My Blob of Home Made Soap and Other Homesteady Things in Denver

Part of what I was really looking forward to doing when we got to Denver was having access to tools and supplies so that we could make some stuff. Mike has been making his own amazing granola and thinking about making yogurt. I’ve been making other stuff — with mixed results.

Two weekends ago, a friend and I took a soap-making class in the shared kitchen of an intentional community for seniors. “What’s an intentional community” you might ask? I’m not really sure. But it was in Boulder, so it definitely has something to do with sharing, caring, rainbows, and kittens… and in our case, home made, natural soap made with essential oils. This class was mostly a demonstration since, according to Fight Club, lye is pretty hardcore and there was only 1 pair of gloves. So much for sharing.

We were given some essential oils and herbs to mix in to our own little cups of soap and sent home to let it cure. After 3 days, it was supposed to make a little cup-shaped bar. Mine was too mushy, so by the time I got it out of the cup, it was a disaster. Or, I mean, exquisitely supple enough to be formed into a rustic ball…

Bar fail. This is my ball of soap.
Bar soap fail. This is my ball of soap.

So now I have a ball of soap that needs to cure for another couple of months before it’s actually ready to be used. Me: 0 / Soap: 1

However, I was not discouraged. I continued on my quest to learn more homesteady things, so last week, I found a pickling class via and made a whole pile of pickles. Did you know that butternut squash and cauliflower make awesome pickles? As it turns out, they do.

Left to right: cucumber, cauliflower, zucchini, and butternut squash pickles. Learn how to do this from the amazing Julie of the Dynamic Shallot.

These pickles are amazing! And we didn’t even have to wait 2 months to eat them. Now Mike and I are a little obsessed with making our own pepperoncinis.

I was just a few minutes late to my pickling class. This was partly because I thought the door was locked to the building and I didn’t think anyone was in there. It was also partly because I had just been next door at the bike workshop, sprucing up my sweet ride.

I used to volunteer as a mechanic at this bike shop before we hit the road. But since I hadn’t touched a tool or a bike for the past 12 months, my skills were a little rusty. After I got over my initial hiccups of putting my bike on the stand the wrong way and trying to relearn how to adjust center-pull brakes, things went pretty smoothly… if you consider 4 volunteers standing around my bike scratching their heads over why the brake cables didn’t seem to fit in my new brake levers to be smooth. It was baffling, really.

Then all of a sudden, it was T-minus 45 minutes until pickle time and I still had to replace both brake levers with their corresponding and cables and housing and then wrap the handle bars. My bike is my only vehicle and leaving this project incomplete was not an option. So I commandeered my bike and just made it happen — with 2 minutes to spare.

It wasn’t until after pickle class, at about 9:00 pm, when it was dark and had been raining all evening, that it occurred to me that I hadn’t had time to test my brakes. Ha! Good thing I do good work, eh? (fingers were still kind of crossed on that one)

My sweet ride is now yellow and green.
My sweet ride is now yellow and green with bar brake levers instead of bar end brake levers.

So by now, I’ve made soap, eaten more pickles than I normally do in a year, and have functioning brakes on my bike (which would have been useful a few weeks ago when I was dive-bombed by a goose in the park, but that’s all water under the bridge).

However, my need to make stuff with my hands is apparently insatiable. On Friday, we had possibly the most beautiful weather Denver has seen yet. It was gorgeous. I wanted nothing more than to hit a patio for lunch, and then again for dinner. But my body had other plans. It was time for me to be sick instead. AWESOME. That’s my favorite way to spend a gorgeous weekend. So after 2 whole days of being exhausted and confused and weird and eating goldfish and seltzer water, I decided I needed to make something — NOW. I also decided that this thing was going to be a dress and that I was going to make it on the cheap by using a bed sheet from the thrift shop. Why? I don’t know. I was crazy for the 2 days leading up to this decision. I can only tell you the facts.

Between the bouts of crashing out on my bed and looking at patterns online, it took me all day to put my dang pants on and walk to the thrift shop. But I made it there and back and I got to snipping and sewing.

Oooh look at you, you paisley pillowcase. You're about to be awesom-ified.
Oooh look at you, you paisley pillowcase. You’re about to be awesom-ified.
The roughed-together garment
The roughed-together garment
Take that, bed sheet! I just went all Maria-Sound-Of-Music on your ass.
Take that, bed sheet! I just went all Maria-Sound-Of-Music on your ass.

I didn’t have a pattern. Instead I just kind of roughly traced each panel of an existing dress onto the fabric. I did a really crappy job at that stage. I was hot. I was still a little crazy. I had to take breaks every few minutes. So it is a near miracle that the dress came out as well as it did. And now that I’ve gotten this step under my belt (which as you can see, is made of bed sheet as well), I can move on to making my own customized travel clothes.


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