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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Soap. It's all Greek to me!

Okay, not really. I happen to know soap pretty darn well. I did however just receive a beautiful looking bar of soap from friends who traveled through Athens last summer and thought I would share some tips on what makes a good bar of soap and what (in some cases) doesn't. Obviously, every person has their opinion on what they like in soap, but here are a few pointers I have learned along the way.
Pretty Packaging is Key

Tip #1: Packaging Counts
Anyone receiving a bar of soap appreciates nice packaging. Even if you are just buying it for yourself, a nicely wrapped bar of soap gives the impression that you are pampering yourself a little. Don't you deserve to be pampered? My Olive Oil soap from Greece was simply wrapped in saran wrap with a sage ribbon tied around it in a bow. Perfect!

Tip #2: Ingredients are Important
If you are buying soap as a gift, you really need to check the ingredients. You don't want to buy your cousin with a nut allergy a soap that contains almond oil. In the U.S. there are no specific requirements for labeling soap, but in my opinion, a good bar of soap will come from someone who knows their stuff, is confident in the ingredients they use, and goes the extra mile to make sure their product is thoroughly labelled. Interestingly enough, I see that this bar of soap says that it is handmade soap with Aloe Vera and 100% extra virgin olive oil, but as I read the ingredients I only see Olive Oil, Water, NaoH listed. Hmm...where is that Aloe Vera? I have no idea what the labeling requirements are in Greece, but this seems odd to me.
Check the Ingredients List

Tip #3: Gotta Love the Feel!
Some people love big bubbles. Some like thicker lather with smaller bubbles. Soap that feels extra moisturizing to one person, may feel like slimy soap that doesn't rinse well to another. Get where I'm going with this? When you find soap that works for you, that makes it good soap for you. If your best friend tries it and hates it, but you love it, tell her to go buy her own soap!

Tip #4: Sometimes Cool Orange Spots Aren't Actually Cool
Not So Cool: Dreaded Orange Spots

            See the brownish/orangish (new word) splotches on the soap? Well, the soaping community calls those splotches Dreaded Orange Spots, or DOS for short. What causes DOS in soap? It could be a number of things. Sometimes it's due to using rancid or older oils, sometimes it's from not using distilled water. Occasionally it has to do with how or where the soap was cured. In this case, I wonder if it wasn't due to a combination of those things. DOS is not dangerous. The soap is still perfectly okay to use.

However, wouldn't you prefer your orange spots to look more like this?
An Example of  'Cool Orange' on a Soap: Our Blue Hawaiian Soap  

When all is said and done, hopefully you will be able to find a soap or two that you love and can share with others. I also hope my 4 little tips here on how to spot a good bar of soap will help.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Get your product or story noticed by the media!

I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by Publicity Daily News. We discussed not only what makes The Seattle Soap Shop so interesting and fun, but also reviewed some of the techniques I've used to garner local and national media attention for both my On-the-Go Remedy Stick and my Bacon and Beer soaps.

Publicity Daily News focuses on entrepreneurs who can offer others sound business advice. A big shout out to Mike Leavitt for conducting a great interview. Check the Seattle Soap Girl's interview out here:

You Tube:

Publicity Daily News Interview

Publicity Daily News Website:

Monday, July 8, 2013

Making lemonade out of lemons (a.k.a. how to fix a batch of soap you messed up)

One of my best selling soaps is called Baby Bibb Lettuce. Strange, right? Who would have thought a lettuce inspired soap would sell so well? It is actually a very nice, fresh scent and fits well into my unisex category.

Baby Bibb Soap
Originally, I did my Baby Bibb with a 3 color swirl of Green Chrome Oxide (Brambleberry), Emerald (Celestial Colors), and another random green I happened to pick up somewhere. I added additional green swirl embeds and it turned out looking pretty cool. As I started my next round of Baby Bibb soap earlier this week, everything was going great. Swirls were working, the 'Soap Gods' were on my side, the sun was shining, and then I realized I completely forgot to add my olive and castor oils. Whoops!

I quickly dumped the perfectly swirled soap batter back into the pot, added my oils, and then shed a single tear over the loss of my soap. Just joking. Seriously though, I was pretty mad.

Here's where the lemonade comes in...

Soap Squares
After much thought and contemplation as to what I could do with this now solid mass of green soap, I rolled up my sleeves and got chopping. The big log of soap became an equal amount of cool green squares. Due to the fact that I had used all my Baby Bibb Lettuce fragrance oil up, I combined a few other garden fresh fragrances, added a splash of green to that batter and mixed my squares in.
The New Baby Bibb Soap

In the end, I lost my original vision, but gained yet another valuable lesson on the importance of being creative and rolling with the punches. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. When you screw up your soap, chop it up and turn it into something cool.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Let's Dish About Soap Dishes!

Why soap dishes are a must!

Handcrafted soap is special and needs to be treated that way. The great thing about handcrafted soap is it's free of those nasty chemicals most of us are trying to avoid. Our soap is free of lathering agents such as SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate) and harsh preservatives, making it wonderful for sensitive skin. The lack of those carcinogenic chemicals means you need to be more aware of how you handle your soap so it lasts longer. 
Here are a few tips:
1. Store unused soap in a cool, dry place
2. Keep soap wrapped until you are ready to use it to preserve scent
3. Keep soap out of the stream of running water such as your shower
4. Always store soap on a well-draining soap dish (again, out of water), allowing it to dry thoroughly between use

Our mini-soap dishes are available on our website here for only $1.50 each!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Making Alcohol Based Soaps

Guinness Beer
Some of my best-selling soaps are those made with alcohol. I think people enjoy them for a few reasons:

1. It's fun. I mean, who wants to wash with a plain old bar of Ivory Soap when you can start your morning routine with Chardonnay?

2. Beer and other alcohols are actually good for your skin. Did you know that the Hops Flower (found in beer) have been used for centuries to soften skin and heal minor skin ailments?

3. Alcohol based soaps make great gifts!

The trick to incorporating alcohol into your soap is finding a way to combat the 'lye volcano' that can happen when lye and alcohol mix, and finding a way to keep the sugars from scorching and turning your soap a yucky brown. This is similar to what happens when making milk based soaps. I prefer to replace all or most of my water percentage with the alcohol I am using. I think it makes for a more interesting soap. Occasionally, I will do a water/other component blend, but not usually.

To make a great alcohol based soap, free of volcanoes and scorching, here are my tricks:

Weighing out my liquid, preparing for the freezer
 - Always start by boiling the alcohol out of the beer or wine. You can simmer for 10 minutes or boil for 5. Be aware though, that beer can boil up and out of your pot due to carbonation. Also, alcohol boils down fast. You may start with 12 ounces of brew, and only end up with 8 ounces. Buy and boil enough to account for the evaporation.

Prepared ice baths
Beer slurry
 - Alcohol will heat up fast and at higher temperature when mixed with lye. The trick to combating this is to start with a cold base of liquid. For something like beer, I will usually toss it in the freezer for an hour or two to make it really slushy and cold. For wine, I will usually leave it in the refrigerator overnight so it becomes a wine ice cube sinceI am also trying to preserve the color of the wine. If it heats up too fast, it will turn brown. The beer will usually turn brown naturally, so I'm not as concerned with that.

Wine ice cube with lye sprinkled on top
 - Always add your lye a little at a time to prevent scorching. Due to the fact that lye heats up quickly it can burn the sugars if the liquid goes over about 106 degrees. I try to keep my liquids at about 100 degrees. This can only be achieved by starting with the cold liquid, making an ice bath for your liquid/lye container, and using your patience.

That's it! This will take longer than a typical soap recipe, but in my opinion, it's worth it.

Questions on how to make alcohol based soaps? Feel free to comment, and don't forget to subscribe to the Seattle Soap Girl Blog


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Bite of Seattle 2013

Once again, we have great news! The Seattle Soap Shop has been accepted by the festival jury to be a non-food vendor at the 2013 Bite of Seattle! The Bite boasts a 2012 attendance of 450,000 people and the number continues to rise each year.

2013 Bite of Seattle Poster
"For one weekend out of the year, the hard work and creativity of restaurant owners and their chefs become center stage at the Bite of Seattle. The Bite's dedication to the culinary arts is displayed not only by the 50+ Seattle area restaurants and 30+ food product companies that participate in the event, but through other attractions that are created specifically in support of the hospitality industry. Examples include The Alley hosted by Tom Douglas, Beer & Wine Gardens, Bite Wine Tasting and The Bite Cooks!,which features Seattle-area celebrity chefs performing cooking demonstrations." (Courtesy of the Bite of Seattle Website)

On-the-Go Remedy Stick
As soon as we received the news, we got to work creating brand new products for our customers. Stay tuned for a new line of "On-the-Go" goodies to accompany our best seller, the On-the-Go Remedy Stick. Our "On-the-Go" line will keep great products handy in your pocket, gym bag, purse, briefcase, camping container, diaper bag, desk drawer...wherever! We also have a new line of gift sets on the horizon (Mother's Day, anyone??) as well as new, and interesting soaps to add to your collection.

In the meantime, mark The Bite of Seattle on your calenders. The festival has free admission, and runs:
July 19-21, 2013
Friday & Saturday 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.
Sunday 11 a.m. - 8 p.m.

Check out their website for more details: Bite of Seattle

See you at the 2013 Bite!!

Monday, April 1, 2013

How to make the BEST ham you've ever eaten!

My boys on Easter morning
Happy Easter, everyone!

I have an admission. Up until yesterday, I had never baked a ham before. Not once in almost 35 years. Crazy, right? This year, my mother-in-law was out of town for Easter (we would typically go to her house for dinner) so it was up to me to make sure my husband and boys were well fed and happy. After a nice morning of breakfast, egg hunting, and mimosas, I got to work fixing my first ever Easter Dinner. I'll admit I was a little nervous about making the ham, but decided that if nothing else, we could fill up on the baked mac and cheese, balsamic and butter asparagus (this was DELICIOUS!), green bean casserole, and carrot cake if I messed the ham up too badly. Fortunately, the ham was super easy and turned out to be the best ham I've ever had. The guys in my house were thrilled with dinner and I am pretty sure we all gained a few pounds yesterday.

If you are like me and don't like ham that is super sweet (no pineapple and cherries, please!) this recipe is perfect. Thank you to the Food Network and Tyler Florence.

Tangerine-Glazed Easter Ham With Baby Carrots

Prep Time: 20 min   Cook Time: 4 hr   Level: Intermediate   Serves: 10 to 12 servings
Food Network Photo

My ham. Not as pretty, but close!
1 (8 to 10-pound) smoked ham, bone-in, skin on
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch fresh sage leaves
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut in chunks
2 tangerines, sliced thin, seeds removed
2 cups tangerine juice
2 cups light brown sugar, packed
1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
11/2 pounds carrots, peeled

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Put the ham in a large roasting pan, fat-side up. Using a sharp knife, score the ham with cuts across the skin, about 2-inches apart and 1/2-inch deep. Cut diagonally down the slashes to form a diamond pattern; season the meat generously with salt and pepper. Chop about 8 of the sage leaves and put it in a bowl; mix with the oil to make a paste. Rub the sage-oil all over the ham, being sure to get the flavor into all the slits. Bake the ham for 2 hours. Now there is plenty of time to bang-out the tangerine glaze.

For the glaze: Place a saucepan over medium heat. Add the chunks of butter, tangerines, tangerine juice, brown sugar, water, and spices. Slowly cook the liquid down to a syrupy glaze; this should take about 30 to 40 minutes.

After the ham has being going for a couple of hours, pour the tangerine glaze all over it, with the pieces of fruit and all. Scatter the remaining sage leaves on top and stick the ham back in the oven and continue to cook for 11/2 hours, basting with the juices every 30 minutes.

Scatter the carrots around the ham and coat in the tangerine glaze. Stick the ham once again back in the oven and cook for a final 30 minutes, until the carrots are tender, the ham is dark and crispy, and the whole thing is glistening with a sugary glaze.

Set the ham on a cutting board to rest before carving. Serve the carrots and tangerine glaze on the side.

Feel free to PIN IT!!
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Monday, March 25, 2013

A Bright Wall in A Dark Room

In addition to watching my eldest son play sports, making my soap, and playing with the baby, one of my favorite pastimes is watching movies. I love the little 'escape' that they give you. For approximately two hours you get to escape your daily stress. You don't think about work, or bills, or your inbox full of unanswered e-mails. You get to go play in Oz or Narnia or wherever the movie takes you.

As a lover of film, I really appreciate those who not only share my affinity but write about it in a unique and thoughtful way. I don't necessarily seek out film review media, but when I see something good, I'm hooked. This is where A Bright Wall in a Dark Room comes in.

A Bright Wall in a Dark Room is a work of passion not only for the Editor-in-Chief, Chad Perman (a good friend of mine in high school) but of the entire group of writers and contributors who, "...reflect on the movies that mean something to them: what they love, what they hate, what they can't stop thinking about."  

One of the reviews in particular really caught my attention. Liz Shannon Miller reviewed Argo last month and instead of just writing the basics about the movie, and the characters and such, she e-mailed her parents asking them to reflect on what they experienced during that time period. It was such an interesting take and made the movie (for me) even more personal as an American.

A scene from Argo
A Bright Wall in a Dark Room was recently given the opportunity to become a 'real' online magazine. "We have been given a rather fantastic opportunity to turn BWDR into a real (but still independent!) online magazine in the very near future, operating under a model that will allow us to not only pay writers a bit for their tireless and amazing work going forward, but will also allow us to deliver to you a vastly superior BWDR experience, in terms of content, design, and readability"

Chad and the others have put in thousands of hours of their time as well as their own money to keep this labor of love going, but in order to move on to the next step, they are going to need a little support. If you are a lover of the arts or passionate about film, please read more about A Bright Wall in a Dark Room and see how you can help. There is a lot of junk out there, so when good content from good people (Chad is a fantastic person!) comes along, it's worth it to show a little love.

Check them out at

(p.s. the DONATE button is on the lower left side of the page)

Monday, March 18, 2013

Testing new soap colors

You would never look at me and say, 'you can tell she's an artist'. You'll never find me wearing a colorful smock or a tilted beret. I don't have random piercings, and my hair is a rather boring shade of brown. (Yes, I am stereotyping artists. Pretty poorly, if you ask me). Yet, I see the world through an artistic lens. I get an itch that can only be scratched through creating something. Sometimes that something is a beautiful meal for my family. Sometimes that something is a crocheted blanket for a friend. Sometimes that something is translating a scent into an interesting soap design.

One of the greatest things about making soap for a living is the outlet I get for my creativity. With soap you can choose from a hundred different ingredients. There are a thousand additives you can choose, shapes you can make, and scents you can blend. Not only that, but there are a million ways to color your soap. Do you use micas? Oxides? Cocoa Powder? The list goes on and on. Recently, I found a fun way to test out my new colors without committing any one color to an entire loaf of soap.

Silicone Cupcake Papers

While strolling through Bed, Bath, and Beyond I came across reusable silicone cupcake papers. Each one holds about 2 ounces of batter and can be tossed into the dishwasher. Easy!

Mixing the colors into the soap

This time around, I was testing 11 colors from Celestial Colors and one color from Brambleberry. I poured the batter, added the color, and mixed well.

Curing on my desk for a few weeks
After unmolding them the following day, I set them on  my desk to cure for the next few weeks. The cure time was important because as you may know, colors can change drastically as the soap dries out. What starts as neon green, can end up a deep emerald, for example.

Finally, when I was satisfied with the cure time, I placed them on a tray I had, labeled them and referred to the tray of soap for color inspiration! Have you been able to come up with creative ways to test colors? I would love to hear what you've done!

Final Colors with Labels

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Coconut Oil...Skincare Superstar!

Personally, I love coconut oil. It has many interesting uses and is incredibly versatile. From moisturizing skin, to replacing the high fat butter in cooking, coconut oil has been around for centuries.

Coconut oil is loaded with mostly medium chain fatty acids that consist of about 50% Lauric Acid. From what I understand, breast milk is the other Lauric Acid superstar; protecting newborns and helping them thrive.

Fresh Container of Coconut Oil
The shelf life for coconut oil is usually about 2 years due to its high content of saturated fats. It is also slow to oxidize and go rancid, making it very stable - hence the giant container I typically have on hand. Well, that and I use a TON of coconut oil! As it has a melting point of 76 degrees, coconut oil actually looks more like a butter until it melts to a clear liquid.

In soap, this little gem produces large, fluffy bubbles. Without ingredients like coconut oil, soaps need to use additives like Sodium Laureth Sulfate (also known as SLS) and other possible carcinogens to make lather. The Seattle Soap Shop uses only coconut and castor oils for bubbles; leaving out the chemicals.

Finally, coconut oil is great for those with skin sensitivities and won't clog pores. What else can I say? Coconut Oil is truly a skincare superstar!

Wash yourself with...sugar?

One of my favorite products I used to love were body scrubs. You know the ones. Heavily scented, heavy with oils, large grit sugar or salt (ouch), and usually pretty expensive. Not only that, but they made your shower or tub very slippery and left a gross residue behind. Why did I love them so much? Well, because they made my skin incredibly soft and smooth. My solution? Invent my own, much improved sugar wash.
Jojoba and Olive Oil Sugar Wash

What is a sugar wash? Well, our sugar wash is a skin-loving combination of both Jojoba and Olive Oils and a medium-fine grain sugar. In addition, we have added an organic Castile liquid soap that not only cleanses you; it also prevents that build up of oils in your tub. Our wash cleans, exfoliates, and moisturizes you in one easy step; leaving your skin ultra soft.
Net Wt 7oz (198g)

Choose between Lavender Citrus, Rosemary Eucalyptus, and Spearmint Mandarin

$12.99 at the Seattle Soap Shop
Lavender Citrus: Organic Sugar, Organic Castile Soap, Jojoba Oil, Olive Oil, Optiphen (a phthalate & paraben-free preservative), Coriander, Lavender, Pink Grapefruit & Mandarin Fragrance

Rosemary Eucalyptus: Organic Sugar, Organic Castile Soap, Jojoba Oil, Olive Oil, Optiphen (a phthalate & paraben-free preservative), Rosemary, Lavender, & Eucalyptus Fragrance Oils

Spearmint Mandarin: Organic Sugar, Organic Castile Soap, Jojoba Oil, Olive Oil, Optiphen (a phthalate & paraben-free preservative), Organic Mandarin & Organic Spearmint Essential Oils

Monday, March 4, 2013

The On-the Go Remedy Stick is back!!

Several years ago, over wine and appetizers, I had my best girlfriends over to test out formulations I was coming up with for my organic skincare line, Plein de Vie (meaning 'Full of Life' in French). While testing out lotions, and oils, and scrubs, one of my friends grabbed a jar off my counter which was not supposed to be a part of the sampling group. I told her to ignore it because it was a diaper balm formulation gone wrong and I had a ways to go before it was ready for feedback.

Of course, the girls all ignored me and decided to try it out anyway. What I discovered that evening was that they loved the balm - not as a diaper balm, but as a healing balm. The idea for a healing balm in a tube was born that night! After several months of research and testing, I formulated the final product: The On-the-Go Remedy Stick.

On-the-Go Remedy Stick

Designed to help with cuts, scrapes, rashes, sunburn, windburn, chapped lips, dry skin (especially during pregnancy), diaper rash, and as a mini-massage stick, I also learned that it had also been helping people with significant razor burn, eczema, and mild acne outbreaks as well. In fact, it was such a handy little healer that it was named "Best of Beauty" by Seattle Magazine, was an Editor's Pick in 425 Magazine, a 'Must Have' item in Seattle Metropolitan Bride, and was featured in the Teen Vogue Blog and the Bellevue Reporter (among others).
Best of Beauty

The .5 ounce tube easily fits into any purse, diaper bag, or first aid kit.  Boasting an impressive 85% certified organic ingredient list, the only ingredients that aren’t considered organic are Vitamin E Oil, Wild-harvested Sea Buckthorn Berry Extract, and Candelilla Wax; a Vegan alternative to beeswax.

So why didn't this product make it to store shelves? Well, to be honest, life got in the way, things changed, and I closed Plein De Vie. Now that I am back in the business with The Seattle Soap Shop, I knew the right thing to do was to bring the On-the-Go Remedy Stick back.

You can only get it on the Seattle Soap Shop website. Check it out and let me know how it helped you!