Wait, hang onto that tree and don't toss that gift wrap! As the holiday season winds down and the amount of trash rises, Houston is hoping to divert some of its holiday waste away from local landfills.

For 21 years, the Solid Waste Management Department (SWMD) has encouraged citizens to give a second life to used holiday trees, tens of thousands of which are tossed into area landfills annually.

Starting Tuesday, used Christmas trees can be dropped off at 17 locations. Those with heavy trash pickup can simply haul their tree to the curb, but will have to wait until the designated "tree waste" days in January.

Remember to remove ornaments, tinsel, lights and tree stands. "Flocked," or frosted, trees cannot be accepted for recycling.

The city is also reminding Houstonians to take wrapping paper, burned-out compact fluorescent bulbs, and old appliances to any of its six recycling locations.

For 21 years, the Solid Waste Management Department (SWMD) has encouraged citizens to give a second life to used holiday trees, tens of thousands of which are tossed into area landfills annually.

To recycle and repurpose green waste material during the holidays, SWMD has partnered with Living Earth Technology, a leading composting company that has mulched Christmas trees at no cost to the city since the early 1990s.

"We take Christmas trees for free at all our locations," Living Earth's Richard Stamper told CultureMap. "They're run through an instrument called the 'grinder,' this massive machine that grinds everything from trunks and logs to leaves and grass, and then we sell the mulch."

In addition to the holiday mulch, Living Earth offers compost and soil mixes created with materials from the SWMD's compostable bag pick-up program, which started in 2010.

On Friday at 9:45 a.m., the City of Houston will take down its own holiday tree and grind it into mulch during a special ceremony at the City Hall reflecting pool. Click here for more information on the holiday recycling program.

Keep it local: Cactus Music accepts your gift cards from big box competitors

Bright idea

Didn't receive that new album you wished for this year? Feel like you could have done more to support local businesses throughout the holiday season?

Now is the time to right those wrongs: Gather the gift cards that you received in your stocking and use them at independent, locally-owned Cactus Music.

Store manager Cristina Acuna told CultureMap that Cactus will honor cards from its big box store competitors (Best Buy, Target, Walmart, Amazon and Fry's), verifying the balance and offering an equivalent store credit. It's a trade up, really.

And what will the music store do with the turned-in gift cards? Acuna says the store will use them to buy cleaning supplies, toilet paper and other items it would have to purchase anyway to keep the doors open.

You can buy your fill of vinyl albums and compact discs with the balance. The money and the business will stay in our community. Sounds like a win-win situation.

"We are definitely going to accept cards up until January," said Acuna. "But if people embrace it, I don't see why we couldn't do it the whole year round."'

However, don't bring in your Chili's gift card. Cactus will only take gift cards of direct music competitors, and that doesn't include restaurants.

  • First step: gather all of your ingredients.
    Photo by Leila Kalmbach
  • Then mix sodium hydroxide and water.
    Photo by Leila Kalmbach
  • Measure out oils.
    Photo by Leila Kalmbach
  • Carefully mix lye and oils.
    Photo by Leila Kalmbach
  • Pour the mixture into molds.
    Photo by Leila Kalmbach
  • Finally, add your color.
    Photo by Leila Kalmbach
  • And your finished product
    Photo by Leila Kalmbach

Clean up for the new year: A step-by-step guide to making homemade soap

homemade for the holidays II

If giving the gift of infused vodka wasn’t for you, take it a step further and really impress your friends by giving them homemade soap. Soap is a little more complicated to make than flavored booze, but it’s fun and you get to feel like you’re back in chemistry class. It involves two separate chemical reactions — and in the end you get a useful product instead of a burnt vial and a room that smells like sulfur.

(Before we get started, though, I should say something: Let’s be realistic. Soap takes at least four weeks to cure. If you do give bars of soap as gift (or use it for yourself), let them cure as long as possible, then wrap them in a breathable paper and just tell your friends to wait until the right date to use them.)

At its essence, soap is just three things: sodium hydroxide (lye), water and fat. The type of fat you use will have a big impact on the final product — an all-coconut-fat soap, for instance, will have a nice fluffy lather, but can be drying to the skin. Palm oil soap doesn’t create much lather, but it makes a firm bar that won’t dissolve quickly.

Different oils have different nourishing properties, as well. Olive oil is moisturizing. Avocado oil is high in vitamins and amino acids, which moisturize and heal the skin (great for winter). Jojoba oil helps to retain moisture in the skin. Most soaps contain a combination of oils that work together to achieve the desired effect. Grapefruit seed extract and/or vitamin E work as a preservative.

Carefully pour the lye into the oil, stirring briskly with a whisk or the rubber spatula. The mixture will thicken. Keep stirring! And keep not touching, as the lye will still burn.

I made my soap with my friend Shirene, who has made eight batches now and doesn’t ever buy soap anymore. Soap-making requires a few free hours, some pans you won’t need for the next month, and patience. There are as many soap recipes out there as there are cookie recipes, but here’s what we did:

This recipe makes about 10 pounds of almond-avocado soap with orange–pine needle scent (yes, we could probably stand to come up with a snazzier name).

What you'll need

402 grams sodium hydroxide

2 lb., 6 oz. distilled water

4 oz. jojoba oil

6.5 oz. cocoa butter (the kind we found contained 25 percent jojoba oil)

12.5 oz. sweet almond oil

8 oz. avocado oil

8 oz. wheat germ oil

2 lb. coconut oil

24 oz. palm oil

8 oz. olive oil

24 grams grapefruit seed extract

60 mL pine needle essential oil

118 mL orange essential oil

15 mL peppermint essential oil

Getting together the ingredients can take some work. Keep in mind that lye is caustic, so its sale is more closely regulated than, say, essential oils. You’ll probably have to give them your name so that if you blow something up, they’ll know who to blame. You can find palm oil in the African foods section at Fiesta.

Step 1: Make sure you have everything you’ll need.

Get out all your ingredients, a scale, a large pot, a glass bowl, a rubber spatula, a cooking thermometer, rubber gloves and safety goggles. You have all these things, right? Right? OK, good.

Step 2: Mix the lye and water.

Put on the safety goggles and gloves. Take photos of yourself looking ridiculous. Carefully measure out the sodium hydroxide in a small bowl or cup, and measure out the distilled water in the glass bowl. Take these containers and the rubber spatula outside to a well-ventilated area, and very carefully pour the sodium hydroxide into the water, stirring briskly with the rubber spatula until it is dissolved.

This is your first chemical reaction: The mixture will instantly get very hot and start steaming. Don’t breathe in the fumes. Once the sodium hydroxide is dissolved, cover the bowl to keep leaves and dust out. Make sure pets and children are inside while the lye solution is sitting out.

Step 3: Mix and melt the fats.

You can take the safety goggles and gloves off now, unless you just really like the look. Weigh out all the fats and mix them together in the large pot over low heat, stirring until the solid fats melt. Many of the fats we used came in containers that already claimed to be the right weight, but Shirene, being less lazy than I am, suggested we measure them out to be sure. Smart girl — almost all of the containers came in underweight. We added extra almond, olive or jojoba oil to make up for the differences.

Step 4: Sit back and wait — oh, and line some baking pans.

Once the fats are all melted together, make sure the mixture is more than 80 degrees (unless you use Celsius, then I have no idea), and turn off the heat. Line some baking pans on the bottom and sides with waxed paper, and tape the paper at the edges. For us, the above recipe filled two loaf pans and a large cake pan.

Put on the safety goggles and gloves. Take photos of yourself looking ridiculous.

Sit around for a while and talk about work. Eat some Thai soup (really, any kind of soup will do). Drink some tea (not beer, or you’ll mess something up and the lye will burn your fingers off). Periodically measure the temperatures of the lye mixture and the oil mixture, and wait for them both to get to 80 degrees, reheating the oil a bit if necessary.

Step 5: Mix it all together.

Now comes the second chemical reaction. Once both mixtures are at 80 degrees, take the oil outside, put the gloves and goggles back on, and slowly and carefully pour the lye into the oil, stirring briskly with a whisk or the rubber spatula. The mixture will thicken. Keep stirring! And keep not touching, as the lye will still burn. Try to keep all the liquid in motion. After a few minutes, the solution will “come to a trace,” meaning that if you lift up the whisk and drizzle the solution back into itself, it will leave a faint pattern on the solution’s surface for a moment.

Step 6: Mix in the essential oils and pour into pans.

Once the solution comes to a trace, work quickly to pour in the essential oils and mix well, then pour the mixture into the waxed paper–lined pans. We tried to make a pattern on the surface of a couple of our trays with food coloring, but we won’t know for sure whether this was a brilliant idea or a grave mistake until we try out the soap and see if our skin turns green.

Step 7: Wait. Then cut. Then wait.

Put the pans somewhere where they won’t be disturbed, cover them with cardboard or plywood, and cover that with a blanket. Then don’t touch them. Don’t do it! After a day or two (some sources say four to 10 days, so apparently it can vary), start gently poking at the soap, and once it feels firm all the way through, cut into slices lengthwise and crosswise all the way to the bottom of the pan.

Then peel the bars out of the pans and lay them out flat in a single layer on plain paper grocery bags in a well-ventilated room. Let them sit for four to six weeks to cure, turning them over halfway through. Then wrap them as you wish and give them as gifts.

Alright, you’re done! Now go sit in an overheated room for a few days to get your skin nice and dry, because next week we’re making homemade lotion.

A playlist to change the minds of Christmas humbugs: 15 holiday songs even amusic critic could love

Sing along

If you’re like me, you’ve about had it with holiday music by now. Don’t get me wrong: I love Christmas. But the carols start in early November, bombarding you from the radio and assaulting you while you’re shopping. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve already heard “O Holy Night” this year, I could pay for Josh Groban and Celine Dion to serenade me in my living room.

Luckily, there are a few offerings that touch sweetly on the season while still paying heed to the bitter music critic inside us all. Here is a playlist of those songs guaranteed to get you through the holidays with sanity intact and nights divine.

“Happy Christmas (War Is Over)” by John Lennon

One of the few oft-played Christmas songs that never gets tired, it can still send chills with its clear-eyed message and John’s haunting vocal.

“Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)” by Darlene Love

Love still brings down the house with this song on David Letterman’s last live show before the holiday every year.

“Father Christmas” by The Kinks

Ray Davies’ morality tale uses the robbing of a department store-Santa as a way to illustrate that hard times don’t take a holiday for some less fortunate people.

“Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” by Bruce Springsteen

Starring Clarence Clemons as the most soulful Santa Claus you’ve ever hear, with The Boss playing the wisecracking elf.

“Someday At Christmas” by Stevie Wonder

Like Lennon, Wonder imagines a time when the spirit of the season truly wins the day over modern ills like war, oppression, and indifference. (The video is a recent version that Wonder sang with Justin Bieber.)

“Christmas Must Be Tonight” by The Band

One of rock’s all-time great groups takes us back to the manger with a typically tender musical performance and moving harmony vocals.

“2000 Miles” by The Pretenders

For my money, the best holiday songs have a hint of melancholy to leaven the joy; Chrissie Hynde understands this perfectly on this lovely single.

“Christmas All Over Again” by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

Petty rocks the chimney on this funny offering; about long-lost relatives: “Yeah I kind of missed ‘em/I just don’t wanna kiss ‘em.”

“I Believe In Father Christmas” by Greg Lake

Classic rock stations still serve this one up from time to time; it certainly conjures the majesty of the season with its ornate arrangement.

“Must Be Santa” by Bob Dylan

Only Dylan could serve up a Christmas polka, sung as if his vocal chords had been trampled by deranged reindeer, and make it work.

“Little Saint Nick” by The Beach Boys

You could try to sing this around the piano with your relatives, but you’ll never sound near as good as these guys.

“Frosty The Snowman” by The Ronettes

Featuring a sexy vocal from Ronnie Spector and Phil Spector’s sleigh bell-filled production, it’s warm enough to melt the heart of any Scrooge.

“That Spirit Of Christmas” by Ray Charles

It always helps to be featured in a great Christmas movie, as this one was in the scene where Chevy Chase watches home movies in his attic in Christmas Vacation.

“Same Old Lange Syne” by Dan Fogelberg

The late singer-songwriter’s classic may have a New Year’s title, but it’s actually about a bittersweet reunion with a high school sweetheart on Christmas Eve.

“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” by Frank Sinatra

Francis Albert gets the last word; listen to this one and you’ll be able to muddle through whatever holiday heartache befalls you.

Gift card, jewelry or running apparel: Decoding what your gift giving reallysays

Reading Between the Ribbons

Unless they’re from Santa, the perfect gifts don’t just magically appear under your tree all wrapped up and ready to go. There’s no private workshop at your disposal or skilled workforce of elves just waiting to do your bidding. It’s just you, a long list of people to buy for, a budget and a ticking clock.

But don’t let all that pressure cause you to overlook the most important aspect of the gifts you give — namely, the message they send to your recipients about how you really feel about them.

Every gift is a token of your affection — a physical manifestation of your feelings for the person receiving it. In order to help ensure that the message your recipient gets is the one you intended to send, I have an early Christmas present to you.

It’s a Translator of Hidden Information and Narratives Kit (or “THINK” for short). By using your THINK (or “THINKING”), not only will you be able to select the appropriate gift for each person on your shopping list, you will also be able to preview the messages various gifts transmit.

But first let’s go over the basic instructions for THINKING, because this might be new to some of you. When you give a gift, the goal is to give something that will make the recipient happy. It’s not just about having a box under the tree with that person’s name on it. What’s inside that box actually matters.

But be careful not to over-THINK things. If THINKING tells you not to buy something for someone, but either your gut or a reliable outside source tells you that the recipient really wants the item in question, don’t get thrown off. Trust your intuition. Now, let’s get started.

Re-gifting: "Because I really don’t care.”

Giving things you already have as gifts has long been a major fa-la-la-la-faux pas. After all, if you don’t want it, chances are no else does, either.

No matter how hectic your schedule is; no matter how easy it would be to just to wrap up that free gift-with-purchase candlestick holder set you got at Ulta when you fell for the “buy 10 giant bottles of bath gel and get another 10 free;” no matter how much you want to be able to check that ex-half-step-cousin-in-law off your list (and not just for Christmas, but for good)… don’t do it.

If you’ve been seeing your significant other exclusively for more than two years and you are not yet engaged, be warned that if your jewelry purchase is the type of ring that one wears on ears rather than fingers, you might find yourself scrambling at the last minute to find another date for New Year’s Eve.

Even if you think you will never get found out, there is some really powerful re-gifting juju that will hunt you down and expose you for the lazy cheapskate you really are. I learned this the hard way when I was in fifth grade. I had gotten two identical diaries for Christmas one year, and when the next Christmas rolled around and I needed a present for my class’s Secret Santa exchange I re-gifted the spare one. Only, I forgot that I had actually written an entry in it eleven and a half months earlier.

What’s more embarrassing than getting exposed as a re-gifter? Getting exposed as a re-gifter and having a couple of pages of your diary circulated among your classmates all on the same day. Some scars never heal. So, unless it’s real estate or heirloom jewelry, it’s really not okay.

Cash and Gift Cards: "Because I care — barely.”

These are “the-least-you-can-do”-type gifts. As in, if you did anything less, you would have done nothing at all.

Gift cards and cash tell the recipient that you are giving a last-minute gift out of a sense of obligation rather than out of any real affection. Cash says to the recipient, “I like you this many dollars worth.” And gift cards say, “I like you this many dollars worth, plus a trip to a store, maybe.”

As with most things in life, there are exceptions. It’s okay to give gift cards when the recipient (a) specifically asks for one, (b) when you combine the gift card with other items to dress it up, (c) when you don’t know the recipient very well (think teacher’s gift or “gift grab” situation), or (d) it’s a gift certificate to a spa (but make sure to read the “Insulting Body Care Gifts” section below for some important caveats).

When it comes to cash, you can give it (a) as a graduation gift, (b) when you know that the recipient is saving up for something , or (c) if you are giving an obscene amount of it.

Overly Practical Gifts: “Because I really resent you (or this holiday) (or both).”

My boyfriend Clint confessed to me that he did a terrible thing 15 years ago. He bought his then-girlfriend a hubcap for Valentine’s Day. It wasn’t that he didn’t love his girlfriend; it was that he hated Valentine’s Day. He felt like it was a made-up holiday and he resented that he had to either buy his girlfriend a gift or look like a jerk.

So, he went ahead and bought her a gift, but the gift announced to his girlfriend, her family and all their friends that he was a jerk anyway. The message the gift sent was this: “I am buying you the least romantic gift possible to send the message once and for all that I hate Valentine’s Day.”

You should never, ever give as a gift something that is designed to improve the recipient’s appearance. Stay away from things like nose hair trimmers, home waxing kits and products that cross not-so-fine lines by having words like “age-defying”

In his cocky, college-guy mind, he rationalized that she needed a hubcap and if he had to get her a gift it was going to be something she really needed, while at the same time firmly establishing that he was never going to cave to the pressure to celebrate a fake holiday. I wonder how the rest of the evening went, don’t you? Did I mention they broke up?

Other overly practical gifts include house wares and appliances both large and small (unless it’s something indulgent like an espresso maker — but not a cheap one, a high-quality one with a milk steamer that actually works) and auto accessories like a windshield sun shade (unless it’s a teaser gift because you also bought the recipient a car).

Insulting Body Care Gifts: “Because you’ve really let yourself go.”

Several years ago a girlfriend of mine got upset with her husband for buying her some new running apparel for their anniversary. She said the message she got from the present was, “Happy Anniversary, Fat Ass!” In her husband’s defense, when he asked her what she wanted she specifically said new running clothes. (She had also mentioned diamond earrings and a spa weekend, but he went with the running clothes.)

In this case, they were both at fault for a less-than-happy anniversary. He should have known running clothes alone would not be a suitable anniversary gift for someone who had given birth to his three children, but she should have left those off the list altogether and simply gone to Academy herself.

Listen up, ladies: You can’t fault someone for buying you an insulting gift if you specifically ask for it. But men, you can almost never go wrong if you throw in some jewelry. (I said almost. See the “Jewelry” section below for some important guidelines.)

The take away? You should never, ever give as a gift something that is designed to improve the recipient’s appearance. In addition to exercise gear, other items to stay away from are things like nose hair trimmers, home waxing kits and products that cross not-so-fine lines by having words like “age-defying,” “wrinkle reducer” or “acne” anywhere on the package.

This prohibition also extends to gift certificates for services like laser hair removal, chemical peels or cellulite treatment. If the treatment is designed to remedy rather than relax, or if the establishment has any part of the word “medical” or “dermatology” in its name — even if it is then followed by the word “spa” — it doesn’t qualify for the spa gift certificate exemption mentioned in the “Gift Cards and Cash” section above.

When it comes to cash, you can give it (a) as a graduation gift, (b) when you know that the recipient is saving up for something , or (c) if you are giving an obscene amount of it.

Remember, if you give a gift certificate for a photo facial from a medi-spa, don’t be surprised when you don’t have a picture-perfect holiday. But if you instead give a GC to Lake Austin Spa for a massage, you can rest assured that all will be calm.

A Personal Memento: “Because to know you is to love you.”

Remember back before the days of gift cards when being polite meant you made an effort to conceal how many dollars you spent on a present rather than writing it out on the front of the envelope?

The idea was to keep the focus on the sentiment rather than the dollars spent. Some of my favorite gifts have been those that didn’t cost much money at all, but rather showed that the giver knew me well enough to understand what was important to me.

Like last December when my son Aaron, after finishing his final exams, made a trip to the archives at Notre Dame and collected copies of all of the year book entries that referenced my dad when he was in school there in the late 1940s and 1950s. Or the year Clint took his favorite photos from one of the first trips we had taken together and arranged them in a frame.

Those gifts mean a lot more to me than the cost of the copy fees or the frames. Those gifts told me that Aaron and Clint cared enough to spend time thinking about what would be a meaningful gift, and then actually followed through.

Jewelry: “Because I love you and hope for a future together.”

If you’re considering giving jewelry, first of all, congratulations. That’s a big step in the right direction. But even in a category this awesome, you need to be careful. There are four types of jewelry stores: Americus Diamond, mall jewelry stores, independent and/or artisan-owned jewelry stores and Tiffany’s. (And yes, those are in order.)

The trick is to know your recipient. If you are on a budget and size is the most important consideration to your recipient, Americus Diamond is the place to go. If your recipient watches a lot of quality programming on the Hallmark Channel, enjoys Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman reruns or is otherwise a Jane Seymour fan, a chain jewelry store in the mall is just what the doctor ordered.

But otherwise, please understand that contrary to what you’ve heard on television, every kiss does not begin with Kay. (In fact, for many “disappointment” begins with Kay and ends with a lowered opinion of you and a Christmas night devoid of both comfort and joy while you toss and turn in manger-like sleeping conditions on the couch.)

If you are dealing with the artsy type or someone that likes to support local businesses, show your respect for her priorities by shopping at a locally-owned jewelry store. And finally, if your recipient is a designer diva it’s hard to go wrong with something that comes in a baby blue box.

One last thing: I am assuming that if you are buying jewelry it’s for a person with whom you are romantically involved. If you’ve been seeing this person exclusively for more than two years and you are not yet engaged, be warned that if your jewelry purchase is the type of ring that one wears on ears rather than fingers, you might find yourself scrambling at the last minute to find another date for New Year’s Eve.

I hope you like your new THINK! If used correctly, it should help ensure the messages you want your gifts to send are transmitted so clearly that they can be heard from on high — or anywhere else, for that matter. But if you were offended by my present in any way, feel free to let me know so I can swap it out for something that shows how much I really care… like maybe a set of candlestick holders or a gently used diary.

Happy shopping!

  • Homemade Lip Balm
  • As you may have guessed, pouring hot liquid into tiny little tubes is not theeasiest thing you will ever do. I know, I know, I told you we were taking iteasy this week. Calm down; it’ll all be over soon. You might want to enlist ahelper for this part, and pouring from a liquid measuring cup worked prettywell.

Kisses for Christmas: Homemade lip balm is the easiest (and yummiest) beautygift of all

Homemade for the holidays

We’ve been working hard the last few weeks, making taste-testing liquor infusions until the flavors are just right, cursing at our lotions until they emulsify, and stirring chocolate on the stove to produce mouth-watering truffles. Now we’re gonna kick back and take it easy. Let’s make lip balm.

Of all the body products we’ve made, lip balm is by far the easiest. You just melt some stuff together, and ta-da! Boom. Done. Merry Christmas seasonal holiday of choice.

Lip balm is made of beeswax and vegetable fat. That’s it. The type of fat you use will determine how soft the lip balm is, how long it stays on your lips and what sort of nourishing properties it has. But unlike with soap making, because there are no chemical reactions involved, it’s pretty straightforward what oils lead to what results.

The more hard fats you use, such as cocoa butter, the harder your lip balm will be. The more liquid oils you use, the softer. Oils like jojoba and grapeseed soak into the skin quickly, which is great for lotion, but not as good for lip balm. Oils like avocado and almond last longer on the skin’s surface, so they’re good for lip balms. Coconut oil is also great in lip balm. The addition of castor oil makes a lip balm shinier, and extra beeswax makes it more matte.

Remember that people will be wearing this scent right under their noses, so if it’s weird-smelling, your friends might stop inviting you to their holiday parties on Facebook and you’ll have to have a white elephant exchange with just your cat, who will probably gift you a hairball. Gross.

As far as nourishing properties go, you can add a few drops of vitamin E to make the balm extra healing. Coconut oil is very moisturizing. Avocado oil is high in vitamins. Cocoa butter is great for chapped lips. Grapeseed helps protect skin from premature aging. As with the other body products we’ve made, using a combination of oils will result in the most nourishing lip balm.

Another consideration when choosing your oils is scent. If you use a significant portion of olive oil in your lip balm, the resulting balm will smell like olive oil (weird, right?). Maybe you like that. But if you don’t want your lips to smell like an hors d’oeuvre, use only a small portion of olive oil, or none at all. Cocoa butter will make your lip balm smell like chocolate. And hemp seed oil will impart an earthy, nutty scent. If you’re adding additional scent to your oil, consider whether it will go with the scents of the oils you choose.

And speaking of adding scent. If you add essential oil to your lip balm, use just a few drops. Remember that people will be wearing this scent right under their noses, so if it’s overpowering or weird-smelling, your friends will start to hate you, or at least stop inviting you to their holiday parties on Facebook and you’ll have to have a white elephant exchange with just your cat, who will probably gift you a hairball. Gross.

Also, don’t use citrus oils in your lip balm, because it increases the skin’s sensitivity to light. And I personally dislike overly sweet-smelling lip balms, so maybe people you know do, too.

Here's what you need

1 ounce beeswax, finely chopped or grated

½ cup vegetable fats, made up of:

- roughly 1/4 brittle fats, such as cocoa butter

- roughly 1/3 solid fats, such as shea butter, coconut butter or hemp seed butter

- fill up the rest of the way with liquid oils, such as avocado, olive or almond oils, etc.

Here's what you do

Melt everything together in a double-boiler. Add in a few drops of vitamin E oil and/or essential oils at the end, if you’re using them. I added a little bit of peppermint oil to my lip balm, because I had a ton left over from lotion making and because I don’t learn from my mistakes (see the part about smelling like pie in my lotion making story).

Now pour the mixture into empty lip balm tubes, which you can buy at most natural grocers or at a natural body good store. You can also buy empty lip balm tubes in bulk online, which is probably cheaper if you have the time to wait. You’ll need about 33 for this recipe. Really. (I bought 20, then poured the rest into a large empty lid, though my sister suggested too late that Altoid containers would have been 500 percent cuter.)

You can buy empty lip balm tubes online or at a natural grocer, or you can pour your balm into empty Altoid tins for maximum cute.

As you may have guessed, pouring hot liquid into tiny little tubes is not the easiest thing you will ever do. I know, I know, I told you we were taking it easy this week. Calm down; it’ll all be over soon. You might want to enlist a helper for this part, and pouring from a measuring cup worked pretty well.

If you’re really dedicated, you can also buy a kit online that holds tubes upright and allows you to fill many at once. Now, put the lids back on, and do not tip the tubes over, even though they fall like dominoes if you so much as look at them. The lip balm will start solidifying right away, but wait about six hours before use to be sure it’s fully hardened.

Et voilà.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Wildly popular Nashville hot chicken chain's big Houston cancellation heats up week's top stories

This week's hot headlines

Editor's note: It's time to recap the top stories on CultureMap from this past week.

1. Wildly popular Nashville hot chicken chain cancels plans for first Houston location. Construction costs and other issues scuttled the restaurant's plans.

2. Creative Heights burger joint quietly shutters after more than a decade. Fans of Sticky Monkey burgers and Buffalo fries will have to drive to Pearland or Galveston to satisfy their cravings.

3. Longtime Houston fast casual restaurant darts into The Woodlands with fresh new location. The restaurant serves the same updated menu as the recently-renovated River Oaks location.

4. Thriving drive-thru salad restaurant freshens up Houston with first outpost and more on the way. The Arizona-based restaurant's first three Houston-area locations are opening this month.

5. Towering downtown skyscraper and former headquarters for oil giant set for new high-rise apartment conversion. At the time of its opening, the building was considered the tallest building west of the Mississippi River.

'80s heartthrob Bryan Adams heads to Houston with Jett-setting rock icon for 2023 tour stop

Summer of '23

Canadian singer/songwriter Bryan Adams, who's been entertaining audiences on stage and screen for four decades, is coming to the Houston area — and he's bringing along a very special guest. Adams is teaming up with rock 'n' roll icons Joan Jett and the Blackhearts for his "So Happy It Hurts Tour," stopping at Sugar Land's Smart Financial Centre on June 28.

The U.S. tour kicks off on June 6 in Baltimore, Maryland, and ends August 3 with a show in Seattle. He'll visit just two Texas cities - Fort Worth and Sugar Land, outside Houston, for a show at Smart Financial Centre on June 28.Fort Worth on June 29, 2023.

Adams is touring in support of his 15th studio album, So Happy It Hurts, which was released March 11, 2022 via BMG. The album is nominated for Best Rock Performance at the upcoming 2023 Grammy awards, taking place Sunday, February 5.

Adams also is riding the wave as the lyricist for Pretty Woman – The Musical, the Broadway musical based on the famed Julia Roberts-Richard Gere rom-com. The touring musical draw huge crowds when it recently stopped in Houston for a limited run.

Barrier-breaking rock 'n' roll badass Joan Jett is known for Top 40 hits such as "I Love Rock 'N' Roll," "I Hate Myself For Loving You," and "Crimson and Clover." Joan Jett and the Blackhearts toured last year with Def Leppard, Motley Crue, and Poison. Bad Reputation, a 2018 documentary about Jett's life, is now streaming.

Tickets for the "So Happy It Hurts Tour" go on sale at 12 pm Friday, February 3 via ticketmaster.com.

Beyoncé adds second Houston date to highly anticipated world tour due to massive surge in ticket demand

back-to-back bey

Houston Beyoncé fans, rejoice: Queen Bey has added another show to her just-announced Renaissance World Tour.

As CultureMap previously reported, Beyoncé is returning to her hometown in a show originally planned for September 23 at NRG Stadium. Now, due to surge in ticket demand, a second show at NRG has been added for the following day on September 24.

This comes as tour organizers have added seven new dates to the North American leg of the tour, based on Beyhive buzz.

According to LiveNation, fan demand for Beyoncé's Renaissance World Tour now exceeds the number of available tickets by more than 800 percent, based on current registration numbers in the Group A cities.

Even with these added dates, LiveNation expects a majority of interested fans "will not be able to get tickets because demand drastically exceeds supply," per a press announcement.

Beyhive fans who miss the second Houston show can try to catch Bey in Dallas two days prior to the Houston show, where she'll play AT&T Stadium on September 21.

Ticketing for the world tour dates go on sale Monday, February 6. BeyHive members will enjoy an exclusive presale, while other fans can register now with Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan technology here. Those interested can score tickets, schedules, and more information at beyonce.livenation.com and tour.beyonce.com.

Note to jet-setting Houstonians: The queen kicks off her world tour on May 10 in Stockholm, Sweden at the Friends Arena. She'll dot Europe with big stadium shows through June 27, where she'll play Warsaw, Poland.

Her North American tour starts July 8 in Canada, where she'll play Toronto's Rogers Centre. Beyoncé will trek the U.S. through the summer and into September; her Dallas and Houston shows are the sole Texas performances.

In a bit of a head scratcher, the Houston native will end her tour in New Orleans (Caesars Superdome) on September 27.

The world tour comes as Beyoncé is awash in Grammy glow: in November, she was nominated for nine Grammy Awards, tying her with her husband (neé Shawn Corey Carter) for the most nominations in Grammy history. Critics and fans have lauded Renaissance, her first solo work since the wildly popular and deeply personal 2016 effort, Lemonade — even through its minor controversy.

Here is the entire world tour schedule:


May 10, 2023 – Stockholm, SE – Friends Arena

May 14, 2023 – Brussels, BE – King Baudouin Stadium

May 17, 2023 – Cardiff, UK – Cardiff Principality Stadium

May 20, 2023 – Edinburgh, UK – BT Murray Field Stadium

May 23, 2023 – Sunderland, UK – Stadium of Light

May 26, 2023 – Paris, FR – Stade de France

May 29, 2023 – London, UK – Tottenham Hotspur Stadium

May 30, 2023 – London, UK – Tottenham Hotspur Stadium

June 08, 2023 – Barcelona, ES – Olympic Stadium

June 11, 2023 – Marseille, FR – Orange Velodrome

June 15, 2023 – Cologne, DE – Rhein Energie Stadion

June 17, 2023 – Amsterdam, NL – Johan Crujff Arena

June 21, 2023 – Hamburg, DE – Volksparkstadion

June 24, 2023 – Frankfurt, DE – Deutsche Bank Park

June 27, 2023 – Warsaw, PL – PGE Narodowy

North America

July 8, 2023 – Toronto, ON – Rogers Centre

July 12, 2023 – Philadelphia, PA – Lincoln Financial Field

July 15, 2023 – Nashville, TN – Nissan Stadium

July 17, 2023 – Louisville, KY – L&N Federal Credit Union Stadium

July 20, 2023 – Minneapolis, MN – Huntington Bank Stadium

July 22, 2023 – Chicago, IL – Soldier Field Stadium

July 26, 2023 – Detroit, MI – Ford Field

July 29, 2023 – East Rutherford, NJ – MetLife Stadium

Aug. 01, 2023 – Boston, MA – Gillette Stadium

Aug. 03, 2023 – Pittsburgh, PA – Acrisure Stadium

Aug. 05, 2023 – Washington, DC – FedEx Field

Aug. 09, 2023 – Charlotte, NC – Bank of America Stadium

Aug. 11, 2023 – Atlanta, GA – Mercedes-Benz Stadium

Aug. 16, 2023 – Tampa, FL – Raymond James Stadium

Aug. 18, 2023 – Miami, FL – Hard Rock Stadium

Aug. 21, 2023 – St. Louis, MO – Dome at America's Center

Aug. 24, 2023 – Phoenix, AZ – State Farm Stadium

Aug. 26, 2023 – Las Vegas, NV – Allegiant Stadium

Aug. 30, 2023 – San Francisco, CA – Levi’s Stadium

Sept. 02, 2023 – Inglewood, CA – SoFi Stadium

Sept. 11, 2023 – Vancouver, BC – BC Place

Sept. 13, 2023 – Seattle, WA – Lumen Field

Sept. 18, 2023 – Kansas City, MO – Arrowhead Stadium

Sept. 21, 2023 – Dallas – AT&T Stadium

Sept. 23, 2023 – Houston – NRG Stadium

Sept. 24, 2023 – Houston – NRG Stadium

Sept. 27, 2023 – New Orleans – Caesars Superdome

As always, Beyoncé will create activations, programs, and giveaways via BeyGOOD, the foundation she created in 2013.