Love is in the air.
Time to treat the ones you love with something extra special. Maybe you know someone who could use a good long relaxing soak in the tub or maybe its you that needs it most. Someone you know is going to love filling up a hot bath tub, droping one of these babies in, and giving in to an indulgently relaxing treat.
You will need the ingredients mentioned below as well as one large bowl, one small bowl or cup, a whisk, and some kind of mold. Something like this is what I use (and so does Martha Stewart!) This recipe makes 3 or 4 bombs.
In a large bowl combine:
1 c baking soda
1/2 c citric acid
1/3 c sea salt
1/4 c cornstarch
and whisk together until uniform.
In a small bowl or cup combine:
2 1/2 TBS grapeseed oil or other lightweight carrier oil
1 tsp of essential oils (lavender, orange, patchouli, or bergamot, or what ever you like best!)
Slowly drizzle the oils into the dry ingredients while whisking continuously. Keep whisking and whisking until uniform. Give it all you got.
Scoop mixture into molds. Don’t try to pack it in too tight or it will crack when unmolded, but at the same time don’t pack it too loose either or it won’t stick together. Tap mold gently to release. This part takes a bit of practice so don’t get discouraged if the first one falls apart. Keep trying! Carefully lay unmolded bath bomb on a cookie sheet or tray lined with wax paper. They will be fragile for awhile so hands off. Some people like to give them a little spray with witch hazel at this point to make for a harder “shell” You can if you want to but it isn’t necessary. Let them dry out somewhere cool and unbreezy for a few days to a week. Wrap in plastic or tissue to give as gifts. Or use right away!
Here is a little after Christmas gift from me to you.
HOMEMADE DEODORANT (and yes it really works!)
Our skin absorbs whatever we put on it. We should all be careful about any personal products we use on our bodies largest organ. Talking about skin here. So lets take a look at something that most of us use every day: antiperspirants and deodorants. Antiperspirants main active ingredient is often aluminum. Aluminum mimics estrogen, is linked to Alzheimer’s, and may impact breast cancer risks. Deodorants often contain chemical preservatives known as parabens which have also been linked with causing cancer.
So here is my safe and natural alternative and YES it really works. This recipe is for a deodorant not an antiperspirant. So it will not block your sweat glands like aluminum will and personally I think that is a good thing. Sweat is a bodily function that serves a purpose. It is one of those natural and healthy functions that the beauty industry has taught us to feel completely ashamed of. In my experience with this homemade deodorant, I can and will sweat a little when I am doing something strenuous like lifting crates of soap up large flights of stairs to set up for craft shows but I still smell good and feel fine afterward when I have to chat up my customers.
The basic recipe is this
1/4 cup baking soda
1/4 cup cornstarch
5-6 TBS coconut oil
a few drops of essential oil
This is all you need really. Melt the coconut oil and stir in the other ingredients. Pour it into an empty deodorant tube and let it cool.
BUT … coconut oil has a melting point of 76 deg making it the perfect carrier oil as it is solid at room temp and melts as soon as it touches your skin. Disappointingly though, it can completely melt on you during just one hot summer day. You will be left with a tube of liquid mess. You could store it in the fridge during the summer. Your body heat should soften it enough to use it properly when you need it. That solution never really cut it for me so….
This is what I do: I add some castor wax flakes. These may be hard to find but they are worth it if you can hunt some down online. I order mine with my other soapmaking supplies and essential oils from New Directions Aromatics. I have tried using beeswax and just got frustrated with the high melting point and quick cooling rate that made it maddening to melt and pour and to clean up after. Castor wax flakes work BEST!
I make a batch of six tubes and then I am set for many months to come. I like to use my Nantucket Garden scent of essential oils: clarysage, cedarwood, lavender, and bergamot.
This is my practical recipe:
4 oz baking soda
4 oz cornstarch
6 oz coconut oil
2-3 oz castor wax flakes
1/2 – 1 oz essential oils
I melt it all in a double boiler like you use to melt chocolate. Wax first, then coconut oil, then the dry ingredients. Add the essential oils at the last minute so that they don’t burn off from the heat. Then I pour it into my empty deodorant tubes and let it cool. I have been using this for years and LOVE IT! My underarm skin feels so soft and razor burn is now a thing of the past!
Ok I will leave you with that lovely thought.
Technically speaking, soap does not need any kind of preservative. That is good news because there is really no such thing as a natural preservative in this industry. I am very thankful that I do not have to use them. I am a purist and I stress like mad over ever ingredient that I put into my product. So I know that I just couldn’t live with myself if I wasn’t offering you the best and most simply pure, and natural soaps that I can!
Yet, experience has shown me that some soaps over time, can indeed loose their sparkle. For one thing, there are what some soapers refer to as DOS – the Dreaded Orange Spots!!! These are little orange spots of rancid oil that appear on your soap. Sometimes there can even be a sort of over all darkening or yellowing of a once pristine white soap.
Strange thing is only SOME of my soaps are susceptible to this type of degradation.
I have noticed, for example, that the soaps with vanilla EO and the ones with powdered seaweed or turmeric in their recipes are seemingly immune to these disasters, even after sitting around my house for a long long time.
So I started looking into this subject and found that the answer is in the antioxidents. They slow down the oxidization of the oils and keep the soap fresher for longer. That explains it. So for those few types of soaps I make that do not already have a source of antioxidents in their recipes, those that are the most likely to wither much too soon, I found Rosemary Oleoresin Extract. ROE is a solvent extraction of rosemary. ROE is oil soluble and does not react with sodium hydroxide (lye). It will not prevent oils from going rancid but it extends their shelf life significantly.
Like the Vanilla essential oil that I use it is debatable weather or not ROE can be considered a natural product. While most essential oils are obtained simply by physical means such as steam distillation or cold pressing, vanilla essential oil and rosemary oleoresin extract are obtained through solvent extraction. That means at some point it was soaked in a solvent like ethyl alcohol and then the solvent was evaporated away leaving the concentrated essence of the material behind. While the resulting substance in question is naturally occurring, it was somewhat un-naturally obtained. So there in lies the debate. Frankly, I am not sure which side of the fence I am leaning towards. All I know is that Vanilla EO smells wonderful and adds so much to the soaps that I use it in. And so far ROE is proving itself to be a worthy asset in the fight against the Dreaded Orange Spots. I guess that this is one slight compromise I am willing to make for the sake of fabulous soap! Especially when you consider that the alternative is buying a product entirely comprised of synthetic petro-chemical detergents laced with toxic petro-chemical preservatives, and hazardous petro-chemical fragrances.
Which reminds me….if you haven’t seen this video yet, give it a moment of your time. It was made by the wonderful Annie Leonard who brought you The Story Of Stuff.
The Story Of Cosmetics
BTW- Annie Leonard came to Nantucket and SOMEHOW I missed it!!! I had no clue she was even here until a customer asked if I saw her speak at the library. Here is a clip of her visiting our dump aka America’s first green landfill! Yes we are so proud.
So we were supposed to get hit by a pretty big hurricane by the name of Earl. Every shop downtown boarded or taped their windows. People were saying that this is gonna be a big one just like Bob back in 1991. Be prepared! Bottled water and batteries flew off the shelves. We took down the hammock and tied up the trampoline. We’ve had a few too many thunderstorms this summer and during the last one the tomatoes got knocked around a bit so I was a little worried about how the garden would hold up during the hurricane.
So I did this:
I put four stakes/sticks around the tomatoes and propped a trellis against the side that I thought would get the most wind. Then I clamped these old sheets around the whole thing. I covered the other beds as you can see with just a single sheet attached to the fence and front of the bed. My son and I had put in some fall planting there and the little darling carrots and lettuces are just poking out. We wanted to make sure they would be safe.
Well…. hurricane came and went but AS USUAL got downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it “hit.” The wind and rain pounded a bit and kept me and my fellow insomniac (my oldest son) awake reading books most of the night. Nothing really out of the ordinary there.
And the garden survived just fine.
The tomatoes are taller than me.
The most fun was just before the storm. We went out to watch the beaches flood.
I love berry hunting. Every time we go on a hike, which is really quite often, I have my eyes open for new spots. After this season’s disappointing blueberry and blackberry pickings I have been on a serious prowl.
The other day I had a hankering for berry cobbler and nothing was going to stop me. The day before the day in question, I had spotted what I thought were huckleberries out by Mill Hill (that’s Dead Horse Valley to us locals.) I took the kids and their friend out there to pick some but all the berries were overripe and bitter and splitting open. Then I remembered that a few days earlier, I had noted that the wild grapes out at Squam Farm were getting close to ripe. So I took the kiddies out there for a look see. Most of the berries were still green but around one particularly sunny corner we hit the jackpot. I filled half of my son’s small beach pail with dark ripe grapes and scurried on back to the kitchen.
I had never heard of anyone making a grape cobbler before. Especially not with wild grapes. Although quite tasty, wild grapes are still quite tart and have really big seeds. The obvious problem would be how to remove those.
First, I separated the skins from the pulp. Most came out easy peezy with a little squeezing but some needed a little prodding with a knife. Then, I put the pulps and seeds in pot and simmered for a few minutes until it all went soft. I mashed the pulp through a strainer until all the seeds were left behind. Then I put all the juicy pulp and about half of the skins plus a 1/4 cup of sugar into the bottom of a small square pan.
I mixed up a simple topping by combining the following in a bowl:
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- pinch salt
Then I cut in by hand:
- one stick of cold butter
And mixed in:
- one egg
I dropped big spoonfuls of the topping on top of the grapes and baked for 30 some minutes at 375 degrees.
The hardest part was waiting until after dinner to eat it.
My brother in law came by later and both he and my husband proclaimed that this cobbler was epic. They raved on and on about how outstandingly delicious it was.
The government is not keeping a health conscious, environmentally conscious eye on things.
Cosmetic companies are not required to register any information about their ingredients (or their safety) with the FDA. The FDA does not test products or ingredients before they hit the shelves nor do they have the power to recall anything once it is out there. The responsibility and the power lies entirely with the companies themselves. They get to say what is safe and what is not. I don’t exactly trust that even if the FDA were to be given the power to create a world of safe cosmetics that they would do a good job at it. I don’t think they see green the way I see green. As in green from start to finish. Natural origins, minimal and/or safe processing, and biodegradable at the end. There is too much money and power in synthetics and in oil based chemistry telling them otherwise. The manufactures of these have done a pretty good job so far of convincing the law makers and the public that the only safe world is a processed, refined, and regurgitated one. Nature can’t be controlled in a lab and that scares them.
Still I would rather trust lavender and tea tree oil than formaldehyde and tar. (Yes I have heard the recent reports on lavender and tea tree and I will talk about that another day)
I get off track. Writing was never my strong suit. ;)
I was going to mention the three P’s that we so often hear about.
Parabens: These are used as preservatives in cosmetics, shampoos, toothpastes, deodorants, some foods and many other common items. The studies here go back in forth. Some say direct skin exposure to parabens can lead to breast cancer. The presence of parabens in breast tumers and subsequent research has fueled a popular belief that the parabens in underarm deodorants and other cosmetics can migrate into breast tissue and contribute to the development of tumors. Some say that parabens effect as an estrogen mimic are grossly overstated and this is all hogwash. Still I would err on the side of caution and start looking for alternatives. The trouble is there aren’t any good alternatives in the world of preservatives…
Phthalates: Although most frequently used to soften plastics they can be found in surfactants and detergents, the two things big companies like to pass off as soap these days. Phthalates are a big concern because they so easily break free from their source and are released into the environment, ever more rapidly as they decay. In some studies high doses have been shown to change hormone levels and cause birth defects. Men and boys are more at risk with phthalate exposure as for them it can result in abnormal obesity and insulin resistance as well as damage to the testes. Again, can we err on the side of caution and find some other, any other, alternative?
Poisons: Here is a fun little list I ran across yesterday:
When I was researching fragrance oil ingredients, I saw a lot of “coal tar”. See that is what I just do not get, why go out of your way to recreate a chemical all ready found in nature by starting with coal tar? Money is the only motivation I can think of.
Lets get out of the woods for a minute here and talk about the light.
If we can’t trust the government to change the world, we have to do it ourselves, right!?! The corporations are the ones really in charge so lets go directly to them. And we have to speak to them using the only language they understand. MONEY. My two favorite tactics here are the “one less” and “one more” approaches. “One less” as in ride a bike because that is one less car on the road. Make your own beauty and cleaning products so that is one less dollar in the pockets of the big guys. Or you can choose to be “one more.” There are many innovative and progressive companies out there like Seventh Generation, Method, Burt’s Bees and DriftAwaySoap just to name a few. If you buy products from the likes of them you are putting one more dollar towards green business and still effectively one less dollar to the other guys. Lets face it big business is never going away but we can try to shift who’s gonna come out on top. But how do we know who is good guy and who is a bad guy. Don’t just buy something because it says “natural” or “organic” on the front of the bottle. Read the ingredients on the back. If it sounds wrong or even too vague. Or if it sounds too good to be true it probably is. Like those Green Works products from the makers of CLOROX. Duh! Think about where your money is going. Every dollar is a vote. Make it count.
This is a hot one folks.
I believe in truth in labeling. I believe that we deserve to know what we are buying in our personal care products and subsequently rubbing all over our bodies and inhaling into our lungs. What a wonderful world it would be if we knew what was really in ALL the things we get to buy buy buy in this glorious consumer driven society. While we become mesmerized by those thousands of colorful “choices” lining the supermarket shelves, thinking ourselves master decision makers and in control of our purchasing destinies, little do we realize what really goes into the making of these multicolored modern miracles in the first place. What does it really take to make a camera? a phone? a house? a car? your t-shirt? your cereal? your watch? your shower curtain? your soap?
I want to know.
I ran across this list the other day. It lists an alarming number of everyday products that are petroleum based. Check it out.
Surprised at how many things in your life are made with oil?
We think we can lessen the impact of stuff that is bad for us and the environment if only we just read labels and make the right choices at the store. I believe it too. In the case of some choices it is really very easy to read a label and make an informed decision armed with only a moderate degree of skepticism, a small amount of actual knowledge, and a hint of reading between the lines. But not in all cases. How do you avoid petro-chemicals in your eye glasses and your bra and your ball point pen?
I am getting off track here.
It is important to know what you are getting into when you buy something. I am not just talking about the stunning realization that oil is everywhere and in everything. Pay attention because NOW I am getting to the point of this post. There are thousands of toxic chemicals in everyday products and some of the most dangerous ones aren’t even mentioned on the label. They wear a mask. A pretty smelling mask called “fragrance”.
So what are you getting into when you see the word fragrance on a label for soap, shampoo, dish soap, air freshener, fabric softener, laundry detergent, toilet cleaner, deodorant, etc ?
Under the current law no one has to tell you.
Companies claim that if they told you their secret fragrance formulas that they would loose business. BAH! They just don’t want you to freak out when you find out how many toxins are hidden in there under that guise of that innocuous little word. Sadly though not a lot of people would stop buying this crap even if they knew it was crap. Know anyone that still eats at McDonalds after the movie Fast Food Nation came out? That is why the makers of this sludge need to take responsibility and stop making this sludge with toxins in it. Come on!! You are all a bunch of smart scientists. Can’t you come up with something cheap enough that smells pretty and doesn’t mess with my endocrine system?
I was so overwhelmed with the information I was finding on the potential hazards of fragrances that I had to give up and go get a drink.
So now I am just going to post a couple of links so that you can just read it for yourself.
http://www.ewg.org/notsosexy (This first one really lays it all out on the table)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skatole (I couldn’t make this stuff up in my wildest paranoid driven fantasies.)
http://biovedawellness.com/2010/08/cosmetic-safety-and-allergy (Talks about Irritant contact dermatitis which is what got me started in the soap biz.
Seriously this stuff is awful. And like petrochemicals it can be found in more places than you would like to think.
Now I have to add this, just so we are clear (and to toot my own horn a little wee bit) I only use essential oils in my soaps. I NEVER EVER NEVER use fragrance oils. And I do try my hardest to research each and every essential oil I use for its potential sensitizing effects and safety.
Stay natural. Get clean.
During this last month we have eagerly enjoyed several crookneck squash. The crookneck squash for their part have apparently equally enjoyed being baked and stuffed with cous cous, shredded into wholesome muffins, sliced into pasta salad, and steamed alongside tomatoes and red onions.
Then a funny thing happened. Just the other day coming back from selling soaps at the Nantucket Garden Festival I witnessed the starting of trouble in paradise. The kids were jumping with joy to tell me about the tomato that was turning red in the garden. For an eternity we had been patiently watching 10 or so beautiful big green tomatoes for signs of readyness to be picked and now the moment was here….
There it was afflicted with the first sign of the dreaded Bottom End Rot. And so were half a dozen more of those beautiful greenies. Humbled. I research and find out that BER is due to lack of calcium and some experts think that even though adding more calcium could prevent it there is really no reason to panic. It happens a lot to the first round of tomatoes then often goes away on its own. OK. And best news yet… you can still eat them.
So we had this recipe for dinner that night:
Except that I used chicken instead of pork, sweet peppers instead of hot, and white wine instead of tequila. So perfectly delicious. I forgot to take a photo.
The next day I put some diced green tomatoes in with the cous cous. Then they made their way into the best omelet ever along with red peppers, feta cheese, and onions. Super yums. And today for lunch we had grilled brie cheese sandwiches on super fresh still warm Something Natural Herb Bread with honey roasted turkey and yep sliced green tomatoes. Yea!
I don’t care if all the tomatoes get BER and never make it to red. I love green tomatoes!!!
I must also add that there is nothing more beautiful than the inside of a green tomato. I love to slice into them and see that brilliant white core. Lovely.
Speaking of loverly. There were a few days were the lilies were blooming inside and around the tomatoes.
An odd and wonderful pairing.
Ok so onto the peppers! I harvested a wonderful pablano and made it into some spicy green salsa. There are some nice looking sweet peppers on the way too.
Now a sad story… the squash got eaten by ants! I strayed away from the garden for a few days and didn’t get to them in time to save them. I cleared out their spot in front of the peppers for some fall plantings.
And in the last bed: The broccoli that never flowered. What gives? Oh well I finally gave up and cleared their space for fall plantings too.
Milo’s beans are doing well. Look a bean!
I saw this little guy listed at the tail end of a lot of ingredients lists and wondered just what the heck it was. I have personally spotted it on the backs of shampoo bottles, body washes, and even in some melt and pour soap bases (this may come as a surprise but some folks who sell soap do not make their soap from scratch like me but buy blocks of pre-made soap, melt them down, add some color and fragrance, pour it into molds, and sell it back to you as new.)
Take a moment to look at some of the items in your home to see if you can find EDTA. Look for it in laundry detergent, dish soap, body wash, and shampoo. I hear it can even be found in non-alcoholic beverages…although why would anyone have those lying around the house? Anyway… Go on. Look. I can wait.
Find some? Bet you did.
So what is it?
EDTA is used in cleaning solutions as a water softener, in cosmetics for added stability, in textiles to keep colors true, and even in soft drinks containing ascorbic acid and sodium benzoate, EDTA is used to prevent the formation of benzene (a carcinogen). (?!?!?!?!?!)
Apparently EDTA has a wide variety of medical and scientific uses. I don’t know nearly enough about medicine or scientific research to argue its potential value over its potential harm in these fields …so I wont go there.
I do question the necessity of water softeners in so many cleaning solutions. The World Health Organization says that there is no evidence that hard water causes any adverse health effects in humans. So why do we freak out over hard water? Wikipedia’s entry on hard water says that:
“It is often considered desirable to soften hard water. This is because the calcium and magnesium causing hardness partly block the oil emulsifying action simple soap formulations use in the cleaning action. The calcium and magnesium form an insoluble precipitate observed as a soap scum and extra large amounts of soap have to be used to counteract this.”
SOAP SCUM IS THAT MUCH OF AN ISSUE PEOPLE??
Sorry but I don’t buy it. We all need to scrub the tub – soap scum or no soap scum. I think we are conditioned to believe that we need more help in the form of better and brighter bathroom cleaners to combat this demon soap scum. The best solution: elbow grease! – not petrochemical grease. How is that green chemistry for you! I have never had a problem with soap scum and I use only simple soaps with NO water softeners! I am very lazy about cleaning my tub and I certainly don’t spend any more time scrubbing than anyone else. Probably less. I hate cleaning. Am I a magician? Or maybe we don’t absolutely positively NEED this softener after all.
“EDTA is in such widespread use that it has emerged as a persistent organic pollutant. It degrades to ethylenediaminetriacetic acid, which then cyclizes to the diketopiperizide, a cumulative, persistent, organic environmental pollutant. An alternative chelating agent with fewer environmental pollution implications is EDDS.
EDTA exhibits low acute toxicity with LD50 (rat) of 2.0 – 2.2 g/kg. It has been found to be both cytotoxic and weakly genotoxic in laboratory animals. Oral exposures have been noted to cause reproductive and developmental effects. The same study by Lanigan also found that both dermal exposure to EDTA in most cosmetic formulations and inhalation exposure to EDTA in aerosolized cosmetic formulations would produce systemic effects below those seen to be toxic in oral dosing studies.”
Did I mention that EDTA’s medical uses include uses in dentistry and in eye drops? And that it is synthesised from some ammonia compound, formaldehyde and sodium cyanide?
Ok so there you have the nuts and bolts of EDTA. This little guy isn’t even the worse one out there but just another character on a long list of question marks. Do we REALLY need this? Is it safe enough? What does safe enough mean?
One more thing: Here is the cosmetic database’s page on it:
ETA – Spotted it in my husband’s salad dressing tonight at dinner.
Lets talk about Palm Oil.
Palm oil is a very commonly used ingredient in modern soapmaking. Many mass produced bar soaps and cleansers use it as a core ingredient. Many small scale home based soap makers use it too. Palm Oil is rich in palmitic acid, vitamin E, vitamin K, magnesium and anti-oxidants. It makes a great hard bar of soap. It has become so popular that by some it is considered part of the holy trinity of soapmaking ingredients – palm oil, coconut oil and tallow (or olive oil depending on who you ask).
Check you labels. If you see palm oil, sodium palmate or saponified palm oil listed among the ingredients, you are holding a product made with palm oil.
If its so great and so popular why doesn’t DriftAwaySoap use it?
Glad you asked.
Palm oil plantations destroy rainforests and contribute one-third of our total CO2 emissions. That’s the stuff that causes global warming!
The habitats of endangered species, the homes of indigenous peoples, farmers, and national parks are all at risk because of the massive industry. Plantation companies set forest fires to clear huge amounts of land for palm. Some fires burn out of control, demolishing much larger areas than anticipated. The animals whose homes and migration patterns have been destroyed become vulnerable to illegal hunting or sometimes wonder back into the plantations where they are often simply killed by workers.
Moreover, the production of palm oil can be quite damaging to the environment. In one year, million of tons of solid oil wastes, palm fiber, and shells, and palm oil mill effluent, a polluted mix of crushed shells, water, and fat residues which has been shown to have a negative impact on aquatic ecosystems are produced.
So much land is being stripped away just for palms and many of these rainforests in Indonesia and Malaysia are on top of peat bogs. When the forests are cut down and the bogs drained to make way for the palm oil plantation, these massive deposits of carbon release more greenhouse gas emissions than you would like to think about. The palm industry uses more than 25 different herbicides, insecticides, and other pesticides contributing to further greenhouse gas emissions. Often after a 25-year harvest, plantations are abandoned for scrubland. Leaving soils so leached of nutrients and essentially devoid of vegetation other than weedy grasses which serve as tinder for wildfires.
In short Wikipedia (my dear friend) puts it best:
“Palm oil production has been documented as a cause of substantial and often irreversible damage to the natural environment. Its impacts include: deforestation, habitat loss of critically endangered species, and a significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions.”
Now the cosmetics industry uses only 6-7% of the world’s palm oil. Palm has become a significant factor in the movement towards biofuel. But even Greenpeace claims that the damage caused by palm plantations is far worse for the climate than the benefits gained by switching to biofuel. Yikes! Now what do we do!
There is a group pushing for sustainable palm oil but there are problems here too, like the loophole where plantations only have to claim a certain percentage of their land as sustainable to qualify and the fact that because there isn’t a significant demand for it not much of it sells.
Then the other day I was watching The Story of Cap and Trade (from the people who brought you The Story of Stuff) and I heard that because palm plantations are emitting carbon indirectly they can be contributing to the offsetting of pollutions permits in cap and trade deals.
Bottom line is…I don’t use it in my soaps.
Here are some links to where most of this research can be found.