crafting a batch of liquid ‘Castile’

I used the apostrophe on each side of the word castile because this is not a true castile in the strictest sense of the name. True castile is made solely with olive oil and no other oil. This batch is actually made with coconut oil in addition to the olive for the cleansing attributes it brings to the formulation as well as a nice foaming action. It also has no superfat because this is intended solely for the purpose of being a part of household cleansers, not skin care. If it was intended for personal use as a bath wash or hand wash, it would have included a lye discount of about 6% to be sure it was gentle of the skin.

Below you see melted oils in the crockpot (the marks are from the metal spoons I used to use) and the KOH & water solution is on the right before I got the process started. As stated before it’s a blend of coconut oil and olive oil melted on warm in the crock pot while the lye solution cools slightly. Once the oils were melted, the heat was turned off. It’s not really that important to cool it down so much, but I like to work with it at a cool temp for my own comfort.

The lye was added and stick blended until emulsified and slightly thickened. It will continue to thicken since it’s at this point that I turn the heat back on to warm and will stick blend periodically until it reaches a light to medium trace stage. This takes a bit longer with this blend due to the high amount of olive oil.

This was the point at which I added the glycerin. I then gave it a good turn over with a sturdy spoon, placed the lid on and set the heat to low. This is a slightly higher temp than warm, but it’s time for the cook and the vaseline stage is what we’re looking for next, so warm it is! The thick soap looks chunky because it is! After it was stick blended, and the two additional liquid added, it firmed a bit so it was chopped with a dedicated knife.

The cook time was about an hour and a half with stirs done every twenty minutes or so. Maybe a bit longer while I was washing up my utensils, but no harm done with the additional time. A quick test with phenolphthalein proved it to be done with saponification.

Now you can see that it has become slightly translucent, which is gel stage for a cooked soap (otherwise known as hot process when making bars) so now is the time to add the additional dilution water, cover, turn it to warm again and let it do its thing overnight while the thunderstorm rolls through. There’s just something extra special about making soap when it’s stormy, don’t you think? Very relaxing.

When the liquid is done, it will be poured into a large container and used for creating floor cleaners, liquid laundry soap, dish soap, and many other cleansers used around the house. Of course preservative will be added once this batch has cooled to below 140 degrees. As for whether it’s scented, we’ll see. I might like to have a scent in some of it but likely not all.

I just don’t like the harsh, often dangerous chemicals in most commercially made cleansers available now. So many contain things that are harmful to your health in numerous ways, it’s hard to know what to choose anymore, so a DIY seems the best solution now. Given my own personal health situation, it’s more important than ever that I reduce the amount of toxic substances in and around my house. We’ll follow up when it’s used in some of the formulations for the cleansers to see how they work.

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Forward

A simple enough word, right? Two easy syllables, offers direction, inspiration, information, whatever purpose you’re placing on it, yet…well, it’s harder to fulfill than you might think. Obstacles crop up constantly obstructing the view, preventing your progress from continuing forward, challenging you in ways you can’t even dream of while makng your journey.

Such is the case right now. My life is now a very different life from what it once was. One of uncertainty, doubt, fear, and pain. I’ve discovered there is a genetic mutation in my DNA. One that prevents my cancer from ever going away. Those killer cells will never turn off and go dormant due to that genetic mutation. The RBAF gene is what I was told is the villain in this story. So, I will never be free of cancer no matter how long I get treatments or how aggressively the doctors approach it.

I once imagined a long life filled with memories of my children being born, growing up, having babies of their own and my chance to spend time with them, bakig cookies and enjoying holidays together. Now, that’s not necessarily going to be a part of my life. It might, but then again, maybe not.

Still I will not give up. It might be stupidity, naiveté, or just denial, but it’s what I have to cling to at this point. And cling I will.

I have good days despite the chemotherapy and they help me feel like life is normal, despite that cloud at the horizon that lingers without exception. I’ve gained a few pounds recently that helps my clothes fit a bit better and pads my body when lying down or being seated on a firm surface. Foods don’t hurt me anymore nor do I break out with hives or feel that prickly feeling when HFCS is consumed accidentally or deliberately. The energy level is a bit better now too. Which is great since the weather is warming, the sun is shining more often and it’s time to enjoy the flower beds, hummingbird feeders and the scent of honeysuckle vines. It a time to find hope, strength and faith in the everyday things, the mundane and the extraordinary and I hope that you all will embrace it with everything you’ve got while you can because you don’t know when things will change to prevent that promise of a long, healthy, happy life.

In Search of Mojo

Since my diagnosis in December, things have been strange. Strained and strange. It’s sort of a process not entirely unlike grieving. Maybe it is grief. I’m grieving for the loss of my life as I once knew it. The old me died that day and now I’m someone else now that’s lost focus, lost a piece of themself, a certain level of confidence and innocence. All gone. This strange new world is one of uncertainty, pain, fear, and loss of quiet personal space. I’m open and raw every other week when I go for chemo. Everyone knows my secret, knows all my greatest fears & doubts and brings the up into the forefront and I have to face it, move beyond it, live despite it. But living beyond it is not a choice. It’s necessary. As I’ve told my doctors – all of them – I’m not done yet. Not by a long shot.

My life revolves around those two week intervals I spoke of in my last entry. But with each successive session of chemo, it gets easier to handle, to get through, to feel closer to normal sooner. The first one was horrendous and I’m not going to share all the gory details, but the aweful feeling I had lasted for ten days. I had three & a half days of good then a new chemo round was done. I was then back to square one, however, the lousy days didn’t last ten this time but more like seven to eight. Things were changing.

After the fourth round done just last week, I now have more good days than bad. Eating still causes pain, but that is getting lighter and easier to get past, even with something as simple as Tylenol. And I can eat most anything I want. Vegetables are a problem still, but a little bit, chopped, diced, minced, sliced or othrwise made much smaller or cooked to a softer state, are somewhat easier, but still not quite to the point that I’m ready to dive into a nice Asian Sesame chopped Salad. I wish, but no. Not yet.

I’m able to work again and have made a couple of batches of soaps since the diagnosis, mainly just in the past month. But I’ve noticed that my technique has suffered a bit. The texturing on the top is not what it once was. Swirls are not always what I expected. Colours I imagine in my head prior to making the batch aren’t quite matching up to what my final results are once out of the mold and cut. I’ve lost that mojo I had though my heart is fully in it. I’m not sure when it will come back or how many batches it will take to see improvement, but right now, I’m not reaching my own standard. I think the grief over that is the biggest hurt I feel now but it isn’t going to stop me from continuing forward.

Liquid soap, Body Wash, was done and it turned out to be one of the best batches I’ve made of my career so far. So, that elusive mojo is out there, just being a tease and flitting in and out again. Body Butter needs restocking, too, so I imagine that will be another success not requiriing swirls, fancy tops or colour saturation. Maybe that old mojo will come back with the body butter and stay for the rest. One can hope. I know I still do.

Life in 2-Week Intervals

There wa a day when I’d plan months in advance for things, knowing it would be possible to complete it, on time, in the right way, and all would go smoothly thereafter. Those days are gone.

I now live my life in 2-week intervals. Chemo takes me out of commission for several days following an session and darined completely once I’ve gone past that phase.

Chemo is done every two weeks so there are long, full days at a doctor’s office, then hours in an infusion chair, being pumped full of toxins to kill off the cancer but taking out good cells as well, like skin, hair, nails, lashes, eyebrows. It’s hard on the body, thus it follows that it’s hard on the mind as well.

You can’t see the battle being waged against your enemy, just feel its effects and hope it’s doing an effective job and one day you’ll be free from the chair, the poisons, the pain, and breathe easier, if only for a few years. With luck it would be many years.

My poor business has suffered greatly from this battle I’m fighting now because I have so little energy, I can’t get around to the things I need to do in a timely manner. Products not only needs to be made but packaged, shipped, photographed, listed as available or sold out, and described with enough finesse to make it something everyone feels they must try. It’s hard to get all that aligned when you don’t have the energy to get up off the sofa. Naps are all I crave in those days just after an infusion.

Work still needs to continue though and I’m doing what I can when I can while I can. Even liquid soap! That was the one thing I needed most and though it takes about four solid days of didicated attention to get it just right, it’s now done and it’s exactly the way I wanted it to be, thick, abundantly lathering, fragrant with a favorite scent, soothing on dry, tortured skin. I took a portion for myself from the initial pour-off to scent and try out just this morning and have to say the addition of coco betaine has made a world of difference in the viscosity and lathering of the soap! It’s fantastic on the skin, too! I also included a bit of sea keep biioferment for a film-forming attribute. I’m completely thrilled with how it turned out and hope my customers will feel the same.

After the smashing success of the body wash, it’s hard to figure out what should come next, but something certainly needs to come along to keep the business vital, invigorated, and relevant. Time to scour the stock on shelves and see what we need to place at the top of the To-Do List. Let’s just hope it isn’t another two weeks before I feel like making something else for restocking or new additions!

It’s the little things

When dealing with larger-than-life- issues like cancer or a physical disability from an amputation or loss of eyesight, the little things tend to fade into the background quickly. Little things like watching a favorite show, listening to calming music, crafting something that holds meaning to you, and the list goes on. Big things crowd out the little ones in disproportionate measure due to the sheer volume of the serious nature of our current health issues. It gets harder and harder to find that bliss, that zen.

Doing quiet things, like this blog, is one way to take back the quiet times. Rediscover that serenity and all other things can be faced much easier and more effectively as well. I’ve been remiss in writing, I’ll admit to it. It’s something that fell far down the totem pole of priorities after health, taxes, home issues and more crowding them out, but that must change or the bigger things cannot be addressed without chaos. Mental chaos.

Despite falling asleep during a simple blink on a regular basis because my pain meds knock me out, despite not being able to eat to regain all the weight I’ve lost thanks to this colon cancer that was recently found, despite all the treatments harsh side effects knocking me back on my heels, it’s time to return to a state of semi-normalcy and that’s what I intend to do. I might not be able to drive thanks to the drugs, but I can at least do small tasks towards the business that will give me peace in my head and my heart. The rest will follow. They always do.

I’ve restarted working in the Bubble Hut again and it felt like going back to the home of a dear friend. One I cannot live without. One soap bar batch has been restocked, Green Tea-Nectarine, and now I’m working on the Body Creams, two fragrances at a time. Small things. Those beloved little things that mean so much because when viewed collectively, they become bigger than the heavier, darker, more serious big things, crowding them out rather than the other way around. That sets the world back to rights for me.

Just a quick word

I’ve noticed, with a lot of sadness, that my followers in Facebook are leaving. I’m not sure if it’s because I have not posted anything new or because I announced my illness but either way, it still hurts to lose fans and friends.

I have every intention of continuing my business for as long as I draw breath and that should continue for a long time to come. Sadly the illness I have does not have a reputation for excellent survival rates but the odds are improving every day. I’m receiving the best of care from the best doctors in our nation and have faith in their skill to bring me through it.

I plan to return to my crafting of bath & body goods once my body is mended sufficiently and the mind is clear of other distractions to create again with our Spring line of products along with restocks of Body Cream and Body Wash.

For those that have not left my page, thank you for your faith in me. For those that did not wait for my return, I’m so very sorry you’ve left us and you will be missed.


The One Thing

I’ve been making soaps, lotions, body washes & butters a long time, more than 10 years and loved every minute of it. It’s always provided that zen moment in the day that so many crave but don’t often find on the job. Tranquility and work are, to many, exclusive of one another. That’s never been the case with me since going into business for myself full-time rather than as a sideline. The other job was draining in every possible way while my work here replenished that part of me that had been shredded during the course of a day. My job allowed that creative portion of my brain to thrive and that fed me like the richest of foods for mind, body, and spirit.

Then something changed. In last summer and into early fall, I was not feeling my usual self. Off. Something was wrong but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I was tired all the time, easily exhausted, and wound up taking naps almost every day. My back was hurting a lot despite never having any problems with my back in any part of my life up to then. It was aching and deep. Muscle creams did not help for long. Heating pads helped somewhat but who can walk around with a heating pad strapped to their back and hope for a plug to be available everywhere they go?

The back pain became excruciating over time though I’d still put it down to damage done from all the heavy lifting I had to do during the course of a day. I should have known better and seen someone sooner.

Once I finally saw someone over this constant pain it had become serious and turns out it was cancer that had begun in my colon and spread to my liver.

I’m now on a new journey, one of recovery and finding the strength to pay closer attention to what my body is telling me instead of ignoring it to get the daily grind behind me. On this journey, I will take with me gained knowledge and a thirst for more to discover what I can do to improve my approach to work, living well, and how to get over the need to do it all myself and let others help me more because I am NOT superhuman.

I have stumbled, yes, but have not fallen. I have too much to reach for now to stop fighting and will continue to fight every step of the way until I reach the other side of this war. Every step will be an awareness of that one thing that has kept me going through the years. It is That One Thing that keeps me calm, gives me respite from a crazy world, smoothes my ruffled soul, soothes the pain that doesn’t want to end. I have my big, beautiful, loving family and my beloved work plus so much more to motivate me to always keep opening the curtains to each new day and drink it in.