Home Spa – DIY Style

Because I enjoy seeing just exactly how close I can come to giving myself an anxiety attack, I waited one week until Christmas to make my gifts for everyone. And in my brilliance, I decided to make not just one, but FOUR gifts per person for a home spa kit. …my friends better love me.

In my frenzy, I turned the kitchen in to what resembled an apothecary of sorts run by none other than the Tasmanian Devil – you know, the cartoon character that spins around and turns everything in to shambles and disarray. My very patient roommates did their best to turn a blind eye to the  disaster area that used to be the kitchen until I was finished. Not an easy thing to do.

With the exception of maybe one or two ingredients, everything I used to make my products was natural and organic. And I made them barefoot. With bell bottoms, flowers in my hair, and ‘groovy’ on the tip of my tongue the entire time. Jk. Mostly…

In each spa kit, I included: homemade lip balm, whipped body butter, bath salts, and a sugar scrub.

Peppermint/Rosemary Lip Dressing: For the lip balm, I used the same recipe and procedure as my Lip Dressing that I have made previously. For whatever reason, this batch turned out much better than the first. It yielded 38 tubes of chapstick, which means plenty left over for yours truly. Or you, if you’d like.

Orange Dreamsicle Sugar Scrub: Next, I made the sugar scrub. I found my inspiration for the scrub here. I liked that it had limited ingredients and was very easy to make….if you follow the directions right. Unlike I did. It essentially takes only two ingredients: sugar and almond oil. Pretty straightforward. About two cups of sugar to 1/4-1/3 cup of almond oil. Unless you misread the instructions and haphazardly use 1 1/3 cups of almond oil. Then it takes a WHOLE lotta sugar to make up the consistency. You want the mixture to be soft but not too oily. -I have never before used a sugar scrub and was constantly asking my roommates if my mixture looked or seemed right-

Sugar scrub ingredientsCombining almond oil with sugarSugar and almond oil mixture

If you want to stop there, you can! I can’t ever make anything easy, so I decided to add essential oils for scent and color for effect. I went with orange for the scent, because I figured it would be different and fun. I then divided the sugar into two bowls, one of which I dyed orange.

Plain and orange sugar scrub Orange Sugar Scrub

In small containers, I layered the colors. I gently padded down each layer with the bottom of a shot glass, because I’m innovative. The final product turned out a little something like this:

Orange Dreamsicle Sugar Scrub

Whipped Body Butter: The body butter was probably the most ‘labor-intensive’ process out of everything. That being said, it still wasn’t that hard. And I asked all of my giftees what scent they would like so that I could customize it for them. I found the original recipe for it here. I made a few small adjustments, but followed it for the most part. You essentially need 2 cups total of grease/oil, but I doubled the recipe. I used what I had: 2 cups shea butter, 1 cup coconut oil, 1 cup almond oil. I added the essential oils after for scent depending on what people wanted. I did not color/dye any of the lotion, but that is an option as well (just be cautious of staining skin….or don’t if that’s what you’re going after).

Shea butter, coconut oil, almond oil

Using a double boiler – or one you make yourself from a pot and a glass bowl, melt all the ingredients together, stirring constantly. Let it cool for a few minutes on the counter and then put in the refrigerator until it’s firm, but not solid. Mine took about 2.5 hours to cool.

Butter and oil on double burnerMelted butter and oils

Using a hand mixer, whip the body butter at a high speed for 10 to 15 minutes, or until fluffy. Add your essential oils for scent. Or, if you’re making several different scents, divide into separate containers and whip personalized oils in.

Whipping the Body ButterWhipping the Body ButterWhipped Body Butter

Spoon body butter into containers without packing down or spreading out. This keeps the ‘whipped’ illusion.

Whipped Body Butter

I kept one for myself, and let me tell you, it feels absolutely AMAZING. It’s a little heavy, so I put it on right before bed. The body butter is extremely nourishing and makes my skin very soft. I will definitely be making this bad boy again.

Aromatic Bath Salts: This was by far the easiest thing to make. I found several ‘recipes’ online, but ultimately went with my own. I combined 3 parts Epsom salt with 2 parts sea salt and 1 part baking soda. The baking soda is a skin softener. I added essential oils for scent – lavender and tea tree oil. Put everything into a big mixing bowl, and, well, mix! Like magic, you have aromatic bath salts. So easy, and people are SUPER impressed.

Aromatic Bath SaltsAromatic Bath Salts

 

If you have the time, you can make labels for everything. I was pretty pressed, so I simply included a note with the gift explaining what each jar contained. The entire gift-making process was more enjoyable than I thought it would be, and everything turned out better than I thought it would. There were a few hiccups along the way, but with me that’s pretty inevitable.

Home Spa Kit

Last year, I crocheted everyone infinity scarves. This year, home spa kits.

Next year….gift certificates. 😉

‘Tis The Season (Of Gifting)

I LOVE giving people gifts. I’ve always prided myself as a pretty creative gifter. Maybe that’s because I pay attention to people more than most others do….well that sounds a little creepy.

Last year, I crocheted 7 infinity scarves for my close friends and family, each tailored with their favorite color. This allowed me to watch horribly-entertaining shows on Netflix for hours on end. And I wanted to set fire to all of my yarn only a few times! Success. (Minus the fact that one of my good friends turned out to be allergic to the baby alpaca yarn I made her scarf with and ended up with a lovely red rash around her neck…sorry, Laura) To make all of these, I started back in October.

This year, 4 days until Christmas, and I haven’t even started my gift-making-extravaganza yet.

I’m so screwed. :/

For the next few days, I will be feverishly working on gift baskets, which will include homemade chapstick, whipped body butter, relaxing bath salts and invigorating sugar scrubs.

I have very few of the ingredients I need for all of this, so additionally I will have to brave the psycho-crazy-last-minute shoppers. And I will be one of them.

There are a few gifts that I have completed so far, however.

This year, I decided to let the gift keep on giving even after Christmas: potted paperwhite lilies that will bloom (hopefully) sometime in January.

It was very easy to do, and fairly cheap for as many as I made. All you need are paperwhite lily bulbs, potting soil and a flower pot really. If you want to fancy-it-up you can wrap the pots with ribbon, or even decorate them. You can also top the potting soil with decorative shells or beads of different colors.

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I put 3 bulbs to a flower pot. You can do less, or more if the pots are bigger. I wrapped the flower pots with ribbon and included some fun shells and beads on top of the soil. Instead of decorating the pots, I’m going to write the names of the people I’m giving them to on the pot with chalk. The chalk will eventually come off, or can be washed off, and they can reuse the pot for flowers in the summer if they wish.

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The lilies need watered about every 3 days. Unfortunately, they will only bloom once. (Which is actually fine with me. I’m surprised I haven’t killed all of them off already.)

Although I thought this was a fun idea, one remark I got was: ‘You made a gift for someone to finish doing all the work on…’ Ya, well, I figured they needed a new hobby as well. I’m thoughtful like that dammit.

Another gift idea I had involves booze. ….no one is shocked….

One of my roommates is really in to beer. She loves everything about it, especially trying new ones. So, in a bout of cleverness, I decided to give her the 12 Beers of Christmas.

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I bought 12 different singles and wrapped each of them with white paper, writing the number order in which to drink the beers. One a day for 12 days, with the last one to be opened Christmas Eve. Each one I bought was a special seasonal, and no two were from the same brewery, including the bomber I bought for Day 12. I finished off each one with a festive ribbon, which I successfully curled without ruining it. And then I wrote a poem to accompany them.

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Go me.

As for the rest of my brilliant Christmas gift ideas….well, they may turn out to be New Year gifts instead. What better way to ring in the New Year than with a present?! Maybe that was my plan all along.

Playing With Needles

So. I’ve been a slacker. A big one. BUT that’s not to say I haven’t been doing anything. In fact, for the past 4 weeks I have been learning a skill that will take me far in life. It has been tough, grueling, and time-consuming. Many will attempt, but few will find the will power to carry on and succeed. With the help of lessons and a guru, I have been able to create a piece of art with my newly attained talent.

Watch out, world! I’m learning to knit!

I bought my Mom and I knitting classes for Christmas and we’ve been on the journey to become knitting fiends! We’ve been going to Your Daily Fiber, where Ivy, our instructor, has been incessantly patient with us. After 4 weeks, and many many MANY mistakes -and an impressive vocabulary of colorful words directed at the yarn and knitting needles-, I have finished my first project. My new work of art will be displayed for all to see…on my head. I made a beanie! Colorado has been so accommodating during this time by providing cold temperatures and several Spring snowstorms so that I might be able to actually wear it before we reach scorching Summer temps -in which case I will STILL wear it.

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AND it’s bright orange, which makes it that much better.

Diving into the knitting world, you have to learn not only a new language with your hands -how to hold the needles, what to do with the yarn, how to determine when you’ve dropped a stitch, how to refrain from giving your project the middle finger-, but also a new vocabulary. Purl, knit, turn, block, finish, sock stitch, rib, cast on, etc. I’m slowly catching on to these and am able to sometimes use them correctly so I don’t sound quite as moronic to our knitting instructor -who is amazing by the way…and did I mention very patient?-.

I don’t know how to read patterns yet, so I just did what Ivy told me, which worked out pretty well for the most part. For this project, and for my particular stitches, I cast on 80, knit 1 purl 1 for 2 inches, knit in the round for 6 inches, knit 8 stitch 2 together for 1 row, knit one row, knit 7 stitch 2 together for one row, knit one row, knit 6 stitch 2 together for one row, knit one row….all the way down. Finish by sewing the top stitches together and bringing them through the top of the hat (I know what I’m trying to say, but not really sure how to say it. Obviously.). Sew in your yarn tails.

If that made any sense to you, you are a knitting professional, because I just re-read it and it looks like gibberish.

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For my first project, I think it turned out pretty well. Because I’m still very new to this, I think I’m going to sign up for more classes so that I can learn to read a pattern, and hopefully learn to fix mistakes myself without completely crumbling and having a mild panic attack every time I drop a stitch.

Although Summer is fast-approaching, you will be able to pick me out of a crowd. I’ll be the one in a tank top, shorts, sandals, and a bright orange beanie.

And maybe socks, if I make those next.

Project suggestions are welcome! I’ve already been encouraged to try my hand at knitted underwear…..

 

Lip Dressing

Most people know that Colorado is the epitome of a dry climate. Sure, it’s pretty, has a lot to offer, and is mostly the best place ever -I may be slightly biased-, but it also feels like there are tiny minions all over your body, sticking microscopic straws into your pores and sucking out whatever moisture that you may have previously had feebly clinging for life, leaving you skin to rival that of a cracked, dry desert floor. Pretty, huh. We-or at least I- go through copious amounts of lotion here to counter the moisture-sucking minion attacks.

You think that’s bad, not only do the minions drain the water from your skin, but your lips take a beating as well. Not only to they attack with their moisture-depriving straws, they then run over them with mini sandpapers for that added sexy chapped effect. Hail all chap sticks! I’m never caught without mine and usually have at least 2 on my person: pockets, purse, car. I might be slightly addicted. I am in love with a particular peppermint beeswax one that is extremely popular…but it can also be expensive, especially with the frequency that I tend to lose mine -I’m convinced the minions ban together for ‘mission impossibles’ to steal and destroy them-. I’m fairly certain I keep them in business just by myself. So, being the creative person that I’m-not-really-but-pretend-really-hard-to-be-and-am-trying-to-convince-others, I decided to make my own.

The recipe I used was inspired by this blog, but I plan to change mine up a little in the future.

The materials: chap stick tubes (or you can use containers), shea butter, coconut oil, beeswax, lanolin, and whatever oils you’d like to ‘flavor’ it. For my first batch, I used peppermint and rosemary. I also have lavender, almond, orange, and tea tree oil for future chap stick endeavors. The recipe I went off of said it makes about 40 tubes of chap stick. Mine only made about 30. That should last me for at least 2 months or so… I found all my materials on Amazon.

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Melt 2oz of beeswax in a pot on the stove on low heat.

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Measure out 3oz of coconut oil, 3/4oz shea butter, and 1/4oz lanolin. Some people don’t like lanolin, which I suppose is ok, so just make sure to use additional everything else to make up for it if you opt to leave it out. You want about 4oz of liquid total. You want to have twice as much oil as you do beeswax, so feel free to experiment away!

Add everything else in to the melted beeswax to melt down as well.

Add in essential oils. I did about twice the amount of peppermint oil as rosemary oil. I did about 30ish drops peppermint oil and 15ish drops of rosemary oil. I’m excited to experiment with my other oils soon!

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After it’s all melted, and the flavor is right for you, pour into chap stick tubes or containers. If you use tubes, pour carefully (it comes out fast); you’ll probably have a few casualties — it doesn’t take much for them to tip over. The melty chap stick mixture is super fun to clean up off of counter tops and stoves.

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Let it cool and solidify.

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If you want to be extra pretend crafty, like me, you can create labels to put on your chap stick tubes. I decided on the name “Lip Dressing” for my chap sticks -note creative flair- because it’s fun, and, well, I was eating a salad at the time so the idea just kind of came to me.

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And thus, Peppermint Lip Dressing was born! TA-DA!

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Don’t act like you’re not impressed…

Becoming a Southern Belle?

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I’ve been to South America and South Asia (Indonesia), but before last August (2012), I had never been to the South in North America. That changed when I started dating a Southerner from Louisiana. Born and raised in Colorado, I’m not a huge fan of humidity, and neither is my curly hair, which becomes ridiculously unruly and unmanageable the closer to sea level I get. I’d never had any reason to go until then. It rains more than any place I’ve seen. Colorado is lucky to get a few thunderstorms a year – this is an almost daily occurrence down there. Yep, it’s definitely different.

A Southern Belle is something I’ll never be, but I’ve definitely learned my share of skills and had some crazy experiences down there. A few things I’ve learned and learned how to do:

*A new language. That’s right, the South has it’s own language. They are efficient people – they take one big breath and say everything they have to say in one sentence very long word without breaking in between. Often, they will shorten words so as not to use up energy with those extra syllables. Then, they will stare at you until you respond, whether or not you understood anything that came out of their mouth. Nod. A lot.

IMG_0198IMG_0199*Crawfish season is revered, and you best get your order in asap or watch out for rowdy people throwin ‘bows for the last pound. There is a crawfish hierarchy that is established among restaurants as to whose is the best – this is dictated through a drawn-out conversation by crawfish consumers between juciy bites discussing the seasoning of these ones to so-and-so’s down the street. Yet, they all get eaten all the same. Oh, and size does matter.

*Coke is soda is water. Any sort of bubbly soda is stored and stocked in houses and establishments like they’re preparing for a world-wide shortage. The only thing they’re missing is for it to come out of their faucets. Everything is called Coke – it’s just a matter of what kind of Coke you’d like.

*Some places are dark and dirty, while others resemble an extraordinary oasis. I’ve been on one plantation there, Houmas House, and it is one of the prettiest places I’ve seen. Also, some of the houses we’ve driven by are incredible. Quite a contrast between those and the poverty of New Orleans. They all have one thing in common, though, the culture of the people. The culture is tangible and hard not to get caught up in. It’s a mixture of feelings: old and new, music and art, cajun, french, american, wealth and poverty, history and the present.

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Houmas

House

Plantation

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*The food is phenomenal, plentiful, and very filling.

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And yet we eat, and eat, and eat some more!

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Other things I learned in Louisiana:

IMG_0203How to shoot a gun

 

 

 

 

How squirrell tastes (I didn’t think I’d actually hit the little guy)

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How to wedge, throw, and trim my very first pot

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How to make apple butter

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I’ve also been deep-sea fishing, hurricane drinking, regular fishing, insect identifying, frog leg eating, orange picking, running from slugs (irrational fear), walking down Bourbon Street and the French Quarter, sipping cafe au lait and eating beignets from Cafe Du Monde. Although it’s very different from home and almost like another world, it’s a fun place to visit and I’m excited to see what the next trip has in store for me.

I’ll just be a Colorado girl in a Southern Belle world.

Come on baby, light my fire

Now, you’re probably thinking: she just got done burning a towel, what in the heck is she doing with fire?!?!?! Well don’t worry, I’m here to reassure you. Comforting, I know. I’m not necessarily playing with fire….just with boiling water and hot wax. Much better, right?

For a fun Monday afternoon project, I opted on candle making. There’s not much that beats a good candle. They’re nice to look at, they smell good. -that’s pretty much my criteria for people, too- Candles can be awfully expensive in stores, though, and people pay for them, myself included. With a little wax, some nostril-pleasing scents and a Pinterest tutorial, I’m well on my way to being a supreme candle maker. -in addition to a bomb yogurt maker…stop snickering-

Because I’m lazy and didn’t feel like going to a craft store -not to mention I find them extremely overwhelming-, I did the next best thing and searched Amazon.com for supplies. Boy, do they know how to entice you to buy stuff on there. I originally was going to go for a 5lb bag of soy wax flakes…but then I saw the 10lb option for a better value. Yep, you’re right, Amazon, 10lbs of wax is exactly what I need. Thank you for suggesting that. Additionally, thank you for suggesting the 100 yard roll of wick and the 100 metal wick holders. OH, and as an addendum, you thought I might need some scents at $8 for 4oz? I’ll take 2. Good point: While I’m at it, I should probably buy a DVD to watch/listen to as I’m candle making… Additionally, I picked up 12 8oz mason jars and some crayons for color at the store. Apparently, I’m on the right track to open Melissa’s menagerie of candles.

-sidenote- Let’s be honest: who doesn’t love a project that involves crayons?!

Alright team, let’s do this candle thing.

Materials: wax flakes (I opted for soy wax flakes – they have a long burn time and are non-toxic – yay inner tree hugger), wicks, wick holders, jars of some sort, glue, scissors, stirring spoon, measuring cup, crayons (optional), scents (optional), and a double boiler.

Materials for candle making

Candle-making swag

First things first, I cut the wicks from my giant roll of them and placed them in the wick holders. After not doing it myself the first candle go-round, I highly suggest gluing the wick holders to the bottom of your candle so they stay centered while you pour the wax. It’s much easier than pouring the wax, trying to center the wick holder, and doing your best not to burn yourself all at the same time. Trust me. Also, get scissors that aren’t extremely dull. Or use a knife. I imagine it would’ve made my life a little easier.

Candle wicks in wick holders

Candle wicks in wick holders

Next, melt the wax in a double-boiler pot. This looks eerily like the set up of the great yogurt fail of 2013, so that was on my mind the entire time. After a little experimentation, I found that I needed 3 cups of wax flakes to make 2 8oz candles. I decided to do 2 mini batches so I could change the color and scent halfway through; however, I wasn’t exactly sure how to do it. I know, I know: add it to the wax, dummy. Yes, I got that part. The issue is how much to add. Amazon so kindly gave me the gentle encouragement to buy 2 different scents: peppermint eucalyptus and lavender. In hindsight I probably should have looked online to see how much one would normally add. Instead, I thought a half bottle would do the trick nicely. As a result, I’ve been able to smell nothing except lavendery eucalyptusy peppermint for the past 2.5 hours. That being said, I may have over-done it.

Soy wax in double boiler

Soy wax on stove

Melting wax

Melting wax

As for the color, I used green for the eucalyptus peppermint and purple for the lavender. Well, I attempted it anyway. I only used a little bit of the crayon in the wax because it turned a vibrant green color right away.

Green candle wax

Green candles…almost

The wax had a personal vendetta against the color purple, though. No matter how much crayon I put in, the wax hardly changed color. It just sat there, mocking me, as I tried to figure out what to do. So I went back, way back, to my kindergarten days and found the answer. RED + BLUE = PURPLE!

Eureka! Put that in your pipe and smoke it, wax!

Green and purple candles

Green & purple. Reminds me of jello.

Now, the site that I used for this project said the next step is to pour the wax into the jars, center the wick, let it solidify, and you’re all done!

Green and purple candles.

Almost there!

They lied. The wax poured great. The candles looked pretty. Centering the wicks is another story. I don’t know what kind of wicks they were using, but mine didn’t want to stay centered and upright, they preferred to go limp and wilt off to the side. My first thought was ‘how in the heck am I going to hold 12 wicks for the next hour until the wax is set’?! After some mild panic and one ruined candle, this was my solution:

Genius? I think so.

So proud of myself, making green and purple candles. Mission accomplished.

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But wait! The candles weren’t going to let me off the hook that easy…What I didn’t realize is that when the wax hardens, the color fades. They got me, and they got me good. My ‘green’ is about the color one turns right before they go get up close and personal with the porcelain throne, and my ‘purple’ is more of a dirty mop water gray.

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Uh, the ones on the left are ‘green’ and the ones on the right are ‘purple.’

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Or not.

You can’t even tell the color difference in the picture.

Well played, candles. Well played.

…At least you can smell them from a mile away.

Begin at the beginning

That’s how most things start, right? Step 1 to Step umpteenth. And most people are able to follow these steps, i.e. instructions/directions/recipes, with maybe one hiccup here and there.

And then there’s me.

I’ve never strived to be Suzy homemaker and have tenaciously turned my nose up at cooking, needlework, arts & crafts, and basic home remedies. Which, up til now, is probably a good thing. I am a certifiable klutz -if such certification existed- and have a knack for breaking, burning and/or somehow ingeniously and unthinkably destroying things, despite trying to follow instructions. Growing up, my parents would always tell me that I could probably burn water if I tried. I believe it.

At 25 years old, though, I think it’s time to turn over a new leaf and give these previously shunned skills a go. I am surrounded by talented people in many of these areas, and would like to join this club of sorts. Perhaps by knitting an impressive pair of socks, or pleasing taste buds with and ever-so-decadent strudel, they will welcome me with open arms and we can share tips and tricks of mod podge and homemade dog clothes while sipping a refreshing sangria –which I made myself-.

I enjoy trying new things –win, lose, or crash and burn– and can hopefully hone in on some of these skills…or try and fail miserably at the deserved entertainment of everyone else. In addition to the wonderfully talented individuals I have just so happened to surround myself with, Pinterest is a continued evil reminder of the innate skills that the Talent Fairy forgot to bless me with, and instead gave me an extra dose of ungainliness. Well played, Talent Fairy.

Commence rebuttal process.

This is going to be the documentation of my attempts to branch out and awaken my inner Martha Stewart, and then some. I’m guessing there will be a lot of wine involved…for reward purposes…or condoling purposes…or just for fun. Critiques, advice, suggestions, short cuts, tips, and jests are all welcomed, and encouraged.

Fingers crossed there will be minimal damage to my house. And myself.

Enjoy!

“Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”  -Lewis Carroll