Horrible Neglect

I have been neglecting my blog.

I have not shared with the world my crafting successes and failures.  I suck, I know.

To make up for it, I will bore you to tears with some updates!  Fun, right?

  • I have taken a bit of a hiatus on soap making after stockpiling a crazy amount of ingredients for it.  Why?  My soap collection has gotten massively out of hand.  I can only give away so much soap before my friends and family start whining (Emily, I’m talking to you!).  Seriously, if the apocalypse involves dirt, I’m good.  So.  Much.  Soap.  But it’s REALLY good soap!

 

See the box of MORE in the background?  Yeah, it's gotten out of hand.

See the box of MORE in the background? Yeah, it’s gotten out of hand.

  • Since I had all those ingredients for soap making, I looked for other things to do with them.  I started with things that were preservative free, but I wasn’t able to get the results I wanted from body butters, serums and salves.  On came a new craft!  I took up lotion making.  And once you go homemade on that one, there’s no going back.  Imagine a lotion that actually works.  It relieves dry skin is filled with skin loving ingredients to promote healthy hydrated skin and I can feel good about using it.  Yeah, that.
  • The lotion making led to surfactant blends.  I was using a cold process shampoo bar and getting good results, but the build up from the apple cider vinegar was killing me.  Not literally, but figuratively.  One day, my hair went from lovely and healthy to a frizzy mess and I don’t know why.  So, a natural result was making shampoo.  And conditioner.  Out of most of the same ingredients I was using for lotion making.  And you know what?  My hair looks fantastic.
  • Much like the soap making… I can only use so much lotion.  I’m a reasonable person.  Which meant I needed a craft that didn’t involve something I had to use up.  On comes the knitting!  This isn’t actually a new craft for me.  I learned to knit forever ago and it just never really stuck.  I learned a new technique, the Norwegian purl, that has changed my knitting life.  Really.
Cotton and silk blend shawl.

Cotton and silk blend shawl.

  • I made my first batch of catsup for the year, which is epic.  I even preserved it in a water bath canner.  I am epic.  Too bad they weren’t veggies from my own garden.  Sooooo good.
  • I learned how to cook rice that is actually quick and tasty.  Go me!  I am still a terrible cook.
  • I also suck at mowing my lawn.  Which reminds me.  I need to call Ben.

I’m sure there is more and there will be tutorial reviews to come, I’m sure.  In the meantime, I’ll be hanging with my Bitches on Facebook, if you want to find me.

Still Not Convinced?

I found the perfect (NOT VEGAN/VEGETARIAN) beginner’s soap.  100% lard soap.

You can get a bucket of lye for around $5 and hit up a dollar store for just about everything else.  Some dollar stores even carry lye!  You pretty much can’t screw up this soap, unless you are me.  It is cheap, it is easy, it will let you get the hang of soap making without worrying about a half dozen oils and fats.

For you vegans and vegetarians out there, this is even a good soap for you.  It is using a usually trashed part of an animal that would have been slaughtered anyway, thus you are honoring the sacrifice.

Besides, it’s a great soap.

It makes a wonderful hard and white bar of soap that is perfect for cleaning and laundry.  There is no major expense in it.  It isn’t finicky and in need of a super long curing like castile soap.  Once it is saponified, there is no odor.

On another note, lard or tallow is also good in body soaps, adding hardness and good foam to your soap.  But it certainly isn’t vegan and far too many people think lard is icky.  Well, look on your store bought soaps, kids.  Lard is often used in them.

Grandma’s Homemade Lye Soap – This calls for 5 pounds of lard, but you can use any amount you want, just run it through a lye calculator like this one.

Ok, I should be noveling!

Boo-Boo Salve

I have a little boy.

Little boys get hurt.

A lot.

All the freaking time.  Because it seemed like a good idea at the time.

That means bandages and neosporin abound.  Even when he isn’t actually injured in any way.  He just thinks he needs a bandage.  That’s my kid.

Neosporin is great stuff.  Until you remember that it’s a bunch of chemicals suspended in petroleum.  A leftover from the processing of gasoline.  You are putting chemical laced gasoline leftovers on your child’s open wounds.  Yuck.

Now, I’m not telling you not to use Neosporin, since it’s a magical cure all and it does, in fact, work pretty darn good on the various cuts and scrapes and boo-boos.

I just don’t want to use it.

So, I headed to the interwebs, because, where else would I go?

I found lots and lots of lovely salves, with lots and lots of ingredients I just don’t have on hand and wouldn’t use for anything else.

What’s a girl to do?

Have a look at what she DOES have.

I have plenty of carrier oils.

I have beeswax, because everyone should have that.  Great stuff.

I have essential oils.

And I have garden fresh (Ok, dried and crushed, but still from a garden) rosemary.

Rosemary is great stuff.  And you know what you can do with herbs and oil?  You can infuse oil.  You can do it to add flavor to oil.  You can do it to add the fragrance and herbal goodness for use in body products.  It’s easy.  Seriously.  (I used almond oil, because I don’t particularly like olive oil, but that’s just me.)

Essentially a salve is just a carrier oil and beeswax to thicken it.  Beeswax increases the melting point of what it’s added to.  It makes things solid at room temperature.  It is used in lotion bars, lip balms, and salves to make them more solid.

Now, a salve would be pretty damn useless if it was actually solid (though you could actually make a portable version like a lotion bar).  I wanted mine to be more like the consistency of Neosporin.  Easy to apply and leaves a light coating to protect the wound.  I also wanted it to be full of skin loving ingredients.

I took equal parts coconut oil, shea butter, and infused almond oil and combined it with a bit of cocoa butter and beeswax.  Melted them all together, added lavender for its analgesic properties and tea tree for it’s mega healing abilities.  I also added a touch of honey for it’s antibacterial goodness.  It set up into a nice semi-solid consistency and the cocoa butter works as a nice barrier.

Recipe

2oz rosemary infused almond oil

2oz shea butter

2oz coconut oil

1oz cocoa butter

1oz beeswax

Melt it all together (I use a small pyrex measuring cup that is just for making lotion bars and salves and lip balms, because all the oils and waxes are hard to clean up and you really want a pour spout.  With a good pyrex one, you can just put the measuring cup in a pot of water to melt everything safely and pour with ease.) and add your essential oils.  Pour into jars (this recipe makes almost a pint.  I used 4 4oz jelly jars.)  Squirt in a bit of honey, if you want, and mix now and again while it sets up.  Mixing is particularly important if you used honey, since the honey sinks to the bottom.  Wooden skewers are good for mixing.  This will stay good for about a year.

Now for the good recipes links, because yeah…

Wellness Mama – Homemade Healing Salve

Mrs. Happy Homemaker – Healing ‘Boo-Boo’ Salve (PS you can order the dried herbs from her premeasured for her recipe.  Couldn’t be easier.)

Crunchy Betty – Not Your Mother’s Neosporin (Great pictures of the process.  And she’s hilarious.)

 

 

Things Every Kitchen Should Have but Probably Doesn’t

On my little quest to green up and simplify my life, I’ve found several things that everyone should just have on hand because they are that useful.  Whether you want to detoxify your cleaning routine or amp up your food or have skin care products that actually work, these the the things that should be in your kitchen but probably aren’t.  Yet.

Vinegar

Vinegar is magic.  Vinegar is love.  Vinegar is fabulous for cleaning, deodorizing and softening fabrics.

Right now you are staring at this post and telling me “Vinegar reeks, I’m not going to use that!”  The thing is, vinegar might smell bad, but the smell goes away once the vinegar is dry and it takes any other odor away with it leaving fresh clean air.  I actually use it like I would use Frebreeze, spraying it on my upholstery to get rid of… umm… potty training accidents.

If you really, truly can’t stand the smell, save some citrus peels to infuse it (just soak them in a jar for a few days before straining them out.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is a baking staple.  It’s also another odor magnet, which is why if you do have it, it’s probably living in your fridge.

Baking soda can be used in homemade laundry detergents, chemical free soft scrub, oven cleaner, carpet powder, in place of shampoo and toothpaste, made into deodorant… I go through a ton of it.

It’s also really, really, really cheap.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is great stuff.  Not only is it filled with good fats, it has a high smoke point, which makes it great for cooking instead of olive oil.  Apparently olive oil isn’t supposed to be heated.  It has a mild flavor that doesn’t disguise the natural flavors of foods and it’s not as oily as some other cooking oils.  Flat out, you should just replace all your shortening and vegetable oils and especially soybean oil with coconut oil.

Now, not only is this magical stuff good for cooking, it’s also a top of the line moisturizer.  It is great for frizzy fly away hair.  Mix it with baking soda and you have the best whitening and plaque control toothpaste you’ve ever seen, not to mention great for sensitive teeth.  It’s great for soap making, giving a nice fluffy lather.  It can be used as a natural spf 4 and tanning lotion.  It’s even good for your immune system.

Seriously, magical stuff.

Chia Seeds

Remember Chia Pets?  You spread those gooey seeds on pottery and they grow?

Well, those innocent little seeds are a super food.

You need more energy?  Need to feel fuller longer?  Need some hydration help?  Antioxidants?  Chia seeds are your answer.  These little bad boys are amazingly nutritious, filling and full of good things to give you a natural energy and immune boost.

Canning Jars

You see them in the grocery store, those unobtrusive little jars.  They come in packs of 12.  They come in lots of sizes.

These little bad boys are great.  I store my cleaning supplies and cosmetics in them.  I store leftovers in them.  I store everything in them.  I even use them for convenient toddler cups.  They’ve hit the floor many times without shattering.

Plastics are an invisible toxin that we don’t think about.  But more than that, plastic retains odors from foods, are easily stained and can be broken down by certain foods and cleaning supplies.  And dude, seriously, finding the matching lid for that tupperware is a nightmare.

I store my lids with my parchment paper, and they are easily bought if they do need replacing.

I also save every other jar that comes into my house.  I should probably admit that this might eventually become a problem.

A Container of Vegetable Scraps in your Freezer

Ok, this one is, admittedly, a little weirder than the rest.  Hear me out, especially the non-composters.

Each time you make a meal with fresh veggies, you cut off bits, peel them, and have scraps.  These scraps are nutrient dense, even if they won’t work in most foods.  There is one food you can make with them.

Broth.

I find recipes all the time that call for broth or stock.  That’s something I don’t buy because it’s salty.  If I can’t get away with using plain water, I’ve have those little stock cubes you add to water, but again, salty!

Did you know the broth is just flavor and nutrients boiled out of other foods?  Yeah.  Grab your stock pot (no aluminum!) and throw in those veggie scraps, then simmer them.  Boil the hell out of them.  Then you just strain it, put it in some of the canning jars or freezer jars or freeze them into ice cubes…

I’m currently trying to make a bone broth.  I’ll let you know how that goes…  yeah, you can freeze your scrap bones too.

Coffee with Cream Soap

I have been a soap making machine.  Mostly because I keep screwing recipes up.

Are they all soap that will clean your butt and leave your skin wonderfully moisturized?  Heck yeah!

Are they lovely soaps with fluffy lather and luscious scents that I’d want to give to my friends and family?

Yeah….

Not so much.

And so I keep trying.  Specifically, I’m trying to find/make recipes that don’t take huge amounts of expensive ingredients that I have to special order from magical lands of organic goodness.

So many online recipes require things that I just plain old don’t want to mess with.  Like palm oil.  First you have to find the kind that doesn’t destroy rain forests and kill puppies.  Ok, it doesn’t actually kill puppies, but you need to find fair trade organic.  And then you have to melt the whole damn container every time you use it.  Blah.

Other recipes require huge amounts of essential oils that cost more than god.  (See rose absolute.)  That shit better fold my laundry and give me orgasms every time I smell it for those prices.  Keep in mind, you need approximately 1 oz per pound of oils when you are making soap, give or take depending on the specific oil.

I want my soap to be skin loving and give me lots of fluffy lather.  And most important, I want it to be easy.  Easy to make, easy to use.

So I keep trying to make my own perfect base recipe.  And then I ran out of ingredients.

But then I got creative.

This is how I ended up making coffee and cream soap.  Sadly, without shea butter, which is one of my favorites.  I’d also like to have some hemp oil.  And ditch the soybean oil for something nicer, since soybean is sort of just a filler.

But, dude, coffee and cream!

I hear that coffee is good in soaps.  Energizing and good for clearing up redness of all sorts in the skin.  Also good for undereye bags.  And coffee!

Milk is one of my two favorite soap additives.  Personally, I don’t bother with goat’s milk.  Yet.  This time I’m using good old fashioned evaporated cow’s milk.  Just a warning, milk is going to turn your soap orange.  Solved by adding coffee this time around.  It’s just what milk does in soap.

So, on with the recipe!

Coffee with Cream Soap

Coconut Oil 30%

Olive Oil 30%

Soybean Oil 20%

Grapeseed Oil 10%

Almond OIl 10%

(You can ditch the soybean oil and use 50% olive oil instead, just run it through a lye calculator)

Lye required for a 5% solution

Divide your water requirement in half, one half will be coffee the other evaporated milk (you can use goat’s milk, if you like)

1 tablespoon coffee grounds per pound of oils (you can leave this out, but it looks pretty and is a nice exfoliator)

If you choose to add fragrance oils, be sure to get the kind made for cold process soap.  You will need a total of approximately 1 ounce per pound of oils.

To make the coffee, you can’t just use regular old brewed coffee.  It won’t be strong enough.  Instead, simmer a cup of grounds with plenty of water for about 20 minutes.  It should verge on a syrup.  Strain it using your favorite straining method.  Frankly, it’s alright if it’s not perfectly strained.  This is what you will use for your lye solution, creating a double strength solution (that means really really caustic!)  Make it in an ice bath so it doesn’t get too hot.  It helps to partially freeze the coffee.

You can either add your milk to your coffee/lye solution or directly to your oils.  It’s up to you.

Make the soap using your favored method, adding the coffee grounds when you reach trace.  Frankly, I’d recommend cold process, in this case.  It’s very easy to burn your coffee and milk.  Milk always makes the hot process act weird, anyway.

Ta-da!  Coffee with Cream soap for your scrubbing pleasure.

Sustainable What?

On my current kick to simplify my life, I ran into a roadblock.

Face first I plowed into a problem I didn’t know I had and didn’t know how to fix.

Multi-blade razors.

You know, those expensive bad boys you pay a fortune for, then can’t make work with your all natural, homemade, truly moisturizing shaving-cream-in-a-can replacements?  Because oil plus dead skin plus little bits of hair stubble equals one clogged razor that sort of just scrapes at the top layer of your epidermis.  Not to mention, you use them over and over while they rust away in your shower, hoping to get one more use out of them before you have to trash it because they cost a freaking fortune!

Yeah, those.

So I set to my interwebs research, because I rock at that.

It took awhile.

There are millions and billions of shaving soaps, creams, pre-shave oils, and other alternatives to shaving cream, but very very few alternatives to disposable razors.  In fact, there are two.  And mostly manly men know about them.  There are even entire message board communities filled with men who use them (here and here).

And very, very few women.

I think it is a vast conspiracy.

The men want to keep their shaving secret… well… secret.

You see, REAL shaving is a manly art.  An art practiced in men’s barber shops for… well… a long time.

Women are the newbies on the shaving scene.  We’ve only been doing it a hundred years or so.  We never had to use our handy dagger to scrape the scruff from our… well… anywhere.  We were tricked into it, and now are addicted to being fur free.  But we still aren’t, really, in the club.

You see, I’m talking about the two schools of wet shaving.

You know, a mug of soap, that fluffy brush, and a Razor.  It’s a ritual involving oils and hot wet cloths and stropping (or not, depending on the kind of razor you use), then taking your time applying foamy soap and using tiny strokes until you are baby butt smooth.  It’s straight razors passed down from grandpa or a double edge safety razor.  It’s reusable metal that you can pass on rather than cheap plastic that barely works the first time.

And apparently women can do it too!

So, I’m going to say goodbye to multi-blade razors and give wet shaving a try.

Starting with a double edge safety razor, though I find myself strangely drawn by the idea of using a straight razor on my legs.  Maybe I’m a bit of a romantic after all.

Toilet Paper, How I Hate Thee

Toilet paper always seemed like a good idea to me.

It isn’t expensive.

Alone, I don’t go through that much.

It is convenient, as long as you have it.

Sure, it’s got chemicals in it and I’m rubbing those chemicals on rather sensitive places.  Yeah, it’s quite literally flushing money down the toilet.  But it’s necessary!  Right?

Well, I could use all natural toilet paper, but that’s honestly just not very pleasant.  It isn’t soft and it’s rather pricey.  Not really ideal in my world.  Not to mention, not readily available.

I am a cloth diaper advocate.  (Don’t worry, I won’t go into it.  For now.)  I use a menstrual cup.  I’m moving away from paper towels.  So why am I so stuck on toilet paper?

It never really occured to me to make a change until the fateful day we began potty training.  Potty training means that a small child needs to have unrestricted access to the bathroom.  Yes, the bathroom, with the toilet.  And the toilet paper.

Did you know that toilet paper, when wet, makes excellent decorations for mirrors and walls?  Yeah, me either.  It also creates serious clogs in toilets and sinks.  And when it is constantly being used to decorate and play with, you don’t have it when you need it.

But it is fun to play with.

WAY fun.

How different is it to use cloth wipes on myself instead of using chemical laden wet wipes and toilet paper?  Is it really that difficult to dampen the very same baby washcloths I used as wipes for Dillon for myself?  Is my butt worth any less than his?

Is washing a tiny basket of washcloths with the towels REALLY that much of a strain?  Towels, regardless of size, really need the same type of washing diapers do.  You know, hot water, no softener…

So I made the switch to family cloth.

I have a nice little set of metal baskets with rubber feet sitting on the back of the toilet.  One for cleans and one for dirty.  Metal baskets are nicely washable.  I get the little washcloths on sale, which means I currently have robots.  Yup, I’m really that cool.

I am not good at folding them so they look pretty and I bought enough so that I only have to wash once a week or so.  I just throw them in with sheets or towels.  It’s EASY.  It doesn’t involve any more laundry than I needed to do before.

And you know what?  They don’t tear or leave behind bits and they don’t clog my pipes.  So suck it up, I’m a cloth girl.