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No Lie (or Lye): Making This Easy Soap Recipe Is Very Enjoyable

Posted Sep 29 2011 5:26am

Yes, I know the light has turned more golden and the evening sky more pink.  

Yes, I know that gentle breezes now blow across your yard as the children start their homework and you stand there gazing out the window, leaning on one leg, contemplating.  

Yes, I know you're thinking about those couple snippets in my book where I described the pleasure of making the simple soap recipe I like to make in exactly these conditions.  
And, yes, I know I didn't include the recipe in the book, and many of you have emailed me to ask for it.  My college roommate and dear friend Kristin is particularly anxious to get going as she is planning on giving the soap along with the book (she bought a pile) as holiday gifts (whoops--Kristin, I hope no one on your list reads my blog yet--email me if I should take this off). 
(FYI, the first time I made bread was when I lived in that apartment with Kristin, and the bread took so long that we were already in our beds when the oven finally sounded that it was ready, and we sat there in the dark, each eating a big, hot, delicious slice of it.  That's actually one of my favorite memories ever. And, yes, there is a bread recipe in the book at the end of the January chapter.)
Anyway, the soap.  It actually starts with existing soap, so this is really sort of a cheat.  No lye involved. 

Sunday Night Soap
2 cups grated soap--I usually grate 2 bars of Ivory  1/4 cup olive oil1/2 cup water  1 tablespoon oatmeal (you may like to grind it in your coffee grinder first, depending on what texture you want)I usually add 1 tablespoon of dried lavender as well
Be sure to get 1 four-rectangle soap mold from a craft store near you.  If you'd rather repurpose something from the waste stream,  I think you could also do this in a can and then slice the soap but I haven't tried this yet and therefore can't recommend it.  (If someone tries it, please let me know how it goes!)
Instructions   Put a few inches of water in a sauce pot.  Put the first 3 ingredients into a glass measuring cup and place it in the water in the pot.  The objective now is to melt the soap, so put the burner on medium/low.  This takes awhile.  Stir every few minutes with a wooden spoon (and then remove the spoon from the measuring cup).  Honestly, you must have a book or something else to read while you are doing this (you can go sit down in between stirring--you don't have to stand there). Oh, and now is a good time to lubricate the soap mold with some olive oil. 
Once it is fully melted, let it cook a little longer (the whole cooking thing should take 20 minutes or so).  When it's really nice and creamy, you're done.  Take it off the stove and then mix in the oatmeal and lavender. (If you don't have lavender, don't worry.  But it's nice.  Snip some now from your garden and dry for a week or so and then make the soap.) 
Spoon the mixture into the soap mold (work rather quickly as the soap gets lumpy as it cools).  It should make four.  Bang the mold on the ground slightly to remove air bubbles.
In about two days, you can gently pop the soaps out of the mold. Place them on a cooling rack (for air circulation) on the counter and turn them every day for about three weeks so they can "cure."
Then, decorate them.  I like to wrap them around the belly with either a crepe paper or a homemade paper (more on that in the book--but no recipe for that, either--maybe I'll do that one on this blog too one day) and tie with ribbon (as pictured), or twine or raffia and a sprig of lavender or rosemary.  

The whole process is really very easy and quite relaxing.  One year, I got into a kick where I made a batch every single Sunday night while reading the New York Times and other materials and preparing my mind for the coming week (which is a non-negotiable habit of mine since I was 19--you will most likely never see me at any function after 6 PM on a Sunday).  Very nice.  No lie.

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