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I made lotion and, ugh, another hemp bracelet.

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Yesterday, I made lotion. I made lotion once before, using the “How to Make an Easy Beeswax Lotion” recipe from A Sonoma Garden. I liked that lotion so much I made it again. (FYI: It keeps for at least 8 months — I still have a tiny bit left from when I made it in February and it’s still good.)

If you take my word for anything in life, let it be this: Make this lotion. It is, without question, the best lotion I’ve ever used in my life. And it’s so easy. And cheap. Aside from the jojoba oil, I had leftover ingredients from the first time I made it plus reusable jars, so I didn’t have to buy anything new. I didn’t plan ahead to get jojoba oil so this time I used olive oil instead, which is what the recipe calls for anyway. I added some lavender essential oil and the lavender/olive oil scent is amazing.

Seriously you guys. Winter is coming and your skin is going to be dry, especially if you live in Colorado. Make and use (preferably when you have a little time after showering and before getting dressed or if you’re going to put on sweats or shit you wear around the house and don’t particularly care about — not that it ruins clothes because it doesn’t but because it is super greasy and it does take a while for the skin to absorb it) this, for real.

homemade lotion

Today was kind of a clusterfuck, and I hate the word “clusterfuck” because for some reason it grosses me out. I had the desire to make something but no ideas and no good supplies. I wanted to do a test run of pan de muerto using the one recipe I found that doesn’t call for anise (gross), but we’re out of all-purpose flour and I don’t have orange blossom water. I considered flourless peanut butter cookies and chocolate peanut butter ice cream but then realized I’ve been eating a lot of dessert lately and didn’t really need to make more.

I thought about starting to put together a photo book of Soren’s year for the grandparents (my mom is still showing off pictures of us from when Soren was a baby and we were kinda fat and doesn’t look at Flickr because she doesn’t really use the computer) but got overwhelmed by the thought of going through all my iPhoto shit.

So then I got out my jewelry supplies and kind of farted around for a while. I thought about using some leftover resin beads and hemp cord and . . . that didn’t work. Then I tried to make a hippie fabulous anklet using seed beads, bells, and hearts and . . . that didn’t work. So then I made a hemp bracelet. I even put some beads on the ends because why not. And it fits! Wait, don’t die of boredom yet. Or do, because you might as well, because that’s not very exciting. But hey, I made something even though it was really hard to come up with something to make with the supplies I have, so that’s, well, not awesome but still kind of cool.

Oh and also, if you’re into making hemp bracelets, and how could you not be, Made by Hippies is awesome. This guy introduced me to the groundbreaking technology of the binder clip and how to know which side to knot next (it’s not hard but I get distracted).

DIY hemp bracelet

Ben always accuses me of being on the way to becoming the lady who sells stuff at the Phish show, and I guess with my hippie lotion and hemp bracelets he’s probably right but damn, I don’t even listen to Phish. Or any hippie music, for that matter. The thought of a noodly guitar solo makes me want to punch someone in the face.

Written by Tracy

October 9th, 2012 at 9:48 pm

Homemade Seitan & Heartbreak

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In honor of the “I like making stuff” kick I’m on, last night I made seitan for the first time.

Not much to look at

Sorry. Seitan is pretty ugly.

I pretty much followed the recipe from Totally Vegetarian: Easy, Fast, Comforting Cooking for Every Kind of Vegetarian by Toni Fiore, but you can find a seitan recipe anywhere (there was even one on the back of the box of vital wheat gluten I had).

Any time I see “kneading” in recipe instructions, I worry that it’s going to be a pain in the ass. This, however, was very easy kneading. Gluten is kind of amazing. As soon as you add the liquid, it turns into a dough really fast and it’s a nice, polite dough that stays together and doesn’t stick to anything. The hardest part of making homemade seitan was watching it while it was simmering for an hour — if I didn’t check on it often enough (which turned out to be every few minutes), they got all gigantic and puffy. Don’t worry if this happens — if you add more liquid, turn down the heat, and stir, all will be well.

I just tried a few bites last night, pan fried and doused with hot wing sauce. It was pretty good (not quite firm enough), but I think it’ll be much better cut into strips, deep fried, and tossed in hot wing sauce. Seitan wings (with really good ranch dressing) are just about my favorite thing in the world. (If you’re in the Denver area, go to City O City and have their wings. They’re the best.)

What I recommend if you make seitan (and the directions didn’t say this) is removing the seitan from the broth and storing it in the refrigerator, at least overnight. This will help it firm up a bit.

Also, this is my new favorite song.

Written by Tracy

September 27th, 2012 at 6:07 pm

Make Something (Almost) Every Day

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DIY bracelet

As I’ve been getting more into DIY projects and, as I call it, the hippie lifestyle, I’ve realized something: I’m happiest when I’m making stuff. In the past week, I’ve made a list of Denver breweries, laundry detergent, granola, chipotle ranch dressing, a playlist (I’ll post it soon), and a bracelet (pictured above, based on these instructions). I also ordered an ice cream maker (homemade ice cream was Ben’s idea and might be the best idea of all time) (of course I picked the color that’s not yet in stock) and signed us up for home delivery of hormone-free, local dairy products, including the cream for ice cream. (FYI, homemade ice cream does not appear to be a money-saving endeavor.)

I’ve always considered myself a person who enjoys a good amount of ass-sitting, as in sitting on my ass watching tv or puttering around on the internet not really doing anything constructive. I’m (finally!) figuring out that, although I still need some ass-sitting, I prefer being productive, especially when I can be productive in a way I enjoy. This involves projects I can complete in a limited amount of time and in a successful manner. As a person with ADHD, I don’t have the attention span for big projects, like crocheting a blanket or making a dress from scratch. And there are some things I’m just not good at, such as drawing, fiber arts, or pottery. I enjoy small projects I can do reasonably well, like baking and making jewelry and playlists.

Also, I’m a maker, not an organizer. You know those people who organize their drawers and kitchen pantries? Who even have kitchen pantries? Maybe they post something on Pinterest about how you, too, can have a beautifully organized laundry room and a closet full of perfectly folded fitted sheets? I’ll never be one of those people. I hate organizing, even if you make it look easy. I always get overwhelmed. I don’t care about having an attractive laundry room. And, internet, you will never make me care about folding fitted sheets, no matter how hard you try. (Although, that last thing about folding fitted sheets that made its way around the internet also included a tip about putting your bobby pins in upside down, and that’s just about the best tip I’ve ever read.)

If there’s anything useful here I can pass on to you, it’s this. When you find something you like doing, do it. Do it again. Do it when you’d otherwise be doing nothing. See how you feel. If whatever it is you’re doing makes you feel happy and kind of peaceful, keep at it. It’s one of the keys to happiness, I think. Fill your spare time with fun, constructive things and you’ll have less time for worry and stress. You probably already know this, but it’s taken me a while to figure it out.

Written by Tracy

September 26th, 2012 at 11:22 am

Finally saying NO to GMOs.

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On Friday, one of Ben’s friends posted this on Facebook.

As a result, we ended up down the rabbit hole of genetically modified food.

I’ve always known about GMOs (genetically modified organisms) but it’s one of those things I knew I should care about but was kind of afraid to learn more because I knew it would make life more difficult. Well, after this weekend, I know more. And yes, it’s going to make life more difficult. But that’s cool because Ben and I decided that we strongly believe we should not be eating genetically modified food or feeding it to Soren.

I think I spent 50% of my waking hours this weekend thinking about food. That’s more time than I want to spend thinking about food, but it’ll get easier as we figure this stuff out. For now, we’re just doing the best we can without going totally crazy. Our current plan (this will evolve as we learn more) is:

  • Try to buy products made by companies that don’t use GMOs and aren’t owned by companies that do. Some of these, like Morningstar Farms, will be hard.
  • Try to avoid the big genetically modified ingredients (unless they’re included in a non-GMO product), including canola and cottonseed oil, soybeans, sugar from sugar beets (which can be any sugar listed as an ingredient other than pure cane sugar), and corn or corn-derived ingredients. (Our consumption of processed foods is going waaaaaay down.)
  • Grow our own zucchini and yellow squash (and avoid papaya, which we never eat anyway).

It looks like this means we won’t be buying food made by big corporations or by smaller companies owned by big corporations. (Here’s a good article in The New York Times about this.)

This is in addition to some things we already do and some that are new:

  • Avoid meat.
  • Avoid products that contain animal ingredients.
  • Avoid products that are tested on animals (not food but kind of related).
  • Make what we can (food and non-food) from good, GMO-free, natural, environmentally friendly ingredients.
  • Buy organic.
  • Buy only dairy products that are free of rBGH/rBST/artificial hormones.
  • Go out to eat infrequently.

Saturday’s trip to the supermarket (Soren loves the word “supermarket”) was a long journey involving lots of label reading. We bought different produce, bread, granola bars, chips, some cheeses, ice cream, and a frozen lunch for me, among other things. We were already doing okay in some areas — cereal for Soren (he loves Leapin’ Lemurs) and yogurt, for example. We’re planning to start making more things from scratch — ice cream and bread, for example. We’re going to be dedicating a lot more time to thinking about and preparing food and we’re going to spend more money on food, but that’s cool because we’re going to be healthier and in our own little way, contributing to a healthier world by supporting companies that aren’t doing creepy stuff with food in an effort to make even more money. Hippie power!!

If you’re interested in learning more about GMOs and how to avoid them, the Cornucopia Institute and the Non-GMO Project are good places to start. There are a few iPhone apps, too, but they don’t seem to be updated often enough, so I”m not sure how accurate they are.

I’ll keep you updated on our progress!

Written by Tracy

September 24th, 2012 at 10:22 am

Posted in and life,Food,hippie adventures

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Homemade Vegan Laundry Detergent (For Real!)

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If I had $1 for every time I’ve found a “homemade vegan laundry detergent” recipe on the internet that was not actually vegan, I’d have quite a few dollars. Even well-respected vegan blogs I enjoy reading get it wrong when it comes to homemade laundry detergent. Most borax isn’t vegan. Washing soda, at least what I’ve found, isn’t vegan.

Note: To me, the term “vegan” means, in addition to being free of animal-derived ingredients, that an ingredient is not tested on animals. Look, I can go to the store and buy laundry detergent that is not tested on animals. Why in the hell would I made “vegan” laundry detergent containing ingredients that are tested on animals? The answer is simple. I would not.

The simplest homemade laundry detergent recipe I found on the internet was as follows:

  • 1 cup shredded castile soap
  • 1 cup borax
  • 1 cup washing soda

Okay, so. I couldn’t find washing soda that was made by a company that doesn’t test on animals. (Arm & Hammer and 20 Mule Team test on animals.) (I found some soda ash, which is the same as washing soda and intended for dyeing clothes or for using in swimming pools, that might qualify, but I’m not sure so I didn’t chance it.) After a good deal of angst, I figured, what the hell, let’s use baking soda instead of washing soda and see what happens. I mean really, what’s the worst that could happen? My clothes come out of the washer stinky and/or dirty? Well, I can live with that in the name of advancing a recipe for homemade laundry detergent that is actually vegan. So here’s what I did:

  • 1 bar Dr. Bronner’s castile soap (lavender) (vegan, no animal testing), grated (Note: The first time I made this, I used a microplane, which is a very fine grater. The second time, I grated the soap in the food processor — first, I grated it like cheese using the grater attachment and then processed the grated soap with the default blade. This was much easier than grating by hand, but I think I liked the microplane-grated soap better because it was fluffier and, thus, mixed better with the baking soda and borax. The processed soap is heavier and more prone to separate from the other ingredients. If you do it this way, make sure to shake the detergent before using to distribute the soap.)
  • 1 cup borax (purchased from Mountain Rose Herbs)
  • 1 cup baking soda (you can get this from Mountain Rose Herbs or Bob’s Red Mill — neither company tests on animals)

Note: These measurements have been updated. The original recipe called for approximately 1/2 bar of soap, but I’ve increased that amount. So now it’s 1 bar of Dr. Bronner’s soap to 1 cup borax to 1 cup baking soda. Easy!

Add the grated soap, borax, and baking soda to a bowl and mix well. Store in an airtight container. That’s it. It’s super easy! I wanted to add some essential oil to enhance the lavender smell but didn’t because I was worried the liquid would mess with the powder consistency of the finished detergent.

I use approximately once ounce per load (we have an old measuring scoop). So far, we’ve washed one load of Ben’s clothes, one load of mine, one load of Soren’s, and one load of communal (bed stuff) laundry. It’s working really well. Everything comes out of the dryer clean and it smells like absolutely nothing (I wouldn’t mind if the lavender smell lingered, but “nothing” is pretty good if you ask me). It got out all the baked bean stains on Soren’s clothes from the other day. And his underwear, not that you want to know about toddler underwear, comes out of the wash perfectly clean and smelling like nothing, which is a win if you ask me.

So far so good, I think. I’ll update this post as we use the detergent for a while. I’m sure the real test will come from repeated washings of Soren’s clothes and sheets and, like, gym clothes and stuff.

(As for cloth diapers, we’ve used Charlie’s Soap the whole time and have never had a problem. I think with cloth diapers, your best bet is to find a system that works and stick with it. We’re down to diapers for sleeping only right now. Yay — our diaper career is almost over!!)



homemade vegan laundry detergent v.2.0

the finished product

1 ounce

about an ounce

Update on 11/15/12: We’ve been using this soap for 2 months and it’s still going well. It gets out stains as well as natural store-bought soap. We still have a stain stick thing for getting out bad/greasy stains. When that runs out, I’m going to try dish soap on bad stains so we don’t have to buy stain sticks any more. I figure dish soap is good at getting out grease, so why not try it.

Update on 2/9/13: Still use it, still like it. If you have a toddler who might occasionally pee on clothing and/or bedding and you use this detergent, your best bet is to wash the items in hot water to make sure there’s no lingering pee smell. I noticed the same thing with the natural store-bought detergent we used to buy, so no big deal.

Written by Tracy

September 15th, 2012 at 8:35 pm

Posted in and life,hippie adventures

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Fruit + Water = Yum!

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After I whined about wanting to give Soren beverages other than water and milk but not wanting to give him sugary crap, a friend suggested lemon/apple/cucumber water. I made this and it was awesome.

Soon after that, I saw this “Home Made Vitamin Water” post on the Homesteading/Survivalism Facebook page. Their suggested flavor combinations are:lemon water

  • all citrus (lemon, orange, lime)
  • raspberry lime
  • watermelon rosemary
  • blackberry sage
  • pineapple mint.

Other ideas:

  • cucumber mint
  • strawberry, lemon, lavender
  • strawberry lime
  • peach, mint, lemon
  • cucumber melon
  • basil and peach
  • blueberry rosemary.

I’m going to make this on days I don’t drink beer (those exist, believe it or not) and weekends, when I traditionally don’t drink much water all day. This morning, I added one sliced lemon and some water to a carafe and put it in the refrigerator. By dinner time, I had delicious lemon water. Soren even had some and referred to it as “lemonade,” which, I’m glad he thinks this is lemonade but I’m not sure why he even knows what lemonade is. Kids, man. They learn the most random stuff.

Written by Tracy

July 16th, 2012 at 7:55 pm

Posted in and life,hippie adventures

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Our Garden: March 2012

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Remember last month when I was all excited about making toilet-paper-roll seed pots? Well, I did this. And I am no longer excited about it, not even a little bit. In fact, I recommend that you never make toilet-paper-roll seed pots.


Toilet-paper-roll seed pots are a great idea in theory — they’re free and environmentally friendly! However, they’re also a pain and don’t actually work very well.

Here’s why:

  • Even after you cut and fold one edge of each roll, they’re still too tall to be practical — they’d be too tall for our covered tray, too wobbly, and would require too much seed starting mix. We had to trim all of them to make them a better height. You probably could cut the rolls in half before assembling, but then they might be too short.
  • They’re wobbly as hell even after filled and wet.
  • Let’s talk about them being wet. They have all the drawbacks of being wet but none of the benefits. Normally when starting seeds, it’s nice to have some type of contraption such that you can put water in a tray and whatever you put your seeds in can suck up the water. These don’t suck up any water. Or, well, they do, but only the cardboard part soaks up water. Absolutely none of the water makes it to the seed starting mix. Then, when you water the mix after you put it in the pots, most of the water just drains out and sits there uselessly in the tray, where it makes the cardboard wet but leave the seed starting mix untouched. The cardboard, now that it soaked up a ton of water, gets super-duper soggy and floppy. I knew this would happen, but I figured it would at least share some of the water with the seeds. Nope.

I persevered and planted our “early” seeds (Does it even count as early any more? I’m such a gardening procrastinator.) (lettuce, spinach, kale, Swiss chard, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, rhubarb, onion) in these things even though I hate them. I’ll try to forgive these pots for annoying me if they at least function well enough for us to end up with nice little plants.

For our next round of seeds, I plan to reuse old plant containers we have in the garage — this is also a free and environmentally friendly option, and probably won’t annoy me (although you never know!).

I hope your early (ish) gardening is going better than mine is!

P.S. The composting is going very well! We’ve filled up our first bin and are giving it a good roll around the yard every weekend while we wait for it to do its thing and fill up bin #2.

Written by Tracy

March 30th, 2012 at 2:50 pm