03 October 2011


I made soap today. Yeah, I do stuff like that; comes from having been born in 1967 (Hippies, Human Be-in, Summer of Love, and me). I'm into all that "simple living" stuff - you know, preserving your own food, putting your babies in cloth diapers, scratch-cooking everything (from scratch!), homeschooling, wearing unbleached cotton (and flannel next to the skin - oh, wait, wrong time period. Flannel was the 1800's, Jane Austen and all. Cotton - just stick with cotton). It's such a simple life I've only burned out about three or four times from sheer exhaustion and overwhelmedness.

No, seriously. I think I did learn my lesson in there somewhere, at least I hope I did. And it's really not so much about "simple living", because, in case you missed the dripping sarcasm, that kind of life is not all that simple. It's more about self-sufficiency, but also about connectedness. Connectedness to the source of your food, to your living - the stuff you have around you. Knowing where it comes from, where it's been ("Johnny, put down that potato chip right now! You don't know where it's been!!"). And it's also about purity, about quality, and about creative satisfaction. I just get a kick out of washing with soap that's been made according to the Bavarian Purity Law (just four ingredients: Water, Hops, Yeast and Malt. Wait. That's beer. Which I don't like. But if I did, I might try brewing my own, just for fun.). Today's soap batch contains, for the most part, olive oil, coconut oil, and lye (No, not lie! I am telling the truth!); a couple of the molds also have vegetable shortening, essential oils, and powdered spices in them. It smells lovely; even the unscented stuff has this clean, soapy fragrance I really enjoy.

And that's what it's really about for me now, the enjoyment. If I didn't like making soap, I wouldn't do it - not any more. I first tried soap-making back in my Little-House-on-the-Prairie Days, when I was under the impression that it would make me a better person to live like Ma Ingalls (labour-intensive housekeeping mandatory). But, in my usual fashion, I just read books on how to make soap instead of learning it from a real person, and miserably failed. All I got from the attempt was a very, very clean pot (the lye burned away all the dirt that was clinging to the little scratches on the inside of the pot). You really need to have seen the way a batch of soap looks when it's tracing (starting to set) before you try making it yourself; I had to take an evening class at the local high school to learn how to do it. For your information, a proper trace looks exactly like instant pudding when it just starts to thicken - oh, wait, you wouldn't have instant pudding in your house, because it's so un-hippie-ish, un-natural, and un-homemade. Would you? Well, yeah, actually, me too. I did say I learned my lesson, right?

Life, the Universe, Soap and Self-sufficiency. If you don't overdo it, it's all good clean fun.


  1. Good for you. I'm impressed. Maybe I should learn how to make it too, since I'm allergic to almost all fragrances. Can't even have it in the bathroom without getting blisters on my lip.

  2. Soap making sounds like a fun time...I will need to take a course and try one day....but like you said about living the Little House on the Prairie life...done some of that...its exhausting and, well, we live in different times now...At least if you really HAD to do those things...you know you could!!

  3. Your soap looks good enough to eat. Seriously. It looks all cinnamony goodness. I bet it smells delicious. I'm pretty sure you shared your recipe one time, I'll have to see if I can find it again.

  4. @Bonnie- there's classes available, right here locally!

    @Sheila- yes, I get a kick out of knowing that if I had to, I could make all my own stuff. And I'm thankful I *don't* have to (unlike Ma Ingalls, who, I'm sure, wouldn't have done half the stuff she did had she had a choice).

    @Heather- 1500g Olive Oil, 750g Coconut Oil, 324g Lye, 855g Water. Makes about 7 lbs soap.
    I once made some with cocoa powder in it, and put it in muffin cups, with coloured sprinkles on it and a birthday candle on top. The unsuspecting recipient took a bite before I could warn her...

  5. Ooh, lovely you! You just saved me looking through loads of email folders. Now, I have no excuse not to get to soap making sooooon.