Sunday, May 31, 2015

Bad Ass

This morning, I got up and had a shower. I washed my hair with my own handmade shampoo and conditioner. I washed my face with my new, self-created facial cleanser. When I was finished, I dried myself off halfway and applied Body Oil A (Lord, I love this stuff). I rolled on a bit of my own deodorant. I toned my face with neroli hydrosol, spritzed a bit into my Serum B, and gently applied it. Finally, I used a smidge of Eye Balm A (wait till I talk this up) and finished it up with my lip balm.

Gotta say, I feel pretty fucking self-sufficient right now. And I feel and smell great!

Well Conditioned

Since I've already got the ball started on surfactant-based hair care, why not talk conditioner? This is the stuff I spend a living fortune on for my child. For what it's worth, before I had a kid with masses of hair, I used to buy really expensive conditioner and a small bottle would last 6 months, even though I wash my hair and condition pretty well every day. See, I have really short, really fine, not terribly thin but certainly not thick hair. I can use a dime's-worth of conditioner and it's all good. Seriously though, unless I want to buy crap from the drug store - and I mean the stuff that costs $2.99 a bottle, not the fancy drug store offerings - the quality/affordable pickings are slim. I spend about 11 bucks a bottle for Herbal Glo oily hair conditioner from the health food store. Note: It has all kinds of unpronounceable ingredients in it, to go back to my point in yesterday's post.

Here's the interesting thing about conditioner: There's really no way to make it "natural". Don't misunderstand, you can make natural-ish hair moisturizers that do not count as conditioners (and even they will not be all natural, if you add water to oil, because you'll need to preserve them). What you cannot do is make conditioner as we currently define it (that special product that glides over hair, settles on it lightly between washes, detangles and defrizzes), without using one specific non-natural ingredient. And that ingredient is a cationic quaternary compound.

Let's not fuss about the science - though really, it's VERY interesting. Like, way more interesting than sewing and knitting math. Thing is, positively-charged, cationic quaternary compounds aren't found in nature.

OK, we're not going to dwell on the science but I can't stop myself! I'm compelled to tell you that the reason these compounds do their detangling, softening, anti-staticizing job is because they're positively charged and our hair shafts are negatively charged. If you try to make a product with the sort of conditioning emulsifier one uses in hand cream, for example, it won't work cuz that stuff is non-ionic. It'll just fall off - not to mention that most of the other ingredients are way too heavy for hair. That's why we're not all saving money by putting hand cream on our heads.

I do wonder what all of those 18th century ladies with all that freakin' hair looked like first thing in the morning.

At any rate, yesterday I made my first batch of conditioner and it is WAY too freakin' moisturizing. For my hair, I mean. For the kid, it'll be great! Today I'm back at it. I'm going to reduce the amount of cationic quaternary (BTMS-50, in case you're interested) and cationic polymers. I want something that's basically water with a bit of conditioner thrown in for good measure.

On the plus side, that's SUPER cheap to make.

In case you're interested, ingredients include: a cationic quaternary (emulsifying conditioner), a cationic compound (honeyquat), a fatty alcohol, water (in the form of my fave, neroli hydrosol), panthenol (vit B), oat protein, essential oils and a preservative. Other than the first ingredient, all the rest are plant-derived. You can decide whether that's natural. This is pretty well exactly what you're going to find in any store-bought conditioner - high-end or no. The big brands tend to have access to more niche versions of these ingredients, but they do exactly the same things.

And just for the sake of transparency, no need to worry that I'm about to come out with my own haircare line. Never mind that this sort of market is insanely difficult to penetrate (peeps are freakish when it comes to their preferred shampoos and conditioners), it's way too expensive to ship this sort of product. That's to say nothing of the fact that making conditioner is like making hand lotion - very labour-intensive in the scheme of things. On this topic, I make an awesome hand cream, dare I say it, but I won't sell it because it takes so long to make (and costs so much, relatively speaking), that I'd need to charge 28 bucks for 2 oz. That's steep, IMO. Especially if you go through the stuff like I do. Oh, and to print actual waterproof labels costs, like, a zillion dollars. (I may be exaggerating here but you get the drift.)

Now, all bets are off when it comes to face cleanser. But I have to do much more creating, testing and refining before it may end up in the Etsy shop. You know my philosophy: If it isn't at least as good as the commercial product I spend a lot of money on already, I won't use it - never mind sell it. And this is one I'd like to have tested before marketing. I want utter assurance, for all of us, that any hydrous (water/oil combo) product I might sell would be germ-free.

Anyhow, that's my Sunday. Any thoughts on conditioner you'd like to share?

Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Nature of Things

Let's talk about cleansers, shall we?

Really, what I want to chat about is liquid soap - specifically the kind in hand and facial cleansers and shampoo - and its ability to be natural. I'm not speaking about olive oil-based castille soap, which is alkaline (pH is above 8). BTW, some people can use this on their faces with no issue, and I envy them. It's all natural, inexpensive and, if it works, more power to them. But liquid soap and shampoo, made with surfactants, are mildly acidic (pH of 6 ish).  Skin pH is between 4.7 and 5.5.

Look, I'm no expert. I started making this shit today. But I have done a few weeks of research and I've lived a long time. I know that oily skin prefers acidic products.

That's why I'm not trying to go all-natural on the handmade shampoo or face cleanser. I'm looking for something to cut oil. I like bubbles (not crazy bubbles, but a little friction). I want my makeup to be all gone at the end of the face-washing experience. (Oh, I use toner also, but it shouldn't do the job of soap.)

For kicks, I took a pic of my hand soap, for our perusal:

I hope that you can see all of those ingredients if you click the photo to make it larger. The reason I'm highlighting them is because this product is, if anything, less "natural" than the ones I'm working on. Actually, it's pretty well the same level of natural, which is to say, made from lots of chemicals that you would not find, as is, in nature. Don't get me wrong. If you begin at the beginning, most start with some sort of plant (soy, palm etc.) But you're never going to walk into a field of cocamidopropyl hydroxysultaine. For what it's worth, that's a lovely amphoteric surfactant (adds viscosity and it's anti-static.)

Brief Detour: Everyone stuff is EO rebranded. It's a popular line - affordable and the product works reasonably well. I particularly like the hand soap. It's one of many similar products peeps use daily to feel good about themselves, having bought from a "natural" store - which would only sell things with pronounceable ingredients (so no need to scrutinize, right?).  I don't want to get into an argument about whether natural is safer or to try to define it, God help us. But the point is that many of us mistaken in our beliefs about naturalness and that what we're buying actually fits that description. There are many effective products that aren't natural (and that doesn't make them bad, though some of them may actually be bad).

But let's get back to the product itself: The reason zillions of people buy this to wash their hands with, multiple times daily - vs. truly all-natural castille soap - which seriously, leaves a film?! - is because those surfactants are lowering surface tension to give one that feeling of clean. (Let's leave the definition of clean for another post, shall we?)

My goal right now is to learn as much about surfactants as I can - and to use them prudently (as I deem them safe) to make products that work optimally without being unnecessarily harsh - for the world and for me. If I'm going to use a product - whether I buy it or make it - I want to know what I'm getting myself into.

But what do you think? Do you feel protected by well-marketed brands that you pay a lot for (and that you buy in places known for selling natural things)? Do you only use the castille soap (and its relatives)? Do you read the ingredients when you're at Sephora?

While I'm non-apologetic in my use of surfactants, I don't generally use unpronounceables when it comes to leave-on skin care. My reasoning: That stuff stays on your skin and soaks in. Furthermore, for me, leave-on products work perfectly well in their naturalness. Why go fussy unnecessarily? But that's me and my skin. What are your thoughts on the matter? Are you like me? Totally different? Let's talk!


Took more or less till June, but what a spectacular tree!

Dwarf Lilac from Kristin's Back Garden

Friday, May 29, 2015

In Case You Thought I Was Joking

I suspect I just met my weekend project:

These are the newly arrived goodies (dare I say "chemicals with long names") I'll use to make shampoo, face cleanser and conditioner. Yeah, I didn't know how much I wanted to make conditioner until I started thinking about making shampoo. Fear not, there are many other - and more natural substances that also go into these products. I just didn't get them in the mail today so they're not on my dining room table right now.

I have no idea how this is all going to work but I'm hopeful - aren't I always? If I can swing good hair product, my child (of the horse-tail mane) will no longer threaten to bankrupt me with her 8 oz per week habit.

Plus, how cool would it be to use my own haircare line? Stay tuned.

Monday, May 25, 2015

New Knitting!

In a rather unusual turn (at least, these days), I finished a pair of socks:

What I was thinking, photographing this on that blue rug, is beyond me...
Apologies - photo is tootally overexposed cuz my rechargeable flash batteries have died and I had to take this shot under the most absurd lighting conditions. They're actually a very rich blue.
They only took 7 weeks, not that I'm counting.

Angela does this thing where she knits herself a pair of socks in time to celebrate her birthday. I've decided to give this tradition a go cuz, really, I enjoy hand-knitted socks more than I ever could have imagined... That would be before Gillian dared me about a year and a half ago to make my first pair - despite my utter disdain for the homemade sock. Do you know I am the first one she dared?

I got a kick out of drying these babies on the stairs leading from the deck to the back garden. How often do I get to use the energy of the sun to dry anything??

The yarn is Koigu KPM which I originally bought to make these socks (along with some KPM in Ivory). Then I actually ready the Starry Starry Night pattern and decided it was never going to happen. OK - it's not happening till I'm retired. Who has that kind of attention to colour-work and detail - in freakin' fingering-weight yarn?!

I'm not exactly a knitting superstar these days - so I'm keeping my expectations realistic.

I do intend to return to my Custom Fit Basic Cowl, like this evening. Cuz I'd like kind of like it to be ready by this fall, you know? It has been on the needles since mid-Oct 2014, after all. On the plus side, the space-time continuum has not warped as a result of my inefficiency - and it's all ok. I have other sweaters.

Occasionally, you have to be grateful for the things that are very hard to take: If I were knitting at my old-style pace, there'd be no time to delve deeply into the world of handmade, natural skin care. I'm not going to suggest that pain is a blessing (fuck that concept), but it is a reality sometimes, and knowing it for what it is has vastly increased my ability to manage it - both because my threshold has shifted to embrace an encroaching level of awareness and also because the pain has been mercifully manageable over the past 3 months.

Peeps, I'll take it.

My self-devised hybrid of MELT, yoga (of a variety of types) and the Roll Model Method has been invaluable. My cycles have also shifted radically (lengthened by 6 days), providing a longer interval before the peaks and valleys of hormonal chaos. It's giving me time to shore myself up.

How I got from new socks to my period is beyond me. Honestly. Stream of consciousness much? It must be time to sign off, find some food and assemble an order. But do let me know what you think of (almost) birthday socks. Or handmade socks in general. I'm sure we've had this discussion in the past - but converts like to chat with the hold outs. :-)

Saturday, May 23, 2015

What's Up This Weekend?

At noon, I'm off to my local distributer to get batches of organic oils. This is always a trip and a half (Portlandia, peeps). Then, it's back home to make new Deodorant B, a couple of orders (thank you orderers!!), some new labels and some lip balm.

I've got to up my shipping game, so I'm researching the best mailer boxes I can find - in the smallest sizes to keep shipping low. This may increase shipping by a couple of dollars, but I think the end user experience will justify it. And on this topic, do you have any idea of how much kraft paper you can buy in bulk?! It's insane. And I'm also considering the best kind of bubble wrap.

Then, at 4, my friend, a graphic designer, is coming over to discuss thermal, water-resistant labels and what it's going to take to get me there. Natch, we're doing this with booze in the back garden.

Honestly, when I look at the list of things to figure out against the list of things completed, it's scarily inequitable. But there's nothing like crossing new things off a list to keep me motivated.

What's up with you this weekend?

Friday, May 22, 2015


My sister just won County teacher of the year! She teaches kindergartners, in a tiny, bucolic valley on the Tennessee border, under circumstances that only public school teachers (in America) can really understand. With few resources, she accomplishes the near impossible every day, and the kids she teaches gain unparalleled foundational skills to take them forward as they move through junior school. Trust me, if you heard half the stories about what it's like to teach in any public board, you would be amazed. And North Carolina teachers are the worst paid in all of the US - which puts them in company for the most under-valued educational resources in North America. It's a travesty. In September, she'll vie for Regionals (after spending the summer writing a report and being observed multiple times in a class room environment). If she wins that round - and that would be a feat! - she could win State teacher of the year. And then, y'all know, it's on to the Nationals.

My sister has a will of steel, unflagging energy (though it takes a toll) and tremendous integrity so I'm confident she's going to take this all the way.

Given how tirelessly she works, for so little recognition, it's a heart-warming acknowledgement. Please do join me in congratulating her.

Yay Allison!!!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Small Business Chronicles: What's to Love?

Let me just say that having a small business is serious fun. This is in no way mitigated, as far as I'm concerned, by one's relative inexperience or non-full-time status. It's a hell of a learning curve and work, work, work, but if you're one of those people who never sits still, you might as well do something challenging. There is NO shortage of brain gymnastics when it comes to this activity, particularly when the lever is one's own hand-made product.

There are some boring parts on the business scene, so naturally I'll gloss over those. (Yes, they involve spreadsheets.) This post is about the aspects which are most fun. If one's business is a metaphor for oneself (and I'm not saying it is), I'm a serious extrovert. (Actually, I am a serious extrovert.)

My extroversion has facilitated things tremendously. In the broadest sense, I love introducing people to terrific things that I've discovered. I have always loved doing this. I mean, I started a freakin' blog so I could get the word out to people I didn't even know - and I'm still doing it 8 years later (though happily now I do know many of you). With this biz, I'm simply introducing people to things I've made. Things I can vouch for. Now I can align my quest for quality and value with my creative spirit. And peeps, it's a TRIP.

I've always wanted to work in a shop (strange, I realize). Not a bland shop, of course, but the kind with treasures. I'm that lady (browsing) who somehow ends up selling you yarn at the yarn store and lingerie at the lingerie store, the one who tells you that you can do better in those blue pants that don't taper quite so much at the ankle. Having a shop - even a virtual one - is an opportunity to enrich the consumer experience, and that activity is utterly enjoyable.

Another thing I love, though I never would have imagined this, is the imperfection of it all. I'm a newbie and - in the way I never judge a novice for his or her relative inexperience - I'm giving myself the benefit of the doubt. I've decided to undertake this as if it were a craft, an extension of myself. I'm ok with evolution. Don't get me wrong - I strive for perfection in everything (even though the experts say it's a bad idea. What can I say? I'm a St. Clement's girl.) But perfection is unattainable. On the flip side, evolution is inevitable. My goal is simply to learn and improve - and to provide excellent product that appeals to purchasers, of course. Theoretically, there's no end to this project, just betterment through experience. (Note to everyone: Krissie of 15 years ago would never have had this perspective. So let's give a shout out to age. It's living those 15 years that's shown me what I can achieve in 15 years!)

My third fave element of the business process is refinement (dare I say, curation) of the collection. It's really creative and the grain of every new idea is entirely spontaneous. For example, when I started CURIO, Serum A was the keystone. I sensed I had a winner and it is my most popular item, so far. Having said this, I would never in a zillion years have imagined that Deodorant A was going to give the serum a run for its money. Deo A was developed organically (no pun intended!), almost accidentally, in discussions with my mother. And man, am I glad I went on that conversational journey.

Over the course of the last 3 months I've had a number of people (aka guys) ask me about creating a Deodorant with "manly scent". In truth, I feel that Deodorant A is unisex - I used lavender and frankincense for a reason, after all. However, apparently guys feel that "manly scent" is something like the woods. Full stop. And really, who doesn't love the woods? So, you know what? I'm going to start making Deodorant B (the one with cedar - and some other goodies to, maybe, remind one of pines and lakes - but in the most delightful and original way). It'll be a special edition product - made specifically for the askers - unless it takes off. Let's give it a go and see what happens...

On the topic of Serum A, the one you know from the shop is not actually Serum A, the first. It's Serum A, the second. The first was made specifically for my mega-oily skin (an outlier perhaps, or maybe not) with organic jojoba, not rice bran oil. I also used a different ratio of oils and different essential oils. Short story: While the rice bran version is exceedingly moisturizing and awesome for dry/mature skin, it's not best for me - at least not in summer. You'd be amazed by how efficiently the jojoba version absorbs into oily skin. It's pretty illuminating. Natch, this has compelled me to reconsider that the reason most lines sell a range for oily skin and another for dry skin is cuz these skin types have very different needs. I mean, I know this. As such, it's just sensible to offer Serum B (really, it came first, but let's not confuse things) for the oily-skinned like me. This one will be a continuity product because I want the option to wear both and maybe you (or your daughter or your mother or your brother) will too.

At any rate, I know I've veered a bit into the weeds, but the point is that there are always opportunities to consider how to make things better or to make new things or to package them in new ways to best suit the client. Cuz in the end, it's really only about the client.

A business is like a puzzle, a machine with moving pieces. Extroversion is the lubricant. Refinement is the maintenance. And being receptive to whatever comes, allows for lessons-learned and inevitable improvement.

But man, those spreadsheets are a bitch.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Make Your Own Cologne

Have you noticed this whole mountain-man beard uprising? I have to be honest. I don't get it. Of course, if one wants to wear a beard, one should absolutely feel free. If one wants to pair it with Levis and a plaid shirt atop a T shirt with a meaningful slogan, go ahead. If one enjoys multiple tattoos layered under that T, that's good too. The look is perfectly completed with a short espresso, in case you're wondering.

Gotta say, TO is riddled with guys who fit this description and it's all starting to seem so derivative (not to mention unkempt). I prefer the metrosexual thing, any day. I love an impeccably-tailored slim suit with a crisp shirt (patterned natch) and a contrast tie. But then, if I were a guy, that's the look I'd be working.

My husband, who had a close beard for many years - and it looked good - shaved it off one day when he finally decided it was more trouble than it was worth. My kid, who was 6 at the time, came downstairs, took one look at him and started shrieking. She then hid under the dining room table (not the most secret of locales) and proceeded to cry: What happened to Daddy??? Ah, those were the days.

My point is that there's no need for beard oil in this house. But have you noticed how you can find that stuff everywhere?? Every shop on Queen West is selling it. I do wonder if and how it works. It must, or all the plaid-wearing, mountain-beard guys would be scoffing at it. Does it soften the beard like conditioner would? Does it mitigate the scratchiness? (Note: The puffy beards are less scratchy than the cropped ones, so I wonder if it's even necessary...) Is it like face serum for the part of the guy-face with hair?

I don't suppose we're gonna answer these important life-questions in this post - though if you're a mountain beard-having guy who happens to be reading this (and I haven't totally put you off), please do let us know!

This is actually one of those Simpsons-style segues into my real topic - man cologne. Not sure if your SO likes to wear it or if he wears it for you. Personally, I love man cologne and I've been known to buy it and wear it happily. It's generally constructed from chyprous scents I love: citrus top notes, mossy mid-notes and resinous base-notes. I love a man cologne that's also confident enough to subtly highlight florals (neroli, anyone?). Scott, too, appreciates these fragrance qualities, perhaps from years of coaxing. (Mind you, I don't think that scent-preference is taught.)

He sees me making all the potiony things and occasionally says stuff like: What about something specifically for me? Oh, how plaintive. So, today I made him bespoke man cologne. After doing a scent-testing, to determine what he'd prefer, I tinkered and combined essential oils and came up with something so delicious that I made one for myself too!

In case you'd like to give it a go, here's what you do:
  • Make sure you have an appropriate glass container (10 ml). One with a roll on applicator is optimal but you can use a pump closure or a dropper. Note: Not a lot of guys like to use droppers, in my experience. You can find roller containers here. Plastic won't work.
  • You'll want to use jojoba oil as your base. You can use ethanol or vodka if you're making an alcohol-based fragrance, but that's the subject of another post... Oh, and if you wanted to go crazy, you could make a solid perfume. But again, one thing at a time!
  • You'll need the following essential oils: Cedarwood (Atlas), Ylang Ylang, Neroli, Orange, Cypress, Vetivert, Frankincense. Don't cheap out on these cuz when it comes to scent, you get what you pay for. Neroli is particularly expensive. Consider finding a place that sells a 3-10% dilution in jojoba. This may still be of very high quality, but the bottle will be affordable. Plus, neroli is so intense, uncut, that it's sometimes hard to appreciate its awesomeness until you dilute it.
  • Experiment with your preferred ratios. I try to balance the low notes (vetivert, cedarwood) with the mid notes (ylang ylang, frankincense and neroli) and the high notes (orange, cypress). Let's not get too prescriptive... Use 35 drops of EO in total. No, it's not "accurate", drops of different EOs will be of slightly different sizes. But every bottle you have will provide its own basic drop size, from which you can extrapolate. You're making this "to smell". When you've got a combo you love, it's done.
  • It's as easy as adding the EOs into the bottle (in your preferred ratios) and then topping up the mixture with about 9 ml of jojoba oil. Of course, finding your special sauce may take time. Don't be afraid to throw out the EO mixture and start again. And write down how many drops you're using in each mixture. Cuz you'll forget in 3 minutes.
Note: If you do throw away the mixture and decide to start again, only wash out the container if you're prepared to let it dry completely. Water droplets in your bottle will corrupt the oil mixture and it will turn into a bacterial soup. You want this mixture to be entirely anhydrous - without water. I've been known, when experimenting with ratios for myself, to just discard the not-perfect EO mix, making sure to get rid of 99 per cent of the liquid in the container, and to start again - unless I'm using different oils on my next try. In that case, you've got to use a new bottle or one that's entirely clean and dry.

You may find that your final cologne smells very different on you than in the bottle. It's just like when you buy alcohol-based perfume at the store... Your biochemistry is highly engaged in the wearing process, so you may want to vary your formula once you've worn it for a while. For example: Maybe your skin gobbles up vetivert, leaving too much top note. I find that, in my formula, I need more of all the EO drops, because I seem to eat up all EO scents quickly.

Hopefully you'll give this a go because it's totally fun and impressive for your giftees. If you do try it, let me know. I want to hear all about it!

Today's questions: Have you made your own fragrance? If no, would you? Do you like the manly scents? Peeps, let's talk!

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Rabbit Hole Is Deep

On reflection, there are three reasons I make things:
  • I honestly believe that I can make them well, to suit myself specifically (aka The Conceit).
  • I am slightly obsessed with the platonic ideal of the DIY crafter (aka The Artist).
  • I have this perspective that, if I can make it, why would I pay someone else to (aka The Craft Fallacy).
Intriguingly, I have one more philosophical reason - abstractly intertwined with my off-the-grid Krissie alter ego: In the apocalypse, I'm going to be the one living high on the hog (kale?!) cuz I can get peeps their socks and face serum. Of course, I mean this tongue in cheek. What I'm saying is that applied knowledge is power.

There are many holes in my arguments (hilariously, I initially wrote the word "wholes"), not least of which when it comes to the Craft Fallacy. Yeah, I can make all the things, but in many instances, there is NO way I can do it more efficiently than a commercial business making something in volume.

Apparently, this little inconsistency is of no mind to me.

Enter: Handmade Shampoo and Face Cleanser. Note to reader: It ain't gonna be "natural".

Here's what I use now:
  • Herbal Glo Shampoo: I know - the branding is hideous! but the product is Canadian, very effective for me and M and it's affordable, given that my kid goes through it like water. I also like the conditioner. I've used this regularly for the last 20 years - because the ingredients are pronounceable and vegetable-sourced. OK, I've really used it cuz it works and I can afford it. But it definitely appeals that it's on the natural end of the spectrum. Of course, I switch it up on occasion, but I'm a creature of habit.
  • Avene Cleanance: Oh, there is nothing pronounceable about this formula except the special Avene spring-water. I mean, it's blue. But it works exceedingly well on oily skin - and on acne-prone, teenaged skin. I'm no apologist. It works. I'm buying it. It's also Canadian.
Let's address the elephant in the room. I'm not the girl who's going to go all crazy on your ass when it comes to surfactants. I have the oiliest skin you'll ever meet. You know how the super-hairy ladies go on about their leg treatments and the super-sweaty ladies go on about their antiperspirant needs. I am the super greasy lady who carries around powdered face blotters in every purse.

I'm three weeks from being 45 years old and I cannot go 2 days without washing my hair because it turns into a grease-ball.

Please don't suggest that I just need to do things differently to get the oil under control. I'm cool with the oil. It's why I'm going to look 15 years younger than my actual age for, like, ever. I have nice, unblemished skin. I'll try that "wash your face with oil" thing when I have 6 weeks to acclimate in the privacy of my own home because walking out of the house like a grease-slick is just not attractive.

Would I prefer not to contribute to the decline of our world by using formulas that foam? Absolutely. But that's when I remind myself that I don't own a car and I almost always take public transport or I walk. I recycle everything. I reuse paper towels. Kind of puts my dime-sized amount of daily soap into perspective.

Feel free to be horrified, but I'm actually as excited by the idea of mixing hard-to-pronounce chemicals as I am by the idea of mixing beautiful, natural organic oils. Why? I like chemistry! I'm that kid whose mind was blown in grade 7 Biology when she had to do that kitchen experiment assignment that turns out to be a one-pan chocolate cake. I don't judge the things I'm mixing. I mean, I research them and make sure that they're not harmful - even if they aren't "natural". But peeps, I use these chemicals already. Everything is a chemical and when you need the ones that cut grease, well - have at it, I say. I don't want to be that meat-eater who won't kill her own dinner.*

I'm thrilled at the prospect of making cleansers that do the job for me with a minimum of surfactants and hard-to-pronounce things. I want to add neutraceuticals and essential oils. I want to fool around with the ratios to maximize hydration - even as I need to keep the grease at bay.

So stay tuned for more on this. (You can roll your eyes now.)

*Alas, I am most definitely that meat-eater who won't kill her own dinner. And for this I am an apologist.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

I Don't Know if this Counts as Doing Something

This weather is turning me into a crazy-person. It's so fantastic that I feel like I'm actually on holiday - like somewhere fantastic - and it's bringing out my spend-instinct.

Having said that, I do love the spend-instinct - especially in others. Last night, out at my friend Hilly's for dinner, she had so much fun looking at my new loot and listening to my shopping exploits, I wanted to charge her a little fee :-) She told me the fee was dinner, and to get the cheese plate from the dining room table.

I decided to go out mid-aft, just to look around in the shops and to people-watch. My, was the watching good. There were chic ladies in embroidered caftans (like we live in Palm Beach), trophy ladies in bandage dresses (like we live in Miami Beach), young ladies in bikini tops (um, seriously? like we live in freakin' South Beach?). It's so bizarre when the weather warms up here. People lose all sense of proportion. And by that, I do mean that most of those outfits were too small.

I felt so dull wearing jeans, a stripey top and and a black waterfall sweater. Sure, I was over-dressed for the heat (I was going to be out well into the night so I needed to plan for the temp drop), but I default to outfits for October. Note: I did wear my orange bag and my Arche sandals (purchased in Eur last summer) and, by nightfall, I looked entirely adequately mid-May. Other Note: I realize that those sandals are hideous in that photo (see link above), but on one's foot, they transform. I swear! Plus, it's like walking on a cloud.

Anyhow, can you blame me for feeling drawn towards Anthropologie? That place is like summer in 5000 square feet. Every time I ask someone at work where she got her new, cute item X, and she replies "Anthro",  I'm intrigued. But I never purchase at this shop. It's too boho for me. The set up is too crowded (so a lot of cute items aren't readily visible). It's also, dare I say it, it's a bit "young". I mean, how many shoulder buttons and sleeve ruffles can a girl wear to the office?

Mind you, the shopping goddess was on my side yesterday. Also, I was in it for the crazy so I tried on everything in the store. May I just reiterate, this place would be much better if it took a minimalist approach. Garments inevitably look crappy when there's no white space.

I got these pants (which cost more in Canada):

They're so NOT me. But I'm getting sick and tired of what is me. (You know how that happens...) So I'm branching out.

I also got this top, which totally is me:

I bought it in black, because almost-white grey makes me look dead. But this colour shows off the beautiful line and drape of the garment.

Then I ambled over to the Gap - cuz who doesn't want to mingle with the entire universe, frenzied by the chance of half-price shorts, all at once? Note to People: They're cheap to begin with. Don't smack into me like it's Filene's basement on Boxing Day!

I found this dress, on sale for 30 bucks??:

Weirdly, I'm drawn to black right now - a shade that rarely impresses me. What does impress me about this dress - and frankly it looks better on me than on the gorgeous lady above - is that it highlights all of my slender toned bits (neck, shoulders, arms, legs) and you cannot begin to guess the state of my lower abdomen. Or whether I've eaten BBQ in the last 2 hours. Plus dessert. It also looks great with skinny jeans underneath - a look we have more use for in Canada, than that depicted above, at least for 9 months of the year. Also, in case you're thinking - wow, that's short! - that woman is approximately 8 inches taller than me. But it is a short-ish dress. Show off your legs, ladies, that's what I say. One other thing, in case you're interested in buying it online, the sleeves are quite snug. I bought a small, after trying an XS. The two sizes fit the same in the body (hello sack!) but the arms were notably snug in the shoulders and arms in the XS.

When I took it out of the bag to show Hil, she was momentarily horrified and could not believe that there might be a chance in hell that it would look anything other than horrid. (I will warn you that it looks ridiculously bad on a hanger. Those are the things I secretly enjoy trying on. There's so much potential for excitement.) But I put it on and she was shocked - in that way I love to shock people - and agreed that's a perfect basic.

I followed this up with a cocktail at the Holt Renfrew restaurant. I do love sitting at the bar and chatting with the peeps. I had this hilarious-named fresh juice called Holt's Happiness, which is marketed to rejuvenate and "youthen" the drinker, what with its composition of beet juice, acai, grapefruit etc. Naturally, I directed them to booze it up; with a bit of vodka and Cava it was a delight! I felt both youthened and aged at the same time! Gotta love a neutral.

After a bit more window shopping, I picked up some double-cream blue cheese, hopped on the subway and went to Hil's. And what a beautiful evening it was.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Time Elapsed

There are 2 ways to manage a long-weekend, IMO: Do everything or do nothing. As it's almost 10 am and I just got out of bed (and I went to bed last night at 10 pm), I sense I'm working the latter option.

It's occurred to me lately how much I feel manipulated by holidays: Mother's/Father's for the facile commercialism, Easter for the facile religiosity, Valentine's because it's just a pink puff ball of stupidity...

(On a side note, my husband is quick to remind me that I'm the kind of currently middle-aged person who's likely to turn into that really mean old lady who scares the neighbourhood kids.)

But I've got nothing bad to say about the May 2-4, even if it does fall on a different date every year. Note: Apparently, it has this name because it celebrates Queen Victoria's bday (which 100 years ago was relevant, I suppose). It's also a nod to the Canadian pastime of beer-drinking, an activity I've never embraced. This is the weekend when the rich peeps open their cottages in Muskoka and the regular peeps try to fix their winter-ravaged gardens and those without a particular love of nature sit on patios on dusty streets and feel blessed, to their bones, that there's some fucking green fuzz on the trees.

In southern Ontario, you don't plant anything until this weekend. To wit: We had a frost warning 2 nights ago. Seriously, plant at your own peril. The fact that we often get a week of 30C weather in early May, on the heels of 5 months of hideous cold, is a mind-fuck that propels even the most level-headed gardener to take the plunge at least twice.

I've been walking around in a daze of gratitude for temps that only require a sweater and a light jacket (ok, and a scarf - but a light one!), observing that every lilac in the land has bloomed - except mine?!

Here's how it looked on May 2:

Here's where we're at today:

Mind you, it's on the right track and I have a feeling, if the weather cooperates - and it's supposed to - I might have a gorgeous, deliciously fragrant cloud of purple flowers by Monday.

And since Frances asked, here's how the garden's shaping up this spring:

It's not the Luxembourg Gardens, but it's my own piece of outdoor tranquility, in a densely populated city, and I value it beyond measure.

How's your garden -  or weekend - shaping up?

PS: I def have to get some herbs for those planters this weekend. So I suppose I will do something after all.

Thursday, May 14, 2015


Sometimes I'm reminded, writ large, about how much of life is simple maintenance. To wit: This week I renewed my health card (thank you socialized medical care), my driver's license (not that I use it much), my US passport (don't get me started on this one) and I had to buy every paper-product that the drug store has ever stocked.

Turns out I can't leave the passport topic without telling you - and you probably don't know this if you're not an American expat who also has dual citizenship in another country: I am ineligible to travel to America without a valid (not expired) American passport. Fair enough, you might say. But I'm as Canadian as I am American (albeit not by birth), and I do have a valid Canadian passport with which I can travel the entire rest of the world! Those things do cost, you know. And furthermore, it is veritably blissfully easy for me to engage with Canadian government offices (living in downtown TO and all), as I'm "bureaucrating" in the country in which I reside. To renew my US passport, I have to take a trip to crazy-land, aka the US Consulate, which is without doubt, the most officious place I have ever set foot in, in my life. And I'm a freakin' public servant!

But enough about the riches of my access in North America...

Maintenance is this strange space between novelty and capitulation. It's not exciting, but it's oh so necessary. And, secretly, it's a sweet spot I love. It's why I eat at the same neighbourhood restaurants (though not Bar Raval, necessarily) again and again. It's why I MELT and do yoga, multiple times a week, to stay as supple as possible. It's why I use the same products practically in perpetuity. When something works, it's a delight. A delight I don't need to concern myself with. Ya know?

A propos of this, I have put together the CURIO Traveler. It's a little sample of the products I use every day:

It includes:
  • A full-size Serum A (which you can order in plastic with a reducer insert and a squeeze lid, for travel ease, or in glass)
  • A travel-sized Deodorant A (the cutest thing you've ever seen)
  • A full-size Lip Balm A (I cannot be without this), and
  • A travel-size version of your preferred Salve (immortelle, calendula or arnica)
It's a great skin-care travel pack - or a great way to get to know a new line. Feel free to check out my Etsy store for more details.

Of course, maintenance has many facets. Small business is teaching this to me...

I've decided I'm not happy with the durability of my current labels (they're laser printed by me) so I'm looking into a thermal option. I mean, they look delightful, IMO, but they don't last optimally as far as I'm concerned. Sure, this business maintenance process is a bit of a pain in the butt (cuz I can't directly control the output) and stupidly expensive in the short-run. But everyone who buys CURIO deserves the best experience I can provide. This label-transition will take a bit of time. So I'd just like to say that, if you purchase between now and when the new labels arrive, I'm happy to send you updated labels (which won't look different, they'll just be shinier and better) when they're available.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Orange is the New Black

I've been working pretty hard lately which, as I'm sure I've harped on about a lot, leaves little time for things like sewing. Moreover, the weather just went supernova, bat shit, freakin' gorgeous. (No, one absolutely cannot count on it in May, but I'll take what I can get). The combo of delicious outdoor time and little other time has made for quite a shop-y Krissie.

In truth, I have a rationale. In truth, I always have a rationale, as should we all, so let's just pat ourselves on the back and get to the (regrettably mediocre) photos. Cuz I'm not spending time inside with a camera when I could be on every patio within a 3-block radius drinking Cava:

Fossil Preston Crossbody Monarch - $178 CDN
See this adorable expansion feature which I love on any bag? So good for when you need to put an umbrella in there...
Alas, this photo doesn't give you a true sense of the colour, but it shows the proportions.
The orange colour has been discontinued in this style, which shocks me because orange is the perfect neutral, in my books. Seriously, it goes with everything and it tells people that you have personality. Plus it's cheerful. I'm wearing this today with a pink/brown/orange tropical floral print dress (handmade years ago but I can't be bothered to link to it right now) and it looks terrific.

But back to the rationale... Y'all know I cannot carry around a large bag any longer. (Brief aside: You shouldn't be either. Eventually, it's bound to lead to pain, especially if you walk long distances...) But the mini-bag I purchased in the fall was just all kinds of "wrong shape" and slightly too small. I mean, you have to recognize that the bare minimum needs to come with you everyday. What I discovered, when I transferred all of the things I was carrying in my oddly rectangular Rudsak bag (and I must carry them), was that they all fit just beautifully in a square shape (10x10). Not to mention that the expandable zipper feature on the Preston is all kinds of genius, if not novel. I never seem to find a bag I like with this feature, however, so this is a lucky state of affairs.

What do I carry (in case you wonder)? Glasses case with either sun or regular glasses contained within. (Non-negotiable and my sunnies are absurdly large so this case is big.) Credit card holder. A bit of cash (not in wallet), subway token holder (size and shape of a business card), keys, work ID, wireless headphones and iPhone, lipstick, lipbalm. Yeah, that's it. You'd be amazed to find how difficult it is to fit this in a small bag.

I've never owned a Fossil bag before. I'd actually never heard of Fossil till I ran into the shop on Bloor Street the other day. I'm really not a "bag person" and I tend to stick to Roots, M0851 and Rudsak on the rare occasion when I do add to my little collection. But the brand seems to be of quality and the leather on this orange one is like butter. Totally gorgeous. Small complaint: I hate the name which, for some reason reminds me of Diesel (so not my scene). Could they not have come up with something prettier? As it happens, the store didn't have the orange colourway in stock, so I ended up buying it at the Bay (also so not my scene but if you've gone to the upgraded, Sak's-funded one on Queen Street it's looking pretty awesome-American). The Bay was having a Mother's Day sale and I convinced the SA to give me an extra 5% which saved me 20% in total. Not bad (and I wouldn't have got this discount at the flagship store).

So, that's my weekend treat - very practical AND affordable. Thoughts?

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Curio (Potions For Skeptics): The Salves

The word salve, related in origin to the words salvage and save, is technically "an oily substance applied to the skin for the purpose of healing". It ain't sexy, but when needs must, a well-made salve is invaluable.

Sure, there are lots of ways to get to the end result. Mine is to infuse organic, food-grade olive oil with dried flowers (generally for 2-3 hours), to strain the infusion and then to add targeted essential oils (which together with the infusion create a soothing, highly moisturizing balm).

I'm always surprised by the whim of popularity. I mean, of my three salves (all of which have been very well-received, I'm so grateful to say), the Immortelle Salve is the one that's impossible to keep in stock:

Ingredients: Immortelle flowers, Organic Olea Europaea (Olive) Oil, Beeswax, Cananga Odorata (Ylang Ylang) Essential Oil, Helichrysum Angustifolium Essential Oil

Admittedly, immortelle flowers are a veritable metaphor for joy. Have you ever seen them in a field? They're these small, perfectly round, intricate balls of bright yellow. They retain their colour and shape forever (i.e. even when dried) which is one of the reasons why their component properties are touted, in the cosmetics industry, as "youth-restoring". It's also why the flower is sometimes called Everlasting... These flowers are also known, in the herbal scene, for being anti-inflammatory and analgesic - specifically as pertains to rheumatic pain. Happily, the essential oil of this flower (helichrysum) smells gorgeous, cuz I'd be using it either way. It is added to the mixture in the cool-down phase to complement the benefits of the flower.

I devised this salve specifically for my own needs, given my recent experience of myofascial pain, and I am very satisfied with the result. I apply a generous amount (1/2 - 1 tsp) on a relevant area and I gently massage it, for up to 5 minutes, in with a focus on counteracting fascial adhesion. BTW, I drink a glass of water after doing this, the rationale being that adhered connective tissue is almost always dehydrated. Water is believed to assist in the process of tissue restoration and the diminishment of pain.

I'd like to take a moment here to remind you that I'm not selling medicine. I'm sharing my experience - one which is professed by various natural / non-allopathic therapists (and which you may or may not choose to validate). This product is based on a herbal remedy that has been used for numerous generations, presumably successfully or it wouldn't still be around. But that's just my opinion. Use it as you will.

FYI, you can use this product around the eyes. (Fun related fact: There's a post on my newest potion - a hard-won, deliciously rich eye cream - coming soon). I'm not into putting olive oil near my eyes because I wear glasses and it tends to transfer to them. But some have told me that this salve great for that purpose.

Arnica Salve was my first foray into salve-making and I've "tested" this one more than any other - specifically as a massage medium to ameliorate that stupid knee injury I developed last autumn. (Note: Happily, it's dramatically improved, one might say almost gone, for many reasons - one of which, I believe, is the targeted massage of the tendon with this salve...) Unremarkable-looking, dried flowers produce a balm that is not quite as bright as immortelle's, but is nonetheless in the same colour-family.

Arnica has a wide reputation for diminishing muscle pain and is most often found in homeopathic format and in creams or gels. The Europeans love this stuff and, as a person who's been using arnica cream from the homeopath and the health food store, ever since I was a child, I can tell you I find it remarkably useful for all kinds of sprains and exercise-induced muscle tension. It's particularly effective, in my opinion, after gardening or for toddlers who like to bash into things. Side note: I carry arnica pellets (homeopathic remedy) and a travel-sized tin of arnica salve with me everywhere. You never know when you're going to need it - or to share it!

Ingredients: Arnica Montana Flowers, Organic Olea Europaea (Olive) Oil, Organic Beeswax, Origanum Majorana (Marjoram) Essential Oil, Citrus Aurantium Amara (Neroli) Essential Oil

Marjoram essential oil, added when the salve is cooling, is used by herbalists as an antispasmodic and analgesic. From a mood vantage point, the slightly sweet but verdant scent is known for chilling out even the most anxious nutcase. Ask me how I know. I've also added neroli essential oil, mainly because I love it and yeah, it smells terrific.

Please note that arnica should not be applied to broken skin. For broken skin, we have calendula salve...

Ingredients: Calendula Flowers, Organic Olea Europaea (Olive) Oil, Organic Beeswax, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Essential Oil, Citrus Aurantium Amara (Neroli) Essential Oil

Calendula Salve is the one for open booboos and skin conditions like eczema or ultra-dryness (I'm looking at you outdoorsy-types...). This is also the one that you can put on the skin after gardening, for example, but do be sure that you disinfect carefully - with soap and water - before doing so. Why? Well, in addition to this being sound first-aid advice, apparently the impact of this little flower is such that, if you put it on skin that isn't first cleaned, you can end up quickly closing a wound that might thereafter get infected. Note: I've only read this claim. As I'm an uber-disinfecter, I am happy to say that I have no first-hand experience. Point is, don't put it on cat scratches till after you wash your hands. (But aren't we all washing our hands all the time??)

Calendula flowers, you might be intrigued to know, are also used to dye fabric! How multi-purpose is that? While the balm produced from this floral infusion is on the golden end of the spectrum, I find it more honey-coloured than bright...

My calendula salve is completed with the addition of small-batch, Bulgarian lavender essential oil - an excellent anti-bacterial and anti-fungal (in truth, many EOs are, but this one has a particular reputation). It smells like an afternoon in the south of France. And then I throw in a bit of Neroli, cuz well, you know...

As always, if you would like to learn more about these salves, please visit my Etsy store.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A Few Good Deals

It's been a while since I've gone shopping (at least in stores). I've needed a few basics; the ones in my wardrobe are tired and I don't have much time to sew right now. So I decided to take a Friday lunch (rare treat) to hit up Winners (Cdn version of Marshall's).

I'm not usually as lucky as I was this time around. Must have arrived along with new stock and I could easily have continued my excursion, to good effect, if time hadn't precluded it.

I got this adorable jersey top, which feels very luxe and fits perfectly in the shoulders. And it's animal print. Need I say more? What I particularly like about it is the (hard to see) collar knot. It's also drapey and not fitted below the bust. Totally strange line for me. But flattering, for all that. And these days I'm disinclined to highlight my midsection...

Not bad for 25 bucks.

This T shirt was, like, 15 bucks and, sadly, it's nicer fabric than anything I've ever been able to purchase in our garment district, or online - and many of those yardages cost more than this completed top. The periwinkle is totally cheerful and, again, flattering. The shoulders are another perfect fit. You know they say if it doesn't fit in the shoulders, walk on. Can't tell you how much I subscribe to this philosophy. If those seams are falling toward the arms (or are too snug and pulling towards the neck), the outcome is just shoddy seeming.

I'm amazed to have found this large, rectangular scarf (really substantial) for $30.00. The pattern is beautiful - interesting without being loud - and it feels terrific. It's an excellent evening scarf for spring and summer, cuz it does cool down here after dinner.

These jeans are the exciting purchase. They're 3x1 and they'd have been 250USD had I got them in the actual NYC store. I do like that they were made in the US (nice to see a bit of manufacturing persists in the first world), hence the list price. I got them for 80.00.

The wash is awesome. There's a ton of stretch in these and they are quite snug, but so comfortable with the amount of natural give.

Best of all - they are truly high-waisted. None of this mid-rise stupidity masquerading as high. It's delightful to feel contained by jeans and not as if they're sliding away from one's muffiny parts.

You know that I wear jeans, like, constantly. I chic them up with good accessories, cute shoes (at work, anyway) and high-quality knits.

This over-exposed shot shows the imperfect placement of the pockets. You can't see it when these jeans are on. I mean, you'd have to stare at my ass for 5 minutes while I pointed it out, but I do find it interesting that they charge 250 bucks for workmanship I'd be dissatisfied to have produced myself.

Given how this denim fits, I'm willing to overlook it.

I also got a black waterfall cardigan - my others are really long in the tooth. It too fits perfectly in the shoulders. It's terrific in terms of the amount of fabric that falls over the full-bust and really interestingly knit (there's a sort of peacock or fan pattern on the back torso panel). Alas, black cardigans photo like shit, so I've opted to leave that one out.

All in, I spent $215.00 including tax. On the one hand, it's disturbing that I can buy so many things at such a low cost. If there's one thing I've learned over the past few months (well, I've been learning it for years), it's that quality costs. If you're going to pay people, presumably you have to charge. That's what the US-made jeans corroborate. On the other hand, I managed to score some very wearable, and useful basics at a price I can get with. And really, how is this any different from buying anything at the Gap or Banana Republic.

What's your take on this? Exploitative or smart shopping? Let's talk.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Bar Raval

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Nicole and I went for dinner at Woodlot. They kicked us out at 8, cuz we didn't have a reservation and that's how provincial this town is, whereupon Nic suggested that we head next door to Bar Raval, latest plaything of uber chef Grant van Gameren (he of the Black Hoof). At first, the guy who guards the door (and I'm not overstating this) advised us that we could not enter. The wait time had been 2 hours, since 6 pm. But when we reacted with good-humour, he invited us in. Just remember Ladies, good manners will get you everywhere. Especially if you're wearing heels and you have boobs.

Lord, the crowd. You know I don't love crazy lights when mixed with noise and wall-to-wall people. I had to suck in my stomach just to avoid the guy next to on top of me. Oh, it's scenester in a way the 45 year old in me finds utterly hilarious. The bartenders are fucking serious. Like, performance art, waxed moustache/neck tattoos/top knot/ TO hipster serious. One doesn't sit at Bar Raval. That's so North American. No, here we stand - as if we're at a pintxo joint in Barcelona. Alas, the awesome food costs about 8000 times as much as it would there. The drinks are awesome. They have 12 kinds of vermouth. One of the cocktails is a mixup of gin and turmeric - a collusion of plant and dirt (according to my husband).

How does my husband know what the cocktails taste like? Well, I made him go there for dinner with me on Friday night. Spur of the moment-like. I arrived at 5:30 to secure our standing zone. By 6, I was a chic sardine. But I was also 2 drinks in, so I didn't much care.

The food is freakin' terrific. Little mini-plates of delicious beef tenderloin and whole peppers, classic ham and bechamel croquettes, shrimp prepared with roe (how I don't exactly know - it's inside the exoskeleton), "kitchen bread" (whatever the fuck that means), perfectly-rendered squid in pork fat. Let's just say the eating was easy.

After 75 minutes, I could no longer stand (the fullness of my tummy might have had something to do with this) and we got the bill. In truth, I couldn't stand the crowd any longer. (Crazily, an exhausted couple, no doubt still in parenting denial, stood next to us with their infant in a carrier. They needed our square footage.) I knew it wouldn't be cheap - I mean, I'd read the menu and all of the reviews - but somehow I was still shocked that I'd spent 240 bucks on a meal for 2, that was gone in less than an hour and a half. (Yeah, half of it was the cost of the booze.)

I wish I could tell you I won't do it again. But there are some patio tables with chairs, peeps. I bet if I arrive at 5, I might just get one of those. Oh, who am I kidding? I'll stand.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Curio (Potions For Skeptics): Lip Balm A

I'm a lip balm connoisseur. I've been buying it in bulk since I was 13. Ok, I've been stashing it in bulk. Without it, I am insecure. Can't tell you how thrilled I am to be making my own. I now have a container in every room, every bag and just about every drawer. (What? That stuff likes to walk.)

No one's ever going to call it fancy. It is a staple, after all. Lip Balm A is a glidey, glossy potion, full of emollients. It wears well, lasts long, and it smells subtly minty delish.

Ingredient List:

Organic Beeswax, Organic Olea Europaea (Olive) Oil, Organic Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil,  Organic Prunus Armeniaca (Apricot) Kernel Oil, Peppermint Essential Oil

It takes few ingredients to make a great lip balm, which is why I'm always surprised by the unpronounceable crap that goes into most every drug store offering. Lip Balm A is a great base coat for your lipstick. It's terrific if you're out in the cold. I've been known to apply it to my wind-burnt cheeks in a pinch.

If you're interested to learn more about it, please check out my Etsy shop. Kisses.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Behind the Times

I estimate that spring is three weeks late this year, a very hard delay given that we've gone through two freakin' winters from hell. Mind you, I'm no longer skeptical that the summer may one day arrive, even if we're still wearing light coats in May.

My garden, finally, is making an appearance:

My dwarf lilac tree - a week from bloom (I hope!)
This is one of my OTG Krissie-planted house hyacinths. It's the only one that the squirrels haven't eaten!
My rose bushes LIVED! Given that they were planted last summer - and that so many plants died over the winter - this is a good sign...
For those of you in, well, anywhere else in the world, I realize this progress is small-time, but please join me in celebrating this profound turn of events.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Curio (Potions for Skeptics): Deodorant A

I've been a proponent of "natural deodorant" for many years. My latest foray has been with an "award-winning" Swiss product (Dr. Mist), which most definitely would have worked if the power of my will had anything to do with it. Alas, I was disappointed, bottle after bottle. The time was nigh to try a new brand, whereupon my mother just happened to call me up and say: Since you're doing skin care, would you make me some deodorant please? 

Part of me want to respond, exasperatedly, that one doesn't just make deodorant. Like, it's serious stuff. And then I thought about how much money I'd save (you know, over the course of the rest of my life), if I could produce it for myself. How I'd never have to recycle another container. And how utterly impressive I'd be at dinner parties. As you can imagine, that sealed the deal.

Enter Deodorant A:

What ensued was weeks of reading everything that's ever been written on the internet about making one's own deodorant. You'd be amazed by how popular an undertaking this happens to be. You'd also be amazed by how suboptimal most of the handmade recipes are (at least from my perspective). I don't want to be sticking my hands into a jar and rubbing oily stuff on my armpits, even if it is good for the world. I don't want a roll-on product that requires refrigeration lest it melt. I don't want something that's 90 per cent baking soda (not that I have any sensitivity to it, but some people do). I don't want a roll on that's so much like a candle that it tugs mercilessly at the skin when applied.

Handmade deodorant is not a quick win. It's a delicious alchemy of ingredients which one must truly understand in order to corral. The ingredients are not inexpensive. It takes time. Seriously, this is mad science. Y'all know I happily suggest that everyone make everything - that's how I roll. I'll even provide links. But take it from me, deodorant is a labour of love.

Deodorant A ingredients:

Organic Beeswax, Organic Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Organic / Social Enterprise Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), Zea Mays (Corn) Starch, Sodium Bicarbonate (Baking Soda), Cetyl Alcohol (a fatty alcohol to improve glide), Olibanum (Frankincense) Essential Oil, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Essential Oil

I use only the highest quality, unrefined shea butter, which is produced by a small collective in Ghana. Frankincense, a tree resin, is often lauded for its beautiful, clean scent (which isn't overly feminine) and lavender is an excellent anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. The corn starch and baking soda do some heavy-lifting in this formula and I'm amazed to say they are very effective.

So while we're on the topic, let's have a moment to discuss effectiveness. We are all different people with different biochemistries. A propos of this, I have to assume that Dr. Mist is working well for many or it wouldn't have won an award (and cost so much freakin' money in the health food store). My version has been tested on, let's say, 25 people so far (a teensy weensy sample size) and I'm frankly surprised that every single user has proactively commented that it works excellently for him or her. Could they be telling me things I want to hear? I doubt it. I mean, I've given every tester carte blanche to be frank and I've received some good constructive criticism on a variety of  other products. (Interestingly, all the Deo testers have come back asking for more.) Is it possible that I chose the perfect test group to meet my ends? It is. But they're all different peeps with unique jobs and lifestyles. They're not all spending the day doing the same thing.

Sure, I didn't just pop stuff into a pot and cast a spell. I've done lots of research on which components yield the best results, but I'm still surprised because it sure as hell works better than any other natural deodorant I've tried - and I've bought those!

Do I recommend it for someone who's going to sweat at the gym, who won't reapply it after the fact (and better still, after having showered)? Not so much. My husband has tested it on this account and he doesn't think it's up to mega-sweating without reapplication. He does think it's up to all kinds of regular sweating, however - like biking twenty minutes to buy dinner. I walk miles a day - during which I often sweat - but I smell fresh when I get where I'm going.

For want of access to affordable push-up, cardboard containers, Deodorant A is presented in clear plastic - an elegant, simple container that allows one to observe the utter prettiness of this potion. There's a useful, up-and-down twist mechanism which releases the deodorant in two directions. (It's reusable, fyi.)

If you'd like to know more, please check out my Etsy shop.

PS: If you're wondering why every product is named "____ A", it's because these are my first viable prototypes. When I make another Serum, for example, presumably it will be called Serum B - unless I decide to get vaguely creative, which wouldn't be a bad idea!

PPS: While I feel that Deo A is entirely unisex, my dad's getting in on the request action - he wants a "distinctly manly" version for his birthday. As such, my intention is to produce this product with cedarwood essential oil, for the guys. So please stay tuned for that.