Friday, 5 September 2014

Seaweed addict

As regular readers will know, every summer I spend three weeks in a tent by the sea in Brittany and love every moment of it. We all love it, even the whippet. Every day throughout the year, someone in the family will be thinking about it, talking about it or checking the webcam (apart from the whippet, that is). 

This is the view from the, er, viewpoint, at sunset:

Whenever there's a good sunset, people flock up there and take it in turns to snap it. But there are other places to see the sea and the sunset from the campsite:

and it is but a short walk down through the tents and caravans to the beach path, which leads to this endless stretch of lonely loveliness:

The sky, the expanse, the quiet, and - surprisingly - being able to see the horizon - is what I miss most when I come home. Well, and the salted caramel, artisan bread, swimming in the sea, clear air, seafood, sleeping on the ground, the absence of traffic noise...

(We didn't really notice until we came home that there's only one window in the whole house where you can see a natural horizon, not roofs or fences).

Each year I spend a lot of time doing this

trying to avoid being cut off by the tide 

and doing this with the Girl

I've always collected shells, and find it a very mindful and soothing occupation. I've got jars full of them back here now. 

I've also collected seaweed, and attempted to draw it, print with it and so on, as documented herehere and here. But this year I discovered the ultimate use for all that seaweed. Soap!

I've wanted to make soap for years, and have a book on the shelf already. I've obviously bought the tourist seaweed soaps and bath salts, but the chance to learn to make the stuff myself? With seaweed? Who could resist!

Tout en Français, naturally, so slightly terrifying. 

These bowls were just for showing us the different varieties that can be used, but we used dried seaweed for the soap. A third of us were sent into the kitchen to prepare the dried seaweed while the others prepared some fresh seaweed and greased the moulds. I was feeling hopelessly out of my depth, until our little group realised that nobody knew what we were supposed to be doing or had actually listened carefully to the instructions. Just like workshops at home! Luckily it was just to grind up dried seaweed in a coffee grinder, so we all  had a go.

I didn't really get the gist of what could be done with this little lot of ground up fresh seaweed, other than steeping it in olive oil and using it directly on the skin (or you could use the steeped oil for soap making?). We didn't use it on the workshop, but I brought a little pot of it home with me.

Having prepped the seaweed, then long discussions about which oil to use (we went with half olive oil, half rapeseed oil) and which essential oil to add, we finally got to business. 

Here is Florence doing her caustic soda bit:

and eventually, after we cooled the oil that some numpty had overheated, we mixed the soda with the oil and mixed. And mixed. Here it is reaching "trace" (exciting video!)

When it had traced, we added the ground up seaweeds, some green clay and sweet geranium essential oil. It really looked like soup at this point - the ladle didn't help:

The family had been very noble and eaten their way through a pack of vanilla cream pots to provide moulds for my soap, which I then stashed in a jam jar and kept in the boot of the car until we came home. It's now in the airing cupboard, with about another week to go until I can test it. Can't wait! 


  1. Fascinating stuff - not sure I even knew that you could use seaweed for soap. Couldn't see your video though... It came up as private!

  2. I've heard that seaweed is good for you but haven't seen any in soap before. I couldn't see the video either. Looks like an idyllic place to stay, no wonder you look forward to it.

  3. The link to the video should work now - sorry about that!


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