Sunday, November 30, 2014

Egg nog for the nog-less

I'm what we call around these parts a lactard, meaning I'm lactose intolerant, which means my formerly beloved egg nog is just a memory now, even with these new fangled tablets they have these days. (Don't get me started with a suggestion of soy or almond nog. They make me miss nog even more!) For a while I could content myself with egg nog or Christmas flavoured teas, but they all seem to be peppermint themed for the last few years. So I set out to make my own. 

I combined equal parts cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and all spice and added 3/8 teaspoon to a 24 ounce pot of vanilla flavoured black tea, which works out to 1/8 tsp per cup. Success! I encourage you to use 2% or 3.5% fat milk for a creamier taste - lactose free for me, obviously! - and enjoy all year 'round!

This has encouraged me to think about making my own tea blends in the new year! Hmm, what does Easter taste like? 


Weekend Wonderings: So many comments! (Part two)

A tip for the day: If you don't have all the ingredients for a product on the blog, try searching for another recipe for that product. For instance, if you want to make a toner but don't have the extract I mention, try searching for another toner recipe to see if there's one that doesn't include it. (Also, read the reason why I'm including the ingredient. If you know why we're using the ingredient, you can figure out whether or not you can leave it out!) I have what I like to call basic versions of recipes, which are recipes stripped down to have only the things it needs to work, and I use generic words like "oil" or "butter" instead of specific ingredients. Here's an example of one of my basic recipes - Making a basic lotion - with a modification at the end of the post.

In this post - Weekend Wonderings: Solubilizers - Steven asks: Why would you even need to add a solublizer into a mix of Everclear, water and essential oils? I'm not sure about the water--why someone would even be adding that(?) but it's my understanding that Everclear totally disperses essential oils (and the Plauteau probably)--so why add the solublizer? I mean it's really just more weird chemicals to stick on our skin right? 

See the comments below for more information. I was wrong in my original answer.

After talking to people in classes and reading your comments and messages, I need to say something out loud - essential oils aren't these magical things that can defy the laws of chemistry. They are oils and, as such, follow the rules that oils have to follow when it comes to being mixed with other things. Oil and water don't mix, so if you're adding essential oils to water soluble products, you have to add an emulsifier or solubilizer to the mix so it doesn't float to the top of the bottle! When we make something like a body wash or facial cleanser, the surfactants in the product are actually emulsifiers, and they can all handle a tiny bit of oils so we need not add solubilizers. But things like toners or water based fragrance sprays need to have a solubilizer to make sure the oils actually mix into the product.

I also want to address the idea of "too many chemicals" or "more weird chemicals" in a product. There's a company out there - St. Ives, I think? - that has a slogan of "no unnecessary chemicals", as if other companies are throwing things into their products for the hell of it. I don't think there's a homecrafter or professional product maker out there using something that isn't necessary in a product. It's silly and wasteful! If you want to use a cooking analogy, this is like making a cake and deciding to throw in a hunk of pork for the hell of it. You wouldn't do that to a cake, and you wouldn't do that to a product. Every ingredient I use in a product is there for a reason. A lotion needs an emulsifier to be a lotion, a cleanser needs a surfactant to foam and lather, and all water based products need preservatives to stay safe. We add some things because it makes the product feel nicer - say, cetyl alcohol to make a product glidier or dimethicone to make a product feel slicker - or as actives that make our skin feel great.

And I need to say something about the word "chemicals". (Yeah, you've heard me say this before, I'm sure!) The word chemical means something that is composed of chemicals. And chemicals are composed of elements. Which means that everything on the earth is a chemical. Water, grass, trees, essential oils, carbon monoxide, my hair, this tea I'm drinking - everything on earth is a chemical. If I could have one wish this Christmas, it would be that people stop using the word "chemical" to mean bad and use it to mean something composed of chemicals without the judgement attached to it. I think the word we might want to use is "synthetic" or "man-made", neither of which are necessarily bad either, but it seems to be the word people are searching for when they use "chemical". (Maybe you're looking for the word "toxic"?)

Related post: Why does the idea of "natural" have to exclude science?

Join me tomorrow for more comments!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Weekend Wonderings: So many comments (part one!)

As you might have read, I've been sick lately. It's been one heck of a flu, and I'm still struggling with low energy issues and sinus problems. I thought I'd get to some of the comments you've made in the last few weeks. Please be patient with me - I'm wading through the e-mail and comments right now and there are just so many! (As always, I encourage you to check the frequently asked questions section to see if your question has been answered before!)

If you're interested in learning how to make the fragrance sprays you see in the picture to the left, check out this post on the topic! We made these in group the other night, and as you can see, they were a great hit! This is the haul Laura took home! This is from the craft program you support through your donation for the e-books! Thank you so much for making these programs possible! If you'd like to learn more about our youth programs, click on this link

In the post, Newbie Tuesday: It's time to make lotion, MSC asks: Hi Susan, a little late to the party here but is it possible to do this successfully without the cetyl alcohol? If so how might I change the percentages? Also I'd like to add cocoa butter. Should I reduce the percentage of Shea butter to accommodate the cocoa butter? 

In this recipe, we have 5% shea butter or mango butter. You can feel free to try another butter in the recipe, like cocoa butter, at the same amount. When you make a change of this nature, you will change the viscosity slightly - it'll be a tiny bit thicker - and might change the skin feel - it'll be a little greasier than mango butter, a little drier than the shea butter - but it'll still work out to be a nice lotion.

As for the cetyl alcohol, why do we include it in a lotion? It's a thickener and an emollient. Without it, the recipe'll be a little thinner. Will the chemistry still work? Will we create a lotion? Sure! It's a lovely addition to increase the viscosity and make the lotion feel glidy, but it's not essential for emulsification! So feel free to leave it out. Increase the amount of water by 3% to ensure the recipe still totals 100%.

This is the reason I encourage you to know your ingredients and what they do in the product - you can make substitutions easily when you know why you're doing what you're doing!

In this post, Balms: A new recipe idea, Nancy asks: I make shea butter balms and find that they sometimes get grainy on me a few weeks after making. I think this may have to do with how quickly it cools (faster being better). Any thoughts on this?

From the frequently asked questions section - an aside on melting butters:

Sometimes your mango butter or shea butter can get grainy (this can happen to cocoa butter, but not as often as the other butters). The reason for this is the fatty acid profile of the butters.

Let's look at the fatty acid profile of shea butter - 3 to 7% palmitic acid (C16), 35 to 45% stearic acid (C18), 40 to 55% oleic acid (C18:1), and 3 to 8% linoleic acid (C18:2). The palmitic and stearic acid have different melting and solidification points (the oleic and linoleic aren't solid fatty acids, so they aren't relevant for this situation). After melting, the palmitic and stearic acids will eventually turn solid again, but each does it at a different temperature. If they cool slowly, the fatty acids can crystallize into large clumps, which causes the graininess. If they cool quickly, they won't have time to crystallize and you'll have a smooth product.

If you are finding your mango or shea butter is always grainy no matter what you do, you can temper it the way you would temper chocolate. Melt your mango or shea butter completely, then pour into a mould or container of some kind and put it into the fridge or freezer to cool very quickly. Remove, store in a cool dark place, then use when you need it. This should eliminate the grains you're finding in your products. (The reasons you could be getting grains even when you've been cooling the product quickly could be due to the way you're storing it, the way your supplier is storing it, and possible melting and cooling while shipping from the supplier or from the manufacturer to the supplier.) This will increase the melting point of your mango or shea butter in future products, but it will eliminate the graininess so it's hooray time all around!

This is one of the reasons I suggest melting your butters slightly and to put your products into a fridge or freezer to cool: The less we melt the oils or the quicker we cool them, the less likely we are to see the grains!

Join me tomorrow as we take a look at more of the comments you've left over the last few weeks!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Sorry I've been away so long...

...but I've had the seasonal flu! Achy, sore, stuffed up, and generally grumpy for the last week and a half! I managed to crawl out of bed to teach a class on facial products at Voyageur Soap & Candle on Saturday, but then it was right back to bed. Those products you see below are the result of that class. We made a little of everything - facial cleanser, foaming cleanser, facial scrub, eye gel, moisturizer, serum, and toner. It was great fun and I'm offering the class again in December and in the new year! 

Thank goodness for my Nintendo 3DS and the ability to download games. I bought Fantasy Life, an RPG, from the Nintendo store and it gave me hours of fun in between sleeping and whining about how terrible I felt. 

I have tomorrow off for Remembrance Day, so I'm hoping for some workshop time to at least get some basics made! I'm watering down my conditioner and using a body wash made from the dregs of all the bottles in the bathroom! I smell like Clementine Cupcake White Chocolate Yuzu these days! ( Which is actually quite nice!)