Handmade Soap with Olive Oil

We’ve been busy making soaps. Why? Because once you try a high quality handmade soap made from luxury oils like olive oil, you’ll never use a commercial soap again. No kidding. Your skin will thank you.

Finished handmade olive oil soap with lavender

Finished handmade olive oil soap with lavender

I’ve had a rough few months as I’ve been repairing and healing my liver and kidneys, both damaged by the ibuprofen that I took over the summer to help with the pain and inflammation of a slipped disc.

Yuck. It’s really not nice to be ill for months and months.  Had I done my homework before agreeing to take the drug, I never would have taken it. But it was the beginning of our busy summer, I was in awful pain and there was no one else to do the work I needed to do.

I happen to be quite sensitive to pharmaceuticals anyway, but the thing that astounds me is how many doctors and pharmacists tell me (after the fact, mind you) that ibuprofen and all of the NSAID drugs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) have this negative effect on quite a few people and can be in fact very dangerous. The doc who gave me an echo-gram the other day seemed genuinely surprised that the back specialist didn’t warn me about the possible effects. Go figure. You can buy this drug over the counter.

Part of the healing process from a toxic overload is to stay away from all things that my body considers toxic. This being winter time, I’ve had some time to delve into studying what is toxic, why it’s toxic and where these substances are used. It’s a scary world.

Now for years I’ve been careful and somewhat conscience of my buying choices and have chosen “natural”, “eco” and “organic” products whenever possible since my children were born, and that was 27 years ago! Gosh…time flies.

Cosmetics, toiletries, soaps, detergents, etc. are often chock a block full of things you probably would never go near if you learned about them.

Soap is no exception. My skin is very sensitive and inflamed as result of the liver damage, so what I put on it has become very important to me.

I examined the “natural” olive oil soap I recently purchased only to discover that only a small percentage is olive oil, and that the olive oil they use is what we call pomice…it’s the oil they extract using petrochemicals from the absolute dregs of the olive, after the olive has been crushed several times. This resulting oil is great for engine lube, but not great for your skin.

The main oils used in this particular “natural” soap are petroleum extracted palm and palm kernel. The other ingredients are a mysterious “fragrance”, several chemical preservatives and substances that make it lather. All this yummy naturalness packaged in an attractive green and white paper claiming it’s olive oil soap, natural, 100% vegetable, no petrochemicals, no added colors, and crafted by artisan  herbalists. Well, the only true statement is the bit about no added colors, but they neglect to mention the bleach used in the palm oils.

This soap leaves my skin dry and itchy. Imagine what a typical soap made with even harsher ingredients (like most soaps on the market) would do to my skin.

We have olive oil. We have lavender and other herbs. So I decided to make soap that was good for my skin.

The first soap I made was a 100% olive oil soap with lavender essential oil and hydrosol. This does not dry out my skin at all and it smells heavenly. 100% olive oil soap feels a bit slimy though and isn’t to everyone’s liking.

So I dived into studying soaps and ingredients. I think there as many recipes and preferences for making soap as there are soap makers.

My own personal conclusion: I’m making cold process soaps because my friend Leo who has a PhD in herbs and natural cosmetics and works in the sector, explained to me that by not heating the oils (as you do when you make a hot process soap) one retains the beneficial properties of the oils.

Sounds good to me.

I decided to use olive oil, as in real olive oil, not pomice as the main oil because it’s just terrific for your skin and after all, we do have olive trees. Olive oil is so terrific, I often use it directly on my skin, just like the athletes in the ancient world did.

I then decided to mix a variety of  luxury oils and butters along with the olive oil to make the soap even more nutritious for the skin and to result in a soap that does not feel slimy.

Luxury oils - Almond, Shea and Castor

Luxury oils – Almond, Shea and Castor

Next I decided (with Leo’s complete approval and encouragement) to use our concentrated lavender hydrosol instead of water in the recipes as hydrosol is very healing and calming to the skin.

And lastly, I decided to add some mineral color pigment…all natural, it doesn’t get absorbed into the skin, but sure makes the soap pretty.

Here are the oils I decided to use in the lavender soap:

Olive Oil: Very moisturizing, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant, absorbs well into the skin, helps skin stay elastic.

Unrefined Coconut Oil: Super skin nourishing, moisturizing, anti-bacterial

Almond Oil: Skin healing, absorbs easily and is a mild sun screen

Castor Oil: Deep moisturizer, anti aging, anti-inflamatory

Shea Butter: Deep moisturizer, adds in skin regeneration, anti-aging, healing.

Pretty luxurious ingredients if you ask me!

Handmade Lavender Olive Oil Soap

Lavender Olive Oil Soap

What do you think of the packaging idea?

Next up: a super skin healing after sun soap with essential oils to fight off mosquitoes…a summer time special!











Traditional Bobbin Lace Making in Offida, Le Marche

Traditional handmade bobbin lace has been made for centuries in Le Marche, and most notably in a beautiful medieval village called Offida, a lovely medieval village just two hills from home.

Fortunately today there are still women who make this beautiful art, and you can visit them and buy pieces of lace. It’s a dying art form as it’s so labor intensive, but once you see and feel real handmade lace, you’ll have a deep appreciation for the craft.

Here’s a little video I made featuring Rosa, an amazing lace maker and the mother of 2 men who own one of our favorite fish restaurants on the coast: Don Diego


Roasted Winter Vegetables

What’s the easiest meal to make during winter? Not to mention it warms the kitchen (in our case house as our small house is basically the kitchen!) and sends an aroma throughout the that just beckons everyone to the table. Oh, and did I mention something about nutritious?

Roasted vegetables.

roasted winter vegetables

Roasted Winter Vegetables served with Pan Sauteed Broccoli Rape


Spaghetti alle Vongole (Spaghetti with Clams) Recipe

I love clams, especially the tiny fresh little clams we get here, fished out of the Adriatic. Spaghetti alle Vongole is a dish that originates in the Naples area, the area where Italian spaghetti  originate from!

This dish is simplicity itself and certainly fits my weekday meal mantra DENS – delicious, economical, nutritious and speedy to prepare.

spaghetti alle vongole

Spaghetti alle Vongole (Clams)

I often cook enough clams for 2 meals because I need to go to the coast to purchase them. Gasoline here costs around US$9-10 per gallon, so going to the coast for one ingredient is not something that ever happens in our house…as you can imagine! Today I’m making a baked potato dish called a sformato with the extra clams. recipe coming soon! more…

Spezzatino di Manzo ai Porri (Beef Stew with Leeks)

We’ve been having crazy warm days…the photo is from the 6th of January  and it was so warm we ate lunch on our veranda!

buckwheat vegetable crepes on the veranda

Our lunch: vegetable filled crepes with spinach and orange salad on the veranda

Weird warm. more…

Homemade Lavender Rose Olive Oil Beeswax Body Butter

My skin gets quite dry in the winter. Fed up with expensive creams and not happy with the inexpensive creams because of all the chemicals in them, I decided to make my own moisturizing cream.


Finished Body Butter

Finished Body Butter


Photo of the Moment: New Barn Doors

Hans has busy this last month making barn doors. The old metal ones no longer closed. I think they look really great, not to mention they open and close smoothly, what a difference…Bravo Hans!

looking like the carpenter he is...

Looking like the carpenter he is…

And being the silly guy he is...

And being the silly guy he is…

So many projects, so little time…