Category Archives: soap making

Summer gifts from my kitchen

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Hostess gifts for summer travel. But I’m keeping some for myself!

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Christmas goodies

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mittens

It’s looking like full-time crafty Christmas around here! Baby Daphne has started removing tags from gifts and either eating the tags or sticking them to the hardwood floor. Not helpful. Let’s just hope that if any of the gifts end up with the wrong recipients, they aren’t awkward and can be easily switched back! For example, anyone over two would surely be disappointed to receive these tiny mittens I knitted.snowflakes

My kids made snowflake ornaments out of craft sticks to give as teacher/leader/coach gifts. Using glitter with children is something I try to avoid on principle, but it went pretty well and I self-medicated with cookies after it was over.
soapThis is the annual batch of homemade unscented soap for my brother, and another scented batch I made for myself and to share. I used cold process recipes from the book The Everything Soapmaking Book. I like to try different recipes every year, which is really completely useless unless I make a batch for myself because I’m sure my brother has no notion or opinion about the benefits of tropical oils versus olive oil, lard, or soybean shortening, though I think he appreciates the soap. This year’s batch is a blend of four different oils with some castor oil stirred in at the end for extra moisture, and mostly lavender scent in mine. Now it is curing in the basement playroom and makes the whole space smell nice!

 

This year’s homemade Christmas gifts

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aprons

We did some early Christmas unwrapping today, allowing the kids to paw through the little items that were from their parents, as opposed to the more mysterious gifts that will come from St. Nick tomorrow. I made the kids these canvas art smocks/aprons to wear during their own crafty pursuits. Dorothy had a tiny little painting smock when she was a toddler but it long ago lost its straps and fell by the wayside. My method of keeping the kids clean during art projects has been to send them upstairs to change into old t-shirts when I think about it, but that’s rather inconvenient when one has been hit by inspiration. These sturdy canvas smocks should allow them to act on their inspirations without the burden of climbing two flights of stairs and locating an acceptable shirt. I used fabric paint and freezer paper stencils to paint their initials onto each apron.

painters-at-workOf course unwrapping the smocks caused inspiration to hit immediately, so we had to pull out paints and brushes and canvas boards to try them out.

cufflinksI made these “favorite newspaper” cufflinks for Rob. He likes novelty cufflinks to lighten up his stuffy lawyer garb and we’ve had fun in the past gluing Legos and bottle caps onto cufflink hardware. This year I used a 1-inch round craft punch and epoxy dots to make cufflinks from his own used newspapers. I punched clear plastic (like from the packaging of new toys) for the backing.

cold-process-soapAnd this is a brand new batch of cold-process (lye) soap. I make unscented “man” soap for my brother whenever he starts to run low. He likes a soap without weird chemicals or fragrances and I like the opportunity to make something handmade for a brother who doesn’t need much. This soap will come out of my extremely expensive and fancy (ha!) dishpan mold later today and I’ll cut it into slabs before I give it to him tomorrow. It will still need to cure for 4-6 weeks, but if I give it to him straight from the mold then he will be able to cut it into just the right size bars himself.

A top ten

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Well, we’ve had some puppy-related drama since my last post. Poor pup got  pathetically sick and I took her in for care on Sunday morning. She was admitted to the animal hospital for IV fluids and medication, where she stayed for two days. She’s recovering nicely and seems fine now, but our finances might not be. Let’s just say I could have purchased several new sewing machines for the amount we’ve now spent on this Humane Society animal. I hope she gets how lucky she is.

Other than the vet bill, however, we’re enjoying this furry little addition to our family. I’ve made some observations about how much she has in common with Worth:

The top ten things my toddler and puppy have in common

   10. They can climb stairs but have trouble with the descent
       9. They would like to play in the toilet
       8. Neither is house-trained, in spite of toilet fascination
       7. They make the cat roll his eyes
       6. They stay at my heels constantly
       5. They put everything in their mouths
       4. They are both just the right size for the new kennel (hmmmm…)
       3. They both bite (a little)
       2. They respond only to simple commands
      1. They whine when they don’t get their way
I have plans for some crafting (hello dog bed!) but haven’t gotten much done. I did find enough time last week before the puppy health problems started to make soap. I use the cold process method to make lye soap, instructions for which can be found online. I made one unscented batch for my brother and another for myself, half with a “clean linen” scent and the other half with coconut scent. It’s so satisfying to see the newly-cut bars sitting out to cure–such a nice feeling of actually having accomplished something in spite of vet visits and one grumpy, teething toddler

Next to Godliness

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I was running out of the lye soap I’d kept for myself after a pre-Christmas gift-making session with a friend, so this week I made another batch. It’s a girly, summery, floral scent, and I have some coconut fragrance on order, so I may make another batch and alternate scents. It’s always nice to have homemade soap on hand anyway because it makes such a nice gift, straight from the linen closet. (Somehow Dove just doesn’t do the same thing…”Here, I brought you a bar of soap.” “Oh wow, you went all the way to Walgreens for it, thanks.”)
I’ve made soap now a number of times, but I don’t think I’d ever done it on a warm day without the a/c on. It’s not advisable. It took forever for the soap to reach trace, and I kept using my rubber-gloved hands to push my sweaty protective eyewear from dropping off the end of my nose as I was stirring over the hot pot. Problem is, the whole point of the gloves and eyewear is that I was dealing with caustic chemicals–and very stupidly rubbed them on my face by using my gloves to push back my goggles! D’oh! So I have a small chemical burn on my forehead and one on my nose. Worse than it sounds–it stung a bit, then I realized my stupidity and rinsed, and now it’s just kind of like getting over a mild sunburn. But still, dumb. That was my first (and I hope last) soap-related injury.
Other than the concern of the chemicals, soap-making is actually a very fun project. Using a stick blender instead of hand-stirring makes the job pretty fast and easy, even in a hot kitchen, and the resulting bars are so creamy and nice. I’ve used several recipes that I’ve found on the internet, and one that is about half lard is my favorite, although I do feel a bit self-conscious buying a 3-lb tub of lard at the grocery store. (Hey, it’s not to eat! I know I still need to lose a little baby weight, but this lard is for WASHING!) And finding the lye is a bit of a problem, too, but it can still be ordered on the internet if you sign your life away and promise not to make meth with it instead. Somehow I doubt there is much soap making/meth making population overlap, but you never know.
Now the soap has to cure for six weeks, and in the meantime my kitchen smells very pleasant, because it’s all laid out in the space over the cabinets.