Apple Clafoutis

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of the entire spider population of the world. I’m happy to live and let live with my “spiderbro” friends. But ever since we moved into the new house, we’ve been completely overrun with spiders. They’re just the common North American house spider, and they mean no harm, but each room contains at least a dozen. There are no other bugs in the house, so we assume that they’re just eating each other to survive.

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Mostly they just build little nests, fight, and mate with each other. Sometimes there’s serious drama that occurs in the corner of the shower or the living room ceiling.

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Recently, I was reading in bed and found one crawling up my arm – I squished it accidentally because I thought it was the dog touching me with his wet nose. And then I thought about whether I wanted these creatures crawling around the new baby and I got all skeeved out …

So Spidermageddon happened. I took my vacuum and sucked up all the cobwebs, tiny nests — spiders too — that I could find. Some spiders hid behind objects but I managed to winkle all of them out eventually.

Then, before they could come back, I whipped up a quick and natural spider repellent. Spiders not only walk with their front feet but they eat with them too, so anything strong-smelling that they’re walking through gets in their mouths and they really don’t like that. So any pungent essential oil will do – I picked some that are particularly strong.

Grab a reusable spray bottle and tip in about 5 drops each of your essential oils: here I used lavender, peppermint, and citronella (I figured the citronella would repel the OTHER bugs should they come out to play this summer). Add in as well a dash of dish detergent – the soap will help to disperse the oils better than if you didn’t use it.

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You can also add a splash of white vinegar. The acetic acid is an irritant to spiders and other bugs, but it may also discolour the surface of what you spray it on so be warned. I was using it on the walls and windowsills so I wasn’t worried.

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Fill the rest of the spray bottle with warm water, give it a little shake, and spray away!

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Make sure to cover all the spaces where you found spiders in the past, like ceiling corners (they like pale or white surfaces to attract mates), and places they might enter the house, like windowsills and sashes.  I went through two bottles of the stuff in order to get all the rooms in the house.

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A week later I find the occasional spider, who gets deported and then the spot re-sprayed, but we no longer feel outnumbered in the house. I consider it a success!

Fizzy Bath Bombs

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I don’t take baths, but I know someone who does, and I love the science behind putting bath bombs together, so the time has come to make them for real. I looked at a bunch of different recipes on the internet, including Martha Stewart, and many of them in the comments complained that they didn’t work properly. Several of them pointed to this basic recipe from Lynden House as the best one they’ve used. So that’s what I used.

Grab yourself a decent sized bowl, plastic, glass, metal – whatever. Tip in 1/2 teaspoon essential oil of your choice.

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This particular one I used a mixture of sweet orange, patchouli, and lemongrass. I find patchouli too strong on its own but it’s nice when you combine it with other things. Then it reminds me less of this scene from High Fidelity

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Add in as well 1/2 teaspoon of water, liquid dye, or witch hazel. Many people prefer witch hazel because the water is reactive with our next set of ingredients and you can make errors that way. I certainly did, and I’ll show you in a minute.

In my mind I also decided to add some orange zest to this shebang, which is a great idea. If the zest is dried. This is fresh. Meaning it contains water.

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Which is reactive with citric acid. Which is another ingredient.

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Anyway. On top of the liquid, add 1 1/4 cups baking soda.

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Then dump in 1/4 cup epsom salts.

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And 3/4 cup citric acid. You can pick this up from a variety of health food stores. I’m currently having some trouble finding a store that hasn’t run out at the moment, but it’s pretty common.

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Start mixing that up with your hands. You want to get it to the point where it starts to squish together in your hands and holds its shape. Resist the urge to add more moisture – if you keep mixing you’ll probably find that you don’t need it.

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Now grab a mold. You can use plastic ornaments (Dollarama) and make giant spheres, but I found I enjoyed the size of one of those plastic capsules you get out of vending machines.

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Pack your mixture into the mold and press it down tightly.

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Open the mold and set your bath bomb on waxed paper to dry overnight.

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This recipe made 9 or 10 bombs in that particular size.

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But of course because I’d added that zest, it started to react with the citric acid.

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They started to expand.

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And kept expanding.

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I don’t think they’ll be as fizzy but they still smell nice. Once I can track down some more citric acid I’m going to re-make that batch.

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Another batch I mixed together some dried lavender flowers with some dried sage from my own garden. I used lavender and sage essential oils as well.

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I whazzed it up in my spice grinder and had this smelly powdery stuff left over.

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This mixture ended up more dry than my last one, partly because of the plant material and partly because I had less citric acid to work with and so compensated with extra baking soda. If the mix is too dry, don’t add water to it – add a drizzle (a TINY drizzle) of olive oil instead. It’s good on the skin and won’t react to the acid.

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These ones packed perfectly into ten tiny bombs with no expansion.

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I had a few crumbs left over in the bottom of the bowl.

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So I put some water in to enjoy the fizz.

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Store your flavours separately in jars or bags so the scents don’t mix. They make great gifts and are pretty enough to display (though I wouldn’t leave them in open air in humid places like the bathroom).

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Sage and Honey Hair Pomade

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I LOVE having short hair. I used to have very, very long hair, which went all the way down my back. It was so long I could sit on it. Now my hair is super short and there’s no going back. Every time I change the style it gets shorter. Eventually I will be bald, and I’m okay with that. Anyway, I really like to style my short hair, but it’s very fine and tends to get frizzy in the humidity. The Pie has extremely curly hair, which does the same thing. So we put various kinds of goo in it to keep it under control. This is one of those things. I like the smell of the sage oil combined with the beeswax – it’s a very nice unisex kind of scent.

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I’m not sure how much of this you want to make (I made a whole bunch to give away as gifts), but the basic proportions that I got from Momtastic are 1 teaspoon coconut oil to 1 teaspoon beeswax to 1 drop essential oil.

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Clean and dry whatever containers you’re planning to put the pomade into. I used some old tins I had lying around that I’d saved from mints or tea, plus some plastic containers out of an old shaving kit belonging to the Pie’s grandfather (though I don’t think he ever used it). To figure out how much space I had to fill with pomade, I poured water into each one and dumped it in a measuring cup ahead of time. This ended up making about 2 1/2 cups.

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Plop your ingredients in a double boiler (or a heatproof bowl set above a pot of barely simmering water) and melt that stuff the heck down. I didn’t bother to chop up my beeswax because I messed up my wrist temporarily, but it melted just fine as it was.

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Add in the appropriate number of drops of your essential oil. I used sage, as I mentioned, because it’s a nice relaxing herb.

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Pour the melted mixture into your containers and let it set.

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I saved the bowl scrapings for myself.

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Look at these pretty golden bars of hair loveliness!

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To use, just scrape out a pea-sized amount with your fingernail. Rub briskly between your palms to melt the wax, and then apply to wet or dry hair.

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I like to put it in while my hair is still damp and then blowdry it to set up some texture.

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Big Beauty Box

Happy New Year!

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For Christmas, Teedz requested a repeat of the Beauty and the Beets package she received last year, namely, another couple jars of those luxurious shower scrubs.  So in addition to some more coffee sugar scrub and salty citrus scrub, I made a big beauty box with more aids to relaxation in it: bubble bath, bath tea, and a crowning achievement, homemade LOTION.  I’m not even kidding.  My major regret was that while every woman in my family got a jar of the luscious stuff, there wasn’t enough left over for ME.  I guess I’ll have to make some more.  Let’s begin, shall we?

Rose-Lavender Bubble Bath

We’ll start with the easiest one and get trickier, okay?

For a bubble bath, you need to start with a soap base.  You can use unscented dishwashing liquid, which is super cheap, but I like castile soap because it’s so cool and old-fashioned.  I bought a rose-scented one to use as my base.  Then you need some glycerine for slipperiness and good bubble staying-power.  I picked this vegetable glycerine up at a health food store in the beauty section, but you can also find it in the first aid aisle of your local pharmacy.  To get the lavender part of the rose-lavender scent, I also got some lavender essential oil and some dried lavender, both from the health food store.  And of course you need a container for mixing.

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Pour 1 cup castile soap and 2/3 cup glycerine into your container (I doubled this recipe because it was going to two people).

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Give those a stir, because they won’t automatically mix.

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Next, add a few drops of essential oil and stir again.

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For visual variety, add a few teaspoons dried lavender to the mix.

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Give that a stir and let it sit for a few days.  The lavender pieces will start to break down in the liquid, infusing it with more lavendery goodness.

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I decanted the resulting emulsion (you will have to shake it up a bit before using) into two glass bottles.  This is them sitting next to the new batch of salt and sugar shower scrubs.

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Bath Teas / Foot Soaks 

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These little sachets of salt are great for their versatility.  You can toss them in the tub, hang them from the faucet while it’s filling, or plop them in a little foot bath for whenever you have a few extra minutes to relax.  The epsom salts are a good healing soak for new mothers and the oatmeal and sea salt make for a skin-smoothing experience.

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I made two different flavours of these.  In the first, I started with a base of 3 cups epsom salts and 1 cup coarse sea salt.  Then a few drops lavender essential oil.

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To that I added 1 cup dried chamomile flowers and 3/4 cup dried lavender flowers.

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All stirred up!

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To the other one I started with the same 3:1 ratio of epsom salts to sea salt.

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Then I added in 3/4 cup dried peppermint leaves and 2 cups ground oatmeal.

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(To make the oat stuff simply chuck some rolled oats — not instant — into a food processor and give it a good whaz.)

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All stirred up too!

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Then I set up an assembly line.  I used some organza we’d rejected from our screen printing exercises, some hemp twine, and an old plastic easter egg as my container-holder.

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I scooped 3-4 tablespoons of the salt mixture into each little pouch and tied it tightly with the string, making a loop so that it can be hung from the faucet.  I used green twine for the peppermint ones and blue for the lavender.

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Luxury Lotion 

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This is probably one of the greatest things I’ve made.  I played around a bit with the original recipe from Girls’ Guide to Guns and Butter and came up with two separate flavours.  With the ratios I used, the resulting lotion is thick and creamy.  It will leave a bit of grease on your hands that absorbs relatively quickly, and the best part about it is that it doesn’t wash off very easily, which, during cold season when you’re washing your hands constantly, is a very good thing.  Anyway, I suggest you give the above post a bit of a read, just to understand the science of the whole thing a bit more.  I’m just going to plunge right in.

The below proportions make about three cups of lotion each, which makes them ideal sizes to give away as gifts.  If you’d like to be selfish and just make some for yourself, then adjust the amounts accordingly.

Rose Water Lotion:

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For this one I cut up a bunch of beeswax.  This is the emulsion that holds everything together.  You’ll need about 4 tablespoons beeswax.

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Plop the beeswax in a double boiler or a microwave-safe container (you can do it either way) and start adding in your other liquids.  Here I’m adding about 2 squirts of vegetable glycerine.  This is what makes the lotion all slippery-feeling.  Don’t add too much or it will be too slippery.

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Scoop out 3 tablespoons shea butter, which I didn’t realize was powdered until it got EVERYWHERE.

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Then 12 tablespoons (3/4 cup) sweet almond oil and 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) avocado oil.

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And then 3 squirts of vitamin E oil.  Not only is this good for damaged skin but it will also extend the shelf life of your lotion.

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Melt the beeswax/oil mixture in your microwave or double boiler until there is nothing solid left in it and it’s all mixed together.  Pour it into a tall narrow container (like a wide-mouthed mason jar) that will fit an immersion blender and leave it to cool for a bit.

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Basically, lotion is an emulsion of oil and water, and the beeswax is what freezes it into its emulsified state.  So now we need water for this to work.  For this first one I used 1 1/2 cups rose water (you can get this at the grocery store) and 1/2 cup filtered water (if you’re on a chlorinated city water system you’ll want to use filtered or distilled water).  The water and the oil have to be the same temperature in order to mix properly, so what I did was heat up the water to the same temperature as the cooling oil, which was about 130°F.  It just meant that I didn’t have to wait as long for everything to cool properly.  I’m not a patient person.

Now you stick your immersion blender in the oil mix and start whizzing it up until it gets light and foamy.  It will fly everywhere, which is why you should use something narrow to mix it in like a jar.  I used a bowl and things got messy.  I’ll show you a picture in a minute.  Anyway.  As you’re mixing, ever so slowly trickle in water and get it mixed in, a little bit at a time.  If you put them in at the same temperature, you can get all the water mixed in perfectly, though towards the end you’ll have to mix a bit harder to get it all combined.  I wish I had more pictures of this part to show you how cool it is, but I only have so many hands.

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It will look like rich, thick icing.  It looked so much like icing, in fact, that my mother walked past it and though that’s what it was.  So she stuck her finger in it and tasted it.  BAD IDEA.  Apparently it tastes awful.  So resist the urge to eat it.

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This is the still-warm lotion spread on my hand, so you can see the texture.

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Plop it into little jars for storage, or leave it in the jar in which you mixed it, if you’re that clever.

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But here is a dobble of the stuff after it’s cooled, and you can see how thick and rich it is.

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Orange Whip Lotion:

Here’s the mess I left after the second mixing session.  There’s lotion and oil everywhere.

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I didn’t take pictures of the mixing process for the second batch, but I’ll give you the ingredients here and you can go to town.  Just remember that the water and the oil have to be the same temperature (not exactly, but close) in order for the whole science thing to work.

In a heat-proof container, mix together and melt 4 tablespoons chopped beeswax, 2 squirts vegetable glycerine, 3 tablespoons shea butter, 8 tablespoons coconut oil, 4 tablespoons avocado oil, 4 tablespoons sweet almond oil, and 3 squirts vitamin E oil.

Add 8 drops sweet orange essential oil to 2 cups hot distilled or filtered water and drizzle into hot oil mix, blending to emulsify.

Store your lotion in a cool place, maybe in the fridge to be on the safe side.  I’m not sure how long this stuff lasts, with the antibacterial beeswax and vitamin E in it, but you’ll probably use it all right away because it’s awesome, anyway.

It’s relatively easy to clean up, as long as you wipe out your oily-waxy containers with paper towel before washing them in soapy water.

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Quick and Easy Air Freshener

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I love fresh air.  I’d rather be cold and have the windows open than be boxed in a stuffy house.  And commercial perfumes tend to aggravate my asthma, so if I can avoid them I will.

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Spring is ALMOST at hand in Newfoundland, but the days when I can justify turning off the heat and leaving the windows wide open have yet to come.  And having an active dog and an active man in the house, coupled with the variety of things I cook, means our house could use a bit of fresh air during the winter months.

I saw this post from Smashed Peas and Carrots a while back and I thought it might be worth a try.

Basically all you need is a small jar, some baking soda, and some essential oils.  The original post required a mason-jar style lid, where the lid itself could be replaced with perforated scrapbook paper, a great way to personalize the jar.  I don’t have any scrapbook paper, so I decided to use fabric and elastics instead.

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I also didn’t have any spare jars at the moment, but I had some large ramekins that were sitting around so I thought I’d use those instead.

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So it’s simple: take about 1/2 cup baking soda and plop it in your jar.  Or bowl.  Or whatever.

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Shake about 8-12 drops essential oil of your choice onto the baking soda.

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Affix your lid, which could really be anything, provided it has holes for air to flow through.  I have a small patch of fabric here (charming thrifted vintage handkerchiefs) that I fixed in place with an elastic band.  Give the contents a gentle shake to mix them up a bit.

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I made four separate bowls, for the main activity rooms in our house: tea tree for the bathroom, lavender for the bedroom, and orange for the living room.

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As an experiment, I also tried some rose water in baking soda and put that in my office.  I doubt it will last as long as the ones with the essential oils in it, but it still smells lovely!

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Keep the jars or bowls out of the sun in a place that gets good air circulation and I think they’ll probably last you at least a month, maybe two!

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This one is on the table by the entrance to the dining room. We walk past this all the time, wafting air to and fro.
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