Tuesday, May 12, 2015

How to make your own lip balm (and where to source the ingredients from)

I’ve been on a quest to de-toxify our home and find natural, eco-friendly alternatives for some of our lifestyle choices. But let me be honest - I’m not a thorough eco-warrior who has banned plastic totally from her life, cloth diapers her child all the time, grows all her food or eats only organic food, has given up make-up or become totally minimalistic.

I’ve chosen the middle path, which marries some of the conveniences of urban, modern life with some of the wisdom of old-fashioned, DIY, natural living. For now, this works for us.

And this is what the middle path looks like on most days: we cloth diaper our son a few times a day but use disposables too; we grow a small portion of what we eat and source a large portion from the local market; we’re slowly exchanging the toxin-laden home cleaning products for homemade cleaners that are just as effective (a post with recipes on that soon). We compost our kitchen waste and make our own wrapping paper instead of buying the shimmery plastic ones.

We’ve still not given up on our plastic utensils, but are also using more of steel and glass in the kitchen. We try to recycle old plastic bags and carry cloth bags while shopping. And, I’m trying to make some of our body care products – body butters, ‘talcum’ powder, lip balms, mosquito repellents, hand sanitizers and toothpaste. (In case you're wondering why I'm doing this of all things - here's what's in our commercial cosmetics.)

If you’ve been trying to add a dash of green into your life and some of these things have piqued your interest, then you might like to give this recipe a whirl. How ‘bout making your own lip balm and ditching those jars of petroleum jelly or tiny pots of store-bought lip balm?

Our homemade, non-toxic, essential oil-infused lip balm

I do love my Lavender Lip Balm (I’ve adapted the recipe from 'My Buttered Life’). It’s nourishing, soothing and natural. It’s easy to make and takes a small sliver of your Sunday to whip some up.

What you need:
30 gm of Beeswax
30 gm of Shea Butter
30 gm of Coconut Oil
10 drops of Lavender Essential Oil (or an essential oil of your choice)
You’ll also need some small containers to store the lip balm in – I recycle old lip balm containers
A saucepan and a pot

Before you start, set up all the ingredients on your kitchen counter. Make sure you have everything at hand.

Grate the Shea butter and the Beeswax with a cheese grater, and keep aside.

Now fill up the pot with water and bring it to a boil. Then, reduce the heat to low.

Drop all the ingredients except the essential oil into the saucepan and place it over the hot water. Stir with a wooden ladle when the ingredients begin to melt and meld together. (Don’t let the mixture bubble and boil).

When the Shea butter, Beeswax and coconut oil have turned into a pool of golden liquid, add the essential oil, give it a quick stir and take it off the heat.

Pour into the containers and let it cool.

Label the containers and use J.

P.S. When I wrote about making your own body butter, a lot of you asked me where I source the raw materials from (in India). I buy the shea butter, beeswax and cocoa butter from Ekta Singh of Green Junction. And I highly recommend her products; do check her Facebook page out.

P.P.S. I found the Story of Cosmetics very interesting. It gives you something to think about, right?

Do join the conversation at my Facebook page!

#naturalliving #diycosmetics #safecosmetics

Saturday, May 9, 2015

7 reasons why I love the sari so much

I’ve been wearing saris avidly for the past 6-7 years.

Summer, the season of Kota Dorias

Before that, I’d wear this 6-yards of unstitched garment once in a while, for the thrill of standing out amongst a sea of business suits or because that’s what the dress code (of the formal military parties) demanded. And it was always a tussle to rig-up this garment, do the pleats, and make sure that I didn’t trip on a bit of sari that hadn’t been tucked-up to the right length. 

Fumble. Stumble. Bumble. Three little words that captured the essence of my sari wearing efforts.

But how and when this transformation happened...this change from viewing the sari as a costume to be rigged up occasionally to loving it for its fluidity and grace, and wearing it as often as I could, still leaves me a bit hazy around the edges.

Here I am in one of my favorite Kota doria saris

So, what is it that I love so much about the sari? What is it that’s getting urban Indian women to open their sari closets just when the dust was beginning to settle in? What is it about this unstitched garment that’s slipping a hint of romance back into everyday dressing?

Here are my reasons:

1. The sari makes you feel like a queen, even on an ordinary day, in an ordinary life situation. You may be in a pastel chiffon or in a breezy cotton sari, walking to work / having coffee with a friend / sitting in your home office working on another deadline / picking up your child from school – but just this ream of fabric can make you feel regal & beautiful. Strange as it may sound, but it does help you see the beauty in your day, the beauty in yourself.

2. The sari stands out. Sometimes, not in a very positive way, especially if you’re amidst a group of people who believe that a pair of pants is more modern, more stylish than a sari (I’ve heard plenty of comments in that genre). But it also stands out in a good way, especially now, when urban Indian women are re-discovering their saris. Choosing to wear a sari sets you apart.

Red's the color of love - a wine red jute silk sari

3. Sari-wearing gets better with time. The more you wear it, the more comfortable it gets on your skin. The more you love it. The more you reach for it. With every sari you wear, your confidence in dressing up in the garment grows. It begins to show in the way you stand tall, the way you walk, the way you carry yourself and that sari you’re wearing. It also shows in the way you accessorize it, the confidence with which you style it. This is what I like about it the most – the ongoing banter with style and the sari.

4. The sari is a good conversation starter. Almost every time I wear a sari, it sparks off a conversation. Often about the sari I’m wearing, and sometimes about why I’m wearing a sari when a pair of pants could have been an easier option. But almost always, a sari will start off a conversation.

This one's a serene & soft chanderi cotton silk sari

5. There is so much beauty, and so much choice in a sari. I still can’t understand when people complain about the sari, saying it’s boring and that it lacks variety when it comes to style. If there’s one thing it’s not, thats boring. Every handloom sari on this planet is different. The fabric of each sari is different, so is the color, texture, story, weave. You can wear it in different ways or style it differently. There’s an abundance of choice right there in your sari closet. And so much beauty. Honestly, there’s no other piece of clothing I find more beautiful than 6 yards of story, woven one thread at a time on a loom. The sari is more than a garment; it’s a craft, and it’s a piece of history.

6. You can never go wrong or look ‘wrong’ in a sari. Whatever be the occasion – formal parties, office meetings, work-at-home deadlines, dinners out or a trip to the mall – you can wear a sari without an apology, without thinking if you’re in the right attire. In the same breath, you can’t go wrong with your look in a sari. You don’t have to worry about sucking in your tummy or checking if the buttons of the shirt aren’t popping out. You don’t have to worry if you’re slim enough or too chubby for a sari. You’re always just right for the sari.

An easy-to-wear Garden Chiffon sari

7. The sari’s gentle on you. It’s forgiving in many ways (you may not like to wear a sari, but it’ll still make you look good when you wear one; it hides your physical imperfections - or what you perceive as imperfections). It makes you more forgiving of yourself. It makes you feel good whenever you wear a sari. And, believe it or not, it often brings out the best in you.

What do you love about the sari? Drop in for some sari banter at my Facebook page.

#100sareepact #sari #saree #saristyle

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

What I've been reading online

I just realized that I haven’t shared some of my favorite online reads for quite some time. Not that I haven’t been reading online much – in fact, far from it. But for a very long time, I haven’t stumbled across any new blogs or websites that had me excited.

Just yesterday, while scrolling through some posts, I came across this lovely lovely (intentional repetition) blog, which is like a balm for a mother’s soul. 

photo credit: samuel zeller

It’s like a cup of coffee brewed just the way you like it. It’s like a book and a sliver of solitude just when you need it the most. And I love the name too – Coffee + Crumbs. A plate of warm cake, wolfed down and savored with a mug of your favorite coffee. Now that’s the kind of place I like to curl up in and read words that are equal parts wise and warm. So, go on over.

In the span of the same day, I came across another blog and it’s offering of e-magazines that I can’t wait to download and read. It’s about a topic that I dig – Creativity and finding creativity in your current phase of life. For me, this last bit is very important, this tailoring of creativity and toning down of aspirations. Of trying to fit in colors and words, dreams and designs into a life that’s already crammed with the needs and wants of a small human being. It’s a lot like slipping in a handwritten note or a watercolor doodle into a bottle and then letting the waves of life, the currents of today, take it wherever it may. Here’s the blog – Crafting Connections and here’s the e-magazine I can’t wait to download.

And now for a post that ties all of this together. Motherhood and words. Dreams and what you can do now. I have been reading Jamie Martin’s words for the past many months, sometimes in the form of her ebooks, sometimes in the form of blog posts. And I like her steady wisdom, her practicality, her serenity. Here’s a post that spoke out to me with its message just when I needed it the most. It reminds me all over again that it’s okay to do what you when you can in this season of motherhood.

What are you reading these days? Join the conversation on my Facebook page.


Saturday, May 2, 2015

How to make your own body butter to nourish your skin this summer

Summer’s on a gallop. The sun’s turning up its heat and we’re already dreading the next few months. It’s at times like this when I crave a little bit of homemade comfort and nourishing. And what better than making a few body care products at home with the freshest of ingredients, all of which are pure and toxin-free.
Summer’s a tricky time – we need to stay moisturized without feeling oily and sticky. 

Homemade body butter whipped up in out own kitchen...

So, when this fiery month comes knocking on our door, it’s time to pack the thick, warming olive oil that we’d been slathering through the cold months and bring out a jar of something that’s luxurious yet non-sticky, moisturizing yet non-oily.

Here at the Bear home (sometimes we’re fondly known as the Three Bears ;-)), we’ve made jars of body butter out of cocoa butter, shea butter and coconut oil, and have been using this as our go-to skincare solution. 

If you’d like to make some for yourself – a jar of pure goodness minus the parabens and the plethora of toxins, here’s the recipe. (We've adapted this recipe from the 'My Buttered Life' ebook series)

Shea butter – 220 gm
Cocoa butter – 110 gm
Coconut oil – 110 gm

1. In a double boiler, gently melt the ingredients till they’ve melded into a molten golden liquid. Stir with a wooden spoon.
2. Take this mixture off the heat and cool to room temperature. After that, pop this mixture into the refrigerator for a couple of hours till it solidifies.
3. Pull out the mixture from the fridge and whip it with a mixer till its light and fluffy.
4. Scoop it into your containers and use it to nourish your skin during the long summer months.

And then...use a scoop of luxurious butter to treat your skin every day :-).

#naturalbodycare #greenliving

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