Lately I’ve been trying some new things – some more successful than others. It started earlier this year when I volunteered to lead a 4-H project on honeybees. I only know a little about them and have never kept beehives, although someday I would like to, but I figured I knew enough and could learn enough to make the project interesting and fun. I didn’t want it to be a pure science project because we have already had several entomology projects, and I wanted to add in some hands-on things that the kids would enjoy and maybe want to reproduce on their own sometime. So, Bee-ology was born.
My first experiment was with crafting some beeswax lip balm. What I learned is that there is a bit of an initial investment cost-wise, but the technique itself is so simple that you will never want to buy lip balm again. Basically you need beeswax, some carrier oil (I used sweet almond oil), some vitamin E oil, some essential oils of your choice, and some lip balm tubes or containers. You will also need a double boiler of some sort to melt your beeswax in. You combine your beeswax and carrier oil in your double boiler and heat until the beeswax is melted, stir in a few drops of vitamin E oil as a natural preservative, and then add in your essential oil(s). Pour into your containers and let harden. That’s it! One word of caution: avoid citrus essential oils as they can cause photosensitivity. I used lemongrass oil and it gave it a nice lemony scent without the worries of photosensitivity. I also made some wintergreen scented lip balm, and it is fabulous. The one combo I tried and did not like was geranium and lemongrass. The geranium is too overwhelming and I did not like the end result at all. Also, with the first batch I made, I used a recipe that called for adding honey to the lip balm for flavor, but this didn’t work. The honey did not dissolve into the beeswax solution and tended to settle which is why my first batch has a dark line at the bottom. I left the honey out of the succeeding batches. It really didn’t add any flavor that I could tell. I also made a peppermint chocolate lip balm with peppermint oil and cocoa absolute oil. It smells really good, too, but didn’t turn out quite strong enough, in my opinion.
Our second project with beeswax involved making hand-molded candles. It was fun but kind of messy. I wasn’t thrilled with how mine turned out, probably because I am not at all artistic, but it was still a fun process. We’re going to try these again in the future using silicone or rubber molds. The kids did enjoy the creativity of molding and playing with the beeswax.
Next I tried making honey lollipops. These were better in theory than in actuality. You take honey and boil it until it reaches hard crack stage (300 degrees F), then pour it over sticks and let it harden. Simple, right? The first batch I made at home looked good. I learned you need to tape the sticks down with Scotch tape first so they don’t roll when you pour the honey syrup over them. I also learned that freezer paper does not make a good material on which to pour your syrup. My lollipops looked great until I tried to remove them, and they were all stuck to the paper. Ugh. So that batch ended up in the trash. I had to run out and buy a bunch of silicone baking sheets before we made these at 4-H.
So when we made them in class, they turned out pretty well. We also learned that you cannot stack them or let them touch each other as they will immediately stick together and can’t be pulled apart. We wrapped them individually in little plastic treat bags and tied them with metallic ties. Again, tricky because they want to stick to the bags. The pure honey is just too sticky/hydrophilic and doesn’t make for a pleasant experience with packaging. The honey also tended to taste/smell a tad burned when cooked to 300 degrees. I tried making a batch at home and cooking them to just slightly under that, but they turned out too soft and didn’t harden as much as they should have. Overall, these weren’t bad but they weren’t good enough to make me want to try them again. My conclusion is that I will try these again sometime with a recipe that uses part granulated sugar and part honey (arrgh, this is formatting strangely, sorry!)
The next project was one I did today, making solid perfume pastilles. I combined beeswax, sweet almond oil, and essential oils to make the perfume. For this batch, I used grapefruit oil, clary sage oil, and white ginger fragrance oil. I really like this combination. I melted the beeswax with the almond oil, and then stirred in my essential oils. I then poured it into small 5 gram clear plastic containers and let it harden. These will be Christmas gifts for my family, along with some of the lip balm I made. The perfume pastilles were very easy to make. The difficulty is knowing what oils combine together nicely to make a pleasant fragrance. The original recipe I was working from called for grapefruit, clary sage, juniper, and fir needle. When I went to the store, however, they did not have fir needle or juniper, so I chose white ginger instead. I think the combo is really nice, although the ginger may be too strong. So far I haven’t had a chance to try it on anyone else yet to get their opinion. I’d like to try making more of these in different fragrances when I get a chance. I like to smell the oils in person, which is why I’ve been hesitant to buy them online, but there seems to be less of a variety in the stores than there is online. I did find some fir needle at a different store and liked the smell, so I will go back and get some of that later.
So that is my crafting post. Note: Click on the pictures to embiggen them. It’s really hard to see them clearly otherwise.