Baby Receiving Blanket Tutorial

I’ve been nursing a sore left arm for the last several days. I’ve read that many pregnant women suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome typically during their second and third trimesters, and I’m afraid that I might have fallen victim to this dull aches in my hand and entire arm myself. I can tell you that this is definitely not a pleasant feeling.cry

Thanks to my husband massaging my shoulders, back, and arms yesterday, I feel much better today, but he is still watching me like a hawk to make sure that I don’t make my way to the sewing machine, pick up knitting needles, or partake in activities that can possibly re-aggravate the pain. So, the only thing I can do right now is to quietly talk about my latest craft project here!

I made three matching receiving blankets this week, using Aloha Flannel Floral Surf fabrics in blue, green, and yellow. I personally don’t like designs that are too baby-like (like those overly cutesy animal prints, etc.) so this subtle and quite design definitely  struck a chord with me.

These receiving blankets are very easy to make and it probably doesn’t require a tutorial, but I’m posting a very rough instruction here, just so that I have a record of it. I’m honored if any of you out there find this to be helpful.

Handmade Receiving Blanket


1 yard flannel with your favorite design (front panel)
1 yard solid flannel with matching color (back panel)
Sewing machine
Saucer or small plate to draw the round corners
Fabric pen or chalk
Rotary cutter or a pair of scissors
Fabric cutting board


Cut the Front and Back Panels to measure 36 inches by 36 inches (you can make it larger or smaller).  I used a rotary cutter to cut the fabrics.

Put Front Panel and Back Panel together, right sides together. Pin all sides to avoid any unwanted creases and to ensure that fabrics stay together. Use a saucer or a small plate to trace the rounded corners on all four corners.

Sew around all edges (1/4 inch seam allowance), but leave a small opening at the bottom. Make sure to back stitch the openings to ensure there are no loose threads. Trim all access fabrics. Iron the fabrics open and turn the panels inside out.  Hand-stitch the lining opening (you can skip this step if you like, since we’ll top stitch the entire blanket).

Iron the fabrics. Top stitch around the blanket (about 1/2 inches from the edges).  That is all!

Mrs. Penguin seems to like the blanket.  Thank you for coming out of your hibernation to pose for the photo. razz

Pillow Fight, Anyone? Cushion Cover Tutorial

What I thought would be a relaxing Sunday afternoon was briefly interrupted by Women’s World Cup soccer final against U.S. and Japan, which ended in a dramatic fashion that reminded us of the Miracle on Ice hockey game when the underdog U.S. beat the Russians in the 1980 Winter Olympics. Unfortunately for American fans, it was Japan that came from behind in regulation and beat the U.S. in Penalty Kick that earned them the title of the champions. It was particularly exciting for me because I was rooting for both teams but it was also a double-edge sword because one of my favorite teams was guaranteed to lose.

This time, I think the right team won the game. The U.S. team could probably beat the Japanese team if they played a game tomorrow, but this was Japan’s day. It really felt like the women carried the hopes of the entire nation on their shoulder, which suffered so many unspeakable tragedies already this year. There was nothing that was going to get in the way of their destiny. I was so proud of what I saw on the field, and made me even more proud to be Japanese. And of course, the grace of the American team, despite the bitter loss, made me happy to call myself an American as well.

I was glued to my computer to watch the streaming game on (I cancelled my cable last month so I watch everything online now) but before the game and during the intermission, I sewed up very easy but adorable cushion covers for four cushions I recently purchased, to jazz up our living room.

I should really change the blog name to “Ode to Liberty fabrics.” I’m just so in love with these fabrics that I can’t stop making things from them. For the project, I used the same Mirabelle E fabric that I used to make the “Tween-y” bag (with Kona Cotton in Bubblegum) and Lauren Blue / Green that I also used to make the Pencil Case (with Kona Cotton in Asparagus for the back).

This is really simple to make and I absolutely love it. Each case will only take you no more than 30 minutes so you can make it during an intermission of a sporting game!

Cushion Cover
(For a cushion that measures about 18 x 18 … I got mine at

Select two fabrics to use. I recommend that you use your favorite print for the front, and a subtle solid for the back.

Cut the pieces into following dimensions:

  • Front Panel (make one): 18 inches by 18 inches
  • Back Panels (make two): 18 inches by 12 inches

Note: Although I purchased these cushioned that were labeled 18 x 18, I found that there were a little smaller than that (due to girth, I’m sure). So the 18 x 18 panel will fit the cushion perfectly.

Fold over  ¼ inch from the side that measures 18 inches from each of Back Panel and sew them together. This is so that the opening of the case will be free of loose threads.

Put the Back Panels on the Front Panel, with Right Sides facing together.

Sew all around the square (the sewing allowance is at ½ inch). Cut the tip of each corner (shown by the blue triangle). Open up seams on all sides and press with an iron. Flip the case. Iron the edges, front, and back panels. Insert the cushion in the case.

Happy pillow fighting! 🙂

“Tween-y Bag” Tutorial: Part 5: Putting it all Together!

You have reached the fifth and the final installment of the “Tween-y Bag” tutorial series.  All the hard work is over … all you have left are a few more minor details until you cross the finish line! Just take a look at the photo above; you’ve made all that already! YAY!  🙂

Here are the previous tutorials for a quick recap:

Part 1: Getting Started
Part 2: Making the Front Panel
Part 3: Making the Lining
Part 4: Making the Bag Strap and Drawstrings

Okay, time to get to work!  Now that you’ve done all the prep work, you’re ready to sew together two panels – the Front Panel and the Lining – to put the bag together.  Isn’t it great that everything is coming together?  surprised

First, turn the Front Panel you made on Part 2 tutorial over to the wrong side so that the batting side is showing. The Lining that you made on Part 3 Tutorial should be showing the right side, with the pocket side facing out.

Shove the Lining in to the Front Panel. Align the top edges so that two panels fit perfectly together. You might have to put your hand in the bag to straighten the lining inside, to make sure that you have the Lining in perfectly, wrinkle free.

Pin around the top edges to secure the Front Panel and the Lining. As mentioned before, use as many pins as possible. The more you secure the fabrics, easier it will be to sew around them.

Here’s the fun part. After you finish sewing around and removed all the pins, yank out the Lining from inside the Front Panel. Next, from the opening on the bottom of the Lining (remember you kept a small section opened when you made the Lining?), bring the Front Panel and the Adjustable Strap through.

Sew together the opening of the bottom of the Lining, either by hand or by machine. (Hand-stitching will look better, but I usually just machine-sew the straight line at the bottom. I figured no can really see the inside of the Lining. However, if you are making it reversible, make sure to take the time to hand-sew them together as it shows on the outside.)

Take the Lining and put it back into the inside of the Front Panel.

Iron the Front Panel and Lining.

Insert the Drawstrings

This is the final step! You’re almost there!  Now, you’re ready to cast the Drawstrings through the Slots!

Put a safety pin on the end of one of the drawstrings.

Cast the drawstring through both both Drawstring Slots, all the way around the entire bag.

Take two loose ends of the Drawstring and sew them together.  Shuffle the Drawstrings around so that the sewn part will be hidden in the Drawstring Slot.

Repeat for the second Drawstring. For the second one, make sure that you start the insert of the Drawstring from the other opening.

That’s it!  biggrin biggrin biggrin You’ve just sewn your Tween-y Bag!  Congratulations!  I hope you had as much fun making this bag, as I had with creating the tutorial.  One of my favorite parts of this bag is that you can carry it as a drawstring bag, or carry it as a small, shoulder bag.  Because the strap is adjustable, you can change the style up, based on your mood or wardrobe.  The possibility is endless.

If you make this Tween-y Bag using the tutorial, I would love to hear your feedback! Please leave me a comment with your thoughts. If you have a blog and if you happen to feature the bag on it, I would love it if you can send me the link so that I can re-feature it on this blog.

Thank you so much for reading this tutorial, and please let me know if you have any questions or would like additional information! 🙂

“Tween-y Bag” Tutorial: Part 4: Making the Bag Strap and Drawstrings

Welcome to “Tween-y Bag” Tutorial Part 4: Making the Bag Strap and Drawstrings! Now that you’ve completed the Front Panel and the Lining of the bag, you’re ready to move on to making two different kinds of straps, also known as bias tapes.  As always, please read the introductory post, “Getting Started,” to find out important information before proceeding.

What’s good about making a bias tape is once you learn how to make one, you can make it in any size imaginable. So, let’s make the Bag Strap first.

Making the Bag Strap

For the Bag Strap, cut a fabric that measure 5 inches by 50 inches. I used the dark green fabric again for this.  Don’t worry if you don’t have a fabric long enough to add up to 50 inches. All you have to do is connect smaller pieces together to achieve the desired length.

This is how:

Align and sew two short edges of the same-size fabrics together. When done, flip the fabric with wrong side facing up and iron the seams to open them up. Turn the fabric over and iron the other side. Look, now you have a perfectly connected fabric! Repeat until you achieve 50 inches in length.

To make the Bag Strap (Bias Tape), first fold the fabric in half and iron, to create a visible crease. Next, bring each long end of the fabric to the center (you can use the iron crease to guide you) and iron.

Bring two sides together, meeting in the middle.  Iron the Strap down.  The more you iron, easier it’ll be when you sew both sides together.

Sew down both sides of the Strap. This makes the Strap a lot more durable than if you only had one side sewn together. YAY — you just created the Strap for the bag!

Making the Drawstrings

Now, you’re going to cut two pieces of fabric that measure 2 inches x 29 inches each, to make the Drawstrings.

Repeat the same process of creating Bag Straps to make a Drawstring.  Repeat the entire process again for the second Drawstring.

The Drawstring Slots

Okay, I need to admit that I don’t know the proper name for these pieces, but these are the fabric “tunnels” that you cast the drawstrings through.

Cut two pieces of fabric that measure 3 inches by 10 inches each. First, fold a tiny piece from the edge (about ¼ in) and fold again, tucking in the first folded piece. Sew both sides. This is very similar to the way you make the pocket in Part 3 when you made the pocket in the Lining.

Next, fold the wrong sides together in half, and iron.

Sew the top part (the closed edge) of the Drawstring Slot together. You can keep the bottom unsewn. Repeat the same process for the second piece.

Now, pin the Drawstring Slots on to each top edge of the bag, with right sides facing each other.

Make sure to sew as close to the top edge as possible. It’s pretty much like basting where the purpose is to temporarily sew two fabrics together to keep them in place. This will make it easier when it’s time to sew the Front Panel and Lining together.

The bag should look like this now.

Making the Adjustable Strap

You are now ready to put the Bag Strap into the Slider and Rectangle Ring set to make it adjustable.

First, cut 9 inches from the Bag Strap you made. This will be used to hold the rectangle ring on one side of the bag.

Trying to explain how to loop the strap to the ring is a little difficult; therefore, I’m going to rely on some helpful online tutorial for it. I recommend this online tutorial “Adjustable Strap Tutorial” by homespunthreds.  She keeps it simple and it’s really easy to follow.  If you enter in the keyword, “Adjustable Strap tutorial,”on YouTube, you will find many, other helpful videos.

Pin each end of the Strap to both sides of the bag. Put right sides together on both edges. Just like what you did basted the Drawstring Slots, this step allows you to detect any potential pitfalls, such as twisting the strap or sewing it on the right direction, before you sew the Front Panel and Lining together.

Baste the Strap, sewing as close to the edge as possible.

Look, the bag is coming along beautifully together!

We’re on a home stretch now!  You are now ready to put it all together in the fifth and final installment of the tutorial, “Tween-y Bag” Tutorial Part 5:  Putting it all Together See you there! 🙂

If you want to jump to other tutorial posts, here are the links:

Part 1: Getting Started
Part 2: Making the Front Panel
Part 3: Making the Lining
Part 5: Putting it all Together

“Tween-y Bag” Tutorial: Part 3: Making the Lining

Welcome to “Tween-y Bag” Tutorial Part 3: Making the Lining! biggrin Now that you’ve completed the Front Panel of the bag, you’re ready to move on to making the Lining. As always, please read the introductory post, “Getting Started,” to find out important information before proceeding.

Here is the material list for the Lining:

• Two 14 inches x 12 pieces
• One 6 inches x 5 inches piece (for pocket)
• One label, optional

For the Lining, let’s begin by cutting two identical pieces – 12 inches by 14 inches. I selected the same Kona Cotton Spruce, the dark green fabric that I used for the part of the Front Panel. This bag is really a reversal bag, so if you want to take the time to repeat the same process for the Front Panel, you certainly can. I personally love the darker liner, so I’m going to go with this lovely dark Starbucks-esque green fabric.

You will sew on a pocket on to the Lining 1, but first, let’s make the actual pocket by cutting out a fabric that measure 6 inches x 5 inches.  If you have a personalized tag or label, this is the time for you to sew it on the pocket.  I purchased a personalized woven clothing labels from a place called Namemaker that specializes in personalized tags, ribbons, etc.  They are great.  If you sew frequently or enjoy making handmade gifts, I recommend that you invest in your own label.  It just makes everything you make that much more special.

Simply place the tag on the pocket and sew around it.

Next, sew the top edge of the pocket.  What I did here is I folded a small piece, about ¼ inch and folded the piece again before I sew the crease together.  This way, you don’t have little loose threads sticking out from the top of the pocket.  It’s worth it to take the extra step to do this as the end result looks will look much more professional.

After that, simply pin all sides down to secure the pocket to Lining 1, and sew around it.

Now, put two Lining panels together, with right sides facing each other. At this point, the side with a pocket should be hidden.

Pin three sides (the top will remain open) and sew them together.  The seam allowance is ½ inch.

Make sure to leave a little opening at the very bottom.  You’ll need this opening when you “flip” the bag inside out. If that makes no sense, don’t worry. It’ll all come together a little later. lol

Also, clip the bottom corners. This will make the corners look sharp when you turn the Lining over.

Iron the seams open on all three sides. . Turn over the panel, and iron again, making sure to iron the open sides carefully. Guess what? You’re all done with the Lining! YAY!

Great job! You just completed the Lining! Now, you’re ready to proceed to Part 4 of the tutorial, Making Bag Strap and Drawstrings! Yipee! 🙂

If you want to jump to other tutorial posts, here are the links:

Part 1: Getting Started
Part 2: Making the Front Panel
Part 4: Making the Bag Strap and Drawstrings
Part 5: Putting it all Together

“Tween-y Bag” Tutorial: Part 2: Making the Front Panel

Welcome to Part 2 of the “Tween-y Bag” Tutorial: Making the Front Panel. Before proceeding with the tutorial, please read the introductory post, “Getting Started,” to find out important information.

Here is the material list for the Front Panel:

• Two 12 inches x 10 inches pieces for Panel 1 and 2 (the Liberty of London fabric)
• One 12 inches x 9 inches piece for Panel 3 (the Kona fabric)
• One 12 inches x 27 inches piece cotton batting

Once you’ve read Part I and decided on which fabrics to use, you’re ready to get started on making the Front Panel.  The first thing you need to do is cut Panels 1, 2, and 3 based on the above dimensions.  These three fabric pieces sewn together, along with the batting, will make up the Front Panel.

By the way, I love using a rotary cutter for something that is perfectly square. It’s such a great investment. And make sure that you purchase a durable rotary mat too!  Here’s a wonderful tutorial on how to use a rotary cutter, from PurlBee.

Next, sew Panel 1 onto Pane 3, aligning the sides that measure 12 inches.

When you are putting two fabrics together, make sure to put the right sides together. When I say the “right side,” I’m referring to the side that will show up on front (sorry, it’s a little difficult to determine which is the “right side” with this fabric since both sides look the same … I’ll make a note to use a better fabric for the next tutorial).  Whenever I put two right sides together, I imagine the fabrics “kissing” each other … LOL. lol I know it’s silly, but that’s how I remember which is the right side of a fabric.  Or just think … front = right; back = wrong.

Once you put the fabrics together, get out your pins and pin the sides down. Don’t be shy – use as many pins as possible. The more pins you use, the more secure your fabrics will be. I call this a “Hellraiser” process because there are so many … well, pins! I also mark the ½ inch seam allowance with an erasable pen (please note that all the seam allowances in the pattern is ½ inch) . This way, I know exactly where to sew!

Now, you’re ready to sew Panel 2 onto the other side of Panel 3. Repeat the same steps you took to put Panel 1 and Panel 3 together. Don’t forget to pin the two fabrics down, and draw a straight line with an erasable pen again.

Next, you’re going use the iron to open up the seams. What I mean by this is that you should run your iron between two, closed seams to open them up. Please trust me when I tell you that this step makes a whole a lot of difference. By taking this extra step, you’ll end up with wonderful, clean seams when you turn over the fabrics.

Now, you’re ready to get your batting out and cut it out to match the size of the Front Panel (should now measure at 12 in x 27 in).

I’m sure if you go to a proper sewing class, an instructor will tell you to have all the pieces cut, ironed, and ready to go before you begin sewing. Well, I’m a little bit more … how should I put this … carefree (or lazy) … so, what I do is place the Front Panel directly onto the batting and simply cut around it. This way, you don’t have to take the extra time to measure yet another fabric, and you’re guaranteed to have the exact same size that you need.

You don’t have to be exact with your cutting at this time. You’ll have a chance to go back and clean up all sides.

I used the Bamboo Batting that I’ve purchased at a neighborhood JoAnn’s (you can purchase it online at other retailers too). I love how soft it is, compared to other polyester batting in the market.

Now, you’re ready to quilt the Front Panel and the batting together. Again, use as many pins as possible to secure the Front Panel with the batting.

You’re going to quilt in four different places: Two on the patterend parts and two on the solid sides. This allows two fabrics (the Front Pane and the batting) to stay together, and also provide a nice design to the bag. Since this is the side that will show up on front, make sure to take the time to sew straight lines. Don’t be afraid to re-sew, if you’re not happy with how they turn out.

Once you’ve sewn and quilted the four parts, take the rotary cutter and trim around all edges, so that the Front Panel and the batting are exactly the same size.

At this point, the Front Panel should measure at 12 inches (width) and 27 inches (length).

Now, you’re ready to sew two sides together.  Lay the Front Panel on a table, with the right side facing up. Bring the bottom of the Front Panel to alight with the top. You should only see the batting side (wrong side) now.

Take the pins and pin down both sides.

Note: This is important so please take note. When you fold and pin the Front Panel, it should be folded in a way that the solid fabric aligns perfectly.

Please take the time to do this before you sew down the sides; it makes a different when you turn the fabrics over. This is something that will differentiate a bag that is “homemade,” versus something that is “handmade.” “Handmade” is wonderful but “homemade” gives a slightly unprofessional feel.

The seams should look something like this.

After you sew both sides together, make sure to iron both seams open. Turn the fabrics over, and voila, you’ve just completed the front of the bag!

Congratulations! You just completed the Front Panel! Now, you’re ready to proceed to Part 3 of the tutorial, Making the Lining! YAY! 🙂

If you want to jump to other tutorial posts, here are the links:

Part 1: Getting Started
Part 3: Making the Lining
Part 4: Making the Bag Strap and Drawstrings
Part 5: Putting it all Together

“Tween-y Bag” Tutorial: Part 1: Getting Started

I think I was most awkward during my “tween” years. Tween is an age between 9-12 when you’re not quite a teenager yet but you’re not a little kid anymore. I was too old for The Smurfs and Care Bears but a little too young for boys and those stone-washed Guess jeans that my older sister and her friends were fashionably sporting. I really hated that there was really nothing cute in the mall for girls in this in-between stage when I was growing up in the mid-80s.

When I was thinking about my next sewing project, I thought about those tween girls out there and started thinking about the kind of bag that they would enjoying carry around (or what I would have loved to have at that age) that allows them to celebrate their youth in style. Then, I came up with this pattern … and the “Tween-y Bag” was born.

I first posted about these versatile bags last week, and I loved the pattern that I came up with that I wanted to share it with you.  So, who wants to make a simple, drawstring bag that your tween daughter (or a granddaughter, or a cousin, or a friend’s daughter, etc.) would love to carry around as she plays outside in the summertime? Or wants to sew a simple project that you can finish in one weekend afternoon?

If you answered “yes” to any of the questions, this tutorial for the Tween-y Bag is for you!  And the great thing about this bag is that, depending on the fabric designs you select, you can make it appropriate for any age (in fact, I use one myself and I’m thirty-@#%%^$@#)!

How This Tutorial Works:

I’ve decided to divide the tutorial into five parts: 1. Getting Started (this post); 2. Making the Front Panel; 3, Making the Lining; 4. Making the Bag Strap and Drawstrings; and 5. Putting Everything Together.

Difficulty Level:

I would classify this project as “Intermediate Beginner” (which is how I would characterize my own sewing skills). If you have basic skills, like cutting fabric, operate a sewing machine, and understand the basic sewing terminologies, you’ll have no problem with it.

A Thing to Note:

Please note that I’m completely self-taught and am still pretty novice at sewing. You might see some instruction that may be incorrect. This is how I made the bag so please use other (and perhaps better) techniques to make your version of the bag work better (and please share the knowledge with me)! 🙂

Okay, let’s get started.

Materials: These are the materials that you will need for the bag.

Basic Tools:
• Two fabrics (more information to follow)
• Sewing machine (I only use one stitch so the cheaper machine works perfectly … my machine was about $50 at Target)
• Threads
• Iron and ironing board
• Rotary cutter and rotary mat
• Erasable fabric pen / marker
• Fabric scissors
• Pins and pin cushion
• Large ruler (mine is called Omnigrip)
I selected the Liberty of London fabric called Plum Mirabelle 6011C from the Tana Lawn Classics; and Kona Cotton Spruce. Both fabrics are wonderful and very easy to work with. And the Plum Mirabelle feels like pure silk!

For the Front Panel:
• Two 12 inches x 10 inches pieces (the Liberty of London fabric)
• One 12 inches x 9 inches piece (the Kona fabric)
• One 12 inches x 27 inches piece cotton batting

• Two 14 inches x 12 pieces
• One 6 inches x 5 inches piece (for pocket)
• One label, optional (I had mine made at Name Maker … they are great)

Adjustable Strap:
• One 50 inches x 5 inches piece
• One Slider and Rectangle Ring set (I purchased mine from Jennalou06 on Etsy.)

• Two 29 inches x 2 inches pieces
• Two 10 inches x 3 inches pieces (for Drawstring Slots)

Next up is Part 2 of the “Tweeny-y Bag” Tutorial: Making the Front Panel!

If you want to jump to other tutorial posts, here are the links:

Part 2: Making the Front Panel
Part 3: Making the Lining
Part 4: Making the Bag Strap and Drawstrings
Part 5: Putting it all Together

Lavender and Olive’s Original Shampoo Bar Recipe

Ever since Agree-brand hair products disappeared from the drugstore shelves many, many years ago (Do you remember them? They were wonderful!), I have never found a shampoo and conditioner that I can fall in love with. Then, about five years ago, I discovered Basin, a Lush-like shop that sells natural soaps, and its shampoo bars and I was back in love again. I like the shampoo bars more than the mainstream ones for several reasons. One, because it cuts down the plastic consumption to, well, zero, because the soap comes in a solid form. Also, because it leaves my hair clean but conditioned, even without using a conditioner. And last but not least, they last forever! It is wonderful to travel with it too since you can toss it in your carry-on luggage without having a TSA agent come running after you.

The only downside about the shampoo bars is that they are a little pricey. For a 65 gram bar, it costs $8, plus shipping since I get mine online. It’s much cheaper than  other bottle shampoos but still, that’s a lot of money. So, I’ve been looking to formulate my own recipe for the best shampoo bars that I can make at home.

After trying many, many, many recipes – some that I found in books and online, as well as my original concoction – I finally found the one that I absolutely fell in love with. I made a small test batch a few months ago, and I finally took the bar out for a test run last week … and I was amazed at how shiny and healthy my hair really got. I’m not kidding! After using this shampoo bar on my hair every day for the last five days, my hair has never felt or looked better. I think it’s the castor oil and molasses that work so well for my dark mane.

It’s a little embarrassing to plaster my face here, but here’s a picture of my hair. Before this shampoo bar, I had to use gel to control my hair before blow drying it but not any more! I didn’t have to use any hair products and my hair behaved just fine!

Here’s the recipe. Please follow the basic cold-process soap-making instruction before proceeding.

Lavender and Olive’s Original Shampoo Bars (for Dark Hair)

A little disclaimer here.  A kind blog reader informed me that she tried this recipe and found that the batch was too soft to remove from the mold, even after a week of curing.  I’m not sure what caused this but I’m determined to get to the bottom of this, so I’m making this batch again to troubleshoot what went wrong!  Stay tuned!  And thanks, Waterlily, for taking the time to bring this up! 

This is for 650 gram which is like a size of a regular milk carton. It makes about 7 x 4 oz bars.  FYI, Lavender and Olive is my Etsy shop name. 🙂

130 g Castor Oil (20%)
130 g Macadamia Nuts Oil (20%)
65 g Hazelnut Oil (10%)
65 g Avocado Oil (10%)
65 g Olive Oil (10%)
65 g Shea Butter (10%)
65 g Palm Oil (10%)
65 g Coconut Oil (10%)
253 g Distilled water
78 g Lye (85% discount)

Mix them in right before you pour the mixture in to the mold

¼ cup Molasses
30 drops Lavender Essential Oil
30 drops Rosemary Essential Oil
20 drops Bergamot Essential Oil

Just a quick disclaimer here. Please consult with your physician if you have special conditions or are not sure if you have any allergies to any of the listed ingredients here. While the ingredients used are often suitable for babies and young children, I found that it really hurts when the soap gets in the eyes. It is probably best not to use the bar to wash their hair. Also, please feel free to double check the lye content with Lye Calculator.

If you use this recipe to create shampoo bars at home, I would love to hear your feedback. I hope you love them as much I do!

Oh, and I don’t use regular conditioner after I wash my hair with the shampoo bar.  I usually rinse my hair with a vinegar and glycerin mixture.  I know, you might be thinking … eeeew, vinegar!?$?@?  But trust me, with a little dash of your favorite Essential or Fragrance Oils, it doesn’t smell bad at all.  More on the hair rinse talk next time.

Homemade Massage Bar to Fight Blue Monday

Some British study dubs the last Monday of January to be the “most depressing day of the year.” I guess there is even a formula that calculates it, by taking in factors like weather, time since Christmas, time since failing on new year’s resolutions, low motivational level, and a feeling of need to take action. I’m not too sure about the whole formula thing (and today’s not even that day), but the lack of motivation is definitely in the air here in my apartment.

I haven’t had the energy to do anything much since the holidays, except to shop online – which can be trouble. I spent hours stalking shops like Sephora and Lush last night, putting everything I want in the shopping carts. When the total hit triple digit, I knew that I had to walk away from the computer slowly, with both hands in the air, so that I won’t accidentally push “proceed to checkout.” My shopping urges were around cosmetics and body care products so I knew that I had to go in the kitchen and make my own, before I make a serious dent in my wallet.

I found this great recipe for Massage Bar online. I actually didn’t know what Massage Bar was for a long time until I found out that it’s a solid form of a lotion, where one can rub the bar on any dry areas of a body and use it to moisturize and massage (Duh). I decided to give this recipe a whirl, to tame my uncontrollable shopping urges!

Massage Bar
Adapted from a post by elle110 on iVillage Garden Web
It makes about 4 cupcake-size bars

Note: I doubled the recipe from the original and eliminated the Cocoa Butter and substitute it with more Shea Butter (I am not a fan of the Cocoa Butter smell).

You can get most of the ingredients at a supermarket or a health food store, like Whole Foods. I got all my ingredients from Brambleberry.

2 oz. Sweet Almond Oil
2 oz. Bees Wax
2 oz. Shea Butter
1 teaspoon Jojoba Oil
Fragrance Oil or Essential Oil of your choice (I used about 1/4 teaspoon of Yuzu FO)


1. Melt all the ingredients together (except for Fragrance or Essential Oils) in a double boiler. Make sure to stir as they are melting. Once everything melts, remove from the double boiler.

2. Add Fragrance or Essential Oils of your choice. Stir well.

3. Pour the mixture in a muffin tin lined with baking cups. I used Sili-Cups, cups made out of sillicone.

4. Let the bar cool for a few hours (quicker if you pop them in a refrigerator). Peel off the cup and it’s ready for use. Rub it on your legs, arms, stomach, or anywhere on your body for silky moisture! Store in a cool place.

It turned out that this is an amazing bar! I am so in love it! It’s not too greasy or too hard – with just a perfect consistency. I am afraid that the bar will melt during the hot summer months but since it’s still relatively cold outside, I’ll have no problem storing it in my bathroom or even a bedroom. If you are suffering from dry skin this winter, this can be your answer to a silky, moisture skin! And these bars go for about $10 for one 2 once bar at Lush, so it’s a bargain to make them at home. Maybe with the money you save, you can save yourself from Blue Monday!

Happy pampering!

Laziness Has Its Benefit: Homemade Toothpaste

I sometime get so lazy that I don’t go out to a grocery store, even if the refrigerator is completely empty and there is absolutely nothing to eat in the house (I know I can survive on spaghetti with olive oil for a week). I sometime choose not to go to a nearby drugstore (and there is one literally right across the street from my place) even if I were short on shampoo or other grooming necessitates (I can totally live without washing my hair for a day or two). There are, however, things that are so vital to one’s existence that even I have to get my lazy butt off the couch to go get them. Those items include a roll of toilet paper, Skinny Cow ice cream sandwich, and a tube of toothpaste.

Having squeezed the life out of the only tube of toothpaste I had left last night, I knew that I had no choice but to get myself a new tube this morning but, boy, I was lazy … so instead, I came up with a clever idea of making my own out of ingredients I already had around the house! What was that idiom … “necessity (or in my case, laziness) is the mother of invention”? This was exactly that!

I was a little skeptical at first though. I mean, I have to admit that, although I was comfortable with making soaps, lotions and other skincare products, it was a little scary to make something that I would actually put in my mouth. I didn’t even know how baking soda and liquid glycerin would taste like (what if they were super bitter?). But I put the fear aside and decided to go for it … and I’m glad I did!

I was so impressed with this homemade toothpaste that I couldn’t help but to share the recipe with you! Mind you, the consistency of this paste is very different from the commercial kind and there are no bubbles of any sort but my teeth came out squeaky clean and my entire mouth super refreshed! This is so inexpensive to make, all natural, and simply a wonderful product. You can get the ingredients at a local grocery store, or any natural food store, like Whole Foods and Henry’s.  I got my glycerin from Bramble Berry.  I hope you give it a try!

Homemade Mint Toothpaste
Adapted from “Ofuro no Tanoshimi” by Kyoko Maeda

1-1/2 tablespoons Baking Soda
1 tablespoon Liquid Glycerin
5 drops of Peppermint Essential Oil

Mix the baking soda and liquid glycerin well in a small container (I used a measuring cup). Add drops of Essential Oil and mix well. Put the paste in a clean jar (I used the jar from Trader Joe’s capers).  To use, put a teaspoon of the paste on a toothbrush with a small spoon, and brush teeth as usual. Keep it in a cool place.

I didn’t know this until now but liquid glycerin is naturally sweet!  The sweetness balances out the slightly salty flavor of baking soda, making the entire thing taste much like a regular toothpaste you pick up at a grocery store!  And I really love the refreshing feel of Peppermint Essential Oil.