Tuesday, February 21, 2012

..soapy Saturday...

I have a sincere interest in the home arts. I take seriously the care of my family and my home, and with that has come a relatively new-found interest in how I keep my home and family clean. Awhile back, I purchased some books on how to make my own cleansers, beauty products, and such. I felt that I needed to reduce the number of potentially harsh chemicals I had in my home, and made a conscious decision to slowly, over time, replace some of my commercial cleansers with cleansers of my own. As it stands, I make my own leather couch cleaners, cleansing oil, hair rinse, deoderant, moisturizer, lip balm, and all purpose cleaner. In some ways, I feel like I want to make everything from scratch. Perhaps this is why one of my cousins refers to me as a pioneer.

With this burning desire to make everything from scratch, it only made sense that I would investigate trying my hand at crafting my own soap. But, it is the one thing that I was most nervous about trying to make. You see, when the recipe calls for the use of safety goggles and gloves, and refers to one of the ingredients as a caustic substance, that's enough for me to stop dead in my tracks. In my mind, I have no business trying to make soap, let alone trying to make soap with 3 kids running around.

This weekend, I dragged my oh-so-patient husband to a soap making class. It was an afternoon class that had us making goat milk soap. Goat milk, apparently, is very gentle on the skin, and since this class was held on a farm with a herd of goats, it made perfect sense. I only have to wait 2-3 weeks until my soap is cured and ready for use. It is a crisp, lemongrass scent, which seems perfect for spring.

Turns out, the process is not so intimidating. Now, I was not volunteering to work with the lye, mind you, but I was able to see that with a well-ventilated space, an apron, some gloves and some goggles, it shouldn't be that scary.

The funniest part of the afternoon was the difference with which my husband and I approached the soap making. He is a very scientific sort, so he spent a fair amount of time studying the chemical write up of what happens during saponification. Me? I was listening intently to what color I should be looking for the lye/milk mixture to turn to know that it was ready (the terribly scientific "banana pudding yellow"). I am not terribly well versed in chemistry, nor any science for that matter. But I did humor him as he explained to me exactly what was happening with the hydrocarbon chains during the soap making process. And, I'd have to say, I did learn a great deal.

I may not run out and start making my own soap tomorrow, but I do aspire to do that someday. What I appreciated most, was learning again what a great team my husband and I make. How our differences, while at times striking, are also tremendously complementary. And while I surely will not remember exactly what happens to the oxygen molecules when you add lye to a fat, I will remember how nice it was to take the class with him (And with that said, I foresee another chemistry lesson in my near future).

Perhaps next time it will be a class on how to build a clay oven in our backyard.... hint, hint.

Monday, February 13, 2012

..happy hearts..

It's Valentine's day. Or as Miss E calls it, "Ballentimes Day."

In a perfect world, I would have had Valentine's finished and super-cute treats decorated and ready to go. In actuality, each kid has 3 more Valentine's to finish and those treats? Yeah, I'm still dreaming about them. Perhaps I'll have time later.

The kids made the same kind of Valentine's this year. I adapted from a Valentine's idea I saw here. I chose to put in some chocolates with the little animals, and used a self-sealing bag and double-stick tape. Worked like a charm, until we had to match up phrases with particular animals, which then caused the entire process to come to a shrieking halt when we ran out of the proper labels. This would be why each child still has 3 left to complete before school today.

Valentine's day here is pretty low-key. We share hugs and kisses, and a coloring book or two. It is a day to remember and celebrate the love that we have for each other. Each of my loves holds my heart in their hands...

And are kind enough to share that love with me and Daddy in what they say and do every day.

They are each unique and different in their own ways, and are utterly endearing as I watch them come together despite those differences.

And I cannot leave out my Hubby, without whom none of these little gems would've been possible. I love them all dearly. And I love our family and friends, near and far, who have also played parts in our lives. We truly are blessed.

Happy Valentine's Day!

** Hand hearts courtesy of my children. 3 year old version is classic.**
Can you tell which it is??

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

..the tickling chair..

Behold, the tickle chair.

My son has an "Invention Convention" at his school this week. This was probably the first big project he has brought home to build. He is in 2nd grade, and I'm sure many more will be assigned through the years. Having been a teacher that has assigned my share of big projects, I am now on the receiving end of these projects, and it is tough stuff.

He brought the assignment home a couple of weeks ago, and had a myriad of ideas. Super sonic speed-maker, housecleaning robot, vacuum that sucks up toys and puts them away -- and the list goes on. He is a fabulous idea person, but not so good as the follow-the-project-through-to-the-bitter-end person. Needless to say, there have been many evenings of banging my head against the wall trying to get him to do the easiest of tasks. One such example includes the night that we made the ticklers out of chenille stems and foam pieces. After twisting 2 stems together, his fingers hurt. *Sigh*

I think the highlight of the week was when he wanted to paint his chair. I was certain he would choose the path of least resistance and paint the chair one color. But he instead opted for the rainbow. His sisters were thrilled. As Miss E exclaimed in sheer delight, "It will have colors for both girls and boys!"

But then came the reality of painting the rainbow. His 5 year old sister (Miss E) was correcting him as he slopped on the paint haphazardly. "You have big globs of paint here and there is a big gap right here! How can you be so sloppy?!" Can you tell my 5 year old is a perfectionist? But better she yell at him than I. I was too busy washing brushes anyway.

So the tickle chair is completed. An experience I won't soon forget, and hopefully, we all learned a little something along the way. I am very proud of his accomplishment, and equally as proud of his Mommy and Daddy, who only lost their cool a couple of times. Now if only this tickle chair was for real....

Thursday, February 2, 2012

..skin solutions..

I am no spring chicken. And in the cooler, dryer months, my skin takes a beating. This fall I came across an article about using oil cleansers. That's right, oil. Needless to say, I just laughed it off initially. But come December, my skin was feeling particularly parched, so I decided I had nothing to lose and I should perhaps give it a go.

It. is. marvelous. 

It's simple and cheap to make, and it is more a ritual of relaxation and unwinding from your day rather than just "washing your face." Of course, if you are so inclined, there are many commercial oil cleansers to choose from.
This is what you need:

castor oil
olive oil (or another oil for the skin like jojoba or grapeseed)
essential oil of your choice, a few drops

I started making the cleanser with 75% castor oil and 25% olive oil, using the ratio recommended for oily or acne prone skin. I have been happy with this ratio, and have not had any problems with breakouts. In fact, one of my cheeks, which appeared to be inflamed and irritated before I started using the oil cleanser, actually faded and went back to normal. If you have dryer skin, the article recommends reversing the ratios. In adding an essential oil, I have tried lavender and geranium (separately, not together). Choose something that you enjoy.

When you wash your face, the process is a little different.
Moisten your face slightly, and put some oil in your palm. Rub the oil in your hands to heat it up ever so slightly, then massage  your face. Concentrate on areas that need a little tlc. At first, I spent a lot of time on that inflamed cheek, but now I find massaging along the jawline, the sinuses, and at the temples are the best places for me. Take your time massaging in the oil, breathe deeply, and just relax.

After the massaging is done, use a washcloth, soak it in hot water and hold it on your face. I am not able to lie down and let the washcloth work it's magic while I unwind (as the article suggests). Instead, I just hold the cloth to my face at the sink and continue the deep breathing. I re-wet the cloth a few times, just to make sure I've given the oil the time it needs to release the dirt and makeup from my skin. (Note: if you are removing eye makeup, I would gently rub it off onto the washcloth).

A couple words of caution: 1. If you don't want an oily residue left in your sink, use a separate basin or tub. 2. Never use oily hands to remove contacts. I, unfortunately, learned the hard way.

After I'm done rinsing (which you're not so much rinsing as you are dabbing), I ever so slightly dry my face. Really you shouldn't need to dry it much, it just depends on how wet your washcloth was. You want your face to have the slightest layer of oil left on it.

It is heavenly, especially if you have sensitive skin.

Happy, clean face.