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I love the pace of our days when the holidays are around the corner and the temperatures dip extra low. My family and I just seem to slow down, reflect, and come together more. Even amidst the hurried pace that the holidays can bring, we all seem to be in sync with one another. In an effort to curb the busy celebration pace and encourage this wintry reconnection, we have taken the handmade pledge this holiday season. Not only does this pledge help keep us away from the mania which surrounds holiday shopping malls but it also forces us to take the time to sit, dream, and make a special present for a loved one. This handmade process allows us — especially me — to better meditate on the purpose behind these celebrations. Whether you and yours take this pledge, are interested in making some homemade gifts, or are just curious — I wholeheartedly encourage you to slow down this winter holiday season and have some family fun together while making a gift to bless another. It might even become a tradition! Oh and once you have your basic supplies, it can be an inexpensive tradition too!
This tutorial will teach you how to make two of our holiday soaps. The first is Rosemary Peppermint. My daughter loves this one because she says it “smells like Christmas.” The other is Lavender Eucalyptus. I use this one a lot in the bathtub with my children when they have colds. It seems to help clear our their sinuses and relax. Win-win! Interestingly enough, both soaps are made the same way…the only difference are the additives. This also means that once you have the basic process down, you can begin mixing and matching your own additives to make new soaps of your own.
- Goat’s milk soap base
- Metal pot
- Wooden spoon
- Ladle or scoop
- Soap molds (these can be anything, including your hands. I suggest using flexible materials like silicone or plastic)
- Small non-wooden bowl
- Additives (essential organic peppermint and eucalyptus oil) & (crushed and dried rosemary and lavender herbs)
Note: I intentionally choose to use natural materials. There are other soap bases out there and soap colorants, but I do not use them. Feel free to consult some other books on the subject if you’re interested!
Begin by pre-measuring your additives.While the soap making process is very easy, timing is the only tricky part. You do not want your soaps setting before you add the yummy parts. For this reason I get all my essential oils and herbs out and measured before I begin melting my base. I also make sure to set them close to my stove top for quick and easy access. You will need one teaspoon of essential oil and one tablespoon of herbs per pound of soap base. Divide down if you are making less than a pound. The essential oils are powerful, so please make sure you use less if you are not making a full pound. Too much essential oil can ruin a batch of soap!
1 lb of base = 1 teaspoon of essential oil and 1 tablespoon of herbs
½ lb of base= ½ teaspoon of essential oil and 1.5 teaspoons of herbs
¼ lb of base= ¼ teaspoon of essential oil and 3/4 teaspoons of herbs
After preparing the ingredients, arrange your supplies. This step primarily involves your soap molds, ladle, and funnel. I keep mine next to my stove top and I suggest you do the same. Once you put the additives into the melted soap base you want to quickly ladle and funnel it into the molds. Make sure to grease up your soap molds. You can buy fancy molds at the store, however I use household items like my Kinderville snack holder. Spray liberally with cooking spray or rub down with olive oil. Do not worry about the grease messing up your soaps when it comes into contact with it. Once you soap sets, you can wipe the oil off its surface. As for the soaps messing up your household items, as some books report, that is simply not true in my experience. I just sanitize the pot, spoon, bowl, ladle, funnel, and molds after I use them in my dishwasher. I do not get a funny taste from them afterward either.
Melting the soap base is the next step, and it is an easy one. Just throw in your base and stir it until it melts. One book I read early on told me to shred my base with a cheese grater before melting it. One day I got frustrated and just threw the whole block in, and since then I haven’t looked back! I actually prefer the whole block method. I usually set my stovetop to 5 or 6 (a good medium flame for gas users). You do not want the soap base to boil so using a medium heat helps you to avoid quick over heating. Your little ones can even help you with this step with supervision. I have had melted soap base get on my hands before and it does not scald, so do not fret.
Once your base is totally melted, it is time to stir in the additives. Turn off the heat, then immediately add the essential oil and stir. Once the oil is distributed, sprinkle the herbs all over. Do not stir them in as they will settle throughout on their own. If you stir them, then they tend to collect and sink to the bottom of the mold.
Once the additives are in the base, its time to ladle the soap into its molds. Make sure you do not overfill them. I usually leave a little room. Don’t worry if you are messy — it is soap and it literally cleans itself off counters!
Now the soap needs to firm and set. This step is important. I once made the mistake of popping one out too early and getting an oddly-shaped soap! Once you have ladled the soaps in their molds, place them outside (if it’s chilly) or in your freezer to set. I let them set for two hours in my freezer just to be safe, and three hours outside in a Virginian December.
Ah, the best step for the kiddos! I usually have leftover soap in my pot once I have filled my molds. I pour it into a bowl and let it sit for 30 minutes at room temperature. Then I scoop some out — it is chunky but pliable — and let the kids roll it in their hands until it forms a semi-soft ball. Then we set them outside. The children LOVE this part. They usually do not want to give these soaps away, which is fine since you can use their soaps to help encourage them to wash their hands during flu season!
Two easy holiday soaps to keep or give. Have fun making these together and may you have a blessed holiday season. Oh and remember: if you mess up, just make a bunch of soap balls. The point is to have fun!