Thursday, May 28, 2009

Smells so good, I almost *want* to wash my mouth out with it

Greetings, gardeners!

Ibti here, guest blogging during my time at the historic Rosemary House here in Mechanicsburg. I've had a lovely time thus far, doing all sorts of things around the garden and beyond. This past Saturday I joined Susanna, David, Nancy, and the kids at the annual Baltimore Herb Festival. The rest of the lovely, sunny long weekend was filled with gardening and barbecues and town parades and trips to the local ice cream shop. Nice.

Now, it's not sunny all of the time. Take the past two days, for instance: cold and rainy. Ick. I did not order this weather (though I am thankful that I am not, for once, biking in it). Were I on a farm, I would be pulling on my rain pants and rain jacket and trudging out through the mud to pound in a trellis for beans or mulching the asparagus patch. Here at the Rosemary House, though, when the weather outside is frightful there are lots of things we can do inside. Like make herbal tinctures (we made one with motherwort the other day from some that we had pulled from the back garden during a round of weeding). Or bake scones (Nancy is a FABULOUS cook and a gracious teacher... and I just happened to still be in town for the leftovers from Wednesday's tea). Or check to be sure the homemade cordials are coming along . (You know, it's only right to check them now and again and reconfirm which is your favorite and which ones can be used in place of lighter fluid for a camping stove. I'm just saying....)

As the weather was bleak and I'd mentioned an interest in learning to make herbal soaps, Tuesday and part of Wednesday were devoted to Susanna and I trying our hand at soap crafting. As neither of us knew quite what to expect with our motley assortment of ingredients and molds, we approached the exercise -- making lavender glycerin soaps embedded with loofahs for next month's Lavender Festival -- with a spirit of adventure. Here is a brief summary of the process, should you be interested in making some yourself:

First, gather your materials. In this case, we used a few blocks of glycerin soap, lavender essential oil (one of the few essential oils that can be used directly on your skin without risk of irritation), natural food coloring, dried lavender flowers, some loofahs, molds for pouring (in this case, some cans and yogurt container lids), cutting board, knife, and double boiler. (The book I had read also mentioned using a candy thermometer, but really, we were just winging it and making sure nothing boiled or burned on the stove.)

Next melt the wax in the double boiler (or microwave). While the wax is melting, set up your molds. Once the wax is totally melted, remove it from the heat and stir in the fragrance, coloring, and any additives (in this case, dried lavender flowers). When just mixed, pour into the molds and let set.

Once the soaps are set, remove them from the molds. In retrospect, we would have preferred not to use the cans: though it felt good to recycle them, cans are not what I would call EASY TO GET THE SOAP OUT OF, if you know what I mean. After a few misguided attempts at running the molds under warm water to loosen the soap, Susanna broke out the pliers and peeled the cans off of the soap. Yeah, she's pretty tough. After watching that little maneuver I determined that she is not someone whose bad side I would want to be on....

Next, slice or otherwise carve up your soaps. Aren't these just lovely? I almost want to hang one in my windowsill. They smell pretty fabulous, too. Mmmm... lavender....

Finally, I was assigned to wrap and decorate the soaps.

If you'd like one of these little limited-edition soaps, get yourself over to the shop or to next month's festival....


Marilyn Miller said...

What a fun project! Love the outcome, they are beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Glad to read that you had a wonderful experience with the folks at Rosemary House and Sweet Remembrance - jp