Archives for April 2017

Homemade Coconut Oil Soap

It’s not always about food on the blog. I like to experiment in the kitchen with natural home care and body care too; making my own glass cleaner using cheap vodka, water and essential oils. I brush my teeth with simple baking soda, and wash my face with honey, using apple cider vinegar as a toner. And in the past year and a half I started making my own coconut oil soap! How about you? Do you try to be chemical free in your home and with your body care? Well, if the answer is yes, I think you’re going to love giving this recipe a try. There is ONE tough ingredient to deal with when making homemade soap, but once you get over that, you are GOLDEN.

homemade coconut oil soap with essential oils

I never thought I’d actually be able to make homemade soap. Every time I looked it up online, or read about it in a book, it always seemed SO complicated. And dealing with lye seemed extremely scary – so I would always just buy it at the store. Then after I broke out in the all body rash in 2015, with no real explanation, I was willing to try anything to keep it simple when it came to my skincare. In searching for a soap recipe that DIDN’T use lye, I found this amazing recipe for coconut oil soap instead. Heather from Mommypatamus made it seem so simple and attainable for me to do at home. Thank you Heather! <3

homemade coconut oil soap with aroma foundry essential oils

This new essential oil company produces some excellent smelling oils. Check them out at Aroma Foundry.

Needless to say my first batch ended up overflowing out of the crock pot, and I was a stress case due to dealing with that pesky, caustic, lye which might burn my skin. It didn’t go as well as Mommypatamus’, that’s for sure.

However, Mr. Zuccchini Runner really liked how the soap turned out and kept asking me when I was going to make it again. This was after the 3 successful bars I squeezed out of the original batch were gone.

Eventually I built up enough courage to give it another shot. This time, I had a large enough crock pot and at least I knew what to expect. I also skipped trying to put the soap in molds, because this stuff hardens up QUICK. We are talking within a couple minutes. NO TIME FOR MOLDS PEOPLE. Which actually makes it easier in the long run. You can just dump it all straight into a parchment-paper-lined loaf pan. Once it hardens, you simply cut it into the desired thickness of bars and you are done.

homemade coconut oil soap

Homemade Coconut Oil Soap {and Shampoo Bar too!}

First of all, I want to give you a little bit of science behind soap-making, because I think it is very useful when diving into making your own soap.

A few facts… (source)

  • If there is no lye, there is no soap. When you use a bar of soap, you are using soap, there is no lye left. Lye is used to MAKE the soap, but is not IN the soap.
  • SOAP is a result of a chemical reaction between LYE and FAT, called saponification. So neither of the original ingredients – fat or lye – exist in the finished bar of soap.
  • If you add more FAT than is required for the chemical reaction to take place, it’s called “superfatting”. Which ensures all the lye is consumed during the chemical reaction process.
  • This is a superfat recipe.

Secondly, yes, you read that headline correctly. Not only do I use this soap to wash my body, I also use it to wash my hair. This comes in very handy when in a hurry, traveling, or camping. No liquids to pull out of my bag at airport security checks and since one bar does it all, I save storage space in my bag for more important things — like running gear. I don’t need to condition my hair with every wash either when using this shampoo bar.

Homemade Coconut Oil Soap
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Homemade Coconut Oil Soap


Before you begin, you will need:

crock pot – 8 quart

immersion blender

digital scale


glass measuring cup

small glass bowl

designated wooden spoon (use ONLY for soap making)

glass bowl filled with white vinegar and water for neutralizing anything that comes in contact with lye. (Also clean with soap after neutralized.)

protective equipment: long-sleeved shirt, pants, plastic/rubber gloves, safety glasses (I use my running sunglasses; they work great)

standard size loaf pan

parchment paper (for lining the loaf pan)

apron (optional; you can also just wear "junk" clothes or painting clothes)

Soap Ingredients

33 oz. coconut oil, (be sure you don't get the fractionated kind) 

4.83 oz. lye (sodium hydroxide; NaOH)

12.54 oz. water

1 oz. essential oil(s)


    1. Gather all of your necessary equipment and ingredients before beginning.

    2. Dress in long sleeves and pants. Wear an apron you don't mind getting dirty or wear old clothes.

    3. Ensure your kitchen is very clean. Dishes away, no dishes in the sink, except your glass bowl of white vinegar and water. I usually dump about 1/2 to 1 cup of vinegar into the bowl of water.

    4. Weigh all your ingredients, into the following glass containers. **Be SURE to account for the weight of the each container before the addition of the ingredient:

    • water - glass measuring cup

    • coconut oil - large glass bowl

    • lye granules - small glass bowl

    5. Add your coconut oil to your crockpot to melt. I have to put mine on high to achieve a temperature of 120*F.

    6. While the coconut is melting, get your protective eyewear and gloves on. Take the lye granules and water outside, along with your wooden "LYE ONLY" spoon. **IMPORTANT** ADD THE LYE TO THE WATER. This order is very important, because if you do it the other way, it will essentially boil over and you'll have a nice, big, chemical mess. So, as you add the LYE TO THE WATER, stir with your wooden spoon, being careful not to inhale any of the vapors. Do not touch the glass, it will be HOT. Stir until the granules are dissolved; the mixture will be cloudy. Leave mixture outside to cool and clear up for about 10-12 minutes. Be sure no animals/pets go near it either. It is extremely alkaline and hot, and will burn.

    7. You can prepare your essential oils while the lye finishes clearing up. For this batch, I mixed one bottle of Tangerine and one bottle of Lavender essential oils by Aroma Foundry. {This has been my favorite combo so far, I really loved these clean and crisp scents. And, the tangerine oil made the bars a beautiful pale yellow. The house smelled like a spa all day!} I dumped each bottle into one small glass bowl, to have it ready to go later.

    8. Using your thermometer, test the temperature of the coconut oil. It should be close to 120*F.

    9. Check your lye outside. If it is clear, it is ready to go. Wearing your protective gear, bring the lye inside and add to the melted coconut oil in the crockpot, stirring with the wooden spoon.

    10. Add the glass measuring cup to the vinegar bowl in the sink, along with the lye spoon.

    11. Using the immersion blender, and definitely still wearing your protective gear, start blending the lye mixture and coconut oil using a figure 8 pattern. Do this for roughly 10 minutes. You will get a good arm workout! The goal is to finish with a pudding-like consistency. (See pictures in slideshow)

    12. Place your immersion stick (without motor of course) into the vinegar bowl in the sink.

    13. Cover the crockpot with a lid, and turn heat to low. Let cook for roughly 2 hours. (Heather's recipe says 45 minutes to an hour, but mine always takes much longer. I think it's due to the variation in crock pots.) So just keep an eye on it, and ensure it doesn't overflow. If it gets close to the top, use your wooden spoon to stir and knock it down.

    14. Get your loaf pan ready, by lining it with parchment paper. (see slideshow)

    15.The saponification process is happening at this point! It will start to curl into itself in the center of the pot. Once there are no pools of oil remaining, your soap is complete. It will look like vaseline; sort of transparent. You should also test a tiny bit on your tongue, to see if it tastes like soap. Don't swallow it, just tap it to your tongue. (I always give this job to Mr. Zucchini Runner.) If it zings back, it is not ready. If it tastes like soap, you are good!

    16. Turn off the crockpot. Remove the ceramic pot from the heating element and stir well to release some heat. If you don't want any essential oils, just pour the soap directly into your parchment paper lined loaf pan. If you DO want a scent, now is the time to add it to the soap. It is best if you let it cool slightly before adding, so the essential oils don't lose their scent! But don't wait to long, because once the soap is removed from the heat, you have less than 5 minutes before it begins to harden. Move fast! Dump into the parchment lined loaf pan once your scented oils are added.

    17. Let cool on the counter for about 2 hours. If you wait too long, the loaf will get pretty hard and difficult to cut. I like cutting mine when the loaf is still warm, but not soft in the middle. Cut as thick or thin as you like. We do about 1/2-3/4" thick.

    18. Let cool completely before wrapping and storing.

    NOTE: This recipe for homemade coconut oil soap produces a very thick lather, so it's best to use with a washcloth to get the most out of each bar. Also, store away from water, to ensure it lasts as long as possible. In other words, don't let it sit in a pool of water after your are done with your shower.
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Homemade Coconut Oil Soap and Shampoo Bar {Slideshow}

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Have you ever made homemade soap before? What are your favorite essential oil scents you’d like to try in homemade soap?

homemade coconut oil soap and shampoo bar

Pick your essential oil scents.

Adventures in Gardening – Part 2

Do you ever have one of those days, where you just can’t get your to-do list completed, and eventually you end up in tears because there have been so many obstacles? Yeah. Today is one of those days. At one point, I rolled back from my desk, grabbed a hummus packet in my right hand and tucked a bag of gluten-free crackers under my right arm — keeping my left hand free to grab, scoop and shove in mouth. I did this while I checked the mail first; nothing. Then went out back, crackers under arm still, crunching away, and went to check on our new “babies” as I’m calling them. (Hey, we can’t make humans, so we might as well get some help from Mother Nature.)

As my bare feet touched the dirt, and I stood looking at our almond trees, a little yellow butterfly fluttered in and landed on a branch of the one we are calling Aria. (Just… don’t ask… we are quirky.) And suddenly, I felt my shoulders relax and I took a deep cleansing breath. The troubles of the day didn’t seem quite so important anymore.

almond tree urban garden

Some of you may remember back in March of 2014 when we did Adventures in Gardening Part 1. We created two raised garden beds so we could grow our own veggies. It was a ton of fun, not a lot of work, and we did get a lot of great produce — but over time life got hectic and the garden took a backseat. Mostly because we needed to replace about half of the dirt, which we are doing this weekend! And secondly because we quickly found out that the raised bed location is only good for a Summer garden here in AZ. In Winter, it is TOO protected by the house and doesn’t get enough sun. There are plans to create a second set of beds, but first, the TREES. The trees are the whole reason this post is going up on the blog!

raised bed garden

Years ago, when we kickstarted this project with the raised beds, we had this vision of our huge backyard full of fruiting trees and raised garden beds. But as I said life happened and let’s be honest – we knew it would be a huge undertaking. So nothing ever happened… until a week ago Sunday.

It all starts with my cousin, Anne, telling me about this guy Jake Mace, a vegan athlete who lives in Tempe, AZ and grows fruits and vegetables in his front and backyard.

😱 What!? How the heck did I not know about this guy yet!? LOL

She then proceeded to send me video after video on YouTube, where Jake was giving tours and gardening tips for AZ, in his backyard. Seriously, where have you been all my life Jake? I am not a good reader; I’m more of a podcast listener and video watcher. So this is JUST what I needed. As we both went further down the rabbit hole of YouTube videos, we also noticed Shamus O’Leary popping up a lot. Shamus owns a private tree nursery in Phoenix, and Jake buys his trees from Shamus, so he was featured in many of his videos. (And I should also state, Anne found out about these guys from her friend too… community is so important everyone!)

After a few days of watching online and getting excited for the possibilities in our own backyards, it was time to head over to the nursery ourselves. (Anne said she was going to make an appointment, and I asked if I could tag along! haha)

At the nursery we both had saucer eyes at the possibilities of growing tropical fruit in our backyards. 😀 That’s when we met Brandon from Greenie’s Garden. He answered a ton of questions we had (including many from my curious “nephew”, aka cousins’ son) and we both walked out of there with 3 trees each. We even managed to squeeze them into her little car!

Trees from shamus o'leary nursery

Our backyard is FULL of big, heavy, hot rocks (see below) — along with a huge patch of pointless grass. I had no plan for how we were going to move all the rocks and start planting the trees, I just figured we’d make it work. So, I bought an almond tree, tiger fig tree and blueberry bush as a way to kickstart our vision — finally. I kept thinking; the time is going to pass anyway, just get moving and do SOMETHING. A little progress is better than no progress. Even if we had to hand shovel rocks into wheelbarrow’s and move them closer to the side gate for professional removal later. And that’s what we’ve been doing. Slow and steady progress with a big push this last Sunday.

urban garden

Thank you

It would be hard for me to accurately express in words how grateful I am for all the people who have come into my life this past week. I have not met Jake in person – yet – but every time I’m watching his YouTube videos, I think of how grateful I am to him for sharing his knowledge and journey to creating a backyard garden, or technically microclimate, with his viewers. I’m grateful for Brandon for being so helpful all the times we’ve stopped by Shamus’ nursery. I’m grateful for Shamus and his clear passion for growing trees, and helping to empower people to grow their own food. And of course I am grateful to my cousin for kickstarting all of this, by sharing her friend’s experience. It’s been like a beautiful domino effect and I’m so happy the chips are falling into place!

Below is a slideshow with a little more details on the process, and how it came to life! I’m so excited this ball is rolling and we are working towards that dream of having a backyard full of trees and more raised beds! I’ll keep you posted!

Do you have a garden or do you like gardening?

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