11 December 2009

Love it / am irritated by it.

Every year for about the last 8 or so, I've made a solid lotion that I usually give to people in conjunction with the lavender bath salts. I have to explain what it is to them, because I usually give it to people in tubes that look like lip balm tubes, but are much larger. The manufacturer calls them deodorant tubes, which made no sense to me. Think of a tube of Chapstick. Now imagine said tube of Chapstick with a diameter of 1-1/2 inches (3-1/2 cm) instead of the usual 1/4 inch (1-1/2 cm). Imagine it being about 3-1/2 or 4 inches tall (7-10 cm). So it looks like lip balm, but clearly isn't lip balm, and the idea of a solid moisturizer is odd to most people. Consequently, I get a lot of reactions that sound like this: "Cool! What is it?"

A sidebar here to note that moisturizer in a solid form is freaking brilliant, because unless you left in a hot car in the summer, it will never spill. Ever. Lots less messy to apply, IMO, as well. Unfortunately, it wasn't my original idea, so I'm not sitting on a million dollar next-big-thing enterprise. I have no plans to sell my solid lotion, no desire to deal with the legalities of trying to sell such a product. And I need to note that I bought the tubes someplace else for a less expensive price this year and they are the exact same size as lip balm tubes.

Anyway, most years I buy a kit for the solid lotion, add some stuff of my own (that-there's the technical term, 'stuff') pour the liquid into tubes, allow it to cool - room temperature solid, but melts on contact with your skin - put the caps on it, and away we go. When I couldn't find the kit on the website that I usually get it from, I sent the owner of the company an e-mail to see what was going on. She told me she isn't making the kits right now, but doing it on your own is dead easy, and she sent me the links to recipes. (Here and here.) Fair 'nuff. It isn't rocket science; a wax (such as beeswax) combined with a butter (avocado, mango, shea, cocoa) and oils (olive, apricot kernel, almond, walnut, soy), plus any fragrance and or colorant. She told me I could use any butter, any oils, so the fact that I didn't have mango butter or cocoa butter called for in those two recipes wasn't an issue. No artificial fragrances for me, thanks. I use lavender essential oil, for the aromatherapy benefits as well as liking the scent. Absolutely no colorant. I do put some colorant in the bath salts, but not ever in the lotion.

I have no idea which of those two recipes the kit contained, but I think it was probably the Easy Lotion Bar. I've added shea butter to the kit and the lavender, and that's worked well. Until this year, I've never measured the shea, just added it and tested a tiny bit until I felt it was 'right'. This year, I used the Extra-Rich recipe, using my super-duper kitchen scale to weigh the wax and butter. I measured the oils, added the lavender and when I tested it, it was far too hard and not the silky-yet-slightly-grainy texture I associate with "my" lotion. Hmmm. I'd put some of it into the tubes by then, and was irked that I needed to melt those back down and tinker. Using the smaller tubes seemed like a good idea, but they're difficult to fill. My hands shake quite a lot these days, a nice side-effect of my Wellbutrin. Some days it is bad, some days it is worse, and some days it doesn't happen at all. Filling those little tubes with an eyedropper and shaking hands meant I got that stuff all over the outside of the tubes, making them look like used candles, all over the countertop, and on my scale. Well, not exactly all over the countertop; I had a heavy cutting board out because the beeswax came in one ginormous block and I needed seriously 3 oz of the stuff. So there are dibs and dabs of solid lotion on the (fortunately plastic) cutting board. I think it'll come off in hot water and with a scrubbie.

The shea butter I bought several years ago on eBay. It came in an 'unrefined' state, which meant that there were little twigs and other things in the butter, requiring me to melt it down, and strain it through a cheesecloth. I wanted it that way, refining takes away some of the natural properties of the butter. I had it stored in the freezer in a Tupperware container, and each year I'd pull it out, let it hang out on the countertop a day or so, add it to the kit. Bam! Over, done.

In order to make the extra rich lotion bar recipe seem more like what I've been making all these years, I ended up tripling the amount of butter from 2 oz to 6. That was the very last of the shea butter. Like a complete fool, I had added the lavender before removing a small amount of the mixture for my 10 year-old nephew, who would rather not smell like flowers, thankyouverymuch. Last year or maybe 2 years ago, I made some with sandalwood essential oil specifically for him after spending some time researching less girly scents and an essential oil that wouldn't hurt his skin. He has eczema, and skin that is more sensitive than mine. The shea butter has absolutely amazing properties - like being absorbed easily in to the skin, and it helps with the itching of the eczema - so the solid lotion can be used on his skin with no worries.

I've given a lot of the solid lotion away already this year, and that's today's mitzvah. That and making the special batch for my nephew; something I really love to do, but it has seemed like work instead of fun this year. I'm doing it anyway because I'm mostly boycotting the over-commercialized gift grab that Christmas has become and am doing my best to give NO gifts that are purchased. Hand-and-homemade, all the way.

In a token recognition of the season, I leave you with these wise words:

Fear less, hope more.
Whine less, breathe more.
Talk less, say more.
Hate less, love more.
And all good things are yours. ~Swedish proverb

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