Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Domestic Goddess Trope

     It's hard to imagine that any of us are crazy enough to think that we can simply look at a recipe or DIY project and just nail it on the first try with no prior experience. But we do. We do think that. And why wouldn't we? Martha does it every day.
     We see these domestic goddesses with their spotless homes, and matching kitchen utensils, and we think "Why can't I do that?". But the truth is that they actually work very hard to give the impression of easy perfection. And those little cookies and mason jar crafts that we admire were probably not the result of their first attempt. I believe that somewhere behind all of the bare white surfaces and matching bamboo spoons is the real situation. A kitchen covered in post-it notes and cluttered Tupperware cabinets. A real woman standing on a kitchen floor that could use a good sweeping. A woman over-cooking an egg while she tries to juggle the multi-tasking we all go through in an average day. But that's not the woman we see, is it? We see the woman, in her stain-free apron, whipping up Pinterest-worthy treats in a surgically clean kitchen. And the vision of that woman often leaves us feeling disorganized and clumsy.
Photo Credit: CBS Photo Archive / Getty Images
      While the "Martha" types might be a great source for our craft project inspirations they are terrible for our self esteem. You don't see that the bottom half of her pants is covered in pet hair. You never see the splotches of mascara under her eyes as they water uncontrollably chopping those onions. She is a statuesque beauty, effortlessly making her crafts sparkle, yet not leaving one trace of glitter behind after clean up. She is there to convince us that if we just have the "right" designer bake ware that we too could reach this level of homemaker perfection.
      Let's unite as a group, ladies. As a tribe of modern women. Let's join together and agree that we will no longer let these unattainable levels of perfection damage our egos. No, you will never be able to paint chevron stripes on your terracotta pot without it bleeding under the tape just a little. And yeah, you burned dinner because you were trying to catch up on emails. But I bet they did too. They just didn't share it. They kept the illusion of perfection, and in doing so misrepresented the modern homemaker. Be proud of your achievements regardless of whether or not they would make the cover of Simple Living or Home and Garden. Keep trying new things, and keep making a mess. Imperfection is a "good thing".

#2-- Natural Medicine Cabinet Part 3: FUBAR

Natural Medicine Cabinet Part 3: Habanero Honey Candy
They can't all be winners, right?
      What would I be if I weren't as honest about my failures as I was about my successes? I made delicious and useful cough syrup. I made natural and effective pain relief lotion. And then I made a mess. I made a big, smokey, horrible mess. I consulted the wisdom of so many people on this one. I learned tips and tricks from the best minds that Reddit and Pinterest had to offer. I followed the recipe and directions to the best of my abilities. And in the end these cough drops came out f*cked up beyond all recognition. And I have no one to blame but myself.
    As it turns out nothing could have prepared me for the delicacy of making hard candy. Especially hard candy with the added zing of habanero. Henry's Humdingers is delicious on almost anything, and may also be a great choice when making military grade weapons. I think my boyfriend put it best when he sweetly, jokingly (between coughs) asked, "Have you ever heard of Zyklon B?".

It looks so promising... wait for it...
      The project was going so well. The honey was boiling, and foaming up the sides just like it should. I took it off the heat and stirred while it went back down. Testing the mix every 30 seconds in ice water to catch it at that perfect crack moment. And then it finally reached that moment.... and within milliseconds it began smoking and scorching. 

     Our whole home filled with smoke in a matter of moments. I took it off the heat but it was far too late and too far gone to try to spoon out beautiful little drops like I saw on Pinterest. So I just dumped out the whole mix on the wax paper and proceeded to have a good long cry. Sometimes that is all you can do when you've botched something up that bad. Sometimes the best thing in the world for you is a good cry, followed by a good chuckle, and a really big f*cking pizza.
      I still think that the recipe is fairly solid for a seasoned candy maker. But in the hands of an unprepared amateur such as myself it was a disaster. I fell on my face with this one. This project was FUBAR, but I read somewhere recently that you diffuse shame by sharing it. So I've dried my tears, and now here I am spilling my guts (and scorched honey) onto the world. And I do feel a bit better about this failure now. I said I would try 17 things... Not succeed at 17 things. I will pull myself up by my bootstraps and carry on! Two projects down and fifteen to go!
Epic Pinterest Fail... Nailed it!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

#2-- Natural Medicine Cabinet Part 2: Over-egg the pudding

Natural Medicine Cabinet Part 2: Whiskey Cough Syrup

     Today's project is the whiskey cough syrup. With only two ingredients there is no need to over-egg the pudding when making this. According to Penn State College of Medicine, honey is a more effective cough remedy than those over-the-counter syrups. Apparently an enzyme that is added by the bees during harvesting has antibacterial properties. So not only does the honey soothe and coat a sick throat, but the enzyme may help to shorten the length of your cough if it is caused by a bacterial illness.
**Disclaimer -- Not suitable for persons under 21 years of age
1 Part whiskey
2 Parts honey
Directions: Measure out two parts of your favorite honey, and one part of your favorite whiskey. Any old whiskey you have on hand should work just fine, unless you have the expensive stuff... don't waste that on cough syrup!

     Below are my ingredients all ready to go. I measured out my one part of whiskey by just filling a third of my bottle then measuring out the amount.
Don't bother asking what happened to the rest of the whiskey.

     Pour both the honey and whiskey into a pot and heat on low on the stove to liquefy the honey a bit so that it mixes better with the whiskey.
     Stir the syrup together thoroughly while it heats and then pour it into a glass container. I'm using an old coffee bottle but you could use anything from a wine bottle to a mason jar.
     About an hour after you pour it into your bottle you will see the cough syrup begin to turn thick, then thin. Let it set a bit longer and you will see it set to a thicker consistency once again. Pop the lid on it and put it away. It can keep for about a year in your medicine cabinet.


    Oh, and for those of you who were curious, I took a little sip and it tastes delicious! 

#2-- Natural Medicine Cabinet Part 1: Hotter than the hinges to the gates of hell

Natural Medicine Cabinet Part 1: Warming Pain Lotion

      I love the idea of using homemade natural ingredients. Makes me feel like one of those women you see in the natural living magazines. You know the type-- flawless, casually cool hair. Cup of jasmine tea cooling near by. Picture perfect in a mostly bare, dust free room while an ethereal golden sun sets outside their window. Don't we all secretly want to be that woman.
Does anyone actually have the energy to look this relaxed?
     Well for now I will happily settle for my hair being in a crooked ponytail while I whip up some pain relief lotion in my desert-dusty kitchen.

Warming Pain Lotion Recipe:
.65 oz of white willow extract
3 tbs of cayenne pepper

12 oz - 15 oz of lotion**
**This can be pretty much any rich lotion of your choosing. Or, if you're feeling more adventurous, there are many good resources online for recipes on how to make your own lotion. I will be using cocoa butter lotion for mine.

     For anyone that may not know,
capsaicin is the heat producing component of chili peppers such as cayenne and habanero. Capsaicin has been found to reduce the amount of Substance P, a chemical that delivers the pain message to the brain. Along with the cayenne pepper I will also be adding in white willow bark extract. Willow bark contains a precursor to aspirin and acts as a natural anti-inflammatory agent and pain reliever. According to the various essential oil and homemade lotion guides I've been browsing, the white willow extract needs to be about 5% of the total mixture. I will be mixing up a 13oz jar of lotion. This means that I need .65oz of white willow. That works out to roughly 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of the liquid.
     If I have measured and mixed this right, this lotion should be great for all sorts of aches, pains and inflammation. A word of warning, due to the bold color of the cayenne, there is a chance that this lotion may stain your skin and clothing. I'm hoping that the lotion will dilute it enough, but be mindful of getting it on your clothing either way. The color will clean off of skin fairly easily but I don't know of the long term damage it may have on fabric. Also, be careful using this on or near open wounds, because it will sting like a mother f*cker. Cayenne pepper on a paper cut burns hotter than the hinges to the gates of hell!
     So now that all of the informative stuff is out of the way let's mix these ingredients together and see what we get! I'm just going to type this out while I work, so forgive me if this isn't one of my more eloquent posts.

     Here are the ingredients, all laid out and ready to mix. Just ignore the cup of tea, it's not part of the ingredients, just forgot it was there. For anyone that was wondering the "Yogi" message for the day on the tea tag was "Kindness is the light of life". What a lovely message to read while I whip up something to make people feel better! Anyway, let's mix this together now.  Since the cocoa butter is so solid I had to warm it up a bit in the microwave to soften it. After about 20 seconds it was soft enough to blend. As cute as the vintage cut-glass bowl and spoon is, I should have busted out the electric food processor. I didn't think this would be so tiresome to do by hand. 
 Is it weird that I want to taste it?
Damn it. Tasted it. Yup. Tastes like cocoa butter and burning.
    Looking at it now that it's mixed it's hard to think that it won't stain my skin. Also, it smells a little like cookies. Must be the warm cocoa butter. Ok, now I'll try this out. I'm going to rub about a nickel sized amount into my arm to see what it feels like.
Wow, a little dab will do ya! That little dab is covering a lot of my arm!
By the way, my mouth is still burning.
     I had to wipe off the excess with a paper towel, but I do feel a bit of a burning, warming sensation. If nothing else, my arm is soft and smells like cookies now... so that's a bonus. I think I do like the heat sensation I'm getting from it too. Since I didn't have any soreness to begin with it's hard to gauge the pain relief abilities. I'll have to give a more thorough review of it's pain relief abilities in a couple weeks when I try it on my lower abdomen to help relieve my cramps.
     Now we let it set in the fridge for a bit to harden back up again.
What can I say, we really like eggs.
     Well about ten minutes has passed and my arm feels relaxed and warm. I think I will count this one as a success. I rubbed a little into my arm then cleaned my arm (and everything else) thoroughly with Pure + Clean Palmolive. And despite all of that cleaning I still feel a very warm sensation on my arm. I think if this were a sore muscle I would be in heaven! Having no injuries or ailments though it feels ever so slightly out of place. None the less, I recommend you give this one a whirl and see what you think.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Birds of a Feather

   So birds of a feather must flock together. And occasionally give a helping hand where they can. I'm a full time graduate student with a job, 17 projects to complete within 12 months, and now a blog. But when I do find myself with a little spare time I like to freelance in graphic and logo design. Today I had the great pleasure of designing the logo of a fellow blogger over at Kimchi King Beats.

   Just thought I would share a great experience I had outside of my 17 projects. Even projects not related to the ultimate goal can bring such joy to your life. So my words of wisdom now... if you have a talent, flaunt it. The world wants to see just what you're made of.

#1-- Continued: If God's willing and the creek don't rise

Here I still am. Still blogging and still working at getting everything together for the home remedy cabinet. Here are my projects and ingredients so far:
  • Warming Pain Lotion

    • White willow extract
    • Cayenne pepper
    • Cocoa butter lotion

  • Honey Whiskey Cough Syrup

    • Jack Daniels - Tennessee Honey
    • Honey

      Unfortunately I received a message from Amazon stating that there has been a delay in shipping and I may not receive the Diabolical Dad honey for another day or so. This is why there is no photo with that ingredients list. But I will be sure to take one when I attempt to conquer that challenge!

      These remedies should hopefully cover all of the usual aches, pains and common colds that may come our way. The cough syrup and the lotion should be pretty simple to make-- assuming I don't sip too much on the whiskey while I work! The candy will be the hard part. Making hard candy is almost an art. You have to have the right pot, the right tools, and you have to get the liquid to just the right temperature. I have received some amazing advice on the proper way to make hard candy so, if God's willing and the creek don't rise, I should hopefully be able to pull this one together. Having never even used a meat thermometer before I'm a little nervous about the timing and temperature of the candy. I will try to find a candy thermometer at the store, but if they don't have one I may be relying on just the water test to get it right. I've decided to skip buying a candy mold. If this turns out to be an ongoing project I may invest in one, but since this is my first try I'm doing the droplet method instead. Basically I will be spooning out drips of liquid onto wax paper like candy buttons. Seems silly to invest in a candy mold that may never see the light of day again if this whole thing goes sideways.

     Now let's cover storage. I'm planning on just putting the lotion back into the original jar it came in. And the cough syrup I've decided to keep in a glass bottle that I had left over from a store bought coffee drink. But the candy I'm not sure about yet. I may just end up keeping it in some tupperware. The recipes I'm working with recommend you keep the candies in the freezer to keep them fresh and hard. There's a dirty joke in that last line somewhere, I'm sure, but I'll let you folks use your imagination to flesh that one out!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

#1-- Continued: Finger in every pie

     So here I am again, continuing my first project on my 17 in '17 list. Just blogging away like I almost know what I'm doing. Currently I'm just working on learning and mastering the blog stuff while I prepare for my next two projects. Getting my finger in every pie, so to speak.
This is the problem with dieting. All of your idioms are food related.
     The first project is the natural medicine cabinet. I figure cold and flu season would be the perfect time to pitch some of those old store brand cold remedies and try out some new homemade ones. Fortunately a little house mouse did some of the work for me by chewing through one of the cold pill boxes. Now that box is in the trash and it's time to restock with something more natural. So I will be spending the next week or so knee deep in Pinterest, Reddit ,and blogs learning about all of the remedies I can make myself from natural ingredients. Right now I'm thinking a pain reliever cream, a whiskey based cough syrup, and some cold and flu candy. I think these ought to cover most of my bases. I've started gathering some of my ingredients this week. I will be making the cold and flu candy with Henry Humdinger's "Diabolical Dad" honey. I'm choosing it for the habanero which will act as a natural decongestant. The honey is a long time favorite of mine for cough and sore throat. I'll also be tossing in a bit of ginger and apple cider vinegar for nausea. Try to hit all of the common cold ailments in one little drop! I'm a bit nervous about the strong flavors making it taste a bit like spicy garbage... but let's be honest here, doesn't all cold medicine taste like spicy garbage? The real trick will be cooking it just right so that the honey sets like hard candy and not like some weird crystallized chewy mess. In my research for this one I have received some amazing instruction and advice from the folks over in the candy makers subreddit on Reddit. So, in theory, I should be able to pull this off. Fingers and toes crossed!
     My second project will be letter writing. When was the last time you sat down and hand wrote a letter to someone? I can't remember either. To cut costs last year I bought blank cards and hand wrote some messages in them for the holidays. It was fun! Made me think of my grandmother. Sitting in her chair writing long letters, in beautiful penmanship, to relatives and friends. Made me want to bring back that lost art of letter writing. So now comes the big decision. Do I just write some letters to family and friends or do I seek out a pen-pal? I think both might be interesting actually. I can already see the confused look on friends' faces as they open up a hand written letter. Wondering why on earth I would send this instead of just texting them a 'what's up' or sending them an email. They're going to think the cheese fell off my cracker! I can think of a few family members that would understand and appreciate the effort though, so that might be a better way to go. Either way it will be a great way to work on my handwriting and perhaps make someone's day a little sunnier!