Learn to make soap (and nurture home, hearth and heart this winter)

I love to make soap, lotion, lip balm, and candles. I love puttering in my kitchen mixing up herbal remedies and health-supporting herbal tea. I love this part of homemaking. If I didn't write what I do, mostly memoir and introspection, I would write more about these interests and exploits.

This is a tension I feel in my writing, I have a strong desire to share soap recipes, herbal how-to's and similar health and homemaking content but I have a stronger cognitive, emotional, and spiritual need to write through my experiences. And we all know there is only so much time.

But sometimes the right opportunity presents itself to satisfy the desire I have to teach these skills.

This winter I am so pleased to be partnering with Heather Bruggeman to offer a soapmaking tutorial as part of her Hibernate Winter Retreat.

Skip to here to register for Hibernate, or keep reading for why I love this course so much.

Winter is a great time to make soap. There's just something about fall and winter that stirs in people the desire to "make stuff". It's the increasing hours we spend indoors, it's the natural rhythm of preparing for and enduring winter.

For two winters now I have been singing the praises of Hibernate. Hibernate has been a winter game changer for me. Hibernate gave me the permission I needed to do what my body calls me to do in the heart of winter: burrow, rest, care for myself, drink lots of hot beverages, make things.

Hibernate has been more than a course, it's been a gentle "call to action" for me to honor my body's natural rhythms, live seasonally, nurture my creativity and grow my skill in domestic arts.

When I look back to that list I wrote of things I love about homemaking; making soap... candles, herbal remedies and tea mixes, the influence of Heather's courses is clear. It was three years ago, inspired by Hibernate content, that I started making my own herbal tea mixes. A skill I have since studied more, so that now, I confidently prepare specific blends for our family's winter health needs, using the right herbs for specific symptoms and support. (I'm excited to see that this year Rachel Wolf is offering herbal Winter Wellness recipes as part of Hibernate.)

My favorite candles, the ones I made a few weeks ago and have been burning daily, I learned that recipe from Heather. The herbal chai I've adapted to my own, that too started with a recipe from Hibernate. Throughout my home there are touches everywhere of Hibernate offerings: things I've made (felted bowls), art I've pursued (Hibernate introduced me to meditative drawing, which was the springboard into my own Zentangle practice), and ideas I've learned (my vision board).

Heather teaches hands-on, inspirational and practical, content-rich courses. So much content that you will need to pick and choose which lessons and projects, offered as stand-alone ebooks, one for each day of the course, you will embark on. There will be more in the course than you'll have time to do in the course period. But you'll have all the material, in those tidy little e-books and video teaching, everything you need to pick up a project or idea during the long weeks of winter. Of note, this year's Hibernate Online Retreat is all new content.

Where I live winter is long. And if we look at that positively, winter gives us lots of time to learn a new skill or incorporate a new homemaking habit or idea into our life.

I want to just say something here about having the heart of homemaker.

I am a homemaker. This is the work I love to do. I was raised by a homemaker and grew up surrounded by a community of women, my aunties, who were homemakers. Almost all these role models, my mother included, worked outside the home also, part-time or full-time, depending on the stage of family life, but these women made homes first and foremost. This is my heritage but it is also my heart.

I love nothing more than putzing around my house, tidying spaces, devising better systems of organizing. I love making beautiful and useful things for our home. Not a ton of things, we don't have the space and I lean to warm minimalism, as a style, if there is such a thing.

I don't love, nor do I put my hands to, all the tasks associated with traditional homemaking. I don't really like cooking. I'm not a baker. I don't quilt. I don't spend a lot of time or energy on decorating. I don't host the large gatherings I grew up watching my mother execute with aplomb. (My mother is amazing in her gifts of large gathering hospitality, she's my hero.)

I have grown into my own expression of homemaking, my own standards of homemaking. And what I consistently find is that Heather's courses meet me where I'm at, as they would meet the seamstress, the knitter, the cook, the baker, the candlestick maker.

But lest I give you the wrong impression, Hibernate is not just about homemaking, it's also about our emotional and physical well-being this time of year. It's about attending to yourself during the season of winter. Listening for the lessons of winter, enjoying what this season alone can offer us. It's not a "do more" message. Craft, quilt, knit, sew, cook, bake, host,... a frenzy of activity for the winter. Like Heather says, "Starting where you are, and working with what you have, you will pick and choose the projects, prompts, recipes and inspiration that speak to you."

Hibernate is about nurturing a certain kind of environment, in our hearts and our homes, as an expression of love for our families and ourselves. It's a retreat to help us create a physical space where our winter needs for rest, reflection, and creativity can be met.

When Heather asked if I'd like to contribute a soapmaking tutorial for this year's Hibernate retreat, I gave a hearty yes, delighted that I could contribute to such a great course.

I am so excited to share this tutorial with you. You may remember from a previous post that I had been working on a soapmaking course, but set it aside because I don't have the time in this life season to produce a complete course, as envisioned. But I so want to share some of that material with you, and Hibernate is the perfect place for doing that.

In addition to learning how to make soap, you will get all the other good stuff Heather teaches. Lucky you!

I have poured my heart, head, and hands into this soapmaking tutorial. I have created an easy, yet luscious, beginners recipe for you. I have tested this recipe repeatedly to minimize your risk. I have broken it all down, step-by-step, with photos, video, and written instructions so that you can make a lovely batch of soap with confidence and ease.

I want you to enjoy the beauty of homemade soap this winter. To learn a skill, a very old domestic art, that will bring enjoyment to your winter days and help nourish your dry skin.

Join me at Hibernate.

You can find the full description of Hibernate 2017 here.

I have a little request, if you decide to join the class, could you please use this link to make your purchase? It's a Thank You page that says Hibernate 2017 Renee Tougas under Item. Heather and I are trying an affiliate arrangement* for this class and this link tracks those purchases for us. (Thanks, I really appreciate it.)

Heather prices her courses to make them as accessible as possible. As someone who has taken a few online courses, from various sources, I can tell you the value you receive from Heather's courses is well beyond the price you pay. I go back and reference material from her courses all the time.

In addition to this great value Heather offers a two-for-one special for the first few days of registration. She knows that you will want to share this material with a friend and she offers you a way to do this. That two-for-one deal ends 12/19.

Special note to my Canadian friends and readers: the exchange on the dollar is a killer for making purchases in US dollars. If you want to take this course but the exchange rate is too steep for you (I hear you!) take advantage of the two-for-one friend deal. Don't know anyone to split the cost with? Find a friend here on my blog.

Leave a comment that you want to split the cost with someone. I'd love to play matchmaker. Heather does the same thing on her blog. Comments are open for people to find friends to split the two-for-one cost. I am using comment moderation right now to control some spam problems but I will check diligently and approve comments as quickly as possible to expedite the process. Also email me renee at tougas dot net if I forget.

Right now, I am not offering this soapmaking tutorial as a stand alone product. For now, it is nested within Hibernate.

Hibernate Registation is open today and will remain open for approximately one month, till the course starts in mid-January. But for the next seven days only you can purchase two-for-one registration. Pay the cost of one registration and you get access for two people. What a great holiday gift for a friend, sister, daughter, or mother.

If you want to learn how to make soap, if you want to participate in a beautiful winter retreat, if you're looking for ways to honor your body's seasonal rhythm, if you want to be part of a community of likeminded women (level of involvement is entirely up to you) who desire to create a health, relationship and soul-supporting home environment this winter, I do hope you'll join us for Hibernate.

* See this page for an explanation of affiliate arrangements.

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  • Marie-gisselle Mina

    Marie-gisselle Mina on Dec. 13, 2016, 4:43 p.m.

    Hi Renée i am super interested but will tbe content be forever accesible or do i have to follow it every day for those 4 weeks.


    • renee

      renee on Dec. 13, 2016, 5:31 p.m.

      Marie-Giselle, you'll own the ebooks Heather publishes for each day of the course, approximately 20, which include all the lessons on herbs, cheese making, knitting patterns, etc. (you download them to your computer or tablet). The retreat is totally self-paced that way. you don't have to follow a program each day or each week.

      And you'll have access to the videos for a few months for sure. You might be able to download those to your computer also, they just take up a lot of space. You'd have to ask Heather about the videos. (You can leave a comment on her blog or email her hibernateretreat@gmail.com about that.) I think you'd really like this class :) I've done it now for 2 years and it's a highlight of winter for me.


  • tameka

    tameka on Dec. 14, 2016, 2:51 p.m.

    Thanks for sharing this. I'm going to ask for this as a Christmas gift. I really loved your soap making videos on youtube.


  • Carrin

    Carrin on Dec. 14, 2016, 4:54 p.m.

    hi Renee,

    I can't pass up your soap making course so...

    I was Hoping to find someone to split the hibernate course with...anyone interested? Also I'll be paying in Canadian funds...thx...my email is brooklinparalegal@gmail.com




    • renee

      renee on Dec. 14, 2016, 5:20 p.m.

      Carrin, be sure to leave a comment on heather's blog if you don't get any bites here. There is a long list going there. So happy you plan to join :)


  • Anna Salazar-Paez

    Anna Salazar-Paez on April 29, 2017, 8:41 p.m.

    When will you have more classes since I missed this event?


    • Renee

      Renee on May 5, 2017, 7:58 p.m.

      Hi Anna,

      I may re-offer this course material in the fall of 2017. We'll see if I have the time to pull that together this year (it needs formatting work since Heather did all that for me when the material was nested in Hibernate). If I offer it I will be sure to mention it on the blog and in the email posts I send, so stay tuned :)


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