Saturday, January 30, 2010

Days for ice-cream

I'm so glad the holidays are nearly over! Six weeks ago, they stretched before us like an endless paradise and they have gone by so quickly, it's hard to believe they are nearly over. We don't go away during summer, preferring to save our 'holiday' for the winter when it is dreary and cold here, to escape somewhere sunny and warm. So. Lots of days at home, me doing my projects, kids playing and making up elaborate games and plays, cooking, meeting with friends, but now I think our holiday moods are drawing to an end. The girls are tired and cranky (who gets tired from holidaying???) and bored, I am looking forward to tidying the house and having it stay like that for at least, oh say, more than five minutes. I want to get back into my routine again, I know I'll be saying the grass was greener this time next week, but for now, I'm ready to re-enter another year of school pick ups, time-management, pre-cooking dinners and taxi-ing to after school activities..

Last year I gave Georgia (dd#1) a book of vouchers for her birthday. She still had one voucher that had not been used up, and as her birthday has just passed, I thought we it was time to fulfill the gift. It was for a homemade ice-cream of her choice, and she opted for strawberry ripple. We haven't made ice-cream since last summer, which is ridiculous really, as we eat so much of it (when we have it here).

First we made a strawberry sauce by chopping up a punnet of strawberries and putting them in a pot with a little sugar and a tiny bit of water. They were stewed over a medium heat for about 5 minutes and allowed to cool. Next, they were whizzed up with a stick blender to a smooth consistancy and put into a squeezy plastic bottle.

The ice-cream mix is really simple, basically it is just a custard - we increased our recipe quantities for a bigger mix. The recipe is for equal quantities of milk and cream - in our case 1.5 cups of each, and 9 (yes, 9!!) egg yolks. The original recipe stated 1 cup of each liquid, and only 6 egg yolks, but I figure if you are going to the trouble of making ice-cream, why fiddle with piddly quantities? I would even straight out double it next time and use a whole 12 egg yolks. So where were we? Right, equal quantities of milk and cream, egg yolks, a vanilla bean, split lengthwise and 3/4 cup sugar. We had no vanilla bean so used vanilla extract instead (2 tsp).

Make the custard by heating the milk, cream and vanilla bean together in a pot over medium heat until starting to boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes. In a large bowl whisk together the egg yolks and the sugar until pale and thick.

Slowly add the warm milk & cream mixture to the egg yolk/sugar mix and whisk well. Wash the pot out and return the mixture to it. Stir over low heat until custard thickens and coats the back spoon. Add the vanilla extract at this stage (if using), and allow to cool, stirring frequently. Since we were making the ice-cream in the ice-cream maker we put both the custard mix and the strawberry sauce mix in the fridge overnight. If the ice-cream machine wasn't being used, the custard could have been placed into a container and put into the freezer for a few hours until semi-firm (stirring every now and then), and then the sauce 'rippled' through it and frozen overnight.
The next morning for us, it was a simple case of pouring the custard into the ice-cream machine and allowing it to churn for 10-15 minutes.

Then it was scooped out and layered with squeezings of strawberry sauce from the squeezy bottle.

And frozen for about 6 hours, until firm. The result? Very, very creamy and filling ice-cream (plus the 9 egg whites waiting to be made into something!)

Perfect for a hot, summer day to mark the end of the holidays.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Tomato seed saving

Our tomatoes have been ripening for a little while, and I wanted to save some seed for next year's crops. Apparently, your own saved seed grows better in your garden conditions, because it evolves to suit the growing conditions there. I was excited that our yellow peach seeds (saved from last year) have grown to be just the way I remember them. The seed saved today will be their second generation, while the others pictured will be first. All of the seeds (except Grosse Lisse) were purchased from and as some of them came in a mix packet, I was keen to save these for future, individual use.

The tomatoes pictured above from left to right are: Tigerella, Black Krim, Grosse Lisse, Yellow Zebra, Yellow Peach, Sugarlump and Red Fig.

All delicious tomatoes. To save the seeds, first I cut them in half (horizontally - it works better, seriously!), and either squeeze out the pulpy seed mixture by squashing the tomato between my fingers or scooping them out with a small teaspoon.

This year, I'm using a flexi-muffin tray to put the seeds in. Small egg cups also work well. The seeds will need to sit in the tray for a few days with a little water, to allow the gel-like substance to ferment off from the outside of the seeds.

Label them to remember which is which and then set aside on the bench for a few days. They are ready when you can scoop the seeds out and there is no gel-like coating on them. They can then be air dried on sheets of paper towel for another day or two before storing in paper envelopes in a dry place. Here are the yellow peach seeds I saved last year,
I think I remember reading somewhere that tomatoes can cross-pollinate with other varieties, if they are not isolated from each other, so I will be curious to see if any of my seeds don't turn out as expected. It may turn out to be an interesting experiment!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Blueberry muffins

I had the urge to bake. Muffins. Blueberry muffins, that is. Blueberries are everywhere at the moment, so sneakily I had to hide a couple of punnets in the fridge, so they wouldn't get eaten, before I got my chance to bake.

Blueberry Muffins, Christine's way (the easy way):

2 1/2 cups SR flour
2/3 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup almond meal (if I don't have this, I usually just substitue plain flour instead)
90ml vegetable oil
1 egg
1 1/4 cups (310ml) milk
2 punnets blueberries (about 1-1 1/2 cups)
175g white chocolate bits
Demerara sugar, to sprinkle

Preheat oven to 180c. Grease a 12 hole and a 6 hole muffin tin. Mix flour(s), almond meal and sugar in a large bowl. In a seperate bowl, whisk together the egg, oil and milk. Add this mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Add the blueberries and white chocolate and stir gently.

Divide mixture among the prepared muffin pans and sprinkle with demerara sugar. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of a muffin comes out clean.

Turn onto a wire rack to cool.

Serve warm with thick cream.

Our little feathered friend I talked about yesterday, sadly didn't survive. He wouldn't eat anything this morning and then went to sleep and said goodbye to us. Poor little guy.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Help! Where is my Mummy?

We had an unexpected drama last night. Multi-tasking, I was on the phone and stacking the dishwasher simultaneously, when Georgia (daughter #1) came up, "There is a rat under the couch and it's squeaking," she told me. "A RAT??" I said. Snorting at the absurdness of her suggestion, I shook my head and resumed the conversation and the dishwasher stacking, silently hoping there really WASN'T a rat in the house. Not 10 mins had gone by and she was back, telling me that there were chicks at our back door. The 'rat" she thought she had heard were the cheeps of baby chicks. "What sort of chicks?", "Umm, small, black, fluffy ones", she said. Phone conversation over and intrigued, we headed outside, slowly and quietly. Two tiny, tiny swamp hen chickies were scrambling over chook circle bed #1 (remains of potatoes), looking very uncoordinated and cheeping incessantly. Mother was no where to be seen. Not sure what to do, and tempted to let nature take over, I watched them for a few minutes. They were heading for the dam, it was getting dark, they had no feathers, just soft downy fuzz and NO MUMMY! Decision made, I grabbed the closest thing - a bucket and scooped them up into that. Their cheeps would be enough to stir any mother to come running, so we walked around the dam with the bucket of chicks, waiting for the mum to show herself. Fifteen minutes. No mum. Their cheeps were getting louder and they were obviously cold and stressed. We made a quick makeshift nest for them in a cardboard box and placed them in the warmest room of the house. This morning, only one chick remained, unfortunately the other one didn't make it.

Our little friend didn't look so well. Worried that he (?) hadn't eaten, I mixed up a weak sugar and boiled water solution and as I didn't have an eyedropper, had to use a long, skinny child's paint brush instead. Success! Little chick seemed to enjoy this tasty delight. More came his way. Next, tiny portions of finely grated apple, extended on the lengthy paintbrush. Gobbles and tiny chick snorts. Signs of survival. A lamp to keep him warm. Within an hour he had started to cheep again and was walking around the box, stumbling every so often. I am amused by the irony of the situation, I find swamp hens pesky and annoying, eating my newly planted seedlings in the vegie garden and stealing chook food, and now here I am nursing a youngster. You have to admit, the little guy is kind of cute, in a prehistoric sort of way.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Vegie stocktake

I was thinking today, that I should have a record of the different varieties of vegies we have growing at the moment, and also what we are currently harvesting. My one weakness when it comes to spring/summer planting is sowing WAY too many tomato seeds. I just can't bare the thought that there is a tomato variety out there that I won't get to try.

At the moment, we are harvesting:
Broccoli - Summer Green
Cabbage - Sugarloaf & Savoy
Carrots - Topweight
Radish - Sparkler
Spring onions
Tomatoes - Red Fig, Sugarlump, Yellow Peach (saved seed), Zebra mix, Roma, Grosse Lisse & Tigerella
Zucchini - Gold Rush, Greenskin, Mixed Squash (green).

Still eating: Onions, garlic, potatoes - Desiree and Nicola

Homegrown Heirloom tomatoes

The plants that are growing and are yet to be harvested include (in addition to the above):
Climbing Beans - Purple King, Lazy Housewife and Blue Lake
Capsicum - Mini and Sweet Delight
Potatoes - Sebago
Sweetcorn - Terrific
Cucumber - Lebanese
Pumpkin - Butternut, Buttercup, Musque de Provence & Queensland Blue.
Tomato - Black Krim

Chamomile flowers drying

This is the first year we have tried the Tigerella tomatoes. They are REALLY prolific! A lot smaller than I had thought though, they are about the size of a small apricot. I love watching them get their orange stripes! I also love the Black Krim tomatoes, but they are taking aaages to ripen. Come on already!! Favourites to sow next year also include Red Fig and Yellow Peach. The yellow peach tomato seeds came from some seed I had saved last year. I was very happy when my first one ripened today and was just how I remembered it. I will have to try some more seed saving this year with other varieties. What I am really waiting for in the way of tomatoes, is enough to make a batch of tomato kasundi - and Indian tomato relish. Delicious!

We picked up a second-hand freezer yesterday bought off ebay, so hopefully if there is a surplus of any crop, it can be packaged and stored for winter use. It is a chest freezer and fits comfortably in Shaun's study, which has recently become less study-like and more home-gym like. For his use, not mine. I prefer to use the "green gym".

Tiger enjoying the late afternoon sun

The chocolate zucchini cake we made on the weekend went down very well indeed. We used a fine grater and 3 yellow zucchinis. Everyone ate it up without suspecting anything and Elizabeth was dying to tell Georgia, who was absolutely shocked to find out there was zucchini in her cake! She still went back for a second piece though, so maybe she won't be so fussy now when I dish it up on her dinner plate!


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Signs of life

...are in my greenhouse. Yes, the winter tomatoes have germinated, well three giant tree tomatoes and one Siberia, anyway! I will take a pic when there is a little more to see, and hopefully by then the other two varieties will have come up. I will have to start thinking where to plant them. It is too exposed in our chook circle garden to put them there, as they get the brunt of the south-westerly's in winter. I'm thinking perhaps in front of the garage, which has a north facing wall and shelter from the west in the way of large trees. There are no beds there at the moment, just one rampant pumpkin vine having a field day. It would be a good spot to put some trellising too, for the tomatoes to grow up. Decisions, decisions.

Yesterday I posted a little about an apron I was hoping to finish. Well, here we have it, the finished item.

It's OK! I haven't been decapitated, my daughter took the photo and chopped my head off right through my nose so the full facial picture will have to wait for another day. My new garden apron has a little bit of a picture happening up the top, and a reinforced, divided pocket. I was happy to have found the fabric in my sewing supplies, so all I really needed to get was some fabric tape for the straps. Here is a closer look at the wonky stitching:

I broke the apron in with a quick peek around the garden and I was very happy. It held my camera nicely. On my travels, I went to investigate what else was happening in the greenhouse and discovered that we have:

Grosse Lisse tomatoes ripening

Strawberries that have not been discovered by young people yet

....and tasty pumpkins growing bigger every day

This is the first year we have had pumpkins and strawberries. Last year our total harvest boasted one pumpkin the size of a grapefruit and a handful of small alpine strawberries. That was it, for the entire season! All be it, very delicious, but not going to feed the family for any great length of time. This year, I was determined to cover all bases regarding the pumpkins, and think I went slightly overboard by planting...let's see....eight vines!! Most have fruit, which is fantastic, but the kids don't really like pumpkin that much, so I am a little concerned about how we are going to eat them all!

I received a zucchini & chocolate cake recipe the other day (thanks Tammy), and made it yesterday. Well, Elizabeth (8y.o) and I made it together. It is HUGE! I thought it might be a nice way to welcome home Georgia (10) who got in from her interstate visit with grandparents late last night. I am curious to see how the zucchini part goes down.....

Friday, January 22, 2010


Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a person who forwards on those emails that we all seem to get. Seriously. I will perhaps forward two or three good ones a year. That's it. I guess this is number one for the year, and I just had to share it.....

Notice that a "MEDIUM" is a 14-16... then scoll down..

Remember making an apron in Home Ec? Read below:
The History of 'APRONS'

I don't think our kids know what an apron is. The principal use of Grandma's apron was to protect the dress underneath,because she only had a few,it was easier to wash aprons than dresses and they used less material, but along with that, it served as a potholder for removing hot pans from the oven. It was wonderful for drying children's tears, and on occasion was even used for cleaning out dirty ears.

From the chicken coop, the apron was used for carrying eggs, fussy chicks, and sometimes half-hatched eggs to be finished in the warming oven.When company came, those aprons were ideal hiding places for shy kids.And when the weather was cold grandma wrapped it around her arms.Those big old aprons wiped many a perspiring brow, bent over the hot wood stove. Chips and kindling wood were brought into the kitchen in that apron.From the garden, it carried all sorts of vegetables. After the peas had been shelled, it carried out the hulls. In the fall, the apron was used to bring in apples that had fallen from the trees.When unexpected company drove up the road, it was surprising how much furniture that old apron could dust in a matter of seconds.When dinner was ready, Grandma walked out onto the porch, waved her apron, and the menfolks knew it was time to come in from the fields to dinner.

It will be a long time before someone invents something that will replace that 'old-time apron' that served so many purposes.

REMEMBER: Grandma used to set her hot baked apple pies on the window sill to cool. Her granddaughters set theirs on the window sill to thaw. They would go crazy now trying to figure out how many germs were on that apron. I don't think I ever caught anything from an apron.


It's lovely, isn't it? Thanks Mum. I wonder where all the aprons of yesteryear have ended up.

I started work on an apron this week, specifically a garden apron. I like the idea that I don't have to change into old clothes for a quick scoot around the garden, in between after school activities. An apron allows me to do this. I also need somewhere to store my mobile phone, so my husband is less frustrated about me not answering his calls, the useful pocket on my new apron allows me to do this. It will also be handy to have a pocket big enough to store my camera, seed packets, scissors and bits of string, and you guessed it, my new apron will allow me to do all these things!

I'm hoping to finish my new apron this weekend.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Bread Bag

Why make a bread bag? To store your freshly baked bread in, of course!! Not that I have been a regular baker lately, but it sure beats wrapping it up in a tea towel, concealing it, so no one even knows it's there, and have them eating bought bread out of the freezer, right??

Again, I was visiting and became inspired to make one. The embroidery threads I had in a bag that belonged to my nana, and the fabric I found in the drawer, bought to make cushions but never made it that far.
The stitchery was quick and fun to do, and the bag itself only took about half an hour to whip up. The proof of the bag will be in the bench test, that is, how long it sits on the kitchen bench with fresh bread in it..

My pictured bread used the following ingredients:
700g or therabouts strong white flour
200g or so of wholemeal flour
50g rye flour a handful of mixed grains
2 tsp salt
4 tsp dried yeast
a good drizzle of honey (I do like a sweet loaf!)

As with pizza dough, I just mix all the dry ingredients together, including the yeast, then add the water slowly, mixing until a dough consistency is reached. The honey is also added at this stage. Knead well on a floured bench for 10-15 mins until the dough springs back when pressed. Place into an oiled boil and roll to coat dough with oil, cover with plastic wrap and prove for 1 1/2 - 2 hours. Punch down and shape into two loaves, place into greased and semollina'd (a word?) loaf tins and allow to rise for another 45 mins or so. Preheat oven to hot 220C and place a shallow baking dish of water in the bottom of the oven. Sprinkle seeds on top (I used a kaipseed mix from the health food shop) and slash tops of loaves with a sharp knife. Reduce heat to 200C when placing pans in the oven. Bake loaves for 20 mins, then rotate pans, and bake for a further 20-25 mins. A light misting with a water bottle in the first 5 mins of baking will help your loaf 'spring' out of the tin.

Day two note: Half a loaf in the bread bag...will see what the day brings.

Meet Muffin and Biscuit!

Meet our two boer goats, Muffin and Biscuit! Muffin is the white one and Biscuit looks just like one with chocolate and vanilla colouring! They are both females and 5 months old, we got Muffin when she was just 3 weeks old and bottle fed her until 12 weeks. Biscuit came along about 2 months ago, and they are the best of friends. Their main purpose is to control the scrubby, blackberry growth that is threatening to overgrow behind our dam, and of course to be great pets.

Muffin coming in for a closer look (note her really sharp horns)

Biscuit, amazingly keeping still for one moment to let me take a picture

Muffin, being a typical goat
Lately I have noticed Muffin's horns becoming sharper by the day, with a fine layer of horn dissapearing and was baffled as to how this was happening. I originally thought she was rubbing/scratching against something but observed Biscuit coming along and having a good old chew one day! Poor Muffin, being Biscuit's chewing post. I don't know why Biscuit is doing this, she has grain for breakfast, grass/scrub all day and oaten hay at night, PLUS a mineral block which I see her licking every day! Is it a dominating habit? Or something tied over from when she was weaned? I got out there yesterday and tried to file them down a little, but it will take a few goes until they are blunted to my satisfaction. Maybe a pepper paste that tastes REALLY bad? Who knows, I just hope that it stops soon...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Bread and Butter Cucumbers

Cucumbers are so cheap at the moment, about $1 each for the large, long continental type ones. My family absolutely devour bread and butter pickles, so it was time to make some more!

Thinly slice the cucumbers, today I had 3 large ones. Using a mandoline makes life much easier, just be sure to watch your fingers!

Mix the cucumbers with about 4 tbs salt, one thinly sliced onion and then cover with ice-cubes. Place in the fridge for 3 hours - overnight.

Rinse the cucumber well and drain in a colander. Gather ingredients for the pickling liquid; 2 1/4 cups sugar, 1 tbs yellow mustard seeds, 3/4 tsp celery seeds, 3/4 tsp ground turmeric, 1 1/2 cups white vinegar. Mix all together in a large pot and bring to the boil. Add the drained cucumbers and slowly heat for 5 minutes. Place into warm, sterilized jars and seal.

Process in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes.

Delicious served with fresh bread, tomatoes and cheese!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

How I grow vegies

One of the reasons I wanted to start this blog was to keep a visual diary of my vegetable gardening. The main area where I grow vegies is right near our back door and is comprised of 6 circular beds, 2m in diameter. I chose circles for garden beds after reading Linda Woodrow's book, The Permaculture Home Garden, about 18 months ago. It made so much sense that if you had chooks of course you would utilise their energy and put them to work in the vegie patch. The main difference in my garden and the book is that I don't have the space close to the house for a "mandala" garden, which Linda describes, my beds are set out in one long straight line. One day I would like to give the mandala system a go, I particularly like the idea of the central circle being a habitat for beneficial wildlife, such as lizards and frogs, etc.

Since starting the chook dome garden, it has been a challenge to find the right length of time to keep the chooks on each bed. I originally was putting them on for 3 weeks, but discovered that this was not long enough, as by the time they were back to circle 1, that bed was not ready to be harvested yet. For the last few circles, I have kept them on for 6 weeks, and so far so good. This allows each bed about 9 months of growing, before having the chooks come in and cultivate again. I made the chook dome out of materials that were scrounged and it tooks about 3 days. It is not the prettiest thing to look at, but it has lasted well and is doing the job. The chooks don't sleep in there, they have a permanent pen to go in at night. In the morning they race straight for the chook dome, waiting for me to scatter in their grain, along with any vegie scraps from the kitchen. At night it is the same routine, I let them out and they run to their 'night time pen' to have their dinner before bed. We keep a container in the kitchen and all of our raw vegie scraps go to the chook dome garden, as well as spent plants, hedge trimmings, wood ash, grass clippings, autumn leaves, manure (cow and horse), as well as the goaty bedding straw from our 2 goats. Anything really that is of vegetable matter ends up in there, with the idea being, at planting time you have a wonderful, thick, nutritious mulch to plant into that needs no further fertilizing. The chook dome is due to rotate in another 2 weeks, at the end of January. Here is how it is looking today:

Bed 6: The remains of broccoli, peas, red cabbage and celery. Due to have chooks in 2 weeks.

Bed 1: The remains of potatoes.

Bed 2: Broccoli, cabbage, potatoes, carrots and spring onions.

Bed 3: Tomatoes (x6), pumpkins (x2, using a ladder), gold zucchini, patty pan squash

Bed 4: Zucchini, squash, tomotoes (x3), corn.

Bed 5: Currently housing 3 x Isa Brown chook rotary hoes. Due for planting in 2 weeks.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Rainy day baking

The weather has turned cold and there was even snowfall forecast for some areas. It was a perfect day to stay inside and keep cosy by baking something warm and sweet.

Lemon and Poppyseed Cupcakes
225g unsalted butter
225g sugar
225g self-raising flour
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 tbs poppy seeds
grated zest of one medium lemon

Preheat oven to 160C. With electric beaters, mix butter, sugar, flour and eggs for a few minutes until smooth. Add vanilla, poppy seeds and lemon zest.

Spoon mixture into muffin trays lined with paper cases. Bake until lightly golden and tops spring back when touched gently. Allow to cool a little and drizzle with a mixture of icing sugar and lemon juice. Eat as many as you like and do not feel guilty. Makes approx. 18.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Pizza day!

Yesterday was pizza day here. Our baby pizza oven is nearly finished and we thought it might be a good idea to give it a right good, proper firing before laying the final layer of mortar, to seal up the inevatable cracks that were bound to occur. For a tiny oven, it took absolutely ages to heat up, it was lit around 11am and the carbon on the inside dome bricks was only just starting to burn off around 4pm!! Our BIG pizza oven (right next to this little one), with an inner diameter of 1100mm takes 3 hours from lighting to saturated heat. The measurements of this baby are a mere 550mm inner diameter and the one advantage is that it takes about a third of the fuel to heat, compared to our big oven. I imagine there is still moisture inside that is still drying, so hopefully in the future the firing time will be significantly reduced.

One thing I've learned since having the pizza oven(s), is that it is SO handy to have pizza dough pre-packaged and stored in the freezer. It is so easy to pull out your dough on pizza day and not have to worry about kneading and rising, as well as stoking the fire.

The recipe for pizza dough I use is as follows:

3 tsp instant dried yeast
3 tsp sugar
1 kg plain flour
1-2 tsp salt
A few splashes of olive oil
Approx. 600ml water (I don't usually measure, just keep adding until dough consistancy is reached)

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, then add the water and oil and mix well. Keep adding water until a firm dough is formed. Tip out onto a floured surface and knead well for at least 10-15 minutes, adding more flour as necessary to stop dough sticking to bench. Roll into a neat ball and place into a large oiled bowl, roll dough over oil to coat all sides with oil and cover with plastic wrap. Place in a warm place for 1-1 1/2 hours to rise. Punch down and divide into smaller portions depending on preference. I usually divide the dough into 300g-350g pieces. Place portions into freezer bags and freeze until required. On pizza day, I simply pull out as many dough bags as I think we might need and allow them to thaw on the bench at room temp for about 1 hour. If they are thawed and the oven is not ready, they can easily be placed into the fridge until required.

This time around, Shaun made himself a seafood pizza with LOTS of garlic, and the girls had a ham/pineapple with egg on top. I made a potato and rosemary pizza with lots of garlic too, all with ingredients from the garden.. I love that! They were delicious, hence the incomplete photo of them, we gobbled them up straight away, and these are our leftovers for tomorrow!

Friday, January 15, 2010

I have been bitten.. the soapmaking bug!! I had contemplated making soap in the past, but somehow it always seemed too complicated and frightening..particularly with the use of caustic soda solution and safety goggles, gloves and face masks. BUT, something happened, I was browsing the internet one day (as I often do), looking for soapmaking information when I stumbled across a soapmaking tutorial at: down to earth blogspot.

I suddenly had all the motivation I needed and set about gathering supplies. The first few batches turned out very pleasing (even though a little light on the scent). Here are a few pics

Cocoa and cinnamon soap (I have actually raided this batch to start using, even though we are just at the 3 week mark. It smells almost yummy and makes me hungry to think about it. I used cocoa powder & cinnamon sticks ground up in a spice grinder and these add a scrubby exfolliating touch to the soap. My dry skin has improved 100% since using. I like it!!

Chamomile, Sage & Lavender soap (used a strong herbal tea infusion with herbs from my garden in place of water, added dried chamomile and sage at trace, along with lavender ess. oil. The scent is very faint, so will need to add more essential oil next time.

Coconut Cream and Lime soap (used a 440g tin of coconut cream in place of water, infused olive oil with kaffir lime leaves, added lime ess.oil at trace.
I'm really looking forward to trying this one, it looks so creamy!

Olive Oil, Tea Tree & Honey soap (this is more of a 'hair bar', as I wanted to try something to deter head lice when school starts up again. We had such an awful time last year, the youngest one kept bringing them home. This bar has 70% olive oil and 30% coconut oil, with 50ml tea tree ess. oil and 20 ml lavender ess. oil added at trace. It is setting nicely. I am assuming the honey colour is from the high quantity of olive oil.

And then.... I hit a hurdle! I had romantic visions of a creamy, smooth, olive oil and milk bar, scented with rose, and delicate petals scattered throughout. It was not to be. The batch was disastrous and I don't know if I can save it. Looking back, I can see what went wrong, when the recipe said to add the lye to the icy cold milk, I went ahead and added it! FAST! Now I read that you are meant to add it slowly..VERY slowly, and of course the milk turned orange, ok, I thought, that's normal (I think), so I just kept adding and adding and stirring. It turned a brownish colour and the milk actually curdled. The book I had said that the milky lye solution would appear 'grainy' and this would dissapear in the soapmaking process, so in it all went to the oil mixture, once they were the same temperature! What a disaster, there are lumps of curdled milk all throughout the batch (ack!), even though it has set nicely. I am wondering if I grate it down and melt and re-mould it if this will improve it. Or should the whole thing be tossed?

The offending botched soap #1