Thursday, July 11, 2013

Beauty Update

Since my last post on beauty (over two months ago!), I have switched to Crystal deodorant and eliminated all commercial facial cleansers and products. Unfortunately, I have not stopped using shampoo, conditioner, or styling products, although I still swear by my sulfate-free commercial brand. I found out that vinegar changes or fades colored hair and coloring my hair is just not something that I am willing to give up, so I'm still using commercial products.

The Crystal deodorant is working surprisingly well. I'm generally a sweaty person anyway and no anti-perspirant really made much of a difference, although I guess that I could tell if I wasn't wearing any. I just never felt fresh all day. In my opinion, the Crystal deodorant is as effective as any anti-perspirant/deodorant combination that I've tried, but keep in my that I didn't find them extremely effective anyway. After I started using this product, I found Soapwalla Deodorant Cream and  Primal Pit Paste which I am intrigued with since it now comes in a stick. I plan on giving these a shot in the near future and doing a comparison post. I'm already betting that I'll never use antiperspirant again!

Using coconut oil for facial cleanser took more trial and error. I began by using coconut oil every day. I immediately noticed a difference in my coloring, all of the red undertones were fading and my face was becoming a peachier color. I loved it.  As time went on, my face began to naturally balance and I noticed that the daily coconut oil washes were just too much. I took them back to every two days, then every three days, until I finally got down to once a week. That made me feel kind of dirty, though, so I began incorporating witch hazel into my routine. That stuff is magic! I use it nightly (or in the morning if I forget) as a toner and then my once a week coconut washes are plenty. My complexion is good and much better than it has been in the past.

My coworker also switched her cleanser to coconut oil. She loves it. She still washes with it daily and didn't find a need to incorporate witch hazel. We are definitely perfect examples of finding your own skin's natural balance. Her only complaint is getting "coconut oil eye" (when the oil is too melty and runs into your eye) at least weekly, but even that is manageable!

Overall changing my beauty routine to include more natural products has been incredibly positive. I imagined writing these reviews a couple of months ago and always pictured that I would write how these products were a disappointment and allover failure. I'm so happy that our earth has come through again.  If you don't already I challenge everyone to give it a shot! 

If anyone else has a success story with these or other natural products, I'd love to hear it!
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Monday, July 1, 2013

POW!erful Detergent (amazing homemade laundry detergent)

Laundry detergent has been one of those things that bothered me after we started switching over to organic and a more natural lifestyle, but not enough to make any changes. The thing is, I have two messy boys and my preferred products worked for us. I was always hesitant to change. I'm not sure exactly what my fear was, but I definitely had one and laundry detergent was nonnegotiable in my opinion.

Then one day, for no reason that I can pinpoint, the detergent that I've used since I began doing my own laundry started fading and bleeding the colors from our clothes. I tried to ignore it, but the problem continued and I decided to make a change. With the recommendation of a close friend, I decided to use her brand. I was actually excited for the change and fully embraced the new products. This isn't so bad, it's just detergent...right?

I gave it over a month. I felt exactly like I did when I realized my favorite and go to detergent was slowly ruining our clothes. It just wasn't working. Sure, it wasn't fading or destroying our clothes (thank goodness), but it wasn't cleaning them either. I would have to run numerous cycles to remove any strong odors (chlorine is the worst!) and it never seemed to even touch stains. I felt let down. I was lost. My awesome detergent was now unreliable and I just didn't know if there is a suitable replacement out there.

I realized that now is the time to make a change. I'm pretty stringent (obviously) about the level of clean for our clothing, so I knew that I didn't want something super natural and mild, but I'm not impressed with any of the commercial brands out there. It was time to make my own laundry detergent. I was excited and apprehensive, but I searched until I found a recipe and then I took the plunge.

Surprising even myself, I chose a powdered detergent. I've used liquid for as long as I can remember, but I just found so many positive reviews for the homemade powdered version and when I really thought about it, I couldn't even tell you why I prefer liquid. Powdered it is, then. Now I just needed to find a concoction that I thought would work for us.

I quickly noticed that Borax, washing soda, baking soda, and laundry bar soap were the core ingredients. Of course, my detergent would have to include all of these.  Here's why:

Borax - actually sodium biborate, a natural mineral compound. It has powers that can clean, and bleach, by converting some water molecules into hydrogen peroxide, and because of the boron, salt, and oxygen, it is able to disinfect. We are cold water washers, but Borax is most effective in hotter water.

Arm & Hammer Washing Soda - this stuff is almost magical, the powers that it has! "The high alkalinity of washing soda helps it act as a solvent to remove a range of stains, and unlike bleach, washing soda does not usually stain. It is also used in detergent mixtures to treat hard water; the washing soda binds to the minerals which make water hard, allowing detergent to foam properly so that clothing will come out clean without any residue. Sodium carbonate is also used by some textile artists, since it helps dyes adhere to fabric, resulting in deeper penetration and a longer lasting color." If you have hard water, this is just another reason to make your own laundry detergent.

Baking Soda - a household superhero. Most families use baking soda in baking and to remove odors, but it's cleaning powers are amazing, as well.  It can do everything from dissolving grease to softening clothes. It also works to remove stains, such as perspiration (I've heard that homemade detergent is great for runners and this is probably why), remove odors (another must for runners or swimmers), softens fabric, and is a bleaching agent that won't harm clothes. Another positive for hard water homes as it helps to prevent the stain buildup that comes with having hard water. Most people use Arm & Hammer for their detergent, but we chose Bob's Red Mill due to their chemical free extraction process.

Laundry Bar Soap - different kinds have different powers. Some are amazing stain removers while others give a cleaner and softer feel. The two most popular are Fels-Naptha and Zote. I found that there seemed to be strong opinions on both sides about which one is truly the best and I just couldn't make up my mind. Did I want the stain removal powers of Fels-Naptha or the cleaning and softening powers of Zote? They were even located in two different sections in the laundry aisle - Fels-Naptha with the stain removers and Zote with the detergents. Then a lightbulb - why not use both? All recipes require more than one bar, so couldn't I mix them? I couldn't find anyone before me that used a mixture of both, so I purchased both and prayed that my washing machine wouldn't explode.

Now that I had the basic requirements, I set out to make it work for us.  I noticed that some people use OxyClean, which I have used quite a bit of in the past. I currently have Legacy of Clean Tri-Zyme on hand, which is pretty much the same thing, so I used that. I'm sure that I will switch to OxyClean once I run out since it's much easier to attain. With my dirty little guys, I know that I will need all of the stain fighting and detergent boosting powers possible and felt that this product provided that.

I also added doTERRA Wild Orange Oil. I've been looking into incorporating essential oils into our lives and thought that this was the perfect first step to do so. The oil is light and adds a nice citrusy scent to our clothes.


POW!erful Detergent Team
1 (4 lb. 12 oz.) box of Borax (we used 20 mule team) ($3.38 at Wal-Mart)
1 (3 lb. 7 oz.) box of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda ($3.24 at Wal-Mart)
1 (3 lb.) container of OxyClean ($7.52 at Wal-Mart.com)
2 (5.5 oz.) bars of Fels-Naptha (97 cents each at Wal-Mart)
1 (14.1 oz.) bar of Zote (97 cents at Wal-Mart)
5 lbs. Baking Soda (Bob's Red Mill or any other brand) (4 lbs. $9.30 on Amazon)
25 drops doTERRA Wild Orange essential oil ($11.55 on Amazon)

Using a cheese grater, grate the 3 bars of laundry soap.  I was terrified of this step. Almost every homemade laundry detergent guide complains about this step. I don't know what I was expecting, but it wasn't bad at all and took less than 10 minutes. Easy, peasy, people!


Take the grated soap and about 1 lb. of the baking soda and process into a powder using a food processor, blender, or other similar appliance. I found the Ninja worked perfectly. I mixed in the baking soda to keep the grated soap from clumping and to it really worked. It was much easier to process into a powder with the baking soda mixed in.


Combine the now powdered soap mixture with the remaining ingredients, with the exception of the essential oil. I know a lot of people use a 2 gallon bucket, but I just used a huge stock pot. I also know that a lot of people like to mix it outside since all of the fine powders create a dust. I did not, but I plan to take their advice next time! A portion of my kitchen was definitely coated with a some dust. And this stuff isn't the easiest to mix, and it gets a bit messy, it's better to be outside than inside.

Separate about 5 - 6 cups of the detergent. In the separated detergent add the 25 drops of essential oil. The oil will clump a bit, but just continue working it into the detergent and the clumps should separate. Once the essential oil is thoroughly mixed, blend separated detergent and essential oil mixture into the large portion of detergent. Make sure that this is well blended. That's it! You know have a huge batch of homemade laundry detergent that should hopefully last at least six months. I firmly believe that the mix of the laundry bars is the unique blend that makes this detergent so POW!erful.


Fels-Naptha is yellow and Zote is pink. The combination is pretty and looks a little bit like cotton candy to me!

To use the detergent dissolve 1 - 3 tablespoons (depending on how soiled the clothes are) in the water before adding the clothes. For front loading washers about 2 tablespoons of detergent with 2 tablespoons of hot water before adding to the dispenser.

Here are the labels that I used on my container. I also made smaller labels for gifts.

Enjoy! And let me know how it works for you!

Information source
Detergent adapted from askannamoseley.com
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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Homemade marshmallows

My first plate of homemade marshmallows
I haven't posted lately because I just feel uninspired about food right now.  Our dinners have become a dull rotation and our lunches have been there for quite some time.  Whenever I feel that I have an awesome idea or recipe to mix things up, my family isn't game, turning up their noses and asking for cheeseburgers or pizza.

I'm so frustrated because this is the time of the year that I get most excited about food.  Everything is so fresh and tastes amazing.  I love seeing the vibrant colors on our plates and the thrill of buying in season locally.  Our garden is still looking great and it's in our schedule to stake our tomatoes this weekend.  I should be thrilled about food right now, but I'm just not.  We are in a rut of bland.

Here's my confession - I actually sent hot dogs, cheddar cheese, and ketchup in the boys lunches this week. I honestly felt like I was serving them cigarettes and whiskey, I felt so guilty.  I just didn't have it in me to send yet another peanut butter and jelly.  Any suggestions to help with this rut are greatly appreciated!

Still feeling the guilt, I mixed it up the following day with tortillas filled with peanut butter and sliced bananas.  I am assuming that they went over well, or the sitter's dog really liked them, because they didn't come back in their lunchboxes.  Today I made an effort again by sending what I called "deconstructed s'mores".  I chopped up some homemade marshmallows and mixed them with Back to Nature Honey Graham Sticks and organic chocolate chips.  Although I haven't gotten any feedback yet, I know that William will be very excited when he sees chocolate AND marshmallows.

Marshmallows are so easy to make if you have an electric mixer.  And they are so much better than the store bought.  Just another way that I avoid HFCS (the devil).  Here is my no fail recipe.  Enjoy!

Homemade Marshmallows

Makes 24

Ingredients:
Vegetable oil, for brushing
4 envelopes unflavored gelatin (3 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons)
3 cups granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar

Directions:
1.  Brush a 9 x 13 inch glass pan with oil.  Line with parchment, allowing a 2-inch overhang over the sides.  Brush parchment with oil.  Set aside.
2.  Put granulated sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 3/4 cup water into a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar.  Cook, without stirring, until mixture registers 238 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 9 minutes.
3.  Meanwhile, put 3/4 cup cold water into a bowl of an electric mixer.  Sprinkle with gelatin.  Let soften 5 minutes.
4.  Attach bowl with gelatin to mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  With mixture on low speed, beat hot syrup into gelatin mixture.  Gradually raise speed to high; beat until mixture is very stiff, about 12 minutes.  Beat in vanilla.  Pour into prepared dish and smooth with an offset spatula.  Set aside, uncovered, until firm, about 3 hours.
5.  Sift 1 cup confectioners sugar onto a work surface.  Unmold marshmallows onto the work surface.  Remove parchment.  Lightly brush sharp knife with powdered sugar then cut marshmallows into 2-inch squares.  Sift remaining 1/2 cup confectioners sugar into a small bowl and roll each marshmallow into sugar to coat.  Marshmallows can be stored in an airtight container up to 3 days.

Original recipe adapted from marthastewart.com.
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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Homemade popsicles

It finally feels like summer has arrived in Ohio. I love this weather. I look forward to it every year and can't wait until I can comfortably wear maxi dresses, flip flops, and unwind on our balcony. I took a leap of faith this week and switched out all of the boys winter clothes to summer. Jason even installed one of the window air conditioning units. Summer is on it's way and I refuse to believe differently.

Last weekend we worked in our yard trying to clean it up and make it a suitable play area for the boys. We finally set up our sandbox and added a slide, in addition to the regular maintenance of mowing the lawn, pulling weeds, etc. Now we can let them loose for some fun.

Days like this always give me a craving for something sweet and cold. Ice cream is usually my go to, but since it's an after dinner treat, I wanted to avoid a bedtime sugar rush. I felt like I found the perfect solution when I stumbled upon some adorable monster popsicle molds - homemade popsicles.

 

Like smoothies, this isn't really a recipe. Whatever you have on hand that tastes good together is the recipe. The popsicles pictured are made with almond milk, banana, frozen berries, mango juice, smoothie packet, and chia seeds. Everything blended together in the Ninja, then pour into the molds, and freeze. Both boys devoured them.  The next night they asked for another.  

Besides these popsicles having tons of nutritional value, the best part is that we didn't notice a sugar rush before bed. They easily went through our nighttime routine and off to sleep.

Popsicle molds are Monster popsicle molds by Joie. I found these at TJ Maxx for $5.99. They do not indicate on the box if they are BPA free, so I contacted customer service and was informed that they are BPA free. Initially, I was a little worried about Collin handling it, but these are wonderful for little hands. I love these, my boys love these, they're so cute and fun! This is my opinion and I have not been compensated by Joie or any of it's affiliates.
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Monday, May 20, 2013

Fail!

I'm currently testing my green thumb with two big projects (well, big for me) - my avocado seeds and my container garden.  Neither prospects are looking very promising right now.

The avocado seeds did not sprout as planned.  One looks like it's half rotten, another shriveled up, and the third actually looks good, but I just realized that it's been sitting in the water upside down for weeks.  I really doubt that it will sprout.  Maybe we'll try again with some new seeds soon.

The garden was actually doing quite well.  That is, until the neighbor cats started using it as a litter box.  In an effort to deter them, I've place some crinkled aluminum foil in the soil.  Fingers crossed that it works!  With both things happening at the same time, I'm losing any faith that I previously had to overcome my lack of a green thumb.

William is way more dedicated and optimistic than me, though.  He dutifully waters the garden every chance he gets.  He refers to it as "my plants" and loves them as such.  He keeps me going and realizing that regardless of the outcome, it's fun to work together and spend time together on these projects.  That said, I would love for him to see these plants that he loves so much turn into vegetables that he has grown.  I hope that our crop does not disappointment him this year.
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Friday, May 17, 2013

Happy Food Revolution Day!


Food Revolution Day…have you heard of it?  It’s an amazing cause and a great reason to celebrate (and enjoy delicious food) with friends and family.  And it's happening TODAY!

What?
Food Revolution Day was created by Jamie Oliver (aka the Naked Chef and my food hero).  It’s a day for people to take action and make a stand for good food and essential cooking skills.  It’s a opportunity for people to gather within their homes, schools, businesses, and communities to cook and share kitchen skills, food knowledge, and resources.  This day aims to raise awareness about the importance of good food and increased food education for everyone by focusing on three simple actions – cook it, share it, live it.
The first Food Revolution Day took place on May 19, 2012 with more than 1,000 events in 664 cities across 62 countries. 

Who?
Food Revolution Day is celebrated globally as an individual, or within schools, business, or organizations that want to take part in hosting or attending activities in their area.  Many of these activities can be organized by voluntary Food Revolution ambassadors who play a leadership role across the work in connecting individuals, schools, businesses, and organizations at a local level.

Why?
Cooking skills that were previously passed down from generation to generation, are now lacking in millions of people.  We need to get back to the basics by cooking and eating fresh local produce, sharing cooking skills and food knowledge, and joining forces within our communities to get as many people involved as possible.  Food Revolution Day is our opportunity to get the world to focus on the importance of good food and essential cooking skills, by rallying our efforts to empower people with better cooking skills and inspiring them to cook fresh from scratch.

Where?
Food Revolution Day will happen in kitchens of homes and communities around the world inspiring people to take steps towards a healthier lifestyle.

How?

Now go and enjoy Food Revolution Day.  Make a difference because this matters.

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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Natural beauty

Since I've been working toward an organic, natural lifestyle, I have done my best to research my decisions.  With every little piece of information that I seek, I am flooded with realizations about things that were not even on my radar.  The latest is beauty products.

As early as my teenage years I heard about animal testing and disgusting additives, but I always associated it with makeup, and I wear little to none on a daily basis.  Shampoo, face wash, soap, etc. never even crossed my mind.  To me these were necessities for cleanliness, not a function of beauty.  Now I realize that these things are full of toxins and dangers which can be quickly absorbed by your skin.

Recently deodorant came up in discussion.  My friend Leslie posted this article regarding the effects.  It caught my attention since it stated a huge increase in breast cancer and that is very close to home.  Sorry to get personal, but I am not a person that can go without.  I heard of someone using baby powder and found it quite laughable.  I don't think that I could make it from our bathroom to our bedroom without it wearing off, forget about all day.  I became frustrated because it is such a necessity for me and decided to ask her what she used instead.  Of course she is one of those people that doesn't need deodorant, but one of her friends recommended Crystal.  I ordered a stick and will give it a shot tomorrow.

Next up is eliminating my facial skin care regimen.  This is another tricky area for me.  I am prone to acne and general bad skin.  It's not overly sensitive, but I've had reactions to certain brands of face wash.  I plan to use coconut oil as my wash and witch hazel as an astringent, if needed.  My coworker, Allison, recently switched to washing with coconut oil and loves it.  My sister, Jamie, has been using coconut oil instead of lotion and also raves about it.  I'm excited to give it a try!

One small step that I've already made is eliminating sulfates in my shampoo.  I've done that for years and now it doesn't feel like a big enough step.  I'd love to go to no poo or homemade shampoo.  Please share any methods or experiences with no poo or homemade shampoo.  Any methods that have worked (or not worked) for anyone would be greatly appreciated.

Here's to natural beauty!
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