Friday, August 1, 2014

Lavender Rosemary Soap

Hello, my name is Noelle and I am researchaholic. I have an idea and then I spend hours and hours researching before I finally take the plunge. Case in point. A year ago I got it into my head that I wanted to make soap. Six months ago I bought the lye and essential oils. 3 weeks ago I finally made my first batch. The crazy thing is that it didn't take long at all and was a lot easier than I thought it would be. I have already made four different batches, and I will be posting a series of recipes. But today we will start with my first ever batch of soap. Lavender Rosemary. 

Actually, before I walk you through the steps, lets cover the basics so you know what is going on. To make real soap (not the melt and pour kind you get at your local craft store) you need two things. Sodium Hydroxide (Lye) and Fat. The lye is mixed with water to create a solution that is then mixed into melted fats and blended together. The measurements are extremely important and can be calculated on a site called You can select the oils and amounts and it will tell you how much lye and water to use. The lye reacts with the fats through a process called saponification and creates soap. Too much lye and you will burn yourself when you are using the soap. Not enough lye means that you will have a gloppy oily mess when you try to use it. 

Okay, now that you know what is happening, I will walk you through the steps and show you how easy it really is!

First I gathered all my ingredients and supplies. 

 These included oils, essential oils, other additives, lye, scale, immersion blender, soap mold, a recipe (from soap calc), and containers for mixing and measuring. 

I first read that you must have all separate pots, measuring cups, etc for soap making. But, I didn't want to waste space with extra pots that I only use for soap. So I decided that I will have a dedicated plastic pitcher and plastic cup for mixing the lye. But, for melting the oils and mixing the soap I will just use a kitchen pan and spatula. I mean, I am making soap after all. 

Before I started mixing the oils or lye I measured out my additives. For this recipe I wanted to add some lavender blossoms and some bentonite clay. I read that adding clay to soap makes it nice for shaving and it helps to anchor the scent. It sounded good to me so I decided to add it to my first soap. 

Then I measured out my essential oils into a small glass jar. I got all my essential oils from New Directions Aromatics. They had very reasonable prices. I knew once I started making my own soap that I wanted to use only essential oils and no synthetic fragrances. I also knew that I would never go back to regular soap again. So I decided to invest in larger containers of essential oils so they would last me a long time. I got 6 different essential oils to give me lots of options for mixing and blending scents. I chose Sweet Orange, Lemongrass, Peppermint, Eucalyptus, Lavender, and Rosemary. So far I am very happy with my choices and have made some really great scents!

Then I measured out my oils and let them melt slowly on the stove on low. 

For my first soap I followed THIS recipe and used coconut oil, tallow, olive oil, shea butter and castor oil. Each oil gives the soap different qualities. Coconut oil is great for lather. Tallow is great for creating a hard bar that doesn't disintegrate in the shower. Shea butter and olive oil are great for moisturizing and conditioning. Castor oil is good for both lather and conditioning. 

Then I measured and mixed my lye solution. Lye is caustic and should be handled carefully. Having extra vinegar around is handy to neutralize it if any spills or gets on your skin. I measured and mixed it outside to be on the safe side. 

Remember, you always add the lye to the water and not the other way around.  

It will get really hot once they are mixed. I had to let it sit for a little while to cool down before adding to the oils. 

I got my lye off of ebay. 

Some sites say that you need to use a thermometer to measure the melted oils and the lye/water mixture and make sure they are at the same temperature before mixing. But I didn't have two thermometers so I just went by touch and mixed them when they felt like they were close to the same temp. I promise, this process is a lot easier than some people make it out to be. 

Make sure you have everything set and ready to go and then pour your lye solution into your oils. 

Use the immersion blender and blend until you reach a light trace. You can see in the picture that it has started to thicken. 

Then it is time to add anything extra, in my case I added the clay, lavender blossoms and essential oils. I mixed them in with a spatula.


Then I poured the soap into a silicone mold that I had bought for making lotion bars a few years ago.  

Any residue left on the pan was left to sit for a day and turn into soap. 

It looks like soap to me :). 

I let the soap sit for a couple of days in the mold. Then I popped them out and have been letting them cure. They are supposed to cure for 4-6 weeks to let the saponification process go to completion and to let the extra water evaporate from the bars. Waiting is important because it means your bar of soap won't disintegrate in the shower when you start using it. 

A couple of days later I made my second batch of soap. It is a simple cleaning soap and I will use it for making my DIY powdered laundry detergent. I followed THIS recipe and used equal parts tallow and coconut oil.

I love how both of the bars turned out and I am excited to try them. I have to wait 1 more week and then I can try to lavender rosemary bar. 

If you are interested in making your own soap I have found two blogs extremely helpful. They both have great tutorials and information about where to purchase supplies and how to create your own recipes. They also have lots of recipes for other cool stuff like lotions, balms, and homemade liquid soap. I am full of ideas for what to tackle next :)!

If you are interested in making your own soap, don't wait a year like I did. Just go for it!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Craigslist Dresser to Entertainment Center (Our First Attempt at Shabby Chic)

Ever since we moved in to our new house (crazy that is has already been six months!), we have wanted to repurpose a dresser into an entertainment center. We finally found one we liked for under $50 on craigslist a couple of weeks ago and went to work. 

Unfortunately, I broke the first cardinal rule of furniture repurposing. I didn't take a 'before' picture. You will just have to imagine a brown dresser with gold handle drawer pulls. 

We took out all the drawers, took off the drawer pulls, filled the holes with putty, let it dry and sanded everything really well. Then we spray painted white primer on everything. 

Then we spray painted a coat of black. We were going to sand everything after we finished painting to give it a distressed look and we thought the black would give us some extra depth. 

Chris is the spray paint master!

We ran out of black before we got the whole thing painted, but it was alright because the main goal was to get all the nooks and crannies, which we did.

This color is a lot more blue than the spray paint can lid!

I got a little nervous that this color would not go well with our newly painted living room. 

I also got a little nervous because I got spray paint all over my hands, feet, face and hair! Ah! Thankfully it all came off with a loofah and some scrubbing. 

I missed getting pictures of the in-between steps. We sanded it down after the paint dried and then applied a dark walnut stain. We also drilled holes and bought new drawer pulls. I LOVE how the color turned out.

Since we were going to be putting electronics in the dresser, Chris wanted to install a fan so things didn't overheat. He got THIS ONE from amazon.

He is cutting out a hole in the back for the fan to go. 

We wanted to take out four of the drawers and put in shelves to put the electronics on. So we got some MDF boards that we cut and painted black. 

I also painted the inside of the dresser where we were going to put the shelves, as well as the side of the drawers so everything would blend in once it was all put together. 

Much better. 

He installed the shelves with wood glue. 

It is finally ready for action!

Here we have everything installed and ready to go. 

I am very pleased with how it turned out and couldn't be happier with the color and how it looks in our newly painted living room! 

For fun, here are a couple of before and after pictures of our living room.






After. Cleaning up the living room also helped in this one.

I am very excited to finally have some color in our living room. We have a lot of things we still want to do in there. We want to get yellow curtains, get different pillows, put up artwork, get a desk to replace the dining room table that is currently next to the fireplace and get a rug. Oh yeah, and get Bowdon a new dog bed. So... we are just getting started. But progress makes better and getting the entertainment center done and paint on the walls gave us the push we needed to get us moving in the right direction. Home decorating is not a strength of mine. haha In the previous house we were in, it took me 2 1/2 years to put up my first piece of art. So, it might take us awhile but I will definitely show you pictures as we make progress in the room :).

Do you love to decorate? Have you ever repurposed a piece of furniture? Was it a lot more work than you originally thought? Would you do it again?

Monday, June 30, 2014

Garden Update June 30th, 2014

The garden is growing! What a wonderful time of year :).

A friend gave me a new houseplant. In a jelly mold pan! I believe it is a non-edible type of purslane. 

My herbs are overrunning the beds and I have been harvesting lots of dill, basil, parsley and oregano for sauces and zucchini cakes. Next on my list is to make a few big batches of pesto to freeze. 

The bees are buzzing around my anise hyssop plant. Yay for friendly pollinators!

The cucumbers vines got attacked by a hungry deer. But it looks like they are trying to recover. Hopefully I will still get cucumbers. The deer also got my okra, peppers, and one of my sweet potato plants. Any suggestions for keeping the deer away? 

Despite the deer, my zucchini and tomato plants are doing great!

Everything is a jumble of green.


The sweet potato plant that has survived so far. Hopefully the deer will stay away from this one. 

A friend of mine gave me a stinging nettle cutting. It sat in my window for 2 weeks in a cup of water and finally sprouted roots. Then the roots went crazy and I planted it a week later. Now it is a month later and the nettle is booming!

It is flowering like crazy, but I want it to get bushier so I will try to cut back the flowers and then let it go to seed later in the year. I want as much as I can to grow in my yard! Stinging nettle is a perennial that is high in iron and many other minerals, it is great in infusions or to eat as a nutritious green. I am so excited to finally have some in my yard and I hope to cultivate it into a huge patch that I can harvest and eat from for many years to come.

Today I harvested 5 zucchinis, basil and some bee balm to make tea. 

The big zucchinis weighed over 4 lbs! I made zucchini bread today with one of them. It made 9 cups of shredded zucchini which translated to 2 loaf pans and 18 muffins. Crazy. Now I have to figure out what I am going to do with the other one. ha!

What do you guys do with your large zucchinis?