There's a definite air of spring around here right now. I'm so glad these crocuses survived the move, planted around the base of the apple tree. They make me smile every year, they're just so very stripey. They actually flowered a couple of weeks ago, and have gone now - I've never seen anything like them before and can't even remember where they came from.
We're settling in more here now, and I've gone from the initial sense of discombobulation, through a bit of mild panic, to feeling a bit more like normal life can carry on again. I've not dug out all my craft stuff yet, so no knitting or sewing for the time being, but I was running low on shampoo and thought I might have a go at making some shampoo bars.
I've made soap several times now using this simple recipe - I'm probably not as attentive to temperatures as I should be, and I don't have a stick blender, so it doesn't always look perfect, but it's always been usable. This time I thought I'd have a go at making hot process (rather than cold process) - partly for a change, and partly because I'm near the end of my shampoo bottle, and hot process soap can be used immediately, unlike cold process, which has to cure for several weeks.
I used this recipe, and the first thing I will say is DON'T DO WHAT I DID. I substituted coconut milk for the water, as I'd read somewhere else it was good for using on your hair. However, I really do recommend following the actual recipe, to the letter, especially if you've not done it before...
I used coconut oil, so first of all it needed melting as it's solid at room temperature. I just did this in the slow cooker itself to save messing up another pan. In the meantime, I mixed the lye with the coconut milk - and again, I should have used water, as I think it started to saponify (turn into soap) at this point because of the amount of fat in the coconut milk. You can see how it's slightly grainy - it shouldn't be, and it never really lost that texture.
You're meant to mix the two concoctions together with a stick blender to bring them to trace, the magical point where the chemical reaction takes place and your oil and lye start to turn into soap. I don't have a stick blender, so did this with a whisk, which takes forever and a day. Again, NOT recommended. And also my coconut milk and lye mixture was still a bit lumpy, so it didn't all combine quite as it should.
I carried on for probably over an hour, whisking, leaving for 10 minutes, whisking again, until I got bored of the whole thing and just left it heating up in the slow cooker, figuring I'd probably have to melt and rebatch the next day anyway. Eventually it did what it was meant to, and bubbled up the sides and folded in on itself. Hooray!
It never did go smooth, but I decided to take a chance and pour it into the mould anyway. This is what it looked like the next morning. Not exactly promising.
In fact, it was rather like a pork pie, with a layer of jelly around the outside - probably because the extra fat in the coconut milk meant that not all of the oil was saponified by the lye.
I cut a slice off the end and used it to wash my hands - hot process soap does benefit from leaving for a week or two but you can use it straight away if you want to. It lathered beautifully! I've cut the rest into pieces and left them to dry out on a windowsill, and they're gradually losing their slightly greasy residue.
They're not pretty - I need to sort out a better mould - but I've washed my hair a couple of times with the first one and it seems to work perfectly well. It's good as normal hand washing soap too.
So that's one less plastic bottle to buy next time, and I hope will be slightly kinder on the septic tank too. We'll see.
Sit down and make yourself comfortable. I'm Jenni, and I write here about our new forray into country living, which includes growing food, knitting, baking, wandering around the fields, and seeing which local cafe serves the best cake.