Month: July 2015

One Soap To Rule Them All


I took a historical paper bindings workshop (bindings as in bookbindings) this weekend, and not only did I learn an incredible amount about making books, but got to spend time with some birds of a feather. I was not at all surprised to enjoy the conversations around me just as much as the bookish teaching and learning. I found out about a great new Mexican restaurant in the area, why chicken eggs are the colors they are (the breed of chicken!), and there was even a conversation about why shampoo, soap, and other detergents are unnecessary for personal care much of the time. If there is one thing I’ve learned in my rationing project, it’s that presently people both overuse and use too great a variety of soaps, detergents, shampoos, and other cleaning products for their hair and body. They can take their toll on you, and also on the environment (not only the chemicals, but all. those. plastic. bottles.).

I thought it would be a good time to review the ways I keep my soap coupons low, and still stay clean and tidy!

*Vinegar. Vinegar, vinegar, vinegar! I have white and apple cider vinegar on hand at all times. It cleans my house, gets added to my laundry, and I rinse my hair with it (sometimes all my hair needs, especially in the winter, is to get wet and get an apple cider vinegar rinse — no soap involved). You can even make apple scrap vinegar pretty easily (it’s what I’m using on my hair presently).

*One Good Bar of Soap. Right now I use a bar from Chagrin Valley — it’s a shampoo bar but I use it everywhere. I soap my hair, get some soap on a (handknit!) washcloth, and I have plenty of soap for a bath. I let it dry on a soap rack so it will last longer. I’m still using the bar of soap I opened in, what, April?! 🙂

I just learned that a natural, handmade soap shop is opening in my town, and they are offering soap making classes! I’ve been wanting to learn soapmaking for decades but have been nervous about handling lye on my own the first time, and really wanted to make some with an expert the first few times. It looks like I may get my wish this fall! If I start making my own soap, I’ll be combining single ingredients, which means my soap will not cost any coupons. I can’t tell you how happy this will make me!

*Soapnuts! I use these berries to do my laundry, in combination with vinegar and a scoop of baking soda if things need extra freshening. No plastic bottles, no scary chemicals running into our waterways.

*Water. Sometimes, water is all that you need. At work, we have horrid drying soap, and if my hands aren’t greasy or very dirty I only rinse them with water (I’ve not had a cold in over a year – knock wood). As stated above, sometimes my hair gets water and an apple cider vinegar rinse. I rinse my tea cup and water glass thoroughly every day at work and don’t use soap (I take them home and put them through our dishwasher — which gets half the (low impact!) dishwasher detergent “necessary” and a glug of vinegar to save on dishwashing powder — every now and again). In the morning, I rinse my face with water, and do not use soap. I’ve only been sleeping!

And there you have it! A far cry from the zillions of (I think completely unnecessary) bottles in the average home. That being said, I will let you in on my one Soap Related Vice — I ask my husband to bring me home his partially used soap, lotion, shampoo, conditioner, etc. from when he travels for work. Whenever I feel the need for a shampoo and condition like the Modern People do, I have some on hand that would have went to waste otherwise (hotels throw this stuff away).




Living It Up, and Settling Up

I’ve had a truly enjoyable time since last writing!

I spent it on vacation, partially staying at home making things, reading, and relaxing, and partially visiting Chincoteague and Assateague islands in Virginia — wild ponies — !!


and staying in the most charming bed and breakfast inn.


and visiting a winery on the eastern shore.


I also had a birthday! I had people over and made a nice dinner and a cake,


and we are celebrating tomorrow at work.

I would be remiss if I didn’t settle my coupon book amongst all this abundance and pleasure, though!


I purchased 20 balls of yarn for a sweater in black. I also received 10 balls of the burgundy shade as a birthday gift (now that’s a lot of new yarn all at one time!). I originally was going to use the black to knit Scollay and participate in the Scollay knit-along, but — I’m not sure it’s the right yarn for the sweater and certainly not the right yarn to use in the British yarn-centric KAL. The yarn that is local to me, or in my local yarn store added up to around $200 USD for a sweater. While I’m all for buying better and buying local, this is just too expensive for me right now. I had to weigh my desire to build my skills and wardrobe with making my own sweater with what I could afford amongst my other expenses and desires, and came up with this solution. I think I can get two sweaters from this amount of yarn.

I’m going to start with knitting a Garter Yoke cardigan with a black yoke, cuffs, and bottom edge, the rest burgundy, and see how I feel about the rest of the black yarn for Scollay after I knit with it. I did make a hat with a little over a ball of the black,


and it’s very nice — smooth and great stitch definition — but it’s not true to the vision of the original design to use this yarn. I still need to suss out how willing I am to go against that.

So after I do the math (each ball = 1.76 oz. 2 oz = 1 coupon) this purchase costs me 18 coupons if I round up. Ouch! Especially when I could thrift a sweater for zero coupons or purchase a new sweater for 5 coupons! But like I said above, this is more about skill building and creating a hand-made wardrobe than using the least amount of coupons.


Over the holidays, I received a gift of Tocca hand creams. They are quite lovely and each one smells like a different kind of heaven. I kept putting off trying the Florence one, because I have a very definite opinion on how Florence smells from my travels there (incense and iris root and bergamot and paper and oil paint and sun) and didn’t really want to smell anyone else’s Florence.

A little while ago, I finally opened my little tube, and staggered. This is not Florence, Italy, but rather a woman named Florence. She may be English but might be American, too. Yes, I think she’s American. It’s after the war, verging on the 1950s or maybe in the early 50s. She’s gardenia and tuberose with something warm underneath. Things are changing, some good, some not, and things are going to change even more drastically in the coming years. Let’s put the good part in a beautiful bottle, and put a cap on it, and try to capture the essence of it. That’s this Florence, for me.

I loved it, and had to get a bottle of the perfume. (An aside, Tocca thinks she’s Parisian! I completely disagree 😉

1 coupon.

Perfume can be like tea used to be for me, so I am glad to have only 12 toiletry coupons to play with a year!


I ran out of my Black Dragon Pearls sometime this winter. How I missed them! I found myself repeatedly wishing for more, and the craving did not dissipate. Since I’m doing so well with tea coupons this year, I got some!

They are SO GOOD. Chocolately, malty, rich. I was able to resteep my leaves an additional three very flavorful times. Because I am not purchasing any tea that catches my eye, this, like a good Earl Grey, can be one of my staple teas to enjoy at work as I stay within my tea coupons.

Rounding up, 2 coupons used.


Clothing: 15 out of 66
Soap: 7 out of 12
Tea: 25 out of 30

Half Way


I woke up this morning realizing that it was already July 7, and it didn’t even dawn on me that another quarter of the ration has passed. This year’s challenge is half done, and I’ve been rationing clothing, toiletries, and tea for 1 year and 6 months. My coupon amounts haven’t changed from the last time I posted them 2 months ago. To review:


Clothing: 33 out of 66
Soap: 8 out of 12
Tea: 27 out of 30

Just exactly half of my clothing coupons are left, and I still have loads of soap and tea coupons. I believe this is going to change soon as July is my birthday month, and I have plans to purchase yarn, perfume, and tea, hitting all of my coupon categories. No hand wringing — the coupons are there and I have well thought out purchases in mind.

The other reason it hasn’t dawned on me is that I’m in the middle of a bunch of days off, and I’ve taken my “I need winter hats!” proclamation very seriously. I have knitted myself 5 new hats from yarn already in my stash, did something to remake/revitalize three of my already knit hats with items I already had, have a hat on the needles, and am cooking up a dyepot of turmeric and tea to dye yarn for another hat as I type (see photo — what a color! When it interacts with wool it usually dyes a mustard yellow. So curious how this will come out). I’m not sure when this will end, as I have a few more hat patterns that I fell in love with and want to make, and I’m enjoying the process so much! I wear a hat every day from early fall to late spring, so it will be such a joy to select from a variety of hand-made ones come fall. I’ve also had lots of fun matching these newly made hats up with my already existing scarves and shawls — it’s like playing dress up for knitters!

Gotta run —  my dyebath needs to come off the stove. Happy Half Way!

Feeding My Brain


The Chair of my Book Arts Guild (hi Jennifer if you’re reading!) had a really interesting comment regarding this challenge. We were chatting, and she said, “You must be saving lots of money!” I answered that I wasn’t because I’m trying to buy better. The comment stuck with me, though, and I’ve been trying to pick it apart over the last week.

I still stand by my statement that I’m not saving any money and that I’m trying to buy better, but it’s not the whole picture. Even with spending more money on things that will last, some “mad” money (i.e spending money, not bills and savings and such) has been freed up in my budget. I’m spending it, though. Where is it going?

I’m spending it on education. My book arts guild hosts lots of workshops and I consider the tuition to be money very well spent. I’m so glad that because of this challenge, I now have the wiggle room in my budget to participate! Also, my classes at the University I work for are free as a benefit, but I have to buy supplies. Art supplies are expensive, but again, good paint, paper, etc. are so very worth it. I didn’t have to cheat myself with poor quality supplies or not buy necessary things like I had to do in the past because I simply didn’t have the money.

I am also a complete and total bookworm, and I consider the books I buy an educational expense. Although one of my pleasures is seeking out used hardback books, sometimes they can be expensive, especially art books. If I ever say that I want to ration book purchases, please kindly suggest otherwise. Books are as necessary to me as water and air! I’ve always bought books (as a peek in my library will ascertain) but shied away from the large astonishing art books because of the expense. Now, I’ve been able to add one or two every few months.

The funny thing is I never thought of myself as a huge spender for clothing or toiletries (I knew I had a tea problem ;)! I wasn’t, compared to the average Westerner. But a little bit of consciousness goes a long way. Those lipsticks I threw in my cart at the drugstore every few months, the shoes on sale, another dress, all that tea. What these unconscious habits were really doing was stealing money from the thing that feeds my soul — learning, which allows me to do the thing that most matters to me — creating.

I still have cute dresses, a great red lipstick, and gorgeous teas to enjoy. But now I also get to lavish generous helpings of workshops, books, and classes on my brain. Win, win, I’d say.