Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Shampoop: DIY Can Be Good For Your Head

I hate certain scents. It's hard to tell if I am actually allergic to them or just hate them so much that they dry out my mouth and make it hard to breathe. Things like fabric softener and Mountain Fresh Scent in laundry detergent. If a person has really loaded it on, I can't be on the same side of the room with them. So, in lieu of risking a wheezy whiney wife and having to buy a 10 dollar bottle of laundry soap, the husband began to make our own. And, besides having to own a large pot to stir it in and a place to put it, it is fairly simple. And wicked inexpensive. It made us take a step back and begin to suspect that there was very little reason for the prices attached to these all natural green products beyond greed and we began to look for other things to make, leading us into the wild and woolly world of home made cleansing and body products.

Okay. Maybe not wild. Or woolly, really. But I live with a scientist. Figuring out percentages in ounces can be fun. I swear.

We have begun to put together different products to start a line of skin creams, body oils and soaps. I don't want to tell you how because when we build our Etsy empire to be followed by our mail order empire to be followed by our vendor table at street fair empire, I want you to NEED us. But the truth is, you really don't. The advantage we have over you is that we invested in the basics...which pay for themselves really quickly....and we have been experimenting with different varieties of smells and textures.  Also, when it comes to soap, there is the issue of some math to be done to make the fat vs. lye balanced. But, between you and me and the wall, it takes balls to charge 5 bucks for a bar of soap if you knew how much a batch costs and how much you get in it. Unless there is money cooked into that fancy hippy soap, you are getting schtupped.

The laundry soap costs about three bucks a batch. All natural. Three ingredients. Cleans great. It looks a little weird, but so what.

I found a recipe for dishwashing detergent. Again under three bucks for a gallon of this stuff.

We also make our own mozzerella cheese. Super super easy. Renin, Citric acid, milk and some salt. Takes twenty minutes. If you screw it up, it is ricotta.

The husband makes his own beer and wine. Okay. THAT is a little more expensive because you have to have equipment, but, really, after all is said and done, he gets a lot of hootch that would cost way more in the store and he has say about the elements that goes into it.

In the long run, it is good to know the basic elements that make a product work just to know what you is rubbing into your skin or onto your dishes that you eat from. But people who normally will analyze their food products down to the cow the milk came from don't think twice about what is exactly in the soap you are dumping into the clothes you are wearing as long as it is biodegradable and "green."

What is it? Really? At least  consider that if you look at the recipes for some of these things, you will know what you are actually paying for. Because you will be astonished at how often you are paying for packaging and profit and then a little teeny bit of ingredient. And maybe you might want to take a shot at making your own.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

It's Just A Thing....Or Is It? Thinking Twice About What You Sell

For a long time now, we have been in a holding pattern. I watch my daughter during the day and work when I get it.  My husband goes to college and is finishing...finally.... his PHD. We aren't living on the streets or anything. Our apartment is nice. We have clothes that get a little tattered but we can find ways to replace them when they become truly embarrassing. Some times are better than others. You can usually tell by how much we splurge on eating out. Once in a while we have enough to buy something cool, usually so that we can sell it when things aren't so good. And that's okay normally but there are two things that I regret selling. And one is my ukulele.

There is a musician named Melvern Taylor. He plays the ukulele like a champ. He makes it retro cool. He lives in Lowell and wears a porkpie hat with neat facial hair. My ex-boyfriend who used to be in charge of the music department of a huge advertising agency in NYC said that he knew who he was. Mel is that type of musician. The kind a lot of specific people know from all over because ukulele afficianados are a special breed. He was the first musician that I ever liked and sought out when we moved to Boston. And he made me want to play the uke too.

My husband has always been very kind when it comes to humoring my quirky wants. We went to Guitar Center and there was a beautiful Mitchell on sale for a little under two hundred dollars. It was fierce and fit my small hands and most of them had nylon strings that didn't look as painful as guitar strings. I took it home and compared it to the Hawaiian novelty ones that we had sent from my mother in law in Honolulu. It was obviously a better instrument (although the pink one looked wicked cool). Not as good as Mel's but it had mother of pearl inlay and felt right in my hands. I would sit at my dad's old desk after I downloaded chords, trying to play songs. Or I would try to study the lessons from my Ukulele instruction manual.  Mel even gave me a names of recommended teachers.

But the money started running out again and there were so many other things that we needed besides my ukulele lessons. Eventually we fell into the inevitable pinch when I had to sell things again. My husband's guitar was sacred to me. We purchased it right before my daughter was born so that she would always be surrounded with people playing music. My husband had a beautiful voice and would sing to her. Later, we got an electric piano cheap. I held on to that second because I had dreams of our daughter learning to play and I loved banging away at it badly. We could always get another ukulele. So it went to a nice man on Craigslist who bought it for his son. I was glad that it went to an appreciative home.

We got a crappier one that my daughter drags around trying to teach herself now. She has potential. I regret never letting her play with my beautiful good one.

Some day I will get another one and I will get to keep it. Some day I will be able to buy one without thinking of it as not something to sell in a pinch but value it for what it is. A time when poverty doesn't rule our decisions and let us keep the things that we regret selling later. Not that the holding pattern has been so bad with occasional family trips and nice meals spun from creative spending.  Some of those memories will be the best days of my life. And we had our good days when I was just selling stuff to get it out of the house. But, let's say, consistently better days on the other side of education and sporadic incomes. With ukuleles.