Archive for June, 2014

I didn’t write yesterday. It was soaping at my sister’s day and afterwards she and I went out for dinner, so by the time I got home, it was all I could do to shelve my soap before I got ready for bed. It was a great day. We each made a batch of soap and much measuring and pouring and mixing and talking and laughing was done. Also some eating of cake and drinking of tea.

I took lots of photos of course.



Mum and my sister in the prep stage.

Mum and my sister in the prep stage. 

oils and equipment everywhere.

oils and equipment everywhere.

miscellaneous things

miscellaneous things

Mum's friend in her funky soap-making smock.

Mum’s friend in her funky soap-making smock.

Mum's groovy (and very protective) boots

Mum’s groovy (and very protective) boots

Careful measuring

Careful measuring

mixing the oatmeal into the oils

mixing the oatmeal into the oils

soap in moulds

soap in moulds

Fresh soap

Fresh soap

My pure oatmeal soap, setting.

My pure oatmeal soap, setting.

It was very good fun, and then today, I unmoulded my soap and cut it into chunks. The container I used made for thick chunks and I couldn’t decide whether to have short, fat blocks of soap, or longer, slimmer soaps, so I called for help from Andy and the kids. It was a tied vote, so I did half of one and half of the other. We’ll know which is best in practice when we use them I guess.

I love how creamy these look.

I’m imagining how soothing these will be on our skin.

All the soap, curing in the cupboard. Just so satisfying :-)

All the soap, curing in the cupboard. Just so satisfying 🙂


Today was a fairly relaxed day. Late in the afternoon, we harvested some more of the endless supply of cherry tomatoes growing in our garden.

They're rampant and show no sign of slowing down. This is just a portion of what is a tomato jungle. Some are propped up with stakes, others have just taken over whatever they've been able to scramble up.

They’re rampant and show no sign of slowing down. This is just a portion of what is a tomato jungle. Some are propped up with stakes, others have just taken over whatever they’ve been able to scramble up.

But the tomatoes taste fantastic.

But the tomatoes taste fantastic.



Quick update on the soap front. After 24 hours, I turned out the soap and cut it into bars. I got 32 bars, each weighing about 120g. I don’t know how much weight will be lost as they dry but I’m expecting that they’ll end up at over 100g a bar, which coincidentally is about the weight of an average, shop-bought soap.

I like that the box they’re in has a history too. I bought three of them last year, from an elderly man who was moving. He’d made them a long time ago, for storing homemade beer I think. They’re rough and well used and perfect for their new purpose.

I love the way they look in their box lined with newspaper.

I love the way they look in their box lined with newspaper.


I think I could have left the soap to set for a bit longer. I wasn’t quite done and the middle pieces were a little messy to cut, even with wiping the knife down after every cut. The knife ‘drag’ through the soap means that you can’t quite see the subtle swirls of light and dark. Still, it’s a first try and it’s good to be learning what works and what could be done better.

It smells really fresh and beautiful and (this is the bit I’m really excited about) it really lathers! Soft, creamy, fresh, and after I’d washed my hands with it, my skin didn’t have that tight feeling it gets with commercial soap, it was really soft and comfortable.


Andy's calling it 'Soap-Henge' :-)

Andy’s calling it ‘Soap-Henge’ 🙂


The other thing was that tonight, I was at the supermarket, loading shopping into the car when my name was called and I looked up to see a woman I worked with very briefly, a couple of years ago. We said hi and then she walked over to tell me she’d been reading my blog. We have a mutual friend who had posted it on her Facebook timeline, so I don’t know why I felt so surprised but I really did.

She said she’d felt inspired by some of the things she’d read here and we talked about our weight loss journeys for a little while. I’d been feeling a bit low today. There was nothing wrong exactly, I’d just been carrying a nebulous sense of blah all day, added to which, it was a coldish evening and with the healthy food for dinner, I’d also bought other, less healthy stuff. An emotional response to the feeling of unease.

Our conversation brought me gently back to a sense of balance and reminded me to be grateful and mindful. So I’ll start by being grateful for that. 🙂

Cold Process Soapmaking

I walked today but it was the sort of walking that took me from one shop to another, in search of inexpensive equipment to make soap with. A couple of strong plastic (BPA free) measuring jugs here, a spatula and bucket there….it was a pleasurably time-consuming quest.

I remembered in the supermarket why I didn’t try ‘proper’ soap making when the kids were little. It’s the lye. The caustic soda. You’re supposed to make sure there are no kids or pets around when you’re soap making, just in case some falls on them, or heaven forbid, they pull the solution down on themselves. Makes me shudder just to think of it.  I wore protective goggles and latex gloves to make my test batch tonight and inexplicably forgot about shoes. After all, I was at home, comfortable and I had glasses….

I realised my mistake when I felt a pinprick of searing heat on my left foot and looked down to see a tiny hole where a small drip had landed. Luckily, I’d prepared the small spray bottle of vinegar suggested on a lot of the youtube soap making channels and I was ready. I spritzed the area and the burning stopped. But the caustic soda solution really does do skin-melty things, so WEAR PROTECTIVE GEAR if you’re going to play with soaping. Let my foot serve as warning.

I’m getting ahead of myself. 🙂

I used a recipe on Rhonda Hetzel’s website, ‘Down to Earth’. It’s not the only one I could have used, there are thousands but it’s the one in the book my mother gave copies of, to me and my sister at Christmas and its simplicity appeals to me. It’s a four ingredient soap. Olive Oil, Coconut oil, Water and Lye/Caustic Soda. The exact recipe and method are explained well on her site and after watching and reading since last night, I figured I had it pretty well sorted out. The lye gets mixed with the water first. Always pour the lye into the water, never the other way around. Apparently explosions of one kind or another could result. It gets really hot too, and there are fumes, so mixing outside, with very cold water, is a good idea.

Instead of water, I made chamomile and spearmint tea, for the colour and maybe the hint of fragrance, although that was probably consumed by the Lye. I saved the leaves in a bowl, squeezed of most of their moisture.

When the lye/tea solution cooled enough, I mixed it into the oils and whizzed it up with a hand blender, bought ultra cheaply, for the purpose, then added Eucalyptus oil. I poured a bit into a separate jug, added the tea leaves to it and whizzed that too, both were now ‘at trace’, the point at which you can see a sort of line when you draw the spoon or blender through the mixture. I poured the plain one into an old wooden crate lined with a plastic bin bag and secured with clamps ($1.50 at Bunnings), waited a minute and then poured the darker, tea-leaf mixture on top.

Then I got a bit over-excited and started drawing lines and swirls with a skewer, so who knows what the finished product might look like.. I put the box into a cupboard in the laundry, washed up my making space and made dinner, feeling very achieved. It’s a good feeling, making useful, lovely, natural things.

When I checked on it after dinner, cracks had started to appear and I rushed to my laptop to find out why. “It’s too hot!” I proclaimed, bustling to the kitchen, whipping out the box and rushing it out onto the cool of the verandah, all in one movement and all as though it was deeply, deeply important. I even took photos… 🙂

Just after pouring

Just after pouring

Out on the verandah...Cracks, see?

Out on the verandah…Cracks, see?

Okay, see them now?

Okay, see them now?

I still haven’t found the charger for my camera battery, so I’ve been using my phone, which is…..better than nothing…but I’ll find the charger.

Tomorrow night I’ll be able to turn the soap out and cut it while it’s still softish, then lie it in newspaper in a warm, airy place to dry, for 4-6 weeks. It can be used before then but it could become smooshy in water and not last as long.

Altogether, I’m counting this as a success for my first attempt and I’m looking forward to making Oatmeal and Honey soap on Saturday.


Best Laid Plans

All day, while I was working, while I was driving, shopping, walking, cooking, I’ve had ideas for posts running through my mind and then, the email….

It was from my sister. She’s planning a soap-making day on Saturday, which I’m going to, and it included times and an ingredients list. I’ve made soap once before, except it wasn’t really soap-making, so much as glycerine soap melting and adding things to make pretty smelling soaps. There was no actual saponification process. Oh yes, saponification is now in my vocabulary! 🙂 Simply put, it’s the process that turns oils and caustic soda, or lye, into soap and the reason I know this, is that I’ve spent the latter part of the afternoon and most of the evening reading about it and watching Youtube tutorials on the subject. Which drove all other post-related ideas from my mind.

I like the idea of making my own soap. I enjoy the thought of doing something that feels self-sufficient and natural, of using a product without chemicals I don’t recognise. Mostly though, I love that my sister is gathering us to do it together at her house. There’s something very nurturing and connecting about it. So I get to do something new, in the company of my sister, my mother and her friend. Roll on Saturday.

I knew I’d bought those wooden crates for something…..

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