Epiphany and Figs

I am a procrastinator.   If the nagging bit of my Self wasn’t constantly on at my lazy side, I would happily be a couch sloth in every spare moment.

This morning, as the couch beckoned from its spot by the window and I looked at my piles of Things To Do on a Day Off Work (today), I nearly fell for the lure.  I was looking at the recipes for fig chutney on the laptop, contemplating the chairs and stairs that still need cleaning and oiling, and conscious of the soap books on the table in front of me.

My epiphany was a conscious reckoning of simply starting.  It didn’t matter which of the things I chose to do – the sooner I started one of them, the more likely I was to get through them all.  Very often, the procrastinator, the indecisive part of my nature will spend so long trying to decide what I feel like doing, that I will run out of time to do anything.

This only happens in my leisure hours.  At work, I am very clear and usually very busy and productive – but at work, the prioritisation is clear.  At home, there is less of a priority rating, so I am more likely to waste time procrastinating.  But the older I get, the less I am inclined to waste time – so many things, so little time!  And then I remember that all journeys begin with a single step (thanks Lao Tzu).

I have been exploring this site:  http://dailyom.com

You pay what you can afford for their courses.  I booked into the “Year to Clear”, which just sends a little prompt each day to think about.  If nothing else, it is a daily reminder to keep me on my game with regard to clearing junk / stuck energy / etc.   Kind of like a friendly daily nag / reminder to stay on track!!

And a little daily exercise plan (same website) from Dan Millman – his book, “The Way of the Peaceful Warrior”, literally kicked off big changes in my life – nearly 30 years ago!  He has a four minute daily exercise routine.  I reckon even I could almost commit to four minutes a day!  Exercise is the bane of my life – I just don’t enjoy it!  Except for walking – but the couch has a strong magnetic pull.

And so – it’s now the afternoon and I am well into the process of scrubbing and oiling wooden furniture outside.  It is hard work, and sweaty.

I will make the fig chutney tonight – I have gathered all the ingredients (well, actually E. has – he likes shopping much more than I do).

And tomorrow I will think about soap.  The first Castile soap is looking lovely, but the second batch looks a little dodgy.  I added some of the finely ground rose petals to the mix, and scented with rose geranium.  It seemed like a good idea at the time, but after 48 hours in the freezer, the soap leaked something when I unmoulded it, and despite the freezer time, it seemed to want to get gelling!  I think it’s our warm weather at the moment pushing it.  Oh – and because I was in a hurry, the silicon mould (loaded with the fresh caustic soap) tipped, requiring reconstruction, as I picked it up to put in the freezer, so  my attempt at a “pot swirl” with the rose petals ended up way more swirled than planned!

This is a very rough picture of the rose-petal Castile (left) and another experimental soap (on my halfway oiled table, which of course I had to wipe down again to get the soap off).


My daughter was given some speck (basically a lump of pork fat) and a huge bag full of little cucumbers.  I took a couple of the excess cukes and rendered down the lump of speck  (no matter how gourmet, none of us could actually stomach eating a lump of fat) for soap.  I won’t be rushing to render any more fat though – it took forever and the kitchen stunk!  I used olive oil, coconut oil, castor oil and the fat for the soap mix, cucumber puree for the lye dilution, and mint, rosemary and lavender EOs (equal parts) because I thought they would cover any residual piggy pong.  I also added a little green clay to one part and swirled it a bit.  But as always, my CP is a joke and gelled away – I didn’t even bother putting this one in the freezer.  After a week or two it is starting to seem like it might be quite a nice soap.

It’s fig season again, and I swapped some soap for a big bowl of luscious fat figs last week.  I was going to make jam, but I don’t really eat much bread – and there are only so many jam tarts I can find excuses to make.  Last year’s nectarine chutney has all been polished off, so I thought I would use figs in the same back-of-envelope recipe (a friend gave me this recipe – it is from someone’s cookbook, but I can’t remember who).

So – now it is the end of the day and the couch has been lonely.  My muscles are stiff from contorting under the wooden chairs and table outside, and clambering up and down the new steps.  But I have cleaned and oiled and re-oiled and polished 6 chairs, one massive table and our new steps.  The newly oiled wood is glowing and everywhere looks and smells fresher because of it.  We have been out for a family lunch, and I’ve got the chutney nearly done.  I will bottle it tomorrow as I have run out of steam, and run out of today!

My current soap plan is to simplify the soap – explore what I can do with a basic Castile soap and the plants in the garden – but you know me – the wind will blow, and that thought will evaporate – LOL!   Meanwhile, I’ll keep clearing, and trying to stick to the 4 minute daily exercise plan!!

Happy days to you,







Dodgy followers & dodgy soaping!

Lately I have had a barrage of dodgy email “followers”.  Luckily I have found out how to delete them, so this strategy will do for now.  If that doesn’t work, plan B is cease and delete the whole blog – I am easily creeped out!

Meanwhile back in the Shed, I have had a minor (!) HP boil-over on the last shaving soap (dual lye).  The instructions (from Jan Berry’s second book) said to cook on high for an hour.  Our weather has been pretty warm (mid-30s) so I thought I reduce the cook time – put the timer on for 10 minutes and not much action, so added 15 minutes more and this was the result…


Ho hum.  I stirred and scraped and shaped, and ended up with about 8 shaving soap boondies.  Takeaway message  – HP cook time varies hugely with your weather and outside temperature.


Every soaper has to try Castile Soap at some stage, yeah?  Last week my day for Castile Soap arrived.  Castile Soap is 100% olive oil.  And because of that it has to cure for 6-12 months before it is ready!!  I used 5% KOH and 95% NaOH, and a gentle mix of grapefruit and bergamot EOs.  The soap is CP, so this time to avoid the gel ring, I left the soap in the freezer for 48 hours!  I made only a small batch to test, and used my friend’s amazing organic olive oil from Portugal so the soap will be special (MJ – I will post you some).  Oh – and I also made a tea from some leaves off our olive tree for the lye water which I think contributed to the gentle green colour –


Waiting now for June or later to test.  I have a feeling I will be making more Castile Soap – it has a gentle promise to it.

Our weather has been crazy – actually my favourite sort of weather (tropical, hot and rainy) – not at all typical for our usual summer, which is far more temperate.  But the garden is green and fat and juicy and lush, and the air is full of the scent of happy vegetation – frangipani, lemon-scented gum, magnolia, pepper trees.

Here are some happy fish and flower snaps taken at my work today –

… and  if I don’t delete the whole blog on account of the dodgy followers, I’ll be back with my next soapy instalment.

Happiness to you!

Sarah x





Beer & Roses

One of my boys gave me a few bottles of over-fizzed dark beer to play with.  Apparently the beer has been invaded by a rogue bug and is no good for drinking, so of course my mind goes to soap.

I have been making some beer soaps lately from Benjamin Aaron’s recipes, but they only use about 50 mL beer in a batch of about 800mL oils – I wanted serious beer content in my soap!  As in – 100% of the lye “water”…

My afternoon’s research revealed that 2 things can cause havoc when beer soaping:

  1. Alcohol content – dealt with by boiling the beer in a wide pan for 10-15 minutes to evaporate the alcohol, and
  2. Carbon dioxide content (clearly going to be a problem with my over-fizzed beer) – even after boiling the beer down to about half it’s original volume, the beer was still fizzing.  Somewhere I read that adding a granular substance like sugar or salt can help.  I added salt (only about a teaspoon to the pot of beer) – fizz problem solved.  I thought this may also help with hardening the bars.

Most information also advised to put the beer in the fridge or freezer prior to adding the lye to prevent the dreaded volcano.

My house smelled like a brewery as I boiled the salty beer.  I was so terrified of the impending volcano that I half froze the first beer before adding the lye.

The reaction was a fizzog (this was a good thing) – no volcano, barely any froth.  Subsequent batches, I was much more gung-ho and just used the (flat, salty) beer from the fridge – still no massive lye reaction, so the boiling and salting must have done the trick.

Apparently floral fragrances don’t go well with dark beer, so I have been playing with various EO mixes.  I’ve made 4 batches so far – (1) Cinnamon / sweet orange EOs with cocoa powder, coconut milk and red clay ,  (2) Orange, Lemongrass, MayChang (Litsea), Vetiver EOs with coconut milk and kaolin clay,  (3)  Cedarwood, Clove bud, Vetiver and black pepper with yoghurt, (4) Sweet orange, Lavender, Bergamot, Petitgrain, Sage, YlangYlang, Labdanum and Almond essence.

The only one that is a bit dodgy on the nose is the one with black pepper in – I suspect I was a tad heavy-handed on the EOs, but my son says it will appeal to “the bogans”.

See first pic (below) of “Rustic” HP beer soaps (as you know, I don’t go for visual appeal – once you get soap in the shower – it’s SOAP!!  Who cares what it looked like before!)

IMG_0845.jpg           IMG_0844.jpg

The second pic includes my first “Shaving Soap” (the white one) which uses both KOH and NaOH.   E. says it works well on his bristly face.  I have a load of KOH to use up from my liquid soap experiments (too hard), so I will be going into shaving soap production.

And one of the Rose soaps is tucked into the bottom of the pic.

I have a great supply of rose petals from friends with incredibly fragrant roses.  Usually, I do the rose-petal infused olive oil thing, but yesterday, as I ground my dried citrus peels (for the 100% coconut oil laundry soap) in the soap-making coffee grinder, it occurred to me that I could also grind rose petals to add to soap.

A small mountain of rose petals grinds down to not that much powder – which I added to the oils as they melted – I am on a bit of a mission to create a luxurious rose soap – my mix includes olive oil, sweet almond oil, coconut oil, cocoa butter, rosehip oil (used to superfat) with honey and coconut milk, EOs are rose geranium, litsea (in this batch) and labdanum (my new favourite).  Because of the rose petal “flour” added to the oils, it looks like a mud brick at the moment – will take a photo once cut and settled.  However, my hands feel super soft after simply handling the uncut block.

IMG_5375.jpg          IMG_5373.jpg

Oh, and guess what?  I cleared the Shed – let me just say that again… I CLEARED THE SHED!!!!

I had 6 whole days in a row off work over the Christmas break.

The first day, I slept for the whole day – gave myself the space to do that – I was knackered!

The second day, I had energy – I got stuck into the Shed – filled the rubbish and the recycling bins to the brim, shifted cupboards and boxes and destroyed the habitats of many and varied spiders (sorry spiders, but I am reclaiming the space).  I now have a clear space for soaping.


This inspired me to get stuck into the garden – I have mulched and watered and made new pots of herbs.  The plants are looking fat and happy with all the attention.  I am not an instinctive gardener, more of the type who thinks plants should just grow if you stick ’em in the garden.

But what I have (only lately) learned is that – like with all things – the garden is a cycle of energy.  I will only reap the rewards if I continually put energy in – no sitting back on my haunches and thinking I have got there once the groundwork has been done!  And things will come and things will go – plants in this case – some will live for a year and some will live longer – but the natural cycle of life doesn’t mean I am a crap gardener.  Quite literally – “you reap what you sow”, right?

The first day of the new year here was a beauty – here is a little taste of it:

I have also cleared 2 rooms in our house, and the front verandah, which was full of accumulated “stuff”, and oiled the wooden table and chairs so we can sit out there again.

It is so true that while you have “Stuff” all around, there is no room (emotionally or physically) for anything new.  But I have found it is also true that while I spend my days working like a rat in a wheel to pay the bills, I simply am not in the energy space for the work at home.

So – I think this year I will aim to keep my work days and my home days well delineated.   Although I have been back at work for the past couple of weeks, it has been only a few days a week, and at my less stressful job, but the more stressful one starts again next week.  I think I will need to be on my game not to get sucked into the vortex again.

I have more beer in the fridge (de-fizzed and free of alcohol), and rose petals in the Shed – what could go wrong?

Happy 2018 to you all!

Sarah xx





Mythology and Christmas reflections

Every year, I wish people happiness and peace at Christmas-time. Actually, I wish us all happiness and peace the whole year round, but around Christmas the focus sharpens.

Embedded in my head (probably from all those years at the local Baptist Sunday School – where my brother and I went on Sunday mornings, not because we were Baptists but because it was the closest one to home) is the phrase “Peace on earth, goodwill to all men” so, (leaving aside the little niggle saying “what about the women?”) I thought I would check it out.

Turns out it isn’t as simple as it seems – and of course schmaltzy movies, books (even the grim Charles Dickens found his soft side for Christmas), and garbage TV advertising now have a role in reshaping the Christmas myth.  Even the usual horrors of the commercial TV 6 o’clock News seemed to be suspended for one day, and counterbalanced by happy families, surfing Santas at beach picnics (not a lot of snow in Oz at Christmas), tinkling bells and happy children.

Good old Wiki is good for history and perspective:


And I thought this an interesting read:


Humans will be humans it seems!

For me the takeaway Christmas deal is – at least touch base with your Self at this time, to reflect on your own sphere of influence on the peace and goodwill front.  And to connect with whatever form your family takes – a delightfully amorphous, evolving, and fluid thing, not at all the “standard nuclear” in my case!

Meanwhile back at the Shed – I spent Christmas Eve (finally some time off work) making soap!  The HP was cooking in 10-15 minutes thanks to the day’s heat.  For the 3rd batch, I decided to CP – the evening was setting in, and I wanted to close up the Shed outside.

The recipe was an adaptation on of one of Benjamin Aaron’s Beer Soap recipes from this book:  http://www.lovinsoap.com/shop/cold-process-soap-recipes/

I used dark beer and mint tea, with Peppermint, Rosemary and Lavender EOs.  Because the weather is warm, I put the moulded soap in the freezer and left it there for 12 hours (overnight).  It popped out of the mould and cut cleanly in the morning – had a lovely creamy look about it.

Off I went to Christmas family breakfast.  When I checked the soap in the afternoon, this is what I found – 12 hours in the freezer, but as soon as it hit room temp – it started gelling!!!


Luckily, by this morning it looked like this – gel complete!  I suppose the freezer time stopped it from volcano-ing, given it was so keen!


Today, I plan to get stuck into that long overdue Shed clean-out and declutter – I am not waiting for New Year to make resolutions – by then the day job will kick in again.  As always, “Now” is the moment I have to work with, so I am hoping to make it useful.

One (little but big) part of my family missing this year is the Supervisor!  He was my Christmas companion, but this year he rests beneath his rosemary bushes under the washing line in the back yard.  I miss him.  RIP Pete!


Best wishes to you all for 2018 – I hope that “peace and goodwill” prevail politicians and power-monger game-players notwithstanding!

Sarah x


Stalling, and Experiments

It’s been a while!

It’s the pointy end of the work year, so my “other” life has taken over, but I am taking a few minutes to check in here.

A couple of weekends ago, the little local community garden had one of its weekend Markets again – for a while they were monthly, but lapsed over the winter.  I was invited to have a Soap stall, so the Blogtober soaps went to good use – as well as some others made during a frenzy of soaping in the weeks before the stall.

Unfortunately I was so relaxed I forgot to take any photos – except for one – my little granddaughter exploring the garden and the pile of limestone rocks!


I have changed my soap wrappers to cellophane bags, and had so many “I thought they were edible” comments that it was worth the change!  Clearly, visual impact contributes to interest.

Confirming this – my experimental coloured soaps sold the most. Even “Pumpkin Poo” – rebranded as “Spicy Pumpkin” – sold!  (…as an aside, we are using this one at home at the moment and it has retained a gentle orange spice scent and is lovely to use – the spices add a slight exfoliant effect…)

Another experimental soap which proved popular was the “Luxurious Rock Rose Resin”.  I wish I could attach aroma to this post, because this one was something special!  Some time ago I had seen a recipe calling for Labdanum, and had purchased a pot of this sticky black resin (extracted from Rock Rose)…


…and then promptly forgot what the recipe was, got distracted, and months went by.

Whilst digging in my stored Rose Soap recipes, in order to use some of my dried rose petals, I found one I had kept from a few years ago:


… containing Labdanum!!

After contemplating the cost of making this soap (26% avocado oil!) – of course I modified it – using rose-petal infused olive oil, coconut oil, only 10% babassu butter, sunflower oil, meadowfoam oil, and a small amount of castor oil, walnut oil and rosehip.  I used rose petal tea for the water, some madder root and rose clay for colour.  The EO mix included lavender, palmarosa, rose geranium and the labdanum resin – and WOW!!


It might not look flash here (HP’d of course), but the scent hits somewhere deep inside you and is AMAZING!!  I love watching people’s faces when they sniff this one.

My next experiment was a moisturising lotion.  This has been on my radar for a while, but when I actually ran out of moisturiser I had to get mixing!  Lisa from Aquarian Soaps has been posting some stunning pics of her Christmas creations and also kindly some recipes.  I thought I could start with this one:


And – as always – make a few changes according to what is in The Shed, and then what I ran out of halfway through making the lotion because I hadn’t checked the fine details!

My final Super-Dooper Moisturiser recipe was –

Water phase:  Distilled water, glycerin, sodium lactate and allantoin

Oil phase: Babassu butter, Shea butter, Hemp oil, Rice bran oil, Sweet almond oil, Watermelon seed oil, Cetyl alcohol, Emulsifying Wax NF (which I ran out of, so added…) Oliv-Wax LQS

Cool Down Phase:  Liquid Germall Plus, Lemon tea tree EO and Chamomile 3% in jojoba EO


Again – I wish I could add a sensory element here, because this moisturiser is the duck’s nuts!!  My crocodile skin is actually moist, and even some of my wrinkles may be a little smoother.  All the oils I used have various properties claimed, due to their fatty acid contents – check ’em out (i.e. google) if you are interested.

And finally, we got treated to a concert in the park one stunning evening last weekend – balmy weather, and perfect for an outdoor concert.  Here are a couple of pics – Steve Earle (USA) as the support act while the sun set spectacularly behind the stage, followed by Paul Kelly (Aus legend) and band – for more than 2 hours!

This is long enough – maybe I will write about our gnocchi night another day.

Until then, happy days to you!

Sarah x


How I HP

I have had a few queries about making soap using a Hot Process (HP) rather than the perhaps more frequent Cold Process (CP), so I thought I would walk you through what I do.

But please note – this is what works for me, based on my knowledge, reading and experience – I would make NO claim to it being a “correct method”! 

Also – although I live in Oz and usually think in terms of degrees C for temp, for soap making my thermometer is set to degrees F – mostly because loads of the info that I have learned from is from USA.

Oils and butters are mixed and melted in the crock pot to whatever temp it takes to melt the slowest melting component (usually the shea butter, but beeswax takes the longest and requires the hottest temp), then I hold at that temp or turn the heat off for a bit.  My mixes are using 800-900 gm of oil, and my crockpot is a 5 litre pot.

While the betters are melting, I combine the water component and the lye, and cool it to about 140F or lower.  I aim to get the two pots within 10 degrees (F) of each other, but have discovered (with my HP) it doesn’t that much matter.

I take the ceramic inner pot out of the heated crockpot shell to add the lye / water mix and blend.  I combine the oils and the water/lye at any temp from room temp to about 140F, depends on how many other things I am doing, or how much of a hurry I am in.  I find them quite forgiving.

Because the two components are usually combined fairly hot, “trace” is reached quickly with the stick blender – I never pay much attention to whether it is thick or thin trace – it all works out in the end.

Then the inner crockpot goes back into it’s shell and I turn the heat on “High”.  Depending on our weather (2 weeks ago here, daily max was 20C, but 2 days ago it was 36C), and the temp at which the mix is after blending, I set my timer for 15 or 20 minutes. If the weather is cold, maybe the cook can take 30 minutes.

This is what I am looking for:

The crockpot heats unevenly so the outer edge is well over 180F (the temp at which I understand that saponification occurs), but the centre has not quite got there.

At this stage I am confident that I can “force” the rest of the reaction by whisking, so I remove the ceramic inner part of the pot to the bench again (making sure it sits on something suitable to absorb the heat).

After an initial stir to homogenise the mix, this temp evened out at 189F (for each batch the temp will individually vary), but the consistency looks a bit “chunky” – sometimes it evens looks as if it will separate.

This is where I whisk and watch.  The mix will start to heat up of it’s own accord whilst whisking (remember, the pot is out of the heating container at this stage) – it releases steam and the consistency starts to change – becoming shiny and looking more like a gel.  (It reminds me of seeing the gluten development while kneading bread dough.)  And you can see the temp significantly increase.  I usually add a couple of tablespoons of plain yoghurt at this stage too which seems to help the consistency (this is one of those tips I read somewhere and implemented and it worked, but I can’t remember where I read it).

And then, when the reacting is complete, the texture is thickened and homogenous, and the soap cools down quite quickly.  I keep whisking until it stops changing, and cools down.  The whisking doesn’t take too long, and is strangely satisfying – gives me a real feel for each batch.


This soap has colloidal oatmeal added and kaolin clay – I had taken some of the water component (or in this case chamomile tea), to mix with the clay and oatmeal (otherwise they clump and don’t mix through well).  I should possibly have added a little more of the liquid to this mix.


I wait until the soap has cooled a little before adding these – to stop the oatmeal from cooking to porridge!

And I have the essential oils waiting to go in as well.  These are mixed together with my “superfat” oil from the soap mix – about 20-30gm – in this case Tamanu oil – and the EOs were Lemon Tea tree and Violet leaves 3% in jojoba (usually Chamomile, but I had run out).  I mix them early and allow the scents time to synergise while I make the soap mix.

Then I google the “flash point” of whatever EO I am using and try to cool the soap mix to under this temp before I add the EO mix in order to minimise loss of scent.  This is difficult with citrus oils though as the soap has pretty well hardened before you get low enough not to “pop” the scent.  If you cool to less than about 125F the soap is getting a bit too set to easily push into the mould (it’s possible but it looks uglier).

I try to use something to “anchor” the scent if I use citrus – either another EO like patchouli if I want that scent.  Jojoba and Meadowfoam oils are also supposed to help “hold” the scent of the citrus, so I may use these as a “superfat” oil to blend the EOs in.

I use 1L cardboard milk containers for moulds (I have generous friends who collect them for me).  This means that I have only a small “top” – the rest of the soaps are consistent.  Because I cool the mix for the EOs, it is not as obliging as a CP soap for making a fancy “top” – it acts more like glue!

Send me a message if you have questions!  Like I said at the start this is just my developed and developing method that works for me – happy to hear from you if you have any hints!!

Enjoy your days : )


UPDATE (next day): So the very next batch I made (using my tried and true method – LOL!) looked like a disaster.

I had really rushed it and skimped on the first stick blending – I kind of convinced myself it had got to a light trace, but maybe not…  Then short-changed the cook time – again convinced myself it was hot enough to whisk.  Started whisking and it all looked like oily curds and whey.  Thought I would have to delete this post completely, but my stubborn streak kicked in and I gave it a little stick blend, a bit more whisking, then put back to heat some more.  Ten minutes later – different picture – it was gelling and looking like my normal soap mix.  All good – MORAL OF THE STORY – don’t be put off, HP will usually come through if you persist – it is kind of like an instant rebatch!

And then I thought I should add – I cut the soap after a day, but my soap is often quite soft (due to oil types and water content).  Once cut, it hardens fairly quickly – I usually leave a week or two to dry out, but pH-wise, it is ready to use straight away.


Sarah : )




How not to make Strawberry Jam

Microwave jam – it sounds so easy, right?

I’ve seen recipes for this over the years and thought – must try that one day!  No mucking around with the pot on the stove spitting jam blobs everywhere…

Has anyone else noticed the short life of strawberries after they come home from the shop?  One day and they are getting squishy, two days they are getting mouldy!

My best jam this year was the “Rotten Fruit Jam” I made with the end of the stone-fruit last summer.  I had plums and apricots going rotten.  The fruit had been so delicious, I could not waste the good bits, so I cut off the rotten patches and jam’d the rest, adding a stick of cinnamon while they boiled.  This jam was so good, the jars were emptied in no time.

So, on Saturday, when I had strawberries shrivelling like the Wicked Witch of the West, almost in front of my eyes, I thought – small batch – perfect for testing microwave jam!

I blended the good flesh of the strawbs, some grated lemon peel and a sprinkle of powdered cinnamon, with lemon juice and sugar, hastily googled a recipe and started microwaving


I am guessing if anyone has made microwave jam before, you will immediately spot my first mistake.

Rule # 1 for microwave jam:  Do not overfill the jug – use a big wide-mouthed bowl.

Rule #2 : Do not simply set the microwave and get distracted – especially when you have not followed Rule #1,  or…


…that happens!

So – I tipped as much as I could back into the jug and carried on.

Rule #3 (or possibly a prelude to Rule #1):  Read the instructions all the way through.

I scanned the instructions, thought “I’ve got this – I can do this quickly before going out Sat night, right?

No.  It did not say “Microwave for 4 minutes” – only.

It said  “Microwave for 4 minutes, – then for 15 minutes”.

And because my jug was too small, even with half the jug spilled and gone, I had to stand by and stop it from boiling over every 10 seconds at one stage!  It would have been SO much easier on the stove.

By the time we had to run out of the house to a concert, the jam was still not exactly set.

So – today I made jam tarts (in the real oven) – and they were scrumptious!

Of course, there’s none left now!


My microwave jam days are over!


Sarah : )




Rustic Rogues and Happy Halloween!

Blogtober Day 31:

On sunset today, as I walked round the corner from the bus stop, clusters of small other-worldly creatures clutching buckets, closely shadowed by hovering parental creatures, wandered our streets.  All day at work, people have had blood dripping from their faces onto dark and ragged clothing.  It seems we have embraced Halloween!

I love the descriptions at the website (below) of the origins of this Celtic / Pagan festival, “Samhain”, celebrating the end of autumn and subsequent descent into winter darkness and honouring the spirits of the dead.


This finally made sense of the little creatures wandering round my neighbourhood, rather than thinking of them simply developing an unhealthy habit of begging for sweets!

In Oz, the end of October is the end of “winter” and beginning of “summer” – if we transplant a Northern hemisphere seasonal calendar.  But here in Nyoongar country we are in the season of Kambarang, which is in the middle of the “Season of Birth”.


It’s a funny transposition, but sadly typical!   And, of course, both cultures based their calendars on observation and honouring of the natural world.  How disconnected we are now.

My personal significance is that today is the FINAL day of Blogtober.  I am a bit amazed that I made it all the way through!!

Here, as promised yesterday, is the “Rustic Rogue’s Gallery” of my Blogtober, christened jointly by Jo (? site), and by Lisa of


Frog in a Blender, Pink Pale Ale Remake (sans salami texture), Pumpkin Poo, AntiFungal Crumble, Van Gogh Frangipani, and Neapolitan Smurf (front).


IMG_0755  Frog in a Blender is refreshing – lemongrass / mint / hint of eucalyptus, made with cucumber puree.  OK in the end.

IMG_0751 Neapolitan Smurf is a gentle soap – lavender and bergamot / orange, with dots of colour through as I didn’t filter the coloured oils.

IMG_0753 Antifungal Crumble (made with apple cider vinegar 100% instead of water) – patchouli, cloves, teatree mix, with dots of cinnamon powder.  Despite it’s crumbly texture, it’s very gentle on the skin.  I like it!

IMG_0754 Pumpkin Poo (lathered up here, so that Vicki from  https://thesoapmine.wordpress.com/  can see how it lathers) sadly lost it’s scent, and may indeed be a bit of a dud – and will be probably relegated to a lonely handbasin somewhere.

IMG_0752 Van Gogh Frangipani / Jasmine is still ripening – the colour may further change with pH, but it does have some sort of a swirl and the scent has persisted – this may be as good as it gets for me!!

Finally, we went into town again tonight, to a talk at the Town Hall, and I couldn’t resist sharing a couple of pics from this very special place where we live!IMG_5200.JPG


And that, I think, is me done for Blogtober!! 

Thank-you SO much to everyone who has come along for the ride, and kept me company along the way –  your support, sideline cheering and just “being there” has kept me going.  This is something I quite likely may never attempt again!

See you again – once I get some sleep!!!  #blogtobersoapers2017

Sarah x

I think I can, I think I can…

Today was a blur. Out of the house before 8am for the bus, plan to get out of work early but got nabbed just as I was about to leave – one hour later and it’s after 6.20pm when I got home.

I did get out to the Shed and sliced up yesterday’s frangipani / jasmine CP.  It has some outer-space looking pastel colours persisting through it.  But no photo today, and no more playing with the soap tonight, because…

Out again to our monthly poetry thing (for which I am the “Door Bitch”) – new venue for us at the Rose Hotel, and it worked well tonight.


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Our friend Julie read her prizewinning poem – “For Julian who will never know we loved him“,  which you can read from a link here:


I was the lucky recipient of a bag of dried rose petals from Veronica, who has the most luscious roses.  They will be soap soon.

And I am about to fall asleep.

Tomorrow is the last day of Blogtober.  If my work day doesn’t blow out like today’s did, I intend to take a pic of all my odd Floptober soaps lined up.  And then… rest.

Til tomorrow,  #blogtobersoapers2017

Sarah x




Embracing failure (again)

Blogtober Day 29:

J.K. Rowling once gave a great talk to Harvard University students called “The Side Benefits of Failure”.


The pumpkin soap was not one of my finest moments!  Slithers of the yellow managed to survive the CP / HP mix, but the soap is largely brown – most disappointing is the fact that the scent seems not to have persisted.  I will give it a few weeks before I make my final judgement though.  I think when I try to re-do and improve this soap, I will use less of the real spice mix, and more of the essential oils, and simply go for layers – maybe all CP.  This should reduce the brown-ness, and increase the scent.   Meantime – here ’tis today  (clearly I have no shame, even the pics are not good …):

Another breakfast catchup with friends today, but a completely different morning at the beach compared to a couple of weeks ago:


This was followed by an afternoon hanging out with my little grandson & granddaughter (3 1/2 yrs & 18 months old), talking to a butterfly, a slater and a snail!

And yet another crack at a coloured soap.  This time I found a recipe for a “pot swirled” Frangipani soap.


I modified according to what I have in the Shed (as usual, running it through http://soapcalc.net/calc/SoapCalcWP.asp to check quantities and properties).  I used jasmine tea for the lye water, apricot kernel oil instead of macadamia, and used the left over colours from my previous CP coloured soap attempt – madder, alkanet and annatto.  I used half jasmine and half frangipani EOs, both diluted in jojoba.  And instead of titanium for white, I added kaolin clay mixed in some yoghurt.

Making the soap seemed to go OK(ish), but of course the alkanet instantly went blue with the lye, and I don’t think I had sufficient madder left – then the colours seemed to just pile up, so it’s more than likely that this will end up simply another dogs breakfast!  I was so unimpressed I didn’t even take a photo, then crept out to check progress just now and found the top cracking as it gels from the centre!  THIS is why I do HP!!


I suspect I might rename this month “Floptober”.  I have never made so many (moderately unsuccessful) strange soaps!  I wonder whether I would have done, if I had not tried to write something every day?

Let’s face it, I couldn’t have written about my normal boring range of HP soaps that consistently work, right?

Nearly there – tomorrow, hopefully I have a better picture to show you when I cut this evenings Frangipani / Jasmine CP soap.  Wish it luck!

Blogging on and nearly there…  #blogtobersoapers2017

Sarah x