Making Soaps & Scents, Catherine Bardey

Making Soaps & Scents : Soaps, Shampoos, Perfumes & Splashes You Can Make At HomeOn my last trip to the local library, I checked out Catherine Bardey’s [amazon asin=1579120598&text=Making Soaps and Scents], thinking I could learn a few more recipes and tips for my new soap-making endeavor. The book is exactly what it advertises in the title—instructions for how to make soap and scents.

The Good: There are quite a few good ideas in this book, a helpful troubleshooting section (so if something goes wrong, you can determine what the problem is and whether you can fix it/how to fix it), a standard SAP index for figuring out how much lye and water to use depending on the oil type, and nice historical information (how well documented? not sure…). There are quite a few interesting variations, and Bardey includes recipes for shampoo bars and hair rinses—interesting idea. I love my shampoo, so I’ll have to think about it, but it could definitely be a fun gift. In addition, the scent section is interesting. I’m interested in trying solid perfumes, and she had no recipes for that, but who knew cologne could be made with vodka? Probably everyone but me, but I learned something, and that’s good. There is a healthy list of resources, but given the book is now thirteen years old, I’ll bet many of them are no longer available.

The bad: Almost all the soap recipes are based on her vegetable basic soap recipe or her animal basic soap recipe. She uses vegetable shortening in her soap, and I’ve heard of other folks using that, but what if I don’t want Crisco® in my soap? I would basically need to ditch the recipe and start with my own basic oil mixture and her additives, by which time, I may have created some sort of Frankenstein monster soap that won’t play nice with the additives (for all I know). I would have liked to have seen more variety in the recipes, and more discussion of the variety of oils. She doesn’t help out with that much aside from the SAP value chart in the back, and even then, there is no discussion of why you might use one oil over another and how that might impact your recipe. Which is huge! Another quibble I have with the book is that it is an odd size: 9.5 x 4.7 x 0.8 inches. In shape, it has roughly the same dimensions, length and width, as a standard envelope. That limited the size of the pictures. Soap-making books should have a ton of pictures, and this one has some good pictures, but not enough of them. I want to see more. A final quibble: no mention of using a stick blender to help you reach trace faster. In fact, Bardey discourages using hand mixers. Almost every website and book I’ve looked at recommends using stick blenders. I can’t believe that so many excellent soap-makers are wrong. Plus, my own experience is that it worked great. I can’t see why she discourages the use of anything but a wooden or stainless steel spoon. Seems odd to me, and I’d hate for a beginner to be put off soap-making by following that recommendation and finding the process more difficult and perhaps giving up. I know I wouldn’t want to be stirring the soap forever before something happened. Screw that.

The Verdict: This book has some good information, but it’s not for beginners, and is really not diverse enough to be worth hunting down to add to your collection. I found Basic Soap Making by Elizabeth Letcavage and Patsy Buck much more helpful for beginners as well as as a great addition to a more experienced soap-maker’s library. It has more variety in terms of recipes and more helpful information and pictures. I still learned some interesting information from Making Soaps & Scents, and for that reason, I think it’s worth checking out of the library (if your library has it), but it’s not the kind of book I’d consult more than once (well, maybe the troubleshooting section, but that’s it).

[rating:3/5]

New Hobbies

Some time back, I reviewed Basic Soap Making by Elizabeth Letcavage and Patsy Buck. I have been collecting soap recipes. Any time you start a new hobby, particularly one that requires any sort of specialized equipment, there is both expense and a learning curve involved, and I wanted to make sure I was really ready before I started. I made my first batch of soap today. It is currently saponifying (hardening into soap) in the kitchen. In fact, a little while ago, it looked like the soap in the picture to the left, though now, pretty much all of it is that darker color you see in the middle here. That is called the gel stage, and if you poke it, it feels like, well, a gel. After 24 hours, it should be hard enough to cut into bars, but it will have to cure for about a month before I can use it. If I were a little more handy or experienced, I would have taken pictures of the process as I went. I made the first basic recipe in the book, and I think I really expected it to flop because I was so excited when it turned out exactly as Letcavage and Buck said it would. I am really excited it turned out so well so far. I’ll know tomorrow if it worked. If you’re looking for a clear book with basic, easy-to-follow instructions for making soap, this one is definitely worth it. It’s nice when you can find a craft book with clear instructions that actually work. The pictures make everything easy to understand.

I have also acquired a new iPad through work, and I have to put in a plug for the Shakespeare’s Sonnets app. It’s utterly fantastic. While $13.99 is a little high for an app, if you consider all it includes—videos of each sonnet recited or interpreted by actors or scholars, video commentary on the sonnets, written annotations, essay commentaries, and facsimiles of the original publication, as well as the ability to add your own notes and mark your favorites—it’s worth the money. In fact, if you think about it, you would probably pay close to $13.99 for a good annotated collection of the sonnets, and it wouldn’t have all the other extras.

I have also discovered I enjoy watching Netflix on the iPad much more than on my computer or even my TV. It probably has to do with the computer being rather difficult for me to hold when viewing longer videos, but I’m not sure. It is similar to the issue I have with reading longer texts: I can’t read books on my computer, but articles are fine. Watching Netflix on TV through the Wii is fine, but unless I really wanted to curl up in front of the TV, I just didn’t do it much for whatever reason. Watching Netflix on the iPad, however, has turned out to be perfect for me. I decided I would finally start watching Doctor Who, which I had been meaning to check out for years—years! Finally, I started the first season of the new series, beginning with Christopher Eccleston, and I love it! I have been watching the first season most of last night and this afternoon. Something weird I notice, and I can’t stop myself: Rose Tyler’s mascara is always clumpy. It made me wonder if they had her do her own makeup. On the other hand, it lends an air of realism to the show. She seems more like a real person than an actress because her makeup isn’t perfect. I know. Weird. Surely, some of my fellow book geeks watch this show, right?

Basic Soap Making, Elizabeth Letcavage and Patsy Buck

[amazon asin=0811735737&text=Basic Soap Making] by Elizabeth Letcavage and Patsy Buck is a quick, easy-to-read basic instruction manual for beginners to homemade soap making. The book includes basic instructions for several kinds of soap as well as great information about handling lye and making your own mold and cutter (those wooden molds are very expensive!). The photographs are great, and the step-by-step directions seemed very easy to follow. I can’t wait to get started now!

I decided I wanted to learn to make soap, and the recipes I’ve found online and pinned on Pinterest look wonderful, but they’re not very basic, and I am definitely not sure I’m ready for them without trying more basic recipes first. I have always been a fan of homemade soap, and one of my favorite products is this great Dead Sea mud/spearmint/lavender soap I bought at the Riverside Farmers’ Market in Roswell. I can still order this soap online via the seller’s website for a fairly reasonable price, but seeing all her wares made me want to try making soap myself, and I especially wanted to see if I could learn to make soap as well as she does. The nice thing about making your own soap is that you can scent it with essential oils in your own favorite scents, and you can give soap as gifts, too.

It’s going to be a while before I can try my first batch, but I am really itching to start after reading this great little instruction manual.

[rating:5/5]