Tag Archive: making


Today I made a relish from a recipe that was given to me in May, by a member of my extended family that I’d only just met. We were standing in a hall, at a reunion, when I tasted it and immediately wanted to know how to make it.

So last night I prepared the tomatoes (cherry tomatoes from our garden, they’re still coming) and onions, sprinkled salt over them and left them overnight in the fridge.

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Today, I added the vinegar, sugar, dry mustard, cayenne and curry powder and let it simmer  until it was thick and tasted amazing.

When it was done, I poured it into jars I’d saved and sterilised. It’s the first relish I’ve made and it’s hugely satisfying for such a small thing 🙂

Tomato Relish

Then later, I made more soap. Oh yes, more soap! Because it’s fun and creative and great! This time a salt soap, made with coconut oil, rice bran oil, avocado oil, eucalyptus essential oil, activated charcoal and kaolin clay.

I read a lot about salt soaps before I chose the oils and how the salt affects the lathering properties and then I put my choices through a lye calculator, to make sure it would work well and be safe to use. When I finally had a recipe I was happy with, I made it and I’m really happy with the way it turned out. Of course, the proof will be in its use, which won’t come for another six weeks or so.

This is freshly cut, I couldn't wait. You can see the condensation on it, which I later wiped away.

This is freshly cut, I couldn’t wait. You can see the condensation on it, which I later wiped away. The black on top is Cyprus black salt. I ground it on at the end.

 

There was also a hearty ham and green split pea soup, cooked in the slow cooker but no photos of that. We ate it and were warm.

I found and bought an exercise bike in a second hand shop the other day. It was fifteen dollars and in really good condition, with a working digital display and everything. So in it went, to join the rest of the stuff in the home gym. This afternoon, after a lazy, chilled out day, Zac and I went downstairs to spend some time there. We weren’t there a long time but it was fun and he’s so determined on those machines. It’s inspiring.

 

One of each of the other soaps I've made.

One of each of the other soaps I’ve made.

Well we did it. The kids and I moved things around, created a space and organised the gym equipment in the garage into something approaching usability. We did this just before we rushed out the door to look for cheap, second hand, wooden picture frames that we could transform into paper making frames. Because I can’t just keep making soap constantly, much as I’d like to. Already I have a huge wire basket in my office, filled with Lemon Tea Soap and round cakes of Cinnamon Soap, coloured a reddish-pink with paprika oil. Then on the stove-top, large, rose-shaped cakes of Pure White Soap, sit on a wooden plate and next to them, the same soap but in a simpler, round shape. Stamped with my first acrylic stamp.

Tucked away in the laundry cupboard, I have the first and second soaps I made. The Peppermint and Eucalyptus and the Pure Oatmeal. 

So you see, if I make any more I’ll run completely out of space. Luckily there are only a couple of weeks to go before my first one is cured and ready to use. For other people to use. Because I’ve actually already started to use it and I completely love it. It makes my skin feel luxuriously soft and smooth and it lathers and bubbles so satisfyingly in the shower. The only change I’ve made in subsequent soap recipes, is to the proportions of oils, to reduce any ‘squeaky-clean’ sensation after I dry my skin. Altogether though, I’m completely hooked.

So. Paper making. I was looking at wrapping and packaging, with a view to Christmas gifts and things and I came across some eco-packaging, which I liked the look of. From there to DIY paper making was only a few clicks of the touchpad and I was fired with enthusiasm.

We stopped at an art shop, where Zac chose an air-drying clay set to play with and then at a couple of Op shops (charity shops) and bought some cheap wooden picture frames.

Later, we all sat on the tiled floor and, while the kids made clay figures and stories to match, Andy and I hammered and glued window mesh onto the backs of the frames. After I’d removed the glass and backings of course.

I used super glue and was careless…. I glued my finger and thumb together in the ‘OK’ position and then could not pry them apart. At first it was funny, oh how we laughed, but panic ensued when I truly couldn’t unstick them, not with methylated spirits or vinegar. Andy suggested hot water but I burnt my fingers and stopped quickly. Then he suggested cutting them and I decided not to listen to his advice anymore, though I did pick up the scissors….

In the midst of all of this and while we were still laughing, albeit with an edge of desperation in my case, Zac quietly went to the bathroom and filled the basin with warm water. He came and got me, and with much gentle and earnest reassurance, led me to it and instructed me to submerge my hand. I knew it wouldn’t work, hadn’t I already tried hot water?, but I was touched by his care, so I did it. Then he turned on the hot tap. “It’s going to be okay Mummy, just tell me when this gets too hot, alright?” I nodded, smiling at my beautiful, beautiful boy and then, lo and behold, it worked! He was so proud and I was relieved.

It was too late to make paper by the time we’d finished making the frames and having dinner but, before I came to bed tonight, I shredded some paper and put it in a bucket to soak and pulp overnight. I’m using white paper for this first experiment but after this, I’ll be recycling all sorts of paper. I can’t wait!

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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.

 

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