One of the truisms burned into my head over the years is that “dogs, cats, kids and gardens don’t care if you’re tired.” The work has to be done anyway, anyhow, however you feel and whatever else you feel like doing (such as watching multiple episodes of “No Reservations” while in your jammies). Everybody has to be fed, watered, often entertained and usually cleaned up after. (It’s a good day if someone in the house hasn’t had a barfing fit. With three cats and two large dogs, you know it’s just a matter of time. “Time” meaning “minutes.”)
With that recognized, it’s also good to be aware that your agenda isn’t the only one that’s active. For example, below is a shot from a second-floor window. That’s a bougainvillea asking to come in.
Yes, it has to be trimmed, but there’s a lot to be said for a bush so exuberant that it blasts itself up two stories in two months without any of the other residents of the household noticing it. This is a ninja bougainvillea. “This is not the bougainvillea you’re looking for.” The CIA should hire this plant and teach it to pick locks. It’s about three inches away from being able to peel open the window as it is. When you’ve got a landscaping plant suddenly waving at you cheerfully at the level of your second-floor office window, you get the idea that maybe it’s not all about you, what you want, or even what you do.
I’m ruminating about this because I “took the day off” yesterday. The world didn’t end, the animals aren’t all dead (well, the feedings did still occur) and there’s now a bougainvillea leaning in the window who wants to edit my posts. There’s also a soap that had to wait one extra day before I could unmold it, because it was a lot softer than I anticipated. I’d done a session on Friday, trying a new technique that scared the living daylights out of me. It demanded that I split the basic soap batter up into five separate containers for separate colors, and then layer them into a mold. The inspiration for the design came from a sunset photographed from the little island in the Caribbean.
The preparation for this moonshot was a little demanding.
Soapmaking (like dogs, cats, kids and gardens) doesn’t care if you want to take a break to put your feet up, have a cigarette, talk to your mom on the phone or catch the latest Facebook update. Saponification happens with a terrifying inevitability. First the lye-infused oil batter is thin and liquid; then it gets glossy, and then it “traces” more and more heavily, and not too long after that you’ve got soap on a stick. Once you’re on that train it’s not gonna stop. It’s alchemy at its most intense.
Accordingly, it is incumbent upon you to have your mise in order. You’re going to be working really fast.
Oils, molds, colorants, containers, fragrance — everything has to be in reach and the step-by-step process has to be followed precisely without fail.
I don’t have any photos of the actual making of the soap on Friday, because it really was that high-speed and that terrifying and I don’t have minions to take the pictures. (Where are my minions? Wasn’t I promised minions? Did the Kardashians take them all?) By the time I reached the fifth layer, the soap was setting up so hard I was afraid I wasn’t going to be able to pull it off. But somehow it all worked, and I put the mold to bed.
The next day I decided I was wiped out and wasn’t going to do anything I didn’t absolutely have to. So the soap contemplated itself, the garden managed its own affairs, the bougainvillea apparently grew another three feet and the animals entertained themselves, with some sub rosa assistance from Unbelievably Useful Husband. And when I rejoined the ranks of the responsible today, I unmolded the soap.
The fragrance is a rich, deep and fruit-laden indulgence, with a base of patchouli and just a hint of herbal grassiness to cut the sweetness. This is going to be a very creamy, sensual soap when it’s done curing. The cure will probably take a little longer than others, because I included more water in the recipe to slow down the saponification at the front end. The water must evaporate out to make the soap harder. And the evaporation cannot really be speeded up. It’s all time and patience, without me having to “do” anything at all. A lot like my Saturday.