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Wednesday, 27 February 2013

My First Homemade Balm

Hi guys, and welcome to this week's blog.  I'm quite excited to share my week's adventures with you.  As part of my pledge to get rid of commercially produced beauty products, I made my first lip balm and body lotion!
It started with the purchase of my new favorite substance - Coconut oil!  For those of you who have not heard of the many wonderful uses for coconut oil, you've simply got to get some.  The one I ended up purchasing in the organic food section of my local grocery store was $6.99 for a 414ml jar, but I'm told you can get it cheaper at Costco. 
I had read a little bit about it on the internet and knew it had some benefits, but I was in no way prepared to fall head-over-heels in love with the stuff like I have.  It is quite simply the most amazing thing I've ever seen.  For instance - As a lip balm, on it's own, right out of the jar, it is incredibly moisturizing.  As a facial moisturizer, it works wonders, and when rubbed in a thin layer over your hands and worked through the ends of your hair, it settles out frizz like you wouldn't believe - at a fraction of the cost of expensive serums!
I'm pleased to report that I will no longer be purchasing face cream.  One week of using straight coconut oil and I'm hooked.  (I'm doing oil cleansing for my face now too but more on that later).  In addition to the coconut oil, I also purchased 3.18 pounds of raw beeswax at my local apiary for $19.03 and five pounds of unrefined shea butter from a lady I found on kijiji for $25.
With those ingredients and some others that I had on hand, I was able to make two products, lip balm and lotion. Here's how it works:

I started by rounding up some old jars and containers that I had and dumping out their contents.  Then I washed them and put them in a pot to boil to sterilize them.  Next, I found my preferred recipes online.  I went to, but you can find recipes anywhere.
The next step was mixing my ingredients - in the case of the lip balm, equal parts beeswax, shea butter, and coconut oil - in a glass jar sat in a pot of lightly simmering water.  (I'll tell you more about the body lotion next week).  This took about fifteen minutes, and if you live in an area with on-peak hydro pricing, I recommend doing it after 7 if you're going to try it.  I soon had a good jarful of liquid lip balm which I poured into my prepared containers.  Out of 1 tablespoon of each of my ingredients, I made three little pots of lip balm plus one ginormous tin for myself out of a repurposed mints container. 
For my own, because I wanted a little colour, I mixed in cocoa and cinnamon.  I had read it was possible to tint your balm with these ingredients, and you can see that it is - a bit - but I erred on the side of caution in this case.  The balm feels heavenly on my lips, and without the addition of spices, the balm goes on colourlessly. For my three pots, plus the tin for myself which you can see in the photo holds a quite substantial amount, the cost of production was :
1 tbsp shea butter @5.00/lb  - $0.16
1 tbsp beeswax  @5.99/lb     - $0.19
15ml coconut oil @$7/414ml-$0.26
total                                        $0.51
Fifty one cents!  Can you believe that?  And the products are all natural and not chemically refined.  In comparison, I went to the grocery store and priced out an 'all-natural' lip balm, (which you can see from the packaging is anything but) and the cost for one unit was $4.29
Now if you'll permit me to vent for a moment, I'd like to draw your attention to something.  This product, with it's mellow-looking packaging and it's carefully eco-friendly looking branding, makes some pretty preposterous claims.  If we zoom in a little closer, we see that it says it's
"100 % natural and 95% organic."  While the substance contained in all this packaging may, in fact, be all it's hyped up to be (although dang it, it occurs to me now that a good idea would have been to take a quick photo of the ingredients list before the already mystified-looking sales lady dialled security, but hey, this blog is a learning process), you can see that it's packaged in materials that are clearly not any of those things.  Ladies and gentlemen, what you're looking at is a number 5 plastic shell and a polyurethane blister pack on a product that claims to be all natural and organic.  This is the kind of B.S. marketing that I think our government should be cracking down on, because people that genuinely want to use natural products that don't harm the environment can be misled by claims such as these.
I, on the other hand, have an ample supply of lip balm that works better than any I've ever had plus three other pots to give to my friends, all at the cost of fifty-one cents.
Now seeing as how by switching to coconut oil I've eliminated the purchase of face cream from my monthly shopping bill, and seeing as the one I've been using for years costs $22.99, I'm going to add that number to my previous figure of $30 in haircare products and give you my new monthly savings total:
On top of whatever else I've been saving, beginning March 1, I'm saving fifty-two bucks per month off my personal hygiene routine.  For March, because I spent around fifty bucks on my new favorite ingredients, I'll call it a wash and only add my sandwiches savings for this week

to the previous total of


to arrive at a new total of


Seeing as how I've got tons of beeswax, shea butter, and coconut oil left, and seeing as how and other sites have tons of recipes for DIY products you can make at home, stay tuned next week to see what I'm trying next.  As they used to say in the Reader's Digest when I was growing up, (which annoyingly pops into my head for some reason more often than I care to admit),
"And how was your week?"

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

A Gift From the Heart

Today I'm going to talk about my new hobby - knitting! It began as part of my physiotherapy for my hand. Because of repetitive damage from factory work, and the terrible result of an operation I had to try to correct it, I have permanent damage to my right hand. I have problems with pinching and gripping, among other things, and so one of the things I've been doing to strengthen these motions is light knitting. It' slow going. I often can only manage a few rows a night, and my hand aches something fierce, but for small projects like toques or mittens it's not too bad. I was making a hat for my husband when it occurred to me that his mother's birthday was coming up, so I decided to knit her some mittens.

Now my mother-in-law and I haven't always had the best of relationships. Things often deteriorate into not speaking whenever we try to discuss our differences, but this year my New Year's resolution is to hold out the olive branch. With her birthday approaching, I thought to myself, 'wouldn't it be great if I could show her I care about her by making something heartfelt for her birthday - and save myself the fifty bucks or so I would have spent wandering around the mall looking for an impersonal item to purchase for her in the process?

I know she enjoys going for long winter walks with her friend, and that's why I hit on the idea of the mittens. To make them really warm, I decided I would first knit them and then line them with fabric, and to make them really special I decided to use a piece of one of my children's most-used baby blankets. I figured that way, when she's out walking, she'll feel the softness of that fabric and absorb the feeling of nostalgia that comes from touching clothing worn by someone you love very much.
She was pretty quiet when she opened them, but I could tell she was pleased just the same. My hope is that while she's out walking, the softness of that fabric might just make her think about the fact that our differences aren't really so great, as I had time to reflect during the long process of knitting them. And if not, since I already had the wool and material I used to make her mittens, it's still another fifty bucks I'm recording in the savings department.

Sandwiches Update
On Feb. 6th I last updated this column, and so I have two weeks' lunch savings to record as well as the fifty dollars I saved by hand making my mother-in-law's gift (not to mention the carbon emissions I saved by neglecting to purchase a commercially made item.)

Feb. 6th Total:                  207.67
Feb. 13th Lunch Savings    19.81
Feb. 20th Lunch Savings    26.44
Birthday Gift                       50.00
New Total                        303 .92

As you can see, I've cut more than $300 bucks from our expenses so far this year.  A little Self Sufficiency goes a long way!

The Self-Sufficiency Objection
If you are not interested in the Government's Proposed Medical Marihuana Amendments, please feel free to skip.  If you are interested, please copy this text and paste it into an email addressed to

Dear Sir or Madam:
I object to your proposed amendments for the following reasons:

1. From a climate perspective, you're proposing to transform what is essentially a cottage industry (in which the people that actually use the product grow it in their own backyards) and turn it into a commercial venture, with all the resource burning that entails: construction of facilities, packaging materials, transport truck freighting of supplies, etc.  If growing it inside homes is such a concern, why not just make that part illegal and let them grow it outdoors?

2. From a socioeconomic perspective, you propose taking one hundred and sixty six million dollars from one of society's most disadvantaged people (those with chronic pain and illness) and giving it to commercial businesses, an increase in cost to them from the current $1.80 to the projected $8.80 over the next few years, yet another expample of a government body putting business interest over that of citizens. 

3. From a civil libertarian perspective, you're going to open up a substance that has acknowledged medical benefit to commercial businesses to profit from but you won't allow the average citizen to grow it in their own backyard for personal use?

4. You open up a public comment period and do the absolute minimum to inform people that it's open, and then you publish a document so crammed full of legal jargon that the task of reading through it is onerous enough that all but the most determined will be deterred from even finishing it?  (another attempt to exclude the noneducated underclass from the discussion or a known tactic for steamrolling your own agendas through?)

5. And finally, you contend that the risk of hazards associated with indoor growing and the threat of the substance making it's way to the illicit market are your justifications for the above?  If the government just removed the sanction on outdoor marijuana growing for personal use the rest of the problems you articulate disappear.  The street value drops, thereby reducing the profitability of indoor grow ops to the point that they no longer are worth the risk.  The cost of administering the MMPR is eliminated and the climate is spared the carbon emitting transport truck traffic of building and operating yet another unneccessary commercial industry.

My objection to your proposed amendments is this: stop putting commercial interests ahead of the climate.  Growing plants for personal use in one's backyard is by far the lesser of two evils if the alternative is one more wasteful, resource-burning industry created in the name of profit for business.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Bringing Back the Grunge

Hello friends, and welcome to this week's post.  Today I'd like to talk about something that has evolved over the course of this blog.  As I leave the capitalist mainstream behind, I'm finding that the old me is coming back.  In other words, the more I retreat from the current capitalist construct of femininity -  the products that we as women buy to keep up with trends we've been marketed - the more I feel like someone that I used to be is taking back over. 
And that someone is Grunge, baby.

It started with a conversation that I overheard recently between two parents of teenagers. They were discussing the fact that one of their sons had handed over a list of expensive designer clothing brand names and instructed his parent to purchase his Christmas items exclusively from that list.  I remember thinking, how did the Grunge generation come to this?  To go from the utter rejection of Brand names to complete subservience to them in one generation is staggering.
(Photo from  I don't want my daughter following this trend, particularly since the clothing that young female children are marketed these days is increasingly sexualized.  They're wearing more grown up styles: tall boots, skinny jeans, fitted jackets, makeup, you get the idea.  If I don't want my daughter dressing in a sexualized way I'm going to need to buck that trend myself, something that has arisen more and more as I document my journey towards self sufficiency on this blog.
I started by pledging to not buy makeup, for example.  I was going to still use up the stuff I had, but now that I've gone a few weeks without wearing commercial makeup, I don't even want to use that up anymore.  It's all just sitting there, unused, in my bathroom, and the more I go with only simple colours (well, one so far.  Brown) and leave my hair natural, the more I find that I'm starting to look like myself again, not like a mask I've put on.
Then I started thinking about my clothes.  Much as it now embarasses me to admit, I've worn some pretty low-cut tops over the years.  I've worn things that hug my curves and push my cleavage up and basically, show off all my assets to the best of their possible ability.  It's this that I wanted to talk about more than anything, it's that we as women have been sold the idea that we have to appear as sexually attractive as possible at all times.  Even when we're moms, even when we're married, it's still this clamouring to look hot. It's like the more attractive  you are the worthier you are as a person, and it's no accident.  All that primping and waxing and manicuring and glossing is a massive money-making industry, and what better way to really crank up it's profitability than by convincing us all that looking good means looking sexy.
(Katy Perry photo from )

There's not much left to the imagination with our modern style of dressing, is there?  There's no room in most modern garments to hide even the slightest physical imperfection.  Given that only a small percentage of women actually are the ideal measurements, this has the effect of keeping women insecure so that they buy products to 'improve' themselves.  Now that I've stepped outside of that dynamic, I'm realizing that I never really wanted to dress that way in the first place.  I'm still going to keep up on basic personal hygiene, something that was questionable with the first generation of grunge.  I'm still going to shave my legs.  I'm just not going to tart myself up anymore.  I'm keeping my cleavage covered.  Sorry, but it's my husband's eyes only from this point.

Placing women on a value structure where their worth is determined by physical attractiveness puts us all on a gradation scale where we're  we're constantly evaluating ourselves against every other woman in the room.  Instead of focusing on something that matters, we obsess over our appearances, and in turn, buy products that keep the capitalist wheels turning.

(from )

How does it work? Simple.  Corporation A makes weight loss supplements, B makes Smartphones, C makes films, and D makes cosmetics.  Who benefits from the Beauty Myth?  All of the above.  Company C makes movies (/videos/commercials) that portray the 'idealized' image of female beaty- rake thin, big boobs, youthful face.  Corporation A hires starlet of said movie to go on camera and endorse weight loss supplement, D immediately copies it's cosmetics trends on their advertising, and B, who makes devices, has all this great content for people to constantly be viewing on their smartphones while they advertise the next, newest version of their devices.  It's the out-of-control creation of sales, or in other words, the free market economy where everything goes as long as it's profitable.  But in adhering to the mandates of stylized beauty, we are piling money on the up escalator of capitalism, and flying headlong through our planet's resources along the way.  Products such as old cologne bottles, spray deodorant cans, eyeshadow pallettes, nailpolishes, obsolete cell phones, video game consoles, headphones, mouses, have got to be piling up  in a landfill somewhere.  I mean, they're not recyclable.  Are they?
We in Canada operate under the illusion that we're even more environmentally conscious than ever, but once you step outside that illusion it becomes obvious that we're not. I'm here to tell you, I'm done with it.  Screw you, Capitalism.  I reject your evaluating women's worth in terms of sexual attractiveness, your insistence on women conforming to one plasticized image of beauty.  I'm not going to dress like a floosie, and neither is my daughter.  I'm saving my curves for the bedroom, not traipsing them around the grocery store.  I don't need to buy products to enhance myself.  My natural state is good enough.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

A Breath of fresh Air

Today I'd like to share with you a little glimpse of what my days are like now that I've quit my job and started focusing on the things that really matter to me.  Specifically, I'd like to tell you about the walk my kids and I just took.  My oldest is in Junior Kindergarten, and goes to school every other day, so on days when I have both of them at home, like today, I really try to stretch things out and spend some really good quality time with them.
We left after lunch, we got our snowpants on and started walking.  My dog, Freddie, came with us. We walked out our front door and into a world that sparkled with new fallen snow glistening in the sunshine.  My daughter, at 3, pronounced it Christmas magic and told me that the elves had been there, glittering up the snow.  Who was I to tell her it was only ice crystals?
We walked down to the end of our street where a fallen tree lies along the edge of a field and played a game of pirate ship with my 4-year-old son as captain.  He called us Scurvy Maties and made us walk the plank, but then he changed his mind and called us back to swab the decks and foist the sails instead.
Next, we caught Freddie sniffing out some animal prints and followed them to the base of a tall Walnut tree, where we deduced they must have come from squirrels since we saw some in the branches.  My daughter made some snow angels, my son and I played tag, and then we started home.  All in all, I'd say we were gone about an hour, but the important thing is that it was a slow hour.  Looking back on the days when I was working 6 days a week and shuffling my kids around to day care, I would have given anything to have an hour go by that slow, but it was all just rush, rush, rush.  And yes, we're doing without a lot of things these days, but having those two little gaffers in my life is such a gift, it's just a rare and special privelage to have this time with them, and I wouldn't trade the memory of today for all the paychecks in the world.  To anyone that's wondering if I may by now be regretting my loss of income, I have to say, no way!  I'm thankful, I'm just so thankful to myself for taking the opportunity to enjoy my children while I've got them, and I'm thankful to my husband for supporting me in my decision.  He's given me the most amazing chance to really be the kind of mom I want to be.  No matter what happens, I'll never look back on this moment and think, "I wish I was still torquing bolts on the assembly line."
My wish for you today, dear readers, is that you have the chance to get outside and appreciate the gift we've all been given - the beautiful fresh clean air we breathe and the wonderful world that's all around us, because if we don't take the time to appreciate what we've been given once in a while, well then, my friends, we don't deserve to have it.  Take care of yourselves, and I'll see you next week.
A picture of Freddie after he's been doing some serious snow snuffling. 
Last week's total:                 150.57

This week's lunch savings     27.10
Feb. hair product savings       30.00
Total                                     207.67