Saturday, January 25, 2014

DIY Sugar Scrub

Whether you are stuck with colder or warmer than typical weather this winter, I bet many of you are suffering the same difficulty I always face this time of year--- dry skin. I always had normal to oily skin growing up but as I've aged (and moved to less temperate climates) I have found that winter tends to play havoc with my skin. It feels dry and rough and I look like I'm starting to transform into an alligator. It's itchy and uncomfortable and over-the-counter lotions rarely make much of a difference.

As I've been delving into the "real food" world, you start to realize that what you put on your body is as important as what you put in.  Many popular beauty products and cleaners are unfortunately chock full of harmful or irritating chemicals. Thankfully I've also discovered that making many of your own products (and therefore controlling the ingredient list) is often surprisingly simple!

For this entry, I'm starting with my favorite wintertime dry skin treatment-- a sugar scrub. If you've got dry skin and never tried this, you'll love it! The tiny grains of sugar gently exfoliate any dry skin and the oil in the mix will leave you feeling smooth and hydrated. To this simple base, you can customize to your personal preferences for fragrance and texture.With a little work in the craft room to decorate your jar, this also becomes an easy (and appreciated) gift. A short search on Pinterest (or the web) will yield a ton of amazing decorating and label ideas!

For most effective results, in your shower, soap up/shampoo, etc. first and rinse off. Then apply a generous handful of scrub to dry areas of skin. Gently rub in circles and rinse off. BE CAREFUL as the oils in the scrub can occasionally make the shower floor slick! Pat yourself dry (don't rub) and let the oil soak into your skin. This treatment is also great as part of your home manicure/pedicure process!

Last winter I kept my jar of scrub on a shelf just outside the shower. It lasted easily 3 months before the last dregs of sugar hardened up too much to use.

Next week I'll follow up with my recipe for a great homemade body butter to really hydrate and heal that skin!

Basic Sugar Scrub:

*1 clean and empty jar with lid (any size!)
*3 parts sugar (white or brown)
*1 part oil (something that is unprocessed and stays liquid at room temperature-- almond, avocado or olive oil are good choices)
*essential oil fragrance of your choosing (about 10 drops +/- per cup of sugar)

Start with a volume of sugar that is slightly less than your jar. For this example, my jar holds 1 cup and I filled it to about 7/8. This will allow the sugar to stay fluffy and not be compacted (which can lead to hardening and crystallization.


In a mixing bowl, slowly stir in oil until mixture is the consistency of wet sand. Add a few drops of your chosen essential oil and incorporate completely. Spoon mixture into jar.

Notes: Almond oil is great for the skin and has very little fragrance but may cause reaction in someone with tree nut allergies. If you choose to use olive oil, just be aware that it does carry quite a bit of its own fragrance into the final mix.

Fun combinations- here are a few I've already tried:
1) White sugar, almond oil, red sugar crystals (just a teaspoonful!) and peppermint essential oil. Very refreshing/invigorating and wintery!
2) Brown sugar, almond oil, vanilla essential oil. (Relaxing/calming) 
3) Brown sugar, almond oil, dash of powdered ginger, dash of cinnamon, vanilla essential oil (gingerbread)
4) White sugar, almond oil, orange essential oil (Energizing)

Some ideas to try in the future:
Lavender essential oil to use for a relaxing fragrance
Grapefruit or tea tree for energizing/refreshing
Floral essential oil (like rose) for a light, feminine fragrance

Decorating your jar-- have fun labeling your jar--- sky's the limit! You can paint, modge-podge, washi-tape or any other craft technique that will be at least water resistant. For the example above, I just printed a quick design on regular computer paper, cut it out and sealed it. I didn't have actual Mod-Podge but instead just brushed a thin layer of craft glue over the top to seal it in.
As always, please feel free to comment below. I'd love to hear how this worked for you or if you have any fun combinations you've tried!

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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A Happier You for 2014!

Hello! I know I've been pretty lax about posting around here. My only excuse is that I have been crafting like mad this past year. I took an inventory of 2013 and ignoring all the stuff I made specifically for selling in my Etsy store, for the family or gifts I sewed: 3 baby quilts, 2 travel pillows with pillowcases, 5 sets of napkins, 1 table runner,  3 totes (one computer, one tablet and one lunch size), a folding lunch bag, 1 summer weight sleep sack, 1 crib size sheet and a tooth fairy bag.  I knitted or crocheted 9 hats, 1 scarf, 1 pair of booties, 6 coffee cup cozies and finally finished my 6 year pillow!

Although busy, I had a great year. I have a fabulous husband who I like as much as I love (which on a day to day grind is probably more important). I have 2 awesome kids who are loving school and blossoming. Aside from usual colds and the like, we've all been pretty healthy. Two family members who faced serious health issues are on the mend or in remission! I've been able to continue to stay home full time despite the lagging economy. We've had a number of short (but fun) camping excursions with both the core and extended family. I've turned our not-so-useful office/master bedroom add-on into a pretty awesome crafting station.

With all this, its still easy to get bogged down in the daily grind. Its easy to forget all that we have and all the little things that really make life great. So rather than focus our New Year's resolutions on health (although we'll work on that!) or finances (yep, again!) I'm choosing to work on happiness.

We all know that happy people generally do not have more than those who are unhappy -- in fact it is often the opposite. Material goods do not make for contentment. So what does? Study after study has shown that happy and contented people focus on the positive parts of their life. They are the ones who count their blessings -- who are actively grateful for what they have.

I freely admit that I am often guilty of focusing on the negative parts of my day/week/life. And, my oldest seems to have that tendency as well. So to help us get into the right attitude, I've decided to start a "gratitude/thankful/blessings" type of jar. Each week (or even each day) we'll find something positive to write down-- a compliment from a friend, an achievement at school, something cute the kids did/said. Then, at New Year's Eve next year, we'll open up the jar and read through all the papers. Besides being something totally fun to look through next year, it also has a second purpose-- as we participate on a regular basis, it will force us to focus on the positive and be actively grateful on an ongoing way.

There are tons of ideas to make your own jar floating out there on the web-- just type in "blessings jar" or "gratitude jar" and you'll see lots of cute ideas. Here's what we ended up doing-- just a simple graphic I put together in Word and taped onto a cleaned up jam jar. This could be a fun project to do with the whole family-- let the kids put stickers on or paint it!

Here's hoping 2014 finds you healthy and HAPPY!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Holiday Turkey Cranberry Wreath

Hopefully everyone had a happy and festive Thanksgiving whether it was just two people or a whole house full around your table!  Now that we've managed to eat our way through all the goodies, its time to tackle the leftovers! My all time favorite use for leftover turkey is to make a turkey cranberry wreath.  I originally got this recipe at a Pampered Chef party I had as a newlywed (so about 14 years ago...) and its really become a family favorite!

One of the things I love about this recipe is that you can customize it in a wide variety of ways-- the easiest (and most helpful if its not the day after Thanksgiving or your brother Joe hogged all the leftovers) is to substitute ready-made rotisserie chicken for the turkey. Once I changed out the craisins for sun-dried tomatoes and swapped in feta and olives and got a really great Mediterranean flavor.  I've substituted in broccoli for the celery when I ran out. The only limit is your imagination!

Recipe: Holiday Turkey Cranberry Wreath
(adapted slightly from The Pampered Chef Kitchen Catalog, Fall/Winter 2000)

Outer crust
     Shortcut Method:
           2 packages (8 rolls each) refrigerated crescent rolls
     Scratch Method:
            Make a half batch of Make-Ahead Butterhorns from Money Saving Mom
                     *1 pkg  (2 1/4 tsp) dry yeast, 4 1/2 cups all purpose flour, 1 cup milk, 1/2 cup butter, 1/2 cup sugar, 3 eggs

1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons honey Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 cups cooked turkey, chopped (about 12 oz)
1/2 cup celery, sliced
1/2 cup dried cranberries (Craisins)
4 oz Swiss cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)

1) If using the scratch method, prepare your dough about an hour or so before you'll need it.

2.  Preheat oven to 375 F. Unroll crescent rolls and separate into triangles. On a baking stone or parchment covered baking sheet, arrange 8 triangles in a circle with wide ends toward the center and points directed outward. Slightly overlap touching corners.

2) With the other 8 rolls, align wide ends with first circle and points toward the center. Tips may need to temporarily overlap. Press wide ends of outer and inner triangle circles together.

3) Prepare and mix all filling ingredients together. If mix seems too dry, add mayonnaise until slightly moistened clumps form.

4) Spoon filling over circular seam between inner and outer ring of rolls.

5) Gently fold one triangle point from outside, over the filling, to the inside of the ring. Take the opposite triangle from the inside and fold it over the filling towards the outside of the ring.

6) Continue until all 16 triangles are wrapped around the filling. Press all seams closed.

7) Bake 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Makes 4-6 large servings or 8 smaller servings. Pair with a salad (or other Thanksgiving leftovers!) for a complete meal.