Saturday, 31 March 2012

Soap Challenge Week 2 - natural soap using milk

Another great challenge set by Amy from Great Cakes Soapworks for Week 2 of our soap challenge and, guess what?......  There are now over 84 soap makers from all over the world taking part.  How great is that?

If you missed my blog about Week 1 you can visit Amys link up site and have a look at Puro Soaps entry as well as lots of other lovely, and amazingly different, soaps.  You can also catch up with what I made by having another look at the blog from last week.

Firstly, I wanted to tell you about my disaster, well not a disaster as such, just a very annoying problem.  I decided that, as well as the challenge of making coconut milk soap (which I have never tried before), I would video the whole thing too so I could add the video to this blog and give you a bit of an insight into how we make natural soap.  So my lovely son Ryan came and helped set up a mini video studio in the workshop.  We did a couple of tests and it all worked out well so off I went, mixing and stirring, adding coco powder, vanilla and fragrance and pouring into the mold, all went swimmingly well, no spills, no colour disasters and I remembered to use my gloves all the way through!  Then we checked the video on the camera and it all looked great, really professional, until I tried to load the video onto the computer :-(  It seems that my camera takes videos in a format that is not recognised by computers!  AARRGGHHH - So back to the drawing board.  I will try and come up with something for the Week 3 challenge.

Anyway here are the still photos of my soap, I hope you like it.

Meet 'Sandalwood and Vanilla', made using coconut oil and coconut milk as well as shea butter, olive oil and lots of cocoa butter.

The other very important ingredient in this soap is this beautiful natural vanilla paste from a wonderful local company here in East Devon, UK - Littlepod.  Janet from Littlepod imports the finest quality, responsibly sourced, bourbon vanilla from Madagascar in pod form but also she and her contact in Madagascar have come up with a unique way of suspending the bourbon vanilla aroma and flavor in a paste.  Used by top chefs all over the country, this paste is fabulous, it is so easy and versatile to use and so much better than ordinary vanilla extract.  I make a bespoke soap for Littlepod and I know that this paste withstands the tough alkaline conditions of cold process soap really well.  It gives a slightly creamy colour to the soap with a wonderful natural vanilla fragrance and sweet little flecks that come from the vanilla seed suspended in the paste.

I was really intrigued by the way the swirl turned out (or didn't as the case may be).  The sandalwood fragrance makes the soap set really, really fast so I did not have much time to work with it.  Instead of a beautiful cross colour swirl that I was attempting this very strange swirl/trace happened which I have not seen before, but I quite like.  You can see it better on the close up picture below it makes me think of bare, naked winter trees.

You can see the vanilla seeds on this picture too.  The base is coloured with cocoa powder and the top is completely natural apart from the slight creamyness, probably from the coconut milk but also the vanilla paste.

So thats it!  I have to tell you the smell is fabulous, I can't wait until my sister Beckie sees this, she absolutely loved the last sandalwood soap I made, and that was 2 years ago!

Week 3 is all about embellishment, Piping cold process soap. Those of you who know Puro Soaps well will know that we do this all the time but I have a couple of new, untried ideas up my sleeve, I am going to give myself a very big challenge - lets hope it works out.

To see all the other soaps made in Week 2 click on this link - Week 2 Soap Challenge - they will be added over the next week.  Next Saturday, get ready for the Week 3 reveal, its going to be good.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Wedding Blogs and sites

Hi everyone!  What fabulous weather we are having at the moment, its a little bit unsettling though.  For the last 2 years in the UK we have had our summer in April/May then rain, rain, rain so I just hope this isn't the only sun we will see for the year!!  Anyway, I am trying to enjoy it while it lasts.

I wanted to tell you quickly about two great new sites that Puro Soaps has just signed up to. 

Firstly The Bridal File which is an online bridal directory for brides to be and their families, it has 19 wedding related categories to browse through with lots of lovely ideas and inspiration.  Puro Soaps are featuring our fabulous wedding favor Cupcakes and Soap Bar Minis in the Wedding Favors section and the Wedding Gifts section. 

Secondly The Dream Wedding Directory.  This is a link to their blog which features other blogs from the wedding industry and I have just added Puro Soaps.  I hope we will be featured soon.

Its always good to join other networks, great for support and also information.  If you would like to feature Puro Soaps on your blog or website please let us know.  We are very happy to share and will always add your link to our site too.  I call it "Link Love" and we are firm believers in this form of small business support.

Where do you share your information and links?  Do leave a comment and let us all know, we could start our own little blog corner for "Link Love" - how nice would that be?

Enjoy the sun and have a happy day

Saturday, 24 March 2012

The guessing is over, The Great Soap Challenge week one reveal!

I have already enjoyed this challenge so much, thanks to Amy from Great Cakes Soapworks, she has set some wonderful tasks for us to do each week and, I am so excited, this is the end of the first week and time to show you how my soap came out!  If you want to see how I made this soap please go back to the last blog where it is all explained including step by step photos.

The single slice, I love this one, it was tricky to choose though as each slice was totally different.  The top looks really nice and sparkly too so I have taken a couple of shots with the tops lined up.

All in all  love the bar, the smell is nice too, peppermint and bergamot, which is a lovely combination.  The bergamot seems to take the eye watering menthol scent away from the peppermint and softens it really well.  I am also very happy with the pigment colours I used and will definitely be experimenting with them again, this has been cut for a couple of days now and there is no sign of fading at all so hopefully the colour is a keeper!

These bars will be ready in 4 weeks time if you are interested and will be posted up on our Puro Website under Special Limited Edition soaps.

I just cant wait now for week two, Making milk soap, this is going to be a tricky one for me as Shelley and I always soap with goats milk anyway, so another type of milk will have to be used.  I have always wanted to try coconut milk, so perhaps that is the way I will go.  Anyway, I shall blog again next week about what I have done then the reveal will be next Saturday 1st April (April Fools - I hope that is not going to follow through!!)

Do check out the Great Challenge reveal link and have a look at what everyone else has done, apparently there are now over 70 soapmakers all over the world involved.  How brilliant is that?

Please leave me a comment, I'd love to hear what you think and pass it on to your mates via the facebook and twitter buttons below or on the side bar above, the more comments the better.  If you sign up to this blog at the top of the page, you will ensure that you wont miss any of the new from the next 4 weeks of The Great Soap Challenge.  Thank you.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Puro Soaps is joining The Great Soap Challenge!

Yup, this is very exciting. 65 soap makers from all over the world both amateur enthusiasts and professional makers have signed up to join the Great Cakes Soapworks Soap Challenge!

I am really excited as I have not made much soap for a while and am feeling very frustrated so to bring back a bit of challenge to me and my soap making I decided to sign up too.  Basically over the next 5 weeks we are being set a series of soap making tasks, one each week.  The final soaps will be cut up, photographed and displayed on a special blog with all the other people taking part, this will happen every Saturday and there will be a link so you can all have a look too.  There are no prizes but that is not what it is about.  Imagine how lovely it will be to get an idea of how everyone has tackled this challenge and how different the resulting soaps will look?  I can't wait!

So, this is week one and the challenge is to produce a beautiful soap using the in-pot-swirl method.  Sounds easy doesn't it?  well, I have made many, many soaps over the last few years and lots of them have been quite technical swirls etc. but I have NEVER made an in-the-pot swirl, gulp.  I have always used another method in which you swirl coloured soaps inside the mold itself.  This time I have to swirl coloured soaps in the main mixing pan, the one where the oils are melted and mixed with the lye solution, then tip this into the mold and hope for the best.  Of course, none of us will have any idea how our soaps will turn out until they are out of the mold and cut up, so its a nerve wracking 24hrs ahead.  The following 4 challenges look like this:

Week 2: starts March 25 – Milk soap
Week 3: starts April 1 – Piping Cold Process Soap (you’ll need decorating tips and a bag!)
Week 4: starts April 8 – Making soap with alcohol
Week 5: starts April 15 – Mixing your own essential oil or fragrance blends

I have photographed my progress today, here goes......

Firstly I had to decide on the colours and fragrances I will be using.  I have some lovely peppermint essential oil lurking in my fragrance cupboards since I made my Salgado Azule salt spa bar last year and I have been dying to use it again.  I love the freshness of peppermint and using it meant that I can then work on using my bugbear colours in soap making, blue and green. I never seem to be able to get these right and I really love blue/green soap.  This time I decided to use Ultramarine Blue and Green Oxide, both natural pigment colours and very vibrant.  I know that they mix well and the colours usually stay true in cold process soap but I have not used them very often so it would be a challenge to come up with the right shades.
Mixed colours, fragrances and mold all ready
The two lighter shades to the left have been mixed with a little titanium dioxide and I have also added a sea green mica and pearl blue mica too, hopefully to give a little sparkle to the swirls.  mica does not always work well in CP soap so it may be a bit wasted, we will see.
This is my oils and goats milk and lye mix waiting to be amalgamated.

 Oils and lye mix added together.  Notice how creamy it looks, that is the fab goats milk I use.  I have, at this point, only blended the two together, they are not at trace yet and I want them to stay like that.  I like my soaps to be nice and runny for a swirl.  I have also added the essential oils, peppermint and bergamot.

 All the colour pots blended with about 300ml of the soap and fragrance mix - still lovely and runny.
All the colours are now added to the oil mix which has been coloured with a little bit of titanium dioxide to make a really good contrast.

The mix is then swirled very lightly in the pot.  I'm happy with the colour combinations at the moment, lets hope they stay like this!!

This is the soap now in the mold (it went a bit muddy looking so I hope there will be enough of a contrast when cut).  I then dribbled over the remaining coloured soap, which is by now setting up nicely.

The top is them simply swirled with the point of a skewer, problem is, I don't like flat soap!!  so I decided to carefully peak the top lifting soap up from well beneath the swirl on top so the peaks were still showing swirled sides.  I think it has works, it looks a bit like waves I think.  I then glittered the whole thing to give some sparkle and voila.......

I really love the way the top looks, just can't wait to see what the rest of it will look like cut up.
Hey, I have just noticed that this soap matches the blog!!!

You will all have to wait until Saturday, I will post the link to the challenge reveal site on this blog and our facebook page as soon as I get it from Amy.

So keep your fingers and toes crossed that it has come out well. I am so happy to be creating again, I really need to do things like this, it keeps me fresh and on the ball - so thank you Amy for organising this fun event.

Let me know what you think of this and also if you have any ideas on how I might tackle the next 4 challenges (shown above).

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Sunsets and Busy Bees

It's been incredibly dry here in Central Portugal- we haven't had any 'proper' rain here for months. We have had some amazing skies however- and despite the lack of rain, all the fruit trees are blossoming and the spring narcissus are flowering- so it's a really beautiful time of year here. The birds are busy and we often sit and listen to the blackbirds in the evenings. I even saw a song thrush here recently- which is quite a rare site as, unfortunately, they are legally hunted from November to February.

The other thing that has caught my eye recently is alot of activity around the beehives. I thought I'd go and have a chat to one of the beekeepers who have hives on the edge of our land, and who's beeswax we have rendered down to use in our natural soaps.
The beekeeper I spoke to told me it's a very busy time for them at the moment- the bees and the beekeepers, that is! He told me that he, and his fellow beekeepers, are taking it in shifts currently to go round and check each others hives, to give the bees pure water and to watch out for any bees swarming. I didn't understand everything totally, but he did tell me that the adult bees bring the young ones out now to show them how to dance! Sure I didn't get that bit quite right but it did sound very sweet!

He also told me they too are worried about the sicknesses that bees are suffering from currently and to make sure that they are well looked after.  I told him I always try to consider the bees when I'm planting new areas of the garden- and proudly told him about my lavender hedge which they seem to love. He nodded and smiled and told me that Rosemary is much better!
Talking of things the bees seem to like, the Mimosa is in full bloom, and fills the valley with its scent. I've noticed the bees seem to love not only the fragrant apricot blossom, but also the plain old pussy willow which is growing like a weed up in the woods.
Anyway- I'm certainly no expert- but I just always try to find out a little bit more about the ingredients that we use in our soap- and the chat with one of our local beekeepers was really interesting.       
If you'd like some more accurate information on beekeeping- these sites are really informative and helpful:

(P.S!! talking of honey- check out the special on this lovely honey and oatmeal soap

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Why do we celebrate Mothers Day?

I thought about this question for quite a while and decided to do some research.  I had it in my head that, like modern day 'Trick or Treat' Halloween celebrations that have made their way over to the UK from America, Mothers Day was probably a celebration designed by card manufacturers or sweet manufacturers in order to boost their sales, I was so wrong!!

Beautiful Portuguese Azelejo tile freeze of the Nativity

Mothers Day, or Mothering Sunday has been celebrated in the UK for over 400 years.  It is always held on the 4th Sunday of Lent (the 40 day period leading up to Easter) although other countries have different days.  Originally Mothering Sunday was in honor of The Virgin Mary, the mother of Christ but is now used as a day to celebrate all mothers.

The origins in the UK (it could have been a celebration of the Roman mother goddess Cybele) go back to the 1600's when children and servants were given leave by their employers to visit their "Mother Church" and attend a service in their own parish church.  These early worshipers would take gifts, flowers and special cakes for their mothers too.  So this special day, meant for the return to the Mother Church, was stretched to include all mothers and was named Mothering Sunday to reflect this.

Mother and daughter in church

 Another reason for celebrating this day would have been the relaxing of strict fasting rules for Lent.  It became known as Refreshment Sunday too - a very welcome respite for many.  This also co-ordinated with the Gospel reading from John 6:10-12, the story of how Jesus fed five thousand people with only five barley loaves and two fish.

Special food was prepared for Mothering Sunday and still is, the common dish of today is the Simnel Cake or sometimes Furmely (wheat grains boiled in milk, sugared and spiced).  However, and sadly for some, the Lenten fast dictated that the Simnel Cake must be kept until Easter.  Follow this link for a lovely, easy Simnel Cake recipe.

We have some beautiful soapcakes and soap cupcakes that make lovely gifts for Mothering Sunday although your mum might prefer one of our Puro Olive Oil soaps, ROSA, a highly moisturising bar soap made with Portuguese Olive Oil.

Let us know what you are planning for Mothering Sunday this year, we would love to hear your plans and stories.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

All in the name of Art!

See that post down there....-  down there!... -below this one!.... well Ishbel talks about us being design crazy at the moment, and I just want to clear something up- Ishbel is the crazy one oh, sorry I mean the design crazy one!

Recently I cheekily approached a magazine here in Portugal, wondering if they might like to feature some of our cupcakes. They replied instantly with a resounding 'YES'! and asked for some spring inspired ones. words to Ishbel were- 'can you come up with some nice spring cupcakes- butterflies and flowers- keep it simple- something similar to what we've done before and that I am comfortable with making', as I am a relative newbie to making cupcakes!
'No probs' says Ish- 'I'll knock some up this afternoon!' Well the result was the amazing spring cupcakes which were posted on here a few days ago- if you haven't seen them- have a look, and if you have seen them... have another look!!! They are incredible- all the flowers and butterflies have hand-painted details on them - even little antennae on the butterflies! So to be honest I was a little bit daunted!!

Anyway, I've had a go today- I was pretty dubious after spending what seemed like an age painting on butterfly spots and putting on their antennaes- but i gotta say I am very happy with the results and it was all worth it!!
They're very slightly different to Ishbel's, but I think thats the beauty of a hand-made product- considering we are currenly working in two different places (countries!), with different equipment, and have different ideas and styles.
Am slightly concerned about what Ishbel might come up with next- but I'm ready for the challenge!! Shelley :-)

New Wedding Favor Cupcake Soaps

It must be the weather, we are getting design and idea crazy, can't stop!  We have been banging on about making a new style cupcake for wedding favors for so long, so we just shut up and made them.  We are very pleased, they still need a bit of tweaking but generally the new technique works - always a good thing.

A bit blingy but that is what the customer wanted!  (I secretly love a bit of bling myself too).

So, as usual, let us know what you think.  We love comments, and yes, these are all soap, honestly!  Check out our Cupcake Photos on facebook too!

Sunday, 4 March 2012

New Springtime Cupcakes from Puro Soaps

Hi Everyone, I think it must be the first new buds of spring and perhaps a bit more warmth in the air but we have gone all creative again here at Puro!  We have come up with two new, absolutely lovely cupcakes for our website both can be purchased by visiting the site.

Wild Primrose

This is a very pretty soap scented with a fresh floral fragrance, it comes with a variety of coloured bases to reflect the wonderful hedgerow colours that are everywhere in springtime.

Hedgerow Violet
A really delicate cupcake with the sweetest Dog Violet flowers and buds, again this is scented with a really lovely fresh, floral fragrance and comes in a variety of base colours.

Both these cupcakes will make lovely Mothers Day presents but will be available on our site at least up until Easter.

One last close up ............

Please do keep in touch and let us know what you think of our latest creations, more to follow!

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