Stalking the Wild Asparagus

For all you wildcrafters out there-



I adore my field guide titled, Stalking the Wild Asparagus, by Euell Gibbons. It was published in 1962 and then reprinted fifteen times according to the first page of this amazing little book. It reads like a memoir, which is why I adore it.

Here are some tantalizing tidbits from this book. In the chapter titled, Supermarket of the Swamps is the instructions on how to collect pollen from cattails to use as a nutritious supplement in your pancakes and muffins. Euell also goes on to explain in great detail how to use all portions of this plant.

There are chapters on using Elderberries to make wine –  a recipe from his “drinking uncle” and how to use the berries to make a nice jam. I have fond memories of picking elderberries with a friend on Gabriola. Usually we had little kids running around our ankles eating blackberries until…

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Out of Chaos-Beauty May Come

Warning: poor last minute soap making judgment below:

Today I had one of those soap batch days that did not go very smoothly. For one thing, I thought, oh I have enough time to whip up a simple batch of Lemongrass with Calendula. But as things went along, I thought, nope, I have enough Lemongrass, why not make up a nice easy batch of Tea Tree and Lavender, and so as not to make a mess, I will do a gentle swirl of French Green clay instead of using charcoal.

But somehow in the midst of things, as I was pouring my essential oils and weighing them out I thought, “hmm- well how about  I toss in 50 grams of Lemongrass in my Tea tree and Lavender? Just to see how it turns out.”


Then I had to figure out another colour scheme real fast as things were coming to temperature quickly with the cold weather. (I love making soap at this time of year because my lye cools down so quickly. )But the lye seemed to cool down too quickly and it went to way below my normal temp. and I lost 3 pairs of glasses… in the middle of all this.

Well now I couldn’t’ see a darn thing, but I had to stir things up quick. I swirled like a madwoman… adding another swirl of alkanet root alongside my green clay. Earlier on in the day I lost my trusty spoon and swiped one from the kitchen-this should have been an omen or warning of sorts because I never lose my spoon.

Pretty much everything went wrong but guess what?

This batch of soap turned out to be a thing of beauty —the colour combination and the sharp fresh scent of it reminds one of spring and happiness.  And even though I have raw soap in my hair and on my sleeves and dripped on my sneakers I feel truly alive- and I have something of beauty to show for it.




Mis en Place


This is a re blog from my other wordpress site deathdefyingacts of living.

It seems appropriate for my soapy blog- so I thought I would repost it.

We recently discovered that we have a channel that runs the Martha Stewart cooking show right at the time of day when you are not able to do one more thing except to flop down on the sofa and turn on the tv. Martha loves to throw around her french cooking words. Lucky for me I took a lot of french language training, it was mandatory in elementary school in Winnipeg. So I do understand quit a bit of her cooking vocabulary.

Today’s lesson was different kinds of Pavlova’s day.

While tipping egg whites into her mix master, she mentioned the french phrase, mis en place, which translates to “putting everything in order before you begin.” I realize this idea can be applied to other areas of one’s life.

I always mis en place when soap making. You have to have all your essential oils carefully measured and sitting mis en place before you can pour your soap into the molds. All other sundries must be sitting close by for that brief moment at trace when you can stir in flower petals or clays and of course the fragrant essential oils. Today I am making tea tree and lavender soap with hemp seed oil.

But I can never be totally Martha Stewart, I understand this about myself. I know at the last moment I may change my mind and say, “Hey! Look at that orange peel, I bet I can reach it from here and throw in a handful….” which sometimes creates a disaster. But that is what keeps me creating new and exciting different kinds of soap. It is my need for imagining new recipes that has kept me interested in soap making for many years.

Yes, mis en place is important and a comfort. But sometimes you have to break out and experiment with that little box or bowl of something that is sitting quietly beckoning you  from the shadows. It is begging for you to notice it. “Come on! Mix me into this batch! Don’t you want to see how it looks tomorrow when you pop your soap outta the molds?” I am usually powerless to refuse.


Activated Charcoal- Elevate Your Soap-Naturally to Become a Work of Art


Soap Buddha

If you have noticed, charcoal is a big thing right now in beauty products. You know it is a hot item when the commercial soap companies are now promoting it on tv commercials. I guess they are trying to get in on the natural ingredients bandwagon, which isn’t a bad thing for the little guys because then the price and availability of these ingredients go down and they are much easier to find. For instance, it is fairly easy to buy activated charcoal from many online soap supply companies. What I understand it is made from burning hardwoods at a very high temperature, creating a pure charcoal that can also be used for medicinal purposes.

I use activated charcoal not only because of its amazing skin care properties but because of the dramatic way it looks in a bar, especially set off against a dark red clay. Gorgeous.

Help why do I make my Patchouli soap red and black?








Charcoal, believe it or not, it makes a nice face soap, it is good for lifting out impurities of the skin.

Charcoal face soap

Sometimes at Christmas I have used it to make a lump of coal soap- very popular for those with naughty children( grown up or otherwise). And you would think that bars made with charcoal would feel very scratchy, but really I find it is very smooth in your finished product. The worst part for me is the clean up afterwards. It is really quite messy to work with. I usually have paper towels that I use to wipe up the inside of my swirling container- my trusty old rubber maid juice jug. The clean-up is when I notice the abrasiveness, oddly enough, but never in my soap bars.


I have also made a nice drawing salve- It is meant to pull out the sting of spider bites etc. My only problem with this product is that it is really messy and I am not really sure that it drew out the itchiness of my spider bite. I have noticed it used in detox deodorant recipes, but I would imagine that some black would stay on your armpits and then rub off on your clothes. I guess it would be okay if you aren’t fussy and only wear dark clothing.

Imagine this: you wake up-put on your charcoal deodorant, brush your teeth with charcoal paste, wash your face with a black charcoal bar and then rub a charcoal drawing salve on your mosquito bites. Perhaps you might go so far as to take a small dose of it to help with that hangover. I would say you were a wee bit nuts for activated charcoal. But who am I to judge? Use your charcoaly products as much as you like.

Really I prefer to use charcoal in soap. I recommend about 1 heaping tablespoon of charcoal per pound of soap, depending on how much of a dramatic colour contrast you are going for.


Try it with a swirl of carrot tissue in sunflower oil to create dramatic tiger stripes in your finished bars.    


I know each bar of soap I make is an artistic expression that can be taken home to be enjoyed.

I believe there is a fine line between what is considered art and what is considered craft.

What do you think?










Get Your Patchouli Stink Outta my Store!


Well ever since John Cusack yelled the famous line, ” Get your Patchouli stink outta my Store!” in the movie High Fidelity-  besides making us laugh, perhaps it has caused many people to question their choice of fragrance.  What I have learned about Patchouli over the years, is that some people hate it and some people adore it. Some people say they hate it and then love a bar that I make that has 20 percent Patchouli essential oil in it.

It is what Hippies were supposed to smell like hanging out on street corners in fringed pants and rose coloured glasses.  Many people from the Seventies like it as a sensory memory of the good old days. I find the scent absolutely decadent and sensual. I often use it in my recipes to anchor other scents in a bar soap.  What is a good quality Patchouli? I have been using this particular Patchouli, ( in the picture above) as I find it is very strong, lasts a long time, and the dark colour gives the bar a nice deep creamy tan colour. Apparently, the dark colour is from being aged in cast iron. I have tried other kinds and have been disappointed. Sometimes I like to mix it with a little bit of clove oil to really ramp up the scent. But it really goes with just about any other oil even Rose oil if you are going to create something really luxurious.

Help why do I make my Patchouli soap red and black?

Sometimes I can’t believe when people don’t know what Patchouli is. My first reaction is disbelief. But I suppose before my soaping days I didn’t really give Patchouli Essential oil much thought. You won’t believe all the benefits that Patchouli oil is purported to have.

  1. Keeps away insects. Shawls that were shipped from India were doused with Patchouli in the old days to keep moths from eating them.
  2. Aphrodisiac. it is thought that the scent of Patchouli stimulates serotonin and dopamine
  3. So, therefore, is also good for creating a good mood, especially after point number 2.
  4. Soothes inflammation. Helps with the fading of scars.  Calms psoriasis and eczema and dermatitis.
  5. Can have sedative properties, so use before bedtime.
  6. Anti-aging properties
  7. Eliminates body odor

All that in a bottle of Patchouli essential oil. Wow! Now I know you are all going to run out and buy some. Please answer my poll about what colour you think Patchouli soap should be or what colour you choose when you are making up a batch. Yesterday for some strange reason I made my batch with a splash of Hemp oil and a swirl of Natural Indigo. I was having what colour to make my soap anxiety all through my stirring process. If you have this same problem I urge you to try my poll.




Soap makers top 10 list

Top 10 things I love about soap making

  1. The scents of essential oils that cling to everything I own, including my family
  2. Creating new recipes
  3. Always having amazing soaps and creams to give as gifts
  4. Donating to a million worthy causes that people come to your booth and ask you for
  5. Trading soap for chocolate!
  6. Meeting other cool artsy craftsy people
  7. Designing your own labels
  8. Don’t have to dress up
  9. Work from home- mostly
  10. Amassing a lot of change in your purse.

Top 10 things I hate about soap making are these very same things!

  1. Having strong scents around can get annoying. My husband – a burly diver/woodworker/ artist, often stinks like Patchouli.  One time someone borrowed a library book and said, oh the soapmaker’s daughter must have just read this one… she could smell it on a Harry Potter Book.
  2. Creating new recipes is great but I have had to dump 10 pounds of soap out many more times than I will admit. My wine soap was a bomb and so was my liquid laundry soap the first couple of times!
  3. Sure it’s great to always have gifts, but I have a give- stuff- away problem that has reached epic proportions. I sometimes have soap in the car to give to hitchhikers to make their day
  4. Donating is nice but I think I  may have donated over a  hundred bars a year and always lose the slip of paper to declare it on taxes.
  5. Too much trading soap for chocolate can cause diabetes you know. (But really I still love this one)
  6. Meeting other cool crafty people is great, but it is hard to impress them with your soapy abilities when they all make soap too. Not to mention they often grind their own wheat for Lord’s sake.
  7. I love to design my own labels but also have a bin of labels that didn’t line up properly that I am saving like a hoarder. I have many wasted labels that have no use whatsoever.
  8. Sometimes I wish I didn’t dress like an oil stained hobo-but even if I put on a nice new shirt and promise myself not to wear it in the shop, inevitably I do wear it in the shop and it gets spoiled instantly.
  9. Working from home is great except that your family always wants a snack when you have just taken an hour to make the kitchen impeccable and up to soapy standards. No snacks! Hungry? Too bad! You guys eat too often anyways.
  10. Having lots of change is great, but I find my family often asks for money all of the time and if I have it… they take it and it’s gone!



The Romance of it All

When I first had those initial inklings that I needed to make homemade soap, I imagined myself barefoot running through a field of wildflowers to gentle music. Then I imagined myself quietly stirring soap in a gingham apron with a daisy tucked behind my ear. Enter reality. I often feel that I look like Frankenstein’s wife. I have learned throughout the years that I have to not just wear one of those little white masks but a full on respirator mask that scares small children if they happen to wander past my home as I am running back and forth to the kitchen where there is running water that I always wished I had in my workshop.

I have learned that I must wear closed toed shoes, long sleeves, and protective eyewear. And once in a while, I might forget to put on my glasses when I am checking the temperature of my lye and have splashed lye in my eye which is really no fun.  All of my clothes have oil stains on them and sometimes dark stains of things like alkanet root. My rubber gloves that I use become hard and crusty and sometimes I can barely put my hand in them, but I am always out of right-hand gloves and must force my hand into a left-hand one when desperate.

I somehow thought that if I had a part time soap making business I could easily work it around raising my children. Which was true in a sense. But enter reality again, and really I had to do things like wake up very early to pour my lye and melt my oils, then make the kids breakfast, pack their lunches, drive them to the ferry and school, get home do the laundry, chop kindling, mix up my batch, go to my other part time job… (to help pay for my supplies), get home start dinner, get the kids do all the homework and clean up stuff, then put soap in the freezer, fall into bed and remember around 10 at night to get soap out of freezer. Then start your day again. Exhausting for sure. This did not even include all of the time I had to create the different things and label them and promote and sell them on a small island where there are about 20 other people who make and sell soap. A tough racket for sure.

So what has kept me going all these years? The love of creating new exciting bars of soap, mixing up different essential oils, finding new exotic moisturizing kinds of butter to add to my batches, finding natural ways to colour my bars. I love that part. And the labeling is fun too. Flexing my creative muscle is what has kept me going. Also, I realize having to do all sorts of different things to run a small business is fun. I have had to organize craft fairs, do internet research, compare prices, order supplies, meet interesting customers and other crafters, and experiment with different ingredients. How lucky. But very different from my romantic version of running wild through a field of daisies, instead I have found myself hacking my way through a patch of stinging nettles, to make my coveted nettle shampoo bars– which I will definitely share in another post one day soon.


I have sold soap at farmer’s markets in the pouring rain, with drips of water smearing my labels and dampness creeping up the tablecloth. I have had dogs pee on the edge of my tablecloth and small children place their snotty noses on my expensive rose geranium soap and then run away laughing… and still I persevered. I have been to Christmas craft fairs where I have spent months making  product, pay a huge entrance fee, show up and find that there are 10 other soapmakers right next to each other and realize the person who created the fair, just wanted to fill spots and didn’t care who was successful or not.

I have tried quitting but have always come back to it. I guess all I can do is warn you. Soap may overtake your life. It will seep into- not only the pores of your skin, but into your soul.

So there you go, you have been warned.