Wednesday, December 19, 2012

I have not forgotten

I know that it has been almost 6 months since I have made a blog post on Wash With Vegetables.  I have actually been busy making soap and attending to the newest details of this ever changing thing called life.  I will be back in the new year fresh and ready to start anew.  I hope you all will join me.

Happy Holidays!

Friday, June 22, 2012

June 20, 2012.  Summer Solstice. 

9 PM and there is still light out!  It was a beautiful night, and I was determined to make a batch of soap. In the kitchen I prepared the lye water needed for a 2 lb. batch of oatmeal/honey soap. I also decided that since it was solstice, I would put some sunny fronds of calendula petals on the top of the soap.  But I was also seeking something else, a ritual if you will, to mark the day and honor the turning of the earth into the seasons.  It is solstice!

While the lye water was cooling down, I turned myself out to the back yard and decided that I would do a medicine card reading.  One done, admittedly, not perfect but as good as I could do from memory. I have never really practiced at a specific spiritual task before. Though I have studied and admired them, this was technically the first time I would do this for myself.  I was given these cards as a birthday gift last year by a moon sister, dear to my heart in this world.  I am using Jamie Sands & David Carson medicine cards, illustrated by Angela Werneke.  I have quoted heavily from their text and thank them for sharing their knowledge so that I may come to understand what path I may be on in life.

I sat down on a swatch of Pendleton fabric in the quiet of the waning sun and I listened to the birds make their bedtime preparations.  One robin in particular was very spirited in letting the neighborhood know that he was the only one still enjoying what was left of the first day of summer’s sun.  He screamed at me the entire time! 

I have chosen the Butterfly reading or the Butterfly spread for this reading.  This spread is used to determine the outcome of projects or group enterprises.  Four cards are drawn for each cardinal direction, indicating the phase of the project or activity towards its conclusion. 

Facing East, I offered a pinch of tobacco to the earth and to my ceremony, a pinch of tobacco for the sage I plucked from my garden. Around me I placed the cards as I drew them from the top of the deck.  First to the East, then to South, then to West, and finally to the North.  Here is what the cards and the animal medicine revealed to me.

East card - is the Egg card or Egg position.  It is the nucleus of your idea or activity.  Allow this medicine to interact with the concept of your enterprise.  The medicine in this card will suggest the value that lies in the inner core of your idea.  Is it needed in this time or place?

The card I drew for East is the Opossum.

His greatest strength is diversion.  His greatest protection is to play dead.  Confuses many that the game is over.  Opossum medicine uses great strategy.  It has the ability to fight with teeth and claws but rarely uses these.  The Opossum is a master in its ability to confuse.  If Opossum has turned up in cards, you are being asked to use strategy - you are being asked to rely upon your instincts.  Opossum may be telling you that you are to expect the unexpected and be clever in achieving victory.  Opossum beckons you to use your brain, your sense of drama and surprise - to leap over some barrier to your progress. 

    What this card means to me:

I have it in my mind to make soap.  The concepts that I have dedicated to this endeavor I have laid out before.  They are to create a product that is natural using the most natural ingredients possible.  To not use anything synthetic or that can be harmful to people or the environment.  To re-use and re-purpose as much as possible, as many of my supplies and materials and basic needs that I can.

    How Opossum Medicine is playing in my project:

I am using my smarts (the brain) and finding alternative ways of procuring items that I need, instead of going out and purchasing new ones.  I have looked to my community for donations of jars, oils, herbs, etc.  And, most importantly, advice. I have taken opportunities when they presented themselves to me, even though I may not actually be ready to take them on. Planning ahead can be beneficial.  But I also have a sense of calm about my learning methods.  I am still in the beginning phase of my creation, and I am learning many things.  At the same time I am also making a lot of mistakes.  But I am persistent in my endeavor and as I continue to grow in my knowledge, I will have to make adjustments here or there, or completely drop out of one concept or another to reach a state of confidence in myself and in my recipes.  Being creative in these ways will allow flexibility so that I don’t have to tie myself down to one thought process or another in order to move forward. 

That this medicine card shows up in this reading at this point of my exploration of handcrafting something natural and honest, tells me that my knowledge and abilities gained thus far are being put to use for the right reasons. 

South Card - is the Larva card or Larva Position.  This is the card that speaks to the early doings of your project.  What needs to be done and how?  Will the energies needed be great enough to overcome the obstacles to manifestation?  The caterpillar sheds its own skin many times during growth - it has many struggles.  Will the many egos involved in your project (or yourself) acquiesce in order to facilitate achievement?

The card I drew for the South is the Dolphin. 

Dolphin is Manna.  Dolphins speak to the breath of life.  Oxygen is the source of our sustenance.  Within breath we encounter energy of all life.  By changing our breath we can tap into the energies of other life forms or creatures.  Very easy way to connect with the divine energy coming from the Great Spirit, as well as your own rhythms.  Dolphin is the keeper of the sacred breath of life, teaches us how to release emotions.  Dolphin creates rhythm - and you can use these teachings to ease tension and cause relaxation.  Manna is life force present in every atom, the Essence of Great Spirit.  Dolphin teaches us to use life- manna through our breath.  Revitalizes each cell and organ and breaks the limits and dimensions of physical reality to enter Dreamtime.  In a creation story Dolphin was given the gift of the primordial tongue - a new language which is sound language, communication through patterns and rhythms.  Dolphin is the carrier of the message of our progress.  If Dolphin appears you are to be a link to some solution for the Children of the Earth, a time of communication with rhythms of nature.  Put on notice to be mindful of body rhythms/energy being fed to you from the Great Creator.  Imitate Dolphin and ride the waves of laughter, spreading joy in the world.  Break existing barriers and connect to the Dreamtime or Great Star Nation.  Know that we are whole in the eyes of the Everliving One.

    What this card means to me:

I feel so fortunate to draw such a powerful medicine at this Position in the butterfly reading.  Life force - Manna - is strong in the Larva Position in my project as I believe it should be.  I have to keep going forward.  Just as the caterpillar will shed its skin many times to reach adulthood I must remember to keep breathing life into my project.  If I become stale or run out of ideas, it is best to breathe, relax and try again, or, realistically for me - to keep going!  Will the energies needed be enough to keep your project going to fulfillment?   Well, it speaks naturally to me that the breath of life can keep feeding the energies that are needed.  That it in fact, it will keep feeding the energy needed.  Also, by changing our breath, using Opossum medicine, being adaptable and cunning, we can tap into other energy forms and connect to the divine energy. 

    How Dolphin Medicine is playing in my project:

The part of this reading that deeply spoke to me is this: If Dolphin appears, you are to be a link to some solution for the Children of the Earth.  I have a very deep love and connection to the planet and its inhabitants.  I have spent the last 16 years of my life devoting myself to environmentalism in the best way that I know how.  I believe that I was given a blessing in birth, that I have a covenant with the natural world to serve as its steward.  To protect it, to honor it, to bless it, and to leave it so that others may enjoy it.  This is the basis for one of the most important aspects of me deciding to make soap: to help rid the world and its people, (especially the children) of harmful chemicals, pollutants, toxins and wastes.  I believe that the decisions we make on a daily basis, even the small ones, can have quite a large impact.  Not just on ourselves, but also to those who live around us, even in other countries.  I chose not to use harmful chemicals on my body that someone, somewhere in the world is harming themselves just by making them. 
I wish to share with people the knowledge and understanding that I have gained through my education, and through my life experience, of the deeper connectivity of all things.  So that they can make better decisions as consumers of tangible goods in this society and have control over their health and chosen lifestyles.  Knowing that we are whole in the eyes of the Everliving One.

West card - is the Cocoon card or Cocoon position.  It speaks of a higher purpose, where the highest transformation takes place.  When viewing this card ask yourself: why you have joined the activity or project.  Was it to serve the Great Spirit and the tribe or to serve yourself?  If simply self serving it will probably backfire on you.  The family, the clan, the people and the Great Spirit are to be served.

The card I drew for the West is the Beaver - the builder. 

Beaver is the doer in the animal kingdom.  Akin to water and earth medicines it incorporates a strong sense of family and home.  Beaver always leaves alternative escape routes in its building.  Beaver teaches us a lesson in this: do not paint yourself into a corner, not to eliminate alternatives.  Characterized as industrious, beaver knows that limitations cancel productivity. To accomplish a goal means working well with others, the group mind is harmony in its highest order.  When each partner honors the talents of others and knows how to complete the part of the puzzle that belongs to them, a sense of community is achieved and unity ensues.  If Beaver appears it is time to put your thoughts into action to complete some project.  Beaver asks you to look for alternative solutions to life’s challenges and to protect which you put your love and energy into.

    What this card means to me:

Again, I am completely aghast . The positions in the butterfly reading and the medicine cards that I picked for each seem to be weaving their own story of how rightly connected they are to one another.  Its almost as if I am reading (or writing as it may be) a novel.  One medicine naturally flows into the next.  The Cocoon Position directs me to look into myself and ask why I am doing what I am doing, and for whose benefit. 

    How Beaver Medicine is playing in my project:

Of course, I do get immediate benefits from making soap: I get relaxation, time to be creative, time to measure and stir, time to be mindful of my actions, time to be reflective and prepare, and time spent in waiting to see what I have created.  And, in the end I get a result that is tactile: I get yummy smelling, gently cleansing soap!  But as I have just stated, I feel in myself an inherent sense of stewardship towards the earth and its inhabitants and I seek to honor that in the best ways that I can. 

Beaver Medicine also incorporates a strong sense of family and home.  Soap making is a time old tradition, done in many parts of the world for a very long time in human history. As I grow older, I wish seek out ways to connect to my ancestors and to the current members of my family.  I want to lighten my footprint on the planet by going back to a simpler time. A time when things weren’t all that simple, really, it was much, much harder to scratch out a living.  But to those times when life was gathered more honestly.  Making soap by hand reminds me of my ancestors because they also made soap by hand.  But for them it wasn’t a way to be creative and interesting. It was a hot and dirty chore.  It was not a hobby or a means of making a profit.  It was necessary.

This medicine card tells me that the spirits feel and see that I am doing this for the right reasons.  The highest transformation takes place in the Cocoon Position and in actually doing, in actually making soap and carrying on in trusting my instincts- believing in my self, my education, and honoring my family traditions- I am capable of giving it the energy it needs to bring itself forward.

North card - is the Butterfly card or Butterfly position.  This position is likely to tell you if the Great Spirit has walked hand-in-hand with your project.  Look to this card to tell what sorts of rewards can be gained, can you make a fortune?  It may seem odd to look to Spirit - North- to find this answer but as every medicine person will point out to you, matter follows vision and spirit.  It is the law.  This card is the place of manifestation. 

The card I drew for North is Turtle - Mother Earth.

 Turtle is the oldest symbol for planet earth.  Personification of goddess energy, and the eternal mother from which our life evolves.  We are born from and to her we will return.  Turtle asks us to be mindful of the cycle of give and take, to give back as she has given us.  Tuttle teaches how to use protections.  If you choose Turtle you are asked to honor the creative source within you, to be grounded to the earth and observe with motherly compassion.  Use water and earth energies, which represent Turtle’s two homes, to follow harmoniously with your situation and place you feet firmly on the ground in a power stance.  In learning to ground you place focus on thoughts and actions slowing to a pace that assures completion.  When given the chance to develop at it’s own rate, in its own season, the sweetness is shared by all.  Turtle teaches you to develop your ideas before bringing them to light.  Turtle is a reminder of the ally you have in Mother Earth.  It doesn’t matter the situation you created, ask for her assistance and abundance will follow.

    What this card means to me:

This is the position of manifestation, of fruition, of completion.  This position means everything to me and is the most important.  The Position of Butterfly asks: Look to this card to tell what sorts of rewards can be gained, will you make a fortune?   People have asked me why I specifically chose soap to be my project?  I have always told them that I felt it was something I could do in my spare time that would provide a creative outlet, while at the same time allow me to put my education to use.  (And then maybe make some money in the meantime.)  I want to use the knowledge I have gained of the natural world and its systems and put that into my soaps.  The Turtle Medicine says, “If you choose Turtle you are asked to honor the creative source within you, to be grounded to the earth and observe with motherly compassion.” 

    How Turtle Medicine is playing in my project:

Several months ago, just after the beginning of the year, I was holding back from making any soap.  I was spending too much time doing research and not enough time making soap.  I was thinking that I couldn’t do what I had set out to do.  I thought that I wasn’t prepared.  I thought that I needed a business structure, official papers and official recognition that I wanted to- and was able to- sell my soap to the general public.  I couldn’t figure out how to get the money I needed to expand my inventory a little bit so that I could at least learn more about my craft.  I wasn’t quite ready for all that then, and I am not any closer to being that ready now.  But I have come to realize that I have a talent.  I have a natural curiosity and a natural investment in the successful outcome of at least the creation phase of this endeavor. Time remains to tell if it will be financially successful.  I have reached out to my community, my tribe, and have asked them for their support, and for their guidance and advice.

The rest of the lesson pretty much speaks for itself.  When given the chance to develop at it’s own rate, in its own season, the sweetness is shared by all. Will my project turn out to be a success ?  This card is the place of manifestation.  It doesn’t matter the situation you created, ask for her assistance and abundance will follow. 

It turns out, that, yes, the medicine of the animals is in fact a narrative.  A narrative that I have written by simply asking them to speak to me.  In this card I see the manifestation, the blessing of the Great Spirit, to carry forward.  That what I am doing, they way I am doing it, and the reasons for my doing it are all blessed by the animal spirit medicine, Mother Earth, my ancestors, and the Great Spirit.

Having marked the Summer Solstice of 2012 with such a meaningful conversation with the animal spirits around me (including that one enthusiastic robin in the tree) filled me with such a sense of calm and balance.  It filled me with that sense of knowing that even though your eyes are closed, you are walking deftly on the path that was meant for you at this time.  It left me more grounded and connected than I have ever felt before.  It left me knowing honestly, that in my heart- through this reading-  the Spirits were smiling upon me.  Giving me their blessing to carry on. 

And so I did.  I went into the kitchen and made a batch of soap! 

(Thank you)

© Kristen D. Vineyard, 2012                               

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

In The Pot Swirl

It  has been pretty quite around these parts lately. The sun is beginning to shine here in the Pacific Northwest (Yay! finally!). Longer and drier days are upon us as the earth inches closer and closer to summer in the northern hemisphere. The city of Portland seems to have an added sense of inner and outer beauty when it is bathed in shimmery, golden sunlight.  People get out of their houses and participate in outdoor activities, they walk about with their heads held up high, shoulders back, and a twinkle in their eye.  Just like the plants that are returning from their winter slumber, people in Portland start to stand up straight and point their faces to the sun.

This means that there is more daylight to get things done, and more things to get done means less time for me to make soap!  This is a soapmaking blog that, regrettably, I have not been paying much attention to.  I have been storing up some photos to have more content and hopefully get to where I can write once every day.  "Why are you writing a post today but not writing about making soap?" I hear yonder cry.  Well, say no more, say no more! This post today is dedicated to the soap I made this weekend!  In yet another attempt to accomplish something interesting, I tried another swirl.  This time I tried an In The Pot Swirl.

My photographer was moonlighting at his second job the day I made this soap, so I don't have a lot of photographs to show the process.  It all came together rather quickly and I didnt have time to pick up the camera during the process.  These photos are the "after" photos.

This particular soap is a recipe that I formulated on my own that uses vegetable oil, olive oil, coconut oil, almond oil and shea butter.  I scented it with essential oils of Orange, Clove, Bergamont and Ylang-Ylang.  It is sweet and spicy smelling.  One half of the batch was colored with ground tumeric from my spice rack.  I am hoping that it will yield a peachy / orange color. The other half of the batch was colored with ground clove - also from my spice rack.  Natural colorants are the way to go for me, especially if I already have them in the house.

An in the pot swirl is exactly what it sounds like- you swirl two colors in the same pot.  But when you pour it into your mold the colors swirl themselves as you pour and the results end up being something like this.

This soap smells D.Vine!! :)  You can clearly see that not all of the swirls are the same.  I think that this gives the soap a much nicer visual appearance.  After it hardens up a little bit more I will trim off the uneven edges to give it a more polished look.  The technique worked quite well, and I think that I will use it with a lot of my soaps. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

How Is Your Soap Different?

In my introductory blog post I said there is an old adage that all soap is created equal. There really is no adage that all soaps are created equal, OK. I just kind of made that up because I am finding out that a lot of people actually do think that all soap is the same. I have been learning that they are vastly different creatures. “How is your soap different than the soap I can buy at the grocery store?” I get that question a lot. The fact is, is that handmade soap is a product of mixing lye (sodium hydroxide) and fatty acids, which when combined together form a salt. So technically speaking soap is: the salt of a fatty acid, plus glycerin and water. Sodium hydroxide makes a hard soap that can be poured into a mold. Whereas potassium hydroxide makes liquid soap. There is a reason for that, but lets not jump too far ahead of ourselves and into Chemistry 101 to understand this point I am trying to make.

Those terms may seem complicated to some, and trust me, it is going to get a lot more complicated. But that is exactly what soap has been and is to this day. Mass produced soap is made in somewhat the same fashion, but in order to make it appealing and profitable, most of the beneficial and moisturizing glycerine is removed from commercial soaps and sold to other industries. Then, it is colored with dyes and scented with synthetic fragrances, then chalked full of surfactants and detergents to make it “behave” like we expect a soap to behave. So how are the two different? Lets break it down a little bit by looking at just two examples. Brand names have been omitted to protect the.....innocent. :)

Here is the product ingredients for a batch of soap that I first made several months ago, which also happens to be the base recipe for the pencil line technique that I tired in February:

Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, Hydrogenate palm and canola oils (fancy way to say vegetable shortening), water, sodium hydroxide, organic oatmeal, pure clover honey.

That is it. I added no colorings, no perfumes or fragrances, no dyes and not even an essential oil to make it smell appealing.

Here is the product ingredients list of a very common liquid hand soap:

Active Ingredients: Triclosan. Inactive Ingredients: Water, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, Decyl Glucoside, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Glycerin, Sodium Chloride, PEG-18 Glyceryl Oleate/Cocoate, Fragrance, Cocamide MEA, DMDM Hydantoin, Tetrasodium EDTA, Citric Acid, Yellow 5 (CI 19140), Red 4 (CI 14700).

There are only four terms in that little list that I can readily identify. How many can YOU identify?

- Sodium Chloride (salt - table salt even)
- Water (H2O)
- Citric Acid (vitamin c)
- Glycerin

Now, lets find out what the other ingredients are, shall we?

Triclosan: is an antibacterial product.

Sodium Laureth Sulfate: is a detergent and a surfactant.

Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate: is basically a surfactant that foams.

Decyl Glucoside: is also a surfactant, which according to wikipedia is plant derived from the “reaction of glucose from corn starch with the fatty alcohol decanol which is derived from coconut.”

Cocamidopropyl Betaine: a synthetic surfactant, 2004 allergen of the year according to American Contact Dermatitis Society.

Glycerin: technically a triglyceride that is soluble in water.

Sodium Chloride: NaCl, is an ion of sodium and an ion of chlorine, otherwise known as table salt.

PEG-18 Glyceryl Oleate/Cocoate: “is an ethoxylated glyceryl ester which functions as a Skin-Conditioning Agent- Emollient; Surfactant - Emulsifying Agent” from the Environmental Working Group web page. I could not find anything specific about “what this actually is.” I suspect it has a proprietary history and is considered a trade secret.

Fragrance: without knowing what specific fragrance we are talking about here, for simplicity lets just say that it is a volatile synthetic odorant. It has to be strong enough in concentration to vaporize and reach the nose.

Cocamide MEA: Ok, we have to search around a little bit to see exactly what this stuff is, because its more than just one thing. Cocamide MEA is a compound that melts down to a vicious amber liquid which is made from fatty acids of coconut that have been combined with ethanolamine.

“Ethanolamine is a toxic, flammable, corrosive, colorless, viscous liquid with an odor similar to that of ammonia” (wikipedia).

DMDM Hydantoin; antimicrobial formaldehyde preservative. The formaldehyde released from it makes the environment less favorable to microorganisms.

Tetrasodium EDTA: is a chelating agent and has many industry synonyms. Without using our PHD in chemisty, basically it renders and reduces the activity of metal ions, and according to Bubble and Bee Organics is listed as one of the top five chemicals to avoid.

Citric Acid: is a weak organic acid used as a preservative.

Yellow 5 (CI 19140: is more commonly known in the chemical world a tartrazine, which is a yellow dye.

And finally -

Red 4 (CI 14700): is also more commonly known as “red dye”.

Phew! Now, see, I know that was a whole heck of a lot of information! And I hope that I did not loose you, dear reader, half way down that long and winding road. But I have a very good a reason that I want you to read it.

I want to use this as a specific example to answer the question that I get all the time: “how is your soap different from other soaps I can just get at the grocery store?” As you can see, they are ASTRONOMICALLY different! If I took the time to explain to each person who is interested in my soap all of the ingredients that are in a commercial bar of soap- all of the chemicals, dyes, surfactants and the health concerns associated with each and every one of those ingredients- they would have tuned out at “Cocamidopropyl Betaine”. That is only the 6th ingredient on the list! The thing is, is that a lot of consumers do not read the package label ingredients on soap which are there for a number of very good reasons. They are listed there to let you know what a product contains, sure. But did you also know that they are there to let you know which of those products can, has, or have been known to be dangerous to human health. Do you know WHY that is the main reason that the label ingredients are even listed there?

So that you don’t have to purchase them if you don’t want to.

So to answer the question “How is your soap different than the soap I can buy at the grocery store?” my answer is this:

My soap recipe contained 8 ingredients that are readily identifiable, and they are all provided by nature. I already have them. I don’t need to make them. And I certainly don’t need to make them, take them out and put them back in again. I care about the plants and animals that give us the necessary means to carry on with our lives. I care that dyes, perfumes, fragrances, detergents and other kinds of chemicals can cause skin reactions, allergies and lead to the build up of toxins in the world around us. My soap is different because I care about the health of the people who will be using it.

There are many helpful links provided here and I encourage anyone who is curious about commercial soap to look further into them. Then I encourage you to take a look at the soap, shampoo, and other beauty products that you use on a daily basis and find out what's really in them. Look up the ingredients and find out what they actually are and where they come from. Read the studies that scientists are doing on these chemicals and products, find out where else they are hiding. Find out how they are impacting your lives. You might be surprised as to what you find, and you might find yourself being completely turned around and ready to take the steps necessary to protect your own health and the environment around you.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


The initial start of Wash With Vegetables was well attended. Thank you everyone for your soapport. :)

It has been quite a few weeks since I last posted. Time has a way of slipping away from me. It can be difficult to find a way in which to balance the time I need to explore my new passion while also working a full time day job and keeping the wash done, the dishes clean and food in the pantry. I will not let it get the best of me though! What has mostly kept me away from making soap is one of my favorite past times - doing research! I have had my nose buried in web pages, blogs, books and teaching forums looking for recipes and learning about the properties of some of the oils used in making soap. After a year of making successful batches of soap with the tried and true recipe given to me in the Mr. Green Beans ( soap making class, I am finally getting ready to formulate my own recipe.

Inspiration comes from many directions in life. One only has to open one's eyes and listen to the chorus of life all around. I am often inspired by music and nature (of course) and even the silly beer foam readings that a friend of mine- who has a real knack for reading them- offers up to me. All of life is connected, and if we are able to let go of the constraints that bind us in our day to day lives, we may be able to become more aware of the interconnectedness that we are a constant part of every day.

As I was inspired by my good friend Bridget to make a pure olive oil soap for her little one who was experiencing his first skin problem at 10 months old, this week I am inspired by another friend whose family is suffering from severe dry skin and excema. I have done a lot of research and have talked with a lot of people to find out what works for them. In fact, a large percent of the people I have spoken to who make their own soap came to the craft because of issues they were having with their own skin. Taking matters into their own hands, they learned how to make soap and are starting to see results for themselves. I have formulated a recipe that my friends are willing to try out. It will contain coca butter, shea butter, olive oil, coconut oil, and almond oil with a little bit of castor oil thrown in to add bubbles, and of course, everyone's favorite soap additive: oatmeal!

Inspiration is the focus for this next round of soap. I will update with photos and more details in the next week.

Until then.....

stay clean little noodles.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Pencil Line

Welcome back to Wash With Vegetables!

Today I will be showing a new technique that I have learned in soap making. It is called the "pencil line." This is the first time I have tried this, or any, technique actually. I have been learning how to make soap by process and have really only just begun. I am keeping my soaps simple by not bogging down that process with too many steps or too many ingredients. The potential for this technique to add design and texture to my soap is vast. I have already spent hours fantasizing the many ways in which I can use the pencil line to bring an avenue of 'interesting' into the finished product.

Before we begin with the soap, I would like to dedicate today's post to species extinction for two reasons.

1) Before making this soap, Mitch and I watched a compelling NOVA documentary on PBS called Extreme Ice about glaciers and the polar ice caps. The filmmakers were able to capture spectacular never before seen images of glaciers melting and calving to the sea through the use of time lapse photography. The program talked about the various animal species that depend on the ice for survival, such as Polar Bears, Fur Seals, and the Arctic Fox, and how a recent rise in average global temperatures threatens the very existence of these highly adapted creatures. They are on the verge of extinction.


2) I made a total dodo brained move in this latest batch of soap! The Dodo Bird is the epitome of species extinction in that it has occurred during recorded human history, and its demise is largely attributed to the direct acts of humans. Indigenous to the island Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, the Dodo bird lacked any natural predators thus loosing its ability to fly. According to Wikipedia, the Dodo bird was first mentioned by Dutch settlers on the island in the late 1500's. 80 years later they had completely disappeared. I do not mean to be insensitive to the demise of the poor bird, but I picked the Dodo bird for this homage because the word "dodo" in Portuguese means "fool" or "crazy."

So now....on to the pencil line!

A pencil line is where I attempt to make a thin dark line in between two layers of soap. I chose my oatmeal honey recipe because it has nourishing skin qualities and will go well with the pencil line of dark dutch chocolate powder. Did you hear that?? Honey, Oatmeal and Chocolate! What could go wrong?

Here is my kitchen table all set up to make this batch. I have everything I need within arms reach.

Here is the lye water. I mix my lye and water in a heat proof container and let it cool to room temperature, then I add the honey to the mixture. Honey has natural sugars which can burn in the lye and can also cause your soap to overheat and eventually burn while in the mold. I don't want to burn my honey before it goes into the soap oils, and I also want to make sure it has fully dissolved in the lye water. Doing it this way helps me to avoid certain catastrophes. Its a beautiful golden color!

Next, I measure out all the base oils I will be using for my recipe. This recipe uses Pomace Olive Oil (a beautiful green color), Coconut Oil, and vegetable shortening. Different oils have different properties in the finished soap. Coconut oil adds lather and a hardness to the bar, while olive oil and vegetable oils keep it gentle and mild.

I place the solid oils on my stove and over low heat, gently melt them to a temperature of 130 degrees Fahrenheit. The candy thermometer helps me find that gentle medium.

The coconut oil and vegetable oils are melting away, reminding me of the awesome glaciers and icebergs I saw in the Documentary Extreme Ice.

Once the oils have come up to temperature, I combine them with the olive oil that I had previously measured, making sure that the temp is at 130 degrees. Then its time to add the lye and honey water mixture. You can see the difference in the oils at the bottom of the pot once the lye has been added. Saponification is already happening.

I use a stick blender to continue to blend the oils until a trace is reached. Trace is a soap making term that means the soap leaves a trace of itself on the surface. I will mix this until I reach a medium trace. Then I will add the oatmeal.

Mixing away, the oils continue to become lighter in color and get thicker.

Once I have reached a medium trace its time to pour the first layer of soap into the mold. Here I am using my small batch silicone mold. It holds two pounds of finished soap. I don't have to line it, I can just peel the mold off of the soap once it is ready to be removed.

Now, its time to get creative!

Using a small strainer and a spoon, I will gently tap the dutch chocolate powder onto the surface of the first layer of soap, going all around until it is evenly coated, like this:

Being extra careful not to let the second layer of soap sink into the bottom layer and destroying the fine line of chocolate, I pour the second layer of soap over a spatula to help slow down the flow:

(this is the part I realized that I need some smaller containers. Pouring a large stainless steel stock pot full of warm and caustic materials with one hand while trying to control the other hand is painfully difficult.)

Fill up the mold completely with the rest of the soap.

I wrap the loaf in towels to insulate it while the lye continues to work with the oils to complete the saponification process. The soap will stay wrapped up for anywhere from 12-18 hours or more, then it will be removed and left to sit for another 6- 12 hours to harden a little bit so that its easier to cut. After being cut, the soap will still need to cure for another 4 weeks until it is ready to use.

Another batch! DONE! YAY!

Finally! The next day comes and I am so anxious to unwrap my soap and see what it looks like. I haven't peeked on it at all!

RELEASE THE DODO BIRDS!!!! *cue dramatic music*

Here is where I discover my "dodo" moment! While being generally proud of myself and feeling quite successful at having completed another batch of soap with a new technique and no complications, I opened my mold to find this:

and this:


This only having been my 6th batch of soap ever, I did not realize (understand, get, it, foresee, comprehend) that in my zest to keep things clean and tidy as I was finishing up this batch, I inadvertently put some heavy items on top of my soap mold while the soap was wrapped in the towels- completely thinking (or not thinking, actually) that it was safe to do so. It turns out that I squished my soap while it was still soft in the mold!

But, can you see that awesome pencil line?


It is at this point that I remembered that before I poured the second layer of soap over the pencil line, I had fully intended on taking a wet cloth and wiping down the inside of the soap mold, so that no color transfer would happen on the sides of the soap. My excitement for the end product got the best of my good intentions! The two layers of soap gelled completely, and it even looks like I achieved a two color gradation. I did not expect that to happen, I did not plan for that to happen. But, upon slicing the soap, I realize that it actually probably did not happen.

The inside of the cut loaf of soap you can see that the colors are the same, a milky whitish color. As the soap cures and more water evaporates, I expect the color will turn to a golden-yellow honey-hue and will smell absolutely divine. And.... I think the pencil line was a success! Don't you?

Here is the two pound loaf all cut up into somewhat equal bars. They are all a strange shape and they all have divots, pits, pock marks and variety in their thickness of pencil line. I still think that even a batch of soap that turns out not quite as expected can still be considered a work of art.

All in all, without my dodo bird moments , I think that the pencil line technique is a success, and I look forward to trying it in a much more controlled environment. I look forward to being able to create landscapes and various other textures as I work at perfecting this technique.

Thank you for joining me today in my post on the pencil line technique. Please feel free to leave comments or to subscribe to my blog.

Happy Washing Everybody!

Monday, January 30, 2012

A Warm and Soapy Welcome!

Welcome to the first post on my soap making blog, "Wash With Vegetables"! In this blog I will be talking about my adventures in soap making, various aspects of my concepts of environmentalism, and my daily life as it pertains to the newest passion I have become enamored with: making quality natural soaps by hand.

Why "Wash With Vegetables"? Because you can! And you should!

Most commercial soaps that are available for sale today at your local market are full of surfactants, detergents, dyes, perfumes and chemicals that are actually harmful to your skin and harmful to the environment. I have developed the mantra "wash with vegetables" to remind people in a fun and approachable way that they do not have to stick to the old adage that all soap is created equal. If you wash WITH vegetables (instead of surfactants, dyes, chemicals and detergents) you can improve the feel of your skin, help the environment, and feel good about the decisions you make as a consumer.

I have dedicated myself to using no animal products* or any product that may have been tested on or may be considered detrimental to animals. My soaps will be made from 100% natural vegetable oils, quality essential oils, and natural colorants, so that people who purchase them will know that there are no additives, perfumes, dyes, detergents or other "nasties" in my soap.

I hope that you will join me on my journey down this new avenue in my life. I hope that you too will want to Wash With Vegetables!

*disclaimer = Traditionally, soap was made using animal fats (tallow, lard, etc.). I may, from time to time, experiment with making soaps from animal fats that have been sustainably harvested, or that I have rendered from my own use. I am still learning the process and because the past tradition of making soap included the use of animal fats, this will be extremely valuable knowledge for me to have. One of the values I wish to instill within my self and my hand made soaps, is to honor tradition and the knowledge that is passed down through the generations. If I wish to carry on past traditions, then I will have to know how animal soap was made. This being said, all of my products will be labeled accordingly, so no one has to feel pressured into consuming a product made with animal byproducts or without full disclosure of the product ingredients.


Kristen D. Vineyard of
D. Vine Soap Company (maybe - I haven't chosen a company name yet. There could be a fun poll that you can take part in over the next few months to help me decide! How cool is that??)