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Happy Bar

Let me tell you about a struggle that I have been having for years and seems to be growing worse as I get older. It is no secret that I have allergies. In my youth, I can remember weeks of misery in the spring when the trees and flowers were all blooming. Everyone was outside playing and enjoying the weather and I was inside with my box of tissues and drinking down as much Triaminic as I was allowed to have. In my twenties, the allergy thing turned into a daily misery, especially for the first hour or two of every morning. I used to joke that I was allergic to mornings and tried very hard in college not to have to take any classes before 10 am because I was in no fit state to be anywhere when I had to blow my nose every other minute. In my thirties, I finally wised up and got some medication. Can I just tell you how life changing that was? I went from practically nonfunctional before 10 am to feeling normal. It was wonderful. And still is in many ways. It took several years to figure out a routine that works for me, and I still have some bad days, especially in the spring, but it is nowhere near the misery that it once was.

Sadly, my allergy issues did not end there because once I had clear sinuses, my skin started protesting. Until ten or so years ago, I never had much issue with skin products. I could use any lotion I wanted and fragrances did not bother me one bit. I even used to wear perfume! Gradually, though, I noticed that my skin was starting to get itchy sometimes. I had little patches of rashes that would spring up, especially around my hairline. At the time, I was trying really hard to be environmentally responsible and use all natural, plant based hair products and lotions. I didn’t really stop to think that if my sinuses were allergic to plants that my skin was likely allergic as well! At the same time, I noticed that perfumes started really bothering me. Some would give me headaches that would occasionally turn into migraines and some would just make me sneeze. Now, there are times when I actually have to leave a room if someone with strong perfume enters.

Because of all these weird issues, I have to actually look for skin products that do not contain plant products, which means they are usually full of icky chemicals. At the same time, they need to have a scent that I can tolerate. As you can imagine, my choices are really limited, especially when it comes to lotions. Over the past few years, I have spent a lot of money trying out all different types of lotions and have never been able to find one that I totally love. One or two are alright, but most are not.

So, I finally decided to take matters into my own hands and try making my own. I actually got this idea from my friend Katie who pointed me in the direction of some useful websites. My first project was the sugar scrub that I featured in December. I have tweaked that recipe a bit since then and started using it once or twice a week in the shower. It’s been wonderful at relieving the dry flaky skin on my legs! No more snake skin legs for me.


Next, I took the plunge and ordered a bunch of stuff to make my own lotion bars. Have you heard of lotion bars yet? They are basically lotion in solid form that you can rub on your skin. The bonus is that they won’t leak in your purse unless left in a hot place and you can leave them in your bags when you go through airport security since it is not a liquid. They typically have natural ingredients and are better at moisturizing. I have noticed that a lot of liquid lotions only work for a short time and after a hand washing or an hour or two, another application is needed. This is not the case with most lotion bars I have tried. However, it is really difficult to find lotion bars that have no added scents. Many include various essential oils, which I know are supposed to have some great benefits, but if they give me a headache or make me sneeze, then those benefits aren’t worth it for me. I am sure you can see why I decided to make my own.


For my lotion bar, I decided to start with just four basic ingredients that I knew would not bother me: Shea butter, Cocoa butter, Coconut oil, and Beeswax. While I was at it, I decided to make these as green as possible and ordered only ingredients that were certified organic. The process and recipe is super simple. To make them, I weighed out equal amounts of all the ingredients and melted them together. If you have a stove with one of those warming burners, that is a perfect place to melt them.


Then, I poured them into molds. In this case, I used paper cups.


Wait until they are cool and firm, then pop them out.

To use, rub between your hands until the bar gets a little slippery and then massage the lotion into your skin. At first, your skin may feel a tad greasy or tacky, but wait a few minutes and your skin will absorb it. I wasn’t sure what to expect from these homemade lotion bars. I have bought and tried several other versions before and they have all been pretty good at moisturizing. However, none of them left my skin feeling as soft and silky as these bars did. After the first couple of days, I noticed that my hands were soft and felt moisturized even through several hand washings or a bout of doing dishes. I even tried the lotion on my younger son’s cheeks, which tend to get very dry and chapped, but he has super sensitive skin. Any other lotion I have used on his cheeks has made him break out in a rash. But, with this lotion bar, his cheeks were much less chapped and there was no rash. Even my husband likes the stuff and asked for some to take to work. He also commented on how it does not seem to need as many repeated applications as most lotions. Happy Happy!


And here is another thing we love about them: they smell faintly of chocolate from the cocoa butter. Many other unscented products that I have bought tend to have not so pleasant odors. There may be no perfumes, but they might smell…odd. But, these smell great and if you can tolerate smelling a little like chocolate for 10-15 minutes, then I think you will like them.

So, I really encourage you to try your hand at making these if you have troubles like mine. Or, if you aren’t inclined to DIY, I have put some up for sale in our etsy shop: 1514Homemade. We have made two sizes, a .5oz travel size and a bigger 1.25oz handy size. I love the travel size for carrying around in my purse. The handy size is perfect for the bathroom or kitchen. We’d be happy to send you some!

Now, I have got the DIY skincare bug and have started researching how to make my own soap bars and shampoos. I am really looking forward to the next thing!

Summer Happenings

Summer has officially arrived here. School is done for now (well, except for a couple of things that we year round). To celebrate, we took the boys to Hershey Park for a day of stand-in-line-for-an-hour followed by a minute-of-excitement. The husband and I seemed to be the only ones who minded this imbalance.


I actually got a little bit of knitting done while we were at the park. The boys went to play at the water playground by themselves, much to the anxiety of my mother’s heart. They are really growing up fast!


Back at home, I have been making good progress on my ruby red test knit. I am quite loving this breathless dk yarn by Shalimar and am really looking forward to being finished with this project. We’ve had some days over 90 degrees recently and that’s just too hot to have a pile of wool in my lap!


In other summery news, I have decided to take the plunge and open an etsy shop! For now, I am selling stitch markers. In my first few days, thanks to my loyal Ravelry friends in the ThreeBagsFull group, I sold almost the entire stock I had prepared, which was really surprising and exciting and scary to me.


The shop is called 1514Homemade, a name that the older son came up with years ago. I can’t remember how it came about, but we were discussing some baked yumminess that I had made and how we could sell them. That lead to a discussion on what we would name the shop and he suggested 1514Homemade, which incorporates our house number. I considered naming it after myself or the blog, but really, every one here in this house has a hand in the things that get made. The boys have helped me a lot with the stitch markers by threading beads and helping with organization. The husband is an invaluable resource on all things related to materials science and production processes. Any venture that happens is truly a group effort here.


Right now, the shop has a few items left, but if you look at the sold items and see something that you want, you can always submit a custom order request. For now, I am thinking of updating the shop once a month or so. Eventually, I may try selling other things besides stitch markers as well. Quilts or pillows, maybe? Or the odd knitted item. We’ll just have to see where this leads me. I’ll be sure to keep you posted.

So, how is your summer going? What new things are you trying?