I cannot believe it is November. It has been so warm here in Wisconsin. Flowers are still blooming, I am still watering pots, and we have been outside with green grass, short sleeves, and iced drinks. It is unbelievable, but I keep hearing that little voice saying only a few weeks until G's birthday and Thanksgiving, and only a few more weeks until winter solstice and Christmas --- you are soooooo behind on gift making. Why yes, yes I am.
I am sure you are all much better than I, and have been cranking away at handmade gifts and goodies for months. I seem to transition from all of the garden work season to holiday making season and when garden work continues for so long the rest gets pushed off. I have so many great recipes for hand made goodies in my pile of things to blog that I never blogged, so I think I will share them over the next few weeks. Since some are old and some are new and some were for our home projects, I won't out our gifts to any family members (which is always the worry this time of year), and I will also motivate myself to get rolling on the making. After I water all of my pots with iced tea in hand, of course.
The in-between of handmade things - from small kids (find something safe! and easy! and cute!) to teens (I know what I want to make and don't need your input, thanks!) - is the tween and early teen crafting making phase. The phase where the project needs to be interesting and cool enough for them to want to join you and actually do it all themselves thankyouverymuch, but short enough to not seem like some mad mom thing. They want to make gifts for people and they want to feel involved, but they want to be interested. This melt and pour herbal soap falls into that category. My tween (soon to be 12) son loves working with me on all of my aromatherapy projects and assignments. He wants to know about the chemistry and whip things up and use all of my special measuring devices that I reserve only for that stuff (so!many!cool!measuring!devices!and!stir!rods!). My 13 year old son is in the wellllllll maybeeeeeeeee but I'm pretty busssssssyyyyyy phase, but even he enjoys something that resembles a DIY:Sci science project. No, it isn't dangerous and doesn't blow up, but the big grated ball of m&p is microwaved until it is a liquid and you get to pour it into molds, so that is fun. And they have something to give that they made.
Melt and pour has a bad rap for being meh, but there are some very good quality organic versions out there (and palm free options!) and it is great for the tweens as it doesn't involve the lye and caustic chemicals of processed soaps, but it is something that they can make and customize. Or, you can make it yourself. No tweens needed. I like the addition of dried herbs from our garden in m&p soaps. They add some skin nourishing properties, they give it more of an earthy homemade feel, and they look nice.
herbs: This recipe combines lavender and calendula, both of which are soothing, relaxing, and healing. Combine ingredients to suit what you have in your herbal cabinet – try adding items such as dried rose petals, dried chamomile, or dried mint leaves. Tweak your fragrance to match your additions.
molds: You can use soap molds of course, but don’t be afraid to get creative. Using muffin tins or silicone candy molds work great and give a great variety of patterns. I used a metal mini cake mold for this batch.
16 ounces/475 mL of organic m&p soap*, grated (try a natural glycerin, aloe, or hemp type - choose your favorite)
3 Tbsp honey (optional)
4 Tbsp dried calendula petals
2 Tbsp dried lavender buds
1 Tbsp apricot kernel oil or avocado oil
1/8 tsp vitamin E (from bottle or pierce a vitamin E capsule)
You can make the soap using only the base, oils, honey, and herbs. But to add some additional fragrance, you can add a blend of essential oils. This mild earthy citrus blend goes well with the calendula and lavender and has a nice uplifting aroma.
8 drops bergamot essential oil
30 drops mandarin
45 drops lavender
13 drops cedarwood
or if you like a more floral blend, try
45 drops lavender
25 drops sweet orange
8 drops sandalwood
7 drops neroli
3 drops ylang ylang
Don't panic. If you are thinking you want to make this but using only two essential oils - you can't go wrong with lavender + sweet orange.
Oil your molds if using metal tins, or follow instructions if using soap mold or silicone.
Melt your m&p soap base. There are two ways you can melt your grated soap base. You can melt gently in a double boiler on your stove, or you can microwave in a microwave safe bowl, stirring !very! !gently! (to help prevent foamy bubbles) every 30 seconds or so until melted. When melted, quickly and gently stir in your honey, vitamin E, and base skin oils. Pre-heat your honey a bit so it will stir in - if you pour it in fairly cold it will clump and sink. Add your essential oils, and finally add in the calendula petals, stirring carefully and gently to not add bubbles.
Pour this mix into the molds gently to avoid too much bubbling. After cooling for only a minute, sprinkle the lavender buds over the top. They will sink in, but not all the way to the bottom this way. If you wait too long they will just sit on top, not sink and harden into the soap.
You can gently remove any bubbles at the edges using a skewer or chopstick, so that the bar will dry smooth.
Let the soap harden and cool fully before removing from the molds. If you are using metal tins, let the soap cure/dry in the tray so that they shrink enough to pop right out the next day. If you are using soap or silicone molds, remove from the mold to cure/dry on a tray for a day or two before wrapping.
Package the soaps in a little box or wrap with ribbon or string. Gift away (and keep a few for yourself!).
*Not all melt and pour soap is alike. Look for organic vegetable glycerin melt and pour. It doesn’t have any harsh petrochemicals and is a gentle and environmentally-friendly base. There are palm oil free versions, and even aloe, honey, or hemp! You can choose an organic goat milk type of m&p as well (although herbs won’t show as much). We stick with non-animal based soaps since my son has severe dairy allergies and cannot even bathe with them.
Mountain Rose Herbs
Bulk Herb Store
I am a certified aromatherapist, clinical herbalist, organic gardener, plant conservationist, photographer, writer, designer, artist, nature lover, permaculturist, health justice activist, whole foods maker, and mother of two unschooled boys in south central Wisconsin.