Lye is dangerous stuff. If you’ve ever thought about making soap (or lutefisk, ew) but have been too scared, allow me to assuage your fears. If lye were a Ghostly Gondolier who haunts Venice, I would be the Scooby-Doo team who shows up to reveal that the boatman is really just an loser who wants to steal valuable medallions. By way of a clumsy metaphor, I’m trying to say that understanding what makes lye so scary can be a great way to face your fears.
The other day, I saw this handy conversion chart on The Kitchen:
I loved the idea, but decided that it was a little complicated to read when I wanted to convert more than a single unit. Since I’ve been working on nailing down recipes – and not just mixing a little of this and a little of that and getting frustrated when I end up with exactly what I want and no idea how to duplicate it – for salves, deodorant, and chapstick, I thought I might go ahead and make charts for myself.
The volume chart includes “English” (because as far as I can tell, Americans are the only ones stupid enough to measure in cups and pints) and metric measurements, as well as drops if you’re using something pungent like an essential oil. It also includes common items that approximate each unit of measurement since not all of us know what a quart looks like.
Luckily, mass is not quite as complicated. Most of us are familiar with what an ounce and pound feel like, if not a gram.
When measuring for body products, mass is really the best way to ensure that you’re mixing proper ratios. A tablespoon of beeswax, for example, weighs half as much as a tablespoon of olive oil if you pack it lightly, but up to the same weight as olive oil if you pack it tightly or melt it. Cooking by mass doesn’t hurt either, but most American ingredients tend to be measured by volume.
Measuring by mass also reduces your clean up at the end. Rather than using a separate measuring cup or spoon or different ingredients, you can tare a scale to the cup you’re using to mix and throw everything in.
Can I tell you something? Weather is something I just don’t understand.
I remember studying weather in 5th grade science. My teacher made us memorize that wind is caused the “the uneven heating of the earth by the sun.” The memorization part totally worked, but I still have exactly zero idea what that means.
I am not a person who likes bugs. I refuse to go camping out of fear that I’ll wake up with a spider dangling half an inch above my face. Ants marching in a straight line make me want to pull out a magnifying glass and fry them one by one as they come towards me. I’ve been known to take showers in the middle of the night after waking up from nightmares involving cockroaches lying eggs in different crevices in my house and body.
But bees? Bees are fascinating! Cute, even. I recently went on a road trip with my friend, Molly, to visit her family — including her bee-keeping dad, Jack — in New England. After two days of eating honey on toast, on spoons, and on a giant pancake, we got to go out and play with the bees.
I spent the entire 30 minute ride out to the farm pestering Jack with questions like a kindergardener.
Where do you get bees?
They come in the mail.
How much honey do you get every year?
Two years ago we harvested 15 gallons but last year we only got 2.
Have you ever been stung?
We went to two of his hives, one where the bees had died from not having enough to make it through the winter (although, bafflingly, an entire lower drawer of honeycomb had been entirely ignored by the bees who ate from bottom to top and died in droves near the top) and another mean-ass colony who were still alive and kicking in 15 degree weather. After an afternoon spent poking around the hives, I went home with a plan for my retirement, a jar full of Jack’s Gold, and a head full of bee knowledge that I can’t wait to tell you about.