Slip Slidin’ Away: DIY Body Oil

News Flash!
Library Life Hack gets a brief cameo this week on Discovery Channel’s “Stuff of Genius” blog, written by Christian Sager. I’m honoured and very excited! You can find the blog post here. (And by the way, it’s an outstanding top-ten list of highly useful life hacks, all courtesy of your local library.)
A Tale of Two Moisturizers

A Tale of Two Moisturizers

Hi! It’s good to have you here at Week 21. Last week, we tried making lip balm, with the help of Stephanie Tourles’ book “Organic Body Care Recipes”. This week, we’ll take on something trickier: moisturizing body oil.

No Blender, No Cry
There are all kinds of recipes in this book for moisturizers. I combed through them, rejecting the ones that required expensive ingredients or the purchase of a blender (remember, part of the deal with life hacking is that you’re supposed to save money).

The recipe I settled on is called Sesame and Shea Buttery Body Oil and it’s found on page 219. It was simple, inexpensive – and didn’t require a blender. I also liked that it was unisex. It used sesame seed oil, shea butter and a tantalizing combination of ginger, cardamom and sweet orange essential oils.

Like the lip balm, it took only about 20 minutes to knock together. And it smelled fabulous! I kept one bottle and gave three others to dry-skinned co-workers. These are their reviews:

Thanks for letting me trial your body moisturizer.
The good news: love the oil and its lasting power, and quite liked the scent, although a bit heavy on the ginger.
The bad news: didn’t love the consistency and found the ginger was too chunky (Note: I think she actually means the shea butter, which got solid and grainy within a few days.)
I use the body oil on my hands constantly and on dry areas. It smells so nice and is very easily and quickly absorbed. It only takes a few drops for my hands so it goes a long way.
The Good – smelled really nice, and it seemed to moisturize pretty well, my skin felt quite soft a few hours later.
The maybe not so good – It was fairly solid in the bottle so I used a Q-tip to get some out. Also, it was quite greasy/oily and didn’t soak in quickly. That was a big con for me because I live with pets, so having greasy legs meant I ended up with a lot of cat hair stuck to me.

Let’s Look at Some Alternatives
The cat hair comment cracked me up, but I have to concur. As a moisturizer, it was great and left my skin really soft, but it didn’t sink in very fast. Speaking as someone who goes from sipping coffee in her housecoat to sprinting for the bus — in 45 minutes flat — I learned to put on a very small amount and really massage it in. But I needed a body oil that was quicker.

Open, Sesame!
This called for some additional research. I tried the sesame seed oil on its own, with the three essential oils blended in. On one hand, this worked great! It seemed to just melt into my skin. On the other hand, it wasn’t quite enough for dry skin like mine.

I wondered if I could blend the shea butter and sesame oil to get something that’s more like a body butter. I tried a 4:1 ratio of shea butter and oil. That’s the solid you see in the photo above. It’s very nice, and holds together well. (No separation of the oil and butter.) I think you could safely go down to a 3:2 ratio and get something a little softer yet.

The finished product still needs to be used sparingly and massaged in, but it sinks in quicker than the original version and has great staying power.

Try This At Home
I’m going to continue to experiment, but if you want to try this at home, it’s very simple:

Over moderate heat, melt 4 tablespoons of shea butter and stir in 1 tablespoon of sesame seed oil. Add your favourite essential oils, stir well and pour into a clean jar. Let it set overnight and start using it right after you shower the next morning!

As I mentioned earlier, I used a combination of cardamom, ginger and sweet orange to scent this, but I think any essential oil would smell great. (If there’s a man in your life with dry skin, I’d try cedar oil in the shea/sesame blend. I bet he’d smell super sexy. And be all moisturized to boot.)

Dollars and Cents
Including the cost of the containers, the initial recipe worked out to $1.67 per 125 ml (4.23 oz) bottle, which I thought was a good deal for a pretty effective body oil. There isn’t a way to do a valid cost comparison with a commercial product, so we won’t be adding any numbers to that “cha-ching” column on the right this week.

That’s a Wrap
That’s it for this week’s life hack. Tune in next week, when we get really fancy and tackle face cream. Thank you — as always — for reading this post and have a great week!


Hand to Mouth: DIY Lip Balm

Some well-used pots of lip balm

Some well-used pots of lip balm

Hello and welcome to Week 20! This week, we’re starting a three-part series on homemade cosmetics.

Bad, Bad, Bad
We all know that commercially-manufactured cosmetics come with a whole list of sins tied their tails: false claims, cruel animal testing, and toxic chemicals. Plus, they can be really expensive.

And Then There’s Science
In 2010, the David Suzuki Foundation conducted an online study that asked Canadians to search for twelve sets of chemicals (the Dirty Dozen) in their beauty products. The results are startling. Of the 12,500 products reported on by 6200+ participants, 80% of them contained at least one of the Dirty Dozen – chemicals that were linked environmental problems and potential health hazards, including cancer, respiratory, and reproductive issues.

If you want to check your own cosmetics, here’s a link to the Dirty Dozen pocket guide.

Can You DIY Something Like This?
So … is it possible to create your own cosmetics, have them be as effective as commercial ones, but safer and more ethical? You’re about to find out. That’s a fairly tall order, but we know that Library Life Hack likes a challenge.

Now, I’ve dabbled in this before, with not-exactly-great results. Waxy lip balm, watery hand lotion … you get the picture. But I was up for giving it another try, in the name of research.

My home library has multiple books on natural cosmetics and remedies, but the one that really caught my eye was “Organic Body Care Recipes” by Stephanie Tourles. This book is a veritable encyclopedia – almost 400 pages, jam-packed with information and recipes.

Given my past results, I was still feeling a little cautious. But, I dove in and bought enough supplies to make lip balm, body oil and face cream, from a wonderful little mail-order house in Ontario called Saffire Blue. They had reasonably-sized quantities of everything I needed, and their prices were great.

Start With the Lips
I started easy, with lip balm. There were two recipes that looked good: Honey Fruit-Flavored Lip Balm on page 215 (which I gave a lemon flavour to), and Vanilla Velvet Honey Lip Balm (page 216). Each used only four ingredients (almond oil, beeswax, honey and flavouring) and they sounded simple to make.

All in all, it took about 20 minutes to whip up each batch. You need to stir the lip balm as it cools so that the ingredients bind together. Knowing when to stop stirring and start filling containers takes a little bit of practice. (You’ll notice some comments about graininess in the reviews.) For filling the jars cleanly, I found that an icing bag was the perfect tool.

I ended up with eleven jars. I gave one to my sister, kept two to try out myself and took the rest to work and recruited volunteer testers.

How Did It Turn Out?
I’ve been a diehard Blistex user for two decades, so this lip balm was going to have to be pretty great.

I liked the lemon version and — to my honest amazement — I think the vanilla works better than Blistex. Given that it’s a very simple product, I don’t really understand why, but it seems to be totally effective. My only gripe? Because it has honey in it, you have this sticky finger situation after you’ve put the lip balm on. And the vanilla recipe seemed to separate a little, but I think that could be fixed with a longer binding time.

Here are some of the reviews from my co-workers:

I quite like the lip balm. The top bits are a little grainy but underneath it is smooth. I like the light taste of it. Effectiveness? As good as other balms and maybe better than others. Some balms even seem to dry my lips rather than moisten them but this one is good. My sisters liked it, too.
My lip balm is scented and creamy smooth. It smells lovely and stays on the lips longer than my commercial brand. It moisturizes my lips nicely. It has a long lasting taste of cotton candy. The taste is the only drawback for me as cotton candy would not be my flavour of choice.
The lemon works great! Smells nice. It’s slightly grainy but not too bad. It’s better than many products on the shelves but not as good as my buffalo tallow lip balm. Thanks for letting me try it!
The lip balm is delicious in smell and taste – it goes on easily and is not sticky. I have to make sure I don’t eat it all.
My first impression was that it was too greasy but I thought I would give it a day or two and now I quite like the lemon lip balm. You need very little so it lasts. The scent is very light but you can certainly smell lemons – I like that! I even left it in my car in the sun for a couple of hours and it didn’t melt.
The organic lemon lip balm you gave me lives on my night stand and I faithfully apply it before bed each night. And voila, no more dry, chapped lips. The scent is light, which is a plus.

Dollars and Cents
7 pots of lemon lip balm cost $6.04 total, or $.86 each, including the containers. 4 pots of the vanilla version worked out to $5.01 total, or $1.25 each. By comparison, Blistex is $3.29 a tube at Wal-Mart. That means that the vanilla recipe is a savings of $2.04 per pot (or 263%), and the lemon is a savings of $2.43 per pot (or 383%). Based on a purchase of 11 tubes of Blistex, the homemade lip balms would save you $25.14.

The book averages out to $17.00 between and That makes this week’s life hack worth a total of $42.14. Cha-ching!

Here’s the lowdown on our feature book:

Organic Body Care Recipes:
175 Homemade Herbal Formulas for Glowing Skin & a Vibrant Self
Written by Stephanie Tourles
Published by Storey Publishing, LLC
Released May 30 2007
ISBN 1580176763

So … let’s call Experiment #1 a success. Next week, we’re going to get a little more adventurous, with body oil. In the meantime, have any of you out there tried making your own cosmetics? What were your results? Post a comment or drop me a line at librarylifehack [at] Make sure you tune in for Part Deux and have a great week!


Stock Market Check-Back for June

Hello! Here’s the update on the imaginary stock portfolio we put together back on Jan 1. You’ll also be able to find this in the Check-Back section.

June wasn’t the greatest month for many of our stocks — four of them are in negative territory right now and only three gained on their May prices. But overall, with a 22% gain on our Canadian stocks and 11% on the US ones, the portfolio is still performing admirably.

The big winner in June is Magna International, which has gained a whopping 51% since Jan. Behind it are Bombardier Inc. and Sparton Corp., both with 24% gains. I’m a little concerned about Research in Motion, which has bounced between a 40% gain and a 6% loss in the first half of the year — but we’ll see what happens in July.

Company Name Closing Price
Dec 31
Closing Price
Jun 30
% Change
AEterna Zentaris Inc. 2.38 CDN 1.93 CDN -19%
Bombardier Inc. 3.76 CDN 4.68 CDN +24%
Callaway Golf Co. 6.50 US 6.58 US +1%
Cameron International Corp. 56.46 US 61.87 US +8%
Canadian Tire Corp. 81.00 CDN 92.54 CDN +14%
Cott Corp. 8.03 US 7.81 US -3%
Indigo Books & Music 10.68 CDN 11.04 CDN +3%
Koninlijke Philips Electronics 26.54 US 27.19 US +2%
Magna International Inc. 49.68 CDN 74.86 CDN +51%
Research in Motion Ltd. 11.80 CDN 11.08 CDN -6%
Ryder Systems Inc. 49.93 US 60.79 US +22%
Sherwin-Williams Co. 153.82 US 176.60 US +15%
Sparton Corp. 13.87 US 17.24 US +24%
USG Corp. 28.07 US 23.05 US -18%
Westjet Airlines Ltd. 19.81 CDN 23.00 CDN +16%
Total Value $CDN $179.11 $219.13 +22%
Total Value $US $343.22 $381.13 +11%

The $100 Startup

As you can see, some serious research going on here.

Hello and welcome to Week 19! I really do have to apologize for the long absence. I’ve been in Bermuda, investigating travel hacking and rum. Seriously. I wasn’t just slacking off in my hometown of Edmonton. Here’s photographic proof. (Actually, I think I might need to go back to Bermuda, just to make sure that I didn’t miss any vital details.)

This week’s post will cover some territory that holds a very special place in my heart. Most of the time, we talk about saving money, but here in Week 19, we’re actually going to talk about making money. The book we’re covering is “The $100 Startup”, written by Chris Guillebeau. Chris is also the founder of the World Domination Summit event in Portland, which is where I was exactly a year ago tomorrow.

Start Me Up
“$100 Startup” isn’t your typical business book. It talks about the new model of microbusiness, a class of business that can be started quickly and cheaply, often from the intersection of your passions and skills. As the prologue says, the microbusiness revolution is “a way of earning a good living while crafting a life of independence and purpose.” This book is a blueprint for doing just that, built from a multi-year study of people who’ve already done it.

I love this book because it’s about the doing, not just the theory behind the doing — complete with checklists and downloadable worksheets to give you something tangible to work with. And there’s a little bit of a back story here.

Word Domination Summit 2012
To say that Chris Guillebeau is a remarkable man is like saying that Bill Gates is kind of well-off. At the age of 35, Chris has authored two books (“$100 Start-Up” was a NY Times best seller), visited every country in the world and launched the annual conference called the World Domination Summit. Last year, I was lucky enough to score a ticket to the 2012 Summit.

It’s difficult to find the words to describe how creative, inspiring and just flat-out brilliant this experience was. The theme of WDS 2012 was “How Do You Live a Remarkable Life in a Conventional World?”, intertwining the ideas of adventure, community and service. This weekend event was two full days of mainstage presentations, interspersed with a selection of smaller workshops. The speakers were some of the brightest and best minds (and hearts) that America’s been blessed with. Among them:

  • Brene Brown, psychologist and presenter of one of the most-viewed TED talks of all time.
  • Scott Harrison, founder of charity: water, a revolutionary non-profit that I predict will forever change the way non-profits work.
  • Scott Belsky, co-creator of Behance, an online portfolio platform for creative professionals across multiple industries.

In the break-out workshops, I also got to meet and listen to Pace and Kyeli Smith, Sarah Peck, and the hilarious Colleen Wainwright.

There are web links connected to each of those names, and when you’re finished reading this post, check them out. You’ll be impressed. I guarantee it. Not just by their success, but by the quirky, authentic ways they’ve gone about being successful.

Here’s the Best Part
When I picked up my registration package for WDS 2012, there was a copy of “The $100 Startup” in it. I was pleased, but didn’t think much more about it. Until the final hour of this already-stellar weekend, when Chris Guillebeau did something heart-stopping.
He gave away $100,000.

Acting on the gift of an anonymous donor, he closed the loop and gave me (and 999 other people) $100 cash to “go out and start something great with”. If you have a free thirteen minutes, the video is worth watching.

Wonder what I did with my $100?

You’re looking at it.

I invested my $100 in the purchase of a domain and a custom blog package from WordPress. Then I started reading and writing, and began to clippity-clop my way down the yellow brick road towards the Wizard of Blog.

I Had No Idea It Would Be This Fun
Half a year into this experiment, I realize that I am not the greatest blogger Planet Earth has ever seen. My life has an annoying tendency to get in the way. I miss deadlines. I forget to shoot photos. I’m probably making social media mistakes that I’m too dumb to even be aware of.

But … I’m having a huge amount of fun. I get to indulge the outer limits of my curiosity, checking out books and videos on a ridiculously random rainbow of subjects. (Spun sugar sculpture, anyone?)

And … I’m excited and honoured every time I see a page hit. I’m grateful for the inspiration that WDS 2012 left me with, which turned out to be the genesis of Library Life Hack. And if you’re reading this sentence right now, know that I feel privileged that you’ve taken the time to read something I’ve written.

I truly mean that. Thank you.


P.S. Starting this Friday, July 5, some 3000 people will be descending on Portland for WDS 2013. My little heart sings when I think about the amazing, life-changing weekend that’s waiting for them. Whee!

P.S.P.S. Yikes, I nearly forgot. By taking “The $100 Startup” out of the library, you’ll save an average of $17.34. (Which would buy you slightly more than two Rum Swizzles in Bermuda.)