Tag: apothecary

Bath Bomb Graveyard

ghost salt cracking

My house is a graveyard of bath bomb suicides.

After at least 5 attempts at making bath bombs my determination turned to dark obsession. I determined that I would not let bath bomb technology defeat me. So I made two more batches that ended in cracking, bubbling, expanding, and half of them actually broke open like they’d shot themselves to death.

I will never understand why it’s so hard for me to make them now when I had no trouble making them a few years ago in a climate considerably more damp and so, in theory, a climate less conducive to projects that are moisture sensitive.

WHAT THE EVER LOVING FUCK IS THIS HELL ALL ABOUT?

While standing over one of several bath bomb grave sites a ray of light fell through my stubborn madness and an alternative idea came to me. Something to divert my efforts away from eventual black hole level implosion of rage. It has, naturally, come packed with its own difficulties.

Enter the moisturizing bath tablet! But OH, it melts in hot weather and needs special packaging (like chocolates) to ship. Bath tablets use baking soda and salt (softening and healing as well as cleansing) and oil to moisturize at the same time. Let me tell you, these things are way nicer than bath bombs on the skin. I don’t take baths these days but I do foot soaks and these babies are amazing on my feet! I’ve got a bunch of testers lined up but have had to wait for thermal bubble mailers because it’s summer and in my dining room one batch of the tablets melted completely.

Is it worth the effort? Will people enjoy these enough to warrant the special packaging and effort?

DO YOU LIKE YOUR SKIN TO FEEL SOFT AND HYDRATED AND TO SMELL GOOD?

HELL YES THEY’RE WORTH THE EFFORT.

And let me tell you, men might not be inclined to buy these but Philip enjoyed them thoroughly and I like his feet a lot better when he takes care of them.

Meanwhile, I’m developing a couple of medicinal teas and I think I’m going to make my first batch of soap this week. I’ve ordered my labels which should arrive sometime next week. That means I’ll be able to re-photograph all the products I’ve already developed which I can then put on my newNEW website.

I’ve also been doing a little preserving of garlic and onions and made a masala paste.

But this week I’m working hard on my sister’s quilt because her birthday is fast approaching and I’m determined to get it to her on time. I just started basting it last night so I’m hopeful I’ll have the whole thing finished by this weekend.

Oh, and I’ve been working out some plotting difficulties in book 2 of Cricket and Grey.

I must be off to work on product packaging and ordering some herbs – I hope you’re all having a productive un-shitty week!

The Lotion Trials: Day Whatever

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I’m officially done making Batch #3.2 (Batch #3 with changes). And it felt drying to my hands but was better than Batch #5 which I HATED WITH EVERY FIBER OF MY BEING AND GRAPE SEED OIL CAN GO TO HELL.

Which is why it’s too bad that I have an enormous bottle of it. I sent Philip off to get some and the only grape seed oil he found was a giant plastic bottle of imported Italian grape seed oil. I only needed 2 tbsp. I don’t trust this bottle of oil. I didn’t like the cut of its jib the minute I saw its giblets shaking – oh hell – I don’t trust it so much that I’m mixing up my metaphors.  My plan is to mix it with olive oil for salad dressing.

Anyway. I’m far from concocting the perfect natural recipe for lotion but I’m learning a lot in the process and having fun.

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Notes on lotion making so far:

Preservatives are necessary. When you start making your own body products and natural medicines you begin to understand that “preservative” isn’t necessarily a dirty word.

Batch #2 developed mold less than 2 weeks after it was made. I’m leaving all my lotions at room temperature to see how long they last. See note above about importance of preservatives.

If you make a lotion using aloe vera gel but don’t add a humectant (such as glycerine) it will make your skin feel dry because it has a mildly astringent quality.

I dislike the smell of rose hip seed oil. So does my mom. But the lotion that worked the best for me (until it molded) had some in it.

Most (all I’ve read so far) lotion making instructions have you add the oil to the water in a thin stream. I had a better result adding the water to the oil.

I truly deeply forcefully hate the way shea/cocoa/coconut oils feel on my skin in their solid state. I also hate the way they smell. I love the smell of coconut milk but coconut oil is -NO.

Grape seed oil can fuck right off.

There’s a lot of science behind even the most natural of lotions and it’s very interesting and makes me want to get into the percentages but that would require a lot of brushing up on math skills and I feel pressure to get on with other product testing and refining as well as setting up the rest of my business. Since I’m not planning to be a lotion company it doesn’t warrant retaking a math class. So I’m trying to work within recipe proportions already developed by others and then changing the oils out and playing with different herbal infusions, etc.

The way Batch #2 turned lumpy was weird. Little tiny lumps but it hasn’t (so far) actually separated.

The foot cream (Batch #4) smells really good and the texture shockingly doesn’t repel me. It’s a variation on a recipe my friend Angela (Cottage Magpie) wanted me to make. I don’t know yet if she likes it or not, but it turned out very stiff but melts when you rub it into your feet. Very greasy finish, however. So for me it’s not great. Philip loves it. He’s taken the rest of the batch upstairs to his and Max’s lair.

I’m beginning to wonder if I possibly just don’t like any of the “butters” and might try making a lotion without any of those.

I don’t love the smell of benzoin. It’s kind of sweet, that’s what I don’t like. I love the smell of frankincense in lotion.

I guess I better get my butt back into the kitchen to clean up for the next batch. Wish me luck. Buckets and buckets of it!

 

Salad, Experimentation, and Clouds

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I finally cracked open one of my jars of pickled Sun Gold tomatoes. They are definitely not nice to touch or eat on their own. I’m specifically reporting this to Lila and Sean who both would really like pickled ripe cherry tomatoes. I’m sorry to say that the skin is loose and the insides are slimy. I took a chance making the recipe because the book that inspired it makes a dressing out of their pickled ripe cherry tomatoes and I thought it sounded great.

I did NOT add the sugar their recipe called for. I hate sweet pickles and I also really hate sweet dressings. Balsamic dressing being the exception – balsamic vinegar has a sweetness to it I don’t mind. Anyway – I put all of the tomatoes and about half the pickling liquid, and the clove of pickled garlic into a container. I added about a third of a cup of olive oil and then spritzed the whole thing until it got as creamy as possible.

I put it on this salad pictured above (iceberg lettuce, roasted cauliflower, croutons, and kalamata olives). It was really wonderful! Since being laid off of work we’ve been eating so much better now that I have the energy and time to cook.

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While waiting for Philip to get the new labels designed I’m working on making new products to add to my line. I did a batch of cardamom vanilla lip balm that turned out really nice. Last night I worked on doing a grapefruit ginger lip balm. This did not go as well. Citrus essential oil flavor/scent seems to disappear when it hits the warm oils and wax blend. I had to add 4 times as much ginger and citrus oil as the other blends just to get the same super subtle flavor my other lip balms have. This has altered the balance of ingredients so that the balm is now too slick on the lips. I’m going to have to do it over once again and add more coconut oil and wax (the coconut oil is solid at room temp and diff than the others)

Hopefully re-batching one more time won’t weaken the flavor. Hopefully I’ll get it right the third time. It’s kind of annoying having to redo this same batch but at the same time I know I won’t be satisfied until I get it right.

That, my friends, is why you want me as your apothecary.

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I’m really happy right now.

I know that my business is going to take a lot of time and a ton of work to turn it into a paying gig, so money might get stressfully tight in a month or two when our surprise cushion from getting some taxes back is gone, but I choose to believe it’s temporary. My old friends here also know that suffering from serious chronic depression means I will still struggle with that in cycles no matter how good things are. That’s just been a fact of life for as long as I know it. My medication makes these inevitable cycles so much milder than they would otherwise be for which I’m deeply thankful.

But right now, this week, the last three weeks, today, I’m simply happy.

All this week I’ve been rereading my manuscript for book 2 of Cricket and Grey and it’s appalling. First drafts are so appallingly bad. I’m forcing myself not to edit. Technically the stuff I’m rereading is all second draft and just as appalling as the first. But I stopped writing the first first draft in the middle of the book. So when I pick up the thread and start writing it again it will be first draft material tacked onto a second draft first half of the book. Don’t worry if that was crazy-convoluted and you don’t follow. The main point here is that I’m  preparing to work on my book again and it feels fan-fucking-tastic!

To be honest, the first draft reads like I’m coddling Cricket and Grey apologetically for making them go through all the horrible shit they went through in book one. Coddling your main characters doesn’t always do them the favors you think it does and it certainly does nothing for readers. I think I needed to get it out of my system.  If you live in a dystopian future in which you can’t afford basic medical care, the government only intervenes with self interest but lets you hang otherwise, and you can’t find a packet of Haribo gummies anywhere – there have to be some comforts like love and friendship, right? A little down time by a late winter fire and a feeling of safety…

Perhaps I’ve been hard on myself with this second book because I know I want it to be even better than the first. I’m proud of my first novel but I see SO MUCH room for tightening up my writing style, for tightening up plot, for enriching the reader’s experience of scent and sound and sight. I think that’s a separate post just on writing.

I’m off to read a little more manuscript and work on that lip balm. I hope you all have a great Thursday!

 

Secret Messages on Pancakes

tiny GJ plane

The last thing I did before waking up was write a plea on a pancake to be broken out of prison. I signed my pancake note with spun sugar. Right before that there was a strip of desert and a bunch of people hunting snakes but the last pair of people who galloped after a snake ended up killing a deer. Before that there was an epic terrible time in a small Scandinavian town in the mountains that was also connected with the ocean. I was there to visit a friend and hide out from some bad people looking for me and I sat on a bench in her shallow pool surrounded by artwork trying not to be pulled over the edge of the pool into the ocean or the abyss or some sort of death related scenario. I returned to her living room, a cramped (cozy) little bridge of a room under which you could see her garage. Which was on fire. We couldn’t put it out. It seemed certain she was going to have to relocate and I knew she wasn’t going to. There was a point where I wandered into town for some shopping but it turns out the shopping center was in Australia or New Zealand.

I truly don’t have restful dreams. Maybe no one does. At least it ended with a note on a pancake, you know?

During this week of not writing much at all, again, I did come to the realization that I need to change a few details that mean going back and making a lot of adjustments. It means more rewriting when I haven’t even gotten past chapter 11 yet. I will be working on that today so I can move on to chapter 12. The changes are good and will make the story much better. Designing a post apocalyptic prison life is harder than you’d think.

I have been doing some serious thinking on so many things these days my head hurts.

Yesterday afternoon I started having sharp chest pains and joked about my end of days, as I always do, but after a couple people tried to convince me it was either gas or heartburn, other people were more alarmed and suggested going to the doctor immediately. This fed my initial irrational fears of having a heart attack and made me question my decision to not take it seriously. I’ve had this happen before and I was fine. As a person with clinical anxiety I have to constantly find the line between hypochondria and medical neglect due to fear of just being a hypochondria. When your very first thought with every single pain or weird body thing is: IT’S PROBABLY A TUMOR THAT’S TOO ADVANCED TO OPERATE ON AND I’M GOING TO DIE, or I’M PROBABLY HAVING A HEART ATTACK AND AM GOING TO BE DEAD BY TOMORROW MORNING, or THIS IS THE DAY I FIND OUT THAT WEIRD PATCH OF SKIN IS THE BEGINNING OF MY SLOW PAINFUL DEATH BY SCLERODERMA , you learn to stop and discuss with yourself the vast unlikeliness of any of those dire reasons for the little headache or the weird rough patch of skin.

I can’t afford to go to the emergency room unless I’m so obviously sick or bleeding out that the biggest medical skeptic in the world would be scared for my life too. In my big effort not to give in to hypochondria I am sometimes at greater risk of not going to the doctor when there’s a good reason to do it. Going to the doctor and being gently laughed at for what turn out to be nothings makes a hypochondriac feel like total and utter garbage.

I’m still having the small stabby pains in my chest this morning. I don’t really know what to make of it but since there are zero other signs of problem I’m still telling myself it’s just some kind of anxiety thing. I am simultaneously considering calling the doctor on Monday to see if I should be worried for real.*

The season of artificial cheer has already filled me with the desire to rip down all Christmas decorations I come across and blast Laibach’s “Let It Be” cover album in every place I hear horrible Christmas music.

Every time Philip tells the dog to be “Calm” and repeats it over and over I get increasingly less calm.

I sold 7 salves in the last couple of days thanks to being included in The Kitchn’s list of stocking stuffers.

15 Stocking Stuffers That Don’t Suck

I’ve sold out and am making a new batch. This reminds me how much I love making potions. Doing apothecary work is deeply satisfying. This fresh batch includes some of my home grown comfrey so that’s an extra level of excitement! Oh, and some of the plantain was wild harvested by me and Max. I’m finally going to make my lip balm this weekend too. The oil infusion has been ready for weeks but I couldn’t decide on a couple of other ingredients until now. I’m going to do a peppermint and a chocolate version.

In my wildest dreams I make an actual living selling my herbal remedies and my novels. This week the fantasy is pretty healthy. It frequently dies in my heart during bouts of uncertainty and depression caused by lack of sales or interest from others. But I always bounce back. Been bouncing back from crippling bouts of self doubt since 1980.

My mom goes into surgery again on Monday. They need to fix a hernia and also move her insides around to pull her abdominal muscles back together because they have separated. I’m not scared this time around. This is a much less risky surgery than the previous ones and it’s semi-elective. The hernia isn’t hurting her now nor causing any problems – but if she doesn’t get it taken care of, it’s a time bomb.

It’s been raining a lot in the last two weeks and I love it. I LOVE IT! I hope we get a lot more. I’m greedy for rain. GIVE ME ALL THE RAIN.

It’s time for me to sign off and prepare to get some writing done before switching gears to make potions. I hope you all are having a great Saturday!

Know someone with a bad case of book ennui? I have the solution! Get them a copy of Winter; Cricket and Grey:

Need a great wound salve on hand? Winters Apothecary 3x strength wound salve is the best one you can buy!

3x Wound Salve

*Do NOT attempt to diagnose me, or alarm me, or in any way interfere with the delicate balance I’m trying to achieve between my mental illness and my body.