Guest Post: Calming Lotion Bars

My friend and fellow DoTerra essential oil lover, Dani, made these wonderful calming lotion bars. She wanted to share her process and since she doesn't (yet) have a blog of her own, she asked if she could share over here on Build, Sew, Reap. Of course I said yes! So here's Dani:

Calming Lotion Bars

When an email went out to a group of us at my church asking for something to give away to families after the Epiphany service, my mind immediately went to the new bottle of frankincense oil making its way to my house in the post.  Never mind the fact that I was leaving in a few days for a vacation in another country – we were driving after all so I could just take my supplies with me and make it abroad!

Epiphany is the service where we celebrate the arrival of the Three Wise Men who brought Frankincense, Myrrh, and Gold as offerings. I searched online for ideas of what could be made with frankincense and stumbled upon a recipe for calming lotion bars. In the end, I ended up deviating several times from the recipe so I decided to write up my version of the recipe for others.

The first issue I encountered with the first recipe is that it called for Sweet Almond Oil. Having a brother with a million and one food allergies, I was reticent to use a recipe that called for a nut oil. After doing some online research, I found several bloggers who explained the properties of various oils and thus gave a good explanation for what were acceptable replacements based on their properties.  In this case, Avocado Oil is the top replacement for Sweet Almond Oil.  Grapeseed Oil is also an acceptable replacement.  I recommend Soap Queen’s website if you’d like to look at other replacement oils.

For the amounts used in the recipe, I’m not actually sure how much or little I deviated from the original recipe.  Upon closer examination when standing in the Canadian kitchen of our rental house in Victoria, I realized the recipe wasn’t clear on whether beeswax and oil measurements given were for fluid ounces or weight ounces.  I then realized that the very modestly furnished kitchen had neither a fluid ounces measuring cup nor a kitchen scale so I didn’t actually have a way of measuring properly either way.

Luckily, one of my family members is a pharmacist and good with chemical measurements. He helped me estimate in tablespoons what it seemed like the recipe was driving at and we ended up with a very successful recipe.

One other note on the ingredients before I launch into the actual process – the quantity that these items come in means you will be able to make A LOT of lotion bars.  Like, 500 of them.  Obviously there are other uses for these items (I’m excited to be crafty and make other stuff too) but I wanted to clarify.

They aren’t necessarily cheap items but the price makes sense in comparison to the volume you are going to be able to produce.

  • 5 tablespoons Beeswax Pastilles (Amazon affiliate link)
  • 2 tablespoons Shea Butter (Amazon affiliate link) 
  • 4 tablespoons Coconut Oil (Amazon affiliate link)
  • 2 tablespoons Avocado Oil – didn’t really see a good one on Amazon, I bought at Costco
  • 10 drops doTerra Lavender Essential Oil
  • 7 drops doTerra Frankincense Essential Oil
  • 3 drops doTerra Clary Sage Essential Oil

Calming Lotion Bars

Equipment Required:
  • Double boiler – if you do not own one (like me) you can make one at home.  All you need is a metal mixing bowl or an oven-safe glass bowl and a pot.  The mixing bowl/glass bowl should fit nicely into the pot so that there’s room for water to boil underneath it.

Calming Lotion Bars
Calming Lotion Bars

  • Instrument for stirring that you are ready to part ways with OR the handle of a spatula wrapped in aluminum foil works quite nicely; the wax tends to leave a film remaining on things so I improvised option 2 and it worked out quite nicely for me.

Calming Lotion Bars 


1. Put water in the bottom of your double boiler (homemade or professional) and bring to a boil on high heat.  Once it’s at a good boil, reduce heat to medium so that you have a soft boil going.

2. Add 5 tablespoons of beeswax pastilles to the top of your double boiler and melt.  You can help the process along by stirring BUT you only want to implement this when the wax is at least 75% melted. I discovered that sticking your stirring element in too early in the process results in a lovely beeswax mace (aka clump of beeswax on the end of the stirrer).

Calming Lotion Bars

3. While the beeswax is melting, measure out the 2 tablespoons of shea butter, 4 tablespoons of coconut oil, and 2 tablespoons of avocado oil in a separate bowl.  You don’t have to mix them or anything – it’s just easiest to be able to quickly add them all at once when it’s time.

Calming Lotion Bars

4. Once the beeswax is 100% melted, add your shea butter, coconut oil, and avocado oil and melt them.  Again, you can help this process by stirring but don’t stir until 75% is already melted.

5. When the mixture is completely liquid, add the essential oils.  For this recipe, I used Lavender, Clary Sage, and Frankincense but I’m excited to try other mixtures as well in the future.  The amount of the oils is another key moment where I deviated from the original recipe.  It called for 5 drops of clary sage but the group consensus was that the first batch was overwhelmingly one dimensional in the scent department.  I tweaked the amounts for the second batch and we were quite happy with batch two onward.

6. Stir a few times to evenly mix in the essential oils.

7. Prep your silicone mold – make sure it’s completely dry.  Another fun discovery during the early batches was that even the tiniest drop of water will mess up your shape.  The good news is that you can toss the bad ones back into the bowl if you’re making multiple batches to be melted down and poured out again.

8. Carefully remove the upper bowl (it’s really hot!) and pour the mixture into the mold.  It’s really easy to over-pour so go slowly. One batch fills about 2 candy molds.  If you only have 1 mold (like me), you can return the bowl to the stove on the lowest heat level possible.

Full Mold

9. Put the mold into the fridge to set up.  It takes about 10-15 minutes to set.

10. After the lotion bars have setup, remove them from the mold.  They should slip out easily.  Pour out the remainder of your mixture from the stove if you are using 1 mold and refrigerate again.

11. YAY!  Now you have wonderful smelling lotion bars!  You can store them in a small tin in your purse, give them out to friends, etc.

Calming Lotion Stars by Julie at Build, Sew, Reap

Overall, this ended up being a relatively easy recipe for such an awesome reward (I’ve bought many high quality, organic lotions bars over the years and they ain’t cheap).  In the beginning, I struggled mightily and almost gave up but I’m glad I stuck with it.  The first batch took about an hour from beginning to end – about thirty minutes of that being just figuring out how much of each ingredient was needed and scraping together supplies in a Canadian rental house kitchen (took us about 10 minutes to work through what to use to stir so that we didn’t ruin any of the owner’s utensils and behold the aluminum coated handle of a spatula was born).  All subsequent batches took about 10-15 active minutes and 10-15 additional minutes in the fridge.

Calming Lotion Bars by Julie @ build, sew, reap 

Happy crafting everyone!

Thank you for reading,

Device Charging Station

Both kids now have devices so I knew I needed to create a charging station. I decided I wanted it in a central location, near an outlet, and in a spot I could monitor easily. This spot in our hallway is right outside our bedroom so I can hear it if a kiddo decides to wake up super early to play games (that's just not OK here, my kids don't cope well with lack of sleep). I had an Ikea Bekvam in my stash of home decor stuff so I mounted it to the wall.

Charging Station by Julie at Build, Sew, Reap

We're all quite happy with the results.

Thank you for reading,

Fork Tender Cashews from the Instant Pot

If you're familiar with vegan cooking, you've likely come across a recipe or two that requires you to soak cashews over night. Soaked cashews can be pureed to form a rich, thick, creamy cheese-like substance. My most favorite thing to take to parties, when I remember to soak my cashews over night, is this Kick Ace Vegan Cheese Ball. The problem is that I forget to soak my cashews and I found out the hard way that you just can't cut that corner, it won't turn out OK.

Instant Pot Cashews

Enter INSTANT POT!!! I just got myself an Instant Pot (affiliate link) pressure cooker and although I've only had it a few days, I feel like it's a huge game changer. So far I've processed 2 pie pumpkins from my yard. I pressure cooked them each for 14 minutes with a little water in the bowl and they were soft and ready to be processed into puree, loaded into jars, and tucked in the spare freezer. I also made some soup, lentils, and even some vegan yogurt!!

Instant Pot Yogurt

I couldn't believe how simple the yogurt was. I dumped 1 quart of organic soy milk (West Soy, just soy beans and water) into a wide mouth Ball jar, added the non dairy yogurt starter, shook it up, removed the lid, loaded it into the Instant Pot, hit the yogurt button, and walked away. 8 hours later, it beeped and I removed the jar, put a lid on it, and put it in the fridge over night. Bam! Yogurt. Holy moly!!

But then I saw that someone made a vegan lasagna in her IP. The recipe called for cashew based ricotta but I hadn't soaked any cashews and wanted to know if I could make it happen faster. Here's what I tried and it worked:

My recipe called for 1 1/2 cups of soaked cashews so I loaded 1 1/2 cups raw cashews into the Instant Pot. I covered them with water:

Instant Pot Cashews for Recipes 

I locked the lid in place, made sure the valve was closed, and set the IP to Manual for 1 minute.

While I was waiting, I put the rest of the ingredients for the ricotta into my Vitamix. I used this recipe for Cashew Ricotta Cheese from the Simple Veganista which included water, apple cider vinegar, nutritional yeast, garlic, onion powder, salt, and pepper. *I should have used less water than the recipe called for, see note below. Maybe 1/3 cup next time.

The Instant Pot did it's thing and when it beeped to indicate it was finished, I let the pressure out right away. The nuts were fork tender.

Instant Pot Cashews for Recipes 

I removed them with a slotted spoon and put them straight into the Vitamix canister.

Instant Pot Cashews for Recipes 

I processed them on high until all the nut bits were gone and I have a wonderfully thick cheesy substance.

Instant Pot Cashews for Recipes 

NOTE: This is a bit softer than I think it should be for ricotta so while I'll definitely use it, I think next time I'll decrease the water in the recipe a bit. This recipe called for 1/2 cup of water in the blender but I'll try 1/3 cup. All-in-all, I'm thrilled with the results though.

Thank you for reading,

Vegan Chocolate Cake with Vegan Buttercream Frosting

It wasn't the case when I first started blogging but I'm vegan now and I also found out that cane sugar gives me headaches. Between those two issues, it's not super easy to buy cake that fits my dietary restrictions so I've learned to just make my own. With lots of scouring the internet and tweaking other recipes to suit my needs, I've come up with the very best ever no cane sugar vegan chocolate cake with buttercream frosting. This stuff is TO DIE FOR!

First, a picture of my 40th birthday cake:


I made this cake for my 40th birthday cake smash photo shoot. We had a ton of fun. But today I'm here to share the recipe with you (also so I'll have the recipe for my own future use).

Chocolate cake 

2 cups almond milk 
2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups coconut sugar
2/3 cup avocado oil (you could sub any neutral oil but this is what works for me)
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract ok to just do all vanilla if you don't have almond extract)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder, Dutch-processed or regular (or a mix of both)
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat oven to 350F.

Mix together the almond milk and vinegar in a measuring cup and set aside for a few minutes to curdle. Add the sugar, oil, vanilla and almond extract to your mixer bowl and mix well. Add the almond milk/vinegar mix and whisk well. 

Add in the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt and beat until mostly smooth. 

Line the bottom of two 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper and lightly grease the paper it as well as the sides of the pans. Divide the batter into the two pans and bake for 32-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 

Vegan Buttercream Frosting
NOTE: This frosting does NOT come out white. You will need to color it with gel food colors if you want something other than tan. 

This frosting holds its shape really well even before it has been refrigerated. I made it and had to leave it sitting on the counter for 45 minutes before I piped it onto the cake. Also, the picture of the cake above shows what it looked like after sitting in the refrigerator for a week. It did a good job of keeping the cake pretty moist and the frosting looked and tasted great. This wasn't the plan but my son got sick on the day of the photo shoot so we had to postpone the event.

Make powdered coconut sugar in the dry goods canister of the vitamix or a good food processor. 3 1/2 cups coconut sugar : 3 1/2 Tbsp arrowroot powder (precision on the arrowroot powder isn't imperative, just get close)

1/2 cup room temperature earth balance shortening
1/2 cup room temperature earth balance buttery spread (in the stick)
3 1/2 cups powdered coconut sugar
1 1/2 tsp almond extract

1/4 cup almond milk 
Gel food coloring if you want something other than tan colored frosting. I used burgundy to achieve the color for this cake

Using the paddle attachment for your mixer, beat the shortening and buttery spread until it's combined. Add the rest of the ingredients being aware that a puff of powdered sugar is going to attack your kitchen. I used what I think is the dust attachment for my Kitchenaid mixer (it's a clear plastic thing you can pour stuff through) with a clean kitchen towel laid over the whole thing as soon as I've added the sugar. It's a bit messy but it blends in pretty quickly. Add the food coloring and mix until everything is well blended.

This is thick enough to hold its shape if you want to use a tip and a frosting bag. It's rich and delicious too. Yum!

Thank you for reading,

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