Saturday, July 23, 2011

I'm doing science and I'm still alive!

Wow, I'm really flaky lately, saying I'm going to write some posts, then not doing it, then showing up again to say I'm going to write some posts then not doing it and so on. I've been double-plus-ultra-mega-super busy lately (I've done at least two youth groups of some kind Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday this week, with another one today) and I can't seem to find time to catch my breath (in a good way - I'm having a blast). I haven't had any workshop time this month, so I can't share new products or ideas. Heck, I'm running out of everything and if I don't get into the workshop by next weekend, I'll have to buy conditioner (insert dramatic gasp here!)!

Every year my best friend and I pick two new things to learn or do (so far this year, learning to sew clothes and entering a drinking contest last night - note, an Italian soda drinking contest at the 48 hour game-a-thon at our local board & card games store. I came in second to last. I'm okay with that) and I pick something I want to change about myself. This year it's learning to say no and set boundaries (I have some boundaries, but I need to be really vigilant about my personal time.)

If you've ever tried this, you'll find it most interesting. People don't like it when you say no - as Oprah pointed out, if someone won't take no for an answer, they're trying to control you - and interesting things can happen. My friends, family, and co-workers have not only accepted it, they've expressed things like "it's about bloody time!" or "I'm glad you're looking after yourself", but a few will try to push you, and the odd one will get hostile. I've been in the very hostile zone for a few weeks now and it's been taxing my energy. It's hard to wake up in the morning to e-mails besmirching one's good name and go to work with a big smile on your face, but I hope that's over now.

I can't promise posts every day for at least another month - I have to get back into research mode - but I'm really hoping I can get into thrice a week mode. Thanks for your kind words of support!

This post is illustrated with these bath salts because they're from the class on Friday and I thought this was a particularly vibrant jar. Teaching kindergarteners how to make bath salts - try it some time! It's a blast! Click here for the tutorials.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Question: Why would I suggest using silicones for the co-washing method?

Anonymous asked this interesting question about co-washing or the no shampoo method in this postI happen to come across your intesting post regarding cleansing conditioner. I am currently starting the co-wash method however I sometime use products with silicones. So my questions is if I am trying to remove silicones build up then why use a silicone based conditioner like the one mentioned. (Neutrogena triple moisture daily deep conditioner) that is chock full of silicones? Wouldn't that defeat the purposes of removing silicone build up? Please explain as I am trying to educate myself on ingredients that matter so I won't make the mistake of spending money on a so called "Cleansing Conditioner" that would be pretty much the same thing as a regular condtioner that I can in my local grocery.

I've said it before and I'll say it again here, I don't know much about this method. I get the chemistry behind using just conditioners to cleanse one's hair, but I don't get the rules and regulations that seem to come with the various theories or methods. There are tons of ingredients that can cause build up, but it seems the ones to avoid are oils and silicones, or cationic polymers or cationic guar or other conditioning agents. Or maybe not. I simply don't know. For every person who asks me to justify suggesting the use of silicones for this method, someone else writes to me to tell me they love silicones. For every person who avoids oils, others swear by them. So it's really about the philosophy to which you plan to adhere, and learning more about that specific program.

So how does a cleansing conditioner differ from a normal conditioner? It doesn't. For the most part, the cleansing conditioner contains the same ingredients as a normal conditioner, although I've seen a few with very low levels of foaming surfactants like cocamidopropyl betaine. I have noticed that most of the conditioners with the word "cleansing" in the title tend to stay away from silicones (although the Wen conditioner I mention below doesn't), but that might be because those I've seen also bill themselves as natural or organic. I've also noticed that a lot of them contain mint, perhaps for the tingly feeling it can leave behind? (Click here for the longer post on duplicating cleansing conditioners.)

If you can't have silicones, then get a conditioner without silicones or make your own. If you can't have oils, then avoid anything that contains oils, butters, fatty alcohols, fatty acids, and so on (or perhaps it's just normal oils - this is one area that really confuses me). You're trying an approach that requires you to do a lot of work learning and experimenting and generally spending a lot of time and energy on figuring out what your hair likes and doesn't like, and the only way you can learn more about it is to read a lot and experiment a lot. Keep really accurate notes about the various ingredients and what impact they've had on your hair. If you want to avoid something like silicones or cationic polymers, then you'll have to spend the time learning what they are, how they show up in our conditioners, and which ones can create build up (and if they do, how to remove it). I'm afraid I can't offer a one sentence answer or a rhyming couplet to remember what you can and can't have as every person is different. 

If you take a look at the post in which you made the comment, I take a look at two conditioners. One calls itself a cleansing conditioner and the other doesn't. One is expensive and one is reasonably priced. Both contain silicones. I don't actually recommend either of them - I don't recommend commercial products, I recommend making your own! - but use them as tools to explain why both would be suitable as a co-washing conditioner. 

If you are interested in this method, want to know more about how shampoo works on our hair, or just feel like reading more today, here are a few suggested posts...
How does shampoo clean our hair?
How does the no shampoo concept work?
Is shampooing necessary for our hair?
What is build up?
Duplicating the Curl Junkie Daily Fix Cleansing Conditioner

If you're on the Dish forum, then you know I'm leading a crusade to stop the shortening of shampoo to 'poo for what I think are really obvious reasons. I implore you to write those four little letters to make something we wash our hair with sound icky! 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Questions: Preserving scrubs

Just so you know, this scrub uses melt & pour soap and is from this challenge (click for the post to find the recipes) as Petra and I tried to duplicate a Lush product. I used this mold from Voyageur - click here - one I use for a lot of things!

In this post, Deborah asks: I'm gonna try this recipe shortly but I wanted to ask why you don't have a preservative in this. Is it because it is one time use only? Just checking cause I've never made one and I wanted to be on the safe side. Thank you in advance.

Great question, Deborah! You know, I think there should be a preservative in here, and you're welcome to add one if you wish (more about that in a moment).

We always say that we don't need to include a preservative in an anhydrous product (one without water) and this scrub bar doesn't contain water, therefore we can make it without a preservative. But there's a caveat to that sentence - unless the product is coming near water. A scrub bar not only comes near water, but it could be sitting in a small pool of water if you leave it in an undrained soap holding container, so it's a good idea to put a preservative into it.

I generally make my bars to be used in two, maybe three, showers and I make sure they're stored in a well drained place, so I haven't worried about the preservation that much, but I think I was wrong.  I think it's better to include a preservative in the mix to be on the safe side because I don't know how long other people might keep the bar and how they might treat it. If I really don't need a preservative, then I'm adding 0.5% to 1% of something to a bar other people might consider unnecessary. If I do need it, then I'll be happy I included it!

In this post, an anonymous questioner writes: This may be a dumb question - I have never made lotions or scrubs before - I am learning all about this stuff now :) Would using Germall Plus as a preservative instead of Phenonip result in any difference in the final product? I am assuming these are just personal preference in preservative types.

Again, another great question! (I would say there are very few dumb questions, and ones about preserving our products are never ever dumb! You can never be too safe.)

You can't use liquid Germall Plus in an anhydrous or oil only product as it is a water soluble preservative. If you click here and look at the preservative chart, you'll see that Phenonip works for oil soluble products, as do the Liquipar preservatives. (There may be other preservatives out there that work for oil soluble products, but I haven't encountered them and haven't reviewed them on the blog.) The parabens are mostly oil soluble, which is why they work in scrubs or scrub bars.

If you wish to put preservatives into your scrub bars, emulsified scrubs, or oil based scrubs, follow the manufacturer's directions for usage. In the case of Phenonip, you can add it to the heated oil phase of your product.

But how much to use? A 200 gram product might have 100 grams of oil and 100 grams of sugar/salt/pumice so should you preserve it all or just the oil based ingredients? I choose go by the weight of the entire product - so oil and salts and so on - at the percentage allowed by the manufacturer (for Phenonip, that would be 1%).

As a note, I will be revising my scrub recipes to include a link to this post! Great questions! 

If you're interested in learning more about preserving sugar scrubs or want to know more about water activity and preserving (which is the argument some people use in not preserving emulsified or oil based scrubs), please click here.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Question: How can I increase the lather and foam in a facial cleanser?

In this post, The Fawn writes: I currently have coco glucoside on hand and would like to make a facial cleanser for myself. But I find that with coco glucoside at 30% as the single surfactant, there's very little bubble/lather and no foam at all. I am one of those people who wants LOTS of foam and lather if possible! :D I am looking at cocamidopropyl betaine, but not sure if it will give me enough foam and lather.
Could you advice me which surfactant I should add to the coco glucoside if I would like a cleanser that's gentle enough for sensitive but acne prone skin?

I'm not really sure why one would want a lot of foam and lather in a facial cleanser - don't you find it gets into your eyes and is hard to rinse off? - but we like a challenge around here. The easiest way is to put your product in a foamer bottle! Done! Lather and foam with even a small amount of surfactant! But I don't think that's the answer you wanted, so let's expand this further.

You'll want to use very mild and gentle surfactants for sensitive skin (click here for the posts on various skin types). Decyl glucoside is a mild surfactant and good foamer. Cocamidopropyl betaine is a great inclusion in any surfactant based products as it will increase the mildness and slightly thicken your product. If you have very oily skin, consider using C14-16 olefin sulfonate (maybe 5% to 10% in your product) and if you want creamy feeling lather, consider using SCI, which offers a moisturized after feel.

Here are a few ideas for facial cleansers...
Ideas for formulating facial cleansers
Creamy facial cleanser with SCI
Foamy facial cleanser
Some more ideas for a facial cleanser

If you're using coco glucoside on its own, you will need to make sure you alter the pH as it can be very high - between 7 to 11.5, check with your supplier to get the exact number - and we want our products to be between 5.5 and 6.5.

I really recommend spending some time getting to know your surfactants because our facial skin can get very grumpy at times. If you want to know more about surfactants, click here!

Let us know how it turns out!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

My bloody big (not really) ice cream

Being lactose intolerant is hardest in the summer - ice cream - and the winter - egg nog - and those lactase tablets do nothing for me (and yes, I've tried the Ultra Lactaid with no success). So Raymond went on a quest to find an iced treat I could enjoy without the agony and embarrassment that can arise when Susan and milk meet!

Behold the beauty that is my bloody big ice cream, a tradition my father started. I like soy ice cream, but it's usually too hard for a cone, but Raymond created a strawberry yogurt treat that doesn't cause me agony. He made up a lovely strawberry sorbet last week, but it went so fast, I couldn't get pictures!

We've made a lot of iced treats this year since purchasing the ice cream maker for the Kitchenaid at Christmas time. We've found the best recipes come from this book, The Perfect Scoop, and there are lots of non-dairy recipes for my fellow lactards. We've tried the custard ice cream - awesome because my massage therapist has lots of eggs and it's less milk based for me - as well as the cheesecake ice cream, and they have all been amazing! I can't say enough about this book!

I'm actually okay with not having ice cream or cheesecake or things like that because it's a category of food I've never really enjoyed because of the digestive problems they cause, and there are so many lactose free yogurts out now so I can enjoy my probiotics like everyone else. So it's not normally a big deal, but homemade ice cream...well, that's just awesome! 

Questions: Adding goat's milk and using BTMS in a lotion

I'm asked regularly about making goats' milk lotions, and all I can say is that I don't know. This is what I know about goats - they're cute, they're cuddly, they seem to enjoy eating tin cans, and this video about the baby goat stampede makes me smile. I hate anything to do with goat milk - cheese, ice cream, yogurt - even though as a lactard, I could actually eat it. I find it has a really gamy smell to me, so I don't go near it much. I have no idea how one would incorporate it into a lotion, except to say that you'd want to use it in the heated water stage...possibly. Sorry I can't be more helpful here.

Anonymous asked: I have a question that I hope is not too strange. Can BTMS or even Incroquat CR be used with another emulsifying wax such as Polawax or NatraMulse, for conditioning purposes in a lotion? Thanks in advance!

You can use BTMS and Incroquat CR with Polawax to get a more dry feeling or more conditioning lotion - I have many examples of combining these cationic ingredients with Polawax or e-wax on the blog, especially in sugar scrubs and scrub bars - but you can't use it with Natramulse (actual name: Ritamulse SCG also called Ecomulse) because you can't use cationic ingredients with that emulsifier. This means no polyquats or cationic quaternary compounds in those lotions!

Ritamulse SCG can be found as Ecomulse or Natramulse or by other names at our suppliers. Its INCI is Glyceryl Stearate (and) Cetearyl Alcohol (and) Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate and it's an anionic or negatively charged ingredient. For this reason, we can't use positively charged ingredients in lotions made with Ritamulse SCG or we'll see an epic lotion fail. It also doesn't use the HLB system as that's for non-ionic or neutrally charged ingredients. I'll be writing more about this emulsifier shortly. 

And this is the thing to look for when you're considering adding something to your lotions. Make sure the thing you want to add is compatible with the other ingredients. (For instance, if you were to use something like Tinosan as your preservative, remember that it doesn't work well with cationic ingredients.)

Click here for a post on what it means if something's anionic, cationic, or non-ionic

This isn't something we worry about a lot - most of our lotion ingredients are non-ionic or neutrally charged like oils, butters, emulsifiers (most), fatty alcohols, fatty acids, proteins, extracts, humectants, and so on. But it's always wise to check if you aren't sure. If you see something called a conditioner - conditioning emulsifier, conditioning agent, emulsifying conditioner - it's likely cationic. Most of our surfactants - the foamy kinds you might find in cleansing products (see the section on this topic here) - are anionic. Some aren't, so it's always best to check if you're in doubt! (Click here for the surfactant chart!)

Join me tomorrow for more formulating fun!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Sewing: Cool ties for summer

After a lot of rain and cooler days, we're coming into the heat of summer around here. I start getting uncomfortable around 24˚C (including our high humidity), so I need to find ways of keeping cool when I'm visiting homes without even so much as a fan!

Here's my dishevelled Blondie dog modelling one of my favourite ties. In case you were wondering, she's also modelling what fly-away hair might look like! I couldn't get her to look at the camera as she just wanted to cuddle! 

So what are they? Cold ties are long thin scarves containing polymer crystals that soak up water. You tie them around your neck for the hot months after soaking them in water, and they keep you cool during the day.

What are the polymer crystals you need? You can get them at Michael's or other craft stores in the floral department, or in gardening stores as soil moisteners (far cheaper!) Ask for those crystal thingies you put in vases or planters that suck up water. They'll know what you mean.

1 piece of 100% cotton - the full width and about 4 inches high (10 cm)
needle and thread (or sewing machine)
1/2 tsp to 1 tsp polymer crystals (do not go over this amount -- you will have a very puffy cool tie!)

Click here for the PDF.

1. Put the right sides together for the fabric and cut out a piece about 4 inches (10 cm) high and the full width of the fabric. You might not need all this fabric, but I find I need at least 25 inches or so.

2. Mark your hem at 6 mm or 1/4 inch on all three sides.

3. Sew up one short side and the long side. Cut the corners for a sharper corner. Flip inside out.

4. Now iron it. Please do this -- it looks much much nicer.

5. Find the centre of the fabric and mark it with a pin. Now measure from that pin about 9 inches on either side (6 inches if this is for a smaller person), and mark that. This is going to be the casing for the crystals.

6. At the marking at the end you've sewn, sew across it. This is going to create a pocket that is completely closed. This is a good thing.

7. Now put in the 1/4 tsp to 1/2 tsp of polymer crystals. (1/2 tsp for the smaller cold tie).

8. Now sew across the other mark you made.

9. Now sew the open side.

You're done!

Soak these ties for about 45 minutes before using. Over time, the water will evaporate out of the crystals and you'll have to re-soak it.


Download a pattern and cut it out (see below for links). Put in about 1/4 tsp crystals -- don't use more because you will make it too heavy! My modifications for a cooling eye mask:
1. Use a silky fabric on the back and a pretty cotton fabric on the front (or more silky fabric).
2. Don't use the batting in the middle. Just make up the eye mask with one layer of silky fabric, one layer of cotton fabric.
3. Leave the space for inserting the elastic a little bit bigger so you can put the crystals in.
4. Enjoy it!

Great eye mask from Burda Style but I think you need to log in to download it...

Eye mask on Craft Bits

Hope I've given you a way of staying cool this summer! 

Question: Can we create our own botanical extract systems?

Anonymous wrote in the pineapple extract post: Your blog is great and you are super smart so I figured you would know the answer to this question: I really want to start incorporating extracts into my lotions. I was wondering if I could make my own botanical extract system by mixing together, for example, pineapple extract mixed with water and glycerin and preserve it with, lets say, liquid germall plus? I have noticed at many lotion supplier websites such as the herbarie and lotion crafters have these kinds of botanical extract systems for purchase. Thanks in advance!

I think you could do this, but I don't know if you should do this (although I'm happy to see you're including a preservative!). A big part of using the 0.5% in the cool down phase of our products has to do not only with the extracts not really liking heat, but also because of the solubility of the powders and figuring out how much you're using in a product. 

Let's say we have an extract that has a solubility of 0.2 grams in 100 ml of water (generally water at 20˚C to 25˚C). If we put 0.2 grams of our extract in 25˚C water, it'll dissolve really nicely. If we put 0.3 grams into 25˚C water, we'll have some precipitate or powder that doesn't dissolve.

You can see this with the toners to the left. Number 2 has too much dissolved in it, and the extracts eventually sunk to the bottom and formed a gooey precipitate!

Let's say pineapple extract has a solubility of 0.5 grams in 100 ml of water at 25˚C*. You dissolve 0.5 grams into water, glycerin, and preservative (total 99.5 grams of solvent) and have a lovely botanical extract system. You can't add more than 0.5 grams to this 99.5 gram bottle of liquid because the extract will precipitate. So what we have is a bottle with 0.5 grams of pineapple extract in it.

*I can't find the solubility of pineapple extract so this is just an example amount. 

If you wanted to use 0.5% pineapple extract in a product, you'd have to use the entire bottle to get that amount. If you wanted to use less, you'd have to do the math on it (0.25 grams in the product would mean I have to use 50 grams from the bottle, 0.125 grams in the product means 25 grams from the bottle, and so on). This simply isn't doable because you'd need to add a ton of the liquid to get a small amount of the extract.

If we did this with an ingredient that had a higher solubility than our pretend amount for pineapple extract, this might be doable. For instance, let's pretend green tea extract has a solubility of 5 grams in 100 ml of water. Weigh out 5 grams of green tea extract, 0.5 grams of liquid Germall Plus, and 94.5 grams of water, and you've got yourself a liquid green tea extract. How do you figure out how to use it in your products? We can guess that using 10% of this liquid would give us 0.5 grams of green tea extract in our products. It's not completely accurate, but good enough.

If you preserve it well, you could make a liquid extract, but it will always depend upon the solubility of that ingredient in water, so consider using alcohol as your solvent. An ingredient with low water solubility could have a higher alcohol solubility, and that might be a better choice for your solvent. For instance, salicylic acid is soluble at 0.2 grams in 100grams of water but about 25.4 grams in 100 grams of ethanol (my math might be off here, but you get the general idea), which means alcohol is probably the better solvent in this situation...but then you have to ask yourself if you want alcohol in your product!

I don't know much about the topic of making tinctures, but here is a link at at New Directions Aromatics that might be helpful. 

I guess the bigger question is why make a liquid extract?

There are good reasons for using a liquid extract. I like to use my liquid green tea extract in lotions when I don't have to worry about dissolving it in the cool down phase and I don't have to worry about having a browny-greeny coloured lotion, but I wouldn't get away from the colour and the heat sensitivity if I made my own.

I think it's do-able, but I don't think it's necessarily wise and I don't think you're going to get what you want if you do make it (although I love to be proved wrong!!!). The extracts you're buying from the suppliers aren't powdered extracts dissolved in water - they're manufactured to be mostly colourless liquid extracts that will keep for quite some time on your shelves. 

Questions, questions, questions!

I haven't had time to answer your comments and e-mails lately, so I'm going to take the next few days to get to quite a few of them. If you have a question that you've been dying to pose, e-mail me or post them in this comment and I'll see what I can do. I'm trying to do some experimenting with our why did I buy that again ingredients, and I'll have those up next week!

If you want to add an ingredient you own to the why did I buy that again? list, click here

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Super busy...sorry!

I didn't realize that being away from work for four days would lead to such busy-ness! Sorry there haven't been any new posts. I wrote a ton of them while I was on holiday, but they all need links and pictures and other things that take up time that I don't have right now, so look for daily posts to resume on Saturday (and I'll back date them so it looks like I was all productive this week! Bwa ha ha ha! I'm an evil genius!). Thanks for your patience!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Why did I buy that again? Pineapple extract

I write this post about how I'm back, then I forget to hit publish on yesterday's post! I guess I need more vacation time! 

Pineapple extract (INCI Ananas cosmosus fruit extract or powder) can be found in a powder form that is used at 0.5% in the cool down phase of your product. This extract can be used for skin conditioning and exfoliating, so you won't want to combine it with another exfoliating extract like white willow bark, salicylic acid, or papaya, for instance.

The main attraction in pineapple extract is bromelain, which is (to quote the University of Maryland website) "a mixture of protein-digesting (proteolytic) enzymes found in pineapples". This mixture has been shown to be good at debriding (removing dead skin) from third degree burns and can be used topically to reduce swelling from insect stings and bites (which I really need right now, stupid mosquitoes). Like the papain in papaya, bromelain can be used as an exfoliant in cosmetic products, which is why I suggest not using it with another exfoliant. It has some anti-bacterial benefits

In theory, bromelain would work reduce the adhesion between the dead skin cells on the surface of our skin and encourage them to slough off to reveal nice new skin cells, much like salicylic acid does. (Click here to learn more about desquamation!) Unfortunately, there has been very little study on how bromelain works with our skin (source) and the third degree burns study above appears to have used 35% bromelain as opposed to the 0.5% pineapple extract that we'd use in our products. There is no guarantee that there is enough bromelain in 0.5% pineapple extract to encourage desquamation.

Bromelain is used as a meat tenderizer because it breaks down proteins, and we can find it in a powdered form in grocery stores for this purpose. I was reading about a company that is using bromelain in their products as it "hydrolyses proteins into peptides and amino acids" (link to press release), although I'm not really sure why this would be a good thing in a product because our proteins are already hydrolyzed (like Cromoist) and I can get peptides and amino acids to put into my products. I guess I'm thinking more like a formulator and less like a consumer here, eh?

There are many reasons to take bromelain internally as it may be good at reducing pain, swelling, and water retention, but this isn't a blog about taking supplements, so we'll leave that topic alone. And there's some evidence that bromelain might be able to remove protein stains from laundry.

My mom's best friend used to put meat tenderizer on our bug bites and stings as a kid. I thought it was odd, but I trusted her because she was a nice adult. I guess she was right! 

There are other benefits to pineapple extract such as anti-oxidants that will retard rancidity in our products, anti-inflammatory properties to reduce redness, swelling, and inflammation, and possible anti-bacterial properties (but not enough to make it a preservative!). Pineapple extract can cause irritation to those with sensitive skin, so be wary before adding it to every facial product you own (in fact, if you want to use it, try it in one product - like a facial cleanser - before adding it to each product individually to avoid extreme exfoliation).

If you want to make a coconut oil and pineapple extract product and call it a pina colada lotion, have at it, but I don't think there's enough information yet that the amount of bromelain found in pineapple extract will benefit our skin.

When you're using fruit extracts - and, indeed, most extracts - you'll be adding them to the cool down phase at around 0.5%. For something like a shampoo, lotion, or other thick product, I like to pour a little heated water at 45˚C to 50˚C (the temperature of our cool down phase)  - not much, maybe 5 to 10 ml - into the powdered extract and mix until it dissolves. Then I add it to the product and mix well. If I'm adding it to something like a mister or toner - something that's pretty much all water - I don't bother dissolving it!

Join me tomorrow more fun with why did I buy that ingredients!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

What I did on my summer holidays!

A huge thank you to the readers who wrote to me to ask if I was okay - I am! I thought I'd put a post saying I'd be on holidays this week, but it turns out I didn't! We enjoyed what is being called a stay-cation, and I took the time to reorganize the house a bit, do some cleaning, make some jam, enjoy some crafts, and generally spend some down time not being ruled by the clock or obligations!

We were jamming! Every year we invite our friends over for jamming and pickling parties. It's strawberry season in the Valley, and you know that meant we had to have a jamming party!!!

I love this jam! It's strawberry balsamic jam and you would be insane not to try making this! I found the recipe on the Bernardin website and it's awesome! The titch of balsamic vinegar really brings out the flavour of the strawberries. We left the pepper out - yes, I hate pepper as much as I hate patchouli - and it was awesome. We had hoped it would be used for meats and cheeses, but it's great as a jam on Raymond's home made bread! (Raymond made an amazing strawberry sorbet - dairy-less for the lactards amongst us - but we ate before I could get a picture of it!) 

I did some stencilling! One of my amazing co-workers, Anne, retired this week, and I wanted to make her an awesome shirt to commemorate the event. When I finished her shirt (not posted here), I figured I would get around to making a few shirts I've wanted to make for a while. Here is Raymond's Planet Express shirt! I love this shirt and need to make one for me!

If you want to learn more about making your own freezer paper stencils please click here or click here for the handouts and information! (And if you like the stencils you see on those pages, let me know and I can send them to you. Or do a search for something you like in google with the word "stencil" to find some pictures you like!)

I learned how to make underpants! (And for many good reasons, I'm not going to model them for you, so you'll have to be content with this picture and my description of how much fun it is to make your own!) This is all part of learning to sew and making all my own clothes! I've been scared of using stretch fabrics, so I took two classes in which I'd be forced to use that material. I made a pair of yoga pants - don't like the fabric, so I'm making them again - and I've been making many pairs of underpants.

If you want to make your own, I suggest using the Cheeky style or the Cheeky plus size style from Burda style (log in to print it out) or the Kwik Sew 3301 pattern.

And I bought a container of Chocolate Brownie Almond lactose free, non-dairy dessert that contained no brownies and no almonds! What's up with that? I have actually written to the company to let them know about it - after all, I can get the chocolate version at home, whereas I have to travel to another town to find this exotic blend of brownies and nuts!

And we found this chair in the local thrift store! It came with a love seat for $25. I'm going to learn how to re-upholster it to match our room! So there's another project! We spent yesterday cleaning our windows, carpet, and air conditioner, washing the bedding and curtains, and generally doing our spring cleaning a little late.

For the love of all that is good, please don't call your holiday time a va-cay or a va-ca-sway or whatever combination you might like out of those words. It's a vacation. You don't need to make it sound cooler! I'm not even a big fan of the concept of the stay-cation, although calling it that means people don't ask where you were on your holidays, so it's acceptable.

Did you notice that the last part of the stay-cation could be read as "cation" as in the positively charged ion used in conditioner products. Yep, everything's about chemistry! 

This week has been good for me as I hadn't realized how tired I've become lately with fighting off one illness or another. (Anyone else read, When the Body Says No by Gabor Mate?) I took this week to organize my life a little, create some schedules, be okay with not going going going all the time, and really enjoy spending time with my mom and my husband. I said a few weeks ago I was back, but I was wrong. I was still pretty tired and run down, but I didn't realize it until I had a few days of feeling awesome!

I think the lesson I've learned is to look after myself, that self-care isn't selfishness, and that I'm no good to someone else if I'm exhausted. (Yes, I know I should know all these things, but us counsellor types are better at offering advice than taking it some times!)

Look for daily posts starting again tomorrow. They might not be at 6:00 AM as I hoped - I'm still enjoying the 10 to 12 hour sleeps - but they'll be here eventually! I missed writing the blog and all the lovely feedback from you, my amazing readers! Thanks for all your kind words of support! I'm feeling back to normal again, and that's a great thing!