Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Yule, Diwali or what have you, I find the rampant commercialism of major holidays here in North America depressing and annoying. Everywhere up to 2 months ahead of time you're inundated with commercials, advertising, music, etc., touting "Buy this and they'll love you!" or some such tripe. I don't know about you, but we seem to be more and more in a society of entitlement.
Being a crafty sort (in more ways than one), plus also frugal as all hell, I think a homemade gift speaks more about your gifting; it shows you put some time, effort and thought into making something special for someone. I would much rather have a jar of homemade jam from someone as a present versus a scarf or what have you.
This year, as in past years, I'm making all the gifts for family and friends for Christmas/Yule. Along with my large-ish collection of canned goods I made over the summer, and the batch of wine we make just before hand, I thought I would try my hand at something else: soap. Why soap? I'm a bit of a snob when it comes to soap, and have no problem paying extra for something really nice to make an ordinary shower extraordinary. (Anyone else wonder about that word, extraordinary? Funny how putting extra ordinary together makes it more than ordinary, but I digress). And with all the melt and pour stuff out there, I figured it couldn't be that hard, and I certainly wasn't going to start with making lye soap, being the klutz that I am and the nastiness of lye.
I decided the easiest method was a loaf soap, one that I could chop into even pieces, wrap up and give as presents. I used some essential oils, fragrance oils, natural spices and colours (and one synthetic colour) and an olive oil glycerine soap base and one goat's milk soap base. For molds, I went to the dollar store and bought aluminum loaf pans, 3 for a dollar. Here's how it went:
I bought a big glass measuring cup for melting the soap in. It came in 2 lb. slabs with grid marks for easy chopping in pieces. I melted it in the microwave in 30 second bursts, stirring in between each time, until I had it all melted down. I made 5 loaves (one a bit smaller than the rest, as I had just under a 2 lb. slab from years ago). Here's what they look like:
They came out of the aluminum molds (after hardening for a minimum of 8 hours) super easy, I just pulled the edges away from the soap, turned it upside down and popped them out.
Here's what each one looks like sliced up, and what I used to make it that way.
This is my caramelized banana bread soap. I put a couple of heaping tablespoons of oats at the bottom of the pan. I pureed a banana with some lemon juice with my immersion blender and added that, along with some banana caramel fragrance oil, to the base.
I'm calling this one Sea Spray. I put some chunky sea salt in the pan first. To the base I added an aqua colour and essential oils of lavender, lemon, grapefruit and peppermint.
This is using the goat's milk soap base, a Coffee and Cake soap. I added a couple of tablespoons of ground coffee to the base and some coffee cake and spice fragrance oil, stirring gently to get the coffee suspended throughout the soap. I could eat this, it smells so good!
They're all wrapped up in plastic wrap now, waiting to be prettied up with labels and ribbon. I'd like to get this as a Christmas gift, wouldn't you?