Love DIY and It’s Not ‘Cause I’m Frugal

Now that the cold weather has settled in, I am taking baths again and have discovered something luxurious:  pretty and fragrant bath bombs!  The kind that are sold at Lush for $8 a pop.   While this post is late (better late than never), I made DIY Bath Bombs as Christmas “thank you’s” for the staff at my mother’s nursing home.  It was nice to do something over-and-above chocolates and cookies.  And they ended up being a big hit!

DIY Simple Bath Bombs

These are simple to make and require everyday ingredients.  Ok, the citric acid is a little tough to find but I ended up sourcing it at bulk stores and Amazon.  If you don’t take baths, you can use these pucks as “freshies” to keep your toilet smelling fresh*.

Recipe for DIY Bath Bombs *

  • 1 cup of baking soda
  • 1/2 cup citric acid
  • 1/2 cup Epsom salt
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 3 tbsp oil (I used grapeseed)
  • 20-30 drops essential oils of your choice
  • Food colouring (if desired)
  • Hydrogen peroxide spray (as required)
  • Moulds

Instructions

  1.  Add the baking soda, citric acid and epsom salt together in a large bowl.  Whisk the mixture very well to break up anDIY Bath Bombs expand in the mouldsy lumps.

2.  Add water, oil and food colouring to a glass measuring cup and mix well.  I added different essential oils at this point.  Lemon to yellow, vanilla to blue and rose to red.  While I kept it simple, you can add mixtures of different scents.  It’s really up to you.

3.  Slowly add the liquid to the dry mixture.  I poured very slowly with my left hand while I whisked briskly with my right.

4.  The mixture should be damp enough to stick together when squeezed.  If it is too dry, spray lightly with hydrogen peroxide.

After 48 hours, DIY Bath Bombs are Dry5.  I used different moulds but the best were the ones from Ikea because they were stiffer.  I pressed the mixture firmly into each mould.  There was some minor expansion that occurred.

6. I let them sit in my cold, dry oven for 48 hours.  At this point, they were very dry and hard so popping them out of the moulds was easy.

7. To keep them moisture-free, I wrapped them first in cellophane and then inserted them into small Christmas “food cartons” that close at the top with handles.  Since I was giving them away to strangers, I printed a label with instructions and a list of the ingredients.

DIY Bath Bombs Make a Great Gift

In Summary

I am a novice when it comes to DIY products but it doesn’t matter.  They are many recipes on the web and most items are very easy to make.  Once you get your “pantry” of basic items together, these things cost pennies to make.  For example, I made 60 small bath bombs which cost about $7.15 total.  Not only did the recipients enjoy my DIY bath bombs, I also really enjoyed the process of making them.  And as equally important,  I know that they are natural and good for the environment.   What a win-win!

 

* If you only want to use these as “freshies”, eliminate the oil and Epsom salt.   Instead use 1 1/3 cup of baking soda and 1/2 cup of citric acid with 1 tsp of water. Recipes inspired by Jillee at  (http://www.onegoodthingbyjillee.com/fizzy-cleaning-toilet-bombs)

 

 

Tracing the Ancestors, Exploring the Past

I know very little about my family’s past. I do know that my parents came to Canada in 1947 as part of the Chinese diplomatic service.  They never expected to stay permanently but history intervened and they were forced to become refugees.  Like so many other immigrants, they worked long and hard to provide a good life for their 4 children.  Unfortunately, they did not force us to speak Mandarin, they were busy and the community was small.  Regretfully, none of us grew up speaking the mother tongue. Although there was prejudice, we were somewhat sheltered by a community full of immigrants including Greeks, Italians, Latvians, Germans and even open minded multi-generational Canadians.  We grew up Canadian first, we were assimilated. This was especially true when I, the last child, rolled out of the womb.  I was never interested in my heritage, something that I regret today.

Souvenir with Name

Last year, my sister and I took a trip to China, my first time.  Over the course of 2 weeks, we saw many sites in Beijing, Xi’an, Chengdu and Shanghai.  At one tourist shop, we picked up a souvenir pamphlet that talked to the history of our name  ““.  Of course, neither of us could read it but we would get it translated.  Fast forward several months.  I asked an elderly Chinese man to translate it for me.  He politely declined but found the same document online.  That’s where it started, I spent a month obsessed by the pursuit of my family history.

My siblings had some snippets of documents that my father had written.  On one, I found crucial information: my father and grandfather’s names written in Chinese characters along with their ancestral hometown, Yixing in the province of Jiangsu.  My elderly friend provided the digital characters that allowed me to do Google searches. Not reading Chinese is an enormous handicap when you are researching your genealogy. I had to use several online translators to gain even a nugget of understanding.  Translators are literal, they cannot grasp the context of characters that have different meanings when placed in different sequences.

Yellow Emperor, Huang Di
Yixing, 200 KM west of Shanghai

What I have found is fascinating.  It also makes me proud of where I come from.  My family is old, very old. The name”任” harkens back to 2500 B.C.  Yes, that’s 2500 years before Christ.  The Yellow Emperor bestowed a Dukedom of “” upon the youngest of his 25 sons. His descendants took this surname.  The branch I come from can trace roots back to the 5th century.  This current cycle split off in the 13th century when my ancestors fled south from the invading Mongols lead by Kublai Khan.  They settled in Yixing where my father (任以宏)was born in 1912, almost 7 centuries later.

My father’s father

My father was very proud of his own father (任锡周). Born in 1873, our grandfather was awarded the title of “Juren”, a designation bestowed upon the few who successfully passed the grueling imperial exams. This was the entry to higher level positions within the public service. We know that he was a secretary in the Governor of the Province of Jiangsu’s office and for 5 years, he had a similar role in the office of the President of the Republic himself. We also know that he was honourable and patriotic. He was deeply disturbed by the corruption manifested by powerful warloads that was rampant in the government.  During the Sino-Japanese war, he refused to be bribed and as a result, he eventually lost his wealth, his health and his life shortly after this period.

Renfamily.cn google-translated to English

During my search, I stumbled upon a Chinese language website that was set up in 2014 to celebrate the”” family heritage but also to find overseas members.  I sent an e-mail in English and 5 days later, I was rewarded with an e-mail from Mary in Sydney, Australia.  She gave me so much information including the digital version of the last update of the family book, a customized spreadsheet showing our lineage back to the 13th century and even poems by family members.  Unfortunately, many of these documents sit in my Dropbox, still unread.

My last name “任” means “a person doing his duty”. It is listed as the #58th most popular Chinese name with 4.2 million people sharing it.   In English, it was translated to “Jen” (although more recently, the new Pinyin translation is “Ren”).  My siblings and I have always thought that we alone had this last name, we had never ever met any other Jen’s.  But this past summer, much to my surprise, I saw someone in a Facebook group with the same last name. I sent her a private message with some information and lo and behold,  she  confirmed that her family also came from the same town.  And then we discovered that we live 1 kilometre apart!.    I have also become aware of an American writer named Gish Jen who I now follow on Facebook.  I bought her book, Tiger Writing, which was inspired by her father’s memoirs.  I’ve done a search and found other people in the US and Canada named “Jen” and “Ren”.  I have not reached out, I am not sure what I would say so maybe it is a project for the future.

Mother & Father (1946?)

The Internet has made the search for my family roots much easier.  My only regret is that I did not take the time to gather information from the master of story telling himself, my father.  He was a also scholar and a very prolific communicator until he went blind in his 80s.  Much of our immediate ancestral history died with him in 1999.  But I have to think that he is looking down upon us, happy that we are finally looking back to the past to help define who we are today.

I Have an Election Hangover

Like millions of other people, I have a massive U.S. election hangostylized-us-flag-hangoverver hampered by a heavy heart.

While I am Canadian and not able to participate, the 24 hour barrage of images and messages have been unavoidable, especially on social media.    I tried to ensure that I read stories that were fact-based that came from unbiased sources.  But there was so much garbage.  Stuff that was so ridiculous that even a hardcore National Enquirer reader would shake his/her head in disbelief.  I won’t even provide examples, they were so ludicrous.

I’m not even sure why I care but I do.   I care that an authoritarian narcissist with little self-control or understanding of the issues showed so many character flaws that were forgiven or glossed over as “locker room talk”.   I care that he is a vulgar man who flamed the fire of hatred and intolerance with his non-truths and exaggerations.   And I care that his fans ate it all up and voted him in over a woman with exceptional credentials.   What does that say about America?    Even though Hilary also had skeletons in her closet, she didn’t deserve the vitriol and disgusting things that his fans said about her on social media.  I was and am repulsed by this.   Many of his fans are no different than the terrorists they proclaim to hate except that they are on the other side of the coin.   And when some call themselves Christian, I have to laugh.  My children went to Catholic school where they were taught to be tolerant and respectful of all beliefs and religions.   I would think that’s how true Christians behave,  not these hooligans who troll.

There, I got it out.  There are many others things that made me angry but I’ll stop here.   I hope that these words are nothing Mourningbut an over-emotional rant.  I hope that he was playing some crazy villainous role and when in office, takes on a moderate, more reasonable tone.  I like to think that I am an optimist and when times are dark, good will still prevail.  Yet part of me is very scared for the future of America and the world that my children and their children will live in.   I hope I’m wrong.

 

Sensitive and Middle-Aged Skin

I got into natural products by mistake.   Around 2 years ago, my teenage daughter began to read the labels on the personal products I was buying and pointed out scary ingredients that were both bad for your health as well as the environment.  I referenced these chemicals in an earlier blog article (The Dirty Dozen, 12 Chemicals to Avoid).  Add that to my peri-menopausal, newly sensitive middle-aged skin and I started to look for alternatives.

Katie-Wellness Mama
Katie – The Wellness Mama

I never realized how much info is out there is on DIY in the cyber-world.  Nor how easy it is to make.  I have tried many different DIY recipes and there are a handful that have stuck with me.  One of my inspirations is the queen of DIY natural products, Katie aka the Wellness Mama.  She has been creating her own products for many years and is very good at it.  Not only that but she has 6 (!!!) children under 10 years old, manages a thriving business and is a doula in her spare (?) time.  She’s done so much and hasn’t even reached midlife yet!

DIY Body Wash for sensitive & Middle-aged skin

Of all my DIY natural products, this creamsicle body wash is my favourite.  Not only is it cheap and easy to make, it is creamy, fragrant and feels great on my skin.   With the addition of the vitamin E, glycerin, and various oils, it absorbs quickly and moisturizes my sensitive, middle-aged skin well enough that I only require a light lotion afterward.   So much has been written about the benefits of organic coconut oil.  Raw honey is also a terrific added ingredient. Not only is it moisturizing, it has anti-microbial properties, a most appropriate characteristic of a body wash!

Creamsicle Body Wash for Middle-Aged Skin

Creamsicle Body Wash for Middle-Aged Skin

Note that vanilla and essential oil quantities are approximate. I have added other essential oils or changed quantities as listed. Trust your nose!. This body wash is very moisturizing for middle-aged skin

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup organic coconut oil
  • ¼ cup raw honey
  • ½ cup liquid Castile soap
  • 1 teaspoon vitamin E
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable glycerin
  • 1 teaspoon oil (your choice - almond, pumpkin)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 20 drops sweet orange essential oil
  • 10 drops neroli oil blend

Instructions

  1. Measure 1/4 cup coconut oil into 2 cup measuring cup
  2. Add 1/4 cup raw honey to the same 2 cup measuring cup
  3. Place in a double boiler over low-medium heat until melted (approximately 15 minutes)
  4. Remove from heat. Add glycerin, almond oil, vanilla extract and essential oils and stir well
  5. Add Castile soap slowly, stirring gently to avoid creating suds.
  6. Transfer to glass bottle using a funnel if required
  7. Shake before each use
Recipe Management Powered by Zip Recipes Plugin
http://thejuvenileretiree.com/2016/08/27/middle-aged-sensitive-skin/
 This recipe was inspired by http://helloglow.co/diy-body-wash/

 

Summary

DIY Creamsicle bodywash. Great for middle-aged and sensitive skin.
Pretty Creamsicle Body Wash

I have used essential oils and scents that remind me of creamsicles and complement the honey in the body wash.  However, you can add the essential oils that please you the most.

I estimate that this body wash costs about $1.50-$1.75 to make.  The most expensive element is the organic, locally sourced honey I buy.  My family of four uses this product and it lasts about 1 month.  So not only is it economical to make, it is better for your health and the environment.  If you buy pretty glass soap pump bottles, these make lovely gifts as well

 

 

I am a Middle-Aged Pokémon Hunter

You have to have lived under a rock to not have heard about Pokémon Go.  This is a modern reinvention of an equally successful Nintendo Gameboy game launched in North America in 1998.  Impressive numbers abound:  100 M downloads, over $200M in revenue, daily news stories from around the world and even a ban in Iran – all in a month’s time since its release.  Even I have given in to the Pokémon craze.  It has gotten this middle-aged body to start moving again.

It all started when my now 22-year old son was small, I used to advance games on his Gameboy while he slept.   Burger_King_Poké_Ball_-_closedAround 1999 or 2000, I remember scouring upper NY state for the red and white plastic Pokéballs that Burger King was giving out.   I think I ended up collecting 8 of them much to my son’s delight.  We used them to wage mock Poké battles at his Pokémon themed birthday party. Lots of excited little boys yelling “Charizard, I choooose YOOOOOUUU!  It was such fun

Many years later, Pokémon Go arrived in Canada last month on Itunes.  My son was so excited.  He convinced the entire family to download the game.  That very day, we walked around the neighbourhood catching Pokémons.   We hadn’t walked together in a long time so it turned into a fun family outing.  Admittedly, as a middle-aged woman, I was a little embarrassed bumping into other adults.  But I could tell that they felt the same.  Heads down, we’d raise our eyes momentarily to give each other a knowing but sheepish look acknowledging our juvenile desire to participate in this cultural craze.

1. Pokémon FACTS

It’s very simple.  The game is based on the original, first Pokémon game that was launched for the Nintendo Gameboy in 1998.  While similar to the original, this game is played on your mobile device using the GPS.  The main goal is to acquire 150 Pokémons and the only way to do so is to move from place to place.  There is also the ability to battle at gyms to earn Pokécoins and prestige, but this isn’t necessary to enjoy the game.

2. Key Terms

Avatar of Pokémon trainer
No middle-aged Pokémon trainer avatars available

Pokémon stands for “Pocket Monsters”.  They are creatures raised and commanded by their Trainers (you).  They are normally hatched from eggs, captured in the wild or evolved from simpler forms.  They grow and become more experienced and can evolve into more powerful Pokémon.  Currently, there are 150 unique Pokémons.

Pokéstops.  These are typically located at cultural or important landmarks like statues, plaques, buildings etc.  Pokéstops are a place to stock up on the Pokéballs that are needed to catch Pokémon.  They also are a source of healing and revive potions, Pokémon eggs and raspberries (that increase your chance at catching a Pokémon) .

Gyms are locations where “battles” take place

3. How do I get them

  • Capture wild Pokémon using Pokéballs.  Pokémon spawn and are therefore more frequently found in higher density areas.
  • Hatch them from Eggs.  So far I’ve seen 2, 5 and 10 kilometre versions.  Place the egg in an incubator and walk the required distance.  Feel like a proud mama when your baby Pokemon hatches.
  • Evolve them.  Some Pokémon have 2-3 forms.  Both Stardust and Candy are required for evolution. You get Stardust by capturing wild Pokemon or hatching eggs.  Candy is acquired by transferring duplicate Pokémons to the in-game host Professor Willow.

4. Where do I get them

I have since figured out the most efficient way to play this game is by taking the slowest method of Marian Pokedextransportation in this city,  the streetcar.  I then walk around downtown where there is a higher density of My Pokémon BagPokéstops and therefore, Pokémons.  I used to take the subway, even only for one stop. Not any more.

The Pokédex keeps track of the Pokémon you’ve seen and
caught.  But I carry up to 250 Pokémon in my “bag” and I can review duplicates and transfer and evolve them from this screen.  There is a certain sense of satisfaction seeing these two screens populate.  My kids and I (and now my husband) compare screens on a regular basis.

5. Do I Need to Spend Money

Nope, but you can  There is an in-app shop where you can buy more Pokéballs, Incense and Lures that attract more Pokémon, Lucky Eggs that increase XP amongst other things like storage upgrades. While I am not against spending a small amount of money playing games, it’s unlikely that I will do so here.

In Summary

I think this is a fun game for now.  Some of the benefits are that we play as a family, engage in some friendly competition, all while getting some much-needed exercise.  Will I continue being a middle-aged Pokémon hunter when my kids leave for university and the temperature drops? Probably not unless the gameplay evolves.  But for now, it’s a great summer past-time and I’ll enjoy it while it lasts.

If you are interested in becoming a middle-aged Pokémon hunter, here are a few simple but thorough sites to walk-through.

Hoo-hah!  Good Pokémon hunting!