Soapmaking to Innkeeping

Posted on January 10, 2011 by

We fell in love with Bed and Breakfasts while honeymooning on Mackinac Island.

We fell in love with our mansion while antiquing in Jordan.

But it was soap that led us to this chapter in our life at this time in our life.

So I’m doing my day gig as a software engineer, but looking for a outlet for my hands-on creative side, and teamed up within another female engineer to learn how to make soap. Then it turns out another fellow engineer was the uncle to the guy who owned that mansion in Jordan we fell in love with. Then it turns out they want to open an arts and crafts gallery in that mansion and heard we made soap. Then it turns out while I’m peddling my soap to them in that mansion that it has everything on our if-we-were-ever-going-to-open-a-bed-and-breakfast-wish-list. Then Kevin comes with me to deliver the soap and tells the owners of our dream. Then it turns out they want to sell that mansion to open their dream winery. So they call us to tell us and here we are. Because of soap.

So what is it about soapmaking that is so intriguing? It’s part “Little House on the Prairie,” part earthy-artsy, part mad scientist. And because we have this particular mansion, because of this particular soap, we just had to continue creating soap to share with every one of our guests. So that tradition still continues, almost 8 years later, every bar of soap used in the Nicolin Mansion is made in the Nicolin Mansion. By me.

Recently, friends of ours from Nashville/New Orleans (still recovering from Hurricane Katrina) spent an extended stay with us. It was time for soapmaking, so I held my first “Class with the Innkeeper: Soapmaking 101.” And we had a great time making our traditional lye soap.

So here’s a little recap…

First Step - Measure. Precisely.
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First Step – Measure. Precisely.
See what I mean about the "Mad-Scientist" thing?
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See what I mean about the “Mad-Scientist” thing?
Mixing the lye with water raises the temperature to about 175 F, so need to cool down in an ice water bath.
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Mixing the lye with water raises the temperature to about 175 F, so need to cool down in an ice water bath.
Measure the oils - we use three.
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Measure the oils – we use three.
The oils need to match the same temperature as the lye/water mixture before saponification.
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The oils need to match the same temperature as the lye/water mixture before saponification.
Add fragrance after the mixture saponifies - we're making our Spa fragrance with 4 fragrance oils.
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Add fragrance after the mixture saponifies – we’re making our Spa fragrance with 4 fragrance oils.
Pour and cool in molds - our secret - gutter downspouts.
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Pour and cool in molds – our secret – gutter downspouts.

What do you think? Should we start offering a “Class with the Innkeeper” series?