Yesterday I went to a 2-hour soapmaking workshop, which was more like a 1.5-hour demonstration. I came away with a book (The Natural Soap Book, by Susan Miller Cavitch), some soapmaking recipes, and a couple of samples, plus a headache because the room, while high-ceilinged, was not vented. (I think the instructor was a bit cavalier about the fumes lye emits.) The batches made during the demo produce around 40 4-oz. bars of soap, enough to last me about 5 years, but there are small batch recipes to be found online. I see this as a new hobby, but one that is practiced sporadically. And sometime in the future, like after retirement.
My dad was a chemist in his working life. When I was in high school, I earned a D in chemistry, would have flunked it altogether if I did not understand how to balance equations. I think the problem for people like me is in *how* they teach chemistry and other sciences. It all seems so abstract until you do something like make soap and discover that lye is not just caustic but reactive - when mixed with water, it heats up to 200 degrees! I did not know that (even though my daughter told me it was part of a scene from "Fight Club"), and my interest in *how* that happens has been piqued. Not enough to sign up for Chemistry 101, but enough I will pay more attention to the "Chemistry in Soapmaking" chapter in my new book.