About three weeks after my knee surgery this spring, which was two weeks after the car accident with daughter no. 1, I lost it in a really.bad.way. I’m normally a very active person, but at that point I’d been on my butt for the better part of five weeks and was going just a bit stir crazy. People had been having to step in to drive dear daughter to her college classes thirty minutes away, three days a week. Dear hubby had had to take off two days a week during that period in order to get her to her furthest classes, fifty minutes away…or two hours when coming home in rush hour traffic. Friends from church had taken me to appointments, brought me my daily fix of a medium Coke/ Coke Zero split from Sonic, brought in food, etc. Everyone had been wonderful, but I was done! It was enough.
So, despite the swelling; despite the difficulty of crutching about and having everything be so HARD(!), I got back into the kitchen (this was also spurred on my youngest asking around dinner time one day, “So, who’s bring in our free-food tonight?” Oh.no.you.didn’t. I will not raise a welfare queen (or a Democrat!)). It wasn’t fun, it was the antithesis of easy, but I planted my unstable tuckus on a stool in front of the stove and began the arduous process of DOING SOMETHING!
Besides cooking on that fateful day, I also began to explore making different DIY health/ beauty/ drink items. In years past, I have been known to go off on “organic tangents,” but eventually the grocery bill increases get to me. I also start pondering the fact that billions of people live without organic products and foods (largely because they are too bloody poor to afford them!) and they do just fine, living to healthy, ripe old ages. Besides these factors, when I start things from scratch, time constraints seem to eventually harpoon my good intentions. In all likelihood, all of the above will eventually happen this go around, too. But, for now, I’m enjoying myself (as long as I can keep the costs down) and will ride this ride as long as it lasts!
The first experiment I started began with Water Kefir grains. I discovered Kevita, a water kefir product, at Sprout’s last year, but DANG! That stuff is pricey! As in days past, Katie at Wellness Mama proved to be a fount of information for my new project. Since ordering some grains from Poseymom a month and a half ago, I’ve had some good batches and some bad ones, but what I like about water kefir is that it is so cheap and easy to make (mostly) that if one batch is bad or I screw up the flavoring, I can try again immediately. And, unlike kombucha, kefir grains aren’t too persnickety, nor do they look like some alien life form on my kitchen counter that my kids are constantly complaining about.
The only drawback to making water kefir? The grains have expanded so much that I feel rather like Mickey Mouse in the Sorcerer’s Apprentice! Seriously, if you want some, I’ll ship them to you- just send me a buck or two for postage! My scant quarter cup of dried grains has expanded into over four cups of happy, active kefir love—and I’ve given away several cups already!
After I got kefir bubbling, I moved on to lotion bars. A year or so ago, I bought raw cocoa butter thinking I was going to be whipping up my own chocolate, but that never happened. So, when I stumbled upon Katie’s Lotion Bar recipe, I thought, “Bingo!” I ordered some beeswax, deodorant containers, and silicone molds off of Amazon, grabbed some NOW Shea Butter at Sprouts, and got to work! I love this stuff! It is so simple, so easy, and one recipe goes quite far. The deodorant containers are brilliant, by the way. I bought a lotion bar years ago at our local Renaissance Festival. Unfortunately, it was pretty quickly covered with lint and hair from sitting in the bathroom. Those simple containers eliminate that problem! One note: cocoa butter has a strong odor of its own. If you want to change the scent of your mix, don’t be too stingy with the essential oils.
What my family thinks I do in the kitchen
Whipped body butter is also pretty wonderful, but don’t chill it, then let it get warm, then repeat. When I first mixed it according to instructions, it absorbed beautifully. But when I decided to share the fruits of my labor with friends, my batch went through the chill/ warm process several times and got less willing to absorb. Instead, it began sitting on my skin more like pure coconut oil does. Blech.
This liquid hand soap recipe is easy, but I like to add a few teaspoons of vegetable glycerin to the finished product to make it a little more gel-like (and a little less likely to shoot from the pump at rocket velocity!). Actually, because of that problem, I truly prefer the Foaming Hand Soap. The only real issue I’ve noted with the foaming stuff is that it takes some time to get used to the “feel” of the added oil on your skin. It does leave a bit of a residue…to the point my picky-butt oldest daughter refuses to use any of my DIY soap. Brat!
As far as a Body Wash recipe goes, I had to search a bit more for one of those. The basis of sooooooo many such recipes is Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Soap. I don’t know why, but Dr. Bronner’s, even the baby formula, even well diluted, doesn’t get along with my…nether regions. So, using either of the above soap recipes in the shower got tossed out the window- quickly! The formula I settled upon still uses Dr. B’s as a constituent, it still irritates if I’m not careful, but I really like feel of this terrific Coconut Milk and Honey blend. Kudos to Kristin at Live Simply. She also has a nearly perfect facial cleanser. I tried for a moment to love oil cleansing, but quickly went back to my old cleanser. In fact, after two days, my feelings about oil cleansing quickly became:
In search of a simple hand and body cream that absorbed in quickly (and wouldn’t it be great if I could use a pump!?), I found Simple Nourishing Hand and Body Cream at Whole New Mom. I will note this is an odd little recipe. I prepared it according to instructions, filling two 4 oz. jars, but one took a good while to start solidifying (as in a week!), the other is still fairly liquid. According to Adrienne, this has something to do with the shea butter. I’m OK with that though. The one that is more solid, I love to use as a face moisturizer. The other…ummm, I’ll probably stick in the fridge eventually. Yeah…maybe even tonight. Another one I want to try is this Homemade Ultra-Moisturizing Lotion (without coconut oil). I agree with you, Kristin, I’m a bit sick of coconut oil, too!
Toothpaste! Who’d a thunk you could make such an excellent product? I seriously think this is my favorite DIY. I have sensitive chompers. Could be the 16 fillings in my adult teeth! Unfortunately, my mom wasn’t the tooth Nazi I am, and growing up, we were allowed to drink Coke and eat candy with wild abandon. It is a good thing I had a fast metabolism as a kid or I probably would have looked something like Augustus Gloop rather than Violet Beauregarde!
Due to this “parental oversight,” I spent a LOT of time in the dentist’s chair from the time I was five until about fourteen, when I finally took responsibility for my own dental hygiene. (Thanks to the multitude of experiences I had at the hands of the evil pediatric dentist Dr. Kouri, my kids have been spared even a single cavity!) Nevertheless, no conventional toothpaste, even Sensodyne and its ilk, have helped my tooth sensitivity.
About eight years ago I discovered Evan’s Garden, a mom and pop company in Florida. Well, they have a most wonderful “toothpaste” that I found did away with my brushing sensitivities in short order! It was pretty amazing; I used it for about a year, and then I got distracted and forgot to order before I ran out. So, then decided to try to find something local. I tried a few brands from Whole Foods, but nothing inspired loyalty. And then I found Trader Joe’s Anti-plaque Toothpaste. It worked and works great. It is definitely my commercial paste of choice, but it’s not like there’s a TJ’s on every corner, and sometimes life gets too busy to make a special trip. Unfortunately, I have discovered going back to conventional toothpaste for any length of time is a non-no. The sensitivity, which is worse around my period (and was one of my first pregnancy indicators with both girls. Gotta love hormones!), comes back quickly.
I first tried this recipe from Kristin, but I was uncomfortable with the large amount of coconut oil going down my sink and leaving a gross residue in my sink. In composition it was a little…solid, and in practice it was wearing a sore spot on my gums. I think maybe substituting the liquid bentonite clay I already had on hand, as opposed to ordering the powder form she linked on the recipe, may have kept the mix from being softer; and in all likelihood the quarter cup of baking soda was the culprit working on my gum line. Alas, my search continued.
Katie’s Remineralizing Toothpaste came across my desktop last year, but I blew off the idea of making it at that time- too much trouble. And where does one get Calcium Carbonate anyway? Oh, yeah. Amazon. That’s also where I sucked it up and ordered the bentonite clay. Hmm, how do I feel about this recipe? I LOVE THIS STUFF! At first I stored it in a small Zip-Loc bag with a small snip in a corner (how fun is it to “cake decorate” your toothbrush in the morning? Lots!), but today I remembered I had something similar to a Go Toob in a kitchen drawer! So I squeezed the bag o’ paste into the silicone tube and voila!
My latest grain play, has me attempting to make Milk Kefir. It’s been an interesting process and I’m finding the grains are a little more picky than water kefir, but I have hope milk kefir will eventually be something to enjoy- particularly when I try it with coconut milk.
Of course not every DIY try is a success. I’ve had a few here and there that just didn’t work for whatever reason. The most hideous “epic fail” of my recent experiments was this Natural, Non-Greasy Hand and Body Lotion from DIY Natural. Sorry, Betsy. I tried twice. It was a horrific mess, and it will take many moons before I attempt to emulsify anything again. In this case, store-bought stuff will just have to do.
I also tried Katie’s Natural Shampoo. It was great going on, but gross coming out— unless I used her recommended 50/50 water and apple cider rinse. But then I smelled like apple cider vinegar…noticeably. I don’t think so. In fact, the last time I went through a big “organics” cycle the only shampoo I tried that worked in every way and didn’t make my scalp start itching after a week was from Evan’s Garden. In recent months I’ve been using Ology brand products from Walgreens, and you know, I think I’ll just stick with them. Really, I have colored (for 13 years), do color, and will continue to color my hair every 4 weeks with Miss Clairol for at least another six years (when I turn fifty)(don’t even talk to me about henna or Naturtint. I tried them both, and both fried my hair!), natural shampoo is the least of my concerns! Thanks for the pre-mature grey genes, mom and what’s-his-name. Yeah, setting color aside isn’t even part of the discussion at the moment. So, why both worrying about natural hair care?
You have any tried and true recipes you love? Post them, please!