Natural Green Soap Colorants: part 2

Last year I tested six natural green colorants in cold process soap – you can read about it here – and no sooner had I completed the experiment than I thought of all the other natural green colorants I could have tested. I decided almost immediately to make a second experiment… and it only took me another year to do it 😉 but here it is! In this experiment I will test six more natural green colorants or additives in cold process soap: liquid chlorophyll, comfrey leaf powder, cold pressed hemp seed oil, neem leaf powder, nettle leaf powder, and sea weed extract/powder.

Parameters

After my first experiment, I realized that there were variables that left some questions unanswered. So I did three things differently this time:

  1. A control: I left some of the batter uncolored. In the first experiment the green clay was so pale it was difficult to see any color effect at all. Since I knew my soap recipe yielded a white soap, I could confirm that the clay did effect the color of my soap, if only slightly. But I couldn’t prove or show you this because I didn’t leave any of the batch uncolored. This time the control will make the effects of the colorants obvious.
  2. Gelling: this can have a big effect on your soap colorants and this was something I was left wondering about last time. So this time I decided to split each colorant into two separate molds, oven process one of them and leave the other one out, uncovered, at room temperature.
  3. Weight and equalizing each batch: Last time I measured my dissolving oil out by volume, and this time I did it by weight. Since I was also using hemp seed as an actual colorant, I needed to even that out to make sure that each test got the same amount of extra oil. I decided to add 5 grams of extra oil to each test, including the chlorophyll which is a water based liquid, essentially mixing the oil and the liquid chlorophyll.

The Additives

After my last experiment I received several suggestions for other green colorants to try: alfalfa, avocado, cucumber juice, chlorophyll, and other powdered botanicals. While I was game to try anything, I left some out because either I couldn’t find them, or because it would have been too difficult to test in such a small quantity, and to compare to the other additives. I really wanted to try avocado purée but there was no way I could have done it on such a small scale and account for the added volume and unknown amount of water.

Here are a few details on each of the additives I ended up choosing. Natural-green-colorants-test-F-and-P (7)Top to bottom, from left to right:

  1. Chlorophyll, liquid. Trophic Chlorophyll (Super Concentrate) extracted from Mulberry leaves in a distilled water base. I used a quarter of a tea spoon and it wasn’t enough to even register as a gram on my scale, which is why I didn’t bother adding the same amount of water to the other colorants. 
  2. Comfrey leaf powder. Hand harvested, dried and powdered a month prior to the experiment.
  3. Hemp seed oil: Manitoba Harvest brand, cold pressed organic. The hemp oil was the palest of the colorants, and I was glad to have the control to show that while it is pale, hemp oil can color your soap.
  4. Neem powder. Purchased at a health food/ethnic grocery store. Used typically in hair care. Dull greyish green color, but the fine powder is always nice if you want a less speckled look.
  5. Nettle leaf powder. Hand harvested, dried and powdered a month prior to the experiment. I choose nettle because it contains a lot of chlorophyll.
  6. Sea weed extract. Cosmetic extract made for skin and hair care applications that I purchased at a soap supply store. I guess it is basically powdered seaweed.

I started by weighing out the additives at a gram each. I came to this weight by starting at the most common ratio for any colorant, 1tsp / LB of soap, which is about 0.7 grams of botanicals, and then rounding up to 1 gram, my scale’s smallest unit. I added 5 grams of extra virgin olive oil to each colorant, except the hemp oil. I used the hemp oil as a colorant, adding it in at 6 grams, to replace the olive oil and 1 gram of powdered additive.

The Soap

For the soap recipe, I used the same bastille recipe I had used the first time around, but increased the batch size to account for the control and the oven processed control. The recipe is a basic bastille soap with olive oil, coconut oil and castor oil. Lye concentration at 38%. Superfat at 4%, and with the added 5 grams of oil in each colorant this gets bumped up to a 7% superfat.

I mixed the soap to emulsion them poured out a predetermined amount for each color  and mixed in the green colorants and oil. Then I poured half of the colored batter into a 6 cavity muffin mold – destined for the 170 F oven – and the other half into a crimped cupcake mold destined to sit uncovered in a cool room. The smooth soaps were left in the warmed oven for 4 hours, to try and force gel (although, to be honest, not sure they did gel) and the crimped cupcake soaps were left uncovered on a tray in a cool room. I unmolded two days later, and here are the results!

Results

This time I made more of an effort to take good pictures of the soaps at different times in the cure. Et voilà!

Freshly unmolded:

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Not bad at the unmold! My biggest surprise was the lack of difference between the oven batch and the room temp batch. The only one that is obviously different is the hemp seed oil, and it seems the cooler the soap, the more obvious the color. I guess it makes sense since it is cold pressed oil, perhaps heating destroys something in it.

Ok now, at two weeks, here also with the control peeking in on the right.

2 week cure:

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I find that at the two week mark you can really see that the oven processed soaps are yellowing and browning faster. Kind of like leaves in the autumn.

6 week cure:

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Not bad at full cure. Some blotches (soap from other tests) have appeared on the soaps, and that means I should wipe my spatulas better 😉

Normally, this is where most colorant tests end – at the 6 week cure. At this point most soaps are not only fully saponified but fully cured. If the color stays until the six week mark this is considered a good colorant, and in fact, this is where I was going to publish my results. But as life should have it, that didn’t happen and another 12 weeks passed before I sat down to write this. And I’m glad it happened that way, because here is a pic of the soaps 5 months into the cure…

20 week cure:

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Thoughts on the Results:

My feeling is that natural greens are particularly difficult because as we know, leaves brown easily. They get brown and yellow at the onset of cold weather, when they are picked, when they are cooked or otherwise broken down. And this explains also why the oven processed soaps yellowed faster. From the beginning and throughout the process chlorohyll was the most impressive colorant. It packs a real punch with the clear bright ocean green, but as you can see, it ages the least well. The chlorophyll is extracted so it’s not bound by leafy cell walls, which explains both why it is greener at first and then fades quicker. I also noted that the chlorophyll resembled the spirulina and chlorella I used in my first experiment, and that’s because sea weeds contain high amounts of chlorophyll.

I believe the reason the nettle and comfrey have held up the best is because they were 1) fresher and 2) more intact – ground in a coffee grinder – meaning the chlorophyll is still bound in the cell walls. The more you break botanicals up, the faster the cell walls will break down in a challenging environment: like alkaline soap, a hot stew, an infusion, or a tincture. So, if you can stand the speckled look, grinding your botanicals yourself might be the way to go. Although, these too will end up yellowed and faded too. The reason the neem has stayed the same color is probably because it already did its yellowing on the store shelf. When I bought it it was already yellowish brown. But I bet fresh neem leaves are green too.

As for the hemp oil, I really should have used more of it to know for sure. But I do believe that hemp would be no different than any other leafy botanical. Unless the green color comes from something other than chlorophyll.

Conclusions:

I realized a while ago, that the only botanicals that seem to really hold true and stay fast, are roots or botanical extracts, like indigo. Extracts make sense, because they are no longer tied to/in the cellulose of the plant. But does anyone know why this is for the roots – alkanet root, tumeric root, madder root? I have a feeling it’s because chlorophyll is kind of the problem, because its purpose is to be reactive to sunlight.

I now feel that I don’t need to test any more green colorants. But if you have any other ideas for other natural colorants I could try, let me know! And please share any comments, suggestions or questions you might have on the subject. Let me know if you want close ups of the different soaps, I could add those in after if you want. Thank you so much for stopping by 😀

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Baby Crafts, part 2: Felt Cat Rattle

One of the greatest things about the Waldorf store Grande Ourse, jouets pour la vie is that they sell the supplies to make textile toys similar to the ones they carry in store: things like real wool felt sheets, felting wool, thread, needles, and these beautiful embroidery scissors that I still haven’t bought but that I want. Badly. And the prices are affordable. I had bought a bunch of felt sheets with the idea to make a nursery mobile in the Waldorf style but had yet to start this project. While still in the googling stage – looking for ideas on how to theme my mobile – I had come across a bunch of pictures of felt plushies. felt-plushies-googlesearch-marsbalms

They looked really easy to make. Some of them anyway. And being Scandinavian (and born in the 70s) I decided to wanted to make my version of a Scandi Cat, a ridiculously retro looking and cute plush toy made by a British lady (!). I would have to make my own pattern of course, but this wouldn’t be difficult because the Scandi Cat is basically just an oval topped with two triangles. I sketched him out on some paper then folded it in half to make sure that both sides were the same shape and that the ears were aligned. You can see the lines I drew with a liner – doing this is a good idea to make sure you line up the features.

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Made my own pattern by sketching out the cat on regular paper, after tracing the body, I cut the face out, after tracing the face, I cut the features out.

I would have to sew on the features. Again, no biggie, because the Scandi cat, and almost all plush toys are cartoony with simplified features. After using the pattern to get the front and back part of the cat (you can see this in the pic above) I cut the features out of the pattern: the face, the nose and eyes and used these smaller parts as mini patterns. Here below you can see the cut out features.

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First you sew on the smaller parts onto the face using the blanket stitch. This is the same stitch I used to sew the cat together because it prevents the stuffing from coming out. It’s really simple and there are a ton of videos on how to blanket stitch.

The only parts that are not blanket stitched are the pupils and the smile – those were back stitched – basically a straight stitch that starts where the last one ends. I didn’t even know it was called back stitch, it’s so simple you can figure it out just by trying to sew an uninterrupted line. Incidentally, I also pulled each subsequent stitch up through the last and found that this made a neater line without spaces, especially since I was sewing curbed lines. Here’s a bigger pic.SAM_4219

Imagine that when you come back up with your needle instead of pulling it up next to your last stitch you pull it up into the very last millimeter of your previous stitch, essentially piercing through the thread and splitting the fibers of the thread a bit.But that’s nitpicking. It’ll probably be chewed to bits anyways, right?

Ok, then when you have sewed the features on you sew the whole face on, as you see above, with the blanket stitch. Then you have your front completed and unless you want to put a tail on the back part, sew the front and back together with the blanket stitch: SAM_4221 and leave a hole at the bottom and begin stuffing. Don’t cut your thread yet though! Just leave it hanging. I chose to stuff with wool. SAM_4222

Using a wooden dowel, I stuffed the face first, getting the ears good and puffy and then continuing my way down. In the middle I inserted a brass bell. You see them tied around the necks of the golden easter bunnies in stores now actually. You can get them at craft stores too. I was told that to make it chime I would have to encase the bell in a hollow ball first because the wool would damped the bell. But no, it does not and a year later still sounds clear! So, I just wrapped wool around the bell loosely, then put it in the middle and stuffed wool all around it. I made sure not to stuff it too much though, because in order for baby to be able to grab it the toy needs to be soft and have some give. The same goes for when you get to the end: it’s easier to sew it up if you don’t stuff the bottom too much, so after stuffing the cat I sewed up the hole a bit more, then stuffed the bottom with the dowel and then stitched it shut. SAM_4224

Ok, so I forgot (e.i. was too lazy) to give this cat whiskers and a tail. But, he’s a unique fellow. Kinda looks like the Cheshire cat, don’t you think? Like all the baby crafts I made while pregnant, I was worried that my baby wouldn’t like it. But she loves “katten” (cat in Swedish), especially the ears which she have chewed and sucked into little dark points. Here he is one year later, a bit mussed up, but loved. Felt cat rattle, plush toy Thanks for stopping by 🙂 Next time: how I made a felt and wood Sun, Moon and Stars Mobile!

Handmade wooden teething spoon

Baby Crafts: How I made my own Baby Toys. A series in parts…

This time last year I was pregnant with my first baby. I wasn’t working and since it was winter – and it was a brutal winter – I spent most of my time indoors, watching youtube videos on how to cloth diaper, and reading babycenter.com threads on morning sickness. I watched the blowing snow bend the two pines in the backyard. A peregrine falcon visited us a couple of times – eating his fresh caught prey on the pine branches. It was too soon to set up the crib. I wanted to paint, but had to wait until we could open the windows. There wasn’t really much I could do. I had started to visit a Waldorf store on Duluth street called “Grande Ourse: jouets pour la vie” meaning, toys for life. I love the toys in that store but I couldn’t really afford most of them. One day I picked up a piece of wood I had found on the mountain (In Montreal we are blessed to have a forested mountain in the middle of our city) and I started to whittle. This was the first baby item I made myself. It became a teething spoon. The two days it took to make it went really fast and as soon as it was done I thought: what else can I make? Here is a series on how I spent last winter, crafting baby items for my growing bump. Hope you like it!

PART 1: The Wooden Teething Spoon

So,  I found a piece of wood on the mountain. I think it’s probably maple, because the mountain (well, all of Montreal, and Quebec) is covered in maple. I’m a gatherer by nature so I have a lot of odds and ends around, and this time it proved really useful. As a small baby myself, I bit up a whole wooden dining room table so I knew teething toys might come handy. I watched a couple of videos on whittling and got busy. The first thing I did was saw off a manageable piece, about the length I wanted the spoon to be. I was lucky enough that the stick was already split in half. If it hadn’t been I would have had to split it by hammering in a knife point down the middle, if that makes sense. Next I roughly sketched the spoon out with a pen and “sketched” the outlines with a Swiss army knife.

Sketching out the wooden teething spoon

After that, I whittled away, making sure to whittle the handle away from the bowl of the spoon so that I wouldn’t slip and take away part of the bowl. I didn’t have proper spoon carving tools, but I did have a small whittle knife with a v-shaped blade and I used that to dig out the bowl. Sometimes I would stick the blade of the Swiss Army knife down the sides, but other than that a knife is pretty useless when you’re carving a bowl. SAM_2874

The spoon took the shape that felt comfortable in my hands, and I had to do it one small slice at a time. Glad I have a vacuum cleaner…

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Starting to look like something!

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After this I started sanding the spoon with coarse grit sandpaper, slimming it down and getting more elegant lines.

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Then, a finer grit sandpaper…and voila! A teething spoon! I finished it all off with a baby safe wood-finish I made myself, using beeswax, linseed oil (boiled flax seed oil) and olive oil. This kind of coating is often used on wooden Waldorf toys btw.

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Wooden teething spoon, done!

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Side view, showing the grain of the wood.

Whittling proved pretty fun, if tiring on the fingers. And messy! Especially if you don’t have the proper tools. But I was happy to find out that you can make cool things with so little: a Swiss army knife, some Dollarstore sandpaper and a couple small wood working tools I got in Chinatown for under 5$. It kept me busy for a few days, then I had to find something else to do! Next part: how I made a felt cat rattle!

Once upon a Breast Milk Soap: Great Cakes Soap works October challenge

INTRODUCTION

When I stumbled across Amy Warden’s October challenge “Alternative Liquids” I knew I had to join. I have never soaped a challenge before, in fact, I haven’t been soaping for very long at all. Last year I discovered soapmaking and didn’t stop until I became pregnant and couldn’t deal with much anything with a smell. Flash forward to 2015: I’m a new mother, nursing every 2 hours and I’m sitting on a large bag of frozen breast milk. Wondering what to do with it I remembered a recipe I’d seen in a soaping book last year. Now I can’t remember who the author was, but I remember that she called the soap something like “Mother and Baby.” (I can’t find any mention of this book online anymore – it wasn’t Casey Makela, because she wasn’t allowed to publish her recipe for breast milk soap in her book). The basic gist of it was that nothing is as nourishing and beneficial to your baby as your breast milk, inside and out. I’d recently read about women curing baby acne, cradle cap, eye infections, and various nicks and cuts with breast milk, and I knew from before that milks and milk soaps are very soothing for your skin – so breast milk soap it is! I made one trial batch, having never made a milk soap before, and was very happy with the result. Not only had I found a way to use and preserve my milk, but I had soap for my baby to last her whole childhood – a soap that is as natural and customized to her skin as can be. To date, I have preferred not to use too much soap on my baby because baby skin is so sensitive. This homemade milk soap will be gentle enough even for a little baby.

RESEARCH

Recently breast milk has been in the spotlight as the new old super food. Apparently in China it’s become a hot commodity and body builders buy it online because it contains human growth hormones. But the benefits of breast milk have even been picked up by the mainstream: in Chicago you can get breast milk facials!

So what is it about breast milk that makes people go ga-ga? And why would you use it to make soap? Apparently it has antibacterial and antiseptic properties. It also contains “anti-infectious and anti-inflammatory agents, growth factors, and prebiotics” (source). Although many of the bioactive agents may not survive freezing and heating (not to mention the lye) there are many beneficial fatty acids in human milk that do. Presumably, breast milk soap would have just as many if not more properties than say, goats milk soap, because it isn’t pasteurized and store bought milks still make a pretty nourishing bar of soap. The fats in human milk are composed of “palmitic and oleic acid” (source) as well as up to 20% of lauric and capric acid (source) (you may recognize these from the soapcalc). Lauric acid is often recognized as beneficial in treating acne and inflamed skin and also exists in coconut oil and goats milk (source and source). Caprylic Acid/Capric Triglyceride, again also found in goats milk and coconuts, act in a similar way by being a very gently anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal. But the main cosmetic use of the caprylic and capric triglyceride is as an emollient or moisturizing agent. Finally breast milk, like other milks, contains lactic acid which acts as an exfoliant, gently buffing away dead skin cells: this is why milk products, including breast milk, works so well as a facials leaving your skin feeling fresh and clean.

Milk soaps are some of the most gentle soaps on the market, and are considered perfect for children and people with sensitive skin. The difference between using say goats milk and using breast milk is of course that it is uniquely designed, and exists expressly, for your baby; to match their make-up not only as humans but as individuals. The fact that breast milk changes during the course of your child’s development is amazing in itself, but it also changes during the course of a feed. This may be worth considering when you express your milk for soap, because the “foremilk” tends to be higher in sugars and the “hindmilk” higher in fats. Typically, the higher the fat content of your milk, the silkier and more moisturizing your soap will be. All to say that breast milk is a substance that your baby’s body recognizes and responds well to, or rather, thrives on: it is “uniquely suited to the human infant, both in its nutritional composition and in the non-nutritive bioactive factors that promote survival and healthy development” (source). And I believe that if it’s good enough to eat, it’s good enough to put on your skin 🙂

SUMMARY

Ok, here’s a run down of the properties and benefits of breast milk and using breast milk in soap:

  1. It has anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties
  2. Lactic acid polishes off dead skin cells
  3. The fatty acids may help treat acne, and other skin issues
  4. Is it moisturizing
  5. It is gentle (more gentle than if you were to just use water)
  6. It is uniquely suited to your baby, and humans in general
  7. It is safe – you know where it comes from (assuming you are using your own)
  8. It’s ecological: requires no transport, packaging, farming, etc.
  9. Making soap with breast milk is a great way to preserve it for your baby
  10. If you have lots of it, making soap is better than letting it go to waste

On that note, if you do have an oversupply please consider donating to your local milk bank.

Now, enough research – onto the soap!

Making this soap was no fairy tale, but it was kind of epic. It went from being Rosebud Baby Soap, to Green Monster Soap, to Lavender Baby. Here is what happened (if you want to just see the video, scroll down):

MAKING THE SOAP

Since this is a milk soap, the first thing to do is freeze the milk so that it doesn’t burn when I add the lye. Also, I make sure to have lots of ice so that I can put the lye mixture in an ice bath. I also hope that if I soap at a low temperature that more of the nutrients will survive. IMG_20151012_180152

Next, I measure out my oils. For this recipe I am doing a Bastille type with added Shea butter and my secret ingredient for the superfat, a rose-hip maceration and rose hip oil. Rose hips are rich in vitamin C (twice as much as oranges) and as a child I had to eat a lot of rose hip soup for this very reason.IMG_20151012_182241

To my oils I added vitamin E, GSE (grapefruit seed extract) and sodium lactate to give my soap some longevity because I want my child to be able to use it throughout her childhood.

When the breast milk and lye were both dissolved I added it to my oils. I believe that both liquids were at about 80F. Right away, before I even started stick blending, I could tell that the mixture was going to trace quickly. There were white strands in the bottom just from stirring and I blended it quickly to emulsion. At that point I added the lavender EO (not very much, because I like it really mild) and then separated my batter into two parts. One I added half of the superfat and the other I divided further into three parts: each with incrementally more rose hip powder dissolved in the rose hip oils. The idea was to get three shades of pink. I gave them a quick whisk with my small whisk and then set them aside to blend the neutral soap to trace and pour it. I didn’t have to blend the soap very much at all to get to trace and it set up very thick while I flitted about. I decided that one of the sections was too pale and added more rose hip powder to it. Then one by one, they all started going green.SAM_5980.AVI_snapshot_00.04_[2015.10.15_21.20.08] At first I thought maybe my whisk was aluminum and that it reacted with the soap, but the one part that hadn’t been touched was also turning green. Now afterwards I realize that rose hip powder must be a kind of ph indicator just like red cabbage. I proceeded as planned and tried to do a Holly swirl with the thick green batter, knowing in my heart that I’d end up with a discolored plop design. SAM_5981.AVI_snapshot_00.22_[2015.10.15_12.21.25]

What I had imagined was a drop design throughout the soap, sort of like a milk drop. But I thought a drop swirl would be too boring, so I aimed to combine an in-the-pot swirl with a drop swirl using only two colours: the natural soap colour which will be an off white, and three shades of pink. I had recently bought some rose hip powder on the advice of a clerk at an herb store and was really excited to try it. Originally, I was going to call this soap “Rosebud Baby” but that went out the window when I saw my soap batter turn green! I was even more surprised the next day when I peeked under the cover to see the soap has completely neutralized and turned a light tan colour!SAM_5984.AVI_snapshot_00.17_[2015.10.15_20.18.34] And of course, when I cut it, it was clear that the soap had set up too quickly to get much of a drop. More like, plop.

When I cut it I discovered that the rose hip batter had maintained some colour – a tan, beigy colour – but clearly defined from the uncoloured soap at least. There were no swirls at all, or even lines (now two days later you can make out a few faint lines). Clearly the amount I put in each section wasn’t enough to differentiate it in its tan state. I’m sure if it had stayed pink it would have been more visible. Also, the soap set up soo quickly that my pour didn’t penetrate the bottom layer – it just pushed it down. Oddly enough, I ended up with a soap looking much like I had first envisioned it: as a bosom leaking milk (I got the inspiration from Nourri Source’s logo, the Quebec nursing organization). The tan coloured “breast” with the milk coloured soap underneath.  SAM_5986.AVI_snapshot_08.57_[2015.10.15_20.33.15]

In the end, I have a perfectly good set of softly scented lavender breast milk soap. No bells and swirls, but it’s filled with motherly love…and tons of skin loving nutrients! A great gift for baby!

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Lavender Baby, a Breast Milk Soap – 20 hours cure

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Lavender Baby, a Breast Milk Soap – 40 hours cure

 

VIDEO

PART 1

 

PART 2

How to Make your own Hot-Sauce

Harvest time is almost over here in Canada. The farmers markets are announcing the end of the season, and some have already packed up. Maybe they are selling their last heads of garlic, boxes of lunchbox peppers, and maybe if you are lucky, a whole bag of red hot peppers for $1.50. Or maybe you grew your own and some of them are slowly drying on your windowsill? Whichever way you find yourself sitting on a bunch of hot peppers, and whichever stage of of freshness they are in, Halloween weekend is the perfect time to make and enjoy your own hot-sauce!

You can make hot-sauce with fresh or dried peppers. You can use half-dried half-fresh peppers. You can use almost decomposing peppers. You can also mix in onions, sweet peppers, and even sweet fruits in your hot-sauce – like mango, papaya, and banana! The options are endless. Here is what I did with my bag of hot peppers 😀

Recipe:

  • 2 Cups of Vegetable Matter. You can use only hot peppers, or fill the 2 cups to your taste by adding a bit of veg. I used:

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  • ~ 1 ½ cup of fresh, red hot peppers, a couple of lunchbox peppers, seeded and diced. If you want your sauce HOT then leave the seeds. You can use dried peppers as well, but don’t pack them down too much when you measure.
  • ~ ½ cup of mixed veg: cherry tomatoes and half a red pepper, diced. You can also add some diced onion
  • 1 Tsp of diced garlic
  • 1 Tsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • Pepper to taste ~ ½ – 1 tsp
  • ½ cup spring or distilled water (it lasts longer if you don’t use tap water)
  • ½ cup white vinegar

Instructions:

  • Put your diced peppers and vegetables in a sauce pan and add the waterSAM_0449
  • Bring to a simmer, and let simmer gently for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally
  • Let cool, then add the pepper, salt, sugar, and diced garlic and then blend in a blender or using a hand blender. Pulse until it looks like sauce.
  • At this point, you choose whether you want a hot sauce like Tabasco or something a bit thicker. If you want a smooth sauce, just strain the mixture through a sieve, using a spatula or spoon to pass the mixture through. Discard the rough stuff after.  If you want a thicker sauce, you can add the vinegar right after blending, without straining.SAM_0453
  • Add the vinegar and stir until fully mixed.
  • Now, you taste the sauce, perhaps using a chip 😉 And if you find it lacking in salt or pepper, or vinegar, you season to taste. I think I added a bit more salt, and a few spoons more of vinegar.
  • Pour the sauce into a couple of sterilized (boiled and dried) bottles. Or if will use it within a week or so, just put it in a mason jar or something 😀SAM_0459
  • My sauce turned out quite mild, because I didn’t include the seeds, and I filled out with tomatoes and sweet pepper. But it was certainly very very delicious, and perfect addition to fried rice, or breakfast eggs. Enjoy!

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Autumn Spice Sugar Scrub: easy recipe

It is definitely bitter-sweet when September rolls around and it starts getting colder and darker. We may feel a bit melancholy looking at the yellowing leaves, having to accept that summer is over, and worse still, that winter is coming. But for a great deal of people autumn is also their favourite time of year. For some, the cooler temperatures may come as a relief. After months of wearing nothing but T-shirts and shorts it can feel oddly luxurious just to drape a scarf around your neck, or to wear those vintage gloves you got at a summer street sale. For others, it may be the abundance in fresh produce that the harvest brings about. In most northern countries, autumn is often a wildly beautiful time of year – although we are not quite there yet, the beginning of fall also comes with the promise of some great views and landscapes – when the maples turn a deep red and orange, almost like fire. But most of all, I think it’s the fact that autumn is a transition from life to death (at least in Canada – hello minus 30 Celsius) that makes us appreciate those last flashes of life even more, and makes us want to prepare ourselves and our homes for hibernation. So in the spirit of autumn I have created a spicy sugar scrub that is so easy and quick you can whip it up in five minutes, before your shower or bath.

There are lots of sugar scrub recipes out there, most of them are pretty similar. This one was inspired by the spices used in pumpkin pie and ginger snaps, and yields about 2 cups worth of scrub. Enjoy!

In a bowl mix:

  • 1.5 cups Cane Sugar. Don’t use regular brown sugar because it will be too sticky. You want something on the dry side. I used cubed raw sugar that I pulverized with a pestle and mortar.
    Cane Sugar in Cubes

    Cane Sugar in Cubes

    If you find the cane sugar too rough you can do the same 😀

  • 1/4 cup Baking Soda (you can omit this if you are sensitive to baking soda, and just use a little less oil).
  • 1 Teaspoon each of powdered cinnamon; clove; ginger; and 1/2 Teaspoon cardamom. You can use each to your liking of course.

With a whisk, mix all the dry ingredients well. Then slowly pour in

  • 1/2 cup of Olive Oil. You can use sesame seed oil, or grape seed oil as well.

Mix until everything is well incorporated and until all the dry ingredients are oiled. If you find it too dry and hard, add a bit more oil, or if it is too liquid, you can add a bit more sugar. Try it on your hand if you are unsure about the consistency. It should look and feel a bit like thick cake batter. Resist the urge to lick the spoon though 😉 Put into a glass jar and store in your fridge or in a cool dry place. Wrapped with a ribbon and add a nice colourful sticker and this is a great gift!

When you are ready to use, point the flow of shower head away from you (so it doesn’t wash away) and scoop a bit out in the palm of your hand and scrub in circular motions (avoiding breasts and face). Scoop and scrub, scoop and scrub, until silky smooth! Enjoy!

Autumn Spice Sugar Scrub

Autumn Spice Sugar Scrub

Adventures in Lotion Making – 2nd Attempt

It took about two years of musing and reading the backside of my lotion bottles before I even attempted to make my own water-based lotion. For some reason, every time I did some research, I landed on body butter recipes. I did try a whipped body butter recipe which was very nice. But it wasn’t lotion… I use a lot of lotion. My mother taught me the importance of moisturizing and it stuck: a large bottle lasts me only 6 weeks. I just couldn’t understand how to bind water with oil. Until I posed the question to an employee at Coop Coco & Calendula and she told me about emulsifying wax!

Joy of joy I thought, my addiction to Vaseline intensive care (and petroleum based products) is over! She even showed me a basic lotion recipe: e-wax, water and sunflower oil. I took a pic of it and left with my wax, happy as a clam. I went home, set up my work-area and instead of following this recipe, I decided to try another recipe. A more “fun” recipe with jojoba and almond oil oh my (I had realized that the search term was “lotion” not cream… All of a sudden I’d found a bunch of recipes). I didn’t have a thermometer but I figured I could do a finger test – right? Wrong! Anyhoo, long story short: I did it, changing things here and there, and voila! I got cream. Richly, greasily clotted, separated cream. I poured out the water and settled for more body butter.

Flash forward. A month later, I’ve gotten some literature at a garage sale, a thermometer, watched some videos, and am feeling confident again. I decided to do a recipe I found in “Do it Gorgeously” called Geranium and Apricot Moisturizer. Here is a pic of the recipe and this was my set-up:

Sophie Uliano's recipe

Sophie Uliano’s recipe

SAM_9575

 

 

 

 

 

 

After looking over the ingredients I quickly decided (in my regular fashion) to replace half of the jojoba with a rosehip maceration I made in safflower oil, because I was low on jojoba and the recipe calls for rosehip oil anyway. Then I replaced the rose-infusion with a chamomile infusion SAM_9583mixed with rosewater. Finally, I replaced the geranium with jasmine oil, and also added a few drops of Grapefruit seed extract, as a preservative. But I kept the ratios of course, so I don’t see why it wouldn’t work out. Sophie Uliano insists that you don’t need a thermometer, but as I had my two bowls, the e-wax had finally melted and I pulled them off to cool down – as prescribed – the oil mix started going opaque and the e-wax went hard right away in the water solution. Clearly, something was wrong. My guess was the cold weather. I remembered that other recipes said to heat the solutions to 70 degrees Celsius. So I took out the thermometer and reheated both solutions. While they got really really hot, I couldn’t get either to 70 degrees! So, following the overall suggestion by all recipes – I simply brought them both to the same temperature SAM_9593then poured the water solution into the oils whisking vigorously. The first time I had used an electric whisk and it separated quickly. So this time I followed Sophie and did it by hand. At first the mix looked waaay too liquid, and it stayed liquid. Didn’t seem to want to thicken. But I kept at it, working against the pain of my RMD, and lo and behold, it did thicken!SAM_9594

Then… I saw the water pooling at the bottom. Sigh…. But I started whisking furiously again, until it looked OK and more or less stable. Of course, at this point it looked more like butter than cream. I scooped it all up into a container and kept an eye on it. It didn’t look at all like lotion, and it looked grainy, almost like creamed corn, although it applied smoothly on the skin. SAM_9596When it was clear that it hadn’t separated yet, even though I thought I could detect sweat drops on the surface (?) I put it in the fridge. This was last night (next to some sunflower heads I received from a city farm 😀 )SAM_9599

This is what it looks like now:SAM_9603 Pretty much the same. So I guess I made lotion. Albeit, thick, greasy lotion, almost like a balm! I applied it to my legs last night and my skin felt amazing this morning, so it’s nice and works. But it’s certainly not lotion. Today I am gearing up for my third attempt – going back to the basics. The recipe I got when I bought the e-wax, from a book by Sylvie Fortin: 75% water, 10% e-wax, 15% Oil.

If anyone has any advice, thoughts or comments about making lotion – please feel free to leave comments below 😀