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Monday, November 11, 2013

Whole30: Salmon Cakes

Most of you know that last Monday (11/4/13), JR and I started a Whole30.  If you haven't heard of this or ever done one, I urge you to read up about it and give it a whirl.  It's 30 days of no sugar, no alcohol, nothing processed, no legumes, no dairy, no grains (of any kind, including seeds like quinoa that mimic grains), and no soy.  Yes, I realize that soy IS a legume, but because it is in nearly EVERYTHING in the aisles of the grocery store, it needs to be mentioned in its own category. If 30 days of this sounds impossible to you, then you most definitely need to do this.  After all, it's only 30 days!  (Trust me when I say that if you--for instance--get seven days into this and try one tiny Reese's peanut butter cup, you'll want to continue with the Whole30 way of eating past the 30 days...not that this happened to me...this morning...)

Anyway, I've made lovely, wonderful, REAL food for a week now!  Thus far, our two favorite things have been some Mexican oven-braised beef short ribs and some salmon cakes.  In this post, I'm going to show you the salmon cakes!  Mmmmm--seriously, go get the things for it right now and make them tonight.  I made a bunch last night to freeze, just so I can have them whenever I want!

I found the original recipe on Everyday Maven, and though it is wonderfully Whole30 compliant as is, I tweaked it a little (solely because of the flavors I was wanting at the time--I'm going to try the original recipe next time!).  So here it is!

Whole30/Paleo Salmon Cakes

1 can (14.75oz) wild-caught salmon (I get the kind with bones and skin...pick out the few bones, leave in the skin)
1 cup cooked, mashed sweet potato
1 large egg
1/2 cup almond meal (you can use almond flour if you want--I only have almond meal in the house at the moment)
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley (or 2 tsp dried)
2 Tbsp minced fresh dill (or 2 tsp dried)
2 scallions, white and green parts, sliced thin
2 Tbsp minced shallot
1 tsp hot sauce
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt (pink Himalayan sea salt FTW!)
1/4 tsp pepper
2 Tbsp liquid fat*

* I list "liquid fat" because I'm leaving it up to you as to which fat you use.  Olive oil, coconut oil, ghee, clarified butter...these are all great choices.

1.  Preheat the oven to 425.  Put parchment paper on a baking sheet and set aside.

2.  Drain salmon and crumble fish into a large bowl.  Add all ingredients except for the liquid fat and mix until well-combined.  Chill 5-10 minutes.

3.  Brush parchment paper with liquid fat.  Using a 1/3 C measuring cup, fill and gently pack with salmon mixture.  Drop onto the parchment paper (I had to whack my cup on the baking sheet and it plopped right out).  Cakes will be about 2.5" wide and 1" thick (or thereabouts).

4.  Bake for 20 minutes, flip salmon cakes, and bake another 10 minutes.

I served these over a salad with a Paleo Ranch dressing (I actually made it up as I went along, but then found an almost identical recipe the next day!).  If you want to make the dressing, it is as follows:

3-ish Tbsp Paleo mayo (if you don't want to pay upwards of $7 for a jar of it, make your own for a couple bucks--it's one egg, some lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and dry mustard)
1 Tbsp almond milk (it goes without saying that you shouldn't be using a sweetened or vanilla form of almond milk for a Ranch dressing...)
salt and pepper
garlic powder
onion powder

Don't go overboard with the seasoning amounts.  In that small of a wet amount, we're talking a pinch or two of each.  Put everything in a bowl and stir.  That's it. 

Have fun and happy Whole30-ing!

You can't tell from the picture, but Dr. Habib ate three of these suckers for his dinner and was a VERY happy camper!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Why This is of Utmost Importance!

I have been asked by quite a few people why I'm doing this.

"Why are you making everything at home?"
"Are you going all granola?"
"Why does it matter what's in this stuff?"
"If it was bad for you, they wouldn't be able to sell it, so why should I be worried?"

To quickly answer these questions...
1.  Because I control what goes into everything (and it's way cheaper).
2.  No, taking poisons out of the house is not considered "going all granola..." It's considered being safe.
3.  It matters because if it's in the air, you're breathing it; if it's on surfaces, you're touching (or eating) it; and if it's on your skin, you're constantly absorbing it into your body.
4.  Yes, companies are still able to sell dangerous products to you...there is nothing illegal about that.  Not only do they sell you the poisons, but they tell you that you NEED them in order to be healthy.  FAIL!

Let's look at a quick rundown of a couple products...

TOOTHPASTE!  This has to be safe, right?  I mean, it goes in your mouth.  Of course we're all ignoring the fact that toothpaste has a disclaimer on the package that says to contact poison control if swallowed...but whatever.  

The first dangerous ingredient found in toothpaste is sodium fluoride.  I can find hundreds of "granola" websites that will tell you all about the dangers of NaF...but because the larger percentage of my audience isn't of the "hippie" persuasion, I'll use a commonly visited website for this information: livestrong.  Let's look past the fact that sodium fluoride is one of the main ingredients in rat poison and was used by the Nazis to sterilize prisoners, and look at THIS LINK.  We see three sections: toothpaste, water treatment, and industrial uses.  Sure, we can extol the dental benefits and talk about water...both things that, at some point, are in YOUR MOUTH.  Now, let's look at the first sentence of the "industrial uses" section: 

Because sodium fluoride is poisonous it is commonly used in pesticides, including fungicides and insecticides.

Um...why are we brushing our teeth with something commonly used in products that were specifically developed to KILL things?  Yes, NaF is used in a much higher concentration in those products; however, you are putting it into your body multiple times a day, and at this point, probably hoping that your kidneys and liver will just "take care of it."  Oh, and did I mention that it's a key component in sarin nerve gas? do the math.

Next fun product?  FD&C Blue Dye 1 and 2Here is a chemical information sheet on these.  Food coloring...vegetable dye...not considered hazardous...scroll down to the first aid precautions.  Here are the guidelines for ingestion:

Call Poison Control immediately. Rinse mouth with cold water. Give victim 1-2 cups of water or milk to drink.
Induce vomiting immediately. 
And yet we eat it in many things daily, it's in our toothpaste, and it's even used to dye know, so they look like they're "fresh and in season," when they really aren't.   These dyes are made from step above crude oil (and in fact, were originally made from coal tar).  They have been known to cause asthma attacks, nausea, headaches, fatigue, nervousness, lack of concentration, and cancer.  But hey, if you're okay with those, keep on with the dye!
The next ingredient of toothpaste is sodium lauryl sulfate.  Sounds all natural, right?  Right.   Aha!  We've all seen the increasing popularity of sulfate-free shampoo lately, yes?  It is a surfactant (foaming agent) that is used to disperse ingredients and make your toothpaste all foamy and bubbly.  SLS has been linked to cancer, neurotoxicity, organ toxicity, skin irritation, and endocrine disruption...and those are the "safer" problems.  In fact, when researchers are in testing phases of body products, they use SLS to irritate the skin before trying out their product on it.  Enough said.

 ANTIPERSPIRANT!  This is something that virtually everyone in western cultures starts wearing around the onset of puberty.  Why so young?  Because when puberty hits, the sebaceous glands go batty producing oil and sweat.  That combined with the bacteria on the skin (and let's face it: 12-year olds aren't the best at personal hygiene) makes so a 6th-7th grade classroom smells like a whole bunch of dirty butt, feet, and a little skunk spray mixed in.  Enter: antiperspirant.  You rub it all over your armpits and suddenly, VOILA!  Your pits are dry and not of the stink.  But how does it work?  Well, for the most part, your putting aluminum in your skin, which is plugging up the sweat glands and pores.  

Now here's the deal on the aluminum: the stance of researchers and safety personnel seems to be "let's wait and see."  It shouldn't be hard to decide...aluminum doesn't belong in pore- and gland-clogging areas.  

Parabens--disrupt hormones.

Propylene Glycol--made from petroleum oil...that was discussed up under blue dye.

Triclosan--well, the FDA classifies this as a pesticide...need I say more?

Butylated Hydroxytoluene--causes hyperactivity in children and is considered a carcinogen.  It has been linked to biochemical cellular-level damage.  The Skin Deep site ranks it as a high toxic hazard.  So...we're using this...why again?

So really, LOOK at your product labels!  Look up every single ingredient.  If it touches your skin at any point, it is being sucked into your body.  Next week I'll do another post about shampoo and laundry detergent...YEP!  They're equally (if not more) scary!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Toothpaste's been awhile!  I'm trying to find more things to replace in the house with natural alternatives--and I'm at a bit of a standstill because I've replaced all of the major products and most of the minor products in our house already!  (So, YAY and boo at the same time LOL!)  That being said, if you have an ideas of things to try, things you have tried and like, or things that you want to replaces but don't know how to go about it, leave it in the comments so I can try to figure something out!

On to today's item: TOOTHPASTE!

What this is: a natural toothpaste that is close to commercial toothpaste consistency, that whitens your teeth without using chemical abrasives and detergents (yes, you read that correctly--your commercial toothpaste has DETERGENT in it).

What this isn't: a super-sweet identical replacement for your current commercial toothpaste.  It is somewhat sweet, but it's also incredibly salty because of the baking soda.  It took me about 10 seconds to get used to the salty flavor...but whatever.  You're brushing your teeth with it--not eating it LOL!

So what do you need?

6 Tbsp organic unrefined virgin coconut oil
6 Tbsp baking soda
Around 1 tsp of stevia
Around 20-30 drops peppermint essential oil
Around 10-15 drops eucalyptus essential oil

Put the coconut oil into a bowl and whip it on a medium speed until fluffy (when you whip coconut oil, it turns into the consistency of a fluffy body butter--as a side note, if you do this and keep it temperature stable, you can use just this part as lotion).  Once fluffy, add in the baking soda and stevia.  Mix until just combined.  Now add the oils and mix one more time until blended.  Put it in a container and use it to brush your teeth!

As a side note, whip the coconut oil as little as needed--if you go to long, it will turn into liquid oil.  Of course if it does, stick it in the fridge for 20-30 minutes and it will turn solid again.  I put ours in some old baby food jars, which are the perfect size!

Sorry, there's no way to take a great-looking picture of two jars of white fluff LOL!

Have fun and happy brushing!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Baby Wipes

After poring over no fewer than 20 different "recipes" for homemade baby wipes, I decided to just combine the best aspects of a few recipes and make up my own!  Here is what I came up with:

What you'll need:
1 Tbsp olive oil (or melted coconut oil, grape seed oil, or almond oil)
1 Tbsp baby wash (whatever kind you use--pictured here is California Baby Lavender and Tea Tree Oil shampoo and body wash)
1.5-ish C warm water
Tea Tree Oil
Lavender Oil
Select-a-Size type paper towels
Container to fit 1/2 the height of the roll of paper towels (pictured here is ClickClack 3.5 qt container from Target--$14.92)

First, let me explain just a few things about the ingredients.  The essential oils are technically optional; however, USE THEM.  If you can only use one of them, use tea tree oil.  The tea tree oil will keep away any mold that could potentially grow in the container.  The container is a very humid environment--mold's favorite place to grow.  In most baby wipes that you buy, the mold is kept away from the alcohol they put in the wipes...but we don't want to use alcohol, so we use tea tree oil instead.  It is naturally an antiseptic, an anti-fungal, and infection-reducing.  That means that it will also help with diaper rash (getting it to go away AND keeping it away), eczema, and any sort of skin inflammation.  Lavender oil shares some of those same properties (and it just smells good!).  It is an antiseptic, an analgesic (pain killer), and a cicatrizant (promotes healing through scar tissue), among other things.  That means lavender oil can help with eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis, scabies, and myriad other skin problems.

As for paper towels, pick whatever brand you want to...but make sure they're the "select-a-size" type.  Here is what I know about paper towels: much like toilet paper and cheese, YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR.  I paid less than $1.50 for the pictured roll of Viva paper towels.  However many towels the package says it has, you'll be getting twice that many wipes...just make sure that unless you have a wide container, you don't want one of the double rolls.  

So how do you make them?

Get out your cutting board and a sharp knife!  Some recipes said to make sure you use a serrated knife, but I had no problem with a flat-edged knife.  It just needs to be sharp.  Lay the roll of towels on their side.  Now saw away until you're all the way through.  Now you have something that looks similar to two rolls of toilet paper.

In a glass measuring cup that holds at least two cups, add 1.5 cups of warm/hot water.  Add in the baby wash and oil.  For the essential oils, I used about 10-12 shakes of the tea tree oil and 15 or so shakes of the lavender oil.  It'll look really pretty like this:
At this point, I put the liquid into another container with a tight fitting lid, and shook it around to mix the oils up a bit.  In retrospect, I would probably add all of the oils, shake it up, and THEN add the body wash.  It got a little foamy!  Oh well.

Put one half of the paper towel roll into the container, cut side down.  Pour the liquid over the towels slowly.  I tried to get a good amount around the center and the edges so it could soak in from both sides.  If your towels are still really dry, feel free to add a little more water.  It'll look like this:
That yellowing is the olive oil.  See how the cardboard tube is pulling away?  Once it's pretty wet, you can pull it out of the center.  The towel that is attached to the tube can be pulled out of the middle.  This is where you'll pull the wipes from.  Now put the lid on and let them continue to soak for awhile.
I used these today and they work wonderfully!  The only thing I would change is that I would add maybe an extra 1/2 C warm water at the end.  I like my wipes a little more wet than these were--you know, for the demon adorable poops that come out of the toddler.

Have fun and happy wiping!


Wednesday, July 31, 2013


I've only put one food item on this blog so far, but these pancakes were good enough that I decided to post the recipe.  I found the recipe on Pinterest a month or so ago and wrote it down so I could make them.  I lost the recipe and just found it this I decided to make them.  Unfortunately, I didn't save it on my recipe board, so I can't give credit to the person who originally posted it.  Whoever you are, these are DELICIOUS!

3/4 C. milk
2 Tbsp. white vinegar
1 C. flour (I used a mixture of different whole wheat flours--regular, pastry, white whole wheat)
2-3 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg
2 Tbsp. melted butter
1 tsp. vanilla

Pour the 2 Tbsp of white vinegar into a measuring cup and add milk until it reaches the 3/4 C. line.  Give it a quick stir and let it set for 10 minutes.  In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients.  In a small bowl, whisk together milk, egg, vanilla, and butter.  Pour wet into dry and whisk until most lumps are gone.


Heat a skillet on medium heat.  I used coconut oil in the pan, but you can use whatever oil you want to.  Coconut oil gives the pancakes a slightly sweet crunch to the edges.  The batter will be thick--I dropped just shy of 1/3 C. at a time.  The pancakes don't really get the same "bubbles" as regular know, the ones that let you know it's time to flip the pancakes over.  I cooked them for about 2 minutes on the first side and 1 minute on the second side...but it'll vary by how hot your pan is.

Now...EAT THEM!  I had mine with just a little butter and some blueberries.  Isak ate his dry with blueberries, blackberries, and sliced banana.  I'm sure they'll taste good with syrup--but I'm not really a syrup person LOL!

Have fun and happy cooking!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Shower Cleaning Spray

There are loads of products on the market that claim to do everything from eliminate soap scum to babysit your children make your bathroom sparkle.  None of them really work all that well, at least in my experience--and all of them have such a strong chemical clean smell that they leave me with a headache and sniffles.  I've looked all over for different homemade recipes, and finally found one that works.  Unfortunately, I don't have a really gross "before" picture to show you how well this stuff works (we have one of those dish wands filled with Dawn and vinegar in the shower that I do a quick scrub down with every it never gets REALLY bad...but the soap scum still eventually builds up).  But you'll get the idea with what I have.  

So what will you need?
Dawn (the original blue stuff)

The recipe is a 1:1 ratio, so equal parts of vinegar and Dawn.  Here is the important part--you want the vinegar to be hot.  I put it in a glass Pyrex measuring cup and microwaved it for two minutes.  If you use smaller amounts, you might not need to heat it that long.  I used a cup of each, in order to spray down the whole shower.  Put the hot vinegar and Dawn in a spray bottle and flip it over a few times to mix it without shaking it too much.

 Now spray it all over the shower (or the area of the shower that you want to clean).  It won't run all that much, so you want to saturate the soap scum areas (otherwise when you wipe it down, you'll have clean areas where the gel was and soap scum surrounding it).

Okay, so I forgot to take out my hair and body stuff when I sprayed it down.  Don't do that.  It's annoying to clean up.  This part of the shower didn't have a whole lot of soap scum on the walls, so they aren't saturated as much as, say, the area under the products where all of the soap and junk collects.  Once you spray down the shower, leave it alone for two hours (or longer if you have really stubborn yuckiness).  After that time, get a sponge wet in warm water and wipe everything down.  Most of it was just gentle wiping and everything came off--there were a couple parts where I had to scrub.  Regardless, it all came off!  After wiping it down, spray it with your shower head (or if it doesn't reach, just get a bucket and dump water on it to finish rinsing it).

Voila!  All clean!  It's somewhat time consuming, but if you figure that the majority of the time was taken up with Isak napping and me watching SVU while doing laundry, it doesn't really matter, right?  Now I need to find out if this works on shower liners.  No amount of cleaning seems to work on the liner curtain!

Have fun and happy de-scumming!


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Summer Rolls

I don't know about you, but Vietnamese summer rolls are one of my favorite things to eat...all year long.  There is something so refreshing about biting into a summer roll, especially when it has just been made.  One of my favorite parts is dipping it in copious amounts of peanut sauce; however, JR is allergic to I don't make the sauce at home, I just have it at restaurants.

I was amazed to find out how easy these are to make.  Honestly, the hardest part is figuring out how long to soak the rice wraps before using them.  You can put basically whatever you want into the rolls.  Some things would be harder to wrap than others, so use your good judgment when deciding what to use.

What did I use?
Butter lettuce leaves (I used the living lettuce--I LOVE it!)
Cooked vermicelli noodles
Shredded carrots
Chopped green onions
Mint leaves (these give it the traditional summer roll taste, so don't leave them out!)
Cooked shrimp (cut in half as shown)
Rice wrappers

You'll want to cut all the vegetables first and put them in separate containers.  It's MUCH easier this way.  Although I say you can pick whatever you want to put in them, there are a few staples: mint (trust me, if you've had a summer roll before, this is what you taste), cooked vermicelli (noodles will make up about 1/2 of the contents, give or take), and lettuce leaves (this is important in order to keep vegetables from tearing the rice wrap).

Put a couple inches of water in large bowl or pie plate.  Only soak ONE wrap at a time.  Just make sure all of the wrap gets wet, soak it 10-15 seconds, and pull it out.  Do not wait until the wrap is totally pliable to pull it out of the water--it will be impossible to use.  When it comes out of the water, it will still be mostly stiff.  Don't worry, it'll continue to soften.  At this point, put it on a damp towel/paper towel/whatever on a cutting board or hard surface.

Pile your stuff on the wrap about 2-2.5 inches from the bottom of the wrap.  Lettuce on bottom, then noodles, then veggies.  Fold the bottom over the vegetables, then fold each side over snugly (think: like wrapping a'll still have a relatively wide middle part of the wrap to deal with).  Fold the vegetable part over once.  At this point I placed (right next to the filled part) a mint leaf, a shrimp half, and another mint leaf.  Then roll the rest of it up (just like a burrito).  If you want to make them vegetarian, you can put anything in other than shrimp--tofu, a peach slice, a spare tire, whatever.

This is what the finished product looks like.  It's not beautiful, but it is incredibly delicious!

Have fun and happy rolling!


Monday, May 13, 2013

Lip Balm

JR and I both love Burt's Bees lip balm...but at $4 a tube, it starts to get expensive (as does any brand of organic lip balm).  I've been reading through multiple recipes of lip balm, but the problem with most of them is that they require a handful of products that I don't regularly keep around the house.  Part of the whole point of this is being able to make my products with things that many people would somewhat regularly have.  There were two components of the recipe that I didn't have; however, the expense for them was negligible. 

So what do you need?
8 Tbsp organic unrefined virgin coconut oil (if you get refined or non-organic, it'll work fine--you just don't preserve the full health properties of the oil)

3 Tbsp Beeswax Granules or Pearls (white or yellow, doesn't matter)

1.5 Tbsp raw honey

30-50 drops of essential oil (optional)

20-30 lip balm containers

Put the beeswax, honey, and coconut oil in the top of a double boiler.  I just put it in one of my Pyrex glass measuring cups and set it in a tiny sauce pan with an inch of water.  Turn the burner on medium-ish and let it melt.  I tried stirring it as it so at your own makes a mess.  The best bet is to just let it melt until it's a translucent liquid.  It will take a good 20-30 minutes for it to fully melt, and then it'll look like this:
 Take the pan off the heat, add essential oil, and stir until mixed.  The recipe I was looking at said to set the glass measuring into a bowl with a cold bath until the mixture began to cool; however, I found that not to work (and subsequently involved an additional 10 minute re-heating process).  Basically what I'm telling you is to take the glass measuring cup out of the hot pan, let it set for about 45 seconds, and then start pouring.  You may still need a reheating process halfway through, but it's fine if you do.  I poured the mixture directly from the measuring cup to the empty lip balm containers.  Fill almost to the top (mine are slightly low), cap, and stand up to set.  If you want, you can put them on a tray in the refrigerator for a few minutes for them to set up--that's up to you.  I got 30 tubes out of this recipe; however, it may have been a little better if I had filled 25 tubes a little more full that I did.

Oh well, you learn as you go!

This is after they have set up--when you pour the mixture in, it will be bright amber/gold.  I tried some as soon as they had set up, and it is AWESOME!  Moisturizing, not greasy, and the honey/beeswax give it a nice, light honey scent to go with whatever oil you choose.

Have fun and happy balming!

Sunday, May 12, 2013


Antiperspirant has been the one product that I have had a really hard time giving up.  Yes, I know that there is aluminum in all of it.  Yes, I know that it's really bad for you.  Yes, yes yes...  That being said, especially in an environment that has an average of 472% humidity, I'm sweaty all the time!  So sue me, I hate having wet armpits and then sweat stains on my shirts.  

Yes, there are "organic" deodorants that I could buy for $8 per container.  They seem to come in two scents: hippie BO, and essential oil scented hippie BO.  In other words, they don't work.  Whatever oils they seem to put in them seem to smell like cardboard, which when mixed with sweat, just smells gross.  Other kinds don't use oils and just sell you a $10 salt lick to rub on your pits.  I never found that they all...and anyway, they're mostly deodorants, not antiperspirants. 

Well, I found a recipe for homemade antiperspirant and decided to give it a whirl!  What do you need?
1/4 cup baking soda
1/4 cup arrowroot powder or cornstarch (yes, that bag is arrowroot powder...not cocaine)
6-8 Tbsp coconut oil
1/2 - 1 Tbsp olive oil (or grapeseed oil)
Essential oil (if you want it to smell like something other than coconut)

I cleaned out one of JR's old pomade containers (I think it's called Surf Head) and it was the perfect size to hold the whole recipe.

Whisk together the baking soda and arrowroot (or cornstarch).  Add the coconut oil and mix well (I used the whisk on my hand mixer, which is infinitely easier).  Add in olive (or grapeseed) oil and optional essential oil.  Once fluffy, transfer to any airtight container.

A quick note:  This is the consistency of a body cream.  There is no putting it in deodorant applicator containers or any of that.  You put it on your armpits like a lotion (I actually like it better).  You only need very little.  Experiment and see what works for you!

Happy De-Stinking!

Beach Spray

Over the past year or so, I fell in love with using Not Your Mother's BEACH BABE Salt Texturizing SprayIt's great stuff--not really a spray for hold, but a spray for texture.  It gives the same look as having been at the beach all day (you know, with the great waves and volume...not like you sprayed your hair with AquaNet and hung out in a wind tunnel).  I had stopped using it when I stopped using commercial shampoo and conditioner; however, from time to time, I'd really like to use it!  Unfortunately, I looked at the ingredients of the spray, and it's definitely a no-go for use.  That being said, it's a great I cleaned it out and saved it...and set off to find a homemade version of my favorite spray!

I had no idea that it would be so simple.  Here is what you need:
1 cup hot water
2 Tbsp sea salt (I used pink Himalayan salt)
1 tsp coconut oil (or 1/2 tsp almond or jojoba oil)
Essential oil (if you want it to have a scent)
* If you want this to have a little more hold, add 1 tsp of aloe vera gel

*EDIT* One of my friends just brought to my attention that in some climates, coconut oil will solidify in the water, clogging the pump.  In San Antonio, it's warm and humid enough that my coconut oil is partially in liquid form at all times LOL!  So, if you keep your house cold, live in a less humid/cooler climate, try almond oil, jojoba oil, or grapeseed oil instead (remember, only 1/2 tsp).  Additionally, my hair is baby fine, so I don't need a lot of "grit" in my spray to obtain the desired texture.  If you don't have super fine hair, or if you have heavier hair, use 2 Tbsp of EPSOM salts and 1/2-1 tsp of sea salt instead of the 2 Tbsp of sea salt.

So...put the hot water in a large measuring cup or whatever.  If you're using coconut oil, drop it into the water and it will melt fairly quickly.  Put in salt and optional essential oils and/or aloe vera.  Mix.  Pour it into whatever spray bottle you have lying around.  The opening of my bottle was pretty small, so I used my handy dandy funnel to pour it in the bottle.  For whatever reason, when I first put it in my bottle, it didn't spray right (it may have been because I didn't clean the pump enough and something got stuck in it).  An hour later (and since then), it has worked just fine.

Happy Spraying and Beach Hair!  

Friday, May 3, 2013

Stain Remover

I have seen a recipe online for "the only stain remover you'll ever need."  In fact, I've seen it not once, but more than 20 times over the past year or so.  I looked at it multiple times, but never got around to making it.  Every time I would think, "oh, I'll remember that!  I'll make some later tonight!"  But then I would forget about it until coming across the recipe again a couple months later.  

Then came today.  Isak took a long enough nap for me to get some laundry done...and I'd remembered JR telling me that we were out of stain remover.  Not good when you're trying to get bright orange baby poop out of a light blue and white gingham blanket.  Off to make some stain remover!

This is one of the easiest things you'll ever make, I promise  (even easier than the super easy ricotta cheese that I told you about HERE).  It has two ingredients--three, if you count the bottle.  What are they?
Dawn (the original blue kind) and hydrogen peroxide.  That's it!

And you can make as much or as little as you'd like with this recipe--the format makes it super easy.

1 part Dawn
2 parts hydrogen peroxide

Shake gently until mixed in a bottle and there you go!  Treat your stain and wash as normal.  In the case of the blanket, I no more than poured a little of it on, and the stain disappeared!  (I say "poured" because it's currently in a squeeze bottle until I find another spray bottle around here) 
Yes, it's in my old witch hazel bottle...oh well.  It's actually a pretty good size, just no spray top on it!

Have fun and happy stain removing!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Organic Bug Spray

Bug spray seems like a waste of money to me.  Why?  Because when you get the bug spray that doesn't have 5000 chemicals (like DEET and all that), you end up paying a lot of money for something that is mostly water and an alcohol-like substance (such as witch hazel).  My favorite bug spray to purchase is California Baby Bug Repellant; however, it's over $15 for a 6.5 ounce bottle.  Time to find a homemade version!  Everything needed to make this bug spray is stuff that we already have around the house...but if you're new to the whole DIY cleaning/body/household products thing, you might not have these in your arsenal yet.  GET THEM.  You'll use them for a million different things.

What do you need?
 This!  Okay, well not ALL of this...but these are the oils I had.

Essential oil(s)*: tea tree, citronella, clove, lemongrass, rosemary, cajeput, eucalyptus, cedarwood, catnip, lavender, and mint.

*  You don't need all of these--you can use just one or use all of them, it doesn't matter.  Make it so you like the smell of it.  For mosquitoes, citronella and lemongrass are the superpowers (though all of them work).  If you have ticks in your area, make sure you throw in the cedarwood and tea tree oil.

Distilled water (or boiled water that has cooled)
Witch Hazel
Jar (w/lid) for mixing
Funnel (makes things a LOT easier)

Fill your jar up halfway with distilled (or boiled) water  and the rest of the way with witch hazel (this picture is an old peanut butter jar, so it's about 9 ounces, give or take).  Put in 30-50 drops of whatever essential oil(s) you've chosen.  The more oil, the stronger the scent and the better it works.
Now, put the lid on and do your shaking dance!  Shake it until the oil is well-integrated (it will look cloudy like this instead of the previously clear liquid).  The only thing left is to put it in bottles!

Use a funnel to put it in a bunch of small bottles, a larger bottle, whatever you have with a pump on it.  Trust me, the funnel makes it easier.  I put it in four small bottles so I can send one with JR to work, keep one at home, one in the car, and one in the diaper bag.  The finished product looks like this:
I can't do a complete cost breakdown on this one, because I don't remember how much some of my oils cost (some of the oils are a little pricey, but most of them are in the $7-15 range).  The witch hazel was $4 for the bottle, and the amount I used was less than a quarter of the bottle.  I used old Garnier shine spray bottles (I don't use product any can see what I use HERE), so that was essentially free.  Out of the oils I used this time (citronella, cedarwood, tea tree, lavender, eucalyptus), it was probably a total of about $0.50 worth.  So...I guess we can say that 10 ounces of this bug spray was about $1.50.  

A little better than the $15 for the other organic stuff, eh?

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Dust Cloths

I really enjoy cleaning.  What I don't enjoy is going through the house, hunting for all of my supplies.  Part of this was solved by storing most of our cleaning supplies in an over-the-door shoe organizer in our hall closet (one bottle in each pocket--try it.  You're welcome).  The worst one for me is dusting.  Why?  I can never find clean dusting rags, and let's face it...if you use paper towels for dusting, you end up using 90 rolls of towels and killing an acre or two of trees.  I decided the solution for this was to keep a jar of already-prepped dusting cloths on the counter in the kitchen--that way, I have no excuse for not dusting!

What do you need?

2 cup vinegar
2 cup water
1-2 teaspoons olive oil
2-4 whole lemon rinds (this all depends on preference)
Dust rags (in this picture, there are eight towels--2 hand towels cut into four pieces each)
Airtight container (I use a 1 gallon glass jar that I got from Target for about $5)

Step One: Cut up your towels (or if you already have towels to use, gather them up) 

Step Two: In a large bowl, mix vinegar, water, and olive oil.  Put your towels in the bowl with the liquid and soak them.  I fold them up, fit them around the bowl, and press down on them.  If they don't soak through in a few minutes, you can add a little vinegar on top of them.  I let them soak while I cut the rinds off the lemons, which looks like this:

Step Three: Ring out the towels one at a time (until they're damp-ish), and place in the jar, alternating towels and lemons.  If you're using four lemons, you can put rind pieces pretty liberally throughout the layers.  I used two lemons in this batch (I'm almost out of lemons--time to get more!), so most layers had two rind pieces stuck in there.  Now you close the lid on the container.  That's it!

Because of the oil in these, you probably don't want to use the cloths on glass surfaces; however, they can be used on stainless steel, wood, plastic, metal, formica, linoleum, ceramic, just about anything.

Have Fun and Happy Dusting!

Laundry Detergent

I have seen 40,001 recipes on Pinterest for homemade laundry detergent.  Personally, I'm partial to liquid detergent; however, the majority of the recipes I found for liquid detergent required giant stockpots, cooking things on the stove, and thermometers...all things that came too close to me having to buy a second set of pots and setting up a chemistry lab in my kitchen.  I make all of my stuff in the kitchen, but I don't want to have to drop through a hole into a secret lab filled with vinegar, Zote soap, and a flashing sign that says "But wait!  There's more!"

After combing through about 15 recipes for powdered detergent, I made a mish-mash of the best parts of each recipe (and yes, we have tested it--it works wonderfully!).  JR says that it gets the clothes softer than our old detergent (which I tend to agree with), and better than that, it doesn't have a super strong smell.  In fact, there's very little smell at all (you won't believe this when you're making it...the whole house will smell like detergent for an hour or two). 


For a year worth of detergent (at five to seven loads a week), it will cost you about $21--or if you use the optional OxiClean ingredient, $29.  Yes, you read that correctly: less than $30 for the whole year.

So, what do you need?

 This stuff!  This picture doesn't represent the full amount, just for clarification.  But it does show all of the types of ingredients.

4 pounds of baking soda
1 box Borax (76 ounces)
1 box Super Washing Soda (55 ounces)
2 bars (approx. 5.5 ounces each) Fels-Naptha soap (you can also use Zote or plain Ivory)
2 bottles of Purex Crystals (55 ounces each)*
A Big A$$ bucket or container for mixing

* In this picture, I have the Purex Crystals for Baby (perfume and dye free, blah blah blah), which only come in 28 ounce bottles.  If you want to make the whole recipe with the Purex Crystals for Baby flavor (yes, flavor), this will require FOUR bottles--not two.

One more optional ingredient to add to the mix is one 3-pound container of OxiClean. do you make it?  The first step takes the longest...if you don't have a good food processor.  Without a good food processor, grate the Fels-Naptha on a cheese grater.  THEN, put it through whatever food processor you have until it's ground up as fine as possible.  With a good food processor, you can cut the soap into chunks and pulse it in the processor until it's done.  Last night I decided to cut the soap into chunks and pulse it in our baby bullet--after all, it makes short work of brown rice to make rice cereal.  Um...don't try to pulse the soap in here unless it has been grated first.  It makes a mess.  It can be done...but it's incredibly messy and time consuming.  I could have carved it by hand with a spork faster than the baby bullet.  Anyway, it looks like this after it has been processed:

* Don't let this picture fool you--it's at the bottom of a 3-gallon bowl--NOT big enough.  Get a bucket.  Just trust me.  I used a 10-gallon Rubbermaid container.

Next is the easiest part: dump everything else in and stir it up!  Okay, stirring that much material that is basically like sand isn't easy...but it's not hard. 

A large part of this will fit back into the Purex Crystals bottles.  Put the rest in another container and refill your bottles as needed.

How do you use it?  Just like any other detergent!  (and here's a side note just in case you didn't know--you should always add the detergent to the WATER, not on top of the clothes to then turn on the water) You use significantly less though:

1 to 2 TABLESPOONS (on the Purex Crystal bottle lid, that is the middle line)

It doesn't get really sudsy, so you're going to need to let go of the whole notion of "sudsy = clean" in order to use this stuff.

Have Fun and Happy Laundry Day!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Facial Toner

I have officially found ways to eliminate every chemical-based skin care and hygiene product that I use!  No, that doesn't mean that I went to the farmer's market and bought the organic stuff.  Everything I've made or found is completely natural and able to be made on the cheap (e.g. for both JR and me to use the baking soda shampoo and apple cider vinegar conditioner that I described here, it costs us less than $1.50 PER YEAR for the supplies).  Yay for going chemical-free, and double yay for being inexpensive!

First step: CLEAN and EXFOLIATE!

For cleansing and exfoliating (these are essentially the same thing--when you use an organic, fine-grit exfoliator, you are actually cleansing at the same time)...this will be your new favorite product:

You want your baking soda to be in an airtight container.  Buying it in this plastic container solves that problem, but if you don't want to spend the extra money, find a good, airtight container.  You'll be keeping this either in the bathroom or in the shower (depending on where you normally wash your face), so it's generally a humid environment.  Baking soda can get really clumpy when even the smallest bit of moisture is introduced.  To use this, get your face and hands wet.  Pour 1-2 teaspoons of baking soda into your hand, rub your hands together a bit, and use it on your face just as you would any other exfoliating product.  Bonus: baking soda is mild enough that you can use it on your face every day.  Rinse it off and then, voila!  You're finished.

Next step: TONING!

This is my giant 23.5 ounce jar of toner.  The least expensive toner I've found so far (other than just witch hazel) is Neutrogena toner...which is $6 for an 8 ounce container.  This jar cost me just under $1.50 to make (not including the jar).  You do the math.  You only need a few ingredients for this:
3/4 cup witch hazel
1 cup water
1/2 cup lemon juice
container (I used an old spaghetti sauce jar)
*if you have oily skin, you can also use 1-2 tablespoons of alcohol

Mix all of this together and put it in whatever container you have deemed worthy to use.

To use this, I just dip a cotton ball in it (dip...don't soak!) and wipe it over my face...just like you would do with any store-bought toner.  It neutralizes skin pH, cleans, and the lemon juice brightens (for those of you playing the home game, it helps correct skin discoloration).

Final step: MOISTURIZE!

I use one product for moisturizing (and sunscreen), and that is unrefined virgin coconut oil.  Yes, coconut oil can be used as sunscreen (in fact, there are many areas of the world where this is their only form of sunscreen).  To read more about it in an easily understandable source, look here.  It's a quick read.

This is my moisturizer and sunscreen!  (I also use a different jar of it for oil pulling, but that is another post entirely)  You need VERY LITTLE of this to cover your skin.  It's a trial and error thing; however, I use about a fingertip size tiny chunk of it.  A little goes a long way.

Trust me, once you start this, you won't want to go back to anything else. It has AMAZING effects!

If you have any questions about this (or for any other blog questions or suggestions), feel free to email me and I'll respond as soon as I can!  You can do that here.

Happy cleansing, toning, and moisturizing!