All the beeswax belongs to me. ALL OF IT

by Veronica on April 7, 2014

in Soapmaking

I’ve been tossing around the idea of adding lip balms to my soapy mix. Amy adores lip gloss, I’m rather a fan of good quality balms and they just look fun to make.

But first I had to source some beeswax. I wanted Tasmanian wax if I could get it – both for label appeal and lowering of my costs/product miles. Luckily, a neighbour of Frogpondsrock had begun keeping bees. We asked. Could I possibly buy some beeswax?

No. Absolutely not. He wouldn’t accept a cent for it – but he’d love some soap as a swap.

DONE.

Then today, Natasha up at 3 Window Gallery in Oatlands gave me 8kg of Tasmanian beeswax. I’m pretty sure this is just because she’s awesome.

Now I’m sitting here, smelling the beeswax on the table behind me and plotting how I can use all the wax in all the products.

Tasmanian people are amazing when you’re getting your feet underneath you. Kind, and generous, and all around pretty amazing people.

Nathan put up a new shelf in the hallway for curing soaps to sit in the warm dry air. I filled it up immediately, emptying the linen cupboard of its soap, ready for more making. Evelyn ran around my feet, requesting to smell all the soaps and nodding wisely at the smells.

Isaac smells the soaps too. Picks his favourites. Turns up his nose at a lot. He’s a fan of the essential oil blend soaps, not the stronger fragrance oil soaps. Amy doesn’t care, she loves them all. My favourite is a honey lemon and oat soap which Isaac says smells like biscuits, screwing up his nose in disgust. It’s funny, I thought he liked biscuits. I have to keep stopping to smell it I like it that much.

I made a castile soap yesterday. 100% olive oil, it was luxurious to work with. I set it to gel, watching while it went rock hard faster than I believed possible. The top looks like plastic now, and I’m glad I’ve got recipe notes, because it was unexpected and interesting and amazing.

I wanted to recreate the soap today, instead preventing gel. A slower process of saponification, I wanted to compare the results. But then my soap making bowl fell off the bathroom counter, cracking. It was empty, thankfully. No more larger batches of soap until I get to the second hand shop to shop for plastic mixing bowls and old saucepans. I’ve got 8kg of beeswax to melt and sieve free of bees legs and there’s no way I’m using my regular cooking pots for that.

This week is lip balm testing week while I pin down the ratios I like best. My bathroom is full of oils. I found a bulk supplier of coconut oil for less than half of what I’d been paying – Tasmanian based as a bonus. We’re doing this thing, in our tiny house, in our tiny kitchen, with our non-existent start up budget.

It’s so much fun.

Nathan shakes his head at me as I obsessively talk about soaps and oils and labels and things I want to do and try. I spent a day at Salamanca market, reading ingredient lists, scratching my head and trying to work out the disingenuous marketing. No one wants to talk about their products. No one wants to talk about ingredients. I asked at one stall, which oils had been used to make a carpet scrubbing soap. It felt like palm and coconut, but I wanted to be certain. She wouldn’t tell me.

It’s odd. I don’t want to be like that. I want people to know what’s in my soap, to see the processes, to know why I choose the way I do. I don’t like secrecy, or trying to hide products. I want to be open, honest. I want to be proud enough of my products to believe in every single ingredient, standing behind the choices I make.

I also am determined to be palm oil free. I won’t buy soap if it contains palm and I don’t intend to start using it in my recipes ever – no matter how people extol the virtues. I can get the same virtues elsewhere thank you, and without the guilt.

Soap making is addictive.

People keep asking when I’m going to start selling soap. Firstly, I need to make sure my recipes hold up under a number of conditions. This takes months, not weeks. Secondly, there’s Government red tape to wade through. Making soap to sell is considered chemical manufacturing and I need a license and accreditation. I need to be accountable.

This isn’t a fast process and I don’t plan on hurrying it up. There’s testing and checking and rejigging and more testing to happen.

But I truly hope you’ll read along while I do it, because I don’t think there’s anything to gain by hiding what my processes are.

{ 25 comments }

Sexpo Hobart: A startlingly straight affair

by Veronica on April 6, 2014

in Life

The music was pumping, the bass line hitting straight to my gut as we walked through the doors. Resisting the urge to giggle like a little girl, we moved slowly through the packed crowd staring avidly at the stage. A boy who looked to be bitterly regretting his choice of skinny jeans that morning lay on the stage while a dancer clad in a sparkly g-string and bra combo mimed giving his crotch CPR.

It looked uncomfortable, but the crowd lapped it up and the dancer took their adoration and played it for all it was worth.

Next thing you know there’s boobs out everywhere and all I could think was “she needs a bigger bra. That one’s left marks all over her.”

It was Sexpo Hobart and Frogpondsrock and I were there to show our support after the ranty conservatives had taken up all the media space talking about what a disgrace it was.

To borrow a line from my friend: “How DARE consenting adults enjoy themselves. FOR SHAME.”

He was being sarcastic. The conservatives were not.

The stage show continued and we watched for a bit, right up until she began pornstaresque masturbation on stage and the drooling from the men around us became untenable.

We cut through the crowd obviously enjoying the show. I threw a glance back over my shoulder and saw the dancer had been joined on stage by a couple of her friends who were helping her pull aside her g-string.

A quick look around the exhibitors and there were a lot of sex toys on display. Showbags gave patrons unwilling to showcase their preferences to passersby a chance to buy a “cheeky” gift, while pretending it was all for novelty value. I had a good look inside the bags, but for $60, I want more for my money than one vibrator and a selection of gag toys and fluffy handcuffs.

Bored boys stood around in loincloths, waiting for their stage time to roll around, while the topless dancers took photos with horny yet uncomfortable young men. Pricasso painted surprisingly good portraits with his penis, although I did spend a bit of time wondering if he’s well calloused, or if his penis gets sore.

Three circuits later and I was feeling jaded. Lots of toys being promoted which I’ve heard on the grapevine aren’t exactly user friendly, and lots of plastic junk I wouldn’t put anywhere near my vagina, no matter how desperate I was.

There were some toys I thought reasonably priced and nicely ergonomic. So I bought one. I also stocked up on lube – the good kind, not the shitty KY jelly we all start out fucking with until we realise it’s a giant pain in the tacky arse.

But it didn’t take me long after I left to work out what my problem with Sexpo had been.

For a convention promoting safe sex, open sex, consenting sex, it was surprisingly straight. One small stall held the typical gimp style kink gear, but kink and fetish weren’t readily visible.

Also, for all the vibrators, the dildos, the bullets, the giant fisting hands, I only saw one anal toy and it was a serious fetish toy, not something for general use. And maybe I missed it. Maybe there was a stall filled with anal beads and butt plugs and I just didn’t see it amongst the crowds. Maybe there was a huge gay presence and I didn’t notice because I’m straight and wasn’t looking.

Maybe all of those things.

But I can’t shake the feeling Sexpo could have been something more and it wasn’t.

It felt like a convention to encourage people to experiment, but only with vaginas. For women to buy a vibrator. For young single men to get up close with a sexy dancer they weren’t allowed to touch.

It felt startlingly straight.

I’m glad I went and saw, like the eternally curious writer I am. I’m glad I got to watch how people move in space like that (without making eye contact and with lots of nervous giggling, if you’re curious).

I’m glad I supported what Sexpo is, with an open mind.

But honestly, I’d have liked to see it being more supportive of different lifestyles, of different choices, and of different people.

Maybe next time.

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Winter is coming and with it, the usual host of viruses.

Amy has been sick on and off for months. She perks up for a bit, then gets unwell again, and around we go. We’ve been backwards and forwards to the doctor lots, but until she has a period of wellness, we can’t do bloods to test for anything else.

Rock | Hard Place.

So we kind of just thought it was the usual stuff playing up when she was unwell last week with suspected tonsillitis. But then antibiotics didn’t help and she was getting worse, so back to the doctor we went.

Glandular fever.

We think Evelyn has it as well – same symptoms, similar miserableness, same amount of crying while laying in my lap.

Isaac however, remains a bastion of health. Small mercies.

I’m grateful for the small things while the girls are sick. The weather has warmed up enough to make the fire uneccesary. We have plenty of books to read. I can spend long lazy days on the couch cuddling children without feeling at all guilty.

It’s the little things.

I was making soap earlier using a new fragrance. Usually fragrances come with some extra information about how they behave in cold process soap. Do they speed up the process? Make things super hot? Cause problems? Cause discolouration?

My new fragrance however, had nothing. So I was probably being ambitious when I decided I really really wanted to do a three colour swirl in a column mould.

Sure enough, everything was going beautifully until I added the fragrance.

Things thickened up, fast. Luckily I was mostly organised and got everything swirled and in the mould.

Congratulating myself, I began to clean up, leaving the mould on the sink.

You can see where this is going, can’t you?

Over-confident, I bumped the pipe and it flung itself towards the windowsill.

I didn’t spill much soap batter, so that’s a bonus. But I did put a hole in the cling wrap and duct tape at the bottom which was holding all the soap batter inside the stupid mould.

I shouted for Nathan, who wasn’t nearly fast enough at coming to rescue me as I pressed the hole closed, thanking everything I still had my gloves on.

We got the hole sorted, but I think I wobbled and bumped the mould enough to probably muck up any prettiness. Probably going to end up with a mud brown soap. Boo, hiss.

On the subject of winter, wood fires and sick children, I have an article up at Money Circle today, talking about heating bills. I’m interested to know how you heat your house and how you keep costs down.

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I made soap the other day using PVC pipe as moulding.

It will be FINE I thought. I’ll grease them well. What could go wrong? I’ve done it before. NO DRAMAS.

HAHAHAHAAA.

Ahem.

So, there I was, two pipes filled with soap, cooled and hardened enough to handle.

I tapped them on the sink. Nothing. I shook them. Nope. I pushed my palm up against the bit I could reach. Not going to happen.

Whose idea was it to buy pipe my fist can’t fit in? Tell me that.

(It was mine)

So I put the pipes in the freezer for a few hours. This is not going to be a problem. I thought. Freeze for two hours, hot water on the outside of the pipe, little push, voila!

Two hours later, I was at the sink running hot water over the pipe, trying deperately to keep hold of everything while my gloves got slicker and slicker. Using a shampoo bottle (DON’T JUDGE ME) I got the soap moving. Like a giant push pop, up it came. But slowly, so slowly. And it was hard work.

Now, yes. I should have stopped right there, left everything alone for another 24 hours. But I am impatient, and I pick at things and poke at them until everything explodes.

So I kept pushing.

This is where the problem arose. With the soap three quarters emerged from the pipe and still determined to stick, I ran out of leverage. My shampoo bottle was not long enough to push the entire thing out.

Nathan came into the bathroom as I was considering my options.

“Would you like some help?”

Only twenty minutes ago HONEY, I growled inside my head.

“Please.”

And that’s when it happened.

Nathan, taking a firm grasp of the pipe held it out to me. Soap, like a giant tentacle emerging from the end.

My gloves were slick as I pulled the soap cylinder. And over and over my hands slipped, until I found an excellent rhythm, reminiscent of masturbating a giant zucchini.

Thirty seconds later, and with a slight pop, my soap emerged, looking hardly the worse for wear.

I smoothed the edges, white lather foaming around my gloves.

Nathan couldn’t help it.

He laughed and laughed and laughed.

And that’s when I realised I needed a better way to remove soap from pvc piping.

If you’re keeping track, I had soap in 2 moulds, and have successfully managed to remove the soap from 1 mould. Using the power of mathematics I can prove to you this equals one soap mould still full and steadfastly refusing to give up its treasure.

Whose idea was this?

{ 6 comments }

The problem with soap making

by Veronica on March 26, 2014

in Life,Soapmaking

There are a lot of problems with taking up soap making as a hobby.

First: So many soaps. So little time.

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Lemon soap – pre gel phase. It went an interesting translucent green colour after gelling.

[Gelling is when a soap heats up through the magic of science. The process of saponification speeds up, changing the oil water emulsion into soap a little faster. You can avoid gel and many soapmakers do, but it takes longer for your oils to saponify and let's face it, I'm impatient.]

The thing with gelling, is it can make a previously pretty soap an ugly colour for a bit.

Like this, which is the yellow soap post-gel:

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Luckily I have a soap I made previously which was this same colour, but since curing has gone yellow again.

SCIENCE.

Also, water evaporation.

This one is my favourite to handle and smell at the moment. It’s a honey chai soap, coloured with red oxide.

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The other problem with soaps is finding somewhere to cure them all. They’re in Evelyn’s bedroom at the moment, because she has the in-built cupboards.

This means that mostly Eve’s room smells awesome. But at the moment, the current curing smells of lemon mixed with apple mint are a bit headache inducing.

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The apple mint soap smells amazing, but it’s also really strong because it’s so new. In another week, it should have mellowed a little. In the meantime, I’m keeping her door closed.

She however, adores the smells. Requesting to smell all the soaps every day and sighing happily. Clearly she’s not really my baby and hasn’t inherited my sensitivity to smell.

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The final problem with soap making is it’s actually a bit of an expensive hobby. Between moulds (I’m using a lunchbox, and since I went to the hardware store yesterday, a length of PVC pipe cut in thirds, but I lust over a custom built wooden loaf mould), and fragrances, and colourings, and additives, it all adds up.

Thankfully, there’s a large cross over between ceramic ingredients and soap making supplies, so I’ve managed to just raid Mum’s studio a few times for added colours. Thanks Mum.

But seriously, it can be expensive. Especially in the beginning where you can’t sell anything yet because you don’t know how your recipes will hold up with regular use.

Also, there’s a fair amount of governmental red tape to jump through if and when I decide I do want to sell soaps. I have to register with NICNAS as a chemical manufacturer, which is technically correct, but makes it sound like I’m cooking up meth in my bathroom, not soaps. As well as product liability insurance.

It’s a fun hobby though, and I’m thoroughly enjoying myself.

I made a red and yellow swirled soap today which I am praying both works (it should totally work) and comes out of it’s mould (first use of the PVC pipe and I’m TERRIFIED). No photos yet, it’s been put to bed to insulate until tomorrow.

But fingers crossed, right?

Also, how adorable is that photo of Nat and the two younger kids?

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