Mommypotamus http://www.mommypotamus.com Sat, 26 Jul 2014 18:00:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 5 Myths That Have Kept You From Making Your Own Soap (But Shouldn’t!)http://www.mommypotamus.com/making-soap-without-lye-and-other-myths/ http://www.mommypotamus.com/making-soap-without-lye-and-other-myths/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 04:20:30 +0000 http://www.mommypotamus.com/?p=28690 5 Myths That Have Kept You From Making Your Own Soap (But Shouldn’t!)



“Okay, so I heat the oils to match the temperature of the lye solution, sprinkle in a little fairy dust, hop up and down three times and bark like a seal?” The first time I stood in my kitchen and tried to make soap, I’m pretty sure that’s what my instructions said. Soap making seemed just slightly less difficult [&hellip

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5 Myths That Have Kept You From Making Your Own Soap (But Shouldn’t!)

“Okay, so I heat the oils to match the temperature of the lye solution, sprinkle in a little fairy dust, hop up and down three times and bark like a seal?”

The first time I stood in my kitchen and tried to make soap, I’m pretty sure that’s what my instructions said. Soap making seemed just slightly less difficult than building a functional car out of raisins, and I wasn’t sure my trusty crockpot and I were up for the challenge.

There are so many myths about soap making, like whether or not the mixture needs to reach “gel stage” and how long bars of freshly made soap need to cure. But, really, the biggest myth of all is . . .

Myth #1: Making Soap Is Difficult

According to Anne Watson, author of Smart Soapmaking, the extensive details given in soap making instructions are there so you won’t be left wondering about anything. She writes that “If you were describing how to make pancakes, you could write pages of details. That doesn’t mean it’s hard to make pancakes.” And she’s right. My trusty crockpot and I made it through just fine, and chances are yours is up for the task as well.

Of course, sometimes instructions include myths that do make soap making seem difficult. Anne covers a lot of them in her book, which I highly recommend. Here are a few of the most common ones:

Myth #2: You Can Make Soap Without Lye

So here’s the skinny on fats and lye: Both are needed to cause a chemical reaction called saponification – aka making soap. As Marie of Humblebee & Me put it, making soap without lye “is like trying to make a baking soda and vinegar volcano without the vinegar. No vinegar and you’ve just got a pile of baking soda. No lye, and you’ve just got a bucket of fat.”

Unlike modern chemicals, lye is a naturally occurring substance that has been used for thousands of years. (source) When our great-grandmothers made soap, they got their lye by burning hardwood ashes. Unfortunately each batch was a little different, so it was hard to know exactly how much to mix into a recipe. If too much lye is used, some would be left over in the final product, which could burn skin. If too little lye is used the “soap” would be mostly oil.

These days soapmakers buy lye from the store, which is exactly the same each time. Using store bought lye ensures that recipes work out right.

Myth #3: Soap Making Is Dangerous

Whenever I share a soap recipe, I always get a few comments from people who don’t want to “mess around with lye.” Apparently Anne does, too, because here’s what she had to say:

“I don’t know why, but nearly everyone says ‘mess around with lye,’ as if soapmaking involved slinging the stuff all over the place. I assure you, it doesn’t. You stir some lye into water, and mix the lye solution with fat. I have yet to make a mess doing that. And I have yet to get burned.

Of course, you can. If you’re careless with lye, you may well get hurt. If you’re careless riding a bicycle, you may get hurt, too. This doesn’t keep many people from riding bicycles. It just makes them take reasonable care when they ride. They wear protective gear and pay attention to what they’re doing.”

I treat lye like I would undiluted bleach (if we used it). I wear long sleeves, gloves and protective eye gear. I store it out of reach of children and pets, and do not leave it unattended when I’m making soap. I also make sure I can devote my full attention to what I’m doing, so I usually wait until the potami are napping or spending time with my husband.

Myth #4: You Need Lots Of Special Equipment To Make Soap

“Aside from a couple of special items, soapmaking uses more or less the same tools that cooking does. Many soapmakers use their regular kitchen equipment, and do it safely. Yes, you’re using lye, but lye isn’t plutonium. It’s easily neutralized, diluted, and removed. If you wash your equipment carefully, there’s no reason not to use your kitchenware. ‘Carefully’ is the key word here – you don’t want soap in the soup, or soup in the soap.” (Source: Smart Soapmaking)

So what is a careful approach? Here’s what Anne recommends:

1. Leave your protective clothing/glasses on while you wash your utensils by hand before loading them into the dishwasher. Don’t skip the initial rinse unless you want to turn your floor into a sudsy slip-n-slide. (Which, to be fair, is seriously fun. Ask me how I know.) If you’re not using a dishwasher, wash everything twice, making sure to thoroughly rinse any pot handles and rims.

2. Wipe down your work area with vinegar and a paper towel.

3. Wash your hands thoroughly with your gloves still on, then remove them along with your goggles.

Myth#5: You Need Lots Of Exotic Ingredients To Make Soap

Totally not true. My coconut oil soap recipe calls for just three ingredients, and most of the other recipes I use aren’t fancy either.

Bonus Myth: You Don’t Need To Make Soap

Okay, yeah, you can technically buy it at the store. But seriously, you need to do this at least once. If not because handmade soap is oh-so-much better, then at least because when you give some away as a gift people will look at you like you built a car out of a box of raisins.

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Is Your Amber Teething Necklace A Fake?http://www.mommypotamus.com/baltic-amber-teething-necklace-fake/ http://www.mommypotamus.com/baltic-amber-teething-necklace-fake/#comments Tue, 22 Jul 2014 17:50:36 +0000 http://www.mommypotamus.com/?p=28668 Is Your Amber Teething Necklace A Fake?



Have you ever wondered which teething remedies work . . . and which ones are just quackery? Baltic amber necklaces may seem silly, but actually the way they work is pretty simple. Amber resin contains succinic acid, a natural analgesic that is released when warm skin touches the beads. Unfortunately baltic amber is pretty easy [&hellip

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Is Your Amber Teething Necklace A Fake?

Have you ever wondered which teething remedies work

. . . and which ones are just quackery? Baltic amber necklaces may seem silly, but actually the way they work is pretty simple. Amber resin contains succinic acid, a natural analgesic that is released when warm skin touches the beads.

Unfortunately baltic amber is pretty easy to counterfeit, so if you’ve found your baby’s amber necklace doesn’t work it may not be authentic. If your necklace is cool to the touch like glass, it’s counterfeit. However, if it’s warm or neutral it could be plastic, a young tree resin called copal, or another material. If you’re not sure the necklace you bought is authentic, try one of these simple tests:

How To Spot A Fake Amber Teething Necklace

The Heat Test

This tip comes from Dana Seilhan, who shared it on this thread. (Thanks Dana!) Basically, you want to touch a bead to something very hot to release it’s fragrance. As Dana put it, “If you smell pine resin, it’s amber. If you smell burning plastic… well. ” Of course, if it’s glass it may not smell like anything at all . . . what you’re looking for is the pine smell. 

After looking around on different jewelers websites and such, I found that most recommend this method:

Heat Test: Heat a needle point in a flame until it is very hot (after a long while with a long-handled kitchen lighter I finally got mine to glow a little), then touch the tip of the needle to a bead in a non-obvious area. If it smells like pine resin – aka a Christmas tree – it’s likely to be true baltic amber. Now, the smell is not necessarily particularly pleasant and could be confused with plastic for that reason. What you’re looking for is a pine odor within the overall fragrance – that’s the key. Please be aware that you will have a small hole and maybe a little discoloration where the pin was placed.

There is only one case it may not be amber, and that is if it’s copal (immature tree resin) instead. Fortunately, the next test can help you distinguish between amber and copal.

The Rubbing Test

“This is the simplest and safest test,” writes DragonFly amber. Wrap the necklace in a soft cloth and rub rub rub – if it’s true amber it will become electrostatically charged enough to pick up small pieces of paper. Copal will not take on an electrostatic charge and may become sticky. (source)

The Alcohol Test

Both copal and plastic will deteriorate when they come into contact with a solvent. (source)  “Plastics are quickly attacked by alcohol (95% ethyl alcohol), acetone (100%), and ether. A few drops of acetone (fingernail polish remover) or alcohol dripped over the surface of the piece will reveal if it holds up to the solvent. If the surface becomes tacky, it’s not amber. Amber will not feel tacky or dissolve under these solvents.” (source) Because my “natural” nail polish remover is acetone-free, I did not do this test. Perhaps the vodka I keep on hand for making vanilla and mint extract – I’m not sure. Also, glass will not be affected by the alcohol test, but it will fail the saltwater test.

The Saltwater Test

Amber is so light that it will float in salt water. To test your necklace, mix together a solution of 1 part salt to 2 parts water. (For example, you could use 1/3 cup salt to 2/3 cup water.) Dissolve the salt completely and drop your necklace in the mixture. Plastic and glass will sink, true baltic amber and some types of copal will float. If you’re not sure whether your necklace is amber or copal, try the rubbing test.

Where Can I Find Genuine Baltic Amber Necklaces?

I’ve misplaced several necklaces over the course of raising three babies. I would order another one and then later find the lost one, so I have a bit of a “stash” from several companies.

When you’re shopping around keep in mind that some say amber which is light in color contains the most succinic acid. Also, necklaces are not “supposed” to be worn at night, but obviously that’s when babies are usually most uncomfortable when teething. Many moms leave them on all the time (except bathtime) and just make sure that the necklace fits snugly so that it’s not likely to get caught on anything. Other moms wrap it around a wrist or ankle instead, though those areas tend not to generate quite as much warmth. Here’s what I personally look for in a necklace:

Safety knotted - The necklace is knotted between every bead to prevent beads from spilling everywhere should the string break

Tension release clasp - The necklace has a clasp that will break under pressure for safety reasons.

I’ve purchased from this company and this company on Amazon. I’ve also bought some locally that were good. All have been authentic except the one that I purchased for myself – oops!

Have you ever used an amber teething necklace with your little one? How did it work for you?

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We Need To Talk About Essential Oilshttp://www.mommypotamus.com/need-talk-essential-oils/ http://www.mommypotamus.com/need-talk-essential-oils/#comments Wed, 16 Jul 2014 15:51:44 +0000 http://www.mommypotamus.com/?p=28464 Many of you have asked about my take on essential oils. After spending nearly five months researching and considering different perspectives, here are my thoughts . . .



So, unless you’re living under a rock . . . You’ve probably noticed that essential oils have taken over the natural living world. You’ve probably also guessed by now that, despite some reports, they won’t give you superpowers or vacuum your house while you nap. But maybe you’re wondering if most of the claims about them [&hellip

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Many of you have asked about my take on essential oils. After spending nearly five months researching and considering different perspectives, here are my thoughts . . .

So, unless you’re living under a rock . . .

You’ve probably noticed that essential oils have taken over the natural living world. You’ve probably also guessed by now that, despite some reports, they won’t give you superpowers or vacuum your house while you nap. But maybe you’re wondering if most of the claims about them could possibly be true.

Maybe you’re wondering “how” and “when” and “when NOT” to use them, especially when it comes to applications for children and pregnant/nursing women. If you’re not at least a little confused about essential oils, this post is probably not for you.

But if you are, today I’m going to share with you what I would say to any friend who happened to be sitting at my kitchen table with questions. Let’s get started with the most common ones:

Why is everyone so gaga over essential oils?

It’s just a theory, but I think it’s starting to worry people that acne medications may cause hair to grow on the side of their nose, cholesterol medications can trigger full-blown amnesia, and a medication designed to treat male pattern baldness may also cause them to grow fully functional, lactating breasts.

Maybe those concerns, plus concerns about toxins in our food, cleaning supplies, and beauty products are inspiring people to re-evaluate their lifestyle. Or it could be that essential oils just, um, smell amazing.

Okay, so . . . do essential oils really work?

I believe they do. I wouldn’t say every claim made about them is true, but several studies suggest that essential oils can be very useful:

Tylenol Vs. Tiger Balm

One study concluded that Tiger balm, which is made with the essential oils camphor, menthol, cajaput, and clove, was just as effective as Tylenol for relieving tension headaches. (source)

Asthma Medication Vs. Eucalyptus

Another study found that steroid-dependent asthmatics who were given eucalyptus oil were gradually able to reduce their medication dosage to a greater extent than those who received a placebo. (source1source 2)

MRSA Vs. Essential oils

Hospital-acquired infections and antibiotic-resistant bacteria have become major health concerns worldwide. (source) Many oils, including tea tree, thyme, eucalyptus, cinnamon, lemon and lemongrass have demonstrated the ability to rapidly kill one of the most concerning superbugs - MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) - in lab experiments. (source 1source 2source 3source 4)

Godzilla Vs. Essential Oils

No studies on this one, but essential oils would send that giant lizard running back to the ocean with his tail between his legs, obviously. If you want more studies to look through, though, type “essential oils” into the PubMed Database you will get over 12,000 studies and articles to review. TWELVE THOUSAND, folks.

Not all researchers found essential oils to be beneficial for the condition they were studying, and not all studies are well-constructed, but I have found much of the information to be very compelling. I encourage you to take a look and see what you think.

Of course, we haven’t even talked about how useful essential oils can be in homemade beauty products and cleaning supplies. We’ll get to that soon, but first, I’ll bet you’re wondering . . .

Are essential oils safe?

So, er, this is what I wanted to talk to you about. My personal opinion is that essential oils are very beneficial, but because they are so powerful they need to be used with wisdom.

Here’s how I see it: When I was a girl, my mom didn’t teach me to cook by handing me a steak knife and heading out for a relaxing afternoon at the movies. Though I may have succeeded in making lunch, I may have made some unwise decisions in the process. Instead, she worked alongside me, teaching me to properly use each kitchen tool in different situations.

When I started using essential oils, I didn’t receive much guidance regarding safety considerations. Now that I know better, I’m trying to do better. That is what I want to see happen in the world of essential oils.

As these amazing tools go mainstream, I want to help families discover safe and effective ways to use them. Because I want to be as thorough as possible, I’ve done something kind of crazy for a mom of three, blogger, homeschooler and (newbie) homesteader. I’ve enrolled in Aromahead’s Aromatherapy Program with the goal of becoming a certified aromatherapist! Aromahead is approved by the National Association For Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) and the Alliance of International Aromatherapists (AIA), and I’m so excited to be a part of their program.

I’ve also invested in a ton of resources, including Essential Oil Safety, which was written by world renowned expert Robert Tisserand. I nearly fainted when I first saw the sticker price for it, but considering it took him and his co-author 10+ years to write I’d say it’s well worth it. And hey, at least the shipping was free.

What brand do YOU use?

I’ve used many brands over the years, but when I decided to get more serious about about them I started taking a closer look at the companies that offer them.

After nearly five months of research, conversations with several essential oil companies (including top executives), the help of an aromatherapist, brief talks with a chemist and two analytical labs, and hours upon HOURS of reading, I chose to go with Young Living.

If you’d like to see a detailed breakdown of my decision making process, I wrote about it here. This is a heated topic for sure, and it is not my desire to stir up controversy. Your process may be totally different, and that’s okay!

I do want to be clear on one thing: I chose Young Living for a lot of reasons, including their production methods, but that doesn’t mean I endorse all their recommendations. I buy from lots of companies I don’t fully agree with. For example, I buy dry goods at Whole Foods despite their insistence that canola oil is a health food.

I want to learn more, but I’m not sure where to start. Any advice?

If you want to learn more about how to get Young Living oils at wholesale prices, you can check out my essential oils page.

If you are not already working with an essential oil company, I’d also love for you to join my private Facebook group to talk about safe use, share your own stories, get new tips, and learn more about which oils are best blended together for your needs. Just click the “Join Group” button in the upper right and I’ll add you!

If you are already working with an essential oil company, I ask that you connect with people on your team to learn more about essential oil safety and usage. If you don’t feel they can help you in those areas, I suggest enrolling in Aromahead Institute’s program. As much as I would like, to I am unable to provide support for a huge group of people. Thank you for understanding!

Update

So far the discussion in the comments has been very positive overall – THANK YOU! I do want to mention one thing, and that is that negative comments about any brand will be removed. This is a safe place to discuss safe practices regardless of where oils are purchased.

 

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Cookie Dough Ice Cream Sandwiches (Grain-Free)http://www.mommypotamus.com/cookie-dough-ice-cream-sandwiches/ http://www.mommypotamus.com/cookie-dough-ice-cream-sandwiches/#comments Mon, 14 Jul 2014 15:52:00 +0000 http://www.mommypotamus.com/?p=28356 Cookie Dough Ice Cream Sandwiches (Grain-Free)



“Admit it, cookie dough is usually better than the actual cookies.” ~ Unknown So, my husband might be an alien. The quote above is practically a law of the universe, like thermodynamics and general relativity, but when I told him I was making cookie dough ice cream bars he looked at me and said, “Why [&hellip

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Cookie Dough Ice Cream Sandwiches (Grain-Free)

“Admit it, cookie dough is usually better than the actual cookies.” ~ Unknown

So, my husband might be an alien. The quote above is practically a law of the universe, like thermodynamics and general relativity, but when I told him I was making cookie dough ice cream bars he looked at me and said, “Why would you want to do THAT?”

See? Alien. I’m going to look in the barn for pieces of his crashed spaceship when he goes to sleep tonight.

Everyone knows that the best part of making cookies is sneaking a little of the dough before it gets popped into the oven. Inspired by that moment of joy from childhood, this egg-free recipe pairs browned butter cookie dough with the creamy goodness of vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!

Cookie Dough Ice Cream Sandwiches (Grain-Free)

Ingredients

Instructions

1. Cut butter into four equal chunks and place in a light colored, shallow pan. Heat pan over medium high heat and stir butter until it is light brown and smells a little like hazelnuts. It’s important to watch it closely or it will burn, but browning the butter is what makes the dough so delicious. See this tutorial if you’re not quite sure what to look for. Allow butter to cool before moving on to the next step or your chocolate chips may melt a little. You can put it in the fridge if you’re in a hurry.

2. Add almond flour, honey/maple syrup, vanilla, browned butter and sea salt to a food processor and mix thoroughly. If you don’t have a food processor, add all dry ingredients to a bowl and mix, then add wet ingredient and mix again. I prefer the food processor because the dough is a little more smooth.

3. Stir chocolate chips into the dough. This step takes a little elbow grease.

4. On a cookie sheet lined with lightly oil waxed paper, press dough flat into two separate, equal-sized rectangles.  Place cookie sheet in the freezer and allow to harden for at least 5 hours. If you can’t fit the cookie sheet in the freezer, you can just lay cookie dough layers on the flattest surface you can find in the freezer. It doesn’t matter if it’s perfectly flat, because the dough will be moldable when it’s ready for use. (Kind of like modeling clay)

5. Remove cookie layers from the freezer and spread ice cream over the top of one of the pieces of cookie dough.

6. Place second sheet of cookie dough on top to form a sandwich, then press down firmly to evenly distribute the ice cream.

7. Place cookie dough/ice cream slab in the freezer to firm up, then dip a knife in hot water and cut into bars. Wrap individually in waxed or parchment paper to store in the freezer if desired. Enjoy!

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How To Make Coconut Milk From Coconut Cream Concentratehttp://www.mommypotamus.com/how-to-make-coconut-milk-from-coconut-cream/ http://www.mommypotamus.com/how-to-make-coconut-milk-from-coconut-cream/#comments Wed, 09 Jul 2014 15:29:38 +0000 http://www.mommypotamus.com/?p=28396 How To Make Coconut Milk From Coconut Cream Concentrate



This little kitchen hack is so easy . . . It almost feels like cheating, but of all the methods I’ve used to make coconut milk it actually delivers the best results. (And I’ve used a few –  you can watch Katiepotamus and I make coconut milk from fresh coconut here and coconut flakes here.) Rich in immune-boosting lauric, bone building [&hellip

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How To Make Coconut Milk From Coconut Cream Concentrate

This little kitchen hack is so easy . . .

It almost feels like cheating, but of all the methods I’ve used to make coconut milk it actually delivers the best results. (And I’ve used a few –  you can watch Katiepotamus and I make coconut milk from fresh coconut here and coconut flakes here.)

Rich in immune-boosting lauric, bone building phosphorous and soothing magnesium, coconut milk is one of my favorite kitchen ingredients. I especially love it in soft-serve ice creamcoconut creme bruleeraspberry custard tartletsfudge pudding pops, though it makes a fantastic base for dairy-free shrimp chowder, too.

Why not just buy the canned stuff?

Sometimes I do! But there are two main reasons I don’t use it very often:

BPA

Manufacturers can slap on the “BPA-Free” label even if their products still contain toxic bisphenol. You can read more about that here.

Additives

Canned coconut milk often contains thickeners like guar gum and xanthan gum, which can cause digestive problems in some people. Xanthan gum in particular can be problematic for people sensitive to corn, soy, dairy, or wheat, since it is a product of bacterial fermentation that is often grown on those mediums.

Personally, I’ve noticed that my stomach feels a little “off” after consuming coconut milk that contains guar or xanthan gum, so I prefer additive-free. There are two brands that I know of that do not have any thickeners or additives, and they come in BPA-free packaging. Does that mean they don’t contain bisphenol? Not necessarily, but they are my “go to” options if I’m using pre-made. Find them here and here.

Really, though, this method is so quick and easy that I don’t even consider pre-made unless I can’t get coconut cream.

How To Make Coconut Milk From Coconut Cream

Ingredients

    • 3/4 cup water
    • 1/4 cup coconut cream (also known as coconut butter), or more if you want a creamier milk (find it here)

Instructions

Method One:

Pour coconut cream and water into a blender and mix until smooth. An immersion blender works, too!

Method Two:

Stir coconut cream into hot water until dissolved.

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