Scented Pine Cones

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October hit Ottawa with a sudden drop in temperature and we were forced to turn the heat on for the first time this year, which made me sad. I don’t like the way a sealed-in house gets musty over the summer or winter, and with our massive piles of sad-looking carpet (which, no matter how much I steam clean it, still retains essence of smoker and large smelly dog, the previous tenants), our house gets musty – fast.

I’m not a huge fan of artificial perfumes or masking smells with other smells, but sometimes my cleaning regime needs a bit of a boost. I picked up these pine cones while walking Gren out on the Farm. You’ll note the dog poop bag I used to haul them home. This is often how I bring home my dog-walking finds.

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Wash them carefully in warm water to get rid of dirt and bugs and whatnot.

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Look at the fun colour they turned the water! Tannins are an interesting scientific thing.

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Shake them off and lay them on a baking sheet (if you like the baking sheet, line it with parchment paper to prevent any sap from sticking) and bake them for 1 hour at about 200°F so that they can dry out completely. Wet pine cones = mouldy pine cones, and we don’t want that.

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While that was going on, I quickly zested a lemon and an orange that had seen better days and tossed the peel into the oven as well to dry out. Waste not!

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When the pine cones are fully cooled, sprinkle them liberally with the essential oils of your choice. I went with clove and orange oils.

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Seal them (and any other scented objects you have, like the peel) in a plastic bag for 1 week to meld the scents together.

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Then display in a nice bowl and give them a good sniff as you walk by.

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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.

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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