Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Christmas Gift Sets, Sandhill Cranes, and a Coatamundi

I had a request from one of my customers for 2 small gift sets. They came out nice! What do you think?

You can purchase these small soapy gift sets on my website, as seen here:
Small Gift Sets

Or in my Etsy shop, as seen here:
Small Gift Sets on Etsy

This past weekend, Ray and I took a trip down to Whitewater Draw to see the Sandhill Cranes that winter there. It is an amazing sight! Usually by the end of December, there are upwards of 40,000 cranes in the area! That's right forty thousand. Ray has a blog post about our trip, and here is a pic to entice you to take a surf over to his blog to take a look.

Ray's blog -
Sonoran Connection

For Thanksgiving this year, we did something a little different. We went on a picnic! Me, Ray, and my Mom. Neither me or Mom really wanted to cook a full turkey dinner, and trying to go out to eat on Thanksgiving is sometimes a bit crowded, noisy, and uncomfortable. So, I made up a Thanksgiving salad (lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, celery, radishes, green pepper,  apple, and dried cranberries). I was going to cook up some turkey tenders, but of course by the time I got to the store all I could find was turkey wings and necks. hmmmmmm So I went with chicken breast. Cut into strips and sauteed with onions and a bit of BBQ sauce.  Served cold with the salad, it was perfect! We headed up to Madera Canyon down by Green Valley. We took a little hike at the bottom of the mountain, then headed up to the picnic area at the top of the road. We picked our picnic spot, and as we were getting the food out of the cooler, we had the cutest visitor! He came right over and was at my mother's feet before I even saw him. Look ..


It's a coatamundi, a member of the raccoon family. He was snuffing around, looking at us like he was expecting a treat. We were tempted, but decided it wasn't a good idea and we shoo'd him away. He finally left after giving us a bit of an indignant snort. Very healthy looking fella, so my guess is he is quite successful at getting treats from other picnicers.

All in all, a very nice Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving weekend! :)  I hope everyone else's Thanksgiving was just as nice!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Black Friday starts NOW


I got all my "stuff" together for my Black Friday thru Cyber Monday sale together ... email ready to go out to my email list, coupon codes in place, plenty of packaging material around the house. So, I'm ready! I was going to wait until Thursday to start, but what the heck. Since I'm the boss, I said "GO"!

15% off all soap purchases.
30% off all jewelry purchases.

Coupon codes BLACKFRIDAY and CYBERMONDAY will work in any of my online shops.

My soap website - 15% off

Aunt Nancy's Handmade Soap

My Etsy soap shop - 15% off

Aunt Nancy's Etsy Shop

My Etsy jewelry shop - 30% off

Jewelry From Tucson

Be sure to use either one of the coupon codes when checking out to receive your discount. You MUST use one of the coupon codes to receive your discount!

And, I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving! What are your plans? We are going to pack a picnic and head to Madera Canyon. :)

Friday, November 16, 2012

And Another Beer Soap

So just to make sure that the last batch of successful beer soap was NOT a fluke, I had to make another. This time I used a beer called Nitro Blonde Ale made by the Old World Brewery in Phoenix. Came out good so far! I'll cut it tomorrow.

Just poured, before gel.

After gel.

Tomorrow, Ray and I are headed to the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge in Arivaca for the 3rd annual Grassland Fair. They usually have some pretty interesting exhibits, food, and music. And we'll get in some birdwatching while we are there, and maybe, maybe Ray will be able to get some pics of prong horn antelope.

Grassland Fair

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Beer Soap = Success !

I've always had trouble making beer soaps. They come out rough looking, and spotty. Stearic spots. From the beer. I would use the beer as my liquid for mixing with the lye. I would freeze the beer until it was slushy, then slowly mix in my lye stirring stirring stirring. Then line my molds, and mix my oils. But as soon as I would add my beery lye mix to the oils, it would start ricing. I would beat it down with my stick blender, and for a while it would look fine, the ricing smoothed out. Pour it into my molds, at which point I would see the start of more ricing. *sigh* The soap would always be perfectly usable with wonderful beery lather, but not very pretty to look at. I was always disappointed.

This is one of the soaps that have the "stearic spots".  They are the white spots. There is also oatmeal in this soap, so it's a bit hard to see them. Some of the other beer soaps I made were even worse looking and I didn't even take pics of them.


So, taking the cue from soapers on The Dish Forum (a forum for soap makers) I went about a slightly different way. First, I made a concentrate of the beer by boiling it down - well, actually simmered it down. 24 ounces of beer simmered down to 8 ounces. Two hours of simmering beer.  Let cooled down to room temp. I mixed my lye with distilled water, about a 47% solution meaning I used just a little more water then lye. Blended my oils together (olive oil, coconut oil, rice bran oil, grapeseed oil, wheat germ oil). Then, I poured the lye solution into the oils. Stirred a bit, then hit it with the stick blender for about 20 seconds. Now I was ready for the beer concentrate. I very slowly poured the beer into the soap pot, stirring stirring stirring. So far so good. Got all the beer into the pot, kept hand stirring for a while. Hit it with the stick blender a couple of times for 10 seconds at a time. Got it to a medium-thick trace, and poured it into the mold. Again, so far so good! No ricing, no lumping.

Here it is after pouring into the mold. I just used my little 12 inch mold instead of one of my larger 20 inch ones.

This small mold sometimes doesn't insulate and encourage gelling as well as the larger molds do, so I preheated the oven, shut it off and popped the soap in. It gelled wonderfully. Sorry I didn't get a pic of that.

Next day, ready for the cut!

Look at that! Isn't that lovely! Nice and smooth, no spots! I'm a happy camper! :)

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Cutting the Soaps - Sweet Confetti and Cream Peppermint w/ Chocolate Swirl

And I am very happy with the results of my Sweet Confetti soap! :)  Now, I usually mix up 176 ounces of oils, and once I mix in my lye mix, I split the pot in half and make 2 different flavors of soap. Since I had cut up 8 bars of colored soap to use as my confetti imbeds, I had to do a little math to adjust my recipe. After much brain smoldering, I determined that if I decreased my oils to 156 ounces, I would have enough for one log of Creamy Peppermint with Chocolate Swirl, and one log of Sweet Confetti. And dang if that didn't come out perfect! :-D

The recipe ... olive oil, coconut oil, cocoa butter, sweet almond oil, castor oil. Goat milk. Lye and distilled water. Peppermint essential oil for the first one, swirled with some cocoa. Hmmm yum, smells like a Peppermint Patty!  The second one, scented with a little bit of Fresh Cut Rose. Poured the confetti imbeds right into the pot and stirred, then poured into the mold.

Here are the soaps just poured into the molds ..

After a little while, I took a wooden spoon and peaked the top of the Sweet Confetti a little.

Here's the Sweet Confetti, ready to cut.

Cut, and still in The Tank. I'm happy! :) I like it! And each bar smells just a little different depending on the imbeds. 

Ready to be whisked away to the soap room. A good birthday soap, or a good soap for New Year's Eve parties!

And the Cream Peppermint with Chocolate Swirl. This one cleared my sinuses right out. Love that peppermint! This one is a restock. I have some ready to go on my website! It's one of my more popular soaps and I try to always keep some in stock!

Creamy Peppermint w/ Chocolate Swirl

Monday, October 29, 2012

Preparing Confetti Soap

Today I am preparing for making a confetti soap, which I'll do tomorrow. Started by taking a few different colored soaps from the soap room. A Blue Moon soap, a couple of green Eucalyptus Mint, a dark brown Apple Pumpkin Raisin, an orange Carrot and Goat Milk, and a couple of pink Fresh Cut Rose soaps. I cut the bars into quarters, then cut some into 1/2 inch cubes and some into 1/2 triangles.

First, the blue Blue Moon

Then the green Eucalyptus Min

The Apple Pumpkin Raisin

The Carrot & Goat Milk

And the Fresh Cut Rose (hmmmmmm, sort of looks like cubed Spam) :-D

Mix 'em all up. I think that's plenty colorful enough!

Tomorrow, along with a batch of Creamy Peppermint with Chocolate Swirl, I'll mix these pieces in with the remaining batch, scent it with just a bit of Rose, and call it Sweet Confetti.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Honey and Goat Milk

I find myself using honey more and more in my soaps, especially my goat milk soaps. I took a bar of my Honey Patchouli soap into the shower, and I was OMG this soap is fantastic! Creamy and lots of lather, and left my skin feeling soft and pampered. Here are a couple of the honey and goat milk soaps I have in my shop.

Honey Patchouli

So now I'm thinking of other honey and goat milk soaps to make. I want an unscented one, either with no additives, or something different than oatmeal. Maybe Rhassoul Clay, or tumeric which is suppose to be good for skin. And I'm thinking of one scented with clove and cinnamon. Which could produce instantaneous combustion during gelling, because between the honey, the goat milk, and clove & cinnamon, which are all heat producers, this would be one HOT log of soap!!

A couple of things about honey and goat milk soaps. Number one, they are not the hardest bars of soaps on the soap rack. And never ever leave them setting in a wet non-draining soap dish! Both honey and olive oil (which is about 50% of my recipes) are humectants (a substance that helps a product retain water). These soaps pull water and moisture to them, and will turn to a slimy gooey mess if left in the shower. I always take mine right out of the shower and leave them in a well draining soap dish so they are dry in time for the next shower. 

And B, I can't do too much fancy with them colorwise. Between the honey and the goat milk, they are going to be a brown soap. No fancy swirls, no colorful layers. Just a mild, creamy, silky, wonderful brown bar of soap!

Monday, October 22, 2012

October Soaps

I've been keeping busy! Lots of soap to make, lots of birdwatching to do. :) Mostly I have been making restocks, so no new soaps on the curing rack, just restocks.

Some of the soaps I have listed in the last month -

Cinnamon Layered Soap. This smells great! Don't let the kids lick this one. :)

Frankincense and Myrrh. Classic holiday scent, with a little bit of gold glitter.

Blue Moon. This is the soap I made on the day of the August Blue Moon. Scented with White Sage.

This one has been listed for awhile,  but it's a great holiday soap so I'm showing you again. Apple Pumpkin Raisin, made with pumpkin puree and goat milk. Smells so much like fall!

Last month we had a great opportunity here in Tucson. The Space Shuttle Endeavour was on its last flight to it's resting place, and they did a fly over here in Tucson to honor Mark Kelly, and his wife Gabrielle Giffords. Ray and I went up on A Mountain (real name Sentinal Peak, called A Mt because it has a huge letter "A" made with white rocks on the side of it.) We had a fantastic view as the huge jet carrying the Endeavour made a low, slow circle around the university then passed right in front of us. Fantastic!! 

Photo by Ray Goodwin

Last week Ray and I took a birdwatching trip to Madera Canyon. It was a gorgeous day, finally cooling down enough to get out and walk around without sizzling in heat. Saw lots of birds, including Painted Redstart, Acorn Woodpecker, Red Tailed Hawk, Red Naped Sapsucker, Mexican Jays, Rufous Hummingbird, Broad Billed Hummingbird, Anna's Hummingbird, and tons more! And a herd of about 8 or 9 javelina. They didn't seem too concerned about us, we were able to get about 12 feet from them before they scampered off.

Photo by Ray Goodwin

You can read more and see pics on Ray's Blog - Madera Canyon Walk 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Website Makeover

I gave my website a really good makeover. Head on over there and take a look! If you feel inclined to buy some soap, use coupon code THANKYOU for 10% off! :)

Aunt Nancy's Handmade Soap

Hope to see you there! :)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Gift Sets

I've put together a soap gift set, and it is listed in my Etsy shop. I hope to get it listed on my website today.

A Kraft gable box. It holds 5 bars of soap, 2 quarter bars, and 2 lip balms. I subscribed to for a week, and pulled off tons of graphics, so I'll be able to change it up for just about any occasion a customer wants. Christmas, birthdays, weddings.

I'll wrap and ribbon each bar of soap and each quarter bar. For this example, I found some nice spangled royal blue tissue paper to line the box and wrap the soap. 

5 bars of soap go in first.

Next the two quarter bars.

Then the two lip balms, in an organza bag.

Some extra tissue added to keep things snug and secure for shipping. Close up the box, and I'm good to go! Well, wait, I need to add a hang tag. That is this afternoon's chore, get that added and take pics.

Edited later in the day ... Here it is with a hang tag 

I'm also going to work on a smaller gift set ... a 4 x 4 x 2 Kraft box, it will hold 1 bar of soap, 2 quarter bars, and a lip balm. 

Recently listed soaps:

Egyptian Dragon - a goat milk soap. This is a popular fragrance!

Honey Patchouli - Oh this is sooo nice! Goat milk, and lots of honey, and lots of patchouli. A hippie's dream come true!

Pomegranate Fig - an old favorite of mine that I'm happy to have on hand again.

Green Cactus - a pretty layered soap, sweet smelling.

Amber Romance - another pretty layered, sweet smelling soap!

On The Curing Rack

Last month (August) there was a blue moon. A blue moon is the second full moon within the same month. Doesn't happen too often. In August, there was a full moon on the first, and another full moon at the end of the month. So, on the day of the blue moon, I made this soap ...

This picture is not great because it was cloudy the day I cut it. Colored with ultramarine blue, scented with White Sage.  The "moon" is a round stamp that I brushed over with gold glitter. 

And, also on the curing rack, Frankincense & Myrrh. I can't do too much with this soap because it darkens up. Here it is, getting ready to cut ..

See how dark the top is? The rest of the soap will darken up like that.

To add a little Christmas to the soap, I brushed a little bit of gold glitter across the top. Just to give it a little sparkle. :)

And finally, a restock, one of my unscented soaps. This one I call my no nuts no wheat soap. I have a couple of customers that requested a soap with no nut oils (I use sweet almond oil quite a bit) and no wheat germ oil due to gluten allergies. So, this is the soap for them. olive oil, coconut oil, rice bran oil, grapeseed oil, and avocado oil. 

A nice white soap!

A gratuitous pic of Dakota for my sisters. :)