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Archive for October, 2011

Recently, I tried out a recipe for homemade lip balm that came out great. I started with a recipe I found here and tweaked it just a little to my own liking. It was really easy to make, no mess, and not time-consuming at all. The hardest part (as is the case with many of my recpies) was using up my old one so I had a container to refill.

You will need:

  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons packed grated beeswax
  • 1 Tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons honey (See edits at the bottom)
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract, I used my homemade vanilla extract, and it worked great
  • 1/4 teaspoon vitamin E oil (Open up a vitamin supplement capsule of vitamin E and empty the liquid, or you can buy a jar of just the liquid vitamin E)

Grate the beeswax using the smallest holes on a cheese grater. You won’t need to grate any more than a 1-inch by 1-inch block. That would be more than plenty.

Just as a side note, it was a little difficult to clean our cheese grater afterward. I would recommend just having on hand another grater designated for non-food items. I’ve posted several recipes which require grated bars of soap and other things, so this might be a good investment.

Get a tin can from your recycling bin and pinch one side of it to make a pour spout. Put the grated beeswax in and place the can in a small saucepan of simmering water on the stove. When all the wax is melted, add in the coconut oil and olive oil and stir. Remove from heat and add remaining ingredients. Pour the melted mixture into prepared containers, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

I only had 3 containers to refill, but I’d estimate this recipe might make about 10 wind-up containers. I bet you can order new lip balm containers online somewhere instead of saving up old ones, but I like the idea of not adding any more plastic to our landfills. If you do get new containers (or clean the old ones really well), these would make fantastic gifts. It smells wonderful and works great!

EDIT: I made another batch of this and poured it into clear containers, and it seemed the last container had an ingredient that didn’t solidify with the rest. It had sunk to the bottom and stayed a gooey liquid. It seemed like it was the honey that sunk to the bottom and didn’t mix in. I eliminated the honey in my next batch, but didn’t use clear containers, so it will be a while (until I get down to the bottom of my current chapstick container) before I can confirm whether eliminating the honey did the trick.

EDIT #2: I made this again in clear containers, and eliminating the honey did the trick. I don’t use honey anymore, just scratch it from the list of ingredients. It still smells nice because of the coconut oil, vanilla, and beeswax, and it doesn’t seem like it’s missing anything.

EDIT #3: Sister just called me with a little tip on making a tin can double boiler. If you use an emptied-out small can of olives, the can (with all the ingredients inside, she says) will float in the pan of water without needing to hold it and risk burning your fingers.

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Deep breath….Ok, I officially signed up to participate in NaNoWriMo, as it’s called. November is National Novel Writing Month, where lots of people declare to write that novel they’ve always (or never) dreamed of writing. The rules are simple. You’re not allowed to write a single word of prose until November 1st, and on November 30th at 11:59pm,  it’s pencils down, fingers stop typing. “Novel” is defined as a document containing at least 50,000 words of nonfiction writing. Pre-game plot outlines, character outlines and other things are fine, you just can’t start the actual prose writing until November first.

To keep participants motivated, their website recommends broadcasting to absolutely everyone that you’re working on this:

Tell everyone you know that you’re writing a novel in November. This will pay big dividends in Week Two, when the only thing keeping you from quitting is the fear of looking pathetic in front of all the people who’ve had to hear about your novel for the past month. Seriously. Email them now about your awesome new book. The looming specter of personal humiliation is a very reliable muse.

So posting this here is a good insurance policy that I’ll finish. Hopefully. Otherwise, I have to come back in December and sheepishly declare to the Internet at large that I was not able to complete a measly 50,000-word document within a month’s time, so I wimped out and quit. And I don’t really want to do that.

What I like about this is it totally emphasizes quantity over quality. The novel’s going to be bad. That’s a given. Even so, writing even a terrible novel is better than never writing one at all. Just keep cranking out the words. Get it all down in November, then edit and rework in December and beyond. The importance is just getting the ideas written down.

And besides, it’s a little cocky to expect the first novel you write would be awesome, right? I mean when I first started piano, I wasn’t expecting to get famous playing Liszt. I was trying to learn Mary Had a Little Lamb. And I sucked at first. Writing, like learning to play an instrument, takes lots of hard work and practice. It just doesn’t make sense that the first novel I would sit down and write would be anything better than the literary equivalent of “Mary had a little lamb.” But I’ll never write a good one without writing a lot of crappy ones first. Heck, maybe I don’t even want to aspire to write a good one. But I’ll never know if I don’t write a bad one first.

For anyone else participating, my profile username is kalzayer. Find me on http://www.nanowrimo.org/ and we can be writing buddies!

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A title like this implies I might have spent my day sewing something cool. Or developing/perfecting a new recipe to share on here. Or harvesting my own homegrown veggies. Actually, I spent it protesting at Occupy Boston.

I know what you’re thinking. I thought this was an environmentalist blog, not a political activist’s soapbox.

And you’re right. But I’ve been thinking about something lately. I could change everything about my life so my carbon footprint was absolutely zero. Now, that’s not really possible, but even if I could, that wouldn’t change a thing, wouldn’t be a drop in the bucket. I could get all the people around me to change, or at least to do a little better than they’re doing now. Still, it wouldn’t make a lick of difference. I mean, we should all still do what we can, but, it’s really not going to make that much of an impact. We’ve got to change the policy that provides the biggest polluters with a free pass. Otherwise, we can’t even hope to make a dent in restoring our environment. And to do that, we need a government that represents us. All of us. Not just those who have the means to fund their own lobbyists. That’s why I marched yesterday.

Now, I’m not going to get all preachy here. But I do want to quickly describe my own take on the Occupy Boston movement, in my own words, based on my own experiences, and not endorsed by the Occupy Movement. I feel like there’s a lot of misinformation out there, and my perspective is that some people dismiss the movement for just being a bunch of disorganized, fringe, leftist hippies living in a tent city and whining about how they don’t have any money. And that’s not it at all.

So what is it all about?

It’s about asking for action to curb corporate greed and the usurping of the whole political system by the few (usually corporations and their big lobbies) who then use the system for their own benefit, usually to the detriment of the general population. And this all while leaving the environmental costs unaccounted for, externalizing them onto the backs of everyone. The rest of us pay for their exploitation in many ways: environmental degradation, lost benefits, decreased (or nonexistent) healthcare, reduced wages, job losses, disbanding of unions, discontinuation of pension plans, and the list goes on and on. It’s also about Citizens United and the Supreme Court ruling that corporations are people, and deserve the same rights as individuals. Corporations are made up of people, each an individual unto themselves. Counting the corporation as well is to give them more than one vote, or more influence than they should rightly have. And they already have the money to buy lots of influence to start with. We should be limiting that and not adding to it. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not against corporations, just the excessive greed that exploits people and resources for extra money. And I’m against their power to almost exclusively shape the policies that allow their behavior to continue unchecked.

There’s a growing divide between the top 1% of wage earners and the bottom 99%, and right now, the top 1% has a grossly disproportionate say in our government actions and policy. We want something closer to of, by, and for all the people, not just the top 1%. The Occupy Movement is not leftist, rightist, or exclusive. It invites everyone who wants to be heard and to have a say in our government policy to speak up. It is for all of us in the 99% and invites us all to be included.

Basically, the idea is to get out and occupy the streets that are already (or should be) ours in the first place, funded by our tax dollars. Occupying a section of a park or marching through the streets is simply a statement that, “hey, this is ours too.” But bigger than that, it’s about demanding to be heard, respected, and included in the political process, all while practicing nonviolence. And it’s about sending a message to the biggest players in corporate greed (big banks and Wall Street), so naturally, the space for Occupy Boston is right in the financial district.

Sure, there are always going to be people out there who have their own pet projects they’re fighting for (legalize marijuana, forgive student loans, anarchy, disbanding of corporations altogether, closing prisons, etc.) but the majority of the people there—in my perspective and experience—were protesting corporate greed that got us into this mess. I saw someone with a sign that said “We’re not disorganized, America just has too many issues.” I think that about sums it up.

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