium cocoate. Perhaps you will see other long complicated names in soaps like Dove. Dove isn't a soap. It is made with syndets or synthetic detergents. While there is nothing wrong with these oils and I certainly use coconut for lather, there are much nicer oils that condition and clean the skin.

Olive oil is always my base oil in any formula and it is known for it's gentleness and balanced ph for fine skin care. I also use hemp and emu oils known to help eczema and acne problems.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Colorado Summer '06

Now I should be working at a gazillion other things but I'm still hanging around the computer doing my lessons and posting to this blog.

I've been telling my family and friends about all that I have been learning with the paint shop pro classes. These two photos are further examples of the artistic expressions available to us with good software.

This trip started with a trip to Minnesota to celebrate my dear friend Cindy's 50th birthday.

My niece Heather lives there also. Mary and Cindy have adopted her into their extended families and have been watching and aiding this beautiful young woman grow her career.

The trip progressed to Colorado for more fun with Brigid and Angel.

We came across this little town with a portion of the old West preserved. The town itself was not accessible unless you paid an admission price. We had a white water rafting destination so did little more than look around and snap a few pictures.

I find it fascinating that people lived with so few of the modern conveniences that we take for granted now.

This last photo is an artistic colored pencil rendition of the first.