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!)

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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.

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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