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New Stockist: The Hive Bulk Foods

We’re absolutely thrilled to be a part of the family of vendors over at The Hive Bulk Foods!

This cozy store in Bangsar specialises in helping consumers adhere to a zero-waste lifestyle, where general sundries are sold without packaging, and you can buy all kinds of things by weight. They have an impressive range of personal care items too, from tooth powder to soap bars. It was great to see other local cosmetics brands I look up to, like Root Remedies, Jeanie Botanicals, Claire Organics, and Native Body & Skin having their own space there as well. Okay, maybe I felt a little star-struck to be placed alongside them, haha… :”)

If you think that this whole thing about going packaging-free and zero waste is a hippie / hipster lifestyle (read: expensive) affair, please reconsider it. The Hive’s owner, Claire, does everything she can to make this kind of lifestyle one that is not only sustainable for the environment, but for the pocket too. Affordability is a key consideration for sustainable consumption, and she’s working hard to find solutions that will encourage the public to seriously consider going packaging-free with their daily household consumables.

Here’s what the place looks like:

via GIPHY

I love looking at their neat rows of wooden shelving, with glass jars full of nuts and grains, honey, coffee, and household items that are meant to replace their disposable / throwaway counterparts. We can do so much to reduce packaging waste from ending up in landfills, just by tweaking our purchasing habits. I do hope you’ll pay The Hive a visit, and perhaps consider buying your regular grocery items there so you can avoid creating yet another throwaway item when you get home from the usual supermarket run.

Here’s their address:

92A, Lorong Maarof, Bangsar (above Speedmart)
59000 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

017-680 4221

Follow this link to navigate to their shop in Bangsar using Google Maps.

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Experiment: Pulut Tai Tai Soap

soap bar placed on the edge of a water jar

(Warning: LOTS of pictures ahead!)

Last week on the 8th of May (just a day before Malaysia’s 14th General Elections, woohoo!) I finally took the leap to scratch that itch of an idea that has been playing around in my head for the longest time (read: YEARS), which was,

What would happen if I took traditional food recipes and stuck their ingredients into soap bars?

It seemed like a very natural thing to do – given that the food we eat offer a cornucopia of health benefits, even when applied topically to the skin (think: brown sugar scrubs, egg white masks etc).

Of course I wouldn’t touch anything that involved meats… so naturally I started looking at desserts. Specifically, the traditional Malaysian ones, and those which I personally have a fondness for. :”)

The simple rule I gave myself for this little game was to ensure that EVERY ingredient for the food item, was to be used in the soap. I would be referring to food recipe websites a lot!

So for the first experiment, I went with the iconic pulut tai tai, (recipe here) which is a glutinous rice block coloured with butterfly pea / bunga telang (Clitoria terneata) flower infusion, and topped with kaya (a coconut jam, recipe here). This is what the actual dessert looks like.

Blue Glutinous Rice Cakes (Pulut Tai Tai)

(Photo credit to Michelle Chan, on Flickr)

It took me yonks to finally pluck up the courage to plan for, and make this soap. Predominantly because:

  1. I had no idea whether the blue from the butterfly pea flowers would carry through into the soap,
  2. I generally don’t like doing hot process soap because I hate the cleanup,
  3. I don’t like cleaning up in general, and because of the complexity of the soap design, I expected the mess to be massive (thankfully, I was wrong about this though!).

But in the end, I talked myself and planned for an uninterrupted day in the studio to “play”. 🙂

For my soap base, I chose to stick to just coconut oil (because coconut plays such a distinct role in this recipe), and used coconut milk for the lye solution. Here’s the rest of my shopping for the ingredients:

shopping basket containing food items

YES, there is actual gula melaka (palm sugar) in this soap. AND there are eggs in it too! There is no significant smell to in the resulting soap that hints at the eggs’ presence – but it seems like a great way to introduce protein into a skincare formulation in a relatively safe way. If you’re worried about bacterial contamination, don’t fret – the raw soap’s high pH levels, and the sustained heat it is subject to while cooking, is sufficient to kill off any bacteria in the eggs. Just wash your hands with soap while handling the eggs, as normal.

First up was weighing out all our materials. Here’s our pandan (screwpine) leaf tea, which I made using leaves from my home garden:

And this is bunga telang tea, also from our garden (I had my daughter pick 25 flowers and simmer them in 300ml water. From the earlier soap photos, it is obvious that this isn’t anywhere concentrated enough to be used in the soap as a serious colourant). Isn’t the blue just gorgeous?

This is what bunga telang flowers look like:

And this is something I enjoy seeing, every single time I make soap – rosemary oleoresin lazily sinking to the bottom of a carrier oil mixture (in this case, virgin coconut oil).

Then came making the lye solution – I used coconut milk to replace the water portion. It became a thick slurry immediately. I hadn’t refrigerated the coconut milk, so it turned from pure white into a light caramel colour, as expected. It also gave off a mild scent of ammonia (similar to what happens when using goat’s milk in a lye mixture):

Animated GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Since this was a hot process (HP) soap which I was going to heat in a slow cooker, I didn’t wait for the lye solution to cool to 40ºC as what we normally do with cold process (CP) soap. After blending the coconut milk lye solution with the coconut oil, I added in the glutinous rice flour, sea salt, followed by more coconut oil and the eggs, which I had blended together:

Now, I wish I had an extra pair of hands because I wanted take a video to show you just how light and surprisingly mobile the whole soap mixture became after the eggs and coconut oil mixture was added to it. The mixture would even slide off cleanly from my spatulas. But eventually it returned to taking on a much more viscous consistency.

After about 30 minutes of cooking at high heat, the soap mixture was at 85ºC at had changed to a familiar, olive green colour:

Doesn’t it look like kaya? 🙂 At this point it was also smelling a little sweet, and reminiscent of food. I tested the pH level, and it had already come down to around 10.

At this point, the general idea was to separate the raw soap into 3 portions:

  • a “white”, or uncoloured portion (supposedly to resemble the uncoloured glutinous rice),
  • a blue portion (the blue coloured rice), and
  • a brown-green portion (the kaya “topping”).

I separated the “white” and “blue” portions, and coloured the latter by adding the bunga telang tea:

Then I added the pandan tea to the uncoloured portion. Here’s what they look like, side by side:

To say that I was disappointed with the colouring result, is an understatement. I *almost* wanted to give up, but I pushed on anyway. I added more bunga telang tea to the mixture, and worked it in well (my hand was so tired from gripping the spatula!).

Now came the layering in the mold. First up was to randomly drop dollops of the “white” and “blue” soap in the mold, and pack it in:

It was still quite warm, and easy to manipulate. While that was hardening up, I worked with the last remaining soap portion – the kaya topping. In went the crushed gula melaka to the soap that was still being kept warm in the slow cooker:

In about 15 minutes, the room smelled absolutely delicious and the sugar looked like it had melted completely into the soap. I began spooning it onto the “rice” portion:

I smoothed it over as best as I could and covered it with a sheet of waxed paper. Now all I had to do was to wait for it to harden up enough to cut.

While waiting, there was one other question that remained to be answered:

Can you make a blue bunga telang lye solution?

The answer is a resounding NO, because this is the resulting colour when sodium hydroxide (NaOH) flakes are added to bunga telang tea:

It’s a fantastic shade of orange! But when added to coconut oil to turn into soap, the resulting soap bars are still a plain white. Interesting trivia, and I’m glad I finally got round to removing all doubt about the matter. 🙂

Coming back to the pulut tai tai soap – as it turned out, I could cut them within 2 hours of moulding, for two reasons:

  1. Being such a coconut oil-heavy recipe, I expected the soap to set up quite quickly, and it did. It had already been pushed past the gel phase and saponification was complete, as testified by the pH level of 10 it was at. I didn’t want to risk allowing it to harden up so much that it would be difficult to cut.
  2. I was also impatient. XD

So after I had cleaned up all the equipment and work tops, and the soap showed a surface temperature of around 36ºC, I greedily unwrapped the soap:

At this point, I sent a disheartened message to my hubby, saying that I as disappointed with how to blue colouring turned out (or not, rather). And then, I pushed the block through our wire cutters – this is what I saw:

OMG THERE WAS BLUE! Pale, but still unmistakable blue! So with much excitement and anticipation, I cut the rest of the bars.

Animated GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

The soap bars  have a pleasant caramel scent, with a hint of coconut and pandan. Colour-wise, they are unexciting but I have come to appreciate that those stoic shades of grey and olive green. I definitely want to continue experimenting with this blue colourant.

I’ve already been using a bar regularly in the shower, and it is remarkably moisturizing. Works well on the hair too. At this size, each bar weighs around 150g after drying for a week (it was 10g heavier right after cutting).

They aren’t for sale at the moment – but we will be giving some away together with purchases, and to willing guinea pigs (preferably those with extremely dry skin).

So there you have it – our pulut tai tai soap bars. What do you think of this little experiment? 🙂 Would love to hear from you!

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How Well Does Spirulina’s Colour Hold Up in Cold Process Soap?

I’m so happy to be able to write a little blurb about experiments in the studio again! I wish I had more time to do this amidst all the changes at work, but I’m happy for the occasional opportunity all the same. 🙂

So how does spirulina fare as a stable, all-natural colourant in CP soap? I reckon it does pretty well, all things considered. 🙂 Here’s what it looked like when I first sliced our Fiddler’s Green soap:

FG04

The powder itself looked a dark, deep blue-green which turned into this lovely fresh colour the day after I poured the soap into the mold.

Then 3 weeks later, this is what the colour looked like:

IMG_7761

Not exactly stable, but still produces a good strong green. It lost most of its blue component, to take on a more mature, olive green kind of shade. Interestingly, the powder that is in the swirl on the surface of the soap seems to have stayed quite prominent:

IMG_7760

I was hoping that it would retain its strong blue-tinged green, but I’m still happy with the results all the same. For the lowest layer of colour which was at its most concentrated, I used 25g of spirulina powder in about 2.6kg of raw soap (yes, that works out to be one rather expensive load of colourant for a bar of soap!)

It will be interesting to see what the colour looks like 6 months down the road. 🙂 Will try to remember to post pics when I can.

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Meet Us At Markets @ Jaya One 5, Saturday March 3rd

We’re getting all geared up for our first market in 2012! It’s at Jaya One once again, but this time there will not be a designated area for handcrafted goods, i.e. Crafty Art Market–ALL vendors will be lined up in and around Palm Square, and we’ll be super easy to find this time (I hope!).

Here’s the schematic for Saturday’s booth layout:

We'll be behind Bar Madrid, along the road.

A couple of things for you to take note of for this Saturday’s Markets event:

  1. If you have any recyclable items at home you wish to discard (eg. aluminum cans, old newspapers, etc) please bring them to the Markets as the organisers will be having their first Recycle Drive in front of Palm Square (next to OCBC Bank) as well.
  2. The Market’s registration counter for the public will be located opposite Duck King and Guo Ren Guan. Remember to get your goodie bags here okay? 🙂

And here’s the full list of vendors there on the day, and their booth numbers–satisfy your curiosity and really take the time to explore the market! I’m sure it’ll make for a terrific afternoon outing for the family.

See you on Saturday!

OUTDOORS :
1 House of Allure
2 HULLABALLU
3 Thr5t
4 OMG It’s Us
5 Peep Boutique
6 Twizs
7 Vintage Biri-Biri
8 Xisters
9 Oh&h
10 ZIKKOS
11 Kiiss
12 FURUI Clothing
13 EMO.EGO
14 EmiKaz
15 The Bubble Lab
16 CHACHIMEWE
17 Luscious Delight
18 Arts Cream Gallery
19 Myglasscubicle
20 Owhsome
21 Guiirin
22 Sunny Sideup Closet
23 Un-Masqued
24 The Petticoats Lingerie
25 Like iGloo
26 Trendy Confessions
27 Winkstick
28 I Heart Badges
29 Love and Craft
30 Blurry Boutique
31 Notbook-notbuk
32 Calaqisya/Cala Man
33 Swit Martini
34 Helmelia Hisham
35 Karen Wong
36 MOOKS/Ripcurl
37 Miracle Watts
38 .::[ALLkinds OF Everything]::.
39 Mimpi Murni
40 Phat Culture
41 KALLA
42 Sewfabby
43 JUS Black Box
44 Pretty Little Freaks
45 ARARED
46 Chasseur de Rêve
47 Sharonsen
48 Nick Chong
49 Luvpercent
50 Soak Republic
51 PitterPatterPlace
52 Emcee Couture
53 Project Swissify
54 6Tea’s Boutique
55 6Tea’s Boutique
56 HisPebbles
57 Keyna Boutique
58 The Hanging Thread
59 Lana Laang
60 My DIY Little World
61 Roadblock Fashion
62 Jainabee
63 Kee’s Creampuff
64 House of Dollface
65 Delirious Accessories
66 Eggbash Cothing
67 DisturbiaDistro
68 Baked Cookies
69 Kindersoaps
70 PurpleDotz
71 Lush Serendipity
72 NaisWear
73 Tanks for 5
74 MICCAZ
75 Daphne Clothing
76 Pastiche
77 Mibead
78 Ninu Handmade
79 All In Online Store
80 Sugar Dressing
81 Jewels Paradis
82 CuppaTea

INDOORS :
1 WWF Malaysia
2 Lovely Candy Shop
3 Novels for Nepal
4 BreadnButter
5 Adrien Ritzal
6 Whenever Store
7 Jesslyn Tandela
8 Glossy Additction
9 Bisou Rose
10 Makeover Now
11 Maz Mynrose
12 Nakalicious
13 Dusky Wings
14 Sara Ong
15 Kiss & Tell

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My First Few Attempts At Making Videos

I recently purchase a Canon Powershot S100 and I must say that it’s been a TONNE of fun using it. Reading the manual right at the start turned out to be extremely useful. :p

Apart from producing endless streams of photographs of our offspring, I have also used it to film some short videos of me at work. Here’s the most recent one:

I hope you found it interesting! It’s actually kinda nice to be able to show you around my office and give you a glimpse of what’s involved in making soap around here. In any case I’ll have to work harder to write more on this blog. :”> In the meantime, you can always hop over to our Facebook page where I am much more active with updates at the moment.

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Christmas Warmth is Back!

There’s something inexplicably special about Christmas. To commemorate all those heart-warming memories that you have and will make with your friends and loved ones, I’ve brought back my Christmas Warmth soap and it will be done curing on November 16th.

I’ve taken its scent cue from the warming spices infused in traditional mulled wine recipes, rounded off with the comforting moisturization you have come to know and love from Kinder Soaps. 🙂 Think: clove buds, cinnamon, nutmegs, ground ginger, sweet orange and a touch of peppermint. Oh, and no alcohol was used in this recipe, don’t worry!

I’m only making one batch of these soaps this year, so if you’d like to make sure that you can get your bar of Christmas Warmth, please use the Pre-Order form to place your order and I’ll get back to you with payment details. I will ship them to you once they’re ready.

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Songbird Is GO!

I tweaked and tweaked, made notes and plotted, after the first trial batch I made last month… and now I’ve arrived at a formulation for Songbird that looks set to stay (if you all enjoy breathing it in and admiring it as much as I do, that is!).

Voila!

Locked down on the scent too. The virginian cedarwood, cypress, pine, eucalyptus all stayed, but I did away with the bergamot because it wasn’t really contributing much to the blend (it had faded away so much that it wasn’t really there anymore–and it’s way too expensive for me to use for now). So our study is now bursting with mildly minty, woodsy scent that definitely brings to mind a verdant, mountainous scene under a bright blue sky, populated with coniferous trees as far as the eye can see.

It’s a brief respite from the lousy haze that we have outside now, for sure!

These will be ready in time for Urbanscapes on June 16th. If you do come (and you really should, if you love all things art), I’m hoping you can follow your nose to locate my stall. :p It’ll be PACKED, for sure.

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Christmas Warmth

-LIMITED EDITION, Available from November 16th 2011-

I took my cue for the choice of essential oils to include in this soap from traditional mulled wine recipes. Let the scents of clove, cinnamon, ginger, sweet orange, nutmeg and just a tiny hint of peppermint waft invitingly through your home this festive season, and allow your skin to be pampered with moisturizing properties of jojoba, macadamia nut and camellia oils.

Just the thing for Christmas. 🙂

Characteristics and Usage

Use on: Face, body, hair.

Scent: It’s rich and sweet–you’ll be enveloped in its scent while in the shower, but the scent won’t linger too long on your skin after that.

Lather: Rich and creamy when used directly on hair or bath puff/sponge. Lathers up quite nicely in the palm of your hand too.

Ingredients: Palm oil, canola oil, coconut oil, cocoa butter, water, sodium hydroxide, jojoba oil, camellia oil, macadamia nut oil, essential oils (sweet orange, clove leaf, cinnamon leaf, ginger, nutmeg, peppermint), french red clay, titanium dioxide.

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Indigo Revelations

The wonderful thing about being addicted to soapmaking is that I find myself traveling down paths of knowledge that I wouldn’t have voluntarily tread myself.

Take last night, for instance, when I was agonizing over how I was ever going to make blue soap. I could use iron oxide, but the list of Malaysian suppliers I found on the net didn’t specify anything about their products being cosmetic grade. And I’m not looking to import anything yet–the small quantity I need doesn’t justify the massive shipping costs.

Then I found a site that mentioned Indigo powder as a natural blue soap colourant. That was exciting. Many, many clicks and a couple of hours later, here are a few (possibly eyebrow-raising) facts about indigo I’ve gathered to satisfy your curiosity about the stuff. It’s by no means exhaustive.

Indigo powder is the dried and crushed leaves of the indigofera tinctoria shrub, commonly found in India. And THIS is what the powder looks like:

Yup, it’s green. Not blue. If I’m not wrong, the blue indigo colourants you might come across in soapmaking sites is actually the hydrated indigo leaf powder which is then freeze-dried into crystalline form.

Indigo is known as “neel” in India. It’s used to colour hair (!!) without the use of artificial chemicals, anything from brown to blue-black, to black. I learned that from reading this page at  Joy Minerals.

It’s the same dye that’s used to give jeans that characteristic blue.

Want to see what another soaper has done with indigo in her soap? Check out Southern Soapers’ tutorial here.

I’m hoping to do my own experiments with indigo really soon! Got any stories to share about this ingredient?

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Now Available – Summer Fizz Soap

Here we are–have some fun in the shower with the Summer Fizz Soap! I originally referred to these as Sweet Orange, Rosemary and Peppermint Soap in my earlier blogpost, but that was a real mouthful. :p Hence the name change.

Read more about this skin and hair-loving bar of soap that has a scent reminiscent of fizzy lemonade over at the shop.

(Psst–if not for yourself, why not get one for mom? 😉 )