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Body Soap Bar vs. Shampoo Soap Bar? February 24, 2015

Filed under: Natural Products,Soap — Meghan Hamilton @ 7:18 pm
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I was recently asked to make shampoo bars.  They are increasing in popularity these days with the realization that handmade soap is gentler on our bodies than many big brand soaps.  When I told my friend that they were the same as the regular soap bars, she was quite surprised.  So why do we differentiate?

A few years back I learned an important lesson from my mother’s pottery business.  People often need to be told what to do with products.  I’m not going to delve into what causes this phenomenon.  For the moment, I’m simply going to accept its truth.  My mother learned that if she didn’t use some sort of a label, as seemingly unnecessary as it seemed, she would have a lot of conversations like this:

Customer: “This is beautiful.  What can I use it for?”

Mom: “It’s a bowl.  You can serve food in it or use it as a centerpiece.”

Customer: “Great!”

I wondered about this for quite some time.  She primarily makes functional pieces whose uses should be obvious to the customer, like bowls, plates, mugs, etc…  But without fail, if it isn’t labeled, someone will ask.  She is very gracious and answers the questions, but more often than not, she labels her products.  It’s just easier.

Onto the subject at hand – soap bars.  The reasons we label them for hair or body is either a misguided belief that there is a difference, or because so many people have been conditioned by the bath product industry to want more than one product.  So it’s just easier to sell specifically labelled soaps.  Since I started making my own soap, I have used the same formula to wash from head to toe, as have my husband and son.  Whichever soap bar I have in the shower is what I use.  Truly, there is no practical difference.  Not too long ago, I explained my love of Castile soap.  But whatever you choose, it will work for your hair and your body, no matter its label.

But what about conditioner?  You’ll find that just as natural soaps don’t strip your skin of nutrients, they’ll leave your hair healthier than many shampoos as well.  When my hair was long, I needed a detangler, so I keep a spray bottle filled with apple cider vinegar in the shower to spray after washing.  I still do this as I like to add a little mint and lavender essential oils to make it smell nice.  I just spray it on, massage it into my scalp, then rinse.  Any remaining vinegar odor goes away as my hair dries.  I’m told that if you have heavy product build up from commercial hair products, it can take a week of using natural soap to get rid of it and there may be a few days of less than stellar hair.  The process is worth the effort.

Do you have colored hair?  You may find that natural soaps help the color stay true much longer than commercial shampoos.  Again, your hair won’t be treated as harshly as you’re accustomed to.

So, you will probably be seeing “shampoo bars” in my line of soaps in the near future to help customers know they can use it on their hair.  But now you know, there is no difference.  Choose the scent that you like and wash away the grime!

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Feminism? Yes Please! February 19, 2015

Filed under: Opinions No One Asked For,Thoughts — Meghan Hamilton @ 1:32 am

Let me start by telling you what feminism is not.  It is not hating men.  It is not telling women who enjoy being housewives and stay at home moms that they are worthless.  So what is feminism?  According to Merriam Webster, it is:

the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities

After many years of women not getting to choose whether they pursue a career or stay home and take care of the house and children, some women are upset when they see a woman choosing that life.  I prefer to celebrate the fact that anyone gets that choice.  I enjoy staying at home with my son (most days).  I enjoy the fact that I’m not required to.  I could wake up tomorrow and start applying for jobs and leave him with a public school, daycare, etc… if that is what will work best for all of us.  Why do I have that choice?  Because women before me stood up and said, “We deserve the same choices men get!  We are people too!”

Education?  Yes!  I had the privilege to learn to read and write and choose higher education.  As little as 80 years ago, women going to college was controversial.  Today’s American women don’t have to fight to go to college based on their gender.  We can base that decision on the same criteria as men do – ability and money.  If you are female and can read this, you have earlier feminists to thank for that skill.  As few as 150 years ago, girls didn’t regularly learn to read.  They had to hope that the classes weren’t too full of boys in order to obtain a seat in school.  And then they had to hope that their fathers deemed their academic education worth their time away from housekeeping and demonstrating what wonderful wives they would make.

I got to choose my husband.  If ever I deem him not right for me, I have the option to divorce him without everyone wondering what I did wrong.  In many places, we still arrange marriages and even expect women to stay in abusive relationships because marriage trumps spinsterhood.  In many places, men are still considered superior to women.  Women are treated as slaves and used for baby making with little to no thought of their dreams and desires.  Because of feminism, I wasn’t forced into my marriage.  I truly appreciate that.

I can vote!  Ok, I’m pretty jaded by the current political system.  But at least I can go to a voting booth and choose the options that make sense to me without worrying about being barred from entry or having to vote the same way as my husband.  American women weren’t allowed to vote until 1920.

Why do we ask pregnant women what they plan to do about work but often assume that the child’s father will continue to work?  My husband was a stay at home dad for the first few months of Alex’s life and I worked outside of the home because it made more sense at the time.  But people asked me what the plan was.  I see this over and over again as other women become pregnant.  Can we change the question?  Maybe ask, “Are you folks looking for daycare?  I have a recommendation.”  Or maybe, “Is one of you staying home with the baby?  I have some fun things to do.”  Take the gender based assumptions out of your line of questioning.

And what about single mothers?  Thanks to feminism, it’s okay to be a single mother.  Some mothers are single by choice, some by circumstance, but single mothers are no longer hidden away and forced to put their babies up for adoption if they wish to raise their children themselves.

Having children is a choice.  I enjoy that!  I can go to my doctor to get on birth control, or require my husband to use a condom, or choose to abstain from sex if I don’t want another baby.  Some women don’t have the choice of telling their husbands “no.”  They don’t have access to birth control.   If I want a large family, I can choose that as well.  It’s my body!  Thank you, feminists, for allowing me to choose how to use it.

In conclusion, I enjoy having choices.  I enjoy what freedoms and strides towards equality that women have made in America.  This isn’t exactly an exhaustive list, but it hits some major points.  Are we 100% equal?  Sadly, no.  But we have far more than some of our sisters in other parts of the world.  I do believe that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.  So, I am a proud feminist.

 

Words to Rethink: Gal February 9, 2015

Filed under: Opinions No One Asked For,Thoughts,Words to Rethink — Meghan Hamilton @ 9:19 pm
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imagesThere are certain words that bother me.  I wish they would disappear from our working lexicon.  Today I would like to talk about the word, “gal.”  It’s bothered me for a long time.  Over the weekend I finally figured out why.

Let’s start with a definition.  www.dictionary.com defines it as:

noun, Informal: Sometimes Offensive.

1. a term used to refer to a girl or woman.

They have some other information about its usage in science and it’s history.  But this is the common usage and the one that bothers me.  I realize that some people just see it as the opposite of “guy.”  However, guy has evolved over the years to include females and doesn’t carry the connotation of naivete that gal does.  When I hear women referred to as gals, I think of a bunch of airheaded children in adult bodies.  I don’t think of grown women with the maturity and experience that the word woman suggests.  I can’t think of a single time that I have heard female children referred to as gals.  They are usually called girls.

The situation that clarified this for me was a Facebook post a friend shared.  A church is trying to organize a mission trip to bring counselors to Iraq that can minister to women and girls who have been enslaved by ISIS.  This is a noble cause and I hope that they are able to do some good.  What bothered me was that the person who wrote the original post referred to these women and girls as gals.  In this particular situation, it just seemed to diminish the horror that these people have been through.  That sort of abuse more than deserves the most formal terminology.  Why?  Because in our culture, proper terminology indicates a certain level of seriousness.  (Thank you, Mark!)  When we use slang, we detract from the seriousness and gravity of a situation.

Ok, but what is wrong with the word?  Why would I have a problem with using gal when referring to my female friends?  Is it just too old fashioned?  NO!  I think that too often we needlessly separate genders.  There are very few instances when we need to differentiate between men and women.  Our language doesn’t have many gender neutral pronouns.  Guy is becoming one of them.  Though it has its origins in referring to males, it’s often used to refer to a group of people of any gender makeup.  When we separate people, it’s often to compare them in a way that makes someone look better and someone look worse.  There is a long history of making women look worse.

So when is it ok to use gender based wording?  It can be ok when you are directing someone to a specific person.  “Give this book to that woman in the blue shirt.”  It’s a descriptive term akin to blue shirt so that the right person gets the book.  Or if you are dealing with a medical issue, your doctor certainly needs to know what parts your body has.

We’ve made great strides towards treating women as equals to men here in America.  I realize that compared to how women are treated in some other parts of the world, my annoyance with this word is not a huge issue.  But I am here in America.  I would like us to take more steps towards seeing people as people and not defining everyone based on their genitalia and making assumptions about them based on what’s between their legs.  Our words can help that process or hinder it.  Please, do me a favor.  If gal is a word you like to use, consider referring to women as women.  Better yet, ask yourself if you even need to refer to women in particular or if the word people would work just fine in the situation.

 

Early Photo Editing? February 1, 2015

Filed under: Opinions No One Asked For,Thoughts — Meghan Hamilton @ 4:19 pm
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We recently took a trip to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.  It was, in part, a chance for the family to see some cool stuff and, in part, a chance for Alex to see some ancient Egyptian art that corresponded to his history lessons.  As I thought about how much detail I wanted to share about how the ancient Egyptians placed a lot of meaning into all aspects of their art (Thank you countless art history courses!), I realized that all of this editing of people’s looks for “important” projects has been happening for thousands of years.

Prince Ankhhaf wasn't important enough to lose the bags under his eyes.

Prince Ankhhaf wasn’t important enough to lose the bags under his eyes.

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King Mycerinus and his Queen had perfect complexions and designer clothing.

Long before people wrote the program for Photoshop, Egyptians were smoothing out laugh lines from the faces of their kings and queens.  If a statue showed anything short of smooth skin, perfectly coiffed hair, and well tailored clothing, the person may have been rich, but they certainly weren’t the king or queen.  Didn’t that in some way amount to setting an impossible standard?  Did people’s self-esteem crumble in the face of these statues and paintings?  Or did they learn to say, “Wow!  Look at that!” and then go on with their day?

One of the major differences between then and now is the number of “perfect” images the average person is exposed to.  In an era where paper was precious and literacy was low, there were no magazines lining market shelves for the ancients to stare at while they waited to pay for their purchases.  There was no internet or television with a constant stream of altered images passing in front of their eyes.

So what’s the point?  Perhaps the thing we need to change is not our desire to present “perfect” images of people.  Perhaps we need to change how often we look at them.  Perhaps we need to turn off our televisions, buy fewer magazines, and interact with the real people and the natural world that surround us everyday.  Artistically altered images have their place, but each of us determines what that place shall be in our lives.