Soapmaking, Take 1

It’s been on my summer bucket list for years, and now I can finally tick it off: soapmaking! 

Over the past few gardening seasons, I’ve dried and tucked away herbs for soapmaking, and began growing calendula last year for the same reason.
I told my parents that I’d probably buy soapmaking supplies with the money they sent me at Christmas, but then I used it for an indoor trampoline.
On reflection, I was a bit intimidated to try soapmaking alone, so when a sisterfriend said she was going to make soap, I was excited for her and gushed about it always being at the top of my to-try list. She suggested we try it together so we set a date and gathered our supplies. On Sunday, we met at hers, layered on the safety gear and gave it a go. 

1. It was much calmer than I had anticipated considering the warnings all over the internet. I had expected the lye to splatter and spit, but it didn’t even splash or ‘jump’. One helpful tip I read somewhere suggested to mix the lye into the water while the bowl was sitting in the kitchen sink, so we did that. 

2. We made a hot process and a cold process (led by the recipes we found and wanted to try) and I’m so glad it turned out that way because now they’re both my foundation for further experimentation. I don’t feel ‘tied’ or more familiar with one over the other. 

3. We started the hot process and as the lye solution cooled down, started weighing and melting the oils for the cold process. The cooking stage of the hot process is really where things slow down: as I stirred and stirred the hot process, she brought the cold process to trace and poured it into the molds! I saved juice cartons but we used lined loaf tins for better structure and portability. 

4. The hot process was a lard-free goatmilk soap that we scented with lavender essential oils and decorated with lavender flowers, and the cold was an olive oil blend from Little House in the Suburbs that we scented (essential oil) and topped with rosemary. The plant matter was gathered and dried from my garden. We ran both recipes through Brambleberry’s lye calculator. 

5. Next batch, I’ll infuse the oils and consider teas and other liquida. 

6. I don’t know yet how they’ve turned out, but I am so hooked. Making soap fits perfectly into the state change crafts /activities I love: take some liquids and a powder you shouldn’t ever touch, and create something that’s good for your skin. Win!

Some terrible, soapy puns I held back from the title:

Not going to lye, I’m hooked on soap.
Block out some time, I’ve a solid love for soapmaking.
Straight talk & clean speaking: adventures in soaping.
(Not sorry) 

Nephew’s First Birthday 

Sunday was my nephew’s 1st birthday party. My favourite memories from the day? Knowing my 2 year old niece called for me and sought me out in the middle of the party play chaos, and going for a walk in the woods after with Honey, my nephew, and his parents.

On our walk, I helped him explore the smell of the tall rhododendrons, watch the tadpoles in the pond (and the floating sticks in the other!), enter into a found den and feel the soft bark on the logs, and spot the green leaves waving overhead in the sunshine.

It was also really nice to just wander along chatting with my brother in law and his partner.

I really enjoy family time in the woods. 

Forgotten Photo Friday: Handmade, Sugar-free Chocolate Bars

Over the past year, Honey has reduced the amount of sugar she eats and now noticed that chocolate bars taste different to her. For Christmas, I chose a day when she would be away all day and late into the evening and made her chocolate.

I wanted to use a recipe that would create a hard chocolate that did not need to be refrigerated, was tempered (and thus shiny!), and sweetened with honey. I found the perfect recipe on Living Healthy with Chocolate. I used the silicone moulds we used to make our lotion bars for a nice chunky mouthful of chocolate.



Early May Garden 

As I (somewhat) patiently approach our 19th May average frost date, I’m finding joy in the things I won’t have to plant out. Yes, the greenhouse is full of seedlings at various stages, but the autumn sowings, volunteers, and perrenials are winning my heart in the quasiallotment because I know they’re past that nerve-inducing tender stage.

The onions and garlic seem to be continuing fine, last year’s calendula is flowering, we’ve some volunteer potatoes in the backyard veg patch, and I’ve spied some visiting nettle which I hope to naturalise in a section of the plot. 

Finally, the alliums that I planted to be an end of June bloom creep ever earlier and have begun blooming now. 

Forgotten Photo Friday: Ricketts Glen State Park Falls Trail 

This weekend, my family is headed to Ricketts Glen State Park to camp. Some, like my parents and uncle, are staying all week while others including cousins and sister are staying the weekend. They’ll be hiking the Falls Trail. One of the family highlights of visiting Ricketts Glen has always been this trail and several members of the camping party have never walked it before. 

The trail loop is 7.2 miles for the full trail and 3.2 miles for a smaller loop.  The longer loop takes you past 21 waterfalls which range from 11-94ft tall. We’ve walked it as a nuclear family many times and have taken nieces and nephews, friends, and dogs along the path. As a child, the steep and narrow paths, the seemingly endless views, and the humidity and rushing water made the Falls Trail seem like a high adventure. It remains one of my favourite hikes anywhere. I can say with 100% certainly that this trail is why I love waterfalls so much. 

In 2014 (sadly, the last time that both Honey and I were over in the US), we spent the day ‘at the Glen’. The last set of falls on the trail is just a short and easy walk from the carpark, so we walked with my mom-just over 6 months after her kidney transplant- to those falls and admired the view. Then, Honey, my dad and I walked the trail for the day. 

Bracklinn Falls, Callender

On Saturday, we headed to Bracklinn Falls. It’s a loop trail that gets steep and is a hike, but the falls are visible just 1/3 of the way in. We stayed in that area and Honey geocached while I photographed the water, then we sat by the falls for a while. As I sat on the rocks with the steady stream rushing by me and bringing by thoughts here, to the present, I felt safe on my island surrounded by trees and hills and reflected that this is the type of setting where I feel most at home*. I can’t wait to visit with the littles of the family- none of the youngest 5 have ever been! 

*Maybe I’m really a dobsonfly, meant to live by the wooded streams. Their larval stages, hellgramites, prefer the highly oxegenated waters of quickly flowing and rocky areas, the same areas that soothe my senses. 

Jewel-Toned Stripey Scarf

When Honey and I ran errands on Saturday, I saw this scarf in a charity shop window. I asked inside for the price, and before I even heard the ‘£2.99’, I knew I was taking it home. 

I washed the scarf on Sunday and couldn’t wait to iron before wearing it to work today.  The jewel tones means it will match nearly everything I wear. Yay. 

Dehydrator Cookies

I made delicious, chewy cookies that looked like this. I thought of them as human scooby-snacks. Using the coconut flour with the almond pulp was based on my cupboard but it turned out to be perfect. They reminded me of the coconut caramel from caramel delights Girl Scout cookies, so I’m planning that!

I don’t have a cookie press, so they were supposed to look like this:

I’ll definitely make a double batch next time because these were gone in a few days. Here’s the recipe from Excalibur Dehydrator’s instagram: