I generally try to avoid anything that seems gimmicky. The whole Black Friday, Shop Small Saturday, Cyber Monday all seem crafted to make people feel like they must buy all the things NOW. Being a small business owner, though, I wanted to address the “Shop Small” thing.
All those cute memes you see about small business owners doing a happy dance with every purchase, the care that goes into creating and packaging a product just for you, and the direct impact your purchase has on an individual or family? They’re all true, for me at least, and for the other small business owners I know. I celebrate each and every sale. I make sure to package every order with care and a handwritten thank-you. Every sale goes towards helping my family directly.
That’s not to say that big business are bad or don’t help their employees or don’t appreciate our business. Not at all. I’d be lying if I said the big blue Amazon truck never stopped at my house or I never shop at Walmart. They absolutely have their place, too. But, if today or any other day throughout the year you are able to make a purchase from a small business, know that we thank you for your support and are celebrating. Probably with a happy dance, although I refuse to post video evidence.
If you’re not in a position to make a purchase from a small business or what they offer just doesn’t fit your needs, there are other ways to offer support. Sharing their information with others that might like what they have to offer is one way. Letting them know what you like about their products is another.
Spread the Love
If you are a small business owner or know of an awesome one, please leave a comment with the shop’s info so that I and my readers can check them out, whether it’s Shop Small Saturday or some random Tuesday. Artists and authors are welcome, too. I would love to have a list of small business to refer to and to share with my friends and family.
Hot rice packs are wonderful tools for easing muscle aches, cramps, and just comforting to use in cold weather. I prefer using a rice pack to an electric heating pad because you’re not tied to an electrical outlet.
A few years 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. At the time, 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.
Please be cautious. 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 never leave it unattended and use extreme caution. All appliances are different, so what works with mine may not work with yours.
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.
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. Because the door is glass, I can see in and keep an eye on things. 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. 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.
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.
Don’t forget! The Creative Home Projects Bundle is on sale this week. I talked more about it in my post yesterday. If you order your bundle before midnight tonight (Tuesday, October 20, 2020, ET), you’ll get a free early bird bonus KiwiCo box one month subscription. Click on the banner below to get yours! Sale ends Friday at 11:59pm ET.
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Whether it’s a new project, work, or just daily life, sometimes it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Maybe you’re struggling to find balance while juggling work, home life and new schooling situations. Maybe a task seems too huge or unpleasant to tackle. It could be that you’re unsure of how a project will turn out, so fear keeps you from making the first move. Maybe there’s just so many other things on your plate that you find yourself too mentally or physically exhausted to tackle that one thing. Here’s a few ideas to get unstuck and moving forward again.
Overwhelmed? These 10 tips will help
When you’re really anxious or don’t know where to begin, doing a brain dump helps. Grab a pen and paper and just write out everything on your mind. Don’t think about it, don’t worry about complete sentences or cohesive ideas, just get everything out on paper. When your done, look it over. Is there a theme to what you wrote, some repeated word or idea or area of focus? Use that to help you determine your next move.
Make a list
Making a list of what needs to be done creates focus. It also takes the pressure off of yourself to remember everything. Once it’s written down, you’re free to focus on one task at a time. Because it’s all written down, you don’t have to keep a running list of everything in your head. As you complete a task, mark it off. Focus on your list getting shorter, not how much is still left to do.
Break it down
If a task seems too big, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Breaking it down into smaller tasks makes it more manageable. For example, if you need to clean the house for company, don’t look at the whole task of cleaning the house. Take it room by room. If that still seems too big, list specific tasks within each room. Don’t say “Clean the kitchen”, have individual tasks like wiping down counters, sweeping the floor, mopping the floor, etc. listed separately.
Some tasks come with a deadline or are more important than others. If there’s a deadline, make a note of that deadline on your list and mark it somehow to make it stand out. If it’s something that is high priority, regardless of a specific deadline, make note of that, too. I like to draw a star next to high priority tasks, and highlight or double star things with a deadline.
Be realistic about what you can accomplish in a day and set goals accordingly. If there are specific tasks that have to be done first, then set your goals around those. Otherwise, your goals could be something like marking off five tasks each day. If you meet your goal, good for you! Do you have the time, energy and desire to mark off a few more? Go for it! Didn’t meet your goal? See if you need to re-evaluate your expectations so as not to get overwhelmed and discouraged. If it was simply a case of other obligations taking too much time, try again tomorrow.
If you have something that needs to be done at a certain time, like an appointment at noon or starting dinner at five pm, set an alarm in plenty of time to stop and get ready. When I have an appointment or event coming up later in the day, it’s hard for me to focus on other tasks, even when I have plenty of time. Knowing that I have an alarm to remind me when I need to stop makes it a little easier.
Set a timer
Setting a timer is useful in a few ways. First, if you find yourself completely unmotivated, pick a task and set a timer for five, ten or fifteen minutes, whatever seems manageable. You can do anything for five minutes. Pick a task and see how much you can accomplish in that time. When the timer goes off, give yourself permission to stop for a break or switch to a a different task. I often find that when the time is up, I’m so close to finishing that task that I want to keep working.
You can also use a timer to break up a bigger task into smaller chunks of time. Give yourself thirty minutes or an hour to work on a bigger job. When your time is up, stop and take a break or give yourself a five to fifteen minute window to knock out a few quick tasks. This helps you keep the little things from snowballing while you work on a big project.
Finally, setting a timer helps with time management. Everyone needs a break now and then, but it’s easy to allow a quick break to turn into an hour of getting off task. Decide how long of a break you want, set a timer and stick to it.
If timers work for you, you may want to checkout Flylady. I’ve used that method of home organization in the past and found it really helpful. It’s particularly helpful with establishing routines and taking everything in “baby steps” so you don’t get overwhelmed with the process.
Do you ever find yourself doing nothing just waiting for something. Things like waiting tem minutes for dinner in the oven or sitting on hold on a phone call. Use waiting time that’s often wasted to knock easy tasks off your list.
Just do it
Sometimes there’s a task that I put off because I find it really unpleasant. Usually that leads to putting off other things, because that task is hanging over my head. Often it’s something simple like making a phone call to set up an appointment. There’s no way around getting some things done, so give yourself a minute to stress if you need and jump in. Once it’s done, you can mark it off your list and wonder why you put it off for so long. If it really was that bad, at least it’s done.
Sometimes your accomplishments are their own reward, and sometimes not so much. Give yourself little incentives, even if it’s just ten minutes of playing a game, or a cup of tea and your favorite show. Knowing that something enjoyable comes after something unpleasant is motivating, especially after a “Just do it” task.
Not everything is as easy as just make a list and do it, but when you’re feeling overwhelmed, using these strategies where they do apply can help free up energy for dealing with the more difficult problems life throws at you.
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In the past, I often featured handmade or vintage shops on Fridays. Over the years, the world of crafting and blogging has changed dramatically. I would love to resume Feature Fridays, but with a broader scope.
Handmade shop and websites are still welcome. I also want to feature guest writers sharing tutorials, tips, advice, recipes, etc. Categories that I feel are a good fit for this blog are crafting, sewing, sustainability, refashioning, healthy living, parenting, hair and beauty tips for busy moms, homeschooling and homesteading. I am open to other topics as well, so if you are interested but don’t quite fit into one of the above categories, please contact me anyway with your idea.
Guest posts will be promoted across my social media sites frequently throughout the week they are published and then periodically after.
Handmade shop/website features
For handmade shop/website features, answer the questions in the following list and email them to [email protected]. I will contact you before your shop is featured and if any clarification is needed. You can give as much or a little info for each section as you are comfortable with sharing. Be sure to include links to your shop, web page and blog, if you have them. If you sell your products in a brick and mortar store and would like to include that info, you may include that as well.
I also choose a favorite item from your shop on the week that you’re featured and briefly tell why I like it. The first image from your shop for both your favorite item and my favorite item will be included in the blog.
Name and Business Name
Tell us a little about yourself and your business.
What made you get started in your business?
Anything else you’d like to share?
Tell us about your favorite item listed in your shop.
Links to your shop, website, blog, etc.
Email address (This will NOT be published)
Guest posts, tutorials and everything else
Please contact me at [email protected] with your idea. If you already blog, a link to your blog or site where your writings are published is also helpful. Newbies are welcome, too. I’m also not opposed to reposts if they are a good fit and your own work.
If I think your idea is a good fit for SubEarthan Cottage, I will let you know and we will work out the details from there.
Making soap is like magic. Seriously, think about it: You take stuff that makes things feel greasy, mix it with stuff that would eat your face off and, if you do it just right, the end result is a wonderful bar of non-drying, skin-loving, fluffy-lathering soap.
Soapmaking is fun, but safety is a priority when dealing with sodium hydroxide, aka lye, aka the eat-your-face-off stuff. This is just a brief overview of the soapmaking process I use. Please do not use this as a complete how to guide. If that’s something you’re interested in, please, leave a comment and I will direct you to some more thorough resources on soapmaking.
Melting the Oils
Creating soap takes two basic things: oils or fats and an alkaline solution. In order to combine the oils and alkaline solution, the oils have to all be in liquid form and uniformly mixed. So, step one is measuring and melting the oils. For precision, all measuring is done by weight. Since I use a Crockpot for my hot process soapmaking, I add all my weighed oils to the Crockpot, then melt and mix them in the pot. For soapmaking, I generally use the low setting, but if I need to jump start the melting process I will start it on high then turn it down after a few minutes. This Crockpot is similar to the one I use.
Measuring the Lye
While the oils are warming in the Crockpot, I weigh the lye. It is important to be very precise when measuring the lye. Too little and the soap will be too soft. Too much and the soap could burn your skin. This is also why you need to be very careful about the soap recipes you use. If they are not correctly formulated, the end result could be dangerous.
Before I measure the lye, I measure the water or other liquid for the lye solution, also by weight. I do that first to limit the time I have the lye out.
I make sure to measure the lye into glassware and all containers and utensils that come into contact with lye or the lye solution are reserved solely for that purpose. Once the lye is out, I never leave it unattended. Lye crystals resemble table salt, which would be a potentially deadly mix-up. That’s also why my soap production has slowed since Thaddeus was born. Until they are old enough to understand the importance of staying out of the room and can be trusted out of sight but in earshot for the time it takes to get the soap cooking, I only make it when they are either out of the house or asleep with Chris there to tend to them if they wake up during the process.
Mixing the Lye Solution
Once my lye is measured, I add the lye to the water and stir with a wooden spoon until dissolved. Lye fizzes up when mixed, so it is important to have the liquid in a container with plenty of room. The solution with also get really hot and put off fumes, so be prepared. I like to have a window open or fans and the vent a hood running. Some soap makers mix the solution outside, but I like to stay close to my work space to limit the chance of spills.
Blending the Oils and Lye Solution
For cold process soapmaking, it is important to have the oils and lye solution at about the same temperature. With the Crockpot hot process method I use, I find I can mix the lye solution into the warmed, melted oils without having to measure the temperatures first.
When you first add the lye solution to the melted oils, the color will change from clear to opaque. In order to properly combine the lye and oils, I use a handheld stick blender. You can stir by hand, but it is much harder to get everything properly blended and it takes f-o-r-e-v-e-r. I have had a stick blender die in the middle of making a batch of soap and it is a crazy long arm workout. I do not recommend it.
Goal of Blending
The goal for all the hard mixing is called “trace”. Basically, I’m wanting to be able to lift my blender out of the mixture and trace a design on top. With cold process, there are various stages of trace that guide when to add any fragrance, essential oils or other add-ins. Since I use the hot process method, I add almost everything after the cook. Because of that, I can mix my batches to a full, hard trace where my traced design doesn’t melt back into the mix. This limits the possibility of a false trace, or the mix seeming to quickly come to trace when it isn’t thoroughly mixed. When that happens, it might separate or have lye heavy spots.
Once it is at a hard trace, I stop mixing and put the lid on the Crockpot. If the mix seems too hot, for example, I had a false trace that I had to stir through, I will either turn the Crockpot to warm or off for a few minutes. Otherwise, I make sure it is on low and busy myself with cleaning up, lining my soap molds, and preparing essential oils and other additives.
Any lingering lye solution or soap mixture on the blender is still a risk for lye burns, so I’m cautious with the cleanup. For the whole soapmaking process, I keep a good amount of water with vinegar and a bit of dish soap ready in the sink. The vinegar helps neutralize the lye, so anything that comes into contact with lye goes directly into the vinegar solution, and I use a similar vinegar solution to wipe down my soapmaking area, just in case.
Stages of Saponification
During the cooking, the soap mix will change from an opaque, milky color to a shiny, translucent gel like texture. A pool of liquid also forms on top. that pool of liquid is glycerin, a byproduct of the saponification process. This transformation starts at the edges of the pot and happens in a wave moving towards the center. I find it really fun to watch.
Finishing the Batch
When the entire soap mixture is translucent and the consistency of mashed potatoes without lumps, I turn off the heat and stir the soap by hand for just a couple of minutes to let it cool. At this point, if done correctly, the mixture completely transformed to soap. I don’t want it to cool too much, or it would be hard to add the essential oils, but too hot and it will burn off the scent.
I then add any essential oils blended in my chosen carrier oil and any other add-ins I’m using in that batch, stir thoroughly by hand, and plop it into my molds. Since it is thick, I generally have to tap my molds on my counter firmly to eliminate air pockets.
Curing the Final Product
Because the saponification process is completed during the cooking, the soap is totally safe to use as soon as it is cool enough to touch. It needs to cool in the molds for 12-24 hours or so to hold it’s shape, though. Once it is firm enough to cut, I cut and wrap the bars. While not necessary, hot process bars still benefit from curing for at least a week or two to allow excess moisture to evaporate. As I discussed in my Proper Care and Feeding of Your Bar Soap post, the firmer and drier a bar of soap is, the longer it will last. That’s one of the reasons I wrap my soap in cloth rather than plastic. Cloth allows the soap to continue to harden for a longer lasting bar.
Here’s a few common questions about Kombucha. I’ve answered them based on my research and personal experience.
How much should I drink?
If you’ve never had Kombucha before, you’ll want to start slowly. Kombucha can have a detoxifying effect that can be unpleasant if you rush it. It is recommended to start with about an ounce per day at first and gradually increase until you reach a comfortable level for you. If you notice any ill effects cut back or stop for a few days to let your body catch up. Drinking lots of water can help, too.
Of course, you should always listen to your body. If you feel like you can’t tolerate kombucha don’t push it. There are plenty of other ways to get probiotics. Also, I’m not a doctor, and the above might not apply to everyone depending on your personal health. If you have any concerns, definitely consult your doctor.
Can I use metal utensils when making Kombucha?
Metal tea kettles for boiling the water are fine. It’s fine to stir the tea and sugar together with a metal spoon before adding the SCOBY. What you want to avoid is the SCOBY coming into contact with metal as that can damage the SCOBY. Even then, I have heard very brief contact is ok, such as when cutting up a giant SCOBY. I prefer to peel apart the layers and avoid metal touching my SCOBYs, though.
Can I use honey/stevia/coconut sugar/some other sweetener?
The sugar is food for the SCOBY and plain white sugar is recommended because it is easy for the SCOBY to digest. I have heard of some people having success with other sugars, but I haven’t tried it myself. If you want to try another form of sugar, I would start with a small batch and keep another SCOBY in a tea/white sugar brew as backup.
Stevia or other zero calorie sweeteners will not work because they don’t provide food for the SCOBY.
Can I use flavored teas?
Not for the main brew. You can use flavored teas to add flavor in a second ferment.
Can I use decaf teas?
This is another one where I’ve heard conflicting information. Most say not to use decaf tea. If you want to try decaf, as with different sugars, I would start with a small batch and keep another SCOBY in a regular tea/white sugar brew as backup.
My SCOBY looks funny. Is it bad?
Most SCOBYs look funny. They can be smooth and creamy colored or have air pockets and brown spots. The bottoms usually have brown stringy tentacle things hanging down. New SCOBYs grow on top of older ones until they look like a stack of slimy pancakes. (Eww.) All of this is normal, and there’s probably a million variations I haven’t described.
There are two main things to watch for: mold and black. If your SCOBY molds, it will look like blue-green dusty mold, just like what grows on bread. If you get mold, throw it all out and start over.
Black means the SCOBY is dead or dying. Toss it.
My Kombucha tastes like vinegar. What happened?
Kombucha is supposed to taste vinegary, but if it’s too strong you can always mix it with something like juice to make it more palatable. You can also use super-vinegary Kombucha in place of apple cider vinegar in recipes. If it’s straight vinegar with no sugariness left, you could use it as a hair rinse or for household cleaning where you would use ACV.
To make future batches less vinegary, there’s a couple of things to try.
1. Kombucha brews faster in warmer weather. If it’s been hot, try a shorter brew time and/or increasing the amount of sugar in the brew.
2. If your SCOBY is getting super thick, split off some layers. More SCOBY = shorter brew time.
My Kombucha is too sweet. What happened?
The easiest fix is to let it brew longer. If it’s cold, moving your jar to a warmer location may help. I think the ideal range is somewhere around 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit.
You should also check the condition of your SCOBY. If it is turning black, you’ll want to replace it.
Should I store my SCOBYs in the refrigerator?
No. You want to avoid extreme temperatures because they can damage the SCOBYs. The best range is between 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit.
To store your extra SCOBYs, place them in a lidded jar with at least enough Kombucha for them to float and store in a cool-ish location, such as a pantry or shelf out of direct sunlight and away from heat sources.
If you’re new to refashioning or sewing clothing in general, loungewear is a great place to start. It’s less intimidating because, since you’ll only be wearing it at home, it doesn’t have to be perfect. This refashion project is perfect for a beginner because you only need two t-shirts to make it, and it’s mostly straight lines or slight curves.
I originally shared this tutorial a few years ago, before Thaddeus. The weather is beginning to warm up , so it’s a great time to sew some shorts.
I went on a little Pinterest binge a couple days ago looking for ideas to help clear my refashion stash. Saturday night I decided to make a pair of yoga pants out of a t-shirt using this tutorial. I wear a size eight on average, and used an XL adult t-shirt.
Adaptations from the original refashion project
I did make a few changes to the design. First, instead of cutting the shirt down the middle, I cut it down the sides from the middle of the underarm to the hem. This also means you’ll have an inseam and no side seams. That keeps any design on the front or back intact and moves them to the hips.
For the waistband, I cut the underarm seam from the sleeves and squared them up to be two equal rectangles, leaving the hem intact. I sewed the short sides together making a big, short tube from the sleeves. I then put the tube inside the waist of the pants with the pants right side out and the right side of the tube facing the inside of the pants. The raw edge of the tube lines up with the raw edge of the pants. I serged the top together like that. This made it so when the tube is folded down to the outside, the seam is covered.
I sewed it all on my serger. The entire refashion project took less than ten minutes. I probably should have added two minutes and switched from white to black thread. Or not.
If you don’t have a serger, you can use a zig-zag stitch to prevent breakage. Many sewing machines have specialty stitches for sewing knits, too, so check your machine to see if that is an option. This DIY T-Shirt Bag Tutorial has more information on stitch selection for knits.
They are a little loose at the waist. If I were planning to actually do yoga or wear them in public I should probably add some elastic at the seam. Since they will probably be used mainly for watching Doctor Who while sitting on the sofa, I probably won’t bother.
I personally don’t mind the length, but you could easily make them shorter by cutting them off to the length you prefer. Knit doesn’t unravel, so you can leave the edges raw, or turn them under and hem.
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