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Whole30-Timeline-COLOR-SmallerUp until my early 30s, I weighed a ridiculous 105 lbs and could eat pretty much anything I wanted and not gain weight. I was on the low end of normal for the standard body mass index chart. Yeah. It wasn’t fair. But it was kind of awesome.

As I aged (and learned to cook) my weight slowly climbed. By my mid to late 30’s, I’d hit the 120-125  range (really about right for my 5’3″ small boned frame). And by my early 40’s I was between 125 and 130 pretty consistently, with occasional bouts of South Beach dieting or 3 day Detox smoothie resets to reign in the weight gain.

I’ve long had an interest in local food systems and health, and so our diet (I do most of the cooking) has shifted to more and more from-scratch cooking and less and less processed foods over the years, including knowing where our meat comes from. No longer do I look forward to making the Pillsbury pop-n-fresh Cinnamon Rolls on Sunday mornings like I did in my early 20’s. You won’t find boxed mac & cheese in our cupboards or frozen hot pockets in our freezer or fast food wrappers in the car. I literally can’t remember the last time I drank a full sugar soda. So compared to the average American diet, we really were eating pretty “clean” and had been for a very long time.

But this year, my weight hit 135. 135! I’m now officially just a few pounds from officially being overweight. With menopause kicking in full steam, I could no longer ignore the numbers on the scale or the paunch around my middle, despite our generally healthy diet and decent level of activity. And I could definitely not just eat whatever I wanted and not gain weight. My body seemed to hang on to every bread calorie like it might not ever see food again. Read the rest of this entry »

JenHairAug2011

This is my hair in August 2011. Probably the longest it had been in years. There’s probably some off the shelf semi-permanent hair color in there. I can’t remember. The gray is starting to show just a touch.

When I learned to make soap, a whole world of natural DIY products opened up for me. If I can master the chemistry of making soap, what ELSE can I make? Lotion? Toothpaste? Natural Deodorant? Shower Gel? Sugar Scrubs? Lip Balm? The list was almost endless, and I’ve tried a LOT of things. Some of which I continue to make, and sell, and some of which I don’t.

One of the products I no longer make is a true soap shampoo bar. Why you may ask? Isn’t more natural always better? In this case, no. Read the rest of this entry »

ClayTestAllSamplesSome people exclusively use essential oils to scent their soaps. I don’t, for a couple of reasons. 1) They are medicinally active and you really need to know what you are doing to use them safely (see this post for more on essential oil safety). 2) They tend to be quite a bit more expensive than fragrance oils and your options are limited by price and availability (there just isn’t an essential oil that smells like coconut or pears, for instance). 3) Often times, the scent tends to fade rather quickly in your bar. That grapefruit essential oil soap that smelled amazing when you cut it six weeks ago? Three months in it now smells like, well, soap. I DO have several all essential oil soap offerings though (Lavender-Lemon, Fresh Lemon, Rosemary Mint and Peppermint, and occasional seasonal mixes like Orange-Patchouli), and am always looking for new combinations to try that won’t break the bank and will hold up over time.

When the “how do I get essential oils to stick in my soap” question comes up in soap making groups, the answer from the soaping brain trust is almost always “use clay to anchor the scent”. I’ve seen it repeated over and over and over in the last 8 years. And so I started asking, has anyone ever done a side by side comparison with and without clay? And the answer was almost always no, or an anecdotal “I can tell the difference”. Read the rest of this entry »

DrOz3DaySo, if you know me at all, you know I’m not one to go in for fad diets or super trendy detox fasts. Because, well, science. Read the rest of this entry »

Banana Oatmeal Chocolate 1

Ready for the freezer.

Well, I’m on the annual “try to take off some of the holiday weight gain in the month of January” ritual. For me, this is as much about getting off of the sugar indulgence band wagon and regaining some control over my snack cravings than anything else. Though seeing the scale move to a number higher than I’ve ever seen before was certainly additional motivation. I’ve been doing pilates at home and swimming three days a week. I started out doing a three day smoothie detox, mostly to clean out my system (the smoothies are basically a giant fiber bomb). We’ve been eating lighter, eating WAY more vegetables, and mostly eating much smaller serving sizes. Read the rest of this entry »

LavenderLemon

Lavender 40/42 (a standardized blend), folded Lemon EO (for strength) and Litsea Cubeba (also known as May Chang)

Back when I started making soap, I wondered about using essential oils to scent it. But the only EO’s I had ever seen for sale were the Aura Cacia brand found at the natural food stores. The bottles were typically .5 oz (about 1 tablespoon) and expensive. Read the rest of this entry »

LiquidSoap

Coconut, Sunflower and Castor oil. A nice combination.

For those of you with no interest in making your own liquid soap, you can stop reading now. Next week we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled programing of gardening, homesteading and cute animal pictures. Wink.

Edited 4/25/15 to add: This blog is MY opinion and MY experience with liquid soapmaking. I’ve had several readers point out that they have had different experiences from mine (with adding salt to thicken, and with the Soaping 101 glycerine liquid soap video, for example). Please note: YOUR MILEAGE MAY VARY. Feel free to experiment! Please share your differing experiences and understanding of the chemistry in the comments. That’s how we all learn from each other. This isn’t meant to be the final word on the subject. It’s just my own personal understanding and experience.

Questions about how to get started with liquid soapmaking come up a lot on some of my soap making groups, and I remember how hard it was to get a handle on it all when I started making my own, despite the fact that I’d been making cold process bar soap for years. I find myself writing out long-winded answers over and over again. So I thought I would do a bit of a brain dump on some of the fundamentals to get new liquid soapers started. Note: what this is NOT is a step by step guide to making liquid soap. If I were going to do that, I’d write an ebook. Also, apologies for lack of pictures. This is mostly an informational post. Read the rest of this entry »

IMG_20150130_131933watermark

Carrots. Healthy, nutritious and cheap.

I recently ran across an article in my Facebook feed, about a reporter taking the “Food Stamp” challenge. He attempted to eat only what he could purchase with the “average” food stamp allotment for an able bodied adult with no dependents, which is $29.69 a week. I had a bit of a rant about it on my personal Facebook page, pointing out that SNAP (the new name for food stamps) stands for SUPPLEMENTAL Nutrition Assistance Program. It’s not meant to be your sole source of nutrition if you are an able bodied adult. I also pointed out that the reporter had made some poor food choices, such as prewashed salad greens and nutritionally empty white bread. I proudly claimed that while it would be tight, I could certainly do much better nutritionally, and that I could ABSOLUTELY feed myself for $30 a week. Read the rest of this entry »

DSC07533watermarkThe first time I saw hibiscus tea, I was in a small take away restaurant called Super Taqueria in San Jose California. The drink was in one of those big clear plastic containers on the counter where the contents are aerated. I was out of my comfort zone just walking into the place and ordering a super taco with no avocado (the list of things I wouldn’t eat was still pretty long at 19). Most of the signage was in Spanish. I had no idea what jamiaca aguas fresca was, and I certainly wasn’t brave enough to find out. (Super Taqueria is still in business by the way, and if it is still the same as it was 29 years ago, I highly recommend it! Best carne asada tacos anywhere.) Read the rest of this entry »

ThreeFaceSoaps

For those of you who aren’t soap makers, my apologies for this long post. But I’ve included some pretty pictures of soap to look at, in lieu of cute animal pictures.

Note: Edited April 2018 to add a couple of new links and fix a few typos. I’ve been making my own soap since 2005. In 2011 I started to sell soap at farmer’s markets. I belong or have belonged to several soap making forums that field a lot of questions from people who are new to soap making. After the gateway skills of learning to bake bread, make your own yogurt, and make your own granola, homemade soap is often the next step in your homesteading evolution. Know what goes into your soap and onto your body? Check. Avoid ingredients that you don’t understand and can’t pronounce? Check. Make a product you can feel good about your family using? Check. Make products to help with skin issues? Check. Make inexpensive gifts for friends and family? Check. Use up all of that lard/tallow from your wild harvested deer or elk or bear, or your own butchered goat or cow or pig? Check. Read the rest of this entry »

Jennifer Kleffner

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