on Friendsmas, and a reply

This weekend was Friendsmas, an annual tradition amongst some of my oldest friends; a whole gang of us get together for an orphans’ holiday of food, gifts, the whole nine. Most of us have families of our own- some of them perfectly acceptable families, too- but this act of coming together as just us, it’s been a touchstone throughout the years. Folks move, lives change, but Friendsmas, it happens and you show up for it, damnit. Even if there’s a blizzard warning like this year.

This was Friendsmas: the Fire & Ice edition, in which our 2- 4 inch storm warning turned into 6- 10 inches in a matter of 45 minutes, in which Derek ran a shuttle service (complete with interior Christmas lights) to and from dedicated parking because there wasn’t enough at the house, in which there were at least three oven fires that I was aware of, and in which Bruce told a gnome story that actually made Teresa laugh. There was the biggest turducken ever, and six (SIX!) piecakens, which- if you haven’t had a piecaken yet, fix that now, please. Sam and I helped out with food the night before, and now that I know how to make piecaken, I can’t go back to just plain pie ever again.


This is a devils’- food + pumpkin pie piecaken. It is exactly as good as you suspect it might be. It is, actually, even better. I’m not even going to get into the blue velvet + lemon curd.

One of the long- standing traditions of Friendsmas is handmade gifts; if you’ve got the time/ funds (because nobody should ever feel stressed out by a holiday, it’s a rule, Friendsmas is meant to be better than and a relief from the standard holidays), folks are encouraged to make things to bring as gifts for everyone. I’ve made a couple different things before- last year, I made hand- knotted malas, but I was really short on time with the move, so I wasn’t sure what I’d do this time around. I had considered soap, but didn’t have time for anything to cure; I finally settled on lotion bars, which only need to set overnight and are easy to make allergen- free and organic. Hooray!

I posted a picture of the little bars cooling in the fridge and someone asked me for my recipe. I promised to post that once Friendsmas was over— it’s really more notes than a recipe, but here goes! Easiest thing in the world.

bars cooling

The tray is a silicone mini- brownie tray from Michael’s; anything similar would do, but I really recommend silicone if you’re using a smaller form; it makes it easier to pop your bars out once they’ve cooled. You can also pour these into a larger loaf tray and cut them into size once cooled, too!

I got turned on to these through Lush- when we moved back to the States from the UK, it took a few years for Lush to hit the US, so I needed to learn to make bath bombs, melts, lotion bars, etc, at home in order to get my fix for a bit; I could get it shipped, but that exchange rate + the shipping was painful on my paltry E-5 salary at the time. I AM SO GLAD THEY CAME ACROSS THE POND, but now that I don’t pass one on my way to… well, everything, really, anymore, I’m reverting to my old DIY ways.


Aaaauuuugh, the light in our new place is just too good

To get started, you’ll need the following:

  • Coconut oil
  • Shea butter
  • Vitamin E oil (capsules can work fine here!)
  • Beeswax (I prefer pastilles/ pellets but block is good)
  • Essential oil for fragrance (check for skin- safety; lavender, rosemary, rose, sandalwood, jasmine, sweet orange, lime, tea tree, cedarwood, etc are all great options)
  • Kitchen scale
  • Slow cooker* or double boiler
  • soap mold, cupcake tins, brownie tray, whatever you’d like to use to hold your lotion bars as they cool!
  • cooking spoons, ladle


(*If using a slow cooker, you’ll really want to consider using a liner for easier cleanup with this project. Congealed shea butter is no fun to wash out of anything, ever, but you definitely don’t want to try and wash this out when it’s hot.)

Before turning on the heat source, combine equal parts coconut oil, shea butter, and beeswax in slow cooker or double boiler. I went with 8.25 oz all around, which yielded approximately 64 smaller lotion bars. Add one teaspoon vitamin E oil; this acts as a mild preservative. If you’re using vitamin E capsules, you’ll need to cut them open and squeeze out the oil into your measuring spoon. (Your bars should last, kept out of heat & direct sunlight, for a year to eighteen months.) Turn heat source on low, check periodically; some ingredients will melt more quickly. Stir occasionally, as things melt.

Once your ingredients have melted, make certain they are well blended in the pot, then add any essential oils you may want for fragrance. I added one teaspoon of lavender essential oil and a half- teaspoon of rosemary (that’s some powerful stuff) essential oil to make some scented bars, but that might have been overkill. Shea butter can have a smell to it, depending on whether you buy refined or unrefined, and some folks love it, some folks hate it. I’m into it and I like to work with it; you might want to cover it up!

Stir your oils into the mixture, then turn your heat off. I used a ladle and a small funnel to get my liquid into my mold, but whatever works for you; this is the part where you’re pouring your liquid lotion from your slow cooker or double boiler into your forms/ mold. You could also try moving it to a measuring cup with a pour spout, but whatever you do move quickly, because this will try to firm up as soon as it begins to cool.

lotion bars.jpg

I let these sit overnight in the refrigerator, possibly out of a surfeit of caution, who knows? They don’t un-set on me, though, so it seems to be working out, and they pop right out of my silicone molds the next day, too; I don’t think it’s bad for them to sit that long. I’m playing around with scent combinations, and I’ve ordered some new butters to play with, for this as well as some salves & soaps I want to put together. I’ve got some marshmallow root going now for a salve that I’m really excited about- it’s been so cold this month, we’re both getting chapped hands.

I had some extras, obviously (because WHO needs 64 lotions bars? NOBODY, that’s exactly who) so if you ordered anything from the shop this month, you got presents! I still have a few kicking around the house, and I’m slipping them into every knitting bag I have. They’re super useful to have in a pinch and I don’t worry about them coming open in transit and spilling all over everything. I’m looking forward to making some with cocoa butter and possibly some coffee essential oil (a real thing that really smells amazing) once I’ve burned through a little of this stash.

I have a request in my queue to talk a little about how we managed to pare down; I’ll be getting to that later this week, but for now, I have dogs to walk, knitting to get on, and a 16″x 20″ canvas to pack up for shipping. How does one do that exactly, anyway? I’m pretty sure there’s a Right Way To Do That Thing. Google and me are going to make some decaf, settle in for a bit, and get our learning going, figure that out. Wish us luck.




  One thought on “on Friendsmas, and a reply

  1. January 26, 2016 at 3:40 pm

    Are there recipes for piecakens? It looks like a lovely holiday.

  2. January 26, 2016 at 3:44 pm

    Tons, Tan! This blog, though, is a terrific starting place: http://piecaken.blogspot.com/ , and if you scroll down you’ll find a recipe for a flourless chocolate cake & pumpkin pie piecaken that looks delicious- not the recipe we used but I would!

    • January 27, 2016 at 11:32 pm

      Thanks for posting a link to my piecaken.blogspot.com blog! If you need any recipes, or have questions, feel free to ask in the Comments section on the blog!

      • January 28, 2016 at 2:46 pm

        Thank you so much for WRITING a piecaken blog!

  3. January 26, 2016 at 4:29 pm

    I like adding lanolin to my lotion bars. 🙂 Brambleberry.com is a great source for oils/butters if you’re looking for one. Here’s my shop o’ lotion bars:

    • January 26, 2016 at 4:39 pm

      Love it!! Thanks so much for the suggestion- any chance I have to add sheep into the mix, I’ll take it. 🐏

  4. Heidi
    January 28, 2016 at 12:51 am

    If your 16″ x 20″ canvas can be unstretched and rolled, you can ship it, wrapped in roofing plastic first, in a reinforced cardboard shipping tube. If it needs to stay stretched/framed, I’d suggest double boxing it and using extra cardboard around the corners of the canvas/frame. If you’re going to be shipping canvases a lot, you can get a reusable plastic shipping portfolio. I still have one from my previous life as an actively exhibiting artist.

    • January 28, 2016 at 2:39 pm

      Heidi, THANK YOU. That is exactly the info I was looking for- trying to figure out the best way to do this has been irking me all week!

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