Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Make your own hair gel or mousse ~ a simple thrifty recipe using guar gum ~

Finding suitable hair products can be a bewildering experience: whole rows of supermarket shelving are devoted to these multifarious products, which vary incalculably in name, effect, ingredients and price.  Once a suitable product is found, it's entirely possible that it may never be see again, either because the manufacturer decides on a sufficiently different container, or because it simply fades out of existence.  One then has the thankless task of finding something else that 'works'.  It's a worry!

Guar gum powder from Ceres Organics
Making one's own products can be a happy release from dependence on the whims and fortunes of manufacturers so I was delighted when a friend devised this simple recipe.  Her motivation was that she wanted to put fewer chemicals on her head - now there's a thought!

Once she had progressed past the purely experimental stage she gave me some and we both tried it out - and then shared it with another friend.  Now all three of us are using it very happily!  Despite us having hair that ranges from soft and fine to big and bushy we are all happy with the results - a good indication of its value!

Here is the recipe:
Grace's hair gel:
This mixture may have a slightly beany smell from the guar gum.  You can counteract this by substituting rosewater for some of the water, or by adding a few drops of essential oil.

1/2 teaspoon of guar gum powder
1/2 cup of water
1 teaspoon of vegetable oil.
Note: If your hair is wiry and / or tends to be dry you might like to try increasing the amount of vegetable oil - to double or even triple, but first see what result you achieve with the original ratio.
Measure the oil into a bowl, stir in the guar gum powder and then mix in the water.  The mixture will begin to thicken immediately.  Take care to get the mixture as smooth as possible.

This makes a fairly wet gel that can be applied to wet or dry hair.  For best results rub between hands and finger-comb thoroughly through hair, making sure you get all the way to the ends.  Once the gel is in, scrunch hair to restore waves or curls, and fluff gently as it dries.  You may find it seems stiff in your hair initially but this will soften if fluffed a little and allowed to fully dry.
Thank you Grace - I'm delighted with mine!  

I wash my hair just as usual, and then after towelling most of the water out of it I dip my fingers into the guar gum mixture, rub my hands together and then massage a small amount through my hair, comb it vaguely into shape and then, just as Grace says, scrunch it up to encourage it to fluff out a bit and get some nice waves.  Fluffing it up more as it dries improves the effect.  

The mixture in its storage container is a rather unappealing grey, but that doesn't matter in the slightest once you've put the very small amount you will need through your hair.

To have any degree of longevity the mixture needs to be kept in the fridge.  If it smells odd or becomes discoloured, or if it has reverted to being runny after having been jelly-like, toss it out and make a fresh batch.

Please note that the above paragraph has been amended (17th July 2013): I previously said that the mixture needed to be kept in the freezer if it was to last at all long.  This was a mistake.  The batch I did this with froze solid, and once unfrozen I found it had lost some of its jelly-like consistency.  It went off soon after.  If you have tried this I hope it hasn't put you off.  Home recipes such as this one will often be 'a work in progress' which we can change and adjust as we go along to find what works best.  To better address the issue of shelf-life I have halved the quantity of ingredients given to make a smaller batch.  Even a small amount goes a very long way!

What is guar gum?
According to Wikipedia's article it is derived from guar beans and has a range of uses both in food and industry, with the greater demand being for its use in foodstuffs.  It can be used as a thickener, and a very economical one as it is eight times more potent than cornstarch!  One of its most common uses is as a replacement for gluten in baked products for those on gluten-free diets.  You can read more about it in the article here:

The back of the packet shown above includes this information: 

'Guar gun is a natural food thickener used in cooking and baking to bind, thicken and emulsify gluten-free ingredients.  Without guar gum, your gluten-free baked goods will most likely end up as a pile of crumbs. It has significantly more thickening ability than cornstarch for less the cost.'

That packet contains 100 grams and cost between $3 and $4.  My guess is that this packet will last me at least a year!  Now I call that economical! 

This article is one in a series about thrift in the medicine chest and bathroom cupboard.  These articles will be listed together on the page entitled:
Once on that page scroll down to the heading:  
Health issues, the thrifty medicine chest and personal care.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

The thrifty medicine chest and bathroom cupboard ~ tips and recipes for cheap, wholesome products ~

Over the years I've gradually discovered a number of good ways of stocking my medicine chest and bathroom cupboard which are thrifty as well as effective.  I look forward to sharing these in a series of articles as such items can be costly, and it is an important part of the household to keep properly stocked. Suggestions shared may make some things easier.

I have already published one such article - about moisturiser, lip balm, hand and body lotion.  You can find it here:
I continue to make my own and still find them better than anything of anyone elses!  

My next article includes a recipe for a hair styling product.  Shopping for hair care products can be daunting, given the extraordinary range available, the number of brands and inexplicable variations in cost.  However, I am beginning to be able to put this behind me now that I have this excellent recipe, and am delighted to have been given permission to publish it in this chronicle!

I will add articles in this collection to my index page relating to housekeeping and shopping, which you can find here:
Scroll down that page for the heading: 
Health issues, the household medicine chest and personal care.
 

Saturday, 2 February 2013

More than small change ~ read, read, read, those household bills, invoices and receipts!

During the last week I have gone back over household bills and found serious errors in two of them.  The total I successfully established as being overcharged amounted to an astonishing $244.02.  Both bills were made out by reputable companies with whom I have had accounts for years, one for electricity and the other for insurance.  Both errors occurred when each of these companies transferred one of their systems to another.  I hadn't done or changed a single thing. 

Last November the power company changed our meter for a 'smarter' one, which was supposed to enable them to do actual readings for each billing, which, three months after the event, they have yet to do, then proceeded to write out usage estimates based on a vastly inflated figments of their own imagination, and added to these a charge for a 'night boost' service which we have never had.  These bills do not make for easy reading or interpretation: working out what had happened took me some time, but was absolutely worthwhile: when I phoned the company I knew my ground and was able to make sure that the assistant at the service centre was on the same track.  He was helpful and apologetic and I now have an account that has been reduced from $213.69 to $47.32.  That I can handle!

The insurance company in their turn, had taken it into their heads to stop 'offering' the policy I had been covered by in the past and replaced it with a different one, one which gave more comprehensive coverage - of the sort I hadn't been asked about or agreed to.  I paid the bill some days ago without reading the accompanying letter or information sheets properly, which was a mistake!  Today, when I was tossing out various papers which had been cluttering my desk, I came across a leaflet that came with it which mentioned an additional 'benefit' which made up $50 of the premium charged.  What?!  I got on the phone and quizzed the consultant, who was at first puzzled and then apologetic.  Since I didn't require such extensive coverage my policy would be amended and a refund made to my account of $77.65.  Phewf!

It pays to watch these things closely.  I was glad to have previous bills and small print from the past easily to hand so that I could check on these and was sure of my ground.  The personnel who attended to my calls may not have needed me to quote them but knowing their contents helped my confidence and I was able to make the whole situation clearer sooner than might otherwise have been the case. 

These service providers should know their business well enough not to need supervision by their customers but it helps.  I wonder how many others have been napping when they paid their overcharged bills and never noticed.  Note that they are overcharged, not undercharged.  

But as I said to both assistants, I want to pay the correct amount, whatever that it is, and I want to be clear about what that is for.  Our vigilance as customers helps keep our service providers honest and on track.  It pays to keep an eye on them - literally!  Watch them like hawks!

You can find my other articles about housekeeping and shopping via the link below:

Friday, 1 February 2013

Sleeping soundly ~ in a room full of electronics

When I was house-minding I had the whole place to myself, which I was pleased about as I didn't need to concern myself with being a good guest, a consideration which can mean so many different things depending on who else is there!

The main bedroom looked just fine: it was north-facing, had a comfortable bed and I liked the big sash windows.  But that first night I slept badly, waking repeatedly and my dream world in turmoil, so much so that I couldn't face sleeping there a second night!  What to do?

Short of dragging a mattress into the living room and making up a bed there, the only other choice was a pull-out sofa bed in the room used as an office, which also contained the family's computer hub, two networked computers plus accessories, and the main telephone, all of which operated over the internet.  Because of the way the telephone was set up the whole thing had to stay live the whole time or the phone would go off the air.  

There were wires running everywhere around the room, a portion of them around the head of the bed, but the room itself felt friendly and I decided it would be worth a try.  I remained doubtful however: I am a sensitive person and pick up atmospheres particularly easily, as well as having my share of sleep problems; it seemed possible that I was going to be wired for sound and possibly have another night of disturbed sleep! 


Still, nothing ventured, nothing won.  I pulled out the bed and made it up.  It seemed okay, but the arms of the sofa part presented some difficulty in reaching for anything on a bedside table and I couldn't park anything on top of their rounded and padded surfaces...

I like to know where things are in the night and lacking anywhere convenient to put things lined them up where I could easily reach them - on the bed: the phone handset and my mobile phone - just in case I wanted to be in touch with the outside world during the small hours, and the house keys, which had the security fob attached to them.  So even on the bed I had gadgetry!

I got into bed, made sure I was comfortable, had everything I could possibly need - and turned out the light; banks of yellow-green lights on the various modems and other gear lit up the room like night lights.  Periodically the equipment 'talked' to itself, emitting a high-pitched series of squeaks after which it would lapse back into silence.  Amidst all this I went to sleep quite happily, slept reasonably well, and wasn't disturbed by anything.  Periodically I was roused by the beeps when they clicked on, but only briefly, and after a couple of nights didn't hear them at all.  

All this was a surprise to me: so much thinking these days is that electronics adversely affect our energy systems, even our sleep patterns, but this was certainly not my experience - quite the reverse!  This just goes to show that generalisations can be very wide of the mark and that individuals vary tremendously. 

One particular sleep problem I have is that after I turn out the light my mind can become active, which keeps me awake.  I have a mild medication that helps with this which I continued to use during this time.  That problem was neither better nor worse in than usual.

Some time ago I sought medical advice about this troublesome night-time characteristic of my lively intellect.  The doctor I consulted is first rate and specialises in sleep problems and I am sure his advice was and still is excellent: it involved spending the last part of every evening writing down any thoughts that went through my mind in long-hand (meaning on paper) and in full sentences.  In this way I would be putting all my busy thoughts down on paper which should free up my mind so that I could more easily relax into sleep.  I'm sure this works well for many people, but in my case what happened was that I started with small thoughts which generated bigger thoughts.  As I cottoning on to these I wrote increasing amounts in which I developed my themes, all the time automatically checked my writing for coherence, spelling and grammar.  The unfortunate outcome of these sessions was that my brain became about as sleepy as a lighthouse lamp in full motion, so I gave them up!  Sometimes I wish I were less idiosyncratic!

On the other hand, all those electronic vibes didn't bother me one bit.  But why didn't they?  Who knows, but I do wonder if they created some sort of force field around me which may have buffered my own personal force field.  I am sure we all have these.  But perhaps it was more a matter of feeling safe, which was a characteristic of the atmosphere in that particular room, for me anyway. 


A large portion of the population have sleep problems, which can be addressed in a range of ways.  

While I often seem to be the exception to established norms, there is one that I have found helpful, which is that one sleeps better if slightly cool, rather than too warm.  When I first read this I raised my eyebrows, but have found it to be true.  Mind you, I have to get nice and toasty warm first!  

I have included a few links to information and discussion about sleep disorders for those who are interested in reading further:

Stuff news website:
Sleep Well Clinics (New Zealand), established by Dr Alex Bartle, who is quoted in the above article
National Sleep Foundation (American) website article: