Monday, October 26, 2009

Seasons Change

Having spent many years living in a place where seasons rarely change, I struggle when summer fades into fall. It happens before I'm ready and it stirs up sadness inside me. I don't want summer to end and yet fall in the Midwest is typically beautiful in many ways. Why the sadness then? I ask myself each year. The answer comes with a simple but true statement: Change is hard. Most of us admit this to be true in our lives, but some of us pretend it isn't so.

I admit that change is hard. Normally it is the change that is thrust upon us that bothers us most. When we instigate change in our own lives we are in control. Or at least we feel as though we are. So then it is safe to say that what we don't like about change is the feeling of not being in control. And what does all that have to do with changing seasons? Time moves on regardless of how we feel about it. And life in the Midwest of these United States certainly includes experiencing four very different seasons. They change as they will regardless of my inner-turmoil about it.

I'm looking outside right now and there are very few leaves left on my birch trees. The sky is cloudy and it is damp and dreary. But out back there is a full cord of firewood stacked and ready to be burned. Burning wood in my fireplace is the least eco-friendly thing that I willingly participate in. It makes me happy. It's one of the reasons that I appreciate fall weather. I then feel like I have control over my life again. Sure it's cold outside, but I am cozy and warm inside. For that I am grateful.

Last weekend I planted heirloom garlic and ripped out dead tomato plants. Change. Sigh. But at the same time it gave me that glimmer of hope for more seasonal change ahead. It's a beautiful thing, really. Spring is right around the proverbial corner - immediately following winter of course. That garlic will remain tucked in through the winter months and then, when it's slept long enough it will show itself along with the happy tulips. Happy tulips and happy garlic tucked below the surface of all the winter cold and gloom - just like me.

I'm happy I live in a place where seasons change. Now back to that simmering pot of shampoo on my stove (you thought I was about to say 'soup,' didn't you?).

Monday, August 24, 2009

Do What you Love

Oh sure, we hear this and we say to ourselves, "Yea right, I love to sit on the beach." How is that productive or worthwhile? How can I earn a living doing that? Well, true, you can't optimally make money doing nothing but sitting on a beach. But maybe...just maybe...

I'm not exactly sitting on a beach, but the joy I feel as I stir a soap pot brings me as much joy, I promise. It's really about listening carefully to your heart. Listen and take one small action at a time. It seems to me that when you try to follow your heart, it's one small step at a time. Step outside of your comfort zone and see how it feels. Notice that it doesn't hurt. It's scary, but it does you no harm. It's possible to speak your mind and be kind at the same time (to others and yourself). It's not one giant step for mankind, although it can become a giant step, in time.

I don't have this all figured out. I sit in the midst of a bit of chaos (if chaos can be delivered in 'bits.') My desk is piled high, my to-do list is lost. My calendar is not complete. But there is joy in my heart. And at this moment, that is enough for me.

It seems that Big Fat Soap Co. is a culmination of all that I am, all that I have experienced, and all that I may become. But who knows, really? I only know right now that this brings me great joy and that there is potential here. Relationships are developing that are comforting, but only because I have stepped outside of my comfort zone.

Won't you join me? Let's see what happens when we look inside and take action. One small step at a time.

Product development continues - Herbal Body Wash is a huge success and will be added to the line very soon

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Soapmaking Joys

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a blog. The days of summer have been speeding past like the blur of a 300 mph race car roaring down the track – you try to watch its every move, but you miss out on all the details as your head turns to follow it. Summer is a treasure in the Midwest. It’s the time when all things happen out of doors: grilling, gardening, festivals, swimming, floating, fishing, fairs, and Farmer’s Markets.

The Sugar Grove Farmer’s Market has been my place of residence on Saturday mornings this summer, and it’s been a wonderful new experience. Big Fat Soap Co. has been well received by the community. What I mean is, generally speaking, people are excited to see handcrafted, natural soap being made and marketed locally. Creating soap from scratch and being able to offer it to others really does bring me joy. It’s the perfect business for a person like me who gets antsy and bored easily. There is always something new to learn and there is always a variety of work to be done. For example, yesterday I made three batches of lip balm and this morning I labeled them. I have five batches of soap ready to be labeled and I just received some raw materials that are in need of sorting and organizing. I will be making a batch of soap with some of the new sage and tomato powders I received. It’s always a bit of an experiment when working with natural ‘colorants.’ That’s actually the part I enjoy most though, not knowing exactly what will occur – it is both science and art. It’s like an unveiling every time I uncover the newest batch to prepare for cutting the bars. It’s the reason I say, “Every bar is made with love,” because it really is. My latest discovery in soapmaking is the hot process method for creating liquid soaps. It has become my new passion; I can hardly wait to make the next batch when one is finished knowing how I will tweak the recipe to continuously improve it.

The method that I’ve been using to make my bar soap is called the cold process method. It basically means that I don’t use additional heat to encourage the chemical reaction called saponification. I combine a lye solution with melted oils and stir/mix until it reaches a certain point called ‘trace.’ Then I pour it into large molds and the natural chemical reaction (saponification) slowly occurs over time. Whereas the hot process method is a little different. The lye solution is combined with the melted oils and then heat is added - either on the stove top, oven, or crock pot – to speed up the saponification process. This is the method that is used to create liquid soaps, in a nutshell. The soap paste is cooked for a long while on top of the stove until fully saponified and then is melted down and diluted to become wonderfully moisturizing and pleasing to the skin, liquid soap. I’m in love with the process. So once again, I can say that every batch is made with love.

Now I must get out of doors to enjoy a little summer before it speeds all the way past me in that race car blur.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Welcome to Big Fat Soap Blog

Allow me to introduce myself: My name is Debbie Richards and I am the founder of Big Fat Soap Co. Our mission is to create the finest-quality handcrafted soap made in small batches from scratch using natural plant based ingredients. The natural beauty and delightful scent of each bar is born from the subtle colors and fragrances of the plant botanicals and pure essential oils contained within.

In this age of instant-everything it seems too few of us bother to cook or bake from scratch, and why not? Grocery stores make it very easy for us to grab ready-made meals off the shelf that we simply bring home and pop in the microwave – voila! Dinner is served. But there is a growing movement of interested people who care about eating and using products that are less processed and in a more natural state. I’m definitely a part of that movement and have discovered that many of the people I know share my interest.

So while I enjoy making things like cheese, bread, and pasta from scratch, it’s the natural soap, and skin care products that I make that people are craving more of. A common question that I am frequently asked is, “How did you get into soap making?” To be honest, the answer is not a simple one. It seems that every experience I’ve had up until now has led me directly down this path. I’ll try to share more on that subject in future blogs.

I’ve just returned from my annual Handcrafted Soapmakers Guild conference in Palm Springs, California. Stay tuned for tips on how to make your own laundry detergent with left over bits of soap. Check us out at