Meghan Tells It

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Alex Versus Tick October 15, 2016

Filed under: Family,Natural Products — Meghan Hamilton @ 2:10 am
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My dear son loves to roll around on the ground. I let him because kids need the sensory input. And, let’s face it, I don’t have the energy to fight with him about it. Today we met up with some other local homeschoolers at a playground. Predictably, he rolled around on the ground and ran through an adjacent wooded area.

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I can’t imagine how he got a bug bite…

This evening he came over to me to ask if there was a red spot just below his right armpit because it was itchy. No, it wasn’t a red spot. It was a deer tick enjoying a meal. When I said it was a tick, he panicked.

I’ve never seen him this panicked in his short life. He tried to claw at the tick. I held his hand to stop him because I needed enough of the bug intact to get a good hold to remove it. It took several tries because of the stretchiness of his skin in that area. I felt really bad. It must have hurt. He cried in pain and anxiety.

He begged for some nonexistent potion to put on it to stop a potential Lyme infection. I swabbed the bite with witch hazel to try and soothe him. It helped. Then I got online to see if the essential oil enthusiasts have made any claims about Lyme disease.

I found this article. I knew I had many of the oils recommended. I’d already suspected that oregano oil would be on the top of the list. So I quickly made the following concoction that we rubbed liberally on the soles of his feet and covered with socks.

  • 1 ounce olive oil
  • 1 ounce coconut oil (melted)
  • 10 drops tea tree oil
  • 20 drops oregano oil
  • 20 drops lemongrass oil
  • 20 drops clove oil

I don’t know if it will have any effect as I don’t know if the tick was actually carrying any diseases. I didn’t bother saving it as just yesterday a friend told me she checked into having one tested and the cost was about $300.00. It did have the effect of calming his nerves. And the extra YouTube videos I let him watch seemed to distract him from his terror.

I’m sure he’ll be fine. If he needs stronger medicine we’ll take him to a doctor. In the mean time, I’m glad he calmed down and fell asleep after a very busy day.

 

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!

 

Natural Antacid? November 18, 2014

Filed under: Natural Products — Meghan Hamilton @ 12:50 am
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A few months ago I was out of my usual antacid tablets.  It was the middle of the night.  I had foolishly eaten foods that I knew would bother my stomach.  Boy was I paying for that moment of pleasure!  Even if I didn’t have a young child to consider, stores in my area close by 9:00PM or so.  I was absolutely desperate though.  I couldn’t sleep.  My throat felt as though it were being eaten away by the acid burbling up from my overwrought stomach.  What was I to do?  Ask the internet of course!  I searched for “homemade antacid” and the interwebz didn’t disappoint.

  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 4 ounces of water

Mix until the baking soda is dissolved and drink it down.

I was all set!  I had baking soda!  I had water!  I mixed.  I put it in my mouth!  I gagged!!!!

This stuff is wretched.  But, I was desperate.  I added a few drops of peppermint oil (known for settling stomachs).  I choked the rest down.  It worked!

So, my conclusion is that this simple mixture is very very effective.  It is the most effective remedy I’ve ever tried, even outdoing prescriptions.  But I think that I will have to find myself in another desperate situation before I try it again.

If you are looking for an alternative to store bought antacids and wish to try this, I recommend looking into putting some flavor in it to help disguise the taste of the baking soda.  The peppermint oil helped, but it wasn’t enough to prevent me from buying my usual stuff the next time I was at the store.

 

What is Castile Soap? (and a recipe!) November 15, 2014

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“Castile Soap” has become very popular lately as people search for kinder gentler soaps to wash with.  But what is it?

  • Originally, it was the soap produced in the Spanish city of Castile beginning between the 11th and 12th centuries.  Although soap making has been around for millennia, Dark Ages and Middle Ages Europeans did not regularly make or use it.  The Castilians based their method of soap making on Middle Eastern methods that called for laurel oil.  Laurel oil was hard to find in that region, but olive oil was abundant.  The product caught on and was exported all over Europe during the next few centuries.  It makes a very gentle on the skin but tough on dirt product.  It doesn’t lose its efficacy after months (perhaps years) of storage.  Olive oil is less prone to rancidity than animal fats, extending shelf life significantly.

So, what about the Castile Soaps on the market today?

  • The definition of Castile soap has been extended to include any soap made with plant based products.  Some soap makers maintain that only soap made with olive oil should receive that label.  I myself stay out of that debate, but to save myself some grief, I only label olive oil soap as “Castile Soap.”
  • Generally speaking, although there is no labeling requirement to confirm this, products labeled “Castile Soap” retain their glycerin.  One of the reasons that so many commercially made soaps are so harsh (despite claims to add in moisturizing cream) is that companies often remove the glycerin that naturally occurs in soap making so that they can sell it separately.  Hand made soap generally still has the glycerin for a couple of reasons.  One, it’s not easy to remove in a small scale operation.  Two, why would you want to?  It makes your soap nicer.

Why do we like to use this today?

  • Its gentle treatment of the skin stands out.  I’ve made soaps with other fats such as shea butter and coconut oil, yet keep coming back to pure olive oil for my soap.
  • It is safe for babies.  It may not be “tear free” but even tear free soap isn’t really tear free.  Those often have additives to fool your baby into thinking the soap isn’t so bothersome.  For some people this is worth it.  I prefer more natural products.  Sometimes we think of something safe and gentle enough for babies as not being strong enough to combat grown up dirt.  Castile soap is very tough on dirt.

What about the lather?

  • If it’s made from 100% olive oil, it won’t have a particularly foamy and light lather.  It will have a dense lather that can take some adjusting to.  Commercial soap companies have us fooled into thinking that a light foamy lather is a sign of effectiveness.  It’s just not true.  This low foaming action makes it great for laundry as it won’t ruin modern HE washers.  It’s an important part of my laundry detergent recipe.

How can you tell what kind of soap is in your home?

  • Check the label.  Chances are that if it lacks ingredients and the company can’t or won’t tell you when you contact them, it’s not very natural and it has had the glycerin removed.  Small companies and a few reputable larger ones that cater to the natural products market will tell you just what is and is not in their product.

What is that “lye” stuff you see listed on many soap labels?  Isn’t it dangerous?

  • It was originally made by filtering water through fire ashes.  When you mix lye with fat, it turns to soap.  Today, most of us rely on commercially produced lye so that we know exactly how much we are using.  We want to do this because it is, in fact, a dangerous substance and can cause some nasty chemical burns.  Natural is not the same as safe.  Fire is natural, but it can still hurt or kill you.  Lye falls into this category.  It is a great thing and very helpful when used safely.  It comes in two main forms, sodium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide.  Don’t let those official names scare you. It’s like calling water dihydrogen oxide or H2O.

What do I use in my Castile Soap?  Here’s my recipe.  It can be used for either hot or cold process methods.  If you’ve never made soap before, be sure to do some research on how to make it.  Whenever trying a new soap recipe, double check the lye calculations.  I like this calculator. Essential oils are optional and can be mixed and matched to your preference.

  • 4 pounds olive oil (I find regular as opposed to extra virgin makes a harder soap.)
  • 20 ounces water
  • 4 ounces sodium hydroxide lye
  • 3 tablespoons lavender essential oil (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon peppermint oil (optional, omit if intended for an infant)

Don’t want to make it yourself?  You can buy mine here.

 

Homemade Laundry Detergent November 13, 2014

Filed under: Natural Products,Soap — Meghan Hamilton @ 2:09 am
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There are many recipes for laundry detergent out there. I looked at a lot and tried a few before settling on this recipe which I came up with.  It met my requirements – all natural ingredients that no one in my family is allergic to, cost effective, easy to make, and very importantly – gets the dirt out.  We are not clean people in my family.  We spill things.  My son plays in the dirt and gets all sorts of stuff on his clothing.  I’m not going to claim that this miraculously gets out every stain and spill, but it does get most of it out and better than some commercially made natural detergents.

So here it is:

  • 2 cups Borax
  • 2 cups Washing soda
  • 1 cup salt
  • 3 or 4 oz (approx 2 cups) grated bar soap

Mix the Borax, Washing Soda, and Salt in a bowl.  The washing soda is particularly prone to turning into rocks that need to be broken with a hammer if it gets too humid or wet (or if you buy it in bulk during the rainy season and have it delivered damp…).  Grate the soap with a regular cheese grater.  Add it into the bowl and mix thoroughly.

Dimension-of-a-Cheese-Grater

Use anywhere from 2 Tablespoons to 1/2 cup depending on the level of efficiency of your washer (front loaders take less) and the size of your load.  This is safe for HE washers.

A couple of notes: Washing soda and Baking soda are not the same product.  Make sure you get the right thing or you won’t get your clothes as clean.  This recipe doesn’t include any of the heavy perfumes found in many commercial products, so it won’t cover the funky odor washers get when you leave clothing in them more than a day.  I highly recommend using vinegar in place of your regular softener.  It will kill much of that mildew and soften your clothes.  I generally add cinnamon essential oil and lavender or peppermint essential oil to boost the anti-fungal and antibacterial effect of the vinegar.  Because essential oils aren’t heavy, the scent doesn’t often carry through the drying process. It just leaves your clothes smelling like nothing.

If you’re unsure about what bar soap to use, especially if you are trying to switch to all natural products, you can order any of the soaps I sell here.

This detergent will not always dissolve in completely cold water.  I set my machine to “cool” or some sort of temperature controlled cold water. Check your manual to find out which setting is best for you.  Here are some pictures of the particular products that I use for this recipe:

diamond-crystal-kosher-salt soap borax washing soda

 

Soothing Skin Cream Recipe November 11, 2014

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Lavender Makes Everything Better

I started using natural products and making my own after realizing that what’s readily available in my local stores tends to either irritate my skin, have ingredients that are suspect, or be out of my price range.  This is the cream I use on my skin daily with excellent results.  I have been known to skip the shea butter and use just coconut and olive oil. So if you don’t have access to it, don’t worry, just use 3 oz each of olive oil and coconut oil.  The essential oils, as well as the coconut oil, in this recipe are my “go to” oils and are considered “cure-alls” when it comes to skin problems.

  • 2 oz Olive Oil (extra virgin if available)
  • 2 oz Coconut Oil (organic and virgin if available)
  • 2 oz Shea Butter
  • 10 drops Peppermint Essential Oil
  • 10 drops Lavender Essential Oil (I suggest Lavendula angustifolia*)
  • 10 drops Rose Geranium Essential Oil

Melt all of the ingredients in a double boiler and mix thoroughly.  Store in a container with a secure lid.  In warmer temperatures this can be runny or even a liquid as olive oil and coconut oil have low melting points.

*Not all varieties of lavender are equally good at healing.  Lavendula angustifolia is excellent for healing skin problems and is worth the extra money if that is your aim here.  In small bottles, it can be quite reasonable.  If you’re simply after the scent, Lavendula stoechas is generally less expensive and more fragrant.

Another combination of essential oils to aid arthritis pain would be: Bay Leaf, Lemon, and Tea Tree.  Again, go with 10 drops of each.

Essential oils are generally much lighter in smell than perfume oils.  So if you are concerned about the odor, it tends to fade fairly quickly once absorbed into your skin.

If you aren’t like me (prone to weighing ingredients for these things), 2 oz is approximately 2 Tbsp.  For this recipe, that should be accurate enough.  You definitely don’t want to put most essential oils on your skin without diluting them.  Many are so concentrated that you can cause yourself some problems.  Additionally, not all sellers have the same quality.  I typically buy mine here.  They aren’t FDA regulated, so if you plan on ingesting these for other purposes, find another supplier that is.  For small recipes like this, 1/2 oz bottles of essential oils will last quite some time and be affordable. You can find shea butter here. 1/2 pound should suffice for several batches as that is 8 oz.

If you love the idea of this, but would rather just buy it, send me a message through Etsy or Facebook and I’ll custom blend a cream for you.

I’m not making any money by linking to SoapGoods.  I just really like them.

Disclaimer Notice – The statements regarding these products have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. The information on this Web site, including any links to external sites, testimonials given by customers, or in emails is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice and care of a licensed medical professional in the country, state or jurisdiction in which you reside. These statements have not been assessed by the FDA . Any information provided is not intended to replace medical advice offered by a physician nor should this information be used to treat any health problems without first consulting with a physician or pediatrician. Use as instructed and if your condition persists, see your physician.