Tag Archive: tutorial


Tutorial – Hair Spray


This is not a hairspray like the “Ultra-Mega Hold” styling lacquer that glues your hair together. It is more like a leave-in conditioner. It makes my normally dry hair soft and helps tame my frizzy curls somewhat, and also helps keep my dry scalp from itching.

I wanted a nice, light leave-in conditioner that wouldn’t make my head itch – most conditioners use silicone oil to coat the hair shaft but it coats everything else (like your scalp) as well. I couldn’t find one that suited my needs, no matter how hard I looked.

So I came up with my own.

And here’s how you make it.

First you will need;

  • A spray bottle – mine holds about two cups, so that’s what this recipe makes
  • Aloe Vera gel – I have a tube of this organic stuff, it’s lasted for years. The regular sunburn aloe will work as well, as long as it’s aloe vera gel and not a lotion.
  • Glycerin – you can find this in the health and beauty aisles of most stores. This big bottle has lasted me years.
  • Water – you can use tap water or distilled, it’s completely up to you. Some tap water will develop an unpleasant smell after sitting for a while.
  • Essential Oil (optional) – I like to use lavender, but sometimes I use rosemary. The aloe has a scent of its own that’s quite nice.
  • Optional – Alcohol (optional) – If you use essential oil, you will need about half a teaspoon of high-test alcohol, either drinking booze or rubbing alcohol.

This stuff.

Now the terribly complicated method of making it.

Step 1 – Put a small amount of warm water in the spray bottle. Add about two teaspoons of aloe vera gel and shake it around so it will dissolve. This can take a minute.

Step 2 – Add ten drops of glycerin to the warm water. Swirl it around a few times, it will dissolve quickly.

Optional step – if you are adding essential oil, first pour about half a teaspoon of alcohol into a separate small container and then drop between 5 – 10 drops of essential oil into the alcohol. Stir to disperse the oil in the alcohol and then pour it into the spray bottle. You can also use a squirt of perfume, if you are a perfume person.

The alcohol & oil mixture makes it cloudy.

Step 3 – Top off spray bottle with water and put the top on. Shake again.

And that's it.

 

If you don’t choose to use alcohol & oil, it will be much less cloudy but it will be slightly clouded.

To use –

Spray lightly over whole head and massage in from crown to tips with fingers or a large-toothed comb, making sure to get down to the scalp. It will help detangle hair to some degree. Can be applied directly to scalp if very dry. Wet hair is best, but can be applied to dry hair as well. (I keep a bottle at work for touch-ups) Dry and style as you normally would.

Aloe and glycerin are both moisturizers and skin protectants, they help keep the hair shaft from drying out so it will take slightly longer for your hair to dry. You can also wait until your hair is dry and mist it with the solution. It also has the added benefit of acting as a light moisturizer for your skin. (Very nice on thirsty legs in the wintertime when it gets so dry indoors.) If you use too much, you hair can become sticky, so it’s best to start light and add more later.

You may need to adjust this recipe to your own tastes, you may need less or more aloe or glycerin depending on how dry your hair is.

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Brrrr…


It’s Monday again, a day most people (including myself) head back to work and are not terribly thrilled about it. For many (again, also including myself) this means coffee.

Ahhh...coffee! The nectar of the gods.

Or, if you really need a jump-start – espresso.

Ahhh...espresso! Nectar of the twitchy gods.

The only problem with this is that in the summer, when it’s so blasted hot, drinking hot coffee will just make you hotter.

“But Ghostie!” You cry; “Coffee is always served hot!” Not always, my dear deluded reader. In recent years there has been a rise in cold coffee drinks made available at various fast food and gourmet coffee shops. The coffee is still brewed in the traditional manner, but is poured over ice and tarted up with cream and sugar. All that fat (from the cream) and sugar adds a lot of calories, making your daily dose of caffeine into something closely resembling a milkshake. All that ice also dilutes the coffee once it melts, which affects the taste.

Now, you can do this at home (brew your coffee as you normally would and pour it over ice) which is a perfectly acceptable solution. You could even make your own coffee ice cubes if you don’t want to dilute your brew with water ice. If you are especially good at planning, you can brew your coffee the night before, adulterate it as you see fit, and then store it in the fridge overnight so it will be icy cold in the morning.

There is also another option, one that doesn’t use a coffeemaker at all. You can cold-brew your coffee. You may have never heard of this method, it is not widely used because of the time involved, but it makes a tasty cup of coffee that is actually less bitter and a bit stronger than a hot-brewed cup. All you need is a clean container, coffee grounds, water, and some method of straining out the grounds. (I use a sieve lined with a coffee filter, but anything that will get the grounds out will work fine. If you have a French Press, you can use that.)

I'm using a clear jar, but any container with a lid will work. Large yogurt containers are good; they can be stacked easily if you want more than one batch going at the same time.

Here’s what you do;

Step 1:

Add your grounds to your container.

Like so.

I’m using two scoops (about four tablespoons) each of Folgers Black Silk roast and Cafe Bustelo espresso roast in a quart jar. This sounds like a lot, and it is, but there is a reason for this. The end result will be a concentrate that you mix with cold water or milk to make the final beverage. You could use less to make a weaker brew, but instead of being able to make a half-gallon of cold coffee drinks, you would only have a quart for all your troubles. You could also add more grounds if you wanted it stronger, but the more you add the more water they will absorb and the less actual coffee you end up with. It’s a fine line, really, and I’ve found this amount works best for me.

Step 2 –

Add water to your container.

Like so.

The grounds will float at first; you can either put the lid on, if you are using a container with a tight-fitting lid, and give it a few vigorous shakes, or you can just stir it throughly.

Oooh ... swirly.

There’s a tuft of cat hair on my knuckle because Fearless kept jumping up on the counter to see what Momma was doing and I kept having to get her down until she got bored and wandered off to take another nap.

I dream of ... cheese balls and ponies.

(The cat hair is an optional ingredient.)

Once the grounds have been stirred or shaken in, they will absorb some of the water. You can add additional water if you like.

Like this.

Step 3 –

Put the lid on and wait. You can leave it out at room temperature or stick it in the fridge, I do a little of both. I’ll make the coffee in the morning, after I’ve used the last of the previous batch and cleaned out the jar, and leave it on the counter while I’m at work. Before I go to bed I stick it in the fridge so that when I strain it in the morning it will already be cold. The time you leave it can depend on your schedule, I would recommend at least eight to twelve hours, twenty four is ideal. You can leave it longer than that but it won’t really make any appreciable difference. There’s only so much coffee you can get out of the grounds. Giving it the occasional shake, if your container will allow vigorous shaking, will help. If you are using a French Press to brew in, I recommend removing the inner plunger workings when you put it in the fridge, just as a space saver.

Step 4 –

Using the straining method of your choice, strain the grounds out of the coffee concentrate. As I’ve said, I use a sieve lined with a coffee filter resting over a mixing bowl. The sieve alone would catch most of the regular grounds but the finer espresso grind would go right through and leave a thick sludge in the bowl. If you have a French Press – just pour everything in, depress the plunger, and pour.

A word of caution – most of the grounds will be on the top of the container, forming a thick plug. Either shake the container or use a utensil to break up this plug before pouring or when you try to pour out the coffee (maybe, let’s say, while trying to take pictures for your blog) the plug will be forced out all at once and grounds will go everywhere.

Before straining. You can see the plug in the neck of the jar - the slightly lighter, bubbly-looking band of brown.

During straining. It's best to do a little at the time.

Almost finished straining.

Once as much of the liquid has strained through as you can get to, gather the edges of the filter and twist into a pouch, GENTLY squeeze the remaining liquid out of the grounds as if it were a tea bag. Discard grounds and filter as you normally would.

Once most of the grounds are in the filter you may notice that the volume of the stream dripping out the bottom is reduced. I’ve found that tapping the edge of the sieve or shaking it slightly will help the liquid strain easier. While it’s dripping, clean the container you plan on keeping the concentrate in, either by washing the container you made it in or getting out the container you plan on storing it in.

Step 5 –

Pour your concentrate into the storage container and place in the fridge. You can keep the concentrate for at least a week, but I usually drink all mine in two or three days.

The final product. Notice the level of liquid is lower than before it was strained, this is the amount of liquid absorbed by the grounds. (and some that spilled out when I forgot to break up the plug)

Using this volume of grounds and water produces almost a quart of brew that is stronger than regular coffee, closer to espresso, but with a less bitter taste. If you wanted it very, very strong you could add more grounds after the straining process and leave it for another day. I’ve never done it, but it would be an interesting experiment to try.

The concentrate can be used full strength like an espresso shot, or diluted with water, milk, or creamer. I would not use the powdered non-dairy creamer (or coffee whitener if you live in America’s Hat) in this because the fine powder doesn’t dissolve readily in the cold liquid. If I run out of regular milk or liquid creamer I’ll use the powdered NDC but I’ll dissolve it in warm or hot water ahead of time and let it cool. The same goes for sugar; it will dissolve in cold liquid but it doesn’t like to so it’s a good idea to dissolve it ahead of time. My personal favorite serving method is to mix the concentrate half and half with chocolate milk, it has a nice mocha flavor.

Mmmmm...

Like most things you can do yourself, making cold-brew coffee at home versus buying it elsewhere will save you a lot of money. Even if you use only premium beans you can still make gallons of of coffee for the price of a few cups from a coffee shop.

You can buy fancy cold-brewing apparatus, but the idea is the same; mix grounds and water, wait, strain.

Some set-ups are fancier than others.

The only different between making one yourself out of a jar and buying one of those expensive cold-brewers is the money you spend. It’s also fairly “green” since you don’t use any electricity for brewing the actual coffee, only chilling it. The granola-licking hippies out there should like that.

If you decide to try cold-brewing, please leave me a comment letting me know how it worked for you.


I was driving to work one morning, thinking about things as is my habit, when I realized I hadn’t written about my litter boxes.

I may have mentioned that I think of odd things while driving.

I am unusually proud of my litter boxes, because I made them myself. Granted, it wasn’t that hard, but still – I made them.

Back when I just had Simon, I had a standard box you can find at any Sprawlmart or pet store – it resembled a large dishpan. I got one of the “deluxe” models with a cover, to cut down on the smell. (This was back when I was living in my camper.) Then the kittens came along and it was very clear, after cleaning out the box three times a day, that I was going to have to do something else.

But what?

I already had the largest litter box available (they just didn’t make litter boxes any bigger) and the lack of space meant I couldn’t just buy another one. I was stumped until I realized that while they didn’t make litter boxes bigger, they did make larger plastic containers.

No, I'm not going to post pictures of my litter boxes. Sicko.

I ventured out to Sprawlmart’s storage section and found the perfect solution – a thirty gallon storage tote. Five (very careful) minutes with a sharp knife and there was a seven inch square hole in one end about eight inches from the bottom. Why seven inches? Because that’s how wide the handles are. I filled it with litter, it took most of a twenty-eight pound bucket, and then popped the lid on, congratulating myself on a job well done.

And now the cost breakdown

  • A regular far-too-small-for-anything-other-than-a-single-kitten  litter box, around ten dollars or so.
  • A fancy “extra-large” covered model, like the one I had, can go for twenty-five or so.
  • The even fancier self-cleaning models cost over a hundred, but that’s really overkill in my opinion.
  • The thirty gallon tote, which can accommodate two cats at the same time, cost me less than nine dollars.

This is quite a savings, in more ways than one.

When I cut the hole in the end, I measured the depth of the old box and added an inch or so, making the tote slightly deeper than a standard litter box. It’s not much and the cats have no trouble getting in and out, but that inch or so spread out over the entire box really increased the volume of litter I’m able to use. Most litter boxes are no more than about six or seven inches deep and you never fill it to the top, that’s just a recipe for getting litter everywhere.

Even the “extra-large” boxes are barely big enough for one cat; Simon had a hard time turning around in his, the small amount of litter in the bottom made it lightweight and prone to rocking back and forth when “in use,” and the top popped off constantly.  The larger footprint and heavier weight of the tote makes it much more stable. This is especially nice, since all three of my furry darlings like to dig during their private time. Sometimes I think they just go in and dig for fun.

Keeping all of this in mind, when it became clear that Simon was going to have to be put in a permanent time-out the protect Nikki, I didn’t buy a regular litter box; I bought a tote. I didn’t need one quite as big as the thirty gallon job, so I got a slightly smaller eighteen gallon one, which is perfect for one cat. It cost me a little over five dollars. I do have one standard litter box, I bought it to use when Simon hurt his shoulder and I had to keep him caged for a month, the tote was too big to fit in the cage. It was very messy, with litter getting everywhere, and I was glad to put it away when Simon’s shoulder healed.

If you’re thinking about getting a cat or currently have a cat or cats and you are fed up with too-small litter boxes, go get yourself a tote. Since they are fairly air-tight, it’s a good idea to leave the lid off from time to time to help the ammonia evaporate. I leave the lids off of mine about once a week and give the litter a good stir every time I clean it out to help things along.

Bonus tip!

While there is very little litter kicked out of the totes since the sides are so high, there will be some as the cats go in and out. Putting a mat down in front of the opening solves this problem nicely.You can buy an expensive one for at least ten dollars, if not more…

Aww... it's kinda cute.

Or you can be smart and get a rubber doormat.

I find the kind with the little pegs works the best.

The doormats I use both came from Family Dollar and cost three bucks a piece. They do both say “WELCOME” instead of being cute little paw shapes, but it’s not like the cats care about that sort of thing. The cats walk over the mat and the little rubber feet knock the litter off their feet, even Fearless’ fuzzy clodhoppers.

Her fuzzy, fuzzy feet.

They reduce the amount of litter getting tracked through the house down to almost nothing and I don’t have to comb litter out of Fearless’ foot-fur every night. (Yes, I’ve done that. It’s not nearly as much fun as it sounds.)