Sep 272011

Medical professionals I met while recovering from salmonella say there is a rise in foodborne illnesses in the United States, and the rise is due to misinformation. The misinformation is that hand sanitizers are as good as soap and water for cleaning hands. This is untrue. The worst part is that this untruth has been known for over a decade by the US Food and Drug Administration and other governmental agencies, yet manufacturers of hand sanitizers are still permitted to advertise their claim of killing up to 99.9% of germs. The claim is for surfaces, like counter tops, but not for skin.

I’m not going to go into the whys and wherefores of all this mess, because the point is – before handling food, wash your hands with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds. When moving from meat to vegetables, meat to meat, and vegetables to vegetables, etc. wash your hands with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds. After going to the toilet, taking a smoke break, texting your roommate, changing your child’s diaper, touching anything, and before handling food, wash your hands with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds.

Now, before you leave the computer to go munch on some olives or dip some crusty bread in extra virgin olive oil from that freshly opened bottle of Arbequina – go wash your hands with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds.

May the sun shine through your branches.

Apr 082011

My Olive Crazy friend, Terry, told me she’s made soap at home, so let’s do it. Here is an easy olive oil soap recipe. I made sure the ingredient volumes where big enough so it is worth the work. Lather up!

You will be using the caustic, lye, to make your olive oil soap. Here are the obligatory safety instructions:

  • Do this away from children, pets, and clumsy people.
  • Wear gloves specifically made for using caustics.
  • Wear some cool-looking safety glasses.
  • Wear clothes (not kidding).
  • Make sure you cover most of your skin surface area.
  • Create your soap in a well-ventilated place so you don’t pass out in your lye and melt like the Wicked Witch of the West.

Here is some vital information about lye. Lye is called a few things, sodium hydroxide, caustic soda, and NaOH. When you are selecting a brand at the store make sure it is 100% lye and not mixed with other things that you may not want in your soap.

Items you’ll need:

  • 1 – two quart size, heat-resistant glass or metal mixing bowl. Bowl has to be big enough to keep the lye from slopping over the sides while you stir.
  • 1 – spatula of wood, rubber, or silicone
  • 18 oz – lye
  • 5 c – distilled water
  • 1 – two gallon size, stainless steel cooking pot
  • 1 – thermometer for liquids.
  • 20 c – olive oil, not extra virgin or virgin (takes way too long to form) or any of the lower grade olive oils. The label should say “Olive Oil”.
  • 1 – mold, plastic container with lid or baking pan.
  • 1 – motorized stick-like, hand blender.
  • (optional) essential oils or herbs


  • Pour distilled water into mixing bowl, add lye, stir carefully with spatula until dissolved. The mix will get very hot and produce fumes. Put lye and water mixture in safe place to cool. Wait until warm to touch before next step.
  • Pour olive oil in cooking pot. Heat steadily until oil reaches 100 F/38 C. Check with thermometer. Remove from heat.
  • Pour lye and water mixture into warmed oil. Do this slowly and carefully while stirring oil with spatula. Stir for several minutes until well mixed.
  • Alternate mixing entire substance with spatula and 30 second bursts of stick-like, hand blender. You don’t want to use blender too much since it will keep  soap from reaching the consistency needed to pour into mold.
  • Stir and mix until pudding-like and drizzled soap leaves a trail on the mix.
  • Stir in optional essential oils or herbs and pour into lightly, olive-oiled mold. Cover mold with lid or, if using a baking pan, a board. Cover with blankets.
  • Set for 72 hours. Cut into bars. Place on brown papered shelves in well-ventilated area. Check back in 4 weeks.
  • Yield is about 10 lbs.

This soap can be used on face, hands, and body. Don’t expect much lather. Enjoy the fruits of your labor.

May the sun shine through your branches.


Mar 312011

Remember those movies showing some Greek or Roman guy getting lubricated with olive oil to a) wrestle some other lubricated guy, or b) get scraped with that thingy I’ve seen waiters use to get the crumbs off a tablecloth?The movies always depicted those guys as shiny and greasy looking, so I assumed that using olive oil on my skin would make me look greasy and shiny too, but I was very wrong. Provided you don’t pour a bottle of olive oil over your head and wallow in it, it goes on very smoothly and makes your skin look, feel, and be healthy.

My introduction to using olive oil on my skin was at my brother, Joe’s, house. One night I jumped in the guest bathroom shower got all wet and noticed there wasn’t any soap. I peaked out the curtain and spotted some golden, square, potato chip-sized soaps attractively displayed on the back of the toilet. Without worrying that I might be messing up one of those don’t-use-just-look soap displays I grabbed a few and went to scrubbing. After my bath I didn’t feel dry and residuey like soap sometimes makes me feel, but sort of smooth. I made sure for the rest of my visit to use up all the cute little soaps and then hid the container under the sink. My crime went unnoticed.

A few years later I was at Joe’s 40th birthday party and met the man who made those soaps. His name is Steve Henley and he is the Head Soap Maker at his company, Henley Natural Brands, LLC. The soaps had been a house warming gift for my brother. I asked Steve about the soaps and told him how good they made my skin feel. Steve told me they were made with olive oil. I was surprised. A few days later he gave me some sample bars of the olive oil, avocado oil, and lavender soaps. All were wonderful, but for different reasons.

Over time Steve and I became friends and he told me the story of how a mild-mannered IT guy came to be a soap maker. Since he was a child, Steve had super-sensitive skin and store-bought soaps and creams just didn’t do the trick. He started experimenting with making his own soaps and using them on himself and his skin sensitivity issues diminished dramatically.

No this is not a paid endorsement. I am a fan of Steve’s soaps, and because of Steve I added another olive oil product to my Olive Craziness.

May the sun shine through your branches.