On Labor Day and Hobbies

Work should not rule one’s life.

This is just the pile I keep at home. There’s a bigger pile at school.

I say that one week into the school year with a three day weekend to run errands, take a nap, exercise, and play around with beeswax.  But I mean it.  And I’ll mean it in October when my body is screaming at me and I’m stressed for time–although I may have to come back to this post to remind myself.

I’m not a serf.  My job is not my lord.  My husband is not a slave, although his work treats him like one.  That’s why we take the phone off the hook when we go to bed.  If we didn’t, a call center in the Philippines would wake us at 2 a.m. about a service call that could have waited til morning.  Really.  And that’s why I finally drew a line at work and said “I can do this much but no more.”  Really.

I’m being simplistic, I know.  There’s a good reason I’m not paid by the hour.  I’m paid to fulfill a responsibility, whatever time that may take me.  BUT…there have to be limits or work can be all consuming.  An imbalance of work can make us sick.  And then, when we do get sick, we often ignore our physical needs because we can’t take time from work.  Talk about a vicious cycle.

We need things to do besides employment.  A job is a job.  Fortunate people have jobs that are vocations, true callings.  But even if we really love what we are employed to do, we need avocations, diversions from work that bring us pleasure.

So, on this Labor Day, let’s hear a cheer for hobbies.  Hobbies, the anti-work.  Hobbies are what you do when you are not working.  Hobbies are what you do to not think about work.  And yet, hobbies are why you go to work…to earn money to pay for all your hobby supplies!  (Ok, ok, there are also those minor issues of housing, clothing, and food.)

I like having a hobby that yields concrete, visible, I-can-count-’em results.

Honeybees are our hobby.  (Don’t tell the bees, though, because they don’t stop working to have hobbies.)  Actually, the bees started out as John’s  hobby but I got sucked into it and the beekeeping has since spawned several sub-hobbies.  Bottling honey is the most obvious.  Making things with beeswax is a logical second.  Both of these activities will keep me going long after I would otherwise have crashed for the night.  But these have led me to another activity that could potentially get out of control–ordering online.

I love ordering containers and stuff to fill them–jars, tubes, bottles, labels, body butters, sea salts, fillable tea bags and, oooh…shrink wrap.  It makes me really happy when FedEx or UPS comes down the road with a box filled with push-up tubes for my beeswax body balm.  I know that doesn’t give a big  thrill to most people, but it’s like Christmas to me.  I don’t get that same excitement from the delivery of a book order at school.  And it wouldn’t be as exciting if I could zip down to Target to get them.  There’s something about it being an unusual thing to order that makes it so much fun.

Friends ask, “Where on earth do you buy lip balm tubes?”

“From a lip balm tube company,” I reply.  Duh.  I google “lip balm tubes” and, voilà, a plethora of choices awaits.  Then, after getting trapped in the internet time vortex and exploring everything from soap molds to organza gift bags, I place my order for lip balm tubes and shrink wrap.  And wait for the delivery.

I understand if you couldn’t be bothered with my hobby.  Chapstick and Burts Bees is available at every checkout counter in the country.  But after a long day teaching, I love slathering my bee balm on my feet.  I love buying the packaging to put it in.  I love looking at a box filled with my finished product and thinking, “This is what I did.”  And if I sell a few tubes of it, that’s fun, too.  That’s what hobbies are for.

It’s Labor Day, the traditional end of summer.  Don’t let the fall schedule take control.  Leave room for a hobby.

Lip balm

Lip balm ingredients

Making lip balm is one project I’ve been wanting to do with our beeswax.   It is relatively easy and foolproof.  The success of a lip balm has more to do with preference than with messing up a recipe.  (This reminds me of a time when I made chocolate truffles as Christmas gifts.  The raspberry truffle would not set, so it didn’t work as a rolled truffle, but it was great as a topping on ice cream!)  So, hard or soft, the ingredients in lip balm will still keep the chapped lips away.

There are many recipes out there for lip balm but most have three basic ingredients: a wax, a butter, and an oil.  Fragrance is optional, but fragrance comes in an oil anyway.  I had the beeswax.  I ordered two butters online from Soapgoods.com: natural cocoa butter and processed shea butter.  I bought almond oil and apricot kernel oil at the health food section of the grocery store.  I also bought (from believe it or not LipBalmTubes.com) 100 lip balm tubes, shrink wrappers, and a cool (but necessary!) holder for filling the tubes.

I chose a formula calling for 1 part wax, 2 parts butter, and 1 part oil.  To make 8 oz. of lip balm (which filled 80 tubes), I used the following:

2 oz. beeswax (weighed on a kitchen scale)

4 oz. cocoa butter or shea butter (also weighed on a kitchen scale)

3 tablespoons of oil (apricot kernel oil with the cocoa butter, peppermint infused almond oil with the shea butter)

Lip balm tubes ready for filling

In a double boiler, I melted the wax (broken into little bits), then added the butter in small pieces.  When that was all melted, I stirred in the oil.  Working fairly quickly, I poured the liquid into a pyrex measuring cup with a spout, wiped out the double boiler with a paper towel, and then poured the liquid into individual lip balm tubes.

As the liquid cooled it solidified in the measuring cup, so I microwaved the cup 10 seconds at a time just to melt it again for quick pour.  Some people do the entire process with the microwave, but there are enough warnings about microwave explosions to keep me cautious!

Lip balm tubes being filled

From there it was a simple matter of capping the tubes, slapping on a label, and blow-drying the shrink wrap onto the tube.  Ok, to be perfectly honest, the label project took longer than making the lip  balm.  After handwriting labels for the first batch and finding it to be both tedious and aesthetically displeasing,  I resorted to the computer.  Using some Avery address labels and the Avery design and print website, I came up with my little label design. But it took me ALL evening.  At least it’s done and saved for future projects.
And the shrink wrap?  It was kind of fun using the blow-dryer and seeing the sleeves shrink and wrap the tubes, but the dryer also blows the little tubes all the way across the room.  It was a little tricky holding each tube without frying my fingers.

The labels

 So…I have two flavors.  The first (with the icky handwritten labels) is “Cocoa” because it was made with cocoa butter and smells chocolatey.  The second one is called “Maybe Mint” because the peppermint infused oil was not as pepperminty as I would have hoped and you can maybe tell that there is mint in it.  The shea butter is unscented so there really is no discernible fragrance.  Both balms are firm like Chapstick.  The advantage is that they have a long staying power and won’t make John look like he’s wearing lipgloss.  I think I would prefer a slightly softer version that glides a little easier.  Next batch I will use more oil.  Julie is going to remain faithful to her Vaseline, so I’m not too concerned with her opinion. : )  I would, however, appreciate comments and opinions from the rest of you once you’ve tried it.