Homemade relief for your dry hands? Yes, please!

Lotion bars made by EPL staff member JoAnna

Hands getting dry after all the hand washing?  My horribly dry, painful hands got me thinking about what I could do to heal them, since regular old lotion isn’t cutting it. Then I remembered my coworker JoAnna had made a lot of lotion bars, which are very moisturizing, and it turns out she’s tested the following tutorial.

You’ve probably heard by now about our newest arts and crafts resource, Creativebug. I have looked at it quite happily for quick and easy art projects, but hadn’t thought to look for tutorials on making soaps, lotions, and other skincare and natural home products. But they do indeed have such classes. If you are looking for some relief for your hands, check out this quick and simple DIY Lotion Bar tutorial.

Tips from JoAnna:

* You can substitute coconut oil for one of the butters.
* If you do not have a double boiler, you can make it in a small crockpot or in the microwave. Be sure to use a glass bowl in the microwave as the beeswax takes a long time to melt and the bowl will get very hot.
* Melt the beeswax first, once melted you can add the other butters to mix.
* You can add vitamin E to help with skin repair; break 1-2 capsules into the mix.
* If you do not have any molds on hand, you can use silicone cupcake holders.
* Put completed bars in a tin or plastic bag to store so they don’t get messy.
* Beware, in warm temperature they can melt.
* To use, hold in your cupped hands. The warmth of your hands will soften the wax.
* The ingredients can be ordered and delivered from hobby and craft stores, or soap making supply companies.


Besides Creativebug (which really has tons of great classes) we have eBooks about making your own bath, skin care, and cleaning products.

The Organic Country Home Handbook by Natalie Wise, includes recipes for cleaning all areas of the home, from kitchen to bath, and everywhere in between. If you are so inclined you can find everything you need here to do some spring cleaning! There is also a chapter, “The Medicine Cabinet” that features homemade skin care products.

DIY Beauty: Easy, All-Natural Recipes Based on Your Favorites from Lush, Kiehl’s, Burt’s Bees, Bumble and bumble, Laura Mercier, and More!
by Ina De Clercq
From lip balm to bath bombs, these recipes attempt to recreate best-loved products from popular beauty product companies.

Homemade Bath Bombs & More: Soothing Spa Treatments for Luxurious Self-Care and Bath-Time Bliss by Heidi Kundin
This book focuses on bath bombs and other fun and luxurious bath products such as sugar scrubs, body butter, and bath jellies. Bath jellies? I will have to look that one up!

Natural Beauty: 35 Step-by-Step Projects for Homemade Beauty by Karen Gilbert
These ‘lotion and potion’ recipes for face, body, and hair, use readily available, natural ingredients and easy-to-follow methods.


I hope Creativebug classes and our crafty eBooks inspire you to try your hand at making healthy, simple home and beauty products! And may your hands be in much better shape than mine.

Community History

Doris Bell at Alpine
Doris Bell at Alpine, Courtesy of Neil Anderson

One of my favorite parts of my job as a History Specialist at the Everett Public Library is doing programming that teaches people about local history. Some of these programs are lectures on historical topics, while others are hands-on workshops that discuss how to work with family collections of photographs and other records. One thing that I try to stress over everything else is that we are always living through history, and are always part of history. In the most average of times, it’s very hard for many people to receive this message. How could my Facebook wall, emails, or my Instagram posts possibly be historic? They don’t seem to have the same gravitas as those sepia toned pictures of great grandma, do they? So what happens when we find ourselves living through a series of events that one can’t help but recognize as being historic?

I’m sure those of us who were living during September 11th, 2001 could tell us a little something about where they were that morning. Do our voicemails or emails still survive from that day? Perhaps some of us have a forgotten Livejournal post or two floating around the internet recording our thoughts and fears from that period of time, but it’s unlikely that many of us documented what was going through our minds and kept those fleeting, likely digital records.

We currently find ourselves living through a period of time that will undeniably be viewed decades from now as historic. While COVID-19 is a different disease with its own trajectory from the Influenza pandemic of 1918-19, there is much that can be learned from how people documented their lives during that time, and how historians put those pieces back together over 100 years later. In this excellent article that was just published in The Lewiston Tribune, you can see a similar pattern of spotty information, varying local responses, public disbelief, and waves of infection. The author used a variety of sources to put this account together: published books on the pandemic, interviews with a woman who lived through the pandemic, local poetry and children’s rhymes, contemporary news accounts, archival images, and so much more. All of these documents survived to be used by a mixture of chance, and people taking deliberate action to make sure that their records would be saved.

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Family album page showing a 1919 Everett parade celebrating the return of troops from Europe. Similar parades around the country were often followed by increased influenza cases.  (Everett Public Library digital collections)

There are a couple of local resources that I have been fortunate to work with that talk about how Everett families coped in 1918-19. In a journal loaned to me by Everett historian Neil Anderson, I read about Doris Bell’s life during the influenza pandemic. At the time Doris worked as a teacher in the remote town of Alpine, Washington (between Skykomish and Scenic). Her journal entries document the life of a young career woman who seemed peripherally aware of how influenza was impacting the larger population centers, though the remoteness of her teaching position protected her from being exposed to the worst of the pandemic. Her life in Alpine was most affected when her school was closed temporarily in October of 1918, though it appears that there was not a serious outbreak in her area.

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Entry from Doris Bell Journal, 1918 – courtesy of Neil Anderson

During the school closure Doris returned to Everett to visit her family. From what can be gleaned from her journal, life went on fairly normally, with no cessation of casual social activities. This would not have been unusual at this time, as there were not any formal prohibitions on visiting other people. On October 8th the Everett Health Board had banned all public gatherings such as school, dances, and church, but day-to-day life went on. According to notes in the Northwest Room archive on Everett Tribune coverage from 1918, it appears that people were cautioned to stay home, but that downtown Everett showed little sign of change other than the darkened theaters. In the cigar stores it was business as usual, with people gathering to socialize and smoke.

Nurses at Providence slowly became overwhelmed throughout October, and many became ill. The Tribune reported that volunteers were coming in shifts in to sterilize and pack bandages; no nurses could be called up from Seattle because there were none to spare. The old wooden Bethania College building on Broadway, near what is now Compass Health on Broadway, was returned to hospital service and the Red Cross put a call out to the public for bed pans and any other medical supplies that could be spared. 

Doris’s routine daily entries were occasionally punctuated with mentions of people in her social circle succumbing to influenza, and in one jarring instance, a fellow passenger dying on a train she was aboard. Because Doris was limited to a mere four lines per day, her mixing of death and mundane daily tasks can feel a bit jarring, but that was a result of the format she had available rather than a reflection of callousness. There are occasional references to masks (the State Health Board started requiring the wearing of gauze masks in public on November 4th), but her entries are dominated by her more-or-less normal life: going for walks, seeing friends, and thoughts about her work. Reading Doris’s journal doesn’t feel much different from reading friends’ Facebook walls, where incredibly serious news is mixed with the kinds of content we’re used to sharing. People are aware of the bigger picture, but most are still living their lives albeit in a very modified way.

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Entry from Doris Bell journal, 1918 – courtesy of Neil Anderson

Another window into local life during the influenza pandemic comes from the minutes book of the Everett Woman’s Book Club. According to this record, October and November meetings were cancelled due to the influenza, and the December meeting account was peppered with mentions. A gold star was added to the service flag for a local soldier who passed away in France of influenza, and member Ida Coleman asked her colleagues to help with the eradication of the disease. Both Doris Bell’s journal and the Woman’s Book Club minutes mention working in the gauze room; it’s unclear if they were helping sterilize and pack bandages for the local hospitals in need, or if these efforts were intended to help troops abroad.

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December 1918 Woman’s Book Club minutes courtesy of the Woman’s Book Club.

So what are the journals and club minutes of today? How do we preserve our altered daily lives so that someone looking back in 100 years will understand the decisions we made and the actions we took? It is important to recognize that the future of our daily records like Facebook, or Instagram, or any other social media are less than secure. Changing trends in social media may see many of these platforms fall out of favor and disappear over time (see Friendster or Myspace).

The best way to help ensure that our historical record doesn’t have gaps during this time period is to intentionally document your experiences and look for the organizations that are trying to preserve these kinds of records. Preserving digital materials is a problem that still hasn’t been solved, but archives and museums are doing their best to have plans in place to prolong their lives.

At the Everett Public Library, we have launched the Community History project, which aims to collect people’s images and thoughts during this time of social distancing. To participate, you need only to email your content to CommunityHistory@everettwa.gov – we will be monitoring this account for submissions to be considered for inclusion in our archives. If you are keeping a written journal, keep the library in mind for a future donation either of the original or a copy if you would rather keep it in the family. The Northwest Room has already been building an archive of news clippings, city records, and documents related to how local businesses and organizations are reacting to COVID-19, but we are very interested in preserving what life was like for our community members on an individual level. I encourage you to consider sending your thoughts, pictures, poetry, or art as emails to the future.

 

Learn Yoga with Rodney Yee

If you’re trying to stay active while stuck at home, and you’ve always thought yoga sounded intriguing but never had time to try it, I have great news! Hoopla, one of the library’s free video apps, has a great Beginner Yoga video taught by Rodney Yee, a famous yoga teacher: Rodney Yee’s Yoga for Beginners. Best of all, this video is part of Hoopla’s Bonus Borrows Collection which means you can watch it repeatedly and it does NOT count toward your monthly limit of Hoopla borrows.

Rodney Yee’s Yoga for Beginners has three parts: a Morning practice of about 20 minutes, an Evening practice of about 20 minutes and a Pose Guide. Mr. Yee says that you should watch the Pose Guide video before you try either of the practices. In the Pose Guide, he gives instruction on the correct alignment for each yoga pose and points out common mistakes beginners make – I found this especially helpful.

Hoopla also has another Rodney Yee yoga video in the Bonus Borrows Collection that is geared toward yoga enthusiasts at all levels (beginner to advanced): Rodney Yee A.M. Yoga for Your Week. This is composed of five different videos of about 20 minutes each: Forward Bends, Standing Poses, Twists, Back Bends and Hip Openers.

If you enjoy these videos, there are many more Rodney Yee yoga videos available on Hoopla (although most of them are not part of the Bonus Borrows Collection).

The Art of Making Soap

Anne-Marie Faiola is the owner of Bramble Berry, a soap supplies store in Bellingham, Washington. This is the third soap book that Faiola has written. Her first, Soap Crafting, is a useful resource. It is for all skill levels, and has 31 recipes covering all different special effects, colors, additives and molds. Her second book, Pure Soapmaking, focuses on making natural soaps. She includes 32 recipes that have all natural ingredients, colorants, and scents.

Faiola’s latest book, Milk Soaps, is all about adding milk to your soaps. There are 35 recipes in this book, and they range from beginner to advanced levels; the levels are determined by their techniques. The recipes include the type of molds and special tools that were used, and list the oils, amount of lye water, fragrance oil, colorants, and additives used.

Why do you want to add milk to your soaps? Most soaps are made with water, and Anne-Marie equates adding milk to soap to making hot chocolate. Do you notice a difference when you add milk versus water to your chocolate? Milk soap creates a rich lather and is creamier than soap made with water. The natural oils and acids in the milk add more moisturizing qualities to your soap.You’ll learn the different milks that can be used and the soap making process.

If you are just beginning to make soap the cold process way, using lye, you should watch a video on soap making and how to use lye, such as this one on Creativebug. Bramble Berry has some good videos too.

Faiola suggests that if you have never made soap before, to start off with a basic recipe so you can get an understanding of the process. Adding milk does complicate the process a little. What I did when I first got into soap making last year was buy a beginner’s kit from Bramble Berry. They have 2 kits, one that includes a scale, goggles and a mold, and another kit that just has the ingredients in it. I have made the basic cold-process recipe in the Milk Soaps book but I put bubble wrap inside my mold.

Bubble wrap basic soap

With each recipe you can change the mold, the essential oils, colorants and additives. You can use any kind of milk with each recipe. This way you can be making your own soap. I would not change the lye mixture and oil amount. If you change the oil this is where the SAP value of the oils comes into play. SAP value is a quick way of saying the ‘saponification’ value – when lye and oil are mixed the process of the mixture becoming soap is called saponification. Faiola discusses properties of different oils, along with their SAP value, which you will need to know if you are designing your own recipes, and adding color and scent and exfoliants to your soap.

I have made a few recipes in the book so far and they have all turned out great, and as you will see, I changed the mold, essential oils and colorants in my soaps compared to what is in the book.

I made the In-the-Pot Swirl Buttermilk Castile soap. Instead of lavender and peppermint essential oil blend I used Raspberry Jam. And the olive oil I used was the extra virgin oil which I had in my cupboard. This caused the soaps to be darker. I did find that making a soap of pure oil takes a long time to come to trace. I had to put my blender down a few times because it felt like it was burning in my hand. This was the first recipe I made out of the book and it is a beginner recipe.

In-the-Pot Swirl Buttermilk Castile soap

Another recipe I made was the Dead Sea-Salt Brine Bar. As you will see I changed out my mold to a citrus mold, changed my oils to a grapefruit fragrance oil, and my colorant was changed to an orange color to represent the grapefruit. The directions said the recipe would move fast and it did. You have to be quick to get it in the mold. These bars don’t take long to set up at all. This was an intermediate recipe.

Dead Sea-Salt Brine Bar

Another recipe I tried making was the Hangered Drop Swirls recipe which is another intermediate recipe. In this recipe I changed my milk to coconut milk, changed my fragrance to Lemongrass and tea tree oil, and changed my colorant to green and activated charcoal. I made this one for my nephews and felt the lemongrass would be a little more masculine. This is a very nice soap but takes a while to get the swirling down.

Hangered Drop Swirls soap

If you are a soap maker and have your own favorite recipe, you could certainly use that and change out some of the water for a milk product. You can use this book for ideas on techniques.

As Faiola says, “Handmade is bestmade”.

Give cold-process soap making a try, you will find it rewarding and addicting. Making your own soap allows you to control the ingredients, and it makes washing up more fun I think.

Green Thumbs Unite! – Apart

Spring is officially here in the Northwest! The sun is shining, flowers are blooming, and pollen is flowing with wild abandon (usually right into my eyes, it seems). Yet despite all the beauty outside the window, we are still under a statewide stay at home order. So what to do? Well, garden, of course! Gardening is a perfect outdoor activity to get some sun and maintain safe social distancing. Whether you have a full garden, a few planters on the deck or are just curious about testing the greenness of your thumb, we have several ebooks for you to dig into.

Ask Ciscoe: Oh, La La!: Your Gardening Questions Answered by Ciscoe Morris.

In this book, Northwest gardening legend Ciscoe Morris answers hundreds of gardening questions ranging from soil nutrition, what to plant and when, pruning, what insects to be concerned about (and which to encourage) and more, all with his trademark quirky sense of humor. Don’t worry if you’re not an experienced gardener, there are tips for everyone. Ciscoe even starts the book off by writing “The real plant expert is the person who has murdered the most plants. That makes me uniquely qualified to write this book.” An accessible read for anyone with an interest in the world of backyard horticulture.

Field Guide to Urban Gardening: How to Grow Plants, No Matter Where You Live by Kevin Espiritu

Many of us city dwellers simply don’t have the space to do a full garden, but the Field Guide to Urban Gardening offers tips and tricks for growing your own greens in small spaces. From container gardening to raised beds, indoor growing options to rooftop gardens (I suspect my landlord wouldn’t appreciate that last one much) this book has tips and tricks for any living situation. Living in a second story apartment with limited patio room, I especially appreciated the container gardening and space saving tips this book had to offer.

DIY Gardening Projects: 35 Awesome Gardening Hacks to Better Your Garden by Cheryl Palmer

The DIY crafts movement has been growing for years, but now that we all have found ourselves with some unexpected free time and a need to take our minds off things, it’s become more popular than ever (by the way, have you checked out our Creativebug portal?). This book provides creative tips and ideas to improve your garden.

Grow Food For Free by Huw Richards

There is nothing like eating the first ripe tomatoes off the vine after months of work. Huw Richards’ Grow Your Own Food For Free is all about how to grow sustainable – and affordable – gardens.  Richards gives not just plentiful gardening advice but also tricks he’s learned to grow bountiful gardens on a budget by being resourceful and creative. He offers tips on seed saving and what you might already have in the fridge that can be planted (which is pretty timely advice, trying to get my hands on some of the seeds I want to plant this season has been about as hard as finding toilet paper), how to improvise a raised bed if building a ‘proper’ one isn’t exactly in the budget, and a lot of other great advice. 

Organic Gardener

Did you know the library also offers digital access to Organic Gardener magazine through Flipster?  Each issue is packed with gardening tips and tricks and you can have instant access to for the current month, as well as several years of back issues to branch out into.

How to Make a Face Mask

Masks made by EPL staff for mailing to family and sharing locally.
The City of Everett is accepting mask/face covering donations. Instructions can be found here.

The CDC is now recommending that everyone wear a face covering when going out in public places to help control the spread of the coronavirus that caused COVID-19.  

“CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.”

From “Use of Cloth Face Coverings to Help Slow the Spread of COVID-19” This article contains three designs; two are no-sew.


As you’ve probably heard, masks for medical professionals are in very short supply. In response, many people were sewing hundreds of thousands of masks for hospitals through Providence’s “100 Million Mask Challenge.” According to that website, no more are needed because local manufacturing companies have now jumped in to help and are mass producing masks and shields – great news indeed!

We can keep from spreading the disease to others by wearing a mask, and possibly make ourselves safer at the same time, but finding one can be very difficult. Since medical masks should be reserved for medical professionals, we are being encouraged to make our own – hence, the mask making craze that’s sweeping the nation.

Before jumping in to the video tutorials, here a some suggestions I have read multiple times:

  1. Use tightly woven cotton fabric, such as quilting cotton. Tip: Hold two layers up to the light to see how dense it is.
  2. Make sure the fit on your mask is good – gaps are to be avoided.
  3. Make sure to follow good hygiene with your mask. This article “How NOT to Wear a Mask” from the New York Times is full of good information.

There are many, many tutorials out there on making masks, and there are several styles as well. Some incorporate a pocket for a filter, some do not. Some patterns are form fitting, some pleated, some gathered. Many require a sewing machine, but there are plenty of no-sew versions as well.

Speaking of sewing, check out the Creativebug Sewing Machine Basics class. There are many other sewing classes to discover in that fun, new-to-EPL resource, so check it out.

I spent some time looking at different tutorials and found these to be easy to follow. They range from very easy with no sewing involved, to requiring a bit of machine sewing familiarity.

A simple pleated mask from Providence St. Joseph

This pattern, suitable for beginners, uses straight lines and ties. The most difficult part is probably sewing through the thick pleated sections.

A fitted mask that has space for a filter

This pattern, similar to the style I made, conforms to the face nicely with little gapping. The presenter, who happens to be a doctor, explains the process clearly. It is intended to be safe enough for medical professionals.This pattern requires a bit of sewing experience, but isn’t really difficult.


A simple but effective drawstring pattern that uses cord instead of elastic

This is a well thought out design and provides great coverage. It has no pleats to deal with and only uses straight lines. It features a filter pocket and a wire to conform around the nose.
I made one of these and it is comfortable and very easy to make. You have to be careful how you put it on so that there is no gapping – check out the Q&A video she made here. If you follow the directions for putting it on, it fits very nicely.



Besides sewn fabric masks, there are face coverings you can made from socks, bandanas or t-shirts, shop towels, and NWPP reusable shopping bags.

A quick and easy mask made from shop towels

If you have a roll of paper shop towels around, you may want to try this out. All you need is one towel, a stapler, and two rubber bands.


My mask

I wanted to make a mask to wear when visiting my 95 year old mother, so started with a free pattern from Peanut Patterns. After making one, I decided I wanted more coverage below the chin, so added about 1.5″ to the length. Here is the process I used in images. If you like the looks of this one, follow the link to get the free pattern and directions. I will admit I messed up and had to fix my first one, so consider making a test one first with a fabric you don’t love. I find this mask fits well and is sturdy, easy to wash, and quick to dry, and it fits in a small pocket in my purse for when I head over to help my mom.

1. Copy pattern onto card stock if you want to make several – it’s quick to trace. Then double fabric and cut out two of these shapes, resulting in four pieces. 2. Stack two pieces right sides together and sew the long, most curved edge at the top of the photo. Use 3/8″ seam allowance. Do this to both sets. 3. Press the seam apart (I found it easier to press them back as shown. 4. Open the two sets and place right sides together, making sure you have the curves matching (It would be easy to turn them opposite ways) 5. Sew along the top edge. 6. Turn right side out and press. 7. Open out and press 3/8″ seam along sides, fold over and press again. 8. Attach elastic at the same time that you sew down the seam pressed in step 7. (I used looped hair ties) 9. Close up photo of attached elastic. 10. Fold mask closed and top stitch top edge 1/8″ from edge. 11. Turn inside out and sew bottom edge. 12. Turn right side out through open ends. 13. Sew ends closed and top stitch bottom edge. Done!

If you make a mask or two, remember to wear them wisely, as described in this article, wash after use, and definitely keep washing your hands! Use what you have at home for mask making instead of leaving home to find materials. If you enjoy it and want to make more to donate, visit this City web page and follow the specific instructions on how to properly and safely donate masks. Stay home, and stay safe.


136 Recipes That Saved My Life

We are living in unprecedented times. Most of us are stuck at home involuntarily, trying to cope the best we can.

In 2009, Ruth Reichl found herself in a similar situation. She had been the editor of Gourmet magazine for ten years and was in Seattle doing publicity for a new cookbook the magazine had just published when she received a mysterious call from her boss. “You need to return to New York right away,” he said. He refused to tell her why. In a staff meeting the next morning, all the employees were told that the magazine would stop publishing immediately. They were fired.

At the age of 61, Ruth feared she would never get another job and worried how she would support her family. Stuck at home, she began to cook. In the next year, cooking would be her salvation, healing her wounds and providing her with a new source of income when she turned that year of cooking into a cookbook and memoir called My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life. We have this book in our digital collection as a Cloud Library e-book. She also has a famous Twitter feed with over a million followers. Her short poetic tweets are scattered throughout her book.

Ruth is a very engaging writer and many of the recipes in this book use only a few ingredients and are fairly simple to make. I found it soothing to follow along as someone else dealt with being at home unexpectedly (albeit with trips to the farmers market that are not possible for me right now). I’m planting Broccoli Raab in my garden this week and I’m hoping to try her recipe for Broccoli Raab Bruschetta in a couple of months.

After My Kitchen Year, she wrote a memoir of her years at Gourmet magazine titled Save Me the Plums – we have Save Me the Plums in our digital collection as both an e-book and an e-audiobook. We also have Tender at the Bone, a memoir of her early life, as an e-book and Delicious, a novel she wrote, as an e-book.