when all you need is baking soda. and essential oil. and an armpit-shaped tube from amazon.

Authors’ Note: So, we’re rebooting the blog. Again. And we’re trying something new. Again. This is not really an apology, because part of our charm is in our lack-of-discipline, fly-by-the-seat-of-our-cute-pants writing style, right?  Honestly, the main reason for this change is that we wanted the blog to be a bit closer to our initial vision: we wanted a back-and-forth banter between two friends, and we wanted to let others into the conversation. It’s like eavesdropping. Everybody likes eavesdropping, so now here is a place where it’s allowed and encouraged. So imagine us at the next table at Starbucks. While you’re trying to work.

MP: I’ll admit it, Katie. About a year ago, you mentioned you made your own laundry detergent and I thought, “Don’t you have better things to do with your time?” and “There goes my friend; forevermore we will have nothing in common.”

I feel bad for judging you now, as a year later, I’m in the kitchen, straining my own rosemary essential oil to put in homemade baking soda shampoo while the milk cools for the yogurt machine.

Katie:  Hmm… It seems you overestimate my DIY capabilities, as I basically just walked down the Laundry Detergent aisle at Target, picked up some almost-like-detergent-but-not-quite-as-pricey items and then just went home and stirred them. But if you want to think of me as having the ingenuity of a pioneer, that’s cool. I do everything DIY with that goal in mind, anyway

MP: You quickly bring me to my point, which is that I realize now how easy most of this DIY stuff is. I realized this a few months ago,  when I made my own sunscreen, my first DIY project. I was quite proud of myself and excited to do more. But then a friend came over,  saw my beeswax pellets and asked, “And you’re doing this because…”

The short answer was that I’m suspicious of all the ingredients in regular sunscreen but would have to spend our retirement savings to afford the stuff on the safe-list. So I talked to my friend, Google, and discovered how easy it is to make myself.  But because of my friend’s skepticism and my insecure nature, I felt self-conscious and judged and stammered around for a good answer.

Katie: Yeah. My friend actually just mentioned to me that her husband has always wanted to be a rancher. Then she said, “But not in a trendy way. Not how everyone is trying to be sustainable.”

Like sustainable=trendy. Which it does, of course, but also is just probably a better way to live.

MP:  Well, since I made sunscreen, I’ve sort of gotten addicted to making things I used to buy. Here are the things I make now, that I judged people for just a year ago: lotion, shampoo, all-purpose cleaner, yogurt, probiotic gummy snacks, kombucha, deodorant, chicken stock, and essential oil.

Katie:  Gummy snacks?!? Man. That sounds intimidating to me. And I know you’ve explained  what kombucha is before, but it seems I still have a generally nebulous feeling about it.

MP:  Yes, most people do. I can usually sweet-talk people into all kinds of things, but few want to try my kombucha. But, the thing is, I was wondering why the heck I’m so excited about what I can make, especially since I’ve heard criticism that it’s not very “feminist” of me to spend time doing domestic chores that modern technology has supposedly freed me from.

Katie:  That’s what I was just going to ask: Why did you get addicted? Was it just the feeling like, “Yes. I am such a badass for making my own gummies”?

Take THAT, Flintstones vitamin people!

MP:  Here’s what I think: you know how you said you didn’t really “make” detergent? That you just mixed detergenty things together?

Katie:  Yep. Feels like I am consumer, but a smarter one than I used to be. Or at least unique-er.

MP:  Well, all the stuff I listed is just as easy. Mostly, I mix shit together. (Sometimes, I mix shit together and then have to wait a period of time…) And it sort of blew my mind when I realized how easy it all is. But I thought none of it was easy and I had to spend a bunch of money for professionals to do their professional talents. So, yeah, basically, I feel like I’m sticking it to the man. Take that, Flintstones vitamin people. I actually feel more empowered, not less. And present in my own life, something I want to be.

Katie:  Sticking it to the man. That is a funny phrase. Like what exactly am I sticking to him? Maybe gummies? I don’t know why I’m stuck on gummies.

MP:  I guess I get super excited whenever I realize there is a different way….

Katie:  Yes. Like there’s no real magical planet where Aveeno makes their lotion?

MP:  Right.

Katie:  There is a certain measure of helplessness in being a consumer first. Last week, our furnace just stopped working. I went down to the basement and stared pretty hard at the furnace, thinking, “Gee, I have a master’s degree… you’d think I would be able to do something– anything– to rectify or at least identify the problem in this situation.”

But it turned out that I all I really knew how to do was call someone else to do something about it. I couldn’t even figure out how to take the front panel off. So I think learning how to DIY something combats that. Destroys the illusion that we’re all just slaves to IKEA or the furnace repair guy (I love you, Larry!) or the Flintstones vitamin people.

I am pretty sure I would be the very first person kicked off of Survivor, though, if I ever went on that show. I would give up very, very easily.

MP:  I’m certainly grateful for people who are trained to fix furnaces and teach my children math and operate on a brain tumor. But, when it come to basic-everyday-ways-to-live, I feel more…alive? Involved in life?…when I’m more involved in the production.

Katie:  DIY brain surgery is a great idea for our next blog.

MP:  Totally.

Katie:  I think I’ve watched enough Grey’s Anatomy to be very good at that.

MP:  I always thought I could be a great doctor if i just got to use Google and not actually see people. I don’t really like touching strangers.

Katie:  Yeah. Gross. How do dentists do it? Or podiatrists? I mean, if I got to choose the patients I guess I could be OK with it.

MP:  Oh, man. I told my dentist that her job is #1 most dreaded to me. She knew I meant it, b/c it was after I had an anxiety attack in the dental chair and had to re-schedule my filling.

Katie:  I think societally we’re learning to value the domestic again. There were a lot of things that sort of happened at the same time that were critical of domestic chores– or at least they championed everything EXCEPT the domestic. We’re probably in that point in history where we’re swinging back the other way. Oh man. Call the history book people, because this whole entry is going to blow some people’s minds.

MP:  Societally? Is that a word? I don’t know…people just seem so divided. (I know! Ground-breaking observation!) Some people, at best, tease me about this stuff, but I’m sure there’s the sort of “what a waste of time” judgment I handed to you last year. Then there are others who are WAY into it, like, “This is the RIGHT/BETTER/ONLY way to live.”

Katie:  True. So society is changing and people are divided. This sounds like the thesis statement of a freshman English paper.

But what’s something you would never, ever want to DIY?

MP:  Cleaning the bathroom. Not that anyone else cleans my bathroom. It’s just not clean.

Katie:  You know, I hear that it is, in fact, possible to pay someone else to do that.

MP:  Do housekeepers charge by 15-minute increments?

Katie:  I’m not sure. Would your bathroom only take 15 minutes?

MP:  Yep. It’s so small I  dry off in the hallway after a shower.

Katie:  So what’s your favorite DIY project to date?

MP:  The last one I did. Every time. Because I love the rush of learning something new. I was seriously amazed at the yogurt, even though I used a yogurt maker, which is fool-proof. What’s something you would never DIY?

Katie:  Toothpaste. Deodorant. Brain surgery.

I like super fast stuff. Not really a “delayed  gratification” kind of person. I want to see insta-results. I don’t want to wait. I hate letting things cure or settle or set up. I also hate when I have to find very specialized ingredients or tools or whatever. The yogurt maker would have sent me over the edge.

MP:  AH! I’M JUDGING YOU FOR THIS! How do you ever expect to make essential oil??? All you do is soak the thing in the oil, but you do have to soak it for 30 days….I mean…I’m not judging you.  To each their own. Also: according to Salt, Lemons, Vinegar, and Baking Sodaall you really need is…well, you know.

Katie:  OK, that would be OK. I mean, I don’t hate the idea of that because it is mostly just involves doing nothing. If I had to check on the progress daily or something like that, I wouldn’t like that. My very good, very domestic, very cool friend CB made her own vanilla extract this same way. I love that idea. It’s just throw stuff in a bottle and wait. But I keep not doing it because… well, I need vanilla extract RIGHT. NOW. Cookies. Nom.

MP:  Yeah..I get that. BTW, my “deodorant” is not really a thing. It’s just rubbing baking soda on my armpits. And cornstarch, if it’s a fancy night.

Katie:  That’s something I would never do. (Well, never say never because the minute I read another “breast-cancer-is-inextricably-linked-to-deodorant-usage article that someone posts on Facebook, I will recant and buy some baking soda.) But I like smelling Powder Hyacinth Teen-Spirit Fresh. I like how the thing is shaped like my armpit.

MP:  Fun Fact: they sell those armpit-shaped-tubes on Amazon. I ran into them in between buying a piano bench and magnesium flakes! Amazon has totally made the hard-to-find ingredients and tools available. So , I guess I like to stick it to the man, unless he’s Mr. Amazon.

Katie:  Yeah. Mr. Amazon. Swoon.

PS- Essential oils make excellent Christmas presents. I like lavender.


7 thoughts on “when all you need is baking soda. and essential oil. and an armpit-shaped tube from amazon.

  1. Yes, the empowerment! I have a couple dozen jars of DIY pickles in my pantry right now. After I learned how insanely easy it was to do, I wondered why anyone even buys pickles at the store. It’s like paying someone to tie your shoes. Kind of silly. And then I read the label of the store pickles. Surely there is something special about them, a magic ingredient perhaps, that makes them superior to homemade pickles. Guess what? There is! It’s FOOD COLORING!!! Geesh.

    When I tell people I make my own pickles, they think I’m pretty amazing. (Okay, so I don’t really know what they think, but I like to interpret their reactions this way. It saves from the fear of being thought of as trendy/right/wrong/a time-waster.)

    I like this idea of sticking it to the man. In fact, I like it so much, I propose there be sticking-it-to-the-man parties! Like, people should get together and mix shit up together! Or mix shit up at home and bring it to the party to trade for other people’s mixed up shit! Then we would REALLY be sticking it to the man!!! (I want to pretend like I made this idea up myself, but I’m a horrible liar. They are called “canning parties” – boring name, right? I haven’t been to one myself, probably due to the boring name factor, but now that I can give it a much more awesome name, you won’t be able to stop me from going!! Take that, Man!!!)

    I’m so glad you guys are back. Everything seems right with the world again.

    (I think essential oils probably make a better Christmas present than pickles. Sorry to all my friends for all the pickles. I’ll try to learn how to DIY something even more amazing this year.)

    PS – I like lavender, too 😉

  2. I just wrote a blog along exactly the same lines! I’m reading The Little House on the Prairie books, and I noticed that Ma and Pa both spend a lot of their time creating things. We, on the other hand, spend our time either consuming things or doing chores. One of my favorite lines from my own blog post was, “There’s a reason it’s called homemaking, not home-doing.” (If that’s not tooting my own horn…) So I’ve spent a lot of time over the past couple weeks thinking about what I can create. We do make our own vanilla (which is also ridiculously easy) and we never eat out, so we cook our food. But I’m also thinking about how writing is creating, about how I can create order in some of our more chaotic spaces, about creating routines and also family traditions, etc. I’m also trying to learn more about the historical understanding of running/managing households instead of my (our?) pretty small vision of just trying to keep the house from falling down around me.

    Thanks for your post! It’s always good to read your thoughts!

    • Consuming vs. creating– you’re right about that dichotomy. Although I am glad, every time I read LHOTP, that venison doesn’t have to be part of my life.

  3. Oh man, I’m making vanilla extract right now. There was a HUGE mistake in the process though. I bought the alcohol for it at 11am on a Sunday at one of the grocery stores. People were out after church with their families buying food, and here I was with a basket of rum and cinnamon buns. The looks that I got.

    The checkout person was this seemingly sweet little old lady who happily rung up my food. When she got to the booze, she gave me the dirtiest look and her attitude took a turn for the nasty. At that point, I just stared her down and was thinking, “It’s for vanilla extract, you old battleaxe!” Never again. From now on, I’m only going to the seediest alcohol shops at the darkest hours for my extractants.

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