While cold temps might keep you indoors, you don’t have to fall straight into hibernation mode. Instead, keep the winter blues at bay by diving into a DIY project — one designed to actually help you thrive this season.
Local experts share a few projects that can be accomplished in just a single afternoon — from soothing bath bombs to far-richer-than-Swiss-Miss hot chocolate to a balm that’ll keep your lips silky smooth.
Like bubbles in wine, the fizzy power of bath bombs can turn a simple soak in the tub into a spa-like experience. While crafting your own might sound intimidating, Franklin and Whitman founder Christopher Cieri says it’s not much different than making your own pancake mix. And the dry winter months are one of the best times to do it.
“You want to make bath bombs on a day with low humidity. The less moisture in the air the better, especially during the drying phase,” says Cieri.
Cieri says it’s worth splurging on a high-quality essential oil, and avoiding anything labeled “fragrance.” The citric acid, which interacts with the baking soda to create the signature fizz, is sold at most Target and Walmart stores. Find it in the same aisle as canning supplies. Cieri notes that Michaels stores often sell citric acid, too, but the cheapest option is to source it online from Amazon.
“If you want to color your bath bombs, avoid anything synthetic or artificial, and add a pinch of naturally colored salts,” says Cieri.
Treat yourself with a hot cocoa worthy of your favorite mug. This recipe from Shane Confectionery’s head chocolate maker Kevin Paschall yields a richer, slightly thicker version thanks to the solid dark chocolate that’s added to the mix.
“Look for a chocolate made with a blend of origins,” says Paschall. “Single-origin chocolates, while often unique and delicious, can sometimes impart acidic or otherwise ‘off’ flavors to a hot drinking chocolate.”
Paschall also advises to scan ingredient lists and choose a chocolate without artificial flavors, like vanillin. When selecting a cocoa powder, go for one labeled “natural” versus “dutch-processed.”
“Dutch-processed cocoa powder has that classic brownie flavor. It won’t ruin the drink or anything, but a natural cocoa powder will retain more of the character of the cocoa bean rather than tasting like cake,” says Paschall.
To make the decadent drink even richer, swap the milk for half-and-half and add a touch more of the dry mix upon simmering.
Chapped lips are unattractive and uncomfortable, and dry winter air can unfortunately make the condition all too common. Lip balm can help by moisturizing the skin and providing a protective layer to seal in hydration. To make an effective version of your own, try Steve Duross’ recipe, requiring just a handful of ingredients.
“The measurements are by volume, so you need to eyeball everything as you’re measuring it out,” says Duross, cofounder of Duross and Langel. “For a softer balm, add a little more oil, or if you like a harder balm, use more beeswax.”
Both the beeswax and shea butter ingredients can easily be sourced online. For the oil, Duross opts for sweet almond oil over extra virgin because of its longer shelf life once heated (10 months versus three), but says either will work. Duross sources his essential oils from New Directions Aromatics.
“The beauty of making your own balm is that you can get creative with the flavor combinations, like lemon and lavender or spearmint and lime,” says Duross.