Everything You Need to Know About Essential Oils

Everything You Need to Know About Essential Oils

Essential oils seem to be all the rage these days. People are looking for safer and more natural ways to take care of their bodies and homes and essential oils have a very strong allure. But are essential oils really all they’re cracked up to be?

When I get to talking with my friends about essential oils, two things always come up: 1) What are you actually supposed to DO with essential oils? and 2) What is the safest way to use essential oils? So I set off to do some research, and do you know what I learned? I learned that while essential oils aren’t the be all/cure all for everything, they are just like the spices we use for cooking. The more you play around with aromas and healing properties, the more you will be able to add a drop here and a drop there to positively effect the health and well-being of your entire family. So come learn with me!

What ARE Essential Oils?

Essential oils are basically the distilled and concentrated oils of a plant. But interestingly enough, they are not really essential and they are not really oils.

They are called “essential”, not because we need to get them from our diets (such as with essential amino acids like lysine or essential fatty acids like omega-3s), but rather because they contain the essence of the plant’s fragrance. Also, they are not really “oils” like olive oil and coconut oil because they do not contain fatty acids (although they are both hydrophobic and repel water).

If you look at the two examples below, the first one is a picture of oleic acid (up to 83% of olive oil is comprised of oleic acid), and is basically a long chain of carbon atoms (with a bend) surrounded by hydrogen atoms.

Oleic Acid (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, D.328, 2008)

Oleic Acid (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, D.328, 2008)

This next picture is of eugenol (about 20% of clove oil is comprised of eugenol), and it has more of a hexagon shape that is made of mostly hydrogen atoms and hydroxide diatomic anions.

Eugenol (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Fuse 809, 2013)

Eugenol (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Fuse 809, 2013)

So the term “oil” is used to reference the highly concentrated part of a plant that has been extracted. The oils extracted from plants are basically stored as microdroplets in the glands of plants.

Lavender Oil Glands and Trichomes (Lavandula Dentata) - Photo Credit: Power & Syred, 2008

Lavender Oil Glands and Trichomes (Lavandula Dentata) – Photo Credit: Power & Syred, 2008

The droplets diffuse through the walls of the glands and spread over the surface of the plant evaporating and creating the fragrance of the plant. According to Encyclopedia Britannica,

The function of the essential oil in a plant is not well understood.

Some postulations are that it protects the plant from parasites, or maybe it attracts bees, but since very few essential oils are actually involved in the plant, some people say that these materials are simply a waste product of plant biosynthesis. At any rate, they sure smell good!

How Are Essential Oils Made

Most pure essential oils are extracted from plants using steam distillation. Freshly picked plants are placed in a still and suspended over boiling water. The steam saturates the plants for fairly short about of time (about 15-30 minutes), and then it is rapidly cooled causing the steam to condense back into water. The water is drained from the still, the essential oils float to the top, and are then collected. The remaining water is sold as floral water, otherwise known as a hydrosol.

Another method is known as expression and is typically reserved for citrus peels such as orange, lemon, lime, or grapefruit. It is made in a similar way to olive oil by pressing the oil from the plant’s flesh, seeds, and skins.

Some plant material is too delicate and must be extracted with solvents (as is the case with rose oil). The oils that are extracted with solvents are called absolutes.

The Concentration of Essential Oils

I find it absolutely fascinating to think about how much of the raw plant is needed to make a small bottle of essential oil. I’ve found a few examples here that may vary slightly based on each oil company producing it, but will still blow your mind nonetheless.

Lavender Fields in France (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Marianne Casamance, 2011)

Lavender Fields in France (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Marianne Casamance, 2011)

  • 27 square feet of lavender are needed to make one 15 mL bottle of lavender oil
  • 75 lemons are needed to make one 15 mL bottle of lemon oil
  • 1 lb of raw peppermint material is needed to make one 15 mL bottle of peppermint oil (source)
  • One drop of peppermint oil is the equivalent of 26-28 cups of peppermint tea (source)
  • 200,000 rose petals are needed to make one 5 mL bottle of rose oil (source)

What Makes a Good Essential Oil?

Choosing the best high quality oil can take a little bit of research. Here are some of the things to look for when selecting an oil.

  • Special Note – There is no classification in the aromatherapy world for “therapeutic grade” oils. So any oil company who say, “no other oil company can say…”, it’s probably because their company has trademarked these words. (Read more about The ‘Therapeutic Grade’ Essential Oils Disinformation Campaign here.)
  • Growing Methods  – Look for oil companies that use sustainable and ethical farming practices free from herbicides, pesticides, and heavy metals. Note that the “organic” certification is great, but may not be available in some countries where the plants are grown.
  • Label – The label should include: the botanical plant name (i.e. lavandula angustifolia for lavender), plant part (flower/stem oil, flower oil, peel oil, etc.), and common sense caution (i.e. keep out of reach of children, consult a health practitioner if pregnant or nursing, etc.). Country of origin is also nice to know as well.

    Clove Oil Label

    Clove Oil Label

  • TestingGC/MS (Gas Chromatopography/Mass Spectrometry) testing identifies the different substances within a test sample.
  • Cost – If the price is too good to be true, it probably is. For example, jasmine oil and rose oil are very concentrated, hard to make, and will therefore run about $80 – $100 for a mere 5 mL. But higher cost does not always mean higher quality when it comes to price comparison.

Essential Oil Safety Guidelines

  • Is it safe to use undiluted oils? – It is generally recommended that you can use oils like lavender and tea tree “neat” without any dilution, but if you repeatedly use an essential oil without dilution on the skin for a period of time, you can become sensitized to it with an adverse reaction that will appear “suddenly” and may possibly never go away. It’s always safest to dilute essential oils using this guideline:
    • For Young Children (6-24 months) – 1 drop plus 1 T. of carrier oil
    • For Children (2+) and Sensitive Skin – 1 drop plus 1 tsp. of carrier oil
    • For General Daily Use – 2 drops plus 1 tsp. of carrier oil
    • For Periodic Use – 3 drops plus 1 tsp. of carrier oil
  • Which carrier oils are the best? – Carrier oils are the best way to dilute essential oils. Here is a list of the best carrier oils with notes about why you might consider each one.
    Carrier Oils

    Carrier Oils

    • Sweet Almond Oil – This is my favorite to use for skin care because it’s very light, reasonably inexpensive, has a sweet smell, and is very nutritious with lots of vitamins including A, B, and E.
    • Jojoba Oil – This oil is a bit thicker, has a longer shelf life, and has pretty much no odor. It mimics collagen making it great for people who suffer from any skin conditions.
    • Fractionated Coconut OilFractionated coconut oil has almost all of the long chain fatty acids removed leaving it with mostly medium chain fatty acids making it very saturated and very stable with a long shelf life. It will also stay in liquid form, is less likely to clog pores than regular coconut oil, and has the antioxidant and anti-mircorbial properties of capric and caprylic acid.
    • Olive Oil – This can be the most convenient carrier oil to use because you probably have it in your cupboards! It also contains lots of proteins, vitamins, and minerals that really help with skin and hair.
    • For Aging Skin – Apricot, Aragan, and Rosehip are all really great oils for aging skin.
  • Can young children use essential oil? The safest way for babies and young children to use essential oils is through diffusion, hydrosols (floral water left over after steam distillation), and application to the feet – the least overwhelming place for the senses (if they won’t put them in their mouth that is). Plant Therapy makes some great blends for kids over 2 like this Nighty-Night blend.
    • 0-3 Months: Avoid all essential oils, their skin is too sensitive and permeable
    • 3-6 Months:  Very little contact with essential oils with the exception of: Chamomile, lavender, dill, and blue yarrow
    • 6-24 Months: Can safely use a variety of essential oils including: citronella, grapefruit, orange, and tea tree
    • Children 2+: Can safely use an expanded array of essential oils including: clary sage, clove (for teething), frankincense, lemongrass, myrhh, oregano, spearmint, and vetiver
    • Avoid: Stay away from peppermint with children under 6 and eucalyptus and rosemary with children under 10 because they contain the constituent (1.8, cineole) which has been known to cause breathing problems (so this also means no thieves oil). (source 1, source 2)
  • Can pregnant and nursing women use essential oils? – Even though many pregnant women enjoy the benefits of essential oils, there haven’t been any studies to determine their absolute safety (ethical reasons), so pregnant women should use with caution. Here are a few general guidelines:
    • Avoid the use of essential oils in their first trimester
    • Only them use periodically – not daily
    • Avoid absolutes because of the trace chemicals
    • Avoid adding oils to the birthing pool because it could be harmful to the new baby
    • Avoid clary sage, all eucalyptus, lemongrass, myrrh, and oregano to name a few (source)
  • Is it safe to ingest essential oils? – When you think about how oil and water don’t mix, it is weird to add even just one drop of lemon essential oil to your water because not only is that the equivalent 1 lb of lemons, but it could cause burns, blisters, and lesions in your mouth, esophagus, and stomach lining if the undiluted droplet comes in contact with your sensitive tissues.
    • If you really want to get the health benefits of lemon in your water, I would just squeeze half of a lemon into your water and leave the oils for diffusing and skin care.
    • You can also find lavender tea, peppermint tea, and chamomile tea made from dried herbs that is a much safer method of ingesting.
    • Enteric coated capsules that will not release until they reach the small intestine (like these peppermint capsules for IBS) are also safer than trying to ingest essential oils.
    • Unless there are extreme circumstances (i.e. you are suffering from a debilitating illness and NOTHING else is working) and you are under the specific guidance of a trained aromatherapist, I would NOT RECOMMEND INGESTING ESSENTIAL oils. (source)
  • What should I do if I get some essential oil in my eyes or it burns my skin? – If you get some essential oil in your eyes or on your skin and it burns, the worst thing you can do is try to rinse it off with water. The best thing you can do is wipe the area clean with a carrier oil, some whole milk, or cream which will bind to the oil and rinse it away (source).
  • Other Precautions – Keep undiluted oils away from airways (nose and mouth) and avoid essential oil use with people who have respiratory diseases such as asthma because they can inflame the airways (source).

Best Uses for Essential Oils

Once you get past some of the basics about essential oils, I think that the most common question that I have heard (and thought myself) most often is,

“How do I actually use essential oils in my daily life?”

So here are some of the ways to use essential oils that are safe, practical, and things we could all use in our daily lives. Everyone has different smells that they find either intoxicating or disgusting, the best advice I have is to just get your nose in front of as many essential oils as you can until you find the fragrances that you really like.

  • Diffusing – Our sense of smell is very powerful at triggering emotions and memories and by diffusing essential oils, it can create very significantly alter your mood in a positive way by inducing anything from peace and calm to vigor and energy. Look for a cool air diffuser that uses high frequency vibrations to create an ultra fine mist. Check out this list of amazing diffuser blends that will fit just about any mood you might have. There are also a lot of pre-made blends you can get for different purposes. As a beginner just testing out my own blends, I like using a few drops of orange and clove oil or lavender and vanilla.
  • Rollerballs – Preparing rollerballs with your favorite essential oils and a good carrier oil can help you to enjoy your favorite scent on the go or give you a healing mixture at the tip of your fingers. Just apply to your wrists, neck, or feet. Check out this list of some great rollerball blends.
  • In the Bath – DO NOT add essential oils directly to the bath…they will not evenly disperse in the water. Make sure to add them to a surfactant (soap), carrier oil, or even some cream or whole milk first.  Sugar scrubsbath salts, or bath bombs if you want to get really fancy, are great ways to get essential oils into your bath experience.
  • Skin Care Products – I like making my own toothpaste (using peppermint oil), my own deodorant (using tea tree and lavender oils), my own body butter (using whatever essential oils I want to enjoy), and my own lip balm (using eucalyptus oil). You can also make your own massage oil (lemongrass, marjoram, and peppermint soothe muscles) or any other number of skin care products using essential oils. (I love all of Wellness Mama’s recipes.)
  • Cleaning – By mixing white vinegar, dish soap, tea tree oil, and eucalyptus oil, you can make your own tub and tile cleaner.  You can also make your own all purpose cleaner by mixing together vinegar, lavender, lemongrass, sweet orange, oregano, and tea tree oil. Check out more cleaning recipes here. Just make sure you’re using amber spray bottles if you need your cleaner to have a long shelf life.
  • Compresses – Hot compresses are typically used to help muscles and tissues while cold compresses are typically used to constrict blood vessels and control swelling. To make either one, fill a pan or large bowl with either very hot or very cold water, add about 6-12 drops of oil (examples: clary sage for menstrual cramps, peppermint for headache or stomachache), swirl a cloth through the water, wring it out, and apply it to the affected area (source).
  • Cotton Balls – Put a few drops of an essential oil on a cotton ball and place in the bottom of a trashcan, behind the toilet, in some stinky shoes, or in a drawer to help eliminate odors and leave behind a fragrant aroma. You can also add a few droplets on dryer balls to make your clothes smell really nice.
  • Spray Bottles: Mix your favorite oils in water, make sure to shake before use, spray on clothes, to freshen up a room, as a bug spray or to keep cats off from things (citronella, tea tree, eucalyptus, rosemary, lemongrass).
  • Inhaler: Add about 25 drops of essential oils (eucalyptus, fir, cypress, etc.) to a cotton ball and stuff into one of these inhalers. (See more on how to make one here.)

Healing with Essential Oils

If you can think of an ailment or condition and type that into google next to the words “essential oils”, I am sure that you will find a TON of ideas. Some of the most healing oils that come up over and over again for different ailments are: tea tree, oregano, chamomile, and lavender. You can make a really good healing salve (better than Neosporin) using: Coconut oil, tea tree, lavender, frankincense, and helichrysum essential oils.

Keep in mind that if you’re using essential oils to treat a physical symptom (i.e. skin condition), you’ve got to treat the underlying cause or the symptom will keep reoccurring. That being said, if you’re feeling any of the symptoms below, I have listed some of the best essential oils for eliminating them (source 1, source 2, source 3, source 4, source 5, source 6).

  • Insomnia: Lavender and chamomile, maybe a little bit of orange are the best choice, also marjoram, ylang ylang, lime, bergamot, neroli, and lemon (spray the room, pillow, or diffuse in room 30 minutes prior to bedtime)
  • Headache: Peppermint, lavender, eucalyptus, or rosemary (roller ball, compress, diffuser)
  • Cold and Flu: Tea tree, pine, lavender, peppermint, thyme, lemon, eucalyptus, or rosemary (diffuser, roller ball, inhaler, compress)
  • Chest Congestion/Cold: Eucalyptus (or fir and cypress), frankincense or bergamot will help kill germs too (inhaler, diffuser)
  • Skin Fungus: Tea tree, oregano, thyme, cinnamon, clove, lemongrass, and lavender (roller ball, carrier oil, lotion)
  • Tooth Pain: Clove oil – only use over the age of 2, numbing agent, so don’t swallow (external compress, with carrier oil in the mouth)
  • Eczema: Lavender and chamomile are very soothing (mix with Renew lotion)
  • Bug Bites: Basil, lavender, tea tree (carrier oil)
  • Morning Sickness/Nausea: Ginger, spearmint, lemon, grapefruit, orange, or lime (inhaler, rollerball)
  • Back Pain/Sciatic Nerve Pain: Marjoram, lavender, cypress, chamomille, and black pepper (massage oil)
  • Stretch Marks and Scars: Chamomille, orange, and rosehip mixed together (carrier oil, lotion)
  • Stress/Anxiety/Fear: Lavender, chamomile, citrus scents, geranium, ylang ylang, petitgrain, and neroli (diffuser, inhaler, rollerball)
  • Fatigue: Spearmint, grapefruit, lime, and sweet orange mixture (inhaler, diffuser)
  • Menstrual Cramps: Chamomile, clary sage, lavender, peppermint, rose, or rosemary (hot compress)

In Conclusion

I do not think that essential oils are the be all and end all to all things related to health and beauty, but I do think that they are an integral part of every natural household. The attraction to essential oils seems to be such a buzz these days, and I’m glad that now I have a pretty strong understanding of what essential oils are, how they are made, how to find high quality oils, the proper safety precautions that should be taken when using essential oils, and have some practical ideas for how to use essential oils in my home. I am excited to continue using essential oils and learning more about each of their individual properties, aromas, and uses. Thanks for learning with me!

*I recently used these Essential Oil NOTES for an essential oil presentation. Feel free to print them out and use them for your own purposes. If you would like the Word document so you can make changes, please contact me.

Additional Resources

13 Tips for Creating Your Own Website with Blog

How to Start Your Own Blog

I’m not claiming to be the guru of all areas of web development here, but I have learned A LOT about what to do (and what not to do) when it comes to creating my own blog through my work here at Embracing Motherhood. I started out just wanting a platform to blog about motherhood and to keep track of the wonderful and amazing things I learn along the way, and now I’ve got a complete website that is actually generating a modest income.

So without further adieu, here are my 13 steps for starting your own blog.

1. Brainstorm Ideas

Grab a piece of paper and a pen or pencil and just start creating a mind map of all words that you would use to describe your website. (You could also use a mind mapping application like this.) Don’t worry about organizing your ideas at this point, just free associate the first words that pop into your brain when you think of your website.

For me, my initial brainstorming web included words like: pregnancy, birth, natural birth, healthy food, nutrition, recipes, food science, fitness, teaching, parenting, lesson ideas, homeschool, young children, stay at home mom, and so on.

2. Find Your Niche

Once you have a broad idea of where you’d like to go, find some other websites or blogs out there that are covering the topics that you are hoping to explore. I enjoyed finding several mothering, nutrition, and education websites and following them on social media to get their latest content. I would read their latest blogs, peruse their sites, notice things that I liked and didn’t, and thought about how I would try to define myself in my own way.

You will be constantly honing your writing style and finding your voice as you write. It is not something that will happen overnight. If you look at some of the earlier blogs I’ve written (mainly about health and nutrition), you’ll notice that my voice and style are different than they are now. Once I started getting an audience, getting feedback from others, and seeing my content live, I was able to see what things were working better than others. I learned how to create a certain flow that people could skim and scan through by adding quotes, headlines, lists, numbers, bolded and italicized text, and images so that a reader could get the general idea without reading every word.

3. Come Up With a Name

Now that you’ve brainstormed some ideas and done your research, it’s time to start thinking about a name. Same as the original brainstorming session, get a piece of paper and a pencil and just start writing down every possible name you can think of, no matter how crazy or silly, just get it out there. I think it’s a good idea for your name to be a pretty obvious representation of what you want to write about, but you can just go ahead and make up a new word too. Basically, you’re looking for something short, simple, easy to share with someone verbally, and something that has a nice ring to it.

Once you’ve narrowed down your list to a few favorite names, start doing a Google search to see what comes up. After I had my heart set on Embracing Motherhood, I discovered that the domain name embracingmotherhood.com was only available if I wanted to spend $4,888 so I did what you really shouldn’t do, I used a hyphen…embracing-motherhood.com.

LeanDomainSearch is a great way to brainstorm ideas with available domain names. Once you have a name you think you’d like, run it through Domainr to see if it’s available. Also check out social media platforms like FaceBook, Instagram, and Twitter to see if your name is already being used. *Check out some more great tips for coming up with a name here and here.

4. Purchase Your Domain and Hosting

Now, because my sister is helping me out, she helped me buy my domain name and does my hosting for me. She uses a company called BlueHost. This company is great, and I would recommend going with the plus package that gives you unlimited storage and will run you $5.95/mo. When you sign up for hosting, it will walk you through registering your domain name as well (for free). For an extra $2.99/mo. you can get Site Backup Pro that automatically creates a daily backup copy of your entire site. If you’re creating a lot of content, this is a good idea.

5. Design a Logo

This might be something that you want to save for later, but I enjoyed getting mine done early on. My sister Andrea knows a freelance artist who helped me design my logo, but there are many different logo makers online. This one is pretty good and will cost you from $20-$100 and this one is pretty great too and will only cost you $39. (Beware, many sites that claim “free logo design” will actually make you pay for the high-res image.)

As you pick a logo, keep your color scheme in mind. Because I was wearing a purple shirt in the profile picture I chose, I ended up using purple for my main color. Then I used green as my accent and went with a rainbow pattern of colors because I like rainbows! I hope to keep working on my design in the future, but right now I’m more focused on content. 🙂

6. WordPress

I recommend going with WordPress.org over WordPress.com. Once you secure your domain and hosting, you can download WordPress and get started. They have some free themes ready to go, but after checking out many many different themes, my sister highly recommended going with Enfold for $59. This is what I use, and I love it! Everything is drag and drop and there is a great online support forum. (Just log in with your WordPress info and search for your question or write a new one. I have used this many times, and always gotten excellent support.)

If you go with WordPress.com, it is free and a one stop shop for your basic blog, but only if you plan on hosting less than 3 GB of data ($99/year for unlimited data) and you’re not allowed to connect to affiliate’s programs like Amazon Associates and have very little options in terms of design.

There are two ways you can get familiar with WordPress. You can just dive in (like I did), and look online when you have questions (just do a very specific Google search). Or, you can check out this WordPress for Beginners Blog or watch this great tutorial series to learn everything you’ll need to know before or while you’re playing around with your own site.

*You can also check out Squarespace (7 pages for $12/month), Webflow (20 pages for $20/month), Weebly ($8/mo. for unlimited pages or free with limited services), or a free blogging platform like Tumblr or Blogger.

7. Customizing

Once you get your theme, you’ll want to customize it to work for you. This part can seem really overwhelming and is probably where you’ll need to do the most amount of learning/research, so you might want to skip this step and come back to this later.

  1. Hide Your Site: As you’re building your site, you might want to hide it from search engines. To do this, go to the “Settings” option on the left toolbar, select “Reading”, and the click on the box that says, “Discourage search engines from indexing this site”. You might also want to install a plug-in like this that will give a “Coming Soon” message.
  2. Theme Options: On the left toolbar, you’ll see a gear shaped icon with the name of your site. You will want to go here first and click on every option to set things up and get familiar with what you can do. When I was learning about WordPress, I spent a lot of time here changing one thing at a time, looking at things live (on the top toolbar, click on your site name with the home icon, and click “Visit Site”), and tweaking it until I liked what I had. This is where you’ll add your logo, set up your social media icons.
  3. Widgets: On the left toolbar, under “Appearance”, you’ll find “Widgets” (along with themes, menu, etc.). Widgets are a great way to customize the look of your blog. For my sidebar widget, I have a search tool, my picture, my affiliate’s disclosure, a subscribe widget, popular posts, and recent posts. In my footer widgets, I have four columns for my social media profiles.
  4. Plug-ins: Whenever you want to add something specific to your site, there’s a plug-in for that. Just like with everything else, you’ll want to play around with different plug-ins to see what you like/don’t like. *Now, don’t get crazy with the plug-ins, sometimes they can be the reason your site starts acting crazy, and you’ll have to deactivate them one at a time to figure out the problem. Here are the plug-ins I love:
    1. Askimet: Stops spam
    2. Broken Link Checker: Tells you on your dashboard page where all of your broken links are
    3. Pinterest Pin It Button: I always pin my own articles and have gotten a lot of hits this way.
    4. Print Friendly and PDF: Provides a button that allows users to easily print your blogs.
    5. Stop Spammers Spam Control: Prevents spammers from leaving comments
    6. Woocommerce: What I used to build my Embracing Motherhood Shop

7. Organizing

If you’re like me, you’ll want to have a framework of organization for your content before getting started. It’s a bit time consuming to do this on the front end, and so you may just want to write 20-30 blogs or build your content before you worry about organization, but then you’ll have to go back to each blog to add categories, etc. So, here’s what I recommend, but as with everything, you have to do what works for you.

  1. Create Pages: You’ll first of all want a home page (some people like their blog to be their home page, but not me, it feels too random). Then create pages for all of your main ideas and link them to your home page. (Mine are: Home, All Blogs, Parenting, Teaching, Mom Talk, Health, How To, and Guest Bloggers) Start by using the “Advanced Layout Editor” to create a “Page Template”. Basically, everything needs to be in a layout box, then you can put a “Text Box” (under “Content Elements”) inside of a layout box to create a header. Then, you can add a “Magazine” or “Blog Post” layout to put under that and it will automatically put all blogs with a matching category there. Watch this tutorial to learn more about creating pages.
  2. Create Categories: These are how you’ll organize your blogs. Under “Posts” on the left toolbar, select “Categories” and just create categories for all of your main ideas. You can also create subcategories by selecting a “Parent”, but I wouldn’t recommend doing this at first. Now, when you write your blogs, just select which category they belong in and you can sort them to the appropriate pages.
  3. Create a Menu: Now that you have your main pages, you can organize them into a menu. Under “Appearance”on the left toolbar, choose “Menu”. There, you can add what pages will be on your main menu.
  4. Write Some Content: Once you have a general layout, you can start writing some posts! It may take awhile to find your voice and your writing style, but don’t worry about that at first, just start getting some content out there so you can see how everything works together.

8. Adding Images

When I first started writing a blog, I was so sad that I couldn’t just do a Google image search and use whatever photos I wanted. 🙁 How easy would that be??? But thanks to Creative Commons, there are lots of free works available to use.

  1. Use Your Own Pictures: It can be so tempting to buy stock photos, but using pictures that you have taken gives your blog a much more personal touch, and it won’t cost you any money!
  2. Attribution: When you use someone else’s photo, even if it’s “Creative Commons”, you should give attribution according to the specifications of the image. If I use an image within my blog, I’ll put the attribution right under the photo saying something like: Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Pearson Scott Foresman, 2008. I’ll also link my photo to the original source. You can also credit the image source at the end of your blog. Here’s a good article with more information about giving image credits.
  3. Canva: Canva is a very simple photo editing program that allows you to custom design images with text. This is what I use to create my featured images for my blogs (845 x 321 pixels are the dimensions you want for a featured blog image with sidebar). I like it because there are suggested dimensions for a variety of social media and other outlets many basic templates available, simple tools for adding text, and basic tools for modifying your image. You can even search for a particular image and purchase it for $1.
  4. Photo Pin: Here, you can search millions of Creative Commons photos and easily add them to your blog posts. A photo attribution link is provided for each image.
  5. Flickr: Start by clicking on “Explore” and then search for the type of image you’re looking for. Look at the image description to see if it is “Creative Commons” or free to use, if so, attribute the image according to the author’s request.
  6. Wikimedia Commons: This is my favorite place to go for free photos when I need them…usually to place within my blog. Just search for what you’re looking for and make sure to attribute according to each photo’s request.
  7. Pixabay: This is a great place to search for free photos, and they don’t require any attribution!
  8. Shutterstock: If you are willing to pay for some really high quality images (usually $1-2), this is a HUGE resource.
  9. Pexels: Great stock photos and videos for free use.
  10. Vimeo: You can find free stock videos here.

9. Search Engine Optimization

You probably won’t be concerned with this at first, but if you can keep these tips in mind as you create content, then you won’t have to go back and rewrite everything. :).

  1. Write Good Content: This is kind of a no brainer, but if your writing is good, easy to follow, and useful, you’ll have a higher chance of people reading it, sharing it, and linking to it. The more popular a blog post is, the more likely it is to show up on a search engine.
  2. Make Your Topic Clear: Clever titles (and click bait titles) aren’t as useful as clear titles that emphasize the main idea of your blog post. Then, make sure to state the main idea of your post in the first sentence and repeat key words throughout.
  3. Alt-Text: When you upload photos, make sure they have an accurate name that describes the image (this can’t be added later), then set the alt text so that it spells out any text used in the picture as well as gives an accurate description of what the photo is. This helps webcrawlers to find your content in search engines more easily.
  4. Categories: If you group similar content based on content, category names are a great organization tool that recommends similar articles in your website.
  5. Tags: As you create tags for your posts, think of what people will type into their search engines. Also, include your categories.
  6. Link Building: The more people who link to your site, the higher search engine ranking you’ll get.
  7. Networking: By having guest bloggers, doing guest posts for other websites, and teaming up with others selling similar or complementary products/services you can increase your traffic as well.

*Read more about search engine optimization here.

10. Social Media

Social media is a great way to get your content out there and advertise your website.

  1. FaceBook: This is a great place to network and share your content.
  2. Twitter: Another great platform to share your content.
  3. Instagram: A visual platform to share your pictures associated with your website.
  4. Google Plus: Helps your content to show up in Google searches more often.
  5. Pinterest: A great way to get your content shared in a visual format.
  6. YouTube: Think about starting a YouTube channel to share your content.

11. Amazon Associates

If you are going to be linking to products that people can buy on Amazon, you’ll want to start an Amazon Associate’s account. Watch the tutorial here to learn about the program in more detail, but basically, you can earn a percentage (which starts out low, but gets higher when more items are purchased) when people click on your links and buy your recommended items. The really cool thing about this program is that if people search for and buy other items once they’ve entered Amazon via your site (even items you haven’t recommended), you’ll still earn a percentage. This is called a “third party sale”. *On a side note: the cost of the product remains the same as if the customer would just do a regular Amazon search.

Amazon approves accounts on a case by case basis, and you’ll need to get a certain amount of clicks on your links in order to remain in the program. You also have to make sure you clearly disclose your affiliation or they could terminate your account. (Check out my disclaimer here. I also have a disclaimer link on every blog.)

12. WooCommerce

Woocommerce is the best way to set up a shopping platform. It’s free, easy to set up, and easy to use. Once you install the plugin, it will walk you through the install. I recommend creating your own shop page so you can customize it, but if you don’t, it will automatically create one for you. Once everything is installed, all you have to do is set up your products. If you have any questions along the way, check out Woocommerce Docs.

Setting up shipping was the hardest thing for me. I tried setting up a variety of shipping options, and in the end just decided to include the cost of shipping in my product and offer free shipping on everything.

Another option if you’re looking to have all of the work done for you (calculating shipping, printing shipping labels, sending customers tracking information, etc.), you might want to consider opening an Etsy shop and linking to it on your website. The benefit of using Etsy is that it can provide a platform for you to share your product, but the downside is that it doesn’t offer as many options if you plan on growing. Check out my Etsy shop here, and feel free to copy my shipping policies, etc.

13. Nitty Gritty Stuff

  1. Cite Your Sources: This isn’t English 101 requiring MLA format, but be courteous and find a way to link to the sources that you can use. You can link to the name of the author and/or title of their work, link to some key words in your text, or have a link called “source” in parentheses at the end of the information you’re paraphrasing. If you’re citing something word for word, make sure you put it in quotes and thoroughly cite the source.
  2. Grammar Police: Think about what tense you want to write in (past, present, or future) and stick with it. Find a pattern for personal pronouns (“you” is informal, “one” is really formal, or you can stick with your experiences and just say “I” or “we”). When referring to gender pronouns, you can try to make the plural form work, alternate between he/she, or take turns with each gender.
  3. Policies and Disclaimers: You might not want to worry about this until later, but it’s good to cover your butt and have these thing covered. Check out my terms of use, disclaimer, privacy policy, comment policy, and more in my About Me section.
  4. Make Yourself Present: Find a good picture of yourself to post and have a place for a personal bio. People like to know who is creating the content.

In Conclusion

I’m not going to lie, having my sister as a web developer at Curly Host has definitely given me an edge as I’ve created my own website, but I hope that by offering these tips, I can help to give you that edge too. I certainly don’t know everything and have a long ways to go before I reach my final goals, but I hope that by sharing my experiences with creating my blog, I can help others out there who are starting from scratch. If you’ve got a budget, I highly recommend getting ahold of my sister Andrea at Curly Host, and she will not only set you up, but teach you how to manage your own cite along the way. Happy blogging!

Embracing Motherhood How to Make a Stock Tank Pool

How to Make a Stock Tank Pool

What’s the one thing that always feels good on a hot summer’s day? Water. Running through a sprinkler, splashing in a kiddie pool, going down a slip and slide, and floating in a pool are all ways to make the summer heat mesh nicely with your body.

Swimming in Our Stock Tank Pool (2017)

Swimming in Our Stock Tank Pool (2017)

With five young kids seven and under, we don’t really like to go anywhere, and this stock tank pool has been an amazing cost effective addition to our yard for both us and our kids. When the temperature is above 70º F (we’ll even settle for 60º F on an early spring thaw), our kids will play in it for hours every single day. This is our third summer using it, and has held up beautifully.

Another early spring swim on a 60 degree day!

Swimming in our stock tank pool in mid April! Brrrr…

They love sitting in their round doughnuts bouncing up and down, riding around on pool noodles, jumping off from the ladder, and just splashing around. My husband and I like to find a way to float and relax. When we close our eyes and feel our bodies bob around in the water, we can almost envision that we’re floating on the shores of some tropical island…until Elliot does a cannonball that is!

With our stock tank pool, homemade sandbox, garden, backyard teepee, stepping stumps, and homemade obstacle course, we are content to just stay home all summer long! *Video note: We don’t typically run the filter while kids are swimming in it. The suction is incredibly strong and can be quite shocking if you accidentally press your butt against it! 🙂

When we started researching pools last summer, I was almost tempted to buy a 12 foot Intex pool, but after reading reviews about patching pinholes and knowing that my kids like to play rough (which it couldn’t sustain), I didn’t think it sounded like a good idea.

Growing up, my Aunt Sue always had a round stock tank pool that she placed on a deck in her backyard. She always kept the water crystal clear with a filter and had it set up on a little deck. It was beautiful! We had an oval shaped horse trough pool growing up, but we never really kept it clean, and it turned into a holding tank for the tadpoles and turtles that we would catch in our nearby lake. It was still really fun though!

I scoured the Internet for some good directions for making a stock tank pool and could only find really cute pictures (that often showed crystal clear water with no filter…not possible!) without many good directions, so I hope that in this post, I can be a little more specific. Needless to say, we learned how to do everything wrong before we learned how to do everything right, so hopefully, if you’re looking to make your own stock tank pool, you can avoid some of the pitfalls we had.

Summer fun in our stock tank pool

Summer fun in our stock tank pool

Materials

  • 10 Foot (diameter) Round Galvanized Steel Stock Tank Pool: An 8 foot would work too. They are typically 2 feet high – which is pretty much shorter than anyone who is really good at walking, so it’s safe for toddlers! If you want to buy something online, Amazon has these plastic 8 foots, and the hole saw kits I talk about later work on plastic as well. Stockyards Ranch Supply in Colorado also has them, and you can call for a delivery quote.
  • Sand Filter Pump: You don’t have to have a pump if you’re okay with just emptying the pool when it gets dirty or using some chlorine or bromine tablets, but I highly recommend buying one for the long haul. It’s great for filtering out algae and debris, has a 24-hour timer with preset cycles for automatic operation, is low maintenance (you only need to empty out the sand every 5 years), and has a six-function control valve that lets you filter, backwash, rinse, recirculate, drain, and close the system. We bought the filter for a 16″ diameter pool. It filters 2,450 gallons per hour, and it does a very nice job, but we still need to add shock treatment or drain it completely several times over the summer. They also offer a 12″ filter that cycles through 1,600 gallons an hour and a 10″ filter that cycles through 1,050 gallons an hour. *FYI: a 10″ stock tank pool holds 1,100 gallons.
  • Pool Filter SandWe just used some sand from our sandbox, but this type of sand that I linked to was recommended by our pool filter system manual.
  • *Additional Filter Systems:
    • Saltwater System: It pretty much makes its own “natural” chlorine. You could use this in addition to the sand filter for optimum performance.
    • Cartridge Filter Pump: If you’re looking for the cheapest option, you could get this cartridge filter pump, but you’d have to replace the filters every two weeks.
    • Floating Dispenser and Bromine Tablets or Chlorine Tablets (bromine is safer than chlorine…slightly).
    • Pool Water Shock: Kills bacteria and algae in one big “shock” of chlorine.
    • Because of the dangers of chlorine, we try our best to avoid it. We’d prefer not to use any of these methods, but we have used the pool shock a time or two when things got bad (mainly because we didn’t use our pool filter properly). It did a fine job of killing the algae, and we just avoided the pool until it all evaporated, 24-48 hours. 
  • Drill: You’ll need to drill two holes into the pool if you’re going to attach a filter. As convenient as a cordless drill can be, we have had much more success with drilling projects that need a lot of power to use a corded drill. You’ll also need a hole saw kit to attach to your drill.
  • Hose Conversion Adapter KitWe got some metal hardware from the store, but the plastic ones I linked to here should work fine as well. Basically, you just need something to attach the pool filter to the hole you’ll make in the pool.
    For attaching the pool filter tubes to the hole in the pool.

    For attaching the pool filter tubes to the hole in the pool.

    We cut our hole too small, so we needed some extra pieces!

    We initially cut our hole too small, so we needed some extra pieces!

  • Plumber’s PuttyThis stuff is waterproof and great for plugging up all leaks! If I could do it again though, I think this epoxy would’ve worked better.
  • *18″ Pool: If you’re looking for something bigger that is super easy to set up and comes with EVERYTHING you’ll need, you might want to check this out. 🙂

Directions

  1. Get the pool to your house! You can order a stock tank pool online and they will deliver it, or you can purchase it from a store and for a fee they can probably deliver it too. My husband knew someone who had an open trailer. They went to the store, picked it up, strapped it down, and drove it to our house.
  2. Prepare the pool location. You want a place that is flat and level that isn’t close to too many trees that will annoy you with their random leaves cluttering your pool. When we made our sandbox, we put an extra load where we wanted our pool, and it made an excellent base. (You don’t have to do this, it’s just a nice touch.)

    laying down the stock tank pool

    Getting the Stock Tank Pool Home

  3. Set up the pool filter. This seems a lot more complicated than it really is, especially after you watch the instruction video, but bear with it, it’s not that bad. Basically, you’ll need to put it together and fill it with sand. You can put it on a base, but we never did and it worked just fine.

    Pool Filter for the Stock Tank Pool

    Pool Filter for the Stock Tank Pool

  4. Measure the pool filter tubes. We made the mistake of measuring the interior diameter rather than the exterior diameter of our tubes and since the drill bit needs to connect with the center, once you make a hole too small, you can’t make it bigger. This made the entire process of connecting the tubes turn into a HUGE ordeal for us (and is why you’ll notice lots of adhesive covered with cloths over our tubes). We had to get extender pieces and everything leaked in every possible place, but we eventually got it all sealed up and running great. So basically, measure twice and cut once!
  5. Cut two holes in the stock tank pool for the filter tubes. You’ll want to position the holes about 2-3 feet apart from each other in about the middle of the top half of the pool walls. Use a drill and a metal drill bit to cut the holes. Some protective eyewear is probably a good idea. 🙂
  6. Attach the hardware into the holes made in the stock tank pool. Get as snug of a fit as you can, and then seal everything up with epoxy or plumber’s putty. You might even want to put some plumber’s tape around the threads.
  7. Attach the pool filter tubes. Once again, get everything to fit as tight as you can then seal everything with plumber’s putty or epoxy. Don’t worry, you’ll be able to detach the tubes at the filter to drain the pool. (Plus there’s a little screw thing near the bottom of the pool that you can take out to drain the pool too.)

    Stock Tank Pool

    Stock Tank Pool

  8. Fill with water. Fill the water just above the holes to make sure they are not leaking. If they are, drain the water a bit and seal any holes. When we did this, we just used whatever sealers we could find in our house. It made a big mess, but it did the job!

Stock Tank Pool Maintenance

  1. Keep the junk out. We made sure to establish some rules with the kids about not putting sand or other debris into the pool and put a little foot rinsing bucket in front of the ladder. I also like using a pool skimmer about once a week or so to fish out any stray floaties. But seriously, we don’t get too strict here because it’s no fun if you start getting paranoid about every speck of dirt that might get in.
  2. Run the filter. Pay close attention to the owner’s manual for your filter and run all scheduled maintenance. We did a poor job of this the first year we had our pool, and as a result, the tubes filled up with green algae as did the filter, and it became very hard to keep clean. I highly recommend watching the instruction DVD that comes with your filter (if you choose to use one…you really don’t have to). It has a 24 hour timer attached, so it’s easy enough to schedule about an hour every day for the filter and rinse. Just don’t forget the backwash and rinse…very important!
  3. Drain it. After the first fill up during the first year of having our pool, it stayed pretty clean and clear for about 6-8 weeks. Then, it started to get a little green looking, and then like the next day we couldn’t see the bottom of the pool! When this happens, all of the shock treatment in the world won’t make a difference, and it’s better to just drain it. To drain the pool, unscrew the tubes from the filter and pull the plug out from the bottom. It will make the ground nice and swampy for the afternoon, but the water will all drain away eventually.

    Draining the Stock Tank Pool

    Draining the Stock Tank Pool

  4. Power wash it. Having a good power washer like this is useful around the house for so many reasons, but for cleaning out a dirty pool, it’s simply the best! Unless you want to be super meticulous, you won’t get every little speck, but it will dislodge most of the gunk, and the rest you can get with elbow grease.

    Power Washing the Stock Tank Pool

    Power Washing the Stock Tank Pool

  5. Scrub it. I like using this natural cleaner called Sol-U-Mel (it’s AMAZING and cleans EVERYTHING…it’s like Goof Off without the toxins). Spray, scrub, spray, scrub, spray, scrub…

    Scrubbing the Stock Tank Pool

    Scrubbing the Stock Tank Pool

  6. All clean! Now that the pool is nice and clean, make sure the pool filter is free from debris, and fill it up again! Check for leaks as it’s filling, and if you notice anything, a little plumber’s putty should do the trick.

    Our Stock Tank Pool is Nice and Clean

    Our Stock Tank Pool is Nice and Clean

Additional Pool Items

  • Pool LadderThis is the one we got, and it’s quite a bit taller than our pool, but our kids love it!
  • Solar CoverThis works great to keep debris out of the pool and to warm the water. If you get this, I don’t think you need a pool cover.
  • Pool SkimmerThis is great for getting out grass clippings, small leaves, and any other little floaters.
  • Life Jackets: These life jackets are our favorites for the little ones (30-50 lbs) and are great for teaching kids the mechanics of swimming.
  • Swimming Diapers: As much as I love to have my kids run around naked in the summer, I don’t like them peeing and pooping in our pool!
  • Flotation Devices: This pool isn’t that big enough hold anything too big, but our kids have enjoyed some basic round tubes. We have also enjoyed getting some fancy full body floating devices for a really tropical experience!
  • Pool NoodlesThe kids have enjoyed playing with these in the pool more than anything! Scott and I like tucking one under our neck and one under our ankles and floating like we’re in the middle of the crystal clear waters of some tropical resort!
  • Diving Rings and Sticks: Once kids can hold their breath underwater, these diving rings and sticks (with goggles) make for a lot of fun!
  • Foot Rinsing BucketWe like putting a large rectangular bucket in front of the ladder so that the kids will rinse their feet before going in.

In Conclusion

If you want something sturdy and fun that will allow you to enjoy hours and hours of backyard fun in the summer sun, I highly recommend getting a stock tank pool set up. If we had gone with one of the cheap Intex pools of a similar size, we would constantly have to nag the kids to be gentle and then it would probably still pop a hole at some point anyways. This has stood up VERY well to lots of roughhousing, and I’m hoping that it will last for years to come!

Happy swimming!

Embracing Motherhood How to Make Flower Hair Clips

How to Make Flower Hair Clips

My six year old daughter Ruby and I have learned how to make these fabulous flower clips together. We really love doing crafty projects together and these have been really fun and fairly easy to make.

I have to give a big shout out to my brother David’s fiance, Mae Belle, for making them for us for my brother Jarrod (check out his handmade one of a kind wooden earrings and such at BramblesWoodwork) and his new wife Francesca’s wedding recently and then for teaching me step by step how to make them myself. Isn’t she fabulous?

Mae Belle Wearing her Fabulous Flower Clips

Mae Belle Wearing her Fabulous Flower Clips

I felt like Mae Belle’s hair clip took my basic black dress ensemble to the next level. I felt super beautiful and fancy and got lots of compliments on this lovely accessory.

Wearing Mae Belle's Flower Clip at Jarrod and Francesca's Wedding

Wearing Mae Belle’s Flower Clip at Jarrod and Francesca’s Wedding

I’m always looking for fun and creative things to do as a stay at home mom with four young children, and when Mae Belle showed me how she made her wonderful hair clips, I thought, I can do this! Once I got all of the materials, it was easy to just start cranking them out. You can check out my Etsy shop if you’d like to purchase some that Ruby and I made, or you can follow the directions below to make your own!

Materials

  • Fake Flowers: I found mine by clearing out my local thrift stores. Look for the colors that you’d like to play around with and go for a variety of sizes and shapes. I tried not to spend more than a few dollars for each bundle. I have also found some great fake flowers at dollar stores like the Dollar Tree.

    Fake Flower Bundles

    Fake Flowers from the Thrift Store

  • Hot Glue Gun: You can pick one up at your local dollar store, or get one here.
  • Hot Glue Sticks: I ordered a big bag of 100 of them here. You’ll go through them surprisingly quickly! It probably takes about one glue stick to do two flowers. I’ve also found some even cheaper ($6) at Walmart in the craft section.
  • Clips: I like using these metal clips, but you could also get some that are shorter or some that have teeth.
  • Leather or Jean Fabric: I got some jean fabric for the backing because it was what I found at the thrift store. Mae Belle used soft leather. For my next batch, I’m using some cream colored canvas.
  • Melted Marbles, Beads, Buttons, or Jewels: These are for the center. You can go for more of a festive look with the jewels, an eccentric look with the buttons, or a subtle look with the clear melted marbles. You could even use the centers from the fake flowers. There’s a lot of room for creativity here!
  • Extras: Mae Belle likes using feathers as accents, and I think this looks really great! I’ve also saved some of the green petals from my fake flower bundles that might look nice. If I get really adventurous, I might use some of the little accent flowers that I’ve found in my flower bundles.
  • Paper Cutter: This is much easier than cutting all of the fabric rectangles by hand, but a pair of scissors will work just as well.
  • Small Toy: You just need something to use to push down the petals after you put on the hot glue so that you don’t burn your fingers. Whatever you use will get ruined! I used a unifix cube and it worked really well.
  • Large Book: You’ll need this to press down the petals after you glue them together. You might want to make a paper bag cover for the book because it may get ruined depending on how sloppy you get.

Directions

  1. Take Apart the Fake Flowers: This is the least fun and the hardest part of the whole process. First, pull off the heads of the flowers. They should pop right off. (Save the petals for accents if you’d like.) Then, take out the center of the flower. This might take a little wiggling. (Set these aside too.) You can choose to gently peel off any remaining plastic on each layer, or leave it on to make the petals a little stiffer. I personally like to peel off all of the plastic so that the petals will lie flat. *Some fake flowers had fake water droplets. Some of them peeled off easily, but with others it started to rip the fabric, so I left them on.

    Taking Apart the Artificial Flowers Embracing Motherhood

    Taking Apart the Artificial Flowers

  2. Sort and Arrange the Flowers: I like keeping all of the original flowers stacked together and then put all of the same colored flowers into large ziploc bags. When I’m ready to get to work, I like to spread all of my flower options out on the table, and then when I’m done, everything goes back into the plastic bags.
  3. Pre-Cut Fabric: Using your jean, soft leather, or canvas, cut 2½” x 2″ rectangles (2 per flower clip). I like using my paper cutter for this, but you could just use scissors too.
  4. Create a Design: There are lots of different ways to go about this. I like using about 3-5 flower petals, and I like to create a color theme with similarly based or complementary colors. But you could use only one color and stack lots of flower petals for a ruffled and elegant look as well. This is the part that is really fun! Get creative! I like to lay out my entire design before I start gluing.

    Flower Design Embracing Motherhood

    Flower Design

  5. Bottoms Up: Start with the bottom flower and hot glue the back of it to the piece of fabric. Always start with as little hot glue as you can. It dries quickly and too much will ruin the look of the flower.

    Gluing the Bottom Layer Embracing Motherhood

    Gluing the Bottom Layer

  6. Press It Down: After you attach the petal to the fabric, you’ll want to press it down with something. This is why I suggested gathering a small toy. I used a unifix cube because it’s what was close by, and it worked great.

    Pressing Down the Glue with a Unifix Cube Embracing Motherhood

    Pressing Down the Glue with a Unifix Cube

  7. Layer all Petals: Next, you’ll center your next petal on top of the first. Each petal has a circle in the middle that you can line up. Mae Belle told me that she likes to run a piece of wire inbetween all of the holes to keep all of the petals centered and together. I tried this method and it just didn’t work for me, but it might be something that you want to try.

    Layering the Petals Embracing Motherhood

    Layering the Petals

  8. Press Under a Book: I sometimes do this after every new petal that I put on depending on how much it’s sticking up, but you’ll at least need to do this once at the end. Whatever book you use, the cover will probably get covered with hot glue. So either make sure it’s a junky book or cover it with an old paper bag or something.
  9. Attach the Clip: This part is a little tricky. You want to position the clip so that the handle part is facing up. (When you position the clip this way, it will easily go in and out of your hair. If you put it the other way, it will get stuck and rip out a bunch of hair when you try to take it out, and that’s no fun.) Open the clip and set it against the piece of fabric, outline the fabric on the edges and underneath where the clip will go in the center with hot glue, set the clip on the hot glue (Keep it open!), and then quickly put another piece of fabric on top. Press down firmly until it dries.
    Keep the Clip Open as You Put on the Hot Glue Embracing Motherhood

    Keep the Clip Open as You Put on the Hot Glue

    Place the Second Piece of Fabric on Top Embracing Motherhood

    Place the Second Piece of Fabric on Top

  10. Center Piece: Try playing around with some jewels, beads, or melted marbles until you get the look you are going for. It just takes a dot of glue to hold it down. You could do this part before putting the clip on, but it’s hard to press it down flat once the jewel is on.
  11. Finishing Touches: Looking from the top down, make sure all parts of the petals are securely attached. Add any more dots of hot glue as needed. Add any feathers or other special accents that you’d like.

    Finished Product Embracing Motherhood

    Finished Product

In Conclusion

When you first start wearing these clips, you may feel eccentric and pretty darn fashionable. But after awhile, you will get used to people complimenting you constantly. As you do, make sure to refer them to this blog if they’d like to make their own, or to my Etsy page if they’d like to bypass all the fuss and just buy one that Ruby and I have created!

Embracing Motherhood How to Make All Natural Homemade Lip Balm

How to Make Your Own Lip Balm

Do you already make your own deodorant or whipped body butter? Then with one more ingredient (beeswax), you can also make your own lip balm! I’ve always been a big fan of using Bag Balm on my lips, but I like this even better! It makes my lips super smooth, and I love the smell!  This recipe is super easy to follow, and you can have your own lip balm in no time! I made quadruple this recipe because (as always), I like to have extra to give away and store for another day.

Ingredients/Materials

Ingredient Notes

  • The ratio for this recipe just needs to be one part beeswax, two parts coconut oil, and two parts shea butter or cocoa butter (or even mango butter) for a medium firm recipe.
  • To make a softer lip balm that you might want to store in a tin like this, reduce the amount of beeswax (up to half), and if you want a firmer chap stick, increase the amount of beeswax (up to double).
  • Essential oils are all about your preference. You might enjoy using mint, lavender, blood orange, or any other oil that you fancy!
  • I’ve linked to my favorite brands from Amazon above, but I really prefer ordering all of my natural care products from Bulk Apothecary. They carry superb products at a reasonable price.

Directions

  1. Set up a double broiler by boiling a pan of water and placing a glass bowl on top of it.
  2. Add the beeswax, coconut oil, and shea butter and/or cocoa butter.
  3. The beeswax takes the longest to melt which is about 15-20 minutes. (To speed up the process, you can put a towel over the bowl. Just make sure it doesn’t touch the burner!)
  4. Transfer your melted mixture to a pouring container (like this). A spatula can help to transfer all of the mixture.
  5. Stand up all of your lip balm containers and place them close together in a bunch.
  6. Use the funnel to fill each container.
  7. Let cool, harden, and then use!
Embracing Motherhood All Natural Homemade Deodorant That Really Works!

All Natural Homemade Deodorant That Really Works!

I have been using my homemade deodorant for awhile now, and I am blown away by how well it works. Not only is it better for me, but I get to tailor it to my likes and needs. I first got the idea that commercial deodorants were bad when I read this article about how the aluminum in commercial antiperspirant deodorants prevents your body from sweating (which is one of the ways that the body releases toxins), and it was reason enough to make me search for an aluminum free deodorant! (Not to mention that aluminum is toxic to the body.) My husband was easily able to find a deodorant without an antiperspirant (Dove), but I was only left with a few natural options at the grocery store. I tried every one, and none of them worked. In fact, Tom’s Natural Deodorant actually made me smell worse!

Then my cousin said she tried Primal Pit, and it was the first natural deodorant she had ever used that actually worked. I was going to buy some myself, but when I saw the price tag and the list of ingredients, I thought, “I can make this!” I was also inspired by Wellness Mama’s all natural homemade deodorant recipe to just make my own, and so I did! (If you’d like to buy some that I’ve made, check out my Etsy shop!)

Homemade Deodorant Recipe

Ingredients:

*Note: The pictures below actually show me making a double recipe. When I make things, I like to have enough to last for a long time, and I like to have extra to give away! A single recipe should make four 4 oz jars of deodorant, and each jar should last for about 2-3 months. Coconut oil has a shelf life of about 18 months (if in a covered jar), so that’s a pretty good expectation for how long it should keep.

Directions:

  1. Measure the Ingredients: Measure the coconut oil, shea butter, cocoa butter, and beeswax and place in a glass bowl.

    cocoa butter shea butter coconut oil beeswax

    Cocoa Butter, Shea Butter, Coconut Oil, and Beeswax

  2. Double Broiler: You can use a double broiler like this, or you can just put a glass bowl on top of a pan of boiling water (that’s what I did). Make sure everything is completely melted before moving on. This should take about 15-20 minutes. If you want to speed things up, put a towel over the top. Just make sure it doesn’t touch the burner!

    double broiler

    Double Broiler

  3. Add Powders: Using hot pads, place the bowl on the table. Then add the arrowroot powder and baking soda. Mix with a fork until it’s nice and creamy.
    melted butters and oils

    All Melted!

    stirring ingredients

    Adding the Dry Ingredients

  4. Add the Essential Oils: I like using a dropper like this for measuring my oils. Don’t add the essential oils before you heat everything up because they will evaporate and not be as strong.
  5. Storage Containers: I like keeping my deodorant in small glass jars because that is what fits best in my bathroom. I like using a pouring container like this to transfer the recipe into small jars.

    ready to pour

    Ready to Pour

Deodorant in a Glass Jar

Deodorant in a Glass Jar

Deodorant Stick

hardened deodorant

Deodorant Stick Hardened

If you want to be able to keep your deodorant in a plastic deodorant container, you can use the above recipe and just keep your deodorant in the refrigerator. I don’t really like this because I need to have all of my beauty products in one location or I’ll just forget to use them. Plus, I’m not really a fan of the cold shock. But you just might like the awakening jolt of a cold stick in your pits! It melts pretty quickly once it hits your warm skin and this way, you don’t need to get your fingers “dirty”.

filled deodorants

Deodorant Sticks

If you want to modify the recipe to be able to keep your sticks out and solid at room temperature, just substitute beeswax for the cocoa butter and shea butter. I did a little experiment however, where I put the beeswax deodorant stick on one armpit and my original recipe on the other, and the original recipe fared much much better.

FAQs

How Should I Use This? First of all, natural deodorants really work best on thoroughly cleaned armpits. So when you’re in the shower, don’t just graze your pits with a loofa; really get in there with a bar of soap and make sure they are clean! I find it’s best to apply this deodorant right after I get out of the shower (I have never had it sting after shaving my pits) and before I put any clothes on, but you could apply it once you’re dressed too. (It won’t leave any white marks on your clothes like traditional deodorant sticks, and it’s not so oily so that it will leave grease stains on your clothes.) Scoop a pea sized amount onto your fingertips and rub into your pits. With the leftover residue on my fingertips, I usually smooth out any flyaway hairs on the top of my head and rub the rest into my hands to soften them up. I typically don’t reapply throughout the day, but if you’re worried about stinking, it might be a good idea.

Can I Play Around with the Recipe? I have played around with many different combinations and types of oils, butters and wax, and even though this exact recipe is my favorite, there is a lot of room to play around with different combinations of things. For example, you could substitute cocoa butter for shea butter or eliminate the beeswax altogether. I just think that the coconut oil is the most important moisturizing component to keep. You also want dry ingredients to be about one and a half times more than the liquid ingredients. (So, about one cup of “liquids” and one and a half cups of dry ingredients.) I have used many different essential oil combinations, and this one turned out simply divine! I really think that the tea tree oil and lavender oil are essential, but the honeysuckle was just for my personal preference. Feel free to add whatever essential oils you like until you find the right combination that works for you.

Where Can I Get the Ingredients? I originally bought all of my ingredients on Amazon, and I have linked to them above. I used my favorite organic brands, and I really loved the quality. But since then, I have discovered Bulk Apothecary. They are an amazing company that consistently delivers a quality product at a reasonable price. I buy coconut oil (not organic) in bulk from Country Life to use for cooking. It’s such a great deal at $70.00 for 50 lbs that I can use it liberally without breaking the bank! If I can’t afford to buy the organic coconut oil, this totally works for my deodorant. Also, once you buy the shea butter, cocoa butter, coconut oil, beeswax, and essential oils, you’ve got a lot of the ingredients to make whipped body butter, toothpaste, and lip balm (recipe coming soon).

How Can I Make This Recipe More Manly? I have not yet made this deodorant for my husband, but I’d like to someday, and I will update this post when I do. In the meantime, to make this recipe into a version fit for a manly man who likes manly smelling things, I would use all of the same ingredients except for the lavender and honeysuckle oil. If you take those out, the tea tree oil might be a little overpowering, so you could add sandalwood oil, cedarwood oil, vanilla oil, patchouli oil, or any other scent you fancy to find the scent combination that works for you.

Is There an Adjustment Period? If you’ve been using an aluminum based deodorant for awhile, you’ll need to “detox” for a bit before your body fully adjusts. With your antiperspirant deodorant, your pits weren’t allowed to sweat freely. Now they are, and they will have a lot of toxins to eliminate. So you may initially see a large amount of perspiration as your body adjusts. After awhile, however, things will taper off and you’ll settle in to a new normal. I’ve also heard that your pits might be a little sensitive at first, but I haven’t personally experienced that myself. If this happens to you, you might want to make a batch with about half of the recommended baking soda and go really easy on the tea tree oil, which is probably what’s irritating you.

Why Do Underarms Stink Anyways? Sweating is how the body cools itself down when we get too hot. Sweat has no odor. The odor is caused by the bacteria that live on our skin. Basically, the bacteria metabolize the proteins and fatty acids from our sweat, and this is what causes body odor. We don’t need to stop the sweat to stop the odor, we just need to stop the bacteria. This is why so many of the ingredients in this deodorant recipe are anti-bacterial. If you’re really concerned about having stinky pits, you should make sure to shave often so that the bacteria have less places to get trapped. Other things can effect the smell of your pits as well. Being overweight, being diabetic, taking antidepressants, and eating garlic, certain spices, and alcohol can also effect the smell of your pits.

Reasons to Avoid Commercial Deodorant

When I researched these harmful ingredients found in commercial ingredients, I was very glad that I had stopped using it and found a better alternative.

  1. Aluminum – A metal used to help block the sweat from escaping from the pores. It has been linked to breast cancer, prostate cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. (Here’s a study showing aluminum found in breast biopsies. This is a great article if you want to learn more about the dangers of aluminum.)
  2. Parabens – A synthetic preservative that disrupts the hormonal balance leading to early puberty, a higher risk of hormonal cancers, birth defects, and organ toxicity. (Check out this study about how parabens are found in breast tumors, and read this article that explains how when mothers are pregnant, parabens cross the placenta and are even found in higher concentrations in the baby.)
  3. Propylene Glycol – A petroleum based material used to soften cosmetic products that in large quantities can damage the central nervous system, liver, and heart. It is also found in many processed foods. (This is a great article to learn more about the dangers of propylene glycol.)
  4. Phthalates – A class of chemical used to dissolve other ingredients and to create a better consistency that has been linked to birth defects, cell mutation, and a disruption of hormone receptors. Used in cosmetics, synthetic fragrances, plastics, body care products, and medical goods. (This is a great article to learn more about how phthalates can affect you when you’re pregnant and what to do about it.)

In Conclusion

If you google it, I’m sure you can find a plethora of articles saying that these ingredients and commercial underarm deodorant is just fine, but if there’s even a shadow of doubt in your mind, why risk it? Especially when this deodorant recipe works better than anything else on the market. And if you don’t feel like making it, check out my Etsy shop, and you can buy some from me for a great deal!

Homemade Deodorant, 4 fl oz.

Homemade Deodorant, 4 fl oz.

Embracing Motherhood How to Build a Sandbox

How to Build a Sandbox

It’s that time of year when the kids are out of school and all of the possibilities that they ever dreamed of are at their fingertips, and yet what do you hear when you unleash them into the wilderness of your yard, “I’M BORED!” Well, thankfully, we haven’t really ever heard our kids say that over the summer, and having this sandbox is part of the reason why. Between this and our stock tank pool, we are all set.

Neither my husband or I are really very “handy” people and this was really one of the first building projects we ever took on together. But overall, it was a fairly simple and straightforward process that has yielded a tremendous amount of fun for the children. If you have even a bit of land, I would highly recommend building a sandbox for your little ones. Not only will it provide endless hours of fun, but it will also provide them an opportunity to play barefoot in the earth which is an excellent source of antioxidants.

Materials

  • Wood
    • Four 4″ x 4″ Posts – 12 inches long, for the corners
    • Four 2″ x 10″ Boards – for the edges
  • Wood Screws – a whole bunch
  • Power Drill – cordless is best
  • Weed Blocker – absolutely essential for keeping weeds out
  • River Sand (100 cubic feet for a 10′ x 10′ sandbox) – We got ours delivered from Bill Whaling Excavating in Reed City, MI for $100.

Material Notes

  • Pressure Treated Wood: By 2013 all CCA (chromated copper arsenate) was phased out of use in pressure treated wood and replaced with AC (alkaline copper) and ACQ (quaternary ammonium compounds). These pesticides (which are meant to prevent rotting from insects and fungus) still pose some health risks, but are not the cancer causing hazard of CCA. The 4′ x 4’s we purchased were pressure treated, but the rest of the wood we got was not. If you purchased some wood and you’re concerned about the risks, you can always just paint over it with a sealer, which I recommend doing anyways.
  • Safe Sand: Look out for sand made with crystalline silica because it is a carcinogen that can cause damage to the lungs when breathed in (something your little ones will be doing a lot of in the sandbox). Much of the play sand found in stores today is not natural sand, but derived from quarried quartz rocks. The state of CA actually requires a warning label to be put on this sand to warn of the dangers. Some people have opted for using pea gravel or other substances instead of sand, but we just contacted a local gravel company and purchased some river bed sand.

Directions

  1. Location: Find a place that has shade (something we didn’t do that I wish we had), good drainage (not at the bottom of a hill), and is in a good location for you to see while you putz around.
  2. Measure and Mark: Measure out how big you want your sandbox and mark your corners. We made ours 10′ x 10′, and I feel like it is the perfect size. You’ll want to dig a few inches outside of where you want the sandbox. Better to dig too much than not enough!
  3. Dig the Corners: Take your time to make sure the corners line up and everything makes a nice looking square. You’ll want your  corners to be a few inches deeper than the rest of the sandbox for your posts to go in.
    Digging the Corners for Our Sandbox

    Digging the Corners for Our Sandbox

  4. Dig the Sod: The toughest part of all of this was digging up the sod. We have a lot of rocks in our yard, and that made it extra tough. Plus, it was barely spring and the ground was still frozen when we started. (Yes, we were itchin’ for warmer weather!)
    digging sod for sandbox

    Digging Out the Sod for Our Sandbox

  5. Use That Sod: We actually used all of the sod and dirt we dug up to make a little hill in our yard. Over time, the sod pieces all came together, and now we have a nice little grassy hill that our kids (our toddler especially) love climbing on.
  6. Dig Down (if you want): Our ground was too rocky and still slightly frozen, so we did not. But if you could, I think it would be good to dig down another 6 to 12 inches to allow more room for the sand.
  7. Level the Ground: Try to get the ground as level as you can. You can just eyeball it or use a rake to really even it out.
  8. Weed Blocker: We went to our local lumber store and got something like this. I like it because it prevents the weeds from growing through the sand, but it also allows for drainage (which you will need if your kids want to make castles with moats and flood the sandbox as ours frequently do). I know that some people lay down plastic and poke holes in it, but I’m not sure that would provide enough drainage.
    laying the weed blocker for the sandbox

    Laying Out the Weed Blocker for Our Sandbox

  9. Stain the Wood: We stained our wood with an exterior stain like this. These saw horses came in really handy for laying out the wood. We were worried about the rain, so we wanted to keep the wood under our overhang, but to this day (one year later) we still have drips of stain on our concrete. For this reason, I wish we would have done it in the grass.
    staining wood for sandbox

    Scott Staining the Wood for Our Sandbox

  10. Make the Sandbox Frame: We are not really handy people and this was the first thing we ever really built together. We made a few mistakes, but overall, it was still a pretty simple procedure that turned out rather well. First, we cut the four posts to be 12′ long using a circular saw. Next, we used our power drill and some wood screws to attach the 10″ planks to the posts. We made the mistake of not attaching the planks to the posts in an even pattern all the way around. Scott drew a quick little sketch to show the wrong way and the right way. 🙂
    Wrong Way

    Wrong Way

    Right Way

    Right Way

    sandbox frame

    Sandbox Frame

  11. Put the Frame in Place: When you lay the frame down, you want it to lay over the weed blocker. There should be a small gap inbetween the frame and the dirt that you will fill in later with loose dirt. Step on all of the posts to push them into the ground as much as you can. Then, fill in all around the frame with dirt until it is secure.
    Laying Down the Sandbox Frame

    Laying Down the Sandbox Frame

  12. Fill with Sand: When we moved into this house, we knew that we wanted a sandbox and a fence to be put in. We were smart to put the sandbox in before the fence because I’m not sure that this truck would have fit through our gate! Anyways, we just contacted a local gravel company and had our sandbox filled for $100. He said he was fine giving us as much as we wanted for that $100, so I told him “when” when I thought we had quite enough sand!
    truck with sand for sandbox

    Getting Ready to Dump the Sand for Our Sandbox

    sand delivery

    Sand Delivery for Our Sandbox

  13. Extra Sand: We loaded up the wheelbarrow and put one load of extra sand where we wanted to put our stock tank pool and another extra load where we wanted to create a mini sandbox.
    extra sand for stock tank pool

    Extra Sand for Our Stock Tank Pool

    extra sand by tree for small sandbox

    Extra Sand for a Mini Sandbox Under the Tree

    grandpa helps with the sandbox chairs

    Grandpa Helped Us Build Some Sandbox Chairs

  14. Make a Cover (Optional): Every blog that I read about building a sandbox included directions for making a cover. We researched many different options and decided to attach a cover that folded out. We had every intention of actually attaching our cover in order to keep out our cats and any other critters, but it just never worked out and we never did attach the darn thing. I didn’t like how we would have had to take out all of our sandbox toys in order to close the cover. Plus, I didn’t want to kill the grass on either side if the cover were to be left open. We just keep an eye on our cats to keep them from using it as a litter box, and even though, yes, we find a turd in there from time to time, I’m glad we didn’t go with the cover.
    playing in the sandbox with a cover

    Optional Cover for Our Sandbox

Time to Play: We have had our sandbox for over a year now, and our kids have played in it every single time we have gone outside. It provides endless hours of imaginative play, and the kids absolutely love it!

playing in the sandbox

Our First Week Playing in Our New Sandbox

Playing in our Sandbox One Year Later

Playing in our Sandbox One Year Later

Building a Volcano with a Moat in a sandbox

Building a Volcano with a Moat in Our Sandbox

Tips and Tricks: Here are a few things that have helped us to enjoy our sandbox even more.

  • No Throwing Sand: Right away, we made a rule about not throwing the sand out of the sandbox, and that is why one year later we still have plenty of sand. We have never been super strict about this rule and encourage the children to dump globs of sand into our little pools if they so desire, but we also encourage them to not go overboard with it.
  • Play with Them: At first, we played with them in the sandbox a lot to help give them ideas for how to use it. We showed them how to make sandcastles, how to bury treasures and find them, how to play imagination games, how to dig moats and make rivers, and how to play with the sandbox toys. We still get in there and play with them from time to time because, hey, it’s fun!
  • Sand and Water: If you want to take your sandbox fun to the next level, just introduce a hose into the mix. You can show kids how to carve out moats and rivers or just let them bury the nozzle of the hose and watch the water bubble out. We also like putting our mini pools near the sandbox so the kids always have access to some sort of water.

In Conclusion

If you could only add one thing to your yard to entertain young children, I would say make it a sandbox! Every time we play outdoors, the kids spend time playing in the sandbox. It entertains them for hours and hours, and they absolutely love it. If you’re looking for another fun summer project, I would also highly recommend making a stock tank swimming pool. Between this and the sandbox, our kids are very entertained. They also enjoy our stepping stumps, teepee, and backyard obstacle course. The summer is such a fun time to do outdoor projects that encourage kids to have fun and play outside, so make the most of it!

How to Get Cat Pee Out of Concrete

How to Get Cat Pee Out of Concrete

Have you ever tried to get cat pee out of concrete? I know, it sucks. And the thing that sucks even worse is that the cat will keep peeing in the same place over and over again. Well, not anymore! I figured out a way to get the horrible stench out of cat pee out of concrete for good, and now our cat doesn’t pee there anymore!

Our Story

We live in an old remodeled farm house with a concrete basement. It’s enough room for Scott’s computer repair stuff, a workbench, and tucked in the back, a spare bed for guests and naps. But after our kitty, Storybelle, started peeing under the stairs on the concrete floor, we thought we would just have to be done using that room for good. The smell was horrible, and I had no idea how we were going to clean under the stairs short of removing them plank by plank.

A lot of dirt had accumulated under the stairs and she had literally started using the area as a litter box for weeks before we noticed. (Hey! Things get crazy around here with four kids, one of whom is a new baby!) In an effort to get rid of the smell, we swept up all of the dirt, sprinkled baking soda over the pee, swept again, sprayed Febreeze, lit incense, all to no avail. Not only that, but even though we tried to keep the door to the basement closed, she still somehow kept getting down there and peeing some more. If you have ever had this problem, you’ll know that cats love peeing in the same place where they have peed before!

I knew that I was going to need some more help, and so I found this stuff online. It sounded pretty good, but I didn’t feel like going to the store or waiting for shipping. I wanted to use something that I could find in the house to clean it up. So, I started scouring the Internet for solutions, and found forums like this, this, this, and this. Since the hydrogen peroxide idea seemed pretty popular, I gave it a try, and it was a huge success! Here’s what I did.

Ingredients/Materials

  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Baking Soda
  • *Optional: Dish Soap
  • Broom/Dust Pan or Shop Vac
  • *Optional: Polyurthane Vinal

Directions

  1. Pour a generous amount of hydrogen peroxide all over the pee soaked concrete.
    • You can make a mixture with 1 qt. hydrogen peroxide, ¼ cup baking soda, and 1 teaspoon baking soda if you’d like something more precise. I personally don’t feel like the soap made a difference or that making a mixture was necessary, but to each their own!
  2. Sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda on top.
  3. Let sit for 24-48 hours. (Basically, you want it to be completely dry.)
  4. When the hydrogen peroxide has evaporated, sweep or use a shop vac to vacuum up the baking soda. (It is NOT good for a regular vacuum to suck up a bunch of baking soda. I actually ruined one of our vacuums during this process. The shop vac that we bought worked great, I just had to REALLY clean out the filter afterwards.)
  5. Repeat until the smell is gone. I repeated this process two times and the smell was gone, but I did it a third time for good measure!

Other Tips and Tricks

  • Use a black light to see if there are any more pee stains that you’ve missed.
  • If you really want to seal the area up so that the cat will never be able to pee there again, pour some polyurethane on top to form a seal. A second coat would probably be a good idea too.
  • Hydrogen peroxide is great for getting out stains on clothes. Just mix with dish soap, pour it on, let it set, and then scrub gently until the stain is gone.

How to Make a Silky Blanket

How to Make a Silky Blanket

Growing up, I loved the special little blanket that my mother sewed for me by hand. I carried it everywhere until it wore away to shreds. When she made me a new one as an adult, I was thrilled beyond words and slept with it every night…until I had children of my own, one of whom laid claim over my silky blanket. I keep vowing to make myself another one, but with all of the blankets I’ve made for my children, I just haven’t had the time! Plus, I’m always cuddling one child or nursing another, so I always seem to have a silky at hand anyways.

Making a silky blanket is a simple process, and without hardly any sewing experience, I was able to throw my first one together. Now, over the years, my process has become much more refined, and even though my blankets aren’t riddled with mistakes (that children don’t notice anyways) like they used to be, I still can’t make the intricate patterns and designs that my mother does.

A Silky Blanket My Mom Made

A Silky Blanket My Mom Made

Another Silky Blanket My Mom Made

Another Silky Blanket My Mom Made

Yet, my simple blankets have pleased not only my children, but they have made great baby shower gifts for my closest friends and loved ones.

Four Homemade Silky Blankets

Four Finished Silky Blankets That I Made

I think that having a good sewing machine (I have one like this), is a very good investment. Even though I’m not making clothes from scratch, I really appreciate being able to hem pants, sew holes, modify clothes that are too big, patch anything that needs it (including our tent once), and make blankets and any other sewing project I feel like tackling.

Why Should You Make a Silky Blanket?

  1. Why Silk? I personally have always LOVED silk! I remember stealing my mother’s slips just so that I could rub the silky fabric between my fingers, and to this day, I love running my hands through racks of silky clothes on hangers. I think that if you’re going to be holding a baby and nursing them all the time, you deserve to be in contact with your favorite kind of fabric. So if silk really isn’t your thing, feel free to swap it with something that is.
  2. Nursing: My favorite part of having a silky is to use it while nursing.
    • I love being able to cradle it under my baby’s head so that it doesn’t get all sweaty against my arm.
    • I love using it as a nursing shawl when I’m breastfeeding in public. (By the way, I’m all for “breastfeeding rights”, I just prefer my privacy when it comes to my boobies.)
    • I love using it to cover up his eyes to shield them from the light he drifts off to sleep.
    • I love wrapping his whole body in it to keep him warm and snug.

      Nursing Julian Wrapped in Silky Blanket

      Nursing Julian

  3. Sense of Touch: Our sense of touch is a more important sense than we give it credit for. The emotional context of touch has a huge effect on the physical sensation, and so by linking the tactile contact we have with our children to a physical object that they can take and carry with them everywhere, it essentially magnifies our love!
  4. Sense of Smell: Smell can bring up memories almost instantaneously because the olfactory bulb is part of the brain’s limbic system, which controls memory and feeling. If you always carry your baby in his silky blanket, it will smell like you and provide an ongoing sense of security all the time.

    Julian Wrapped in His Silky Blanket and Sucking His Thumb

    Julian Soothing Himself

  5. For Years to Come: You’re not just making this blanket for your newborn, but for your toddler, young child, and beyond! My five year old still sleeps with her special silky every night. She also cuddles with it on the couch while reading or watching movies, takes it with her on long road trips, uses it to comfort her when she needs it, and of course brings it along on overnights at Grandma and Grandpa’s. Her Grandma Di actually made her favorite silky, and she loves knowing that.

Supplies Needed

  • Batting: You’ll want the 45″ x 60″ crib batting. I usually go with a heavier cotton batting like this for a winter baby and a lighter polyester batting like this for a summer baby. You can also find organic cotton batting like this.
  • Fabric: I usually go to the fabric store and pick out the silkiest feeling fabrics they have. (I value the feel over the color.) I typically get 1 ½ yards each of two main colors (for the front and back) and a ½ yard of a third color (for the edging).
  • Thread: I like to keep my eye out at thrift stores for thread to fill my sewing box, but when I’m at the fabric store getting my material, I’ll make sure I have thread to match the colors of my fabric.
  • Good Scissors: Cutting silky fabric is tough because it’s so slippery, so you’ll appreciate a good pair of sewing scissors like these.
  • Pins: Pinning the silky fabric is absolutely essential to getting straight (or somewhat straight) lines, so you’ll definitely want some pins. You’ll also appreciate a good pin holder like this.
  • Erasable Marker: This marvelous little invention allows you to draw on your sewing lines and then have them easily wash away. (Just a note: Children’s markers won’t wash away.)
  • Seam Ripper: You might not need one of these, but if you make a mistake, having one is absolutely essential!

Directions

  1. Prepare Materials: Before you begin, take stock of all your materials to make sure you have everything you need.
    Materials to Make Elliot's Bones Silky

    Elliot’s “Bones” Silky

    Make sure you have a nice, big, flat spot where you can spread out the fabric. (The floor is great, but the top of a bed works too and can be a little easier on your back.) If you have cats, get a spray bottle with water to keep them away. If you have kids, either enlist their help or get them busy doing something else.

    Materials to Make All of the Kids a Silky

    Materials to Make All of the Kids a Silky

  2. Lay Out the Fabric: Sometimes one side of the material looks better than the other. If so, make sure the best side is facing out when you spread out your first piece of fabric. Then, unfold the batting and put it on top of the first piece of fabric, and finally spread the second piece of fabric on top.

    laying out silky fabric to make a silky blanket

    Spreading Out the Fabric

  3. Pin Together: After you smooth out the material as much as possible, you’ll need to pin it together.
    cat and child help pinning sewing a silky blanket

    Peeka and Elliot Help Me Pin

    Start by making a horizontal line of pins spaced about 4-6 inches apart. Then, fold/roll the material to make about a 4-6 inch fold and pin another horizontal line. Continue doing this along the length of the entire blanket.

    Pinning Julian's Silky

    Pinning Julian’s Silky

  4. Draw Lines: Fold the pinned blanket in half length-ways and draw a dashed line along the middle. Fold the edge of the blanket to the middle line and draw another dashed line. Repeat on the other side. Then, fold the blanket in half going in the other direction, and draw dashed lines in the middle and on either side of the middle. This will make sewing straight lines much easier!

    sewed lines on a homemade silky blanket

    The Sewed Lines Will Look Like This

  5. Sew the Lines: Start by sewing the middle lines. I usually like to match my thread to the fabric color, so I’ll load the top color in the top of the sewing machine and the bottom color in the bobbin.
    sewing the lines on my homemade silky blanket

    Sewing the Lines

    If you really want to avoid getting ripples and bumps as much as possible, you could start sewing in the middle of your middle line, but I don’t usually do this. I just sew from one side to the other, removing any pins that get in my way in the process. After you sew the middle lines, you can sew the rest of the dashed lines. When you’re done, you should have taken out all of the pins, but you can save some for a child to take out too. 🙂

    child helping with sewing taking out the pins

    Elliot Helps Me Take Out the Pins

  6. Trim: Even though you may be tempted to trim your fabric beforehand, don’t do it until now. The silky fabric moves around a lot, and it will get bunched up in ways you can’t predict. By saving the trimming until now, you give yourself a bit more leeway.
  7. Prepare the Edging: Cut the fabric you’ll be using for the edging into about 4 inch strips. I usually just eyeball this because it doesn’t need to be exact. Sew the strips together, and make sure it will be long enough to fit around all of the edges.
  8. Sew On the Edging: Take one of the corners and line it up with the edging. Sew as straight of a line as you can, and make sure that all four layers are going under the thread. When you get to the corners, leave about an extra ½ inch or so (you really don’t need much), lift up the needle, and start sewing the next edge.
  9. Sew the Other Side of the Edging: This is probably the trickiest part of the whole blanket, and the part that I’m still trying to perfect to this day. Basically, you want to fold the edging around to the other side, tuck the edge underneath, and sew so that your line goes over the line you made on the other side. I’ve tried ironing the folded under edge to make it easier, but I don’t really think it’s worth the effort. When you’re done, flip the blanket over and sew any spots you’ve missed. *The corners have given me the most trouble over the years, and I still don’t think I have the perfect method for doing them. Sometimes, I just skip them, sew the other side, and come back to them at the end. Basically, you want to keep sewing into the corner as far as you can, lift your needle, arrange the fabric so it all comes together, turn, lower the needle, and sew into the next side. If all else fails, just sew over it a bunch of times until you can’t see any batting or loose edges. 🙂
  10. Final Touches: If you have the option on your sewing machine, you might want to sew a little message on one of the edges. Then, clip any loose strings and give the blanket a good once over to fix any weird spots. Finally, wash the blanket to get rid of the markings and to make it super duper soft.
Four Homemade Silky Blankets

Four Finished Silky Blankets

Pictures of Julian with His Silky

I love how in just about every picture I have of Julian, his silky is tucked lovingly around him. I’m sure he will love this blanket for years to come!

Ruby Holding Newborn Julian

Ruby Holding Newborn Julian

Elliot Holding Newborn Julian

Elliot Holding Newborn Julian

Andrea Holding Newborn Julian

Andrea Holding Newborn Julian

Grandma Jan Holding Newborn Julian

Grandma Jan Holding Newborn Julian

Grandpa Karl Holding Newborn Julian

Grandpa Karl Holding Newborn Julian

If You Don’t Want to Make One

You can buy a silky online like this or this, but there’s just nothing like a handmade silky. If I know you and I’m invited to your baby shower, be warned, I WILL make you one of these! If I don’t know you, and you’d like me to make you one, message me, and we can work something out!

How to Make Whipped Body Butter

I love moisturizing my skin with nourishing creams and lotions, but the more I have been learning about living a healthy lifestyle, the more I have been learning that what you put on your body is just as important as what we put into our bodies. When we eat food, it is processed and filtered through our digestive system, but when we put things on our skin, they are absorbed and enter the bloodstream without any filters. When I realized this, I knew that it would be important to start really looking at the ingredients in all of my skin care products. Something else I learned is that there are no FDA regulation for beauty products. This means that there’s really no way to know if companies are being truthful in their labels.

There are many different recipes for body butter but the best recipe will basically have a ratio of 25% liquid oil (almond oil or jajoba oil) to 75% solid oil (coconut oil, shea butter, cocoa butter, etc.). I’ve linked to some of the Amazon ingredients I’ve purchased, but I really love going through Bulk Apothecary for all of my wholesale needs. They have excellent products at a great price. I like to get everything organic, but they have some great naturally refined products if you’re looking for something without the odor.

Ingredients:

*After learning about the health benefits of each oil and butter, I would like to create another recipe that calls for less coconut oil, a little more cocoa butter, and a lot more shea butter. Shea butter is the least clogging and the best for your skin. Cocoa butter is really good too, but coconut oil really clogs pores. Plus, it is always makes my skin feel really dry and itchy. After using the above recipe, I feel like my hands were even drier than when I started. I would also like to make one recipe with whipped butter and one without whipping it for more of a salve. I will post an update!

**Update: I made One with only cocoa butter, shea butter, almond oil, and olive oil (because I ran out of almond oil). I didn’t whip it very much, and it hardened quite a bit and was too hard to use. So I gathered all of it up from the jars again, threw in just a handful of coconut oil, and whipped it up really well again. I still feel like it made my skin a little itchy, so maybe I’m just really sensitive to coconut oil. I’ve read that jojoba is the best oil for the skin because it most resembles the bodies natural oils. So the next recipe I make will have jojoba oil, shea butter, mango butter, and aloe vera. I also want to try and get the deodorized brands because I’m not a big fan of all the different smells. I will update when I make it!

Directions:

  1. Melt everything (except the essential oils) in a double broiler. (If you don’t have a double broiler, you can put a glass canning jar into a pot with an inch or two of boiling water or you can do what I like to do which is to place a glass bowl on top of a boiling pot of water because it’s easiest to mix that way.)
  2. Put in the freezer for about 20 minutes. It should start to harden.
  3. Use a hand mixer and beat until there are peaks (about 10 minutes).
  4. Add desired essential oils.
  5. Put back in the freezer for about 10 minutes to stiffen up (if necessary) before putting into small glass storage jars.

Notes:

  • Why Shea Butter? Raw, unrefined shea butter is rich in essential fatty acids, antioxidants, minerals and vitamins A and E. It has a creamy color and a distinctive and somewhat unpleasant smell. It is widely used for its moisturizing, anti-inflammatory, and anti-aging properties. It also won’t clog your pores like cocoa butter and coconut oil.
  • Why Cocoa Butter?  Raw, unrefined cocoa butter is rich in essential fatty acids, minerals and antioxidants. It’s been claimed to help reduce stretch marks and help with sensitive skin issues like eczema because it contains cocoa mass polyphenol which has been shown to thwart cancer, prevent cardiovascular disease and ease arthritis. It also has a nice chocolaty aroma.
  • Why Coconut Oil? It is anti-microbial, anti-fungal, and antioxidant, the medium-chain triglycerides present in coconut oil deeply penetrate the skin for great moisturizing, it screens 20% of the ultraviolet exposure, and it has vitamin E to aid in my recovery of skin damage such as burns, cuts, scars, etc.
  • Why Almond Oil? It is loaded with antioxidants, essential fatty acids, and vitamins A, B, and E. It has a light and less greasy feeling to it. Jojoba oil can be a great carrier oil too. It has a shelf life of five years versus almond oil’s one. But it is more of a wax and creates a barrier on the skin that doesn’t really penetrate. Plus, it costs five times what almond oil does.
  • Essential Oils: Blood Orange, Honeysuckle, Vanilla, and Lavender are some of my favorites.