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Riding the New Texrail Train

Tuesday afternoon we wanted something fun and cheap to do, so we decided to ride the new Texrail train. Instead of going to Sundance Square like usual, we decided to head east instead. The end of the line is DFW Airport. Rather than go there and have nothing to do for forty minutes except sit on the train and wait for it to head west again, we decided to get off in Grapevine.

Waiting for our train home.

The historic part of Grapevine around the train station has a blacksmith’s shop, a glassblowing shop, and some informative landmark plaques to check out. They also have a lot of boutiques and wine shops. While we were there, the blacksmith was closed. I’m not taking two of my three children into a shop filled with glass, so we mostly hearded cats walked up and down Main Street.

Skating statues in Grapevine.

We did stop in to  Kilwins for fudge and ice cream. Later down the road, we came across JudyPie, an adorable little pie shop. We were excited to see that JudyPie even has gluten-free pies. Since we had already had dessert, though, we settled for coffee and hot chocolates, one of which spilled in their lovely shop.

JudyPie

All in all, though, it was fun. Thadd has begged each day to ride the train again. Today is the last day to ride the Texrail for free, so I’m contemplating doing it again. This time, though, we might take it all the way to the airport. Sitting on a train for forty minutes doesn’t sound so bad.

Thadd on the train.
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Easy DIY Talc-Free Body Powder

With all the concerns in the news surrounding talcum powders again, many people are looking for a talc-free alternative to their favorite body powder. While you can purchase talc-free powder, making it yourself is simple, allows you to customize it, and is super inexpensive. Better yet, you probably already have everything you need.

Body Powder Recipe

Ingredients:

3/4 cup of Cornstarch

1/4 cup of Baking Soda

10-ish Drops of essential oil (optional)

Make it:

Combine the cornstarch and baking soda in a bowl or jar. Give it a stir or shake to mix. If you’re using an essential oil, add it now, then stir or shake some more to distribute.

Use it:

I keep mine in a jar and use a fluffy makeup brush to dust it where I need it. It works great as an all-over dusting powder, deodorant and shoe deodorizer. You can also dust a little in your hair in place of dry shampoo. For that, I like to put it in my hair at night and then brush it out in the morning.

Customize it:

The basic recipe is 3 parts cornstarch to 1 part baking soda, so you can use that 3:1 ratio to make as much or as little as you need. 

Add more or less essential oil based on your preference. You can also use your favorite perfume to make a coordinating dusting powder.

If you find this formula too drying, reduce the amount of baking soda, or omit it all together.

Not a fan of cornstarch? Try using arrowroot. I personally haven’t tried it, so if you do, let me know how it works.

For babies, I recommend just plain cornstarch as baking soda might be too harsh. If you want to scent it, add a couple of drops of lavender essential oil. Essential oils aren’t generally recommended for babies under six months, so take that into consideration. 

If you like using this as a dry shampoo and have dark hair, you can add a little bit of cocoa powder to the mix to make it less noticeable if you don’t get it brushed out completely.

Re-purpose a shaker jar, such as a spice or Parmesan cheese jar, rather than using a brush or puff to dispense.



Find more of my tutorials here: Tutorials.

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Heating a Rice Pack Without a Microwave

Hot rice packs are wonderful tools for easing muscle aches, cramps, and just comforting to use in cold weather. I prefer rice packs to electric heating pads because you’re not tied to an electrical outlet.

About six months ago, though, I got rid of our microwave. I have some concerns about whether they are healthy, and we rarely used it anyway. Even if the potential health risks are exaggerated or non-existent, I don’t like having things that don’t get used taking up space. Since it was summer in Texas, I didn’t really miss my rice packs. Now that it’s cold, I wanted to find a way to heat them without caving and getting another microwave.

I’ve seen some things that say anything other than a microwave is a fire-risk, so if you try to heat a rice pack in an oven, please use caution. 

Basic oven method

When researching, I found many people say to use an oven set to about 200 degrees Fahrenheit for thirty minutes. They also said to put the rice pack on a metal tray or roasting pan, and to have a pan or oven-safe dish of water alongside it to keep it from getting too dry.

My method

I was a little concerned that I may forget about it, and my oven doesn’t have a window so keeping an eye on it would be difficult. I do have a counter-top convection oven, so  that is what use. I like that the door is glass, so I can see in. It also has a timer that turns the unit off once time is up, so even if I get distracted I don’t have to worry about it over-heating. 

I always place the rice pack on a tray and put a dish of water in with it as others have suggested. I also make sure any rice packs I heat in the oven are made with 100% cotton fabric and thread. Synthetics melt easier and burn faster, whereas cotton can withstand a pretty high heat and burns slower, so cotton seems like a safer choice. 

I started with 200 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-30 minutes. It worked, but I needed it hotter. I upped it to 300-325 degrees for 15-20 minutes. At that temperature, sometimes I have to let it cool for a minute or wrap it in a towel, but it works better for me than the lower temperature. I tend to push the limit with heat, though, so 200 degrees for thirty minutes is probably plenty for most.

Probably safer method

One other method I’ve seen is to preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, TURN IT OFF, and place the rice pack (on a tray with heatproof dish of water next to it) in the preheated oven. I haven’t tried this yet, but having the oven hot but turned off seems like it would minimize any risk of the rice pack overheating and burning. If I didn’t have the convection oven, I would probably use this method. 

The standard microwave method

Using a microwave is still the recommended method. To heat rice packs in the microwave, warm it in the microwave in 15 second intervals until you reach the desired temperature. Some people recommend placing a cup of water in the microwave as well.

Basic safety

Whether you use a microwave or an oven, be mindful that they can vary in power. ALWAYS test the temperature of the rice pack before using and never leave the microwave or oven unattended while heating. You should never use heat packs on individuals who are unable to let you know if it feels too warm on their skin.

Lavender rice packs at SubEarthan Cottage

SubEarthan Cottage now offers large 100% cotton flannel rice packs. These are filled with a blend of rice and lavender buds for a pleasant hint of lavender. I sewed channels in the flannel to help keep the rice evenly distributed. They can be heated as described above, or kept in the freezer to use cold. Find all of my rice packs here.

 

Lavender rice packs at SubEarthan Cottage.
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Frankincense and Myrrh Soap is Back!

Frankincense and myrrh was one of my first customer requests years ago when I began soap making. Over time, there’s been a few variations in the recipe.

For the first time ever, this year’s Frankincense and Myrrh soap is 100% synthetic fragrance free. Instead, I used pure frankincense and myrrh essential oils. Then, I added a touch of orange Valencia essential oil to sweeten it. The end result is a warm, piney scent. It is a bit more subtle than what you get with synthetic fragrance oils, so the scent isn’t overwhelming. Plus, you get the benefits of true essential oils.

I also formulated this batch to lather up like my other shampoo bars. For travelling, shampoo bars are the way to go. With a bar, there’s no worries about leaking in your luggage or TSA liquid restrictions. No plastic bottles also means no BPA concerns and less environmental impact.

Everyone needs soap. Frankincense and Myrrh handmade soap makes a great stocking stuffer or small gift for teachers or coworkers. Right now, use coupon code “ShopSmall18” for 30% off your entire order at the SubEarthan Cottage shop

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Sunbeam Mixmaster Update

Last Thanksgiving I bought a Sunbeam Mixmaster to help with all the gluten free baking. This Thanksgiving, I broke my Sunbeam Mixmaster by sticking a plastic spatula between the beaters while it was mixing blueberry muffins. Broke as in pieces fell out of the machine and the beaters stopped spinning. It’s probably a good idea to turn off a mixer before scraping the bowl.

A quick internet search told me I probably broke the plastic drive gears, and the remedy for that was a dumpster burial. At that point, I figured it wasn’t going to get worse, so I had nothing to lose by taking it apart and seeing for myself if it was reparable.

When I finally figured out how to open it, everything looked fine. No sign of anything broken, and the plastic gear that turns everything had minimal wear. The part that latches the beaters in place looked fine. I couldn’t find anything that looked like it was missing the tiny broken pieces. Little pieces that, after thinking more about it, looked oddly like the little tabs on the beaters…

At that point I grabbed the the beaters and compared them to the rarely used dough hooks. Sure enough, the tabs were missing from the beaters but not the dough hooks. Yay! Replacing beaters is cheap and easy. The only problem was now my mixer looked like this:

Luckily I reassembled the mixer without breaking anything. I tested it with a loaf of banana bread mixed with the dough hooks, and it worked fine. Amazon had replacement beaters for about $10, so it should be fully functional in about a week.

My guess is that those tabs are designed to break under pressure if something gets caught in between. While the drive gear is plastic, it’s pretty thick. Even with my mistake and a year of using it almost weekly, it looks to be in good shape. It makes me wonder if some of the people who thought they stripped the drive gear actually just needed to replace the beaters.

In the long run, if money allows, a mixer with an all-metal drive would be better. From my year of use and seeing how little wear there is on the inside, I do think this Sunbeam Mixmaster is a good budget-priced stand mixer. It has mixed everything I’ve thrown at it, including a double batch of banana bread and a meatloaf (separately, of course) with no trouble. Everything, that is, except for spatulas.

Don’t forget: this holiday season, take 30% your SubEarthan Cottage order with coupon code “ShopSmall18”. Valid through December 10, 2018.