Thursday, 6 April 2017

Soaping for Self

The accelerating pace of life has made it difficult to find the time and energy to do the more enjoyable activities. Working full-time and other demands coupled with the now diagnosed fibromyalgia have made me feel like I am swimming against a rip tide.
The ghastly left arm pain that hindered me last year vanished as suddenly as it arrived…… and transferred into my right arm. Actually, there was an overlap where both arms and shoulders hurt so much that I did not know what to do with myself. Thankfully, the pain in my left arm disappeared but unfortunately, the intensity of the pain in my right arm doubled, so that I lose hours of valuable sleep at night as I toss and turn, trying to find a position where the pain will subside. 

Day to day tasks are a nightmare to perform; even filling the kettle is a struggle, and as for using the computer, well that is definitely an endurance test! I find myself filled with despair as I think of my poor neglected allotment and wonder how (and if?) I will ever be able to return it to the aesthetically pleasing, productive plot it was a few years ago.

The Doctor looked at me over his glasses as he offered me strong painkillers, which in ten years time will have rotted my insides and contributed further to enriching the pharmaceutical company. Another alternative option on offer was a drug that will suppress the pain messages sent to the brain - as if my brain is not already struggling to process information through the brain fog that comes through the tiredness and fibromyalgia symptoms.
However recently something happened that forced me to push myself through the pain and tiredness and spur me into action.
For the past ten years I have had a continual supply of my own lovely (even though I say so myself) handmade natural, herbal soap and although I had to defer soaping for craft fairs, while I endeavoured to get my life sorted out, I still had an ample supply of stock for personal use. Until now that is! My stock has not been replenished and if I didn’t act soon, I would find myself in a position where I would have to purchase some (worst case scenario) commercially produced soap. Well! That totally goes against the grain!
Therefore, I gritted my teeth, and focussed upon forgetting about the pain whilst I gathered up all my soap making equipment.

Things did not auger well in the beginning. My digital scales remained unresponsive and new batteries failed to produce even a flicker on the screen.

Ok, new scales will be required, but for now I would have to make do with an old-fashioned set and a bit of “guesstimation”. I reasoned that cold process soap making is on old traditional method invented long before the invention of digital scales, and as the intended batch of soap was for personal use, there would be no harm done.
I had unearthed a large tin of unopened olive oil and just as I finished pouring the oil into the other base oils, I noticed the expiry date on the tin. Bother! A month out of date! Too late now. I would have to proceed and hope that there was a bit of leeway before the oil turned rancid. Anyway – I reasoned that it was not as though I was intending to eat the soap and again as it was for personal use it would not matter unduly. After all, even if this batch of soap was a disaster, the process of making it should inspire me to revive my soaping again.
Oils heating gently, I looked for my thermometer. Oh No! MISSING! Now that was a problem. Ignoring my aching arm, I hunted high and low – I could overlook the lack of digital scales and also the out of date olive oil, but I really needed my thermometer. For a while, it seemed as though I would have to use more guess work and that this batch of soap really was doomed to fail. Eventually however, after a few frustrated mutterings, I unearthed the thermometer from where I had put it in “a safe place” and resumed the process.
For a while, everything went smoothly and I found the familiar soap making process relaxing and therapeutic; that was, until I combined the oils and lye and switched on the hand blender. My right arm gave an immediate burning throb of painful protest as the blender started whirring.
I was so close to completing this batch of soap that I refused to surrender now - so holding the blender in my left hand, in quick bursts I blended the soap mixture, waiting with bated breath to see if it would thicken.
Happily, in a very short time the mixture began to resemble custard and to trace. I had chosen a simple Provence recipe with Lavender and Clary Sage Essential Oils, half of which had ground lavender added to the mixture and the other half plain.
Despite all the hiccups, the soap looked and smelled good. I covered the moulds with a towel and left them to insulate for 24 hours, with delicious scents of lavender and sage pervading the room.
The next day I removed the soaps from the moulds. Hooray! It had worked and the soap was a success. 

After cutting and leaving them to cure, I decorated a few, as I would normally do for the fairs and for orders. 

Decorated soaps always look good placed in the bathroom or en-suite for guests to use.

Despite the mishaps in production the soaps turned out well, and shortly after this I made another batch - happily without any issues. Personal stocks replenished I am suddenly eager to start soaping again. 


(PS I wrote this post a few weeks ago, but accidentally and most annoyingly somehow managed to delete all the photos I had taken!)

No comments: