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  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 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


One more for the “Rustic” label…

Blogtober Day 28:

I was surprised at how little pumpkin went into pumpkin soap.  For a batch of about 800mL base oils, I used only 75 gm pumpkin!

I combined a couple of recipe / ideas.  One (mentioned yesterday) from Jan, the “Nerdy Farm Wife”, and one from “The Prairie Homestead”

And then I did my own thing.  I used olive oil, coconut oil, sunflower oil, castor oil and babassu butter, and also some meadowfoam oil.

I raided the kitchen cupboards and mixed up the “Pumpkin Spice Mix” from the Prairie Homestead (ground cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, clove and allspice), and found a bit of cooked pumpkin in the fridge, which I blended.

I kept the meadowfoam oil aside, with a little clove-bud, cinnamon leaf  and orange essential oils added to it.  Meadowfoam oil is supposed to “hold” and stabilise scents from disappearing, and the orange scent, in particular, is hard to keep.  I figured that the amount of meadowfoam oil I had set aside for this was roughly my superfat %.

Here’s where I got experimental:

I heated the oils (except for the meadowfoam & EO mix) in the crockpot, just enough to melt the babassu, mixed the lye in distilled water and then combined them at about 135 degrees, blending only to a light trace because the spices (especially cloves) can seize the mix.

At this stage, I poured about 150 mL of the oil / lye mix into a separate jug and set aside.

I blended the pumpkin and spices in to the remainder of the oil / lye mix in the crockpot, and set it on “High” for ten, then another ten minutes – to just reach 180 degrees.  I had to whisk it a bit along the way as it wanted to separate, but by the time it got to 180, it was definitely soaping and setting.

This HP pumpkin spice mix was was dark brown (due to the spices) and fairly thick.

I mixed a little annatto into the meadowfoam / EO mix, and whisked this into the150mL I’d set aside  – this was then bright yellow (and CP).

I lined a loaf mould with a tea-towel, and poured some of the hot brown HP, then layered some of the yellow CP, aiming for some sort of layered effect.

Using a satay stick, bent to meet the size of the mould, I attempted a version of a “hanger swirl”, and then tickled the top a bit with the stick – an interesting process given that the brown stuff was “soaped” and the yellow stuff still quite liquid!


I’m not sure that brown and yellow are the best colours for soap (looks a bit like baby poo).

I wrapped the soap up cozy in a towel, thinking that the heat of the HP soap would gel up the CP portion.  It’s still warm hours later, but…

It’s turned into even worse poo – the whole top is brown now!!

I hope that it will settle tomorrow – I will be cutting asap – you know how impatient I am!!

On the up side – it smells great – orange and spicy.

It’s a good thing I embrace failures.  This October has been a month of my least impressive soaps (“Frog in a Blender”, “Anti-fungal Crumble”, and now “Pumpkin Poo”) – what a month to document!

On the up side today, I did manage to get back to that shedding plan I had on Day 1!

I binned a whole load of dried lavender & rosemary (sadly), because I have way more than I will ever use, and more growing in the garden every day!  I turfed heaps of plastic oil containers, olive oil tins and cardboard boxes – all “potentially useful” but basically just clutter, and building up.


My next plan is frangipani soap – have had some frangipani flowers marinating in olive oil for months – well over-due for an outing!

See you tomorrow, thanks for coming along for Blogtober!  #blogtobersoapers2017

Sarah x



Blogtober Day 27:

Here in Oz, we are new to the Hallowe’en thing – and I suspect it has only crept in for commercial reasons.  Social media is swamped with pumpkins right about now.

The “preparing for Christmas” soap avalanche is hitting the ‘net about now too, but a few months ago the “preparing for Hallowe’en” blitz was on, and American soapers were splashing pumpkin soaps all over Facebook.

I have been wondering about pumpkins for a while.  Is there anything in pumpkin that is actually good for your skin?  Or is it just the frustrated cook scenario of making soaps that look edible rather than actual food?

ASIDE:  I confess that I struggle with soaps that look like food (although having said that – a local butcher ( placed an online picture the other day, which I scrolled past and then back – thinking it was soap!!)

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But I digress – back to pumpkin…

I tried briefly googling:

  • lots of good stuff in pumpkin seeds (zinc, oils, etc),
  • some traditional remedies using pumpkin leaves,
  • but not much about why the flesh of the pumpkin would be good in soap.

Marie Claire raves about “enzymes”  / AHAs / alpha-hydroxy acids (exfoliants)

LiveStrong talks about vitamins A & C – nourishing the skin

And a few odds and sods about the flesh of the pumpkin being applied as a soothing and healing paste for skin lesions.

This was enough to convince me to try a pumpkin soap, and Jan (The Nerdy Farm Wife) never lets me down when I am looking for a recipe…

(…except I will be mashing my own pumpkin – I don’t even think canned pumpkin is a thing here in Oz...)

The past few weeks working full time plus study have been a challenge – getting to the end of this week was a real struggle.  Tomorrow I am rewarding myself with a day in the Shed.  Pumpkin Soap is on the menu.  But it will be nothing to do with Hallowe’en – except for the timing!

Happy Weekend Soapers!!  #blogtobersoapers2017

Sarah x

PS – please let me know if you have any pumpkin insights…

Slump Day

Blogtober Day 26:

I’m starting a “Thing”.

Slump Day” – the day after Hump Day.

After 3 hours being a student, more than an hour on the bus,  and 5 hours at work – I am slumping tonight on the couch.

I have been thinking about sharing some of my recent bus experiences.  Gawd some funny people get on the bus!  The trick is to retain your sense of humour and not be affronted.  And then, every so often, one of my friends climbs aboard, and we get to chat for half an hour or so!

But none of the stories I could tell would do justice to the experience (maybe one day I will make a movie).  So I will share the view from the train station under the bus station.  The Freeway is normally a car park.  I am very proud of snapping this at the moment when there was not a car in sight.  Sadly, the mural is an accurate representation of our disappearing bush and creeping urbanisation, and the Carnaby’s Cockatoos seeking new homes.


That is it.  I am now Slumping.

Until tomorrow Soapers,  #blogtobersoapers2017

Sarah x



Blogtober Day 25:

The ongoing saga of the “anti-fungal” soap…

As predicted, the soap was crumbly. Usually my soap is quite sticky after 24 hours, needing some airtime to dry out, but this one just slid out of its milk carton.  I could see that it was going to be “interesting” as soon as I peeled away the top of the box, and it crumbled like cottage cheese when cut (some stuck together, I got a few useful slices):

The fragrance is amazingly better than I expected! The blend seemed quite synergistic, and balanced.

I decided to try “soaping” it up with some water, and the frothiness is great – once moistened I could make the surface quite creamy – to the point where I wonder if there was maybe not enough lye – the pH is between 7 and 8 today.  My hands still feel soft since the soap / froth testing.  The “moisturiser soap”.

After playing with the soap, I had to shoot down the local shop for some milk.  As I paid for the milk, the cashier said to me “You smell nice today!”

Turns out she loves home-made soap and loved the fragrance of this one.  She asked me to bring some down and said she would buy it – despite me protesting my inability to “tart them up”.

Quite funny really!!  Might have to lift my game.

In the meantime, I have left the slices of “Soap Crumble” to their own devices in the Shed, possibly pending the weekend, as the next few days at work will be long.

Remember the “Frog in a Blender” soap?  It ended up being lovely to use, and the fragrance settled.  That Shed works wonders!

But I will need some sort of a plan for the crumble collection.

I could have used a higher fluid content in the crumble soap, will do so next time, (thinking of adding beer for the hops) this is definitely a soap recipe I will work towards improving – so any ideas out there in soapy Blogland?

Until tomorrow – blog on Soapers!  #blogtobersoapers2017

Sarah x