Make Your Own Body Butter

Body-Butter A few weeks ago, I ran out of lotion. I sort of despise going to the store to buy new personal care products. The labels confuse me. I don’t understand all the ingredients, what I need, why, what it’s good for. The longer and more chemically the name sounds, it raises more red flags than I care to admit.

So, my lotion ran out. But, I have sensitive skin that needs routine hydration. I have autoimmune issues that exacerbate that sensitive skin, so no matter how hot or cold or wet or dry it is outside, I need hydration for my skin.

What’s a girl to do? Well, not unlike my cooking, I went for whole ingredients. Herein lies the confusion, how do you make lotion? Why do you need certain ingredients.

Confession: I love to read and I love to research. But, if it’s not easily understood, then I pass. In college, I loved digesting complex ideas and trying to understand them. As my son has grown, and my family and I have settled into these roles, though, I find the more complex something is the more of a turn off it is.

So, when looking at a recipe, I found I want simple, easy to understand, just like my cooking desire of 5 ingredients or less.

Lotion added water. Body butter was straight plant fats, which meant simpler though there was a bit in the process. I opted for the body butter, because the whole thing felt simpler. Comparing some recipes, the ratio seemed to be 1 part plant oil to two parts plant butter, and for every 1 cup of body butter about 10 drops of essential oil. I decided on my amounts not unlike making soap. You figure out how much you want in an end product, and adjust accordingly. I figured 3 cups of finished product would be enough. And, I then proceeded to make about 4 cups! (Oops!)

Recipe & Technique

Materials

  • 1 bowl filled with ice
  • 1 bowl, smaller, to nest in iced bowl later
  • I crockpot for slow melting of fats
  • Container(s) for finished product
  • A stick blender for mixing

Ingredients

Butters

  • 1 cup mango butter
  • 1 cup shea butter
  • 1 cup coconut oil (counting as a butter because of consistency)
  • A few shavings of coconut butter

Oils

  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup jojoba oil

Essential Oils

  • 10 drops clary sage
  • 10 drops geranium
  • 10 drops lavender

I found this didn’t scent my body butter as much as I wanted. Next time, I’ll up the geranium and lavender to 15 or 20 drops each. And, next time, I’ll maybe have ⅔ cup each of the mango and shea butters and coconut oil.

Process

Add all plant butters and oils (except essential oils) to your crockpot. Put on low, and let sit until all oils are melted. One blogger noted that letting her oils melt together for 20 minutes refined them enough that the finished product wasn’t grainy. I forgot about my crockpot for a bit, so my oils sat for nearly two hours. Note, many recipes instruct you to use a double boil method. I don’t like it. Something about the steam and hot bowls that turns me off. I found the crockpot method works best for my “fix it and forget it” world.

When the oils are sufficiently melted together, you now need to cool them. After they had been in the ice bath for about 5 minutes, I added my essential oils and I began mixing with my stick blender. I didn’t have enough ice, so while I was using my blender to mix up the oils, I noticed it wasn’t coming together as well as I liked. I refrigerated the mixture for about an hour. Some recipes skip the ice bath and say to refrigerate for 2 hours.

I compared the process to making a meringue or whipped cream. The oils cooling, the mixing to change the texture, it felt the same. So, that’s what I used as my guide to know when I was done. Once the oils were cool enough, whipping them up was quite fast. The yellow color quickly changed to the thick white you see pictured above. I made enough to fill that container plus another.

About the Essential Oils

Clary Sage

The oil of clarity and vision, it gives courage to see the truth, see limiting beliefs, encourages openness to new ideas and perspectives. The body system affected by clary sage is largely the hormonal system, which is why it can help balance hormones and soothe monthly discomfort associated with menstrual cycles. Clary sage also soothes nervous tension and lightens mood. I chose it for this body butter because of it’s calming properties and how it is soothing to the skin.

Geranium

The oil of love and trust. Need I say anymore? It seems so obvious to me that for something I am putting on my body, it should absolutely include proving love, trust, and emotional healing. Geranium can even encourage forgiveness, and it fosters human love and connection. Geranium primarily supports emotional balance and skin. With skin, it promotes clear, healthy skin. It can also helps calm nerves and lessen stress. And, as a bonus, it supports liver health! We like to say, with using essential oils there are side benefits.

Lavender

Lavender is widely known for and used for its calming and relaxing qualities. But, did you know that it’s also the oil of communication? While it can soothe occasional skin irritations, helps skin recover quickly, and even ease muscle tension it can also promote emotional balance. It encourages positive emotions of open communication, being released, expressive with emotional honesty, and being heard.

Monday, May 14: Spreading the Food Word

Mommy & Levi
Mommy & Levi (Photo credit: alexis22578)

Tonight, I had the opportunity to discuss buying clubs with a newly formed club. They were focused, enthralled, and concentrated on every word I said. It was like I was telling a beautiful fiction they’d never heard, simply focused on everything I had to say. And, to think, I wasn’t even sure on the intent of my being there once Levi and I got there.

A friend mentioned to me a few weeks ago that people in her neighborhood were starting a buying club. Connecting the distance between the city and the farms which we depend on is important to me. So, if there’s an opportunity to chat with people about buying clubs, I take it. I offered to chat, and my friend made the connections. She told me the time of the meeting, and I told her when I could be there. I neglected to ask if there was a standing agenda or how much time I’d have.

We didn’t make it by 6:30pm. We made it by 6:50pm. They were gracious and encouraged us to sit and listen. Us was of course me and Levi. Unfortunately, there were no other kids. When there are no other kids, Levi gets quite excitable. That is, he gets rambunctious because he’s not getting the attention he wants.

Suddenly, the door to the room adjacent opened and an older gal gave a 5 minute warning. I understood that to mean 5 minutes until we had to leave. Now, I was questioning why I was there. Why did we bust our bums to get out there, 30 minutes away from home, to not share any knowledge with a bored 5-year-old who wants attention?

The organizer must have noticed my grumpy face because she clarified the agenda for me. It was 5 more minutes of the separate groups and then the groups got together to debrief together. Perhaps, I considered, my time wasn’t wasted after all.

They debriefed and started finishing their debrief, at which point Levi told me he had to go to the bathroom. So, we went to the bathroom. Naturally, this was a longer visit. Finally, we emerged and everyone was quiet. And staring at us! The organizer told me they were ready! I quipped we had good timing. Now, I was relieved that we hadn’t got there at 6:30pm. We’d have waited an extra 2o minutes… twenty minutes longer than we already waited!

I still wasn’t sure what they were expecting, so I simply went from what I planned on saying. I began by introducing myself and why I was invited to come, my connection to the group through a mutual friend. I checked my assumptions that the group was newly formed and had only completed a few buys by asking the questions to the group. I stood up the whole time.  And Levi literally ran circles around me. I had my notes. I had culled through my notes after listening to them talk. They didn’t, for example, need a rehashing of why buying clubs are necessary. They are living why.

So, I talked. I talked about what we do, and how we do it. I was flying through my notes. Occasionally instructing Levi to be calmer. Suddenly, a gal in the back said, “Wow, you have a lot of really rich information.” Oh! This is my time check. How long have I been talking? How long did I have? It didn’t really matter. It was 8 o’clock, and people want to go home. So, I passed out business cards and gave a sample of my presentation. Then, chatted with various people in the groups. We’ll have more meetings. Must get them invited to the buying club get togethers!

The point is bringing the city closer to the farms. Or rather, the farms to the city. Good governance is the mission, and through food. With everyone so enthralled and so excited – it is within reach.

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Sunday, May 6th

Okay narcissistic rants aside – I do enjoy writing every day. As the (over written?) introvert, I do better when I can process. Writing allows me to process.

But, what to process? The never-ending balancing act and working towards my deemed purpose.

I want to educate people on the importance of a sustainable society. So, I’ve picked volunteer projects, paid jobs, reading material, and seminars to support that idea. I’ve started endeavors to support that idea. Every choice I make tries to support that idea.

My thinking on what I should be doing with my life has always been ongoing. Growing up Catholic, there is a certain amount of time dedicated to thinking about listening for God’s calling. I never felt like I had one. I only knew to follow my interests. My interests have always been consistent in the environment and education. When I was 18 and a freshman at Michigan State University, a first year at James Madison College eagerly awaiting my studies in Political Theory and Constitutional Democracy, I thought maybe I would or could be a lobbyist. I’d lobby for the virtues of the environment or education. I thought maybe I’d need a law degree, which always has intrigued me.

Then I got a bunch of loans through two universities, and suddenly spending more money I didn’t have on law school didn’t seem so important. In between those two universities, the school of life focused my studies on environmental thought, food, and community building. Those themes coalesced at Portland State University with the opening of their Sustainable Urban Development minor. My studies then concentrated on geography and urban development. Two themes where I continued to think about food, people, and how to make it all work together.

Is it any wonder then that I work intimately with a food buying club that focuses on local food sustainability and an environmental nonprofit that guides its thoughts in stewardship? One of my parting studies introduced me to the concept of “servant leadership”. It’s this idea where you lead from behind. A great example is how I stopped arguing with my husband about what to have for dinner and just focused on whole foods, home cooked foods, and organic foods (as budgets allowed). Now, he tells me the virtues of the food we eat.

Each refocus can be identified by a shift in thinking and impatience with the day-to-day. Like when I finally graduated. I had spent so much time thinking about my degree, that when I finally got it all I wanted was to put all those studies into action and work towards some semblance of a career. Then, there was the (housing) crash of 2008. Just one month after I graduated. I was loathe to apply for just any job – I had an idea of what I wanted to do. So, I focused on environmental jobs. I applied to be program coordinators and managers. I tried for AmeriCorps jobs. I tried for a plethora of administrative jobs. I had interviews. I had second interviews. I applied for more than 300 jobs in three years (starting in 2007).

I get a job. And, well… it proves to be more or less as dysfunctional as the twenty some jobs I held in my twenties. So, maybe working for others doesn’t work for me. I don’t get their lack of vision. I don’t get their lack of leadership. I don’t get their in ability to properly facilitate meetings. (Meetings that could identify vision and leadership and focus the organization past dysfunction!!)

These weeks of not writing have been thinking about all of that. It’s been spent thinking and doing the day-to-day, just to get by. It’s been pondering how to fix the rut and get into a career. I think I have some ideas. Now, to put them into action.

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Inherited Collaboration

It’s all my mother’s fault. Seriously. Who else should I blame but her? She’s the one who drilled it in us [me], especially as we grew up and participated in sports. Yes, my desire for ground up planning; my desire for collaboration; my desire for fair teams — I blame this all on my mother.

I find myself, often in a few of the circles I travel, advocating for collaboration. I feel like I’m often asking people to slow down, consider other view points, seeking out the dissenters in order to move a process and hear their concerns. I often find myself planning for things where it doesn’t include a “star” of the team because I understand life happens and the team is nothing if it can’t function without a member.

I’m leery of sounding arrogant here. I’m leery of sounding like I’m always a team player. I’m leery of sounding like I don’t fight to get my way. Because, I do these things. I’m not always a team player, and sometimes I do fight to get my way. Sometimes, depending on the situation, I even close myself off to the other opinions I crave in other situations!

Seeing the trouble my arrogant methods sometimes yield, and seeing the solidification of consensus based decisions proves to me the preferred way to make decisions. I also grew up in a big family. A family that, when brought together, talks over one another and sometimes you have to shout to get your voice heard. I’ve been the one waiting and waiting to be heard, and I hate that. Something about looking in from the outside, I have the ability to see when other people may feel the same way. I know that when I’m watching other people talk, I have sometimes a million thoughts going through my head. I suspect that they do to. I want to hear what they are saying. I want the others to stop talking and give space for the quiet ones.

And, I’m going to blame my mother on this. She’s the one who insisted we “walk in another’s shoes for a mile” before judging. She’s the one who insisted we think of others. She’s the one who made sure we were thoughtful in our actions. She’s the one who ensured I listened to others.

So, yes, I blame my mother that I prefer consensus. Consensus, as described when it runs well, insists that we put our whole bodies into a process. We recognize our logic, our ration, and our emotion. We acknowledge these pieces to our brain (our bodies) as a whole. We are called to hold these pieces and give space for them, to allow for better decisions all around. We are called to think outside of ourselves, using our knowledge and experience, and consider choices that are best for the group. We are called to let self-interest rest and bring our self-less selves into the process.

Instead of blame, Mother dear, I thank you.

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There’s no such thing as work-life balance

Stuck in Traffic
Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

Her pregnancy claim was rejected, but all agree it doesn’t work. So, I hear that the conversation can’t be about discrimination but rather how we can make something work.

Family not withstanding, I have a lot of interests. Often, it feels like my brain is just going, going, going (except now, where I really need a vacation, most days I’m just surviving). So, when I’m not feeling overwhelmed, I have a lot of interests in which I take part. It started when I was staying at home and needed something to stimulate my brain. Then, I had commitments I had to follow through with once the job started. Even after some of these commitments get completed, I’m not going to stop doing other things. So, when I’m at work, emails need to be answered, problems solved, and maybe even a little research done.

While I’m at work, I’m thinking about all the work tasks and how to manage xyz event, keep on top of abc calendar, and complete the daily tasks that never make it to the list. I’m also thinking about my husband how his day is going, is he going to be hungry when he gets home, is he going to go for a longer bike ride, when did we schedule his chiropractor appointment. I”m thinking about my son hoping he’s enjoying his day at school, wonder if he had an allergic reaction, but I didn’t receive a phone call, and what thing we might have planned for the evening. I’m thinking about what to make for dinner this night and the next. I’m considering what other foodstuffs need planning. I’m thinking about the bathroom and kitchen floors that need to be scrubbed along with the laundry that needs to be folded and put away. I’m thinking about all the stuff in my house that needs to be organized thankful that my space at work is. At work, I’m thinking then about the files that miraculously aren’t that organized and how they should be but what an in-depth project it is that I don’t have time for.

When I was home, not working, I was in a rut. Sure, I helped start a food club and I volunteered and participated with my church. I sat on the board at the Community Alliance of Tenants. Work is (environmental) stewardship. Church is spirituality. Food club is food security, foodsheds, local, organic, sustainable. The Community Alliance of Tenants is housing, empowerment, education. Home, is home, is family, is life. So, all these things fit important interests, values, core to my soul. How can I give any one up?

I am finding it’s near impossible, and often, lately, they collide. They run out of balance. So, even though this article is in part about the unfairness of this woman’s claim being denied, it is something many of us face daily. And, I don’t think a law suit is how we’re going to handle it for the better paradigm shift. Not a law suit about discrimination, that is.

Instead of anti-discrimination suits, we need our laws to change to make it easier to accept this imbalance. We need better child care allowances. We need part-time weeks that allow for health care to be offered at the same rate as full. We need work place flexibility that understands life happens outside of the cube farm. I believe we all have the right to reach our potential in a supported way, but the way we organize ourselves often gives undue challenges to that cause. We want what’s best for our kids, and sometimes we need to make sure we have what’s best for us to give what’s best for them.

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An Open Letter on Food Security

Milk & Honey Bread
Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

Dear Friend,

I co-coordinate a food buying club in my neighborhood. This idea arose from many things, one the example is the one set by my grandparents who always had access to local food through their garden, animal husbandry, and local grocery co-op. Mostly, though, I do this because food quality for my small family is very important. I also do this is a way to increase food security for everyone.

Nary a day goes by where we don’t hear about another food recall. These food recalls largely involve large industrial food complexes, like confined animal feed operations. I don’t buy from those operations. I buy directly from the farmer. My family eats fairly locally and seasonally. We learn how to preserve our food and make things from scratch, like bread — a lot like my grandparents learned post World War II. We develop relationships with our farmers, our distributors, our producers of the food we eat. We do this to increase our food security. We know where our food comes from. We visit the farms. We know the names of our farmers’ children. We are invested in them, and they are invested in us.

But that investment is being threatened. The City of Portland has hosted several meetings to revise the food zoning laws for our locale. Their recommendations are to increase the hurdles one has to go through to have access to local food.

This is a problem. A big problem. And, I need your help to tell them it’s a problem. 

Find out more about the city’s plans and please take the survey. Please tell the city they are going in the WRONG direction for CSAs & Buying Clubs. Tell them it matters to you because food security matters to you. Tell them having access to local food is important to you. And, most importantly, pass this message on and have your friends and family take the survey.

Thank you for your help.

In food!

Michelle Lasley
community advocate | green coach | nurturer
www.michellelasley.com

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CSTI: Western States Center

CSTI: Western States Center advocacy training.
CSTI: Western States Center advocacy training. Sitting under a tree waiting for the afternoon session to start.

I am lying on my back, on a pebbled, concrete bench. I am in the shade, under the tree. It’s near 80 in the sun and 70 in the shade. A cool breeze keeps me comfortable. I open my eyes, and through my sunglasses, I see brilliant blue flickering through the moving green leaves. This is the epitome of summer. This beautiful summer day makes memories.

I had the opportunity, for the second time, to participate in the Western States Center’s CSTI (Community Strategic Training Initiative, the name is being changed to AMP). Western States Center trains social justice groups to help make effective change in their communities. It seems groups attend that, on average, have budgets less than $500,000. They have noble goals, diverse communities, and small staffs. They face the same kind of challenges other non-profits do: board engagement, how to fundraise, what’s my message, how to engage members and volunteers? The bit I find most fun about this conference is the level of engagement among the attendees. It’s like going to a college class but you only get the A students. Everyone wants to be there. They are committed to their respective causes, and they want to learn more to spread the good intent and bring upon the social justice revolution. Here, at CSTI, I am among people who share, passionately, the vision, the ideal, of making this world a better place.

Reed College, Portland, OR

I never thought I would enjoy or see purpose in networking. Over the last few years, though, my Portland has gotten a lot smaller in part due to my involvement within groups like Western States Center. When I attend CSTI, there are always people I know or know of or have seen at other events. And, given who the training attracts, I’m always meeting new people that I want to connect with because of our shared interests.

This year, at the fundraising workshop, our ice breaker question was, “What will you be doing after the revolution?” Ari Rapkin, a co-director at my organization, the Community Alliance of Tenants, came up with this and our facilitator loved it so much she shared. What does that imply? After the Revolution? For me, it means that all the things we independently and collectively work for have been achieved. After the revolution we won’t be fighting for equality in health-care because everyone will have equal access to great care. After the revolution we won’t need tenant advocacy because there won’t be discrimination in housing and all repairs are met. After the revolution we will realign our priorities so that we all value life as most important, and not just rich, white, property owning male life. After the revolution we won’t need to discuss gender neutral bathrooms because we will finally accept people for who they are: people like us hoping for intimate connections to make our world less bleak. After the revolution we won’t be fighting for food security because eating local and organically will be the status quo. So, after the revolution we will be free to achieve our own self actualization and realize our independent dreams. We won’t have to fight for social justice causes because they all will be won.

My memory of this year’s CSTI is of dreaming. My memory of that beautiful Sunday, where I sat under the tree dreaming of food, art, philosophy, and where I will be at 70. I sat dreaming of being a docent at the Art Museum, while living in a high rise condo across the street, frequenting farmers’ markets and enjoying the fruit life brings. That is my social justice memory.

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Handpicked Pastoral Adjectives

I’m reading Omnivore’s Dilemma. Finally. In it, Pollen coins the term “Supermarket Pastoral” as a way to describe the literature we find in supermarkets, like Whole Foods. I think we can credit sustainability and this movement for great leaps and bounds when it moves into the regular aisles and ads of the grocery store.

08-04 Freddy Ad
Thursday, August 4th an Ad in the Oregonian

Sweet corn, picked, carefully (implied) by tender hands at the exact right moment to ensure the highest quality food. Who wouldn’t want that? The care, the thought, the ability that went into ensuring you and your family had quality food — the feeling is wonder, amazement… love.

08-03 Oregonian Cover
Wednesday, August 3, Oregonian, Front Page

What is this outbreak? Ground turkey? Who? Cargill? Where? Kroger? Wait… didn’t Kroger buy Fred Meyer less than 10 years ago? So, Kroger = Fred Meyer = contaminated meat amidst supermarket pastoral.

Finally, this expectation of quality is at the tips of many. Finally, this (re)awareness of the nastiness in industrial food is at the forefront of our brains. Finally.

But, clearly, we have a long way to go in combating this green washing that attempts to erase our understanding of the nastiness. Every time we remove ourselves from a process… the further away we get from necessary processes in every day life, the less connected we are with our real world.

Think sewer systems. Think about from where you get your milk, eggs, and meat. Think about who makes your vehicle that you drive to work. Think about the job you do at work. Do you have a systems understanding of your role and how it affects your company? Or, are you operating with one very small, very controlled piece?

The less we know about the processes that make our lives work, the less connected we are with our lives.

So, sure, on one hand it’s great that visions of handpicked bounty are falling off the tongues of ad writers for local super markets. There is a suggestion in its being there that we want to be connected to our food, to that which sustains us.

But, when we read the day before about the outbreak of salmonella in ground turkey, we need to remember that we are still hiding things. In an effort to be healthy, ground turkey is often sold as a great, lean option, alternative to the fatty, heart disease, mad cow ridden ground beef. But, neither really answers the question of what is healthy. We have these tests by which we measure very specific things (heart disease) and link it narrowly to others (fat content) without thinking about how varied people are and how perhaps diversity of product is more important. We are trading cheap ground beef for cheap turkey and we get another devastating result: diseased food that still makes us sick even if it doesn’t give us heart disease.

Beware of handpicked pastoral adjectives, as often, while increasing the awareness and importance of the topic, it’s slight of hand, green washing gone mad. The best way to get handpicked produce is to pick it yourself. I’m busy. I struggle with balancing all these visions, ideals and wants with every day reality of naps, dinner, paying bills, and going to work… not to mention how do you find time to spend with your family in a fun sort of way! So, the next best thing is to vet your food with friends. Work together to get the handpicked goodness from local farms you trust. Visit the farms. Visit the farmers. Talk to them. Have conversations with them about how they get it all done. Thank them for providing you with quality food that doesn’t make you sick.

If we get more connected to our places. More connected to our food. More connected to  our homes, we can make “handpicked pastoral” a part of our lives. We won’t even need to label it in such quaint terms suggesting a different way of doing things because it simply will be.

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Tree

Tree
A tree, sketched with colored pencil.

I often do this doodle sketch. I suppose it’s because it represents a sort of peace to me. A calm day with a blue sky. Sun in the early morning or mid to late afternoon. Sitting in, on, under, or near a tree with a book or a sketchbook. Thinking, refreshing, pondering, pontificating. No one demanding anything of me. Just me. Just the tree.

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