Thursday, May 30, 2013

Operation Ninja Fairy

It may be time to brush up my mommy "resume." I can now say that I am a "ninja fairy," after successfully making it through our first experience with the Tooth Fairy! And this was not without a fair bit of drama and seemingly huge decision making of the non-life-threatening kind.

All day yesterday Mia was bothered by a wiggly tooth while she was at school. By dinnertime, she was crying that her mouth hurt. I, in a fit of what can only be termed temporary insanity, offered to pull it out for her. Aside from being gross and weird and causing my poor baby additional pain, this did not even work! Fortunately, it must have at least loosened it up, because the tooth came out in time for her to play outside before getting ready for bed.

{My BIG girl's 1st missing tooth!}

This was a relief for all of us as she had been nearly inconsolable with grief over losing her tooth, wailing, "I don't want to lose my baby tooth! I want to keep it." We tried reassuring her that this was a completely normal part of growing up, (while trying to maintain composure over this bittersweet rite of passage -- it's tough realizing that your baby is not really a baby any longer!), but she was far from convinced that her suffering was all worth it. The only thing keeping her from totally falling apart was her excitement about the Tooth Fairy's upcoming visit. (The anticipation of this was even enough to calm her relatively soon after the tooth fell out, when she realized, with horror, that she was GASP! Bleeding! I told you there was some drama involved in this story.)

On the topic of the Tooth Fairy, I really should do more advanced planning, it seems. This was the first lost baby tooth for our family, so I had no idea what to do. One good thing is that I had learned somewhere of a cute idea for tooth fairy "transactions." So, I purchased two Scentsy baby stuffed animals when I was at a party in December (this was one at which I was also selling Dove, before I went out of business). One is "Patch," a dog, and the other one is "Ollie" the elephant. I knew Mia would be likely losing her first tooth at some point this year, and my plan was to let her choose one, and then Logan would get the other one when he loses his first tooth. At the time, it seemed like a fun investment, but at $20 a pop it was a total splurge, not a typical purchase for me. However, having a weakness for creating new family traditions won out in the end. I know I could have made some sort of little pouch with scrap material and saved quite a bit, but this was too cute to resist, and I felt it would be less likely to get lost. (See, I really did convince myself that it was an investment.)

Fortunately, Mia loved the idea! She chose Patch, the dog, who is now called "Emma." We put her tooth into a tiny ziplock bag (that once held extra thread for a sweater) and I, being a teensy bit anal, labeled it with a black Sharpie: "Mia's First Loose Tooth 5/29/13." While the labeling probably wasn't necessary (although I do plan to keep them and let her have them in the future to do with as she decides and it's kind of neat to have a record), I was glad that it was contained in the bag. This made it much easier to retrieve the tooth from "Emma" the dog's zippered pouch -- in the darkness.

{First missing tooth -- and a new friend!}

The only problem was that I wasn't sure what to swap for the tooth. So, I set out in search of the "going rate" for teeth. First I actually Googled "going rate for tooth fairy" and immediately pulled up a poll done by Delta Dental of Illinois. (There was then a short discussion with Brett since he also works at Delta, just in one of the Michigan branches. Hey, did you know there's this ongoing poll done every year... No? Well, it comes up right away in a Google search!) According to that survey, the average amount given per tooth was $2.42 last year, with an even higher average of $3.49 given for a first tooth! WHAT?! This seemed awfully high to me, so I decided to check with my mom friends to see what "real" people are thinking on this subject. This is the (un-edited, so please excuse any typos) conversation that took place on Facebook last night:

  • Me: Okay friends, what is the "going rate" for the tooth fairy these days?
  • Jamie: $5.00
  • Erin: She brought $5 for the first tooth.
  • Me: That seems high! I got a quarter when I was a kid.
  • Me: Maybe for the first tooth, though?
  • Erin: LOL! She brought $2 for the rest.
  • Me: I was thinking maybe $2 since it's the first tooth and $1 for the next teeth, but maybe I haven't adjusted for inflation!? 
  • Jamie: lol ya $2.00 is good people say $5.00 but i think thats a little high too
  • Jade: $.25 I guess we are cheap
  • Julie: I gave $5 first tooth &; $1 for the rest. Danielle liked it when it was a fresh crisp bill. I have friends who said they sprinkle glitter on it too! I like that idea!
  • Heather: Our tooth fairly deals in odd currency....such as fifty cent peices, gold one dollar coins, ect. Owen loves it! It makes it totally believable because he doesn't normally see those except for from the tooth fairy.
  • Me: I like the glitter idea, and Jade, you are not cheap! They don't need all kinds of cash, nor do they need to expect to get paid just for losing teeth. We pay $2 weekly allowance, but ONLY if she cleans her room properly that week. If not, she just forfeits the money. I am struggling with how much to give because I don't want it to be a free-for-all type thing. 
  • Me: Oooh! Heather, that is awesome!!
  • Me: The only problem is that I don't have odd currency lying around... Gotta plan ahead for these things.
  • Heather: I have a baggie full of odd currency. I'm ready for the next 10 My parents did this for me when I was a kid...that may be the reason I believed for way too long.
  • Me: I do have those gold $1 coins they got at church some months back. Would it be bad if I recycled it?
  • Heather: No...I'm doing that! 
  • Me: I may do that then. If he hasn't caught on then, hopefully Mia won't realize either. I do want it to be fun, just not a huge money grab. 
  • Julie #2: $1 for first and 50cents for rest. No reason to blow out of proportion!
  • Heather: He forgot about them. I bet she does too. Owen did say something about them at the time he got them. But I told him Rev. Lewis must be pretty good friends with the tooth fairy. He seemed ok with that.
  • Me: So, I could do the gold $1 coin tonight (which I have, thankfully!) and then scrounge up some 50 cent pieces to keep on hand.... may have this figure out.
  • Me: Thanks everyone! Now, I just have to figure out how to be stealthy...

Stealthy indeed! Who came up with this idea anyway? It is waaaaaaaaaaaay trickier to be the Tooth Fairy than it is to be Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. Neither one of those family traditions have ever required me to sneak into the room of my sleeping child and to try to add or remove any items from her pillow! Mia still goes to bed with her lamp on, and one of us goes in and turns it off after she is asleep, at her request, so at least that part is routine. However, I have never been so anxious about disturbing her while doing this. It felt like if I woke her up for this first tooth, we were pretty much out of luck for continuing the tradition, and for some crazy reason this felt like the weight of the entire world upon my shoulders. While tip-toeing into Mia's room, she stirred in her bed, and it felt like my heart lodged in my throat. Silly, I know, but I was really on edge. I swear the only sound in the house was my own heart pounding. After turning out her light, I swept Emma into my hand and hurried into the hallway. (I was relieved that I convinced her not to put Emma underneath her pillow, which is what she originally wanted to do! Can you imagine how much harder that would be? I instantly felt awe for my own parents. How the heck did they do that, removing a tooth, and slipping a quarter into its place? I think it requires the skills of a super secret agent or something.) I un-zipped the pocket, and inserted the gold $1 coin and a folded-up note that I had typed up and formatted to be small enough to look like it came from the Tooth Fairy, but still big enough to read easily. I also added a very small amount of silver glitter. The note read:

May 29, 2013
Dear Mia,
     Congratulations on losing your first tooth! I am
very pleased to see that it is in such beautiful
condition. You obviously take very good care of
your teeth, working hard to keep them shiny
and white. Please keep up to great work by
continuing to brush twice a day!
P.S. Don’t forget to floss!
                                                Your Friend,
                                                The Tooth Fairy

I zipped the pouch bag up, again tip-toed into Mia's room, and left the stuffed dog on top of her pillow. Whew! Mission accomplished, and she didn't wake up. The Tooth Fairy myth was safely intact! Go me! And I encouraged her to be a superstar with her oral hygiene, all the better! Feeling extremely relieved and more than a bit proud of myself, I returned downstairs. That's when I realized that I had left the tooth inside the stuffed dog! Brett and I quickly decided that I had to go back to retrieve the tooth. Seriously? I was already on an adrenaline high from the first go-round. I was kind of worried that this would the thing that would push me right over the precipice... Fortunately, I succeeded in my mission, and I think I have rightly earned the title of "ninja fairy!" (In my head, I have dubbed this first super secret mission "Operation Ninja Fairy" so maybe in the future I will come up with more silly names for these after-hours tooth-swapping missions.)

As expected, Mia awoke extra early this morning, positively giddy over the discovery of the special gold coin. Heather was right. She had no recollection of getting 5 of them from church. She thought it was really cool and said, "Wow! I've never seen a coin like this before!" And believe me, I wasn't about to correct her! Not after all of the effort that went into the whole charade. She must really love the little note from the Tooth Fairy because she stuck it on the refrigerator. I waited a bit and then showed her the "fairy dust" on the inside of Emma's pouch. She studied this, and then I feared I had gone too far when she told me, "It looks just like glitter." Uh oh! Luckily, she then added, "But it's really fairy dust," and she was clearly thrilled to see it. So, in the end, we have one very happy little girl who couldn't wait to get to school to share her special news with her teacher. And, yes, I'm one pleased-as-punch "ninja fairy" mama, too.

{The goods -- and a gap-toothed grin!}

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

3- Ingredient Homemade Shaving Cream

This is the only shaving cream recipe that I have tried so far, but honestly, I am happy with it, so I see no reason to try any others. While I have always used Skintimate, and I can get it very cheaply with coupons and sales, I just wasn't happy with all of the unnecessary chemical ingredients. Although, this homemade version is a bit more work and a bit pricier, I find that it's a perfect replacement. It's moisturizing, it smells nice, and it gets the job done without any chemicals added, which makes it a must-have for "surviving summer." I found this fantastic recipe on the blog Little House Living, and I am now kissing my Skintimate good-bye!

{Freshly whipped shaving cream}
{This is what it looks like after it "settles."}
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup shea butter
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  1. On the stove top, melt the shea butter and coconut oil on low heat. (This took about 5 minutes.)
  2. Pour the melted contents of the pan into a container. Add the olive oil and stir to combine. (You can also substitute almond or jojoba oils, according to Little House Living, but I have not tried this. Perhaps for the next batch, I will try the almond oil, since I have some on hand for making my homemade moisturizing oil.)
  3. Set the container in the refrigerator and allow the mixture to harden. (I am not sure how long this takes, but it is definitely more than 1 hour. Since I tried this late at night, and it wasn't solidified after 1 hour, I went to bed, and it was hardened by morning.)
  4. Remove the solid block and place it in a bowl. (This easily fell out when I tipped the container over.)
  5. Whip it. (Whip it good! Feel free to sing Devo while you make your shaving cream, even if it's only in your head.) I used a hand mixer for this, and it it took about 3 minutes to achieve the desired creamy texture.
  6. Store your shaving cream in air-tight containers. I put my shaving cream into two different plastic containers with lids. One holds 8 ounces and the other hold 4.5 ounces. I suggest labeling your containers. For this, I just used masking tape (because I have found that permanent marker gets rubbed away from the plastic containers over time). The one I've been using for the past couple of weeks is being stored in the shower (although this may not be recommended, I find it easiest). The other container, I placed under the bathroom sink where it is nice and dark. I assume that this should last me for several weeks. (If you look at the photos, you will note that the consistency has changed so that it is no longer fluffy. It's more of a butter, but it still works wonderfully for shaving.)
  7. To use the shaving cream, I just use my fingers to take out just a dollop. It liquifies while it is being rubbed into the skin, but I think that this is good for a couple of reasons. First, I never have to worry about it running down my legs and getting wasted, which can easily happen with a commercial shaving cream or gel. Second, I think that this provides extra moisture, which gets locked into the skin. You can see the water beading up where the shave cream has been applied. I believe that patting dry after rinsing means that my legs look softer and shinier than they did when I was using Skintimate. I use this in all the usual places: my legs, my underarms, and my bikini area. So far, it has worked nicely giving me smooth skin with no irritation, and I have nicked myself just once in the past couple of weeks. (The only downside is that this can make the floor of the shower a wee bit slippery, not terribly so, but I do want to mention that as a word of advice; If you do your shaving in the shower, please use caution.)
Notes on Where to Buy Ingredients: 
  • Coconut oil should be available at most grocery stores. The one I used is organic. It came from Meijer and cost $12.74 for 16 ounces. Aside from making your own shaving cream, it can be used as a natural diaper rash cream, an all-over moisturizer, or a cooking oil. 
  • Shea butter is a little more expensive and not as easy to find. Mine came in a 7 ounce container for $9.99 at a natural foods store. It's an ingredient found in lots of natural beauty products due to its healing properties. I've not personally tried it, but shea butter is said to cure lots of skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, and even sunburn. It just like it because it feels nice on the skin and doesn't leave a greasy residue. If you can't find this locally, there are lots of online vendors.
  • For my oil, I used extra virgin olive oil, which I buy at Kroger, but you can get it anywhere. For the best deal, consider buying it in bulk, especially if you cook with it our use it to make other beauty products like my homemade face wash, homemade non-petroleum jelly, or this eye makeup remover. (Yes, I am currently in LOVE with extra virgin olive oil. I think there is very little that it can't do!)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Homemade (Tinted) Lip Balm Experiments #1 and #1 1/2 (FAIL)

I recently tried a couple of different ways to make a tinted lip balm using the same two ingredients: my homemade non-petroleum jelly and a packet of Kroger unsweetened strawberry drink mix. Now, before you read any further, let me just call this what it is: my latest craft-astrophe. I can't imagine too many people were considering making their own tinted lip balm, but just in case you were, here is how not to do it.

I first saw the idea to use a drink mix to make a lip stain here, but the blogger used a Crystal Light packet instead of the store-brand Kool-Aid. I didn't want to use Crystal Light for two reasons: 1) I didn't have any on hand. I had the Kroger drink mix because it makes fun play dough. 2) It contains artificial sweeteners, which I would prefer not to mess around with. (For the record, I wasn't too sure about the safety of using the Kroger drink mix considering the artificial food dye, but I wanted to at least test it out. I felt that this might produce a gritty mess that wasn't ideal for a lip balm, anyway, and it cost very little, so I decided it was worth a try.)

Trial #1:
To make my first trial batch, I combined a small amount of my homemade non-petroleum jelly (made on a previous day and completely cooled) with about 1/3 of the strawberry drink mix packet. I used a small round plastic travel toiletry container that has a screw-top lid and resembles the pots that some commercial lip balms come in. This didn't appear to have much color, and it seems to be gritty, not combined well despite mixing as well as I could with a spoon and letting it set for an hour. The texture, once applied with a lipstick brush, was about what I expected: somewhat gritty. The color went on fairly sheer and then the drink mix granules sort of "burst" open on my lips, spreading a bright red just on the inside portions so that it looked like I had been sucking on a cherry Popsicle.

Trial #1 1/2:
After trying the first version of the tinted lip balm for a while and not getting the desired results, I figured that there must be a better way to get the flavor crystals to mix in with the non-petroleum jelly. So, I decided to melt the non-petroleum jelly and then add the drink mix while it was still in the liquid state, as was suggested by this blog. (My ingredients were not all the same, but I pulled from the idea of combining it all while it was liquified.) I took about a tablespoon of my homemade non-petroleum jelly, put it in a microwave safe bowl and heated it for 15 seconds. Then, I stirred in about 1/3 of the strawberry drink mix packet. On first appearance, I thought that this was going to be more successful. It was a beautiful plum color, much richer than my first attempt, and the color looked to be much more evenly dispersed throughout. I let it set for 2 hours and then tried applying it with my lipstick brush. There was more intense color, but it was still only staining the inside "o" shape of my lips, not the entire lips. And it was still cherry Popsicle red, not a particularly grown-up shade of lip color.

{Non-Petroleum Jelly, Trial #1, Trial #1 1/2}

The Results:
While combining the drink mix has apparently worked for some other bloggers, it was not particularly successful for me. The biggest issue is that the color doesn't go on evenly and once it does start to spread, the intense red color is centered on the inside portions of my lips, not spread over the entire surface. The rest of the lips have barely any color and there is still some gritty texture from using the drink mix packet. It would be simpler just to spread red dye #40 on my lips, and it might even color the whole lips instead of just the centers. (I am not suggesting that anyone try this, though!)

The other issue I had is that the unsweetened drink mix is T-A-R-T! Once those granules burst, I really start to pucker up! (I realize that using a drink mix with artificial sweetener like the Crystal Light would address this issue, but again, that adds more unnatural stuff to it, which is what I am trying to minimize in the first place.) Although some people might like the pouty look, I have tried repeatedly for two weeks, and I just cannot tolerate the tartness.

While the tartness makes it unpleasant to apply this, in the end, it's the uneven, cherry Popsicle red lip staining that makes this unsuccessful in my eyes. I am officially washing my hands of trials #1 and # 1 1/2 for homemade tinted lip balm! (And I mean that figuratively as well as literally, given this lip balm's tendency to stain my hands despite my applying it with a lipstick brush to avoid this very thing.)

The good news in all of this? My non-petroleum jelly does, in fact, provide moisture and shine, two important things that I want from a lip balm/gloss. Now, if I can just find a more natural and effective way to add color, I will be all set!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Homemade Non-Petroleum Jelly

So, spring is in full bloom, and we are rapidly spiraling into summer! That means lots of skinned knees and bug bites, and oh, yeah, feet that were not quite ready to be seen in sandals. Luckily, I think I have found a super solution to all of these warm weather woes that is simple, affordable, and not chock-full of chemicals. Since I had so much fun sharing some ways that I pamper myself with homemade beauty products, I felt it would be great to share some helpful tips on "surviving summer."

My first tip is to make your family some non-petroleum jelly, which I learned about here. (I was actually on the hunt for DIY tinted lip balm recipes, and found one that called for Vaseline. Yuck! I refuse to put something petroleum-based on my skin and lips these days, so I first had to locate a recipe for making my own non-petroleum jelly before I could try that. More to come on how that lip balm turned out.) This is very easy to do with only two ingredients: olive oil and beeswax.

My beeswax came from Michaels, and with a coupon, ended up costing about the same as I would have paid at the natural foods store, $10 a pound. (In retrospect, I wish that I had just bought it there. I don't think there is a difference. I was hoping to find it in pellet form instead of the big block, but no such luck, so I purchased one labeled for "candle making." Again, I don't know if this matters. I suspect that beeswax is beeswax, so my personal advice is just buy it where you find it, or try looking online if you want to save yourself the run-around.) I started out with extra virgin olive oil, and ran out just before I had enough, and had to substitute the remainder of the "light tasting" olive oil that was on hand. I don't think this makes a huge difference, but when I make my next batch, I will first make sure that I have enough extra virgin olive oil. (I love it for cleaning and moisturizing my face, so I figure it is awesome for lots of other stuff, too!) I love this stuff, so I will definitely be making more when the first batch runs out. It will be handy for winter dry skin, too, but I don't want to think about that just yet...

{2-Ingredient Homemade Non-Petroleum Jelly}
  • 1/8 cup grated beeswax (about 1 ounce)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  1. Grate your beeswax. (I first had to chop my big one-pound block into smaller pieces, using my chopping tool left over from my chocolate business days and a cutting board.) Grating the beeswax reminded me of grating Fels Naptha to make my own laundry detergent, except that the soap is softer, so this required a bit more elbow grease. Don't worry, though, once you get through grating your beeswax, I promise that this is smooth sailing!
  2. Add grated beeswax, along with olive oil, to a small sauce pan. Melt over low heat. (The original blogger also suggested that you can use a double boiler, but I decided to make this easy on myself and just used a single pan, which worked fine.) I found that this took about 5 minutes.
  3. Pour the melted contents of the pan into a container to cool. I used a clean half-pint canning jar. I am not sure how long the cooling process takes exactly; I checked after an hour, but it wasn't ready. Since it was late at night, I just went to bed and let it sit until morning, which was obviously plenty of wait-time.
  4. Add a lid once the non-petroleum jelly is cool. I have also taken some and put it into smaller containers to store in other bathrooms and/or take with us on-the-go. 
  5. Apply as needed. Here are some ways we have used this so far:
    -- lip gloss (Super shine + moisture = all you really need, minus the parabens and other nastiness!)
    -- bug bite balm (I can't swear that this actually takes the itch factor away, but we are doing well with our placebo-effect mentality. It seems to work for us, so it's at least worth a try.)
    -- boo-boo salve (If you are avoiding anything that is petroleum based: Vaseline, Aquaphor, even the store-brand Neosporin we were using contained mineral oil -- Boo! -- this is a great, safe alternative for skinned knees and other boo-boos.)
    -- cracked heel cream (I personally attest that this works better than any of the commercial products I have ever tried for dry heels and that is with or without slipping socks on over top.)
    -- cuticle cream (Have I mentioned that I often need this since I have a bad habit of biting/picking at my cuticles? Well, this does a great job of repairing the damage overnight. It's not perfect, of course, but this works nicely on hands as well as feet.) 
    -- It should work on dry skin anywhere else on the body, too. Plus, I am sure there are other uses that I have not even thought of yet. Possibly a diaper rash salve? I would do research first, though, before using with cloth diapers, but it would certainly be okay with disposables. I am guessing if I added a few drops of essential oils like eucalyptus or peppermint, this might would work as a homemade vapor rub, too. I wonder if this would soothe a sunburn? I may give it a try at some point, although, I hope I don't have to test this out any time soon! Feel free to share other uses that you have for non-petroleum jelly.

Monday, May 20, 2013

DIY Window Clings

About three weeks ago I came across a book published by FamilyFun called Wintertime Fun: Warm and Cozy Treats and Crafts. It was in the Wal-Mart clearance bin for $1, and I was sure it would contain enough good ideas to be worth that price, so I snagged it. The first thing that Mia honed in was making our own window clings. Being a winter craft book, the idea was to make glittery snowflakes, which is pretty cool, I will admit. However, I didn't really want to add any snowflakes to our windows at the end of April. So, I encouraged her to make other shapes, and she ended up with free-form hearts and butterflies that sort of resemble those things. She seemed a bit disappointed by this.

I then went back to Wal-Mart and purchased a greater variety of puffy paint colors. I ended up selecting a 12-pack of neons/brights for $9.99, which is not all that expensive, if you thing about how many different projects these will be used to make. In the future, I want to try this again using glue and food coloring or glue and paint, but for now, here is how we made these with store-bought paint.

I had the idea window clings might turn out more the way she hoped if we first started with templates. Over this past weekend, I printed off a few templates including a monarch butterfly, a horse, and some ladybugs, and we tried again. One good thing about using templates, besides the obvious one of saving yourself the time needed to hand-draw something, is that you can paste them into Microsoft Word and then re-size them as desired.

Filling in the forms made for larger, more colorful window clings. They don't look perfect, but being home-made, I don't expect them to. There are some areas where the paint didn't cover, so there are little gaps poking through once they are in the window, but I think this is okay. It's surprisingly simple to make your own window clings, and I see this having lots of possibilities for party decorations, party activities, kids' room decor, Mother's Day gifts, rainy day fun, and so on. Plus, they're completely personalized, which is always a bonus! Of course, we can always make those glittery snowflakes, too, just not in the spring...

{My ladybug, Mia's horse, Mia's free-form shapes}
  • puffy paint
  • wax paper (cereal box liners work well)
  • scissors
  • template (optional)
  • Sharpie marker (optional)
  1. If using a template, either print one from the Internet or find a coloring page or clip art to trace. If you want to make free-hand drawings, you can just skip this step.
  2. Trace your template or draw your design onto wax paper using a permanent marker such as a Sharpie. I did this step for Mia since the horse had a lot of details and small areas. Tip: We used cereal box liners, and they worked great. You can't beat free supplies! Tip: You may want to trim your wax paper into smaller sizes to fit more window clings. Tip: Remember that permanent markers will stain clothing, so dress kids accordingly if they will be using Sharpies.
  3. Fill in your outline or the entire shape using puffy paint applied to the wax paper or cereal box liner. You want to make sure all of the lines of paint are connected or the window cling will not stay together. (You can probably still make it work in the end, though, so don't stress over this too much. My ladybug's antenna tore off, but I just stuck it back together on the window, and you would never know the difference.) At the very least, your lines of paint should be 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. Tip: Puffy paint will also stain clothing, so be mindful of this before starting.
    {The final product looks a bit different, but it's all good.}
  4. Allow paint to dry completely. Drying times will vary according to how much paint has been used. The first batch that Mia made by drawing free-hand shapes were left to dry overnight and this was fine. My filled-in ladybug was also dry when left overnight. However, Mia's horse had super-thick globs of paint on it and it needed another day to dry thoroughly. Don't rush this process or you will make a mess.
    {This horse took about a day and a half to dry.}

  5. Carefully, peel paint away from wax paper (or cereal box liner) and adhere to a window. Yes, they really do stick! The original ones have been up for three weeks and have shown no signs of falling down. Cool, huh?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Perfect Play Dough?

We are gearing up for yet another birthday party for one of Mia's little friends, so that meant making a fresh batch of play dough. It really makes an awesome, inexpensive gift, in my opinion. (All I know is that nobody has complained yet, but that would bad form, of course.) I really do believe that homemade stuff is perfect for children's birthday gifts and not just because I am cheap resourceful! This will keep her interest for several weeks of creative play. Plus, what mom wouldn't be happy for her child to receive homemade gifts in place of yet another Barbie doll?

When I asked Mia what kind of play dough she wanted to make, she couldn't decide between Kool-Aid play dough and glitter play dough, so we decided to combine the two. This was actually something that I had wanted to try for awhile, but hadn't had the opportunity. Our most recent batch of play dough is holding strong, you see, and we made it two months ago. To make our "perfect play dough" or  "sensory overload play dough," as I am calling it in my mind, we used the Kool-Aid play dough recipe and then added in the glitter at the end. I LOVE any homemade play dough, but this one smells delicious, has vibrant color, and it has a little something extra in the form of sparkle, so who could ask for more? It's quite possibly the perfect play dough!

To make the gift of play dough complete, I like to include inexpensive plastic cookie cutters. (After Easter, I stock piled a bunch of these that I picked up on clearance at Target. Thirty cents for a 4-pack was a steal!) Also, here is where I posted directions for how I make my recipe "label" to attach to the jar, in case you are wondering. Mia's friend, the birthday girl, will also be receiving a few other homemade goodies to round out her gift bag including: a wave bottle, a seek 'n' find bottle, some dyed pasta beads for making bracelets and necklaces (materials for that included), some bunny shaped scribble cookies plus a construction paper pad, and a batch of homemade bubble solution complete with two wands made from pipe cleaners. (This bubble recipe is a new one I have tried this year and have not blogged about since I want to try a couple more recipes before doing a post. If you are looking for a recipe now, feel free to check out the 3 I tried last year.)


  • ½ Cup salt                           
  • 1 Cup flour                        
  • 2 tsp. cream of tartar        
  • 1 pkg. Kool-Aid*                  
  • 1 Tbs. cooking oil               
  • 1 Cup water               *I use generic drink mix packets.*
  • glitter
  1. In a pan, mix dry ingredients. Add oil and water. Kids can help with this. (We used a Kroger Tropical Punch unsweetened drink mix packet for this particular batch.)
  2. Cook on medium heat until a ball forms, stirring as needed.
  3. Set aside to cool, and then knead the play dough. Kids can help with this. Tip: Wax paper or a cutting board or place mat will protect your work surface from stains.
  4. To add glitter, I find it is easiest to make a well in the play dough, pour in small amount of glitter, cover it over with the dough and then knead until it is distributed throughout the dough. Repeat as needed until you have as much glitter as desired. Tip: Glitter play dough is not all that messy. The glitter tends to stay in the play dough quite well and not end up everywhere, as you might expect it to. So, don't be afraid to add some sparkle to your play dough! If you are concerned about the mess, just have kids play with it on a vinyl place mat, some wax paper, a cutting board, or my new favorite multi-purpose craft item: the liner from a cereal box - It's free and stuff doesn't stick to it. You can even re-use these.
  5. Enjoy! Play dough will keep for several weeks in an airtight container. Tip: Cool Whip tubs, zippered baggies, and jars work well for this. My personal favorite are plastic peanut butter jars. Important Note about Homemade Play Dough: Although it is non-toxic, kids shouldn't eat it. It's very salty, so I'm not sure why they would want to, but it does happen. Tip: Personal experience has taught me to keep play dough away from pets as well. I can't tell you how many times our dog has eaten this and then gotten sick. It doesn't hurt her, of course, but it is a nuisance to have to clean up dog vomit while your kid is contentedly playing with his new batch of play dough.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A "Tweet" Mother's Day Gift

I love when I discover that I can do something new. Don't you? I'd had seen this kit for making birds nest earrings (so cute!) in the Oriental Trading Company catalog a handful of times and each time I thought I really like those. I wonder if I could make them? But, why would I buy a kit to make 6 pairs? Then, I decided they would be perfect for Mother's Day gifts, so I went for it!

I'm glad I decided to give it a go. These were not at all expensive and both my mom and mother-in-law were impressed by them, saying, "You made those!?" Yep. That's me. I can make earrings, apparently. (I'm smiling while I type this because I am so pleased.) Each pair only took between 20 and 30 minutes to make, I think, and it took less time as I went along because I got the hang of it. All I needed to make them was a wire bending tool-thingy, which I already owned for some reason. (In case you couldn't tell from my lack of proper terminology for the tool, this is my first attempt at jewelry making -- outside of the little "class" I took at our library in the fall -- where I made a couple of necklaces that are sort of falling apart.) I'm pretty sure I bought this tool some years back when I was making beaded wire flower pot decorations in the shapes of butterflies.

How will I use all 6 pairs of earrings? Well, I made one pair as a gift for myself. Remember, I mentioned that Mother's Day this year also happened to be my birthday? So, of course, I needed a little something special for myself. The remaining three pairs will be perfect for end-of-the-school-year teacher gifts for Mia's kindergarten teacher, para-pro, and her tap teacher. Yay for advanced planning and having that taken care of! (I'm mentally patting myself on the back, here.)

I think the card turned out cute, too. I used some pre-made beige card stock cards. Ordinarily, I just make my cards from scratch, because I am cheap resourceful, but I found these on clearance and put them aside for when I needed a quick card. (Since this month is sort of kicking my butt with exhaustive things that I trying my best to keep up with, I was thankful for that foresight!) Next, I found a pretty bird-themed clear stamp in my collection and used my scrapbooking markers to ink the bird in teal, the branch in brown, and the leaves in green. I gave it a quick "huff" to add some moisture back to the pigment in case it had started to dry out while I was finishing my coloring, and then stamped it in the lower right corner of the card. I used my ProvoCraft Silent Setter tool (I got this a few years ago at either Jo-Ann's or Michaels, using a coupon, of course!) to make two holes in the front, using the smallest size punch tip. First, opening the card and placing the cutting mat on the inside of the card prevented me from making the holes go all the way through when I only wanted them on the front of the card. Then, I slipped the earring through the holes and added a small piece of tape to the inside to secure them. I scrawled a quick note, and the card was finished, wishing both grandmothers a "tweet" Mother's Day. I have since made 3 more quick and easy cards for the teachers with "a note of thanks" stamped in brown below the bird in place of the words "Happy Mother's Day!"

Nature is full of elegant designs. I just love the color of the robin's egg blue paired with the twisted silver wire. It's very organic and simple. Plus, I love the symbolism of nesting, which I thought was perfect for some of our favorite nurturing women. I think this makes a nice tribute to the moms, grandmas, and teachers in our lives, who deserve to have a "tweet" day on Mother's Day. I hope that you, too, had a "tweet" and restful Mother's Day.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

4 Homemade Face Mask Recipes

Here's post #5 in my series "How I Pamper Myself." (In case you missed the previous posts, feel free to check out How I Wash My Makeup Brushes, Homemade Eye Makeup Remover, Homemade Face Moisturizing Oil, and 5 Homemade Facial Cleansers.) While face masks are pretty easy to whip up at home, they definitely feel indulgent to me. Unfortunately, I rarely think to do them more than a couple of times a month.

There are tons of DIY face mask recipes out there, but I have only tried a few. My requirements are that they not contain too many ingredients or too odd of ingredients (I am sure papayas are nice for this, but I would rather use a fruit I commonly have in my own kitchen rather than make a special purchase) and that they not be too time-consuming to create. I realize that's entirely a matter of opinion, though. I will pull out the food processor, but I would prefer to not have to do this, if that makes sense. Here are a few that I have tried that I feel are worth mentioning.

{Ingredients for DIY Face Masks}

My tried and true recipe that I have been using the longest is one I got from the book Vinegar Fridays. Every time I use this mask, I notice that my skin feels firmer and my complexion is glowing, so it definitely does good things.

Martha Washington's Vinegar Facial Mask
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 1/2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
  1. Whisk the ingredients together in a small bowl.
  2. Then, apply to face. I often use a basting brush, but fingers work fine, too. 
  3. Leave on for 20 minutes. 
  4. Rinse with warm water.

Next, I decided to try this one since it calls for common ingredients, and honey is known to be wonderful for skin.

Apple Honey Mask
  • 1 apple, cored and quartered
  • 2 Tbs. honey
  1. Chop apple in food processor.
  2. Add honey.
  3. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.
  4. Pat onto face and leave for 30 minutes.
  5. Rinse with warm water and pat dry.
The pros of this mask recipe are that it 1) smells nice 2) feels good when applied to skin and 3) my face felt nice after using it, essentially all I would hope for. The cons, however, were that it 1) had a weird consistency - both runny and pulpy at the same time - 2) made way too much (I wonder if I was supposed to use only 1/4 of the apple?) and 3) it became sticky before it was time to rinse off. While this wasn't the worst beauty item I have ever made, it was not my favorite for those reasons, and I would probably stick with the other recipes I have tried so far.

This next recipe smells absolutely delicious! If I hadn't remembered it had raw egg in it, I probably would have drunk the left over portion because it reminded me of a smoothie. Again, I decided to try this because it has honey, and also a fruit that is readily available to me this time of year: strawberries. And because I feel like I am sharing so much with my lovely readers lately, here is a special something for just for you: a late-night self-portrait taken while wearing my smoothie mask. My skin felt very soft after using the strawberry lemon mask, but a bit on the tight side. I suppose the dryness is why it is suggested for acneic skin, but I am not sure if this is a desirable result. I will probably try it a few times throughout the summer before making my final decision. It's certainly worth a try.

Strawberry Lemon Mask (for Acne)
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 1/2 tsp. honey
  • 1/2 cup strawberries
  1. Mash/blend all ingredients. (I used my food processor for this.)
  2. Smoothe onto face.
  3. Leave on for at least 10 minutes.
  4. Rinse with warm water and pat dry.
{Yep. That's me with a smoothie 'stache.}

This last one I saw on Pinterest. It looked interesting because the picture shows the model peeling the mask off her face. Either I got the proportions wrong, or this doesn't really happen. No matter, though. This was a nice little recipe. The lemon juice cuts the egg smell and makes this one smell nicer than good old Martha Washington's recipe. I'm not sure where the expression "egg on your face" came from, but I can tell you from personal experience that it's not a bad thing. In fact, it's definitely good for your face. Additionally, those two recipes with egg are probably my favorite since they are the easiest to make, meaning I don't have to use my food processor. (For the record, this is not hard, it just means that I have more to clean up after doing my mask, and frankly, who wants to spend lots of time on clean-up when she just got done pampering herself?)

Egg White Mask (for Oily Skin)
  • 1 egg (separated)
  • few drops lemon juice 
  1. Whisk together an egg white and a few drops of lemon juice. (The directions said to use fresh squeezed, but I used lemon juice from a bottle.)
  2.  Apply to clean skin. (I used my fingers for this.) 
  3. Wait 15-20 minutes.
  4. Wash off with warm water and pat dry.
  5. The directions say to follow with an oil-free moisturizer, but I use my homemade moisturizing face oil instead.
Well, this concludes my post on homemade face mask recipes. Hopefully, you found one that sounds good. Feel free to share how you will be pampering yourself this Mother's Day! I think my day will include some ice cream, and hopefully, somebody else will do the cooking.

Friday, May 10, 2013

5 Homemade Facial Cleansers

I have what I would call combination skin with an oily T-zone and drier cheeks, but I was having all sorts of breakouts this winter, which prompted me to look for a new face wash. It didn't help that I made a really BIG mistake in using some Clean & Clear because I had purchased months before, having gotten what I thought was a super good deal with a coupon. Truly, it's not all that good of a deal if it makes your skin go crazy. Plus, this stuff is loaded with parabens and other chemical crap that I have been strategically eliminating from my day-to-day usage.

Next in my series of posts on the topic of "How I Pamper Myself," I am writing about a few different DIY facial cleanser recipes that I have been experimenting with for several weeks now. (My previous posts included How I Wash My Makeup Brushes, My Homemade Face Moisturizing Oil, and Homemade Eye Makeup Remover, in case you missed those.) There are many, many variations of homemade facial cleansers out there and this is just a small sampling that I tried. My original plan was to try at least 4 different recipes for at least a week each so that I could give a fair analysis of my results.

{This is my new favorite face wash!}

2/18/13 Trial #1: Baking Soda/Water
Up first was a simple sounding paste made with baking soda and water. I first tried this at night. My initial reaction was that this felt gritty in my palm, but adding more water made it slightly softer. My skin felt okay after the first usage, but I worried that it was too harsh to use regularly. By the second night, with twice daily usage, my skin felt smooth and my cheeks were not as dry. The acne on my forehead appeared to be clearing up, but I wasn't sure. After the third day, I was convinced that my skin was indeed looking better, but I could not tolerate the abrasive texture of this cleaning method any longer. I couldn't even bring myself to do this twice on the third day. So, my plan to last a week had failed. I don't remember where I came across this idea originally, but I do know that it was not my favorite homemade face wash! This works fine to wash my hair, but not my face, apparently.

2/21/13 Trial #2: Oil Cleansing Method (OCM)
This one seems a bit strange, but it also sounded relatively simple, so I decided to try it next. It's just a mixture of two oils, extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) and castor oil (found in the laxative section of the grocery store) It may seem counterintuitive to wash one's face with oil, but this actually feels really lovely and seems to produce very desirable effects. I learned a little chemistry lesson while researching this: oil dissolves oil, so using oil to make a cleanser is actually ideal for skin, since it naturally has oil. Plus, it's nourishing and not over-drying. Unlike my horrible experience with the Clean & Clear, this did not over-dry my skin (which, you are probably aware, makes your oil glands go into over-gear producing more oil to compensate, a vicious cycle).

On the first night, I combined a 50/50 mixture of my EVOO and the castor oil, because that was the proportion recommended for "normal" skin. I started with a small batch of just 1 teaspoon of each and mixed them in a small plastic bottle that is meant for travel sized portions of toiletries.

To Wash:
  1. Apply oil mixture to DRY skin. Gently rub in. I do this all over my face, including my eye lids.
  2. Soak a wash cloth in hot water. (I make it as hot as I can tolerate since it cools quickly.)
  3. Apply wash cloth to face and allow the steam to clean your face. I usually wait about 1 minute for the wash cloth to cool off completely.
  4. Gently wipe oil from face with the wash cloth. This removes eye makeup pretty well so for the most part, I have not needed to use my homemade eye makeup remover. I also do not find that I need to apply moisturizer after washing since the OCM is so hydrating.
My initial reaction to the OCM was that my skin felt good afterward, and it was not too oily. I quickly learned to keep wash cloths on hand in the bathroom instead of in the linen closet (since Logan was going through a phase of sleeping on the floor in the hallway, blocking my access to the closet). The main difference was the waiting portion of the cleaning routine. Normally, I would wash, rinse immediately, dry my face, and be done. I have since come to love the waiting because it forces me to just sit and be still for 1 whole minute, evidently not something I typically do! It's like giving myself a mini-facial, which is very pampering, in my opinion. On the morning of the 24th, I forgot keep my face dry in the shower, so I just decided to skip washing for that morning. I used my homemade face oil after the warm water splash and that got me through the day just fine. My skin seemed to be clearing up and I had less acne, but I was anxious to try out some other cleansers, so I kept experimenting.

2/28/13 Trial # 3: Oatmeal
This sounded easy enough. I like that it really only had one ingredient. I had already ground up some oatmeal in the food processor, making a knock-off Aveeno oatmeal bath that I had seen on Pinterest. I didn't share this one because it grossed Logan out and he refused to soak in it after the first time, so as far as a home remedy for eczema goes, that one was a strike-out for me. I put some in a small bowl that has a lid and kept it in the bathroom during this trial period. To wash my face, I just a tablespoon of oatmeal in my palm and then added enough water to make a paste. (I realized that this was way too much and vowed to use less after that.) Initially, I was surprised by how gentle this was to use. I had expected some abrasiveness. The smell wasn't overwhelming, it was distinctly "breakfast-y" but not so much as to deter me from using it. After the first use, my face felt clean and it appeared brighter. It didn't feel dry, but I saw dryness on my cheeks and followed up with my homemade face oil. Also, when I washed with this, I feared it was no good in the eye area. I wasn't even willing to attempt it, so I had to use my homemade eye makeup remover when washing in the evenings. Questions that came to mind were I wonder if this would be okay with whole oats, or did I do the right thing by using my ground oats? and Is this more appropriate as a weekly scrub/exfoliant rather than a daily cleansers? As you can see by the dates, I kept with this method for a bit. One downside to washing with oatmeal, however, is that I did not like finding bits of it in my hairline and eyebrows after I thought I was done rinsing. For that reason alone, I wanted to keep looking for another face wash method.

3/10/13 Trial #4: EVOO/Grapes/Milk
Well, I already knew I liked the olive oil, and milk is an ancient method for cleansing the skin. Lots of different fruits are purported to be good for the skin, probably because of the acids, I am guessing. What sold me on this particular recipe is that it didn't call for ingredients that were exotic or expensive. I can't tell you how many recipes I saw that asked for me to gather 15 different items, many of which I do not regularly have on hand, so this one looked like a winner for simplicity's sake! Grapes? Check.

2 Tbs EVOO
5 fresh grapes
1 tsp milk (I used whole milk)

  1. Process ingredients in a food processor until smooth and watery. (I found this hard to accomplish due to the peels plus the small size of the batch.)
  2. Apply to face. (The directions did not say how to use this at all, so used my hands.)
  3. Rinse with warm water.
My initial question was How long does it keep? The pros for this method were that it was easy to make with items most people have in their kitchens, it felt good going on the skin, and my face felt clean and moisturized. The cons were that it smelled bad, it looked icky, it probably wasn't safe to use near the eyes (I did not venture to try this), and it may have possibly clogged up my sink. I wanted to determine how long it would keep for and try it at least 3 times (to keep with my somewhat scientific method of giving stuff more than one chance to prove itself to me). On the second night, I found that it had congealed in the fridge, so I tried to warm it in my palms and apply it to my face, following with a warm wash cloth a la the OCM. This was a mistake. The smell nearly gagged me when I was confined under the wash cloth and forced to inhale the odor. I really did not like using this stuff, but my skin looked better than it had in weeks. The answer to my initial question: I would consider this to be something that is a one-time use formula, which makes it better for a weekly "mask" application, not something I would do daily. (Food processor each day? No thanks!)

3/13/13 Trial #5: Pure EVOO
Well, this fits my first requirement of being simple. It's just straight extra virgin olive oil. When I first tried this, I had no complaints. I used it the same way I did the OCM, just without the castor oil. However, I eventually decided that I didn't like how my skin felt afterward; it was just too oily. And it had seemed that my acne had improved more when using the 50/50 blend that included castor oil.

4/8/13 The Winner for Me: Back to the OCM!
My skin is not completely clear of break-outs, but it is definitely much improved from the winter when I was using the dreaded Clean & Clear. It's also very smooth and moisturized, and I swear it looks brighter and healthier. I now use the OCM just at night. For the most part, it gets rid of all my eye makeup, so I rarely need to use my homemade eye makeup remover. In the mornings, I just rinse my face with warm water and follow with my homemade face oil. This fits my lifestyle in that it is simple, inexpensive, and safe to use. The castor oil, which I found at Kroger, was on sale for $1.59 (regularly $1.89) for 4 ounces. Extra virgin olive oil is widely available, and I am considering buying it in bulk. The bottle I bought from Kroger was $3.49 for 8.5 ounces, but I just finished it off last night while experimenting with some other homemade beauty products. When I went back to this face cleanser, I made myself a larger batch consisting of 2 tablespoons of castor oil and 2 tablespoons of EVOO. I know that I can tweak the proportions as needed, but for now, I am happy my natural face wash.