Sometime last year, my parents delivered this cabinet to us. (Because they had three.) They might have thought I was going to place my great-grandmother's china on the shelves, and freshly pressed linens below. But then again, they know me, and very well might have guessed that it would be stocked full of yarn, or fabric, or jars of beeswax and oils.
I was very excited to turn it into my little kitchen apothecary. Full of lotions, oils, wax, wicks, jars, salts, herbs and all the other good stuff needed to make the concoctions we love and use so much.
The top shelves above are full of the overflow-vintage-teacup stock, but only until I can find a proper place for them, or let go of a few of them (see aforementioned genetic need to collect), at which time I anticipate more jars of homegrown herbs filling those shelves. (Just as soon as I can get that garden planted.) The bottom drawers, as you can see, are full of more salts and herbs and good stuff. It makes me so happy to walk by and see all the bottles and jars lined up and ready for making, and to have it all so accessible in the kitchen is rather dreamy.
And now...wanna know what Steve and I do for fun on a Saturday night after the kids go to sleep?
We make soap!
This soap making is a relatively new little hobby of mine, but one I've harbored in the plans for so long. As evidenced by the books on my shelves and the molds in my cupboard, I thought about soap making for a long time before I dared to give it a go. It's, you know, that whole lye thing that was kinda freaking me out. Lye! But once our pantry started filling up with jars of rendered lard from our pigs (this is how I render the lard), I knew it was time to get over it and make ourselves some cold process soap.
(Yes, those are ski goggles. Because I couldn't find an extra pair of safety goggles to dedicate to soapmaking, but I did find an extra pair of ski goggles in the dress up bin. It works. And it keeps us laughing. See? Wild and crazy Saturday nights!)
The soap books on my shelves:
The Soapmaker's Companion: A Comprehensive Guide with Recipes, Techniques & Know-How
The Natural Soap Book: Making Herbal and Vegetable-Based Soaps
Smart Soapmaking: The Simple Guide to Making Traditional Handmade Soap Quickly, Safely, and Reliably
The last title - Smart Soapmaking - is the one that finally got me over the hump to just go for it. I think Anne Watson is the Elizabeth Zimmermann of the soap world - a frugal, common sense gal, who says, "Don't overcomplicate things. Just make soap." (She didn't say that exactly, but that's what I got from it.) Love that kind of advice.
Some online recipes I've had success with:
Having made just a half a dozen batches or so in the past few months, I wouldn't dare give any soapmaking advice here today. But perhaps those links will get you started, and surely, many of you are soapmakers and can jump into the comments with your own wisdom.
I will tell you, though, that I've been having such fun making soap, sharing it, giving it away, and using it too. I'm looking forward to getting just a little bit more confident with it all so I can start tweaking recipes to fit the seasons and the various skin needs of all of us. For now, we're working our way through the soaps I have made. At each sink and tub in the house, you'll find a bar...and usually a very eager tester at the ready. Because we all love playing with soap!