Sunday, March 5, 2017

The innagural batch!

I made sure to take pictures to document my kitchen witchery. I'm only posting the stuff I found interesting, not the whole process.

This may look like innocent water, but it's got lye dissolved in it. Lye water is dangerous stuff (hence the trash bag taped to my counter to protect it). Fun fact: lye has an exothermic reaction when mixed with water and it heats itself up! This got to be around 170 degrees just by mixing the lye into the water. 

This is a blend of olive, palm, coconut, and castor oils. No nasty animal fats were required, thank heaven. The recipes with tallow are out there, but EW. Especially since it still smells like animal fat once it's gone through the soponification process. No thank you! I'll take my lovely, animal-free blend any day! 

Once you mix the two together, it looks like pudding! Or maybe cake batter. It really does look like food!

The soap on the left is Au Natural. No colors or perfumes. I guess you can call it my "control group" whereas the rest of the pours I did have fragrance and color added to them. And wow, some cool stuff happened! 

I insulated the soap so it would get hot and go through a gel phase that makes the colors brighter. Some funky things happened during gel phase. Okay, just one funky thing. I only put one color in the batch, but the heat in gel phase made it turn all kinds of blue and purple. I love the effect so I'm not complaining! I'm curious to see if the colors change again during the 6 week curing period.

Here are a couple I popped out of the molds today. Same blue mica as a colorant, different results. I think it's fascinating!

So now I wait. The high PH level from the lye can change the fragrances and colors over time, so I'm dying to know what these will look like at the end of the six week curing time.

Bonus: the molds I used to make these were small yogurt containers that had been generously provided by my family. I love that they serve new purpose instead of going into the trash can. 

Soapy Opera

A few weeks ago I started wondering the following question: why would anyone make their own soap (which seemed expensive and labor intensive) when one can go buy a bar for cheap at the store? Was it the joy of crafting? Was it a hippie thing? I had to know, so I checked out some books from the library, watched tutorials online, and read blog posts.

At first I wasn't impressed. I saw videos showing colorful designs and exotic ingredients and kept thinking "I wouldn't want to use that in the shower." (I'm looking at YOU, dried lavender buds!) Just the thought of having to wash those down the drain made me want to shudder.

Then, somewhere in my dense fog of research, the answers began to emerge. It seems we can blame war for giving us the soaps we buy in the store today (along with canned foods and carrot cake, but I digress). Previous to WW1, all soap was made the old fashioned way: lye and lard. During the war, detergent bars replaced the lye and lard versions and that's pretty much what we use now. The store stuff still sounded like the better deal to me. After all, soap is supposed to clean, so isn't a detergent bar better than rubbing nasty animal fat and scorching lye all over your body?

I found my answer when I read the science behind what happens when you mix fat and lye together. The two ingredients morph and change into a whole new substance entirely. Eh? What's this? Yes, a WHOLE NEW SUBSTANCE! It's like alchemy! It's like magic! Okay okay, it's science, but it still sounded like awesome kitchen witchcraft to me. 

But the cost! Some of the kits of ingredients I saw to make those fancy soaps were over a hundred bucks. What? WHY?! (Just for the record, I still don't know why).

Then I read you can make soap out of olive oil, lye, and water. That's it. (It's called castille soap and it's named after a region in Spain where, I'm assuming, soap has been made that way for hundreds of years). No fancy ingredients (in case you count lye as fancy, but since they make Draino out if it, I don't). Okay, now it's entered into the region of "That might be a fun hobby that I can afford". So I ordered a kit off the internet for 30 bucks and waited for it to arrive.

In the meantime, I watched more videos and read more books. That's when I discovered another gem of knowledge: soap recipes are calculated so there's a little bit more fat (oils) than lye. (The technical term for that is Superfatting.) As the fat and lye pair up, the superfatted oil remains unchanged so when you have a finished bar of soap, some oil or butters stay behind to help nourish your skin. I'm a maniac about putting lotion on my hands after I wash them because I hate that dried out feeling they get. Hence, the idea of possibly not having to do that anymore intrigued me. I'll happily say goodbye to itchy skin! 

And so, my kit arrived and I made some soap. I have all kinds of pictures I took to document the process of course. And I had tons of fun making it. The only downside is this: you can't use the soap for 4 to 6 weeks after you make it. That time is needed to let the magic of science deal with the lye so it disappears into the fats and the soap becomes PH neutral-ish. Enough that you won't have burned skin, anyway. (Raw lye is nasty stuff). Plus, extra water evaporates out of it during that time so it doesn't go all mushy in the shower. There IS a way to make soap where you can technically use it that same night (you cook it on the stove or in a Crock-Pot and the lye is rendered safe within an hour) but you still have to let it harden for six weeks to get the water out so it doesn't turn to mush in the shower.

So here I am, with cool stuff I made. I'm dying to try it. It looks awesome and it felt so creamy and delightful when I popped it out of the mold this morning. But it won't be ready to use for 6 weeks. I guess I'd better plan ahead for holidays! In the meantime, I'll study up on how to make fancier soap in the future. 

As a side note, I opened a package of store soap yesterday since mine isn't ready and I looked at the ingredients. It was one of the gentlest soaps on the market, by the way. The ingredients were basically this: chemical sudsing agents, paraffin, more sudsing agents, some shea butter so they could tout its moisturizing properties, and a whitening agent to make it look more "pure". I guess the natural color would probably be an ivory or off white but that didn't give the right image for marketing purposes. In contrast, the plant oils I used (especially the coconut oil) provide sudsing naturally. I didn't even know that could be done. I will be very excited in 6 weeks to do a comparison of my own.

I sorta feel like I'm doing a science fair project! I even bought a spiral notebook to record my process and results. It has glitter on the cover, but whatever. In my opinion, every lab notebook should have glitter on it. I'm sure the best ones already do. 😁

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Oh what a difference some warning makes

This is my review of the book Hush Hush. If you haven't read it, then don't read this post, because there are spoilers in it.

I heard about this book a long time before I read it. And, truthfully, I heard every plot point and spoiler the book had to offer. I participated in discussions concerning the characters, their choices, motivations, etc, based on the info that I'd heard. I even went to a signing and got to meet the author. Only then did I finally pick the book up and read it.

Based on other people's reactions, I expected to get annoyed or flat-out angry during some point in the book and want to throw it against a wall. I kept waiting for the book to get bad, and.... it never did. I had a good time reading it and found the dialogue and witty banter to be very enjoyable.

I wonder what I would have thought of it had I gone in and read it without knowing all the big spoilers, or without hearing the "how this book was written and what inspired me" stories from the signing. I'll never know. I definitely think that having a guy stalk you because he tends to use you and kill you is NOT romantic and any girl who thinks it's okay to date a murderous psychopath needs intense therapy. That being said, I've been on the wrong end of a sociopath determined to win me over and, compared to real life, what happened in the book was far less shocking and/or disturbing. I saw it more as an exercise in how a girl would handle having an intense attraction to a guy she knows for sure is bad news and not knowing how to stop it . It bothered me that Patch was messing around in her head . However, by the end of the book she knows what's going on and she's able to deal with it.

All that being said, I approached this book from a "What if you're being romanced by a seriously dangerous guy " point of view rather than a "Oh my gosh this is SOOOOOOOO romantic" point of view, and I liked it.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Indelible Party Pics

Here's what the front of the room looked like before all of the guests arrived (the seats were all filled!) Aren't the huge posters awesome!? The tv/dvd player was set up for the world premier of the Indelible book trailer. The podium, although you can't see it from this angle, was set up with the excerpt Lani read from Indelible, as well as treats for the Q & A session, and the gift cards for the giveaways.

Here's a close-up of the display from the front table. Here you can see Yara's necklace containing the pankurem plant, which she wears at all times to protect herself from baddies like Thomas (and also from the new ghost we meet in Indelible). The keys are a teaser. They feature in Indelible and every time I hold them I feel like the little kid from Galaxy Quest. "It's real, it's all real! I knew it I knew it I knew it!"

Here's the refreshment table, as it looked about 5 minutes before the party started. As the guests arrived the refreshment table got fuller and fuller until it was stuffed to capacity with homemade treats. My favorite part, which you can't see from this angle, is the slices of oranges and lemons floating in the punch bowl, which made the water taste soooo good. Corona oranges are the best in the world (that's right Florida, I'm looking at you!)

I'm calling these four ladies The White T-Shirt Brigade. These creative, beautiful, amazing ladies came up with these slogans and surprised us with these shirts. Lani and I loved every single one of them... and we want some for ourselves! You know who you are, ladies, and you are A-mazing!

Here are the books on display, ready to buy. Having been to several book signings, and seeing tables filled with books, it gave me a thrill to see Intrinsical and Indelible have their own table.

Does anybody recognize this guy? This is Delco, the model who plays the part of Brent in the book trailers as well as the photos online and on the title page of Indelible.

Party Pictures

Here's what the room looked like right after everything was set up, but before the room flooded with guests. The tv/dvd player were ready to go for the world premier of the Indelible book trailer and the podium was set up with everything Lani needed to work the crowd- candy, give aways, and the excerpt from Indelible that she read for the crowd.

Here's what the refreshment table looked about 5 minutes before the party started. By the time the party was in full swing, the refreshment table was fully stocked and overflowing. A big thank you to everyone who brought goodies to share. Our refreshment table rocked. My favorite part, besides the chocolate: the orange and lemon slices floating in the punch bowl. Mmmm, it made the water taste sooo good! There's nothing quite like a Corona orange (that's right, Florida, I'm lookin' at you!)

These are t-shirts from what I'm naming The White T-shirt Brigade. These awesome girls came up with these sayings themselves, and they're so awesome it makes me want one myself. They were incredible supporters, both with their shirts and their enthusiasm. You know who you are, girls, and you rock!!

Here on display we have the necklace Yara wears, filled with pankurem, to protect herself from ghosts. Also on display are two keys, which feature in Indelible.... although I'm not saying how. You'll have to read and find out. Personally, I'm overjoyed about these keys. I happened to find them at the last minute and I just had to have them. I knew nobody at the party would get the reference, but I know what happens in the book and I love holding these keys. It makes me feel like that excited kid from Galaxy Quest. "It's all true! I knew it I knew it I knew it!"

The selling post, where you could buy both Intrinsical and Indelible. I've seen book stacks like these at signing parties I've attended for other authors, so seeing it for Indelible gave me this fan-girl-like glee that I could barely contain.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Indelible Release Party

Yesterday was the book launch party for Indelible, a book written by Lani Woodland. I was able to help with the party planning and act as the MC. It was held at the El Cerrito branch of the Riverside Library and I have to tell you, it was a blast.

First off, the party for Intrinsical, the precursor to Indelible that was released last year, happened to fall on a day when I had a final. I was in design school at the time and while everyone else at the library was setting up for the party, I was on one of the library computers throwing together a last minute power point presentation (don't judge me, I had the rest of the project done, just not the dumb power point). I even had to leave the party early in order to make it to class on time. So, the opportunity to be at the Indelible party from start to finish was joyous for me.

Lani knows how to throw a party. Long after I've declared things "good enough", she's still working on new ideas. The party ended up with: a brand new book trailer, a Q & A session that got wild, thanks to a potent combination of bribery by candy and Lani's self-proclaimed "horrible throwing skills" (which led to many people ducking out of the way when the person behind them asked a question and received their piece of bribery candy via Lani's air mail delivery system), a drawing for several gift cards (my daughter, thankfully, was out of the room when her ticket was pulled to win the gift certificate to Cold Stone, and the prize went immediately back into drawing circulation), a dessert bar, a live musical performance of the original song Dreaming of You, featured in the books, and a signing session.

There were two things about this party that I'm especially excited about. Thanks to an article in the Press Enterprise, we had guests arrive who had never read the books before. One of these was the head of the Corona Historical Society. This is a real society which is featured in Indelible. She bought a copy of Intrinsical and Indelible and I keep imagining her reading through the books with a hi-lighter, marking up any Corona references and making sure the research is accurate. (On a side note, I received an email from her later that night inviting me to a Corona: Then and Now event. I plan on attending, and sitting next to an exit for quick escape in case they decide they don't like me).

The second thing that put this party over the top was the laughter and delight of the guests in attendance. I've been to several book signings and there's always an air of tension in the room. Lani was able to charm the socks off everyone. She really worked that crowd, and I admire her for not only all of her hard work, but for taking the time to make sure each person was thanked for coming and showing their support.

The most fulfilling part of this experience was working with Lani, her husband, Cheryl Brown, Clint, Gary, and everyone else who contributed their creativity and resources to making such a fun evening possible. Being creative on your own is fun, but being creative as part of a group is a hundred times better.

Pictures will be posted soon, including several shots of fan-made shirts.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Getting Started

The time has come for me to surrender to the inevitable and start a blog. Up until now I've used Facebook as my means of communicating with the world, but since I have a book trilogy coming out, I need to broaden my horizons. Expect delightful things such as a head shot to come soon.