Soap-istry. Cleanliness is next to craziness.

I’ve been itching to do new things for months! One thing I’ve decided to give a go to is making soap. Yep, soap. Not the lye soap Granny Clampett made out next to the cement pond. I want to make some quality artisnal soaps.

So far I have made three different soaps: Castile, Coconut and Olive Oil, and Goat Milk #1.

I’ve had many of the things I need to make soap for a long time. I’ve been inching my way to it. My fear, like many others, is using the lye. That’s some nasty stuff until the saponification process is complete.

After reading up on several methods, so far I’ve preferred the hot process of making soap. It’s faster and you don’t have to focus on temperature as much. And honestly, I get impatient in the beginning of new projects and if I can’t get some decent result early I won’t move on to something more difficult.

The Castile soap doesn’t lather. That’s just the nature of that particular soap. It is very mild, even good for children. I’m not sure I feel clean after I use it.

Freshly poured Castile.

Soaps with coconut oil will lather, so I split a recipe 50/50 olive and coconut. It does lather nicely, but it seems to dry my hands out. Maybe it isn’t the soap, since my arms don’t feel dry.

Half olive oil half coconut.

The goat milk soap. Well, it isn’t ready to test yet. It didn’t set up like the other soaps, so I am wondering if it will turn out at all. I adapted another recipe to make it and it is possible I can’t do that. When it’s ready I’ll let you know.

Thinking outloud in the fog

Today is a difficult day. There is no one reason. The weather is great. The sun is shining, the air is warm with a light breeze. 

I finally got my compost bin assembled. It was frustrating. There were no actual instructions. There were five pictures on the side of the box that gave an idea of what to do. 


I cleaned up the back porch a little. I put down the recycled rubber stepping stones near the bird feeder. The grill is out  of propane so I packed it up for the winter. 

It was when I sat on the back porch the weirdness seeped in. The warm sun passed midday and flooded the chair. Little birds busied themselves at the feeder, ignoring me as I watched. 

In the distance I could hear the squeals  and laughter of elementary kids getting in one last day of outdoor recess. I miss that sound. It brings back memories of life when my sons were small. 

Thinking of all the preps needed before Thanksgiving next week melancholy  over comes me. This is the fourth year without Bryan, and the first without my mother. 

So I sit. 

A text message jerks my mind back to the present and I go inside. And as if a gift from my Boxer Jack,  I find Attack Cat snuggled up on the dog pillow napping. 

Shaking my head the smile on ny face announces my complete weakness where kittens are concerned. “I’ll put him out later,” I think. 

Upcycle Holiday Ornaments

I know many households where the Christmas decorations look like a Macy’s display. You will not find an ornament out of place. Every angel is color coordinated to match the LED lights, which twinkle in synchronicity to holiday music. Perfect bows in perfect places.

Not at my house.

The ornaments decorating the tree in my home have been decades in the making. The oldest are a few “Made In China” cloth pillows and parasols purchased for the first tree I had as a grown adult. I spent less than $30 for the tree and all my decorations. It was all we could afford on a PFC’s salary in 1982.

There are decorations I received as gifts from clubs, and friends. Six beautiful snowflakes, painstakingly crocheted with love and the smallest crochet hooks I ever saw in the tiny, wrinkled hands of my grandmother’s sister, Charlotte. I even have the Santa made from felt circles given to me the Christmas I spent at Wilford Hall Medical Center, on bedrest carrying my son.

The ornaments that bring tears to my eyes every year without fail are the ones my sons made me. A simple photograph with Santa taped to the back of a construction paper ornament. A pinecone with red and green splotches of paint. A simple block of fabric tied with ribbon around a cotton ball with a poem about the love tucked inside rests at the top of the tree every year.

This year, take some time with the children or grandchildren to make a memory or two for your tree. Here is a simple idea you can do in a day with things you should already have around the house. You will need:

  • 12 canning jar lids – preferably used
  • White spray paint
  • Chalkboard paint (optional)
  • Acrylic craft paint
  • Sharpie markers (optional)
  • Cotton balls and/or craft balls
  • Craft glue
  • Twine
  • Hammer and nail

Keeping with the purpose of upcycling, wash and thoroughly dry a dozen of those used canning jar lids you have saved. Spray with white paint, two coats if needed.

Sketch a few faces on some paper to serve as a visual guide. Using craft paint and a small bristle brush paint a face on each lid. Glue cotton to the top for a fuzzy hat. Colorful fuzzy balls on each side simulate earmuffs or beanie top. Punch a hole in the top with the hammer and nail. Measure a length of twine to hang.

Alternatively, paint lids with chalkboard paint to share Christmas messages.

I really would love to hear your thoughts on these upcycle projects, and ideas for those you’d like to see. Contact me by phone at (304) 460-5639. I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Glorious New Year!

Robin’s Upcycle is located in Kanawha County, WV. Open by appointment. Phone 304-460-5NEW (5639). For info, visit facebook.com/robinsupcycle