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) 

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.

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Crochet Unicorn

One day at work, a group of us ended up getting into a conversation about unicorns. A colleague said something that we all responded to and the conversation amused me as I reflected on it later. I love my workplace. 

I decided to make one colleague his own pet unicorn because I thought it would make him laugh and smile. I searched for yarn in my stash that would work. Finding the right colours in the same thickness was the challenge, but I finally hit on it. I used this pattern and brought the happy unicorn in to the office on the following Monday. 

Making the unicorn reminded me of how much I love making small surprises for people. With the backlog of crafting I feel I have, I had forgotten that. 

Yoga Bolster

Honey has gotten into crocheting amigurumi gifts and ordered a very large amount of poly-fill stuffing. We received a delivery of a 5 kilo box, in fact! I was getting tired of moving it out of the way to do yoga and wanted the spare room to go back together in a peaceful way after we painted it, so I used that as motivation to use some of the stuffing.

Handmade Yoga Bolster | Riotflower's Realm

I made a yoga bolster. Most bolsters I saw for sale were around 28 inches long but I wanted to have all of my neck and the bottom of my spine on at the same time, so I made ours 32 inches long. I cut fabric 32 by 28 inches, sewed it into a tube, found a pot lid to trace that would fit the ends, and traced that for the end fabric. Stuffing the bolster definitely took the longest. I used just under 2 large bags of filling and stuffed it while watching a movie one night and about an hour (at least?) on the next day. It’s dense, it’s solid, it’s heavy, and it’s perfect. I have enjoyed just laying on the bolster on my back and opening up my shoulders and chest gently with gravity. I am going to use the same fabric I used for my yoga mat bag to make a matching removable bolster cover.

Fermented Lime Pickle

I love sour, spicy, salty, and tangy things. If it tastes salty or vinegary, I’ll probably like it. Mustard, hot sauce, vinegar, pickles (and their juice!), pickled onions, kimchi, sauerkraut, you name it and I can’t get enough. An Indian restaurant in town makes very good lime pickle with limes and some other veggies and I devour it in two days following an order so I thought I’d try my own.

I used the fermented lime pickle recipe from India Cookbook by Pushpesh Pant, which we received as a wedding present. The first step in the process is to steam the limes and garlic and let it ferment for two days in the sun. I was a bit worried when I finished steaming the mixture because it reminded me of a faint basement scent…but I trusted in the process. I fermented mine for two days on the counter and then moved it to a windowsill near a radiator for a third as it didn’t seem changed enough. I stirred it each night.

Changes I’d make to stage one next time: add more lime juice and ensure that everything is covered in liquid; chop the limes up instead of the slicing called for in the recipe.

The second stage involves cooking more seasonings and fermenting in the sun again for two days. I used the windowsill for three and think that was the winner. Two days would probably work in the summer. The first photo is of the completed lime pickle before I decided to chop it further in a food processor, and the second photo is post-processing. It turned out spicy, tangy, strong, and addictive. I think it’s great on its own on a rice cake but also find it nice with some blackberry jam. Here’s the honey sweetened blackberry jam, or the sugar version. It’s also delicious mixed in with hummus.

Fermented Indian Lime Pickle condiment in a glass jar.

Homemade fermented Indian lime pickle on rice cakes with homemade garden blackberry jam.

New Skirt

In May, I realised that I no longer had a dressy bottom garment when needed. My formerly dressy-ish trousers had degraded into acceptably average and the modification to expand a skirt’s waistband only bought me a few extra weeks.
On a Friday night alone, I cranked up NPR and pulled this gorgeous teal wool knit from my stash. I was methodical about measuring, flattening the fabric many times and repinning, as my Mother-in-Law taught me as we began making my wedding dress. I made an infinity dress without the top half by omitting the straps and doing a yoga waistband for the band.

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I followed the directions and used the stretchiest direction for the waist. Don’t do this. I had read many comments warning against this and heeded them when I made my wedding dress and wish I had remembered for the skirt. It’s nice for a casual day or event but, as I learned at a recent wedding, not the best waistband for a ceilidh outfit! The fabric is just a bit too heavy for that.
But oh, do I love circle skirts!

Lentil Loaf Update: Red Lentil Loaf

When I discovered that red lentils had more protein than brown or green lentils, I knew I needed to revisit my lentil loaf.
I had the idea that red lentils were sweeter than others, which is why they were always my last choice, but they’re actually perfectly mild for mixing with other flavours.

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The best part about this loaf is how well it holds together. It’s sliceable and diceable and I’ve used it in stir-frys, with pasta dishes, and cold mayo and veg salads. It’s great to bring along when sharing a meal with omnivores, or when you’re just not quite sure what kind of gluten/dairy free veggie food you’ll be fed.

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I made up the recipe around June and it’s already a staple.

2C cooked red lentils, cooked in stock for extra oomph but fine if you forget. Cooked until soft on the edges.
1C sunflower seeds
1C gf quick cook oats
Diced onion, smallish
Season to taste with salt, pepper and other things like: smoked paprika, sage, cayenne, etc.
1C egg whites (whole eggs fine but we have a lot of whites to use up).

Pour into a waxpaper lined loaf tin.

I haven’t made this vegan with flax egg replacer, but if the lentils are cooked well and you use enough flax mix it would probably bind fine.

Cook at around 200C then lower to 175C or so once top begins to harden. It’s cooked when a knife comes out clean.

Remove from tin but not paper and allow to cool. Makes 8 servings, with 18-20g protein per slice.

Blackberry Jam, Diner Style

Yesterday I picked nearly 3 Lbs of blackberries: certainly the season’s peak and the most we’ve harvested so far.
After Honey amused me by holding the harvest up for a large volume of photos, I washed the berries and knew I wanted to taste them this winter. I have a few containers tucked away in the freezer, but thought I’d see how much jam I could get out of the day’s loot.

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I blitzed the first batch of berries in the power blender with about 1/2C water and then used the blackberry juice for the rest of them. I added one apple and at least 1/2C honey to taste. I like mine fruit flavoured and authentically astringent. Since I haven’t properly made jam since ditching sugar, I wanted it to set and have the jars seal well. I put in a few Tbs agar agar to the mix and when it was set (about 2 hours later so I don’t know if the agar agar made a difference), put it into these wee jars with brand new lids. The jars are about 4oz.

Easy Throw-Together Lentil Loaf

I wanted an easy lentil loaf that would hold together and taste nice. The recipes I found online had a lot of spices to measure and I wanted something simpler.
The weather was beautiful and I didn’t want to be stuck inside so I cooked the lentils and threw the rest together later.

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2C cooked lentils, soaked then cooked with stock
1 small chopped onion
1C egg whites (I had this in the fridge, use whole eggs if that’s what you have). Add last so you can season to taste
2-ish tsp nutritional yeast
Salt, pepper
Seasoning (I used smoked paprika)
Pour into lined loaf tin. Cook at 175C for 10 minutes or so, then reduce to around 155C. Cook for a while (I didn’t time it…check at 30 mins), perhaps around 45 minutes.
Full of protein and slices well for freezing.