An Experiment with Natural Shampoo

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As part of my wellness journey and my journey to save money, I’ve been looking for alternatives to shampoo and conditioner.  I’ve been using sulfate-free shampoos for over 10 years now, but they are pretty expensive.  I also have fine hair, so I have to be careful with the products I choose. Some products will weight my hair down, while others will dry it out.  Also, my hair is so fine that I have to wash my hair every day or it looks greasy and dirty.

I tried the “no-poo” method of baking soda and water followed by apple cider vinegar and water, but that was an epic fail.  It dried out my hair, and I still had the problem where I had to clean my hair every day.  Not one to give up, I wanted to try another option that was less harsh.  The Wellness Mama blog site has a bunch of recipes for DIY natural beauty, and I found a recipe on her site for making DIY shampoo.  I decided to give it a try.  I made a slight adjustment to the Wellness Mama recipe where I omitted the oils.  I didn’t want to weight down my hair, and I can’t use the Vitamin E oil anyway because I have celiac.  Here were my results:

On Day 1, I wasn’t too happy with the results.  My hair felt waxy, and it was too limp to hold a curl.  For the work day, I put in in a style that can get away with that hair texture.  I wasn’t too worried because of what I read in the comments, it takes a few days for the hair to adjust.

I washed my hair with the homemade shampoo on Day 2, and my hair now looked like it does when my hair needs washing the next day.  So far, I was not happy with the results.  It looked BAD!

On Day 3, it looked and felt really bad.  I was about to write this project off as an epic fail, but I read through all the comments again to see if there was something else that I needed to do, because even though it’s possible that this project may not be suited for my hair type, I still wanted to see if there was something I could do to salvage it.  The worst case scenario is I just use it as a body wash and shaving lotion, because I did like it as a body wash and shaving lotion.

On Day 4, instead of using the shampoo, I used an apple cider vinegar/lemon juice/distilled water solution on my hair to hopefully remove all the waxiness from my hair.  BULLSEYE!!!! It took all the waxiness out of my hair, and my hair was soft and manageable again.  

On Day 5, which is today, I found the combination that worked for my hair.

  • I saturated my hair with water until it was sopping wet.
  • I used the homemade shampoo to wash the hair, and I rinsed thoroughly until my hair was sopping wet.
  • I used my apple cider vinegar/lemon juice/distilled water solution as a rinse all over my hair
  • I rinsed that out with water

My hair was soft and manageable, and I didn’t get any flyaways.  It held my hairstyle without the assistance of styling products.   I’m interested in seeing what my hair looks like tomorrow.  If it looks too dirty, what I may have to do is rinse with the apple cider vinegar/lemon juice/distilled water every day, but wash with the shampoo every other day.  I’m hoping that in the long term, my hair will get in better condition.

 

Natural Deodorant

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The Backstory

Right before my 40th birthday, I had a cancer scare.  The doctor found pre-cancerous tumors in my left breast.  They have been removed, and I’ve been clean for two years (yay!).  Between the cancer scare and the celiac disease, I have to be really careful with what beauty products I use.  Many commercial antiperspirants and deodorants are not safe for people who have had health issues, and a number of the commercial natural alternatives are too expensive AND they don’t really work well! (Oy, the embarrassing stories that I have involving me when the commercial natural alternative lost its efficacy in the middle of the day…)

I wrote an earlier blog post about the unconventional uses of Milk of Magnesia, and I mention using Milk of Magnesia as an anti-perspirant.

I’ve been using milk of magnesia as an antiperspirant/deodorant, but I wanted to look at other options since milk of magnesia can get a little messy, and it’s a slight pain to use (I have to wait a good 5 minutes for it to dry before I can resume dressing).

I found this recipe from the Wellness Mama blog on how to easily make a solid deodorant.  Here is the recipe:

  • 6 Tbsp coconut oil (unrefined organic virgin is the best)
  • 1/4 c baking soda
  • 1/4 c arrowroot powder or cornstarch
  • a few drops of essential oils to preference – up to 24 drops total (optional)
  1. Mix baking soda and arrowroot (or cornstarch) together in a medium sized bowl
  2. Mash in coconut oil with a fork until well mixed
  3. Add oils
  4. Store in small glass jar or old deodorant container for easy use

Suggested Oils

  • Tea Tree Oil is antifungal, antiviral, antibacterial, and antiseptic.  A number of other recipes that I found out there uses tea tree oil.
  • Lemon, grapefruit and orange is refreshing and “clean smelling”
  • Lavender is relaxing
  • Ylang-ylang is sensuous

The Results

I made this with the ingredients that I had at the house – cornstarch, baking soda, and extra virgin organic coconut oil.  I had no essential oils, so I skipped that part.  Here’s what I was looking for in this test:

  1. Is this messy to use?
  2. Do I have to wait forever until I can continue getting dressed?
  3. Will it last ALL DAY?
  4. Most importantly, can it withstand the Florida heat?

Messiness: The trick is to keep this is a cool, dry place.  If your house is hotter than 76 degrees, it will melt a little bit because of the coconut oil.  I store this in my bedroom in a Ball jar, and I keep my house at 72 degrees.  As for using it, it’s not messy.  The result is a creamy texture, so it’s like applying lotion or cream.

The trick is to use a small amount – I use a pea-sized amount per underarm.  Anything more than that, and it’s really messy.  From what I read in the comments on the original blog posting, all you need is a pea-sized amount.

What’s slick about this is not only can I use this for an underarm deodorant, but I can use this as a body cream instead of a powder.  A lot of offices and workplaces are banning the use of cologne and perfume due to the sensitivities and allergies that people have to those products, and this is a nice way to naturally feel fresher without offending your co-workers who may be allergic or sensitive to strong scents.  True story – my favorite perfume is Angel by Thierry Mugler, and I had to stop wearing it at the workplace because one of my direct reports was allergic to it.

POTS: Plain Old T-Shirt

Convenience: While I don’t have to wait a good 5 minutes for the product to dry before I continue getting dressed, I do have to wait a minute or two before it’s completely absorbed before I continue getting dressed.  I tried getting dressed immediately after putting this on, and it got on my shirt and left a slight stain.  On the bright side, it was just a POTS, so it wasn’t a big loss.

Efficacy: I’ll keep it simple – yes, it works, and yes, it lasted all day!  For my body chemistry, if I didn’t do any hard-core exercising that day, it even lasted until my next morning shower, which is amazing since I’m naturally a Sweaty Betty.  While it’s not advertised as an anti-perspirant, it worked as one for me, so I was very pleased with that.

Withstand Extreme Conditions: We are in the throws of summertime weather here in Florida.  For those of you who don’t know about Florida weather, it gets hot and humid from May until November.  For me, the product can definitely withstand the heat and humidity.  However, as I said earlier, you do have to store the product in a cool, dry place or it will melt.  Translation: if you’re going to the gym during your lunch hour or after work, and you have that product in your gym bag, you can’t leave your gym bag in the car.

Overall: I actually like using this.  It wasn’t messy to use, and without the essential oils, it has a clean and very light coconut scent from the baking soda and the coconut.  I’m very impressed with how long it lasts.  Even with the strongest commercial products, I never had it work as long as this did.  In addition, it’s very economical and safe.  I’m going to make a smaller batch with arrowroot powder and an essential oil to see how that works out on me.

Additional References

For more tips and techniques for making your own natural products, check out the Wellness Mama blog.

Practicing Sewing Techniques – Hong Kong Seam

A nice side effect of my refashioning is it really improved my sewing skills. It also gave me some inspiration to use different sewing techniques to take my refashions to another level.  One thing that I took a look at is using different seam techniques to add a little punch to my finished project.  The first seam that I wanted to practice was the Hong Kong seam.  I like practicing techniques on pieces of fabric as well as clothing items that I wouldn’t miss if it doesn’t come out the way I want.

I pulled out this oversized t-shirt that I use as sleepwear:

Who needs to spend money on jim-jams when an oversized t-shirt and a pair of cotton shorts works?

Who needs to spend money on jim-jams when an oversized t-shirt and a pair of cotton shorts works?

I had a few other “t-shirts as sleepwear”, so if it doesn’t come out quite right, I can always use the shirt for material. 😉

I started some sketching, and here’s what I came up with:

easy peasy lemon squeezy - convert t-shirt to tank top

easy peasy lemon squeezy – convert t-shirt to tank top

For the other material that I will need for the Hong Kong seam, I used the excess material that came from this project – Make Do and Mend: Not Climate Appropriate

To get started, I cut out the tank top from the t-shirt.  I then resized the shirt to fit me better since the cuts “stretched out” the t-shirt body.

Cut the neckline

Cut the neckline

Cut the sleeves to make it more "tank-toppy"

Cut the sleeves to make it more “tank-toppy”

After the cuts - I had to resize this shirt because it was too stretched after all the cuts

After the cuts – I had to resize this shirt because it was too stretched after all the cuts

I wanted to add the Hong Kong seam on the neckline, arms and bottom, so after cutting the excess material into strips, I started pinning.

Here we go...

Here we go…

I used this tutorial from Ron Collins on how to do a Hong Kong seam.  This tutorial covers other seams as well.

After adding my seams, I got this result:

Shirt with seams

Shirt with seams

I was pleasantly surprised with how the seams looked.  If I was doing this “for real”, I would use a gray thread that matched the shirt instead of a teal thread that matched the seam material.  I was also happy with how easy it was.

As for the final product – the shirt ended up looking more like a vest than a tank top, so I don’t really want to wear this as everyday fashion.  However, all is not lost.  I can wear this over my swimsuit when I’m biking to the pool, or I can wear it over a tank top or sports bra for workouts.

Make Do and Mend: Not Climate Appropriate

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I recently moved from the wild, wonderful mountains of West Virginia to the sunny beaches of Florida.  It is a totally different climate – no more inches of snow and ice in the winter, but I have to experience humid summers that are hotter than Hades (temperatures in the high 90s are the norm around here in the summer).  Before I moved, I got rid of nearly all of my fall/winter clothes (except a lambskin trench coat and a few cashmere sweaters), but I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of this:

Why would I keep this sweatshirt?

Why would I keep this sweatshirt?

because of this:

Cheap plug!! Sweatshirt advertising my business.

Cheap plug!! Sweatshirt advertising my business.

I often wore this oversized sweatshirt instead of a jacket when I would work my booth during arts and crafts shows that took place outdoors in the fall.  I thought about converting this to a jacket, but I wouldn’t get too much use out of that in Florida.  I wanted to do something different – something that I can use more often than 3 days in Florida during the winter when the high is 60 degrees.  I like wearing sweatshirt material while I’m working out, and I like putting on items made of sweatshirt material after I get out of the pool to help me dry off quickly.  I wanted to make something that I can easily wear over a tank top or swimsuit, and I wanted to make sure that I can wear it more often.  I started sketching, and I came up with this:

This is a short-sleeved sweatshirt with peek-a-boo shoulders

This is a short-sleeved sweatshirt with peek-a-boo shoulders

I definitely had to make this a short-sleeved sweatshirt to account for the hot climate, but I added the other feature of a peek-a-boo shoulder to make it look less “pro athlete in the early 90s” (all I would need is a pair of Zubaz to sport that look!).

If I wanted to make this more of a fashion shirt, I would have made this more fitted.  However, the purpose for this shirt is something to wear during my bike riding and walking workouts as well as a post-swim session “cover up” to help me dry off more quickly.  Therefore, I kept the fit as loose and boxy so I can comfortably wear another top or swimsuit under the shirt.

I also wrote a note to “bling up” the logo, but I decided to skip this step since it’s going to be a workout shirt.

Here’s how I converted it:

1. I cut the neckline

Removed the ribbed neckline.

Removed the ribbed neckline.

2. I cut the sleeves to make them an elbow-length short sleeve

Trimmed the sleeves - decided to go with an elbow-length short sleeve so it didn't look too much like a muscle shirt

Trimmed the sleeves – decided to go with an elbow-length short sleeve so it didn’t look too much like a muscle shirt

3. I cut the length of the sweatshirt so it won’t be a long tunic

This wouldn't work at its current tunic length, so I cut off the length

This wouldn’t work at its current tunic length, so I cut off the length

4. I cut out the shoulders to make a “peek-a-boo” shoulder

After figuring out the size, I cut out a 1/2 circle in the shoulder

After figuring out the size, I cut out a 1/2 circle in the shoulder

I took the material and used it as a pattern to cut the 1/2 circle from the other side.

I took the material and used it as a pattern to cut the 1/2 circle from the other side.

Using the material as a guide, cut a 1/2 circle from the other shoulder.

Using the material as a guide, cut a 1/2 circle from the other shoulder.

5. After stitching the raw edges, I had a new athletic shirt

Trust me, this looks better on than it does on the table. :)

Trust me, this looks better on than it does on the table. 🙂

P.S. – I saved the leftover fabric from the sleeves and length of the sweatshirt to use for another project, which I’ll post about tomorrow….

P.P.S. – As an added bonus, I used the cut material from the cut shoulders and some leftover batting to make a pincushion.

A good use of leftovers...

A good use of leftovers…

 

 

 

Make Do and Mend: Too-Short Dress

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Make Do and Mend!

Rationing campaigns took place in the UK and the USA during World War II, and one of the campaigns was to “make do and mend” your worn-out fashions, or make use of repurposing home fashions such as bedsheets and curtains to make new clothing.  Once times became more prosperous, making do and mending seemed to fall out of vogue.
 
Then, the economy experienced one of the worst downturns in modern times – the Great Recession of 2009 (which actually started in 2007).  The times made people rethink their views on disposable fashions and consumerism, and upcycling was becoming vogue again.
 
Even though the economic times have improved (though they’re not quite as good as they were in the mid to late 90s), individuals are still upcycling and “making do and mending”.  Not only are they benefitting from the money savings, but they’re realizing the benefits to the environment.  They’re also reducing the amount of waste that ends up in thrift stores.  “Unusable” clothing often ends up in landfills.
 
In my “Make Do and Mend” series, I talk about how to give “not quite right” clothing a second lease of life.

I’m guilty of breaking one of the cardinal rules of buying fashion – buy a garment without trying it on.  In some cases, I’m in a situation where there’s no fitting rooms, such as a swap meet or a thrift store.  In that situation, I use a measuring tape to gauge whether the item will fit and whether the garment will be long enough for me.  In this particular situation, I didn’t try on the garment, and I didn’t have the measuring tape with me.

When Jason Wu launched his Target line for a season, I was excited since I like his classic lines.  I purchased this dress from Target:

It started life as a dress.   This was a Jason Wu for Target dress.

It started life as a dress. This was a Jason Wu for Target dress.

There was one problem…I didn’t try it on, and I didn’t have my measuring tape to make sure that the dress was the right length.  When I got it home, I discovered that the dress was too short for me.  Typically, I can wear too short dresses as tunics, but this dress was too long to pass as a tunic without a belt.  I was able to salvage this by wearing knee-length leggings in navy blue under it, but after a while, I got bored with that look.  I wasn’t ready to get rid of this dress because I liked how it fit on my body, and it was really comfortable.

I decided to perform one of the easiest “make do and mend” exercises for a too-short dress – convert it to a top.

Image

I measured where I would like the top to fall on me, and I cut about 3/4″ below where I wanted the top to fall. I then ironed the hem and sewed it with a poor-man’s overlock stitch (straight stick and zig-zag stitch).

Image

After sewing the stitch, I pressed the shirt, and I now had a “new” t-shirt.

Voila! My garment gets a second life!

 

Inspired by Prada – Gemstone Handbag

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I was reading French Vogue online to look at the French trends in jewelry for Spring 2014.  I saw this inspiration from Prada:

From French Vogue, a gemstone purse

From French Vogue, a gemstone purse

I’m a sucker for bling, and I really like how Prada incorporated the classic style of the purse with the modern twist of the gemstones on the purse.  I decided to try this on a purse that I really like that’s starting to get a little knackered due to frequent use:

This is a purse from Cynthia Rowley.  I got this on clearance at TJ Maxx for $25.00.

This is a purse from Cynthia Rowley. I got this on clearance at TJ Maxx for $25.00.

The purse had the similar crocodile embossing that the Prada purse had, so this was a good base for an inspiration piece.  I then grabbed some emerald-cut lilac rhinestones and a glue gun and started to create.

For the Prada inspiration piece, I used emerald-cut lilac rhinestones that I had since they seemed to "go" with the purse.  I used a hot glue gun to affix the rhinestones.

For the Prada inspiration piece, I used emerald-cut lilac rhinestones that I had since they seemed to “go” with the purse. I used a hot glue gun to affix the rhinestones.

After laying out a design, I affixed the rhinestones on the purse, and my beat-up purse gets a new life.

The finished product

The finished product

A close-up view of the design

A close-up view of the design

Making My Own Chocolate Sauce with Real Ingredients

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Chocolate sauce is awesome! I used to purchase Trader Joe’s Organic Midnight Moo Chocolate Sauce and Ghiardelli Chocolate Sauce since the ingredients are pretty straightforward and real, but they’re a little on the expensive side, and I’m trying to save money.  I could get the less expensive commercial brands to save money, but then I took a look at the list of “yummy” ingredients:

High fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, water, cocoa, sugar, less than 2% of: Potassium sorbate, salt, mono-and-diglycerides, xanthan gum, polysorbate 60, vanillin (artificial)

High fructose corn syrup?!?!?! More corn syrup?!?!? Polysorbate 60?!?!?! I don’t think so!!!!

I really like eating higher quality food, even with my treats.  I reached out to my brother  to get a recipe on chocolate sauce.  Here is what he gave me:

What You Need

What You Need

  • 1 1/2 c filtered water
  • 1 1/2 c sugar (if you want a darker chocolate, reduce this amount)
  • 1 c cocoa powder
  • 1 t vanilla
  • dash salt

1. Combine water, sugar, cocoa and salt together in a saucepan over a low heat

2. Whisk constantly until the mixture thickens and simmers

Whisk, whisk, whisk...

Whisk, whisk, whisk…

3. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla

Add the vanilla and stir

Add the vanilla and stir

4. Cover and refrigerate (or use immediately if you want to use a hot chocolate sauce)

My first use of this sauce is to make my own mocha.  I put in some of the sauce with some milk, and brewed a cup of regular coffee.

Pour in the sauce in the cup and add some milk or milk substitute.  Stir to blend the ingredients.

Pour in the sauce in the cup and add some milk or milk substitute. Stir to blend the ingredients.

Add the coffee and stir again.

Add the coffee and stir again.

Voila! A mocha that cost less than $2.00!

Voila! A mocha that cost less than $2.00!

NOTES

  • I haven’t tried making this with a natural sugar substitute such as stevia and monk fruit (Lo Han Guo).  Once I try that, I’ll post information about it.
  • Since there are no preservatives, this doesn’t keep as long as a commercial brand.  This will keep in your refrigerator for about two weeks.

A Way to Get FREE Lifelong Learning Classes from Elite Universities

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Have you ever wanted to learn about a subject just for fun, but you didn’t want to spend a fortune on tuition? Thanks to MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses), you can take courses from some of the most elite universities in the United States.

MOOCs are a wonderful option for lifelong learners who like to take courses in a variety of subjects for a variety of reasons, including career updates, but they don’t really care about having the college credit.  Be aware that with MOOCs, you don’t earn any college credit.

Below are a few links to universities offering free courses on a variety of subjects, including: computer science, engineering, writing, business, and foreign language.

  • Stanford Engineering Everywhere (Stanford University) – courses aimed primarily at computer science and engineering.  Additional MOOC courses from Stanford University are available here.
  • Berkeley Webcasts (University of California Berkeley) – webcasts of courses offered at Berkeley.
  • MIT Open Courseware (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) – free courses on a variety of subjects offered by MIT
  • iTunes at Duke (Duke University) – published lectures from Duke University
  • Harvard Open Learning Initiative (Harvard University) – free courses on a variety of subjects offered by Harvard
  • Open Yale Courses (Yale University) – free courses on a variety of subjects offered by Yale
  • Open Learning Initiative @ CMU (Carnegie Mellon University) – free courses on a variety of subjects offered by Carnegie Mellon University

I’m signing up for the MIT Spanish language courses, so I’m interested to see what they have to offer.

If you know of any MOOCs or free classes, please share.

Aside

Stylish Way to Cover Up a Stain

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Side Note: I haven’t published in awhile because I was commuting between West Virginia and Florida for work.  Now that I’m back home in FLA, I can start posting regularly again.

As I’ve mentioned in a few posts, I prefer wearing looser-fitting t-shirts when I’m working out or sleeping.  I have this yellow t-shirt that I love because it’s a nice cotton and the color is so mood-lifting.

Original T-Shirt

Love the bright yellow color – really sunny!

However, there’s one slight problem with the shirt…..

Stain on the Shirt

Oops…..

I didn’t really feel like patching, appliqueing, dyeing or repurposing, so I looked through my bag of tricks to see what I can do.  I do like glitz and sparkles, and I have a ton of rhinestones for skating costumes, sooooooo….I decided to make a rhinestone pattern on my shirt.

Rhinestones and fabric glue

Before I began gluing, I laid out my pattern that easily covers the stain.

Pattern layout on the t-shirt

After laying out the pattern, I got ready to glue.  Since I don’t have a nozzle on this glue, I used a trick that I learned from YouTube on easily squirting out glue on rhinestones by making a makeshift “pastry bag” with a plastic bag.  Pour the glue in the bag and nip off a corner.  Then, use like a “pastry bag”.

Glue and bag - Use like a pastry bag

After letting the glue sit for awhile, my t-shirt is ready to go.

The final t-shirt

Voila!

NOTE: Now that I did this with the shirt, I have to remember that this shirt can no longer go in the dryer.  I can hand-wash or wash on the delicate cycle, but I can only hang-dry the shirt.

 

Resources for Learning a New Language on the Cheap

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In the United States, being a polyglot (a $20 word meaning “being able to speak multiple languages”) is a great skill to have, especially if you want to remain competitive in the global marketplace.

Spanish is my first choice for a second language.  I took 2 years of Spanish in school, and I lived in Puerto Rico for a year.  However, when I returned stateside in 1996, I haven’t had a lot of opportunities to speak Spanish.  I can still read and write in Spanish, but I needed to brush up on understanding and speaking Spanish. I’ve spent (too) much money on “listen and learn” Spanish to keep my skills up with being able to understand it when it’s spoken, but there was still something that made it miss the mark.  Most of the “listen and learn” CDs were either mind achingly boring or there was too much English in the lessons, which made it a little difficult for me to think in Spanish.   Although a Berlitz course would work, I didn’t want to spend hundreds of dollars – I’m trying to save money.

My long-term goal is to speak at least 3 languages.  After I get stronger with Spanish, I want to become fluent in French.  Therefore, I need programs that can help me get to that goal without spending loads of money.  I’ve found a few good programs that are free that help me with learning the language in a fun and easy way.

My favorite one is Duolingo  (http://www.duolingo.com).  Duolingo has a number of practical exercises and games to test your understanding as well as teach you the language.  It also has a social media component that allows me to learn and play with others.  For language masters, the social media component allows one to contribute content to ensure its accuracy.  Duolingo can be accessed online, or it can be accessed through the FREE app for smart devices (I have it for my Kindle Fire).  The best part – it’s completely, 100% FREE.  

I also turn to Youtube (http://www.youtube.com) to find Spanish cartoons and broadcasts to help me with understanding the language.  I also stumbled upon a few courses from schools on languages (Dallas ISD has a full Spanish course for their elementary school students), which will come in handy when I need to review the syntax and grammar.

Another great site for free lessons is BBC Languages (http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/).  Aimed primarily at school-aged children, this site contains many video and interactive lessons on a particular language.  I do like this site, but I have to approach it with caution, because there are slight differences between Latin American Spanish (primarily spoken in the United States) and European Spanish.

Another site that I found was Open Culture (http://www.openculture.com/freelanguagelessons), which is a “one-stop shop” of free resources for learning a variety of languages.  This is where I found the link to the BBC Languages site.  It even has resources on learning American Sign Language!

Well, tengo que continuar con mis lecciones.  Hasta lluego!