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






The scattered Village – mint and more rose petals

I think many of us miss the “Village”. The sense of community that can be hard to find when you live in a city, or anywhere really.

Now, we find our communities if, when and where we need to. We live in a multi-dimensional web of interrelations. People flux in and out of each others lives like coming into and out of focus, often across years. I love having this cloud of family and friends around me. This is my “Village”.

I love that I can send out a message for mint and then collect mint from 3 gardens and rose petals from 2 gardens, and all of these will enter the alchemy that is the soap. And some extra rocket and basil!!

I now have rocket planted in my garden, and the basil was delicious.

IMG_2770 IMG_2774 IMG_2778

So last weekend, I made the mint soap, and then made another batch of rose soap, this time with rose geranium oil, and then another batch of lavender! With these soaps, I didn’t rush – got the temperatures right, and the mixture was as smooth as butter when I poured it into the mould. The shed smells divine!

Soap making may be good for the impatience inside me. You just can’t rush. You also can’t rush using the soaps – this 4 week curing period seems to take forever!!

But – excitingly, the first soaps were finally ready last weekend!


The soap is really moisturising, E says it is an excellent shaving soap. It doesn’t have a strong scent, but I think I definitely would try this oil mix again and contemplate an actual scent for it (I used a massage oil mix for this one – all I had on hand at the time). I have given it all away now, so moving on to the next batch – ready this weekend…

The first lavender – this soap feels really creamy, and has a lovely smooth lather, but I think the lavender oil is a bit drying for my skin. Maybe it would be good for an oily skin type. It smells great!

Last weeks soaps are looking and smelling amazing!! I added some mandarin oil to the rose and something (which I can’t remember right now, but I have written down somewhere) to the lavender, and they are shaping up nicely.

Yesterday, I made a lemon, lime and ginger soap – another experiment.

My next projects are (1) to find oils to make soap with that would be good for dermatitis when you told not to use soap, and (2) to find some seeds or something to add to some soap for my friend who wants this to stop the soap slipping out of her hands!

Which brings me back full circle to the “Village” – or the importance of community – no matter how scattered, or how often, or rarely you interact with your “tribe”.  When I asked for mint and rose petals, there they were, and in return, I will custom make some soap for others. Round and round it goes.

Yet again, I am reminded not to grieve for what is lost in this new, big anonymous world, but to embrace the changes – how busy I am is my own perception and surely to my own benefit (the day job may be uninspiring, but it pays the bills) To find my way in this big connected Village I find the thread(s) that I can navigate by.

It may well be that the soaping pot is my “yellow brick road” or my alchemists pot. From here, I can reach out to put in and reach in to send out.

Happy day to you,