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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Make your own lip balm

If you are a lip balm junkie and your habit is costing you loads of cash, why not make your own balms? Its so simple to do.

You’ll need: a good lip balm base, flavor oil that is skin-safe/edible, chapstick tubes or small pots or some other tiny containers (our local Dollar Tree store has these travel container sets that include a small round pill case, perfect for a balm pot), Stevia to sweeten your balms unless your flavor oil is presweetened/or you prefer unsweetened, newspaper or waxed paper to protect your countertops, small disposable Dixie cups/pipettes, and a clean medicine measuring cup.
If you are beginner in the bath and body crafts department, never fear! There are all sorts of great balm bases available online. My favorite to use is a mixture of soybean oil, beeswax, sunflower seed oil, cocoa butter, shea butter, and Vit. E. The formulation is perfect...not too thick but very nourishing on the lips. I don’t like to keep all those oils on hand so I prefer to buy a premade base:

Now that you have all your ingredients, start by melting your base in the microwave, slowly, about 35 seconds at a time. After it is melted, let it cool for a brief time. If you add your flavor oil to a base that is too hot, all your flavor/scent will fade away. So give it about 3 or 4 minutes. You want the base to be liquid but not scalding hot. Measure out 1/2 oz. of your selected flavor oil usinf your medicine cup. (I use only presweetened flavors so I don’t have to mess with adding Stevia). Some people may like a stronger balm (up to 1 oz. of flavor per 16 oz. tub of base) but I have found that using Kiss Kwenchers Flavors at 1/2 oz. per tub of base gives an excellent scent and taste, comparable to that of store bought balms. They are sweetened wonderfully!

Stir your flavoring in and then carefully transfer your hot balm into your chapstick tubes/pots using either a pipette or my favorite method, the Dixie cup. I pour only a small amount of hot base into a dixie cup, pinch one side to form a spout, and very slowly our my base in. Pipettes will eventually clog and be almost impossible to reuse. Dixie cups are a great dispoable alternative.

After your balm has set up a bit, go back and top each one off with a few more drops as that will give the well-rounded look of the store bought balms.

I like to buy my chapstick tubes and shrink wraps on Ebay from a couple named Gene and Angie. I get 100 tubes and wraps at a time, which is great as my base makes about 100 balms. It can also be used for solid perfume, cuticle creams, whipped body butters, pet paw balms, under eye stick and so much more!

I have a complete DIY lip balm kit perfect for the beginner or as a supervised slumber party/spa party activity:

Making solid perfume

Making solid perfume is pretty simple.

You'll need:

small clean tins or pots or balm tubes (check in the travel/trial size containers section for plastic pots or in the crafts section of wal-mart for favor tins to use)
16 oz. tub of melt and pour balm base, $7.50 + SH (www.whimsylanecreations.com)
fragrance oil 1/2 to 1 oz your choice of scent; lots of companies sell skin-safe fragrance oils/designer dupes online; I pay about $2.50 for a 2 oz. bottle
plastic squeeze bottle (not necessary but helpful)

Now make it!

Melt the entire 16 oz. tub of balm base carefully in the microwave, checking about every 30 seconds. Never leave it unattended as it can got too hot and catch fire. Freaky.

Let the melted base cool briefly before adding the 1/2 oz. fragrance oil. Stir. if you don't think it's scented strongly enough, go ahead and add the remaining 1/2 oz. Stir again. Just be careful not to add your FO too hot as it will dissipate out along with the steam off the base.

It is helpful to now pour your melted base into a new squeeze bottle (like a Wilton bottle or condiments bottle found in the housewares/picnic section of a dept. store). Hold the bottle with a pot holder and carefully begin filling tubes/ pots/ tins, etc. Pour slowly as to not shoot melted hot base across the room. It does happen.

And remember, I am not responsible for your mishaps.

Let the balm base harden and voila, old-fashioned solid perfume to keep, give, or sell.

Happy crafting!

A Look at Our Homeschool Day

People are often curious about our family when they hear we homeschool. It would take me days to blog about our homeschool and how it affects our lives. But for now I'm just gonna give an example of our not-always scheduled school day.

8:30 --wake up for me. I try to hit the computer to check emails/orders/Ebay item status before running to shower.

9 am---wake up boys; morning chores for all of us and a very simple breakfast. We are not hungry morning people so breakfast is short and sweet, usually cereal or an egg or pancakes. For mom, its a chocolate Wal-mart brand Slim-fast usually, just because they're quick and I actually like them.

10am--ideally our starting time. Sometimes things throw us off, like a migraine on my part. As I age, my migraines are happening more often in the AM than in the PM as in my teen years. If we start any later than this, we seem to be working all day. I let Ash sleep as long as she will 1)because she's a horrible napper and once she's up, she's up forever with no end in sight 2) its gives us time to work on the harder subjects without noise or distractions.

Usually one child will do math/language arts at this time with me while the other works on time4learning.com. Then we trade places. If math and grammar get done, then both boys have little extras they work on, such as typing lessons, Rosetta Stone spanish, extra workbooks I buy here and there, manipulatives, personal Bible time, reading chapter books, educational computer games/sites, scouts/4-H projects, etc. We usually stop right between 12 noon-1 pm for lunch unless we're really involved in something fun, complicated or messy. If so, we plug on and try to finish. Ashleigh has risen during the morning school time, is dressed and fed, and usually is working on her "school work" ( a Walmart pre-k workbook) at her little desk. She actually wants to learn. Its so cute. I wonder how long this will last?!

12-1---usually lunch break, my chore break, planning period, email time, business/hobby time, tv time, and the kid's "recess" all at once! WHEW!

1-3 or 2-4 pm---back to work, depending on lunch time. To be an actual school day, we have to do 4 hours at least. If we do more work, we count that toward another day. Afternoons are spent doing unit studies. We have used units since day 1. The first few years I wrote my own, using the World book Encyclopedia scope and sequence, my kids' interests, and the internet and library to guide me. When more children arrived I no longer had time to pull together my own lessons plans from scratch, so I began buying units. We used and loved Five in a Row and now we are using and loving the Dorian Holt series A World of Adventure. Each volume is based on chronological history and includes everything (even Bible) that you need each day except for math. It's amazing! We'll be starting Volume 2 this fall and Dorian has written so many notes that you need not use the library! The volume is well over 1,000 pages! Occasionally the kids will get tired of doing such intense units and we'll vear off the path and do some field trips or units based on their interests.

The units keep us busy most of the afternoon, but if we do get done, I'll have the kids finish up leftovers from their morning's work or do additional reading on whatever we're studying in the units. Since our units involve a LOT of read-aloud time and discussion, we tend to go outdoors and work on that part at the swing set. Ash plays while the boys swing and listen. If the weather is nicer in the morning or the seasons changing cause us to have imclement weather, we'll flip our day to have reading/outdoor time when its milder.

4 pm-bedtime--we're usually done and off to various activities.

Bedtime comes late at our house. We always stay up to talk to dad on his break and we are night owls, so going to bed early just doesn't work for us. The kids are usually in bed by 11 pm and I may be up until 2 or 3 am. I work on any devotionals during this time, add items to my online store, or make new soaps/products to sell. I have tried since childhood to get on a "normal" schedule but I never feel rested when I do. I can go to bed at 10 pm and get up at 6 am and feel absolutely horrible all day, yawning, foggy-headed, etc. Yet I can be in bed by three am and get up at 9 am and feel wonderful, even though I got less sleep! I have never understood it, but this year I gave myself permission to stop fighting it. We are a much happier and more alert family when we go with our bodies' natural rhythms, as odd as it might seem to morning people.

**note: I just discovered a sleep disorder online called Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome...now I finally get my night-owlish tendencies and why my body works best on an odd schedule. It has to do with our bodies' circadiam rhythyms being out-of-sync with "normal" people. Suddenly there is a logic to my weirdness! :)

Next time: Part 2: "Will I keep my kids home through high school?" and "How can we possibly live off one-income?" (or "Am I killing my hard-working man?")

So there you have it, a look into our school day.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Second TOS item review

Oh, I can hardly contain my enthusiasm over this one!

Thanks to TOS for sending me a free download of their Schoolhouse Planner. I had been trying to look all over the net, pull together forms, and make my own customized family/homeschool/life in general tracking system. This download came just in time and saved me a fortune in paper and ink (not to mention time searching the net for forms and many headaches!).

It is everything (and so much more) than I have been searching for. This planner is 247 pages long. You can print off as many or as few pages as you need, as you need them, making it highly cost-efficient. In brief, it contains forms not just to organize your homeschool, but all the daily life that is built around it.

You'll get these resources: blank calendars, at least 2 recipes every month, school supply resource lists, famous composers, a timeline of inventions, a kitchen conversions cheat sheet, countries and capitals, states and capitals, periodic table with elements, U.S. Presidents and their wives, a history timeline, wonders of both the ancient and modern world, chore training tips, important U.S. documents, famous artists, homeschooling through high school, report cards, planning sheets, course of study sheets, test grading records, end-of-year evaluation forms, educational objectives, 12-year planning sheets, high school hours tracking log, unschooling log, credit hours record, books read, Bible verse memory records, nature journals, audio/video log, co-op and support group information, housekeeping charts, menu planners, medical records sheets, daily chores, budgeting, Bible reading schedule, prayer request lists, numerous articles on homeschooling from top-authors in the field, pet's health log, gift list, loaned/borrowed list, AND THAT'S NOT ALL!

Personally, I like the ease of use on the navigation screen, and the reference resources make it an encyclopedia-of-sorts. My children will be able to use it for looking up forgotten facts or to learn new ones. I will read the articles and glean knowledge and encouragement from them. The helps for our homeschool group and co-op are an unusual addition that I haven't seen in planners before. The measurements will not only be useful for cooking but in converting my homemade soap recipes as well. There are so many ways this will benefit our lives. I cannot wait to print it, bind it, and begin using it!

I could go on and on and would still leave something out of the review of this wonderful tool. If you are unorganized, or wish you were more so, or if you have too many things to oversee (and not enough sanity left to see to them all properly), you need this book.

The Schoolhouse Planner will definitely help me organize my chaotic life, one page at a time, and I believe it will do the same for you.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Next stage of the TOS focus group application process

I received my first two items to download, use mercilessly, and then review. Tonight I will be reviewing one of the two items, The Old Schoolhouse (TOS) magazine digital edition.

I have to say I was uncertain how much I would enjoy having a magazine in digital form. Granted, I am online daily and absolutely love the world of the internet, but there is just something about curling up in bed late at night with a favorite magazine or book and reading until your head bobs and your eyes involuntarily close.

I was also concerned about spending more time than necessary reading a digital magazine on a computer that while, not prehistoric, has certainly seen better days and is using a dial-up internet connection. Would it be a struggle or a joy to use? Would it be an efficient use of my time? Or would the paper version prevail?

While always being a fan of a good old-fashioned read, having TOS in digital form blew me away. The pages did load a bit more slowly (as I had anticipated) but that is an issue that will vary by computer system. Other than that, I have nothing but praises for the magazine online.

Your copy can be viewed as many times as you like. There are lots of nice features right on the screen, from a contents page to a links page, featuring easy access to the magazine ads and sponsors. Page navigation is super-simple, through either one-by-one page viewing or the thumbnail feature which I liked instantly. With the thumbnail option, all the pages load onto your screen at one time, and you can click on and directly open any page you wish.

Can't recall where you saw a certain link or bit of an article and now you need to find it again? Who wants to pore over an entire magazine to do so, and now you don't have to, as TOS digi-mag even has a search feature built right in. And don't forget the "bookmark" feature for saving your place or your favorite articles...no more dog-eared magazine pages for you!

Another obvious perk is we're saving paper by using it, thus being good stewards of the earth.

For those who like to share a beloved magazine with friends after you've read it, you can still do so. You simply email an article by clicking the "share" button.

You can also download a copy right onto your computer to print or view offline later. And if that's not enough, you can change your on-screen display preferences, and view any available archives.

TOS digital edition is more than I expected, very easy to use, and I'm sure you will be blessed by it also.

TOS magazine focus group

This week has been pretty exciting for me. As a homeschooling mom, my days usually consist of directing wiggly children back to their tasks, cleaning up after said children, running the household in Proverbs 31 fashion (and often failing miserably), trying to squeeze in a little home-business time on the side, and barely having the energy for much else. It's a busy life but often routine in the type of busyness I encounter on a daily basis. Then, suddenly life throws an unexpected but pleasant curve, which just happened to me a few days ago.

I had just subscribed to The Old Schoolhouse magazine; many of you will know of it. It is one of my favorite homeschool magazines due to the sheer amount of knowledge and information packed into each issue. Its one of the few magazines where I actually read not only the articles but also the ads and procede to follow the links.

I had gotten two issues almost back-to-back and hadn't even gotten to savor them when an email arrived inviting me to "try out" if you will, to be part of The Old Schoolhouse magazine's focus group. If I am accepted, I will be able to use free homeschool products throughout the upcoming school year and get the chance to share my opinions in my blog and with my homeschool group friends. This is very exciting for me because I tend to be a curriculum collector of sorts, buying, buying, buying, and then becoming dissatisfied because the text or unit study just wasn't what I had expected. Getting the chance to review items could certainly save money, which is becoming increasingly important to me as I am learning to be a good steward of the blessings God has provided us.

For me, the chance to try loads of free products is a dream come true. I am the type that gets excited when it's back-to-school shopping time and all the glossy textbook and classroom supply catalogs arrive in my mailbox (never mind that we don't have a classroom in the normal sense). I enjoy reading all the item descriptions and trying to visualize whether the textbook, computer game, or website in question would transform our year from routine and complicated into beautifully easy-to-understand and miraculously thought-provoking educational bliss. If I get particularly interested an in an item, I might go poking around online at 2 AM reading reviews of the product and still be left wondering if it will affect my family in quite the way if affected the reviewer's family. Now I have the chance to be that reviewer.

I need your help friends and fellow homeschooling parents. Read my blogs when you get the chance. Let me know what you think.

I look forward to sharing not only curriculum views with you, but snippets of my life journey as well.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

best book I've read in a long time

I just rejoined a well-known book club (for the free books and the nifty striped insulated cooler of course) for probably the 5th time in my life. I got an assortment of titles: some parenting helps, a few horror stories to read in the daylight, when my family is home and all the lights are on, and I don't need to shower, and the doors have been checked--twice, and a book called Stolen Innocence by Elissa Wall. Wow. I can't put it down. I'm up at 3 am, still speed-reading until my eyeballs hurt. If you have been more than just a little curious about the whole FLDS church group, this is a must-read. It tells the story of how Elissa grew up in a family with three mothers, multiple siblings, strained relationships, and an arranged marriage at age 15. Pick up a copy. Or better yet, you can have mine when I'm through. Just don't show up to borrow it unexpectedly, late at night, after one of my creepy stories, or you might find yourself the unfortunate victim of a fly-by "booking".