Beauty and the Beets

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I have extremely sensitive skin.  Just looking at something wrong will cause me to break out in hives, rashes, or various forms of acne.  So I’m very careful about the stuff that I put on and in my body.  I also find that soaps, lotions, and all that stuff made with all natural ingredients seem to me to be more luxurious than the anonymous filled plastic bottles you can pick up at any store.  Why not share that luxury as a gift?  There are two high-powered executive type ladies in my family, so I thought I’d make a little “working woman’s survival kit.”  Here, then, are instructions (from various places) for some little home-made beauty products with a touch of luxury.  I’ll start with the hardest project first, and move to the easiest, though I wouldn’t really call any of these projects hard.

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Let’s make some lip balm!  It’s frightening how much you can pay for this stuff in the stores.  This recipe here, which I modified from one I saw on TLC, produces about 3/4 cup (6oz) of lip balm (which filled 12 little half-ounce tubs), and cost me about $4 in supplies.  BAM.  If you were wondering, I got the plastic tubs from Patch on Etsy.

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Start with 1/4 cup beeswax.  You can get this in tiny, easy-to-melt pearls from some places, but this being Newfoundland I got it in a solid 2oz block, which is pretty much 1/4 cup.  This stuff is local, from Paradise Farms.

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I grated it and cut it up into little pieces.  I recommend getting all your ingredients measured and containers ready to go beforehand, because once this is ready to go you will need to act quickly.

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Pop the wax into a double boiler (or metal bowl set over a pot of bubbling water) and let it melt completely. It won’t take long.

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Add in 1/4 cup almond oil and 2 tablespoons coconut oil.

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Don’t freak out if the wax curdles — it’s just adjusting to the cooler temperatures of the oils, and will melt again.  Just keep stirring. I also added a few drops of peppermint essential oil at this point, just for a nice cooling sensation on your lips and a fresh scent.

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When everything has been fully liquified again, you can remove the pot from the heat.  Whisk in 2 tablespoons beet juice for colouring (you can leave this out if you wish and your balm will be whitish or ivory, depending on the colour of your wax).  You can add more if you wish, but make sure to whisk it well, as it won’t fully combine with the wax and oil.

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Quickly transfer the liquid to a cup with a spout and pour into your containers.

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I worked too slowly (because I was taking pictures, which then ended up blurry, damnit) and had to re-melt my lip balm in the microwave to get it all out.  Make sure to wipe out the cup and the melting bowl with a paper towel before you wash them — it can get messy otherwise.  Work whatever is leftover into your hands.  It’s quite nice.

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I probably should have smiled for this photo.  But I didn’t realize how grumpy my mouth looks this close up.  😦  But the balm is very nice, very refreshing and smooth.

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Let’s make some deodorant!  Store-bought deodorants are full of all kinds of gross things, and there have been studies done on the links between aluminum used in anti-perspirants and Alzheimer’s.  This recipe, which I modified from the one here, has four ingredients, and each one has a specific purpose.  I doubled what I will present to you below, but it produces about half a cup of solid deodorant.

In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup baking soda and 1/4 cup arrowroot or corn starch.  The baking soda is your key deodorizer, and the starch is your moisture-wicking agent.

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Melt 6 tablespoons coconut oil (your moisturizing agent and the stuff that will hold everything together in solid form) and whisk that in as well.  Add in a few drops of tea tree oil (for antibacterial purposes, and to add a light scent).  I also added in a few drops of lavender essential oil, just for the frivolity of it all — I know, that makes FIVE ingredients.  I love the combination of lavender and tea tree.

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Pour that into a container with a lid and allow to solidify.  Apply it to your underarms with your fingertips.  Voila.

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***EDIT: So I’ve been using this for a little while now and I have to say that, at least for me, this stuff works BETTER than either the super dooper organic and chemical-free version or the regular brand-name stuff you pick up in the drug store.  Sure, it’s a little grainy going on, but it lasts way longer, there’s no residue getting anywhere it shouldn’t, and in terms of actually deodorizing, it’s tops! ***

Let’s make some shower scrubs!  I think that salt/sugar scrubs are the epitome of pampering oneself at home, so I decided to make not one, but two different kinds.

Orange Salt & Sugar Scrub: In a bowl, mix together 1 cup sugar and 1/2 cup sea salt.

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Add in 1/2 cup melted coconut oil, 3 tablespoons almond oil, and 2 tablespoons vitamin E oil (you can get that at the drug store).

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Add in a few drops of orange essential oil, as well as finely grated orange zest.  Stir well.

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Scoop into a container with a tightly-fitting lid, and keep in your bathroom for when you have some extra time in the shower.  Just remember that those oils can make the shower very slippery when you rinse off, so be careful.

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Brown Sugar & Coffee Scrub: Did you know that caffeine is a great thing for your skin?  In a bowl, mix together 1 cup dark brown sugar and 1 cup finely ground coffee (not used coffee grounds).

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Add in 3 tablespoons honey and 1/2 cup light olive oil and mix to combine.

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Scoop that into a container with a tight lid and keep that in the bathroom as well, for when your skin needs a little pick-me-up in the morning!

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Let’s make some eye makeup remover!  This is so easy, it’s like not even a thing.  Mix together 4 tablespoons olive oil with 3 tablespoons almond oil.  To remove your waterproof eye makeup, simply moisten a cotton ball with the stuff and there you go!

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Tidy up the edges of your containers before you put the lids on.  Decorate your containers with a few personal touches.

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Presentation is important, even though it’s what’s IN the containers that counts!

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Snow Day Dinner: Gluten-Free Linguini

Snow Day Dinner

Fussellette has recently discovered that she is a celiac and can no longer digest wheat gluten.  So now when we have her for dinner we have to take that into account, and can no longer offer the very dough-heavy meals that are traditional favourites for our Newfoundland friends.

Friday here in St. John’s was a snow day.  The whole city, including the court systems, the municipal and provincial governments, were shut down due to a sudden snow squall.  Fussellette decided to brave the winter weather, however, and made it to our house for dinner.  In honour of the weather, I decided on some form of comfort food, and in my mind that usually equals pasta.  For Fussellette, that means gluten-free pasta. This recipe makes enough for four servings.

Fortunately Sobeys has a large selection of gluten-free flours to choose from.  Just remember, however, when you’re baking with gluten-free flour, such as a rice flour, you still need a thickener, such as a starch, and a binding agent to replace the gluten.  Usually the binding agent is something called xanthan gum.

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So to make this pasta, I had to do some mixing.

In a bowl, mix 1 1/3 cup brown rice flour, 2/3 cup arrowroot starch, 1 teaspoon xanthan gum, and 1 teaspoon fine sea salt.  Whisk that together thoroughly.

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In a smaller bowl, whisk together 2 large eggs and 2 large egg yolks.  Save the whites for an omlette or meringue or something.  Add in 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons water and mix again until it’s fully combined.

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Now comes the fun part.  You can simply pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredient bowl and stir, or you can do it on the counter in the old fashioned way.  Dump the dry stuff carefully out on your work surface.  Using a scraper, make a deep well in the centre.

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Carefully pour in the egg mixture.

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Using the scraper again, and your hands, start mixing the flour into the egg.  Work quickly, or your egg may form a river that will wind its way off your counter top.  The scraper, I found, is handy for cutting through the dough to make sure it mixes properly.

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It should be cohesive but not tacky. Feel free to add more flour or water if you’re not getting the right consistency. Form the finished dough into a long cylinder and cut it into four sections.

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Flatten those sections, wrap them tightly in plastic, and refrigerate them until you’re ready to make pasta.

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You have a few options in how to make your pasta.  You could roll it out by hand and then cut it into long strips, but there is so much room for error in that, especially if you are working with a gluten-free pasta that barely sticks together on its own.

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I opted to use a pasta maker.  This one here seems to be the standard one.  My parents own the same one so I know how to use it.  Most people who have a pasta maker own this one.  You can find them pretty cheap in second-hand stores.  I guess people get them as wedding presents and then never use them.  That’s where this one came from, and it had never been used before we busted it out.

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So we used our awesome machine to thin out and cut our pasta into linguini.  We were originally going to go with spaghetti but we were concerned the pasta wouldn’t hold together all that well if it were smaller.  I recommend using two people to operate a pasta maker.  It may be awkward trying to figure out whose arms go where, but it’s handy to have one person operate the crank while the other feeds the dough through the machine and pulls it out the bottom to prevent tangling.

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We laid the cut pasta out for a few hours to dry a bit, just to make sure it wouldn’t completely dissolve when we cooked it.

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To cook, add a pinch of salt and a few drops of olive oil to your water before you boil it.

Fussellette said that this pasta was better than the stuff she finds at the store, because once the gluten-free pasta is dried it is hard to cook it all the way through and she says it’s often chewy on the inside.  Because this stuff is fresh it takes only about 6 minutes to cook and you know it will be nice and tender throughout.

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Stay tuned on Wednesday to see what we did with it!