Wednesday, May 21, 2014

I Make it Myself: Sunscreen

Several years ago, I started looking into the various ingredients in skincare products.  It actually started because someone was trying to sell me Melaleuca and touting its natural-ness.  I started looking at the ingredients in many of their products, and found that they weren't that different from store-bought stuff - at least their skin-care products.  In particular, I started looking at their sunscreen, then any sunscreen, most notably because one year we purchased No-Ad sunscreen and the whole family felt like their skin was going to burn off....not from a sunburn, but from the sunscreen!   We started using Sensitive Skin sunscreens.  They were okay, but even those were a) expensive and b) had some questionable added ingredients.  I decided to start looking into making my own sunscreen.

I found a decent recipe at:  and made it with my own modifications based on other research.

I didn't post much until now, because I really hadn't put it to the test.  Yesterday, I was out in my garden for 8 hours (yes, 8!)  with one application of my own sunscreen and I did not burn and I didn't really tan much either.  I confess that I wasn't very concerned with appearance, so I did not rub it in much and looked a little like a mime starting out.

This is my recipe (very similar to Green Mama.)

1 cup coconut oil (you can also use combinations of coconut, shea, and cocoa butter, as well.)
1/2 cup beeswax pellets/pearls
1/4 cup vegetable glycerin
1/4 c. aloe vera
10 drops vitamin E
2 Tablespoons zinc oxide powder
2 Tablespoons titanium dioxide powder

Melt beeswax and coconut oil together, then add glycerin and aloe vera, mix in ZO and TD and vitamin E.  I also bought some coconut scented oil to add in....if you want to smell like Coppertone.

In the Green Mama recipe, I found that the water and oil separated after cooling.  I would add more glycerin/aloe if you want a smoother, more spreadable consistency.  The shea and cocoa butter are harder oils at room temp, so they can push it to a thicker consistency.

Note: there is (was?) some concern over the nano-particles in zinc and titanium dioxide, but that seems to have been dispelled.  There are extensive comments about it in the reviews of the ZO on Amazon.  I believe that the ZO and TD from Essential Depot are NOT nano-particles.

I found the ZO and TD at Essential Depot, as well as, the beeswax pearls and glycerin.

I try to get as natural as I can, but I really do take cost into consideration, so if something says pure, natural, no fillers, etc. then I will use that.  My opinion is that "organic" is just another way of making people pay more money for something that is real.  If it is 100% beeswax, I assume there is nothing else in it.


Please note:  I cannot be responsible if this sunscreen doesn't work for you.  Just sayin'.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

I Make it Myself Guest Blog: Laundry Soap

I would like to introduce you to my friend Sandy Gaboury.  Sandy and I go way back.....

Sandy Gaboury can read about me in my profile on the right side of the blog page.  Recently, Amy and I decided to guest blog and share some of our ideas on each other's pages.  It makes sense.  Amy and I have a lot in common, in many ways...we both blog, we have kids (although I also have grandkids!), we love Jesus, and we do a lot of things ourselves.  We learned to make soap together, and enjoy swapping soap ideas and sometimes materials.  I am enjoying Amy's series "I Make it Myself" because it is a great how-to for folks who are just getting started or who need some encouragement to try new baking bread and making mayonnaise.  For me, making soap and my own deodorant turned into a home business, but that is a topic for another blog!  In this entry, I will show you how to make liquid laundry detergent.  The packages you see in the pictures are from my home business, as I have a pre-measured kit (here) but the recipe in this blog is exactly the same as the one I sell. will be learning my "secret" which is not really a secret!  Enjoy...and let me know if you try it.

Make-Your-Own Laundry Detergent...

Step by Step

Commercial laundry detergent is expensive.  And has a LOT of chemicals.  
As one of those "crunchy-granola-people" I like the idea of an all natural laundry detergent that WORKS. There are a few options for those who are looking for natural laundry detergent. 

Soap nuts are an organic alternative--you use them with hot water, smallish loads, and use a separate stain remover.  On the plus side, they are extremely gentle and totally organic, and the best for the earth as no chemicals enter the waste stream from their use.  They are also reusable, so they are very cost effective.

A mixture of Borax, Washing Soda, Baking Soda, and Soap is natural because it uses oils and minerals (the minerals make it not strictly organic but they are from the earth), and works well because the ingredients react with water and fabric to remove dirt and some stains.  One recipe (the recipe used here) consists of 1/2 cup Borax, 1/2 cup Washing Soda, 1/4 cup Baking Soda, and 1/2 cup shredded soap.  Always use soap with organic oils, no synthetic fragrances, and food grade lye.  That way you know you have the purest, gentlest soap possible.

Shepherd's Harvest makes a laundry kit with all of the ingredients pre-measured (see it here).  The reason I decided to make the kit was that there were so many people who wanted to make their own, but Borax and Washing Soda come in huge boxes...they cake after a while.  There is a commitment to purchasing huge amounts, and what if you don't like the result?  Also, it is nice to have a little natural fragrance, but really expensive to purchase essential oils.  And what about set-in stains?  A stain stick would be nice... So the laundry kit has everything pre-measured, with some essential oil for fragrance, and a stain stick.

If you want to make your own, go for it!  Use the recipe above, and mix the powdered ingredients together before you begin.  Here is the how-to:

You will need:
Bucket that holds more than 2 gallons of liquid
Large pan
Measuring Cup
Hot Water

Pour soup shavings into a pan.


Boil 6 cups of water and pour over the soap shavings.  

Heat on low setting, stirring occasionally, until soap is melted.  

Add the powdered ingredients and stir until all ingredients are dissolved. 

Pour 4 Cups very hot water into bucket, then Add soap mixture and stir.  If you have a large enough pot, you can just add the water to the pot and bring it to a low boil.  This will ensure a good gel.  (My pot was not quite large enough for all the water.)

 Add 1 Gallon plus 6 cups very hot water and allow to sit overnight.  The mixture will be thick and gel-like, and may be used as it is, or you may add additional water if desired.  Shake well before using, and use the same amount you normally use of non-concentrated detergent.


After the detergent gels, you can either leave it in the bucket (you will want to cover it) or you can fill old detergent bottles with the liquid.  The detergent will be brownish with a gloppy "wonton soup" consistency.  Always stir or shake it before using, and use the same amount that you would use of a non-concentrated detergent.

Have you ever made your own detergent?  What was your experience, and how well did it work?


Thursday, May 8, 2014

I Make It Myself: Bread

It is time for another "I Make It Myself" post.

I make my own bread.

I started making my own bread several years ago.  Sometimes I will stop for a while and buy bread and then start up again.  Home-made bread is just so much better tasting and better for you, than store bought. 

I started out just using whole wheat bread flour to find a good loaf that my family would eat and that would work for sandwiches.  The basic recipe for wheat bread in the bread machine directions ended up being the one I use all the time, even though friends, who also make their own bread, sent me a bunch of recipes.  I do make sourdough bread as well.  

Yes, I use a bread machine.  Is that cheating?  I use it to do all the kneading and rising for me on the dough cycle then I put the dough into loaf pans to get that normal loaf shape.

I start by grinding wheat berries.  I found out the hard way that to make bread, you need to use HARD wheat berries - hard red wheat berries or hard white wheat berries.  My first batch of berries were soft berries, I looked at a bag of a friend's berries, and bought the same thing.  She didn't tell me that those were for pancakes and cookies, not bread.  All of my bread loaves came out flat! What was I doing wrong?  Finally, someone, who makes their own bread asked me what kind of berries I was using and said, "oh, you use that kind of berry/flour for quick breads and cookies."  

I bought my current HARD berries in bulk from Wheat Montana, in a co-op order shipped to the East coast.  A friend of mine went to MA to pick up the order for us.  You can find them in many natural food stores and cooperative stores.

I did a lot of research before buying a grinder.  A friend has a "Whisper Mill" but she said, don't let the name fool you, they are all loud.  So, I bought the same one that another friend uses, the Kitchen Mill by K-Tec, now known as Blendtec.  You may remember their goofy ads for their blender called, "Will it Blend?"  Where they blend everything imaginable.  I digress.  Anyway, it is a good mill and besides I won the bid for a good price on eBay.

About once every few months, I grind a bunch of wheat into flour and then put it in my freezer for future use.  That way I am not grinding wheat every time I am making bread.  I freeze the flour, because unlike store bought flour, mine still contains the germ, which has oils that can go rancid.  That is why they remove the germ, so that most flour has a longer shelf-life....but less nutritional value.

I wear my husband's chainsaw ear protection when I grind wheat and send everyone out of the kitchen.

It takes about 15 minutes to grind 15 cups of flour.  Maybe not even.

Then I just use my whole wheat flour in whatever bread recipe I am using.  I have been using about 1c. of store bought bread flour lately to increase the gluten, this makes for an airier loaf (cheating?).  You can also add Vital Wheat Gluten to improve the texture of your loaf as well.  I have Bob's Red Mill.
I should also mention that I am using SAF yeast - fast acting and long lasting.  A noticeable difference compared to those little Fleischmann's packets.

After I run the ingredients through the bread machine dough cycle, I put the dough (I make the 2 lb recipe) into two loaf pans like this one below.  I also have a regular glass pyrex loaf dish, that's fine too. I let it rise about an hour on top of my stove covered with a clean towel and then bake it.

 Then I have bread.  :)

Some recipes from my Sunbeam Bread machine booklet:

French Bread - 2 lb loaf (or 2 - 1lb loaves)
1 1/3 c. water
2 tsp. butter (not margarine, yuck, why would you use margarine?)
4 cups of your wonderful ground whole wheat flour (substitute 1 c. white bread flour for extra fluff or a few Tbsp of Vital Wheat Gluten)
5 tsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
4 tsp. yeast

Whole Wheat Bread
1 2/3 c. water
2 Tbsp. butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. salt
4 2/3 cups of your wonderfully, healthy, ground whole wheat flour  (substitute 1 c. white bread flour for extra fluff or a few Tbsp of Vital Wheat Gluten)
3 tsp. yeast

And a Sourdough Recipe from the King Arthur Flour website King Arthur Rustic Sourdough

Sourdough Bread - I have the King Arthur Sour Dough Starter.  I keep it in my fridge until I want to use it.  The day before I want to use it, I "feed" it and then use it the next day.  It has never died and I have gone for long periods of time without using it.

I put all ingredients in the bread machine and then bake it in the loaf pans or as shaped loaves on a cookie sheet as they instruct in the recipe (linked above).
1 c. "fed" starter
1 1//2 c. luke warm water
2 t. yeast
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
5 cups of that nutrient-rich ground whole wheat flour (of course, the recipe says to use King Arthur Flour.  I substitute about 1 c. of the 5 with KAF.)