16 December 2007

Homemade gifts - luffas and soap

While the shops get busier with the excesses of Christmas shopping, my simple life continues at a gentle pace. It was cooking and odds and ends day yesterday. I baked two fruit cakes, one for my family and one for a gift, and then made butter with local Guernsey cream for a batch of shortbread, also a gift. Hanno had a garage sale happening outside with the results of our decluttering over the past couple of months. Luckily we sold our old stove and oven and some other bits and pieces, and ended up making around $400. There was a constant stream of people and also tea being made and taken out to him, then, later, cold drinks with ice.

I wanted to get all my gifts organised yesterday. I don't give much now and I don't send cards at all, but those I do give to, are very special people. The gifts must be exactly right. I've been storing the last of the luffas from a crop earlier this year and yesterday afternoon I peeled and cleaned them. They've been soaking overnight with a little bleach added to the water as a couple of them were slightly mouldy. A luffa and homemade olive oil soap is a lovely combination and every time I give them as a gift, they're always appreciated.

Homemade soap is a real luxury. It's creamy and leaves my skin feeling clean and cared for. Most commercial soap doesn't contain glycerin, and that is what nourishes the skin. Usually, the commercial makers extract the glycerin and sell that as a separate product because it's more valuable than the soap it comes from. That's why those soaps often make your skin dry and itchy. When you make your own soap, the glycerin stays in it and when you use the soap every day it gently cares for and nourishes your skin. Homemade soap, used with a luffa, is the perfect simple indulgence. Skin is the largest organ of the body and you should be careful with those products that touch your skin every day. Using an organically grown luffa from your garden, with homemade soap, is the most gentle and wholesome type of daily skincare.

This photo was taken in February of this year. Luffas are a hot weather crop and are harvested in this area in late February. We grew these next to our poly tank. When they're small and green you can eat luffas as a vegetable. They're pretty bland but, like eggplant, they take on the flavour of what they're cooked with.

This is what they looked like yesterday. I think I harvested about 30 luffas and these are the last of them. That hole at the end is where the seeds fall from.
Seeds and the peeled luffas. They look pretty ordinary at this stage.
They sat in a bucket of water with a small amount of bleach overnight. That was to kill the mould that was on some of them, but it also lightens the luffas.
And here they are this morning drying on the back verandah.

The addition of a good homemade olive oil soap makes this a wonderful gift for either a woman or a man.

I'll finish preparing my gifts this morning. I'm also baking bread, washing the floors and ironing. Things not sold in the garage sale will be boxed up and given to our local St Vinnies. This afternoon I'm writing letters and a couple of reports for work that have to be ready tomorrow afternoon. I doubt I'll have time to do them tomorrow.

Thank you for stopping by today. I hope you're enjoying the weekend and your Christmas preparations.


  1. this reminds me of the first post on your blog i ever read....when you first harvest them! what a fabulous gift. i'm glad you have settled back into your home and have been engaged in holiday and volunteer preparations. may you have a most wonderful weekend!

  2. That is one of the most fascinating posts I have ever seen; the evolution of a luffa scrubber.

    The olive oil soap looks sensational too. Soap-making is yet another thing on the list of things I want to learn to do.


  3. Hi Rhonda,
    I really appreciate your post today about your simple but lovely gifts. I think your loofa/soap gift is a wonderful gift! I don't know if there is a lot of materialism in AU or not, but here in the U.S. it's mind-numbing to me.

    I have pared down my gift-giving over the years also, and this year I am not doing cards anymore either. I just don't want to and I figure if something does not give me joy I should not do it. Something that personally bothers me is when someone sends a Christmas card and yet I never hear from them all year-long. I would rather they call me and not send a card, really. I often feel that "REAL" caring is thrown out the door & people think a token yearly card makes up the difference for it.

    This year I strived very much to simplify Christmas in what gifts I am giving & did fairly well, but I still didn't go as simple as I wanted to. There is still that "guilt" factor or is it compulsion that affects me when I should not let it (especially when I know a loved one is giving me generous gifts). Have you ever struggled with that?

    People here will say that they appreciate gifts from the heart - but I don't always see a lot of it happening. Oh, how I would love for someone to personally gift me a handmade gift or a gift of service - what a treasure that would be!

    I am simply tired of the materialism & would love to know how you deal with loved ones in your life concerning this (how do you convey that when others beliefs may differ?)

    I wish you and your family a lovely Holiday together.

  4. Rhonda Jean,
    What A Lovely gift. I give mostly handmade with Love. To me its the Best type gift. Friendship is the Best!
    I enjoy your blog so very much!
    Blessins' and Merry Christmas!,Lib

  5. What a wonderful post, particularly liked the photos showing the changing face of a luffa. Again, the comments are so enjoyable. I do remember one of your very early posts talking about luffas. Gee, it takes me back to my first readings of your blog and my total fascination with your stories and my wonderment at the world of blogging!!

  6. I LOVE making soap and I do grow my own loofahs! I would love to know your recipe for your olive oil soap. Would you share with us?

  7. What a lovely gift. I was fascinated by the loofas as I've never seen them before. Only the fake ones you can buy in the shops, as I don't think they grow down here in Tassie. Probably too cold for them.

    cheers Lenny

  8. Could you share with us your olive oil soap recipe? Thanks.

  9. we did that once as kids. So neat! I think I am going to try and attempt growning some this summer (I'm in the USA)
    I too am curious about the soap. That is one thing I've never tried making!

  10. I had no idea you could actually eat Loofahs. The things one learns! Thanks!

  11. Thanks for all your great comments. I really love reading them. Lyn, I will answer your question in my post tomorrow.

    Here is the recipe used for the soap in the photo:
    Olive Oil - 460 grams
    Rice Bran Oil - 600 grams
    Coconut Oil - 440 grams
    Rain water - 570 mls
    Lye (caustic soda) - 230 grams
    Essential or fragrant oil (optional)

    I also make this one:
    Olive Oil - 900 grams
    Coconut Oil - 600 grams
    Rain water - 570 mls
    Lye (caustic soda) - 230 grams
    Essential or fragrant oil (optional) Mixing the other oils with the olive oil gives you a soap that lathers better.

    I am almost finished my first ebook and hope to have it ready for sale the week after Christmas. It will cost $10 Australian (approx $8.60 US, $8.75 Canadian, 4.25 UK pounds or 6 Euros. It contains an easy to print out soap making tutorial and bread making tutorial, plus a lot more. Sorry for the advert, everyone but I thought it was relevant.

  12. Do you think luffa's would grow in Victoria?

    I look forward to your ebook becoming available. I find you inspirational Rhonda. :o)

  13. you're very industrious! you always have ways of making things out of scratch..

  14. This is an amazing post. I've never seen a luffa in its original state. Beautiful gifts. Oh, Rhonda it would be wonderful if you started a camp to teach all these wonderful techniques. This would be much more fun than laying around in a fancy resort. You are so inspiring. Thanks.

  15. Saw your bit re homemade olive oil soap - looked back through your blog a ways and couldnt find directions as to how to make it.

    Could you point me in the right direction please?

  16. I never knew that is what luffas were. How informative. Thanks!
    Your soap is very pretty too.
    Becky K.

  17. I've never seen real loofas grown and prepared before, how interesting and what a useful crop!
    I love my homemade soap as well it's wonderful.

  18. I too make handmade soap and find it to be a wonderful gift to give.
    I didn't know that you could grow luffas... I wonder if I could grow them here in southern California?
    I am going to look into that!

    As usual a wonderful post!

    Have a wonderful day!

  19. So, you grow the luffa in your garden, then harvest them? I see seeds-is this what you plant? How do I get some? How do you know when to harvest them?
    So many questions-but this is fascinating!!!!

  20. RJ, those luffas look great! Do you make your own soap? If you do, have you ever posted a soap tutorial, and could you drop a link here? ;)

    It's not urgent, though. Holiday seasons here in Israel are different. :)

    I hope you're having a joyful and pleasant holiday season!

  21. thanks everyone. : )

    Dot, If they were to grow down there, you'd have to have the seedlings ready to go in October or early November and plant in a protected area where they got maximum heat.

    I'm in zone 4, so if you are also, or if you're in zone 5 or 6, luffas will grow in your area. I'd also try them in zone 3.

    If you're in USA, you can buy seeds here: http://www.localharvest.org/store/item.jsp?id=3379

    UK, Scandanavian and European readers:

    My soap making tutorial is here:

    Good luck with the growing and soap making!

  22. Rhonda, Thank-you for the way to get loofa seeds-I have been looking for them. Can you make an olive oil soap using a bit of tea tree oil in it? I use tea tree oil for cuts and scrapes and all sorts of things.

  23. HI Sharon. : ) Yes, you can add any fragrant or medicinal oil. Do that at trace, and mix it in well.

  24. Oh my goodness, I had no idea you could grow your own luffas...I guess that's coming from England and knowing there's no way you could grow a luffa here, with all the rain we get!!
    What a lovely and thoughtful gift.


  25. Thanks Rhonda-:0) I am looking forward to your e-book!! Have a great day!

  26. Could I be a pest and ask for a link in Aus for loofa seeds please :)
    I think it would be great fun to grow them and they make a wonderful gift.

  27. I have to give it a try to make home made soap one day! Do you have intructions for it on your blog?

  28. oohh now I'm reading about your e- book. That's a great idea :-)

  29. Thank you for sharing about the loofa's, how interesting

  30. wow - that is so cool! I never realized where a loofah comes from.

  31. Your soap recipe looks lovely. do you have an online catalog or price list? i would love to have it. I'm collecting soap recipes here. thanks.

  32. Hi Rhonda,

    I was inspired by this post a while back and panted luffas this past Spring. I live in Michigan and they do grow here!
    I'll be picking, peeling and drying them this week!

    Thanks for all the good info!!


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