Sunday, June 30, 2013

Musings of a Novice Organic Gardener

I have never grown anything on my own before.  No herbs.  No veggies.  Not even flowers.  In fact, my poor houseplants (which I only have from funerals I have attended and the birth on my kids) have always relied on my husband for survival in the past.  I could never remember to water them and so it has always been John's job.  When I was younger my parents did have a garden.  I remember them growing tomatoes every year and some other things like potatoes and carrots one year.  They still do tomatoes every summer.  My husband suggested a garden back when we lived in Kansas City.  The idea was great but then he told me about all the work involved and I passed.

This year is different.  This year, I am determined to feed my family TONS of fresh organic veggies which as most of us know, can get expensive.  I have suddenly found myself fascinated with gardening.  Of course I am a complete and utter novice so when my in laws were in town this last week and asked if I hoed my garden I just stood there and went, huh?  So today I got my hoe on (had to say it) and to my great surprise, realized I don't have to hand pull every single weed!!  The garden hoe does that for me. Who knew?!

Here's a few other things I've learned so far:

Plant Bug Spray

One of the first things we noticed after our plants started to come up was little nibbles on the leaves.  It could be from our many squirrel friends but I have a feeling it was due to bugs.  So how do we treat for bugs without chemicals?  I've looked into a couple of methods but the one I chose was a vinegar/garlic solution.  It's really simple.  Save your onion and garlic peels in a container with a lid in your refrigerator.  Once you have a good amount, cover with water and set the container with the lid on it outside.  After about a week, strain the pieces and bottle up the solution.  Use a spray bottle to spray it on the plants.  Bugs will be repelled but beware - when you water you will wash the solution off so be sure to spray a few times a week.  I used a hand held continuous spray bottle I bought at Walmart for about $7.  It works great!  You can spray it at any angle so you can reach the plants from where ever you're standing.

Epsom Salt Fertilizer

A lot of people might use Miracle Grow on the garden and the lawn.  When you walk up and down the lawn and garden aisles at Walmart you might get a little headache or lightheaded from the strong smells.  That's because, you guessed it, it's full of harmful chemicals.  So no Miracle Grow.  How do I feed my plants?  Do they need it?  Well, it turns out a little bag of "bath salts" is the perfect food for my peppers and tomatoes.  Epsom salt is made up of magnesium and sulfate - both nutrients that certain plants LOVE and thrive on.

Mix a tbsp of Epsom salt with one gallon of water.  Use a watering can or spray bottle to water your tomato and pepper plants.  Some people do this every other week but that may be too much.  Once a month should be just fine.

this is the same container I use for the bug spray, just rinse it out well

Compost Tea Fertilizer

Another way to feed your plants is to make a compost tea.  Take a few cup fulls of your ready-to-use compost and mix in a bucket of water.  Let it sit for a few days to "steep."  Strain out the dirt and solids using a cheesecloth and bottle up the solution.  This can be used on any plants and is not only good for the nutrients in the soil and roots, but also for the leaves themselves.

Organic Fertilizers

I confess I do not know a lot about this yet but I visited an organic gardening store and looked at tons of different organic fertilizers.  They range in ph levels so I bought one that they said would work well for my garden.  It cost about $14 dollars for the box but a little goes a loooooong way so it has lasted quite a while.  When I planted the garden I put a very small sprinkling under the seeds.  Now that my plants are growing I decided to try making a tea with this as well.  I'm hoping it will be a good way to get nutrients to my veggie plants as my compost is not quite ready to use yet.

Where NOT to plan a garden plot!

One of the lessons we have learned about our garden is to pay attention to the surroundings.  We were most concerned with sunlight when choosing our plot.  I think we did a decent job as it gets plenty of rays.  However, what we did not take into consideration was the two gigantic cottonwood trees near by!  They are losing their cotton plumes now and it is ALL OVER my garden.  Some of the plants have prickly leaves and it just won't come off of them!  I am really hoping it doesn't hurt their growth.  Too late now.

Check out that branch full of cotton hanging above our garden.  Thankfully hoeing the garden several times a week keeps it at bay for now.

Do you have a natural gardening tip or trick?  Please leave a comment and let me know!!

Our first fruits...

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Mince and Preserve Your Own Garlic

The other day I was making a dish that required garlic.  So as is habit, I reached for the spice cabinet and to my horror I was out of garlic powder and garlic salt.  Nooooo!!!  Well, I guess it's time to figure out what to buy next.  Do I replace it with Walmart Great Value brand?  Nope.  I'm not 100% positive but I would imagine it's not the best quality garlic I could be feeding my family.

A few years ago I started buying minced garlic in olive oil as well.  It's quite tasty.  I was also out of that.  Unfortunately companies must put added ingredients and preservatives in that cute little jar to make sure it stays fresh and safe from production to your fridge.  Surely it can't be hard to make myself right?  It in fact was not difficult at all!  And you can do it too with a few bulbs of garlic and some time.

You will need:

about 4 bulbs of garlic
butcher knife
garlic mincer
olive oil
tsp sea salt
glass jar to store it
a bowl to save your garlic peels for other uses

Start by breaking apart the cloves from the garlic bulbs.  Save the peels in a separate bowl for later use.

Now that you have a pile of cloves ready to be peeled, it's time to move on to step two.  This is where the butcher knife comes in.  The best way to peel a clove of garlic is to smash it first with the edge of a large blade.  All you need is one good whack with the palm of your hand and the peel will come right off.  Remember to save these peels too.

Peel enough cloves to fill the jar you want to store your garlic in.  I used an old glass jar that once held my store bought crushed garlic in olive oil.

Now comes the fun part.  Dump out the cloves and start mincing.  If you have a garlic mincer I would highly recommend using it.  But if you do not have one, not to worry.  You can still make do you just have to use your trusty butcher knife and mince it all yourself.

Place all the minced garlic back in the glass jar and fill with olive oil.  Make sure the olive oil covers the garlic completely.  Add a tsp of sea salt for preservation.  Store in the freezer.  The salt and oil should keep the mixture a little pliable.  It will not get rock hard like ice so you will still be able to spoon it out when needed.

*A note on botulism.  It is quite common for garlic to produce bacteria spores that cause botulism when submerged in olive oil at room temperature or kept for a long period of time.  That is why I am freezing this.  You can keep it in the fridge for a few weeks without it going bad but the problem is there is no outward sign that botulism exists.  It will smell and taste exactly the same as normal.  

Now, what do you do with all of those garlic peels?  Cover them with water and a lid or cling wrap.  Keep it for about a week - but keep it somewhere outside where the smell will not bother anyone!  Then strain it and bottle the water in a spray bottle.  Use it to keep bugs away from your precious plants in your garden!  You can also do this with onion peels.  I spray my garden a couple times a week and I always have FREE, organic, chemical free plant bug spray on hand. 

Stay tuned for more garlic recipes including garlic powder and garlic salt!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Lovely Lavender

I LOVE the smell of Lavender.  It's always been a scent that has been soothing to me.  Perfect for the bath or bed time.  Much of what I have used in the past has been a chemically imitated version of lavender.  To my delight, it turns out that REAL lavender essential oil smells even better!

I am a novice when it comes to essential oils.  I have started a small collection and hope to keep adding to my bounty in the near future.  Right now my collection consists of grapefruit oil, tea tree oil, and now lavender.  When I first bought my lavender I wasn't quite sure what to do with it other than open the cap and enjoy the whiff.  My intent was to use it in my laundry which ironically I have still not made my detergent!  As I researched the many uses of lavender I was blown away by all the applications.  THIS list was most fascinating to me and I hope to try all of these some day!

But for now, here are a few easy (and wonderfully soothing) ways to use lavender essential oil in your home with little effort.

Fabric Softeners

Though I have not made laundry detergent yet, I have made fabric softener.  I love to hang my clothes out on the line but sometimes they get a little scratchy feeling.  Enter fabric softener.  The first one I tried is a vinegar and essential oil mix.  You simply fill a glass jar with white vinegar and add several drops of lavender and voila!  You have homemade fabric softener.  The vinegar will not hurt the clothes believe it or not, you cannot smell the vinegar once the clothes have dried.

We use a Downey ball and put about a 1/2 cup of the vinegar solution in it.  Just toss it in the laundry with the rest of your dirty clothes.  You could also use the fabric softener compartment on your washer if you have one. 

The clothes were considerably softer when using this solution and they smelled great after they dried.  The downside is that I washed some of my Zumba clothes this way.  I sweat of TON in my Zumba class.  Somehow my sweat managed to release the vinegar smell on my clothes.  So the moral of the story, don't get the clothes wet again or you will smell like vinegar!

Because of this I went on a search for a different method.  One that did not involve vinegar.  I found one that uses Epsom salt instead.  Again, it is simply Epsom salt and a few drops of lavender.  It works out to be about 10 drops per cup of salt.  I keep mine in a quart size mason jar.  All you do is simply add a quarter cup of the salts to your regular laundry.  It works pretty well too.  I like this method because there is no vinegar smell but I feel the vinegar does a better a job.

Bath Salts

Bonus!!  The above fabric softener can also be used in your tub!  Fill your bath tub with warm water and sprinkle some lavender infused salts in.  The Epsom salt will help sooth tired muscles and the lavender will act as a calmer.  It's the perfect tension relieving mini spa treatment for pennies on the dollar.

Face Wash

Remember the Oil Cleansing Method I blogged about a while back?  Well I'm still using it.  And I discovered that lavender is an excellent skin healer used for all sorts of skin issues like healing wounds and scarring.  It even helps with acne.  So I have added a few drops of my lavender oil into my facial oil and I LOVE it!  It not only helps with acne but it also is quite soothing to wash my face with it before bed time.  It is very relaxing to smell it right under my nose.

Room Spray

This is probably the most used lavender product in our house besides my face wash.  The recipe is super easy and lasts a long time.  I used a large spray bottle that I bought at Walmart for about a dollar.

You will need: 
Distilled water
Vodka or Rubbing Alcohol
Lavender Essential Oil

Fill your spray bottle about 2/3 of the way with distilled water.  Fill the rest of the bottle with rubbing alcohol.  Add in about 30 drops of essential oil.  Put the lid on and shake it up!  It smells fabulous.  We use it in our bathroom a lot but also in our living room and bedrooms as well.

Linen Spray

That same room spray can also be used to spray your bed sheets and pillows.  It makes bed time quite relaxing.  If you have troubles sleeping, lavender is an excellent way to signal your body it's time to go to sleep.  Make it a regular part of your bed time routine!

Kids Sleepy Time Trick

We have not actually tried this yet but I look forward to it.  Because lavender is so soothing and calming, it is said that you can rub some lavender essential oil on the bottom of your kids feet before bed to help calm them down.  I don't know about your kids but my 2 and 4 year old boys are CRAZY before bed!  I'm hoping adding this little trick before they hit the sack will help calm them down some.

Sunburn Relief

Another one that I look forward to trying is a sunburn spray.  None of us have had bad sunburns yet this year thanks to my compulsive sunscreen use!  But when we do, we will be trying this trick.  Fill a small spray bottle with water and add a few drops of lavender.  Spray on your sunburn several times a day for relief and healing thanks to the skin healing properties found in lavender.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Gluten Free Bread

This post is dedicated to my dear sister, Chelsee, who has Celiac Disease.  She cannot have gluten which is found in wheat, barley, and rye.  It's not a choice or a preference - it's a serious matter that cannot be taken lightly.  Gluten Free seems to be a popular choice these days as more and more people are discovering an intolerance to gluten.   I recently read that 15% of Americans have a gluten intolerance.  How can you tell if you have one?  Some signs include digestive issues like bloating, cramping or diarrhea, after eating a meal with gluten.  There are a lot of other signs too.  Click HERE to read about them.  It's easy to get caught up in a fad though.  If you are not sensitive to gluten, eating gluten free is not necessarily beneficial to you and it is not a very good option for weight loss.

You can find gluten free options in grocery stores and restaurants all over now, something that was not the case only a few years ago.  While it is awesome that there is so much more available, it is also costly.  So if you are looking to save a few bucks, grab an apron and try making some of your own gluten free products.  With a little tweaking and creativity, you can make all sorts of things and still enjoy breads, pastas, and crackers.  Here are two recipes I've made in the past for family gatherings.

Gluten Free Drop Biscuit Dinner Rolls

2 3/4 cups gluten free "flour mix"
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp vanilla flavored instant pudding and pie filling*
4 eggs
2/3 cup oil
1 cup milk

Mix the dry ingredients together and set aside.  You could even make a few of these batches and put them in baggies for a quick bread mix to use in the future.  Slowly add in the eggs, oil, and milk and blend well.

Spoon out on parchment lined cookie sheet or flad baking pan.  Batter should be thick.  Let it set up in the mixing bowl until it is.  Take back of spoon and using a circular motion, shape into large dinner rolls.  You can also snip about 1 inch out of the corner of a large baggy and "pipe" them but you will still have to shape them.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until done to the touch.  This recipe should make about 8-10 rolls.

*I have to be honest, this ingredient makes me cringe.  If you are feeling DIY-ish you can try THIS recipe for instant vanilla pudding mix instead of using the popular name brand store bought stuff that's full of additives.  Or you can look for an organic brand such as Dr. Oetker at your local health food store.

Gluten Free Egg Bread

1/4cup warm water
1 tbsp yeast
pinch of sugar
4 tbsp butter
3/4 cups warm milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg plus an egg for the egg wash
2 1/2 - 3 cups of gluten free "flour mix"
1 tsp xanthan gum

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a small bowl, whisk together the warm water, yeast and pinch of sugar to let it proof.  Let it sit for about 10 minutes until it starts to bubble.

In a separate bowl, mix together butter, milk, salt, and sugar.  Stir in the yeast mixture and add the eggs.  Gradually mix in the flour and xanthan gum.  Mix until dough is well blended.  Because it is a gluten free bread, it will not be smooth and elastic like regular bread dough.  Let rise for an hour.

Place dough in a greased bread pan.  Brush the top with egg wash.  Place in oven and turn the oven down to 350 degrees.  Bake for 30 minutes.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Homemade Soy Sauce

Our family likes a good stir fry.  It's so easy to make and a great way to use fresh vegetables from the farmer's market.  Toss it in a wok with a little oil and some soy sauce and serve over rice.  Dinner in minutes!

Obviously I figured soy sauce was made from soy but I was unaware of the other ingredients.  One look at the back of the bottle and I made the executive decision that we would no longer buy that stuff. It sort of reminded me of some kind of chemical soup.

So onto looking up homemade soy sauce.  I wanted to make something out of what I had on hand and since I did not have any soy products or any knowledge on how to process said soy, I came up with this.  It is modified from a soy sauce substitute recipe I found.  It turned out pretty tasty and did it's job as a good substitute.

Soy Sauce Substitute

1 1/2 cups beef broth
4 tsp Balsamic Vinegar
2 tsp Dark Molases
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 pinch white pepper
1 pinch garlic powder

Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan.  Boil gently for 15 min.  That's it!  So simple.

Why waste the bottle?  I just put my homemade sauce back in the soy sauce bottle.  Voila!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Chocolate Addict

About a few weeks after we started eating clean I ran out of Hershey's Chocolate Syrup.  Now, I don't eat this all the time, but on occasion I like some chocolate milk or a little syrup on my ice cream.  And I have been known to... eat it by the spoonful from time to tome.  Yeah.  Ok.  Hello, my name is Kristin and I'm addicted to chocolate!  I also munch on chocolate chips.  I keep them in the freezer so I can get my fix whenever I need it.  Or you know, actually make cookies once in a while.

So back to my syrup.  Have you seen what's in that stuff?  This site has a great explanation of the ingredients.  High Fructose Corn Syrup, emulsifiers, preservatives... suffice it to say, I was not interested in buying more chocolate syrup.  But could we live without it?  Probably.  Did I want to?  Definitely NO.  Solution:  make my own!

The recipe is simple: Only 4 ingredients.

Homemade Chocolate Syrup

2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 2/3 cup organic cane sugar
1 cup water
1 tsp vanilla extract

Combine the cocoa, sugar, and water in a sauce pan.  Bring to boil for about a minute then turn the burner off.  Add in vanilla.  You're done!  Store in the refrigerator.  I'm not sure how long it lasts but we went through ours in about a month and it was still good.  I just put it back in the Hershey's bottle.  My family actually likes the taste better.

One of my favorite ways to eat chocolate syrup.  Frozen sliced bananas.  Yum!

Chocolate Shell Ice Cream Topping

Another great recipe I have played with is a homemade "magic shell" topping.  If you've never had this stuff before, it's the kind of chocolate that hardens when poured onto ice cream creating a candy chocolate shell.  So yummy.  It's soooo easy to make too.

All you need is some coconut oil and chocolate chips.  Check out the recipe HERE.  I reduced the recipe by a lot so I only made enough for one use.  But you can store this chocolate in your fridge and then take it out and heat it a little before each use if you want to keep a bunch on hand.  We don't eat it often enough for me to justify keeping it in the fridge.  

Try doing 2 tbsp of chocolate chips and 3/4 tsp coconut oil.  Melt in the microwave and let sit for a few minutes.  Drizzle on your ice cream.  

So what are you waiting for?  Get your chocolate fix!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Trick that Melted the Final Pounds

Seems like everyone is trying to lose weight.  That's not surprising considering one in three adults is considered obese according to the CDC.  Check out these facts from the CDC website:
  • More than one-third of U.S. adults (35.7%) are obese. 
  • Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death.
  • In 2008, medical costs associated with obesity were estimated at $147 billion; the medical costs for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.
You can read all about it from the original source HERE.

I don't need to tell you all the reasons that people want to shed the pounds.  You probably know.  I was no exception.  Looking back at the pictures I am embarrassed that I let it get so out of control.  I'm sure a lot of people can relate.  It sort of started in college with the freshman 15, I mean 30.  Slowly over time I kept packing on the pounds.  I would lose some for a trip, get back to my "goal" weight, and then start gaining it again. Only this time, faster.  I tried all kinds of diet pills.  Get thin fast schemes that were not only ineffective but actually harmful to my health.  Jitters means the pills are working.  NOT!!!  I tried body creams, shakes, bars, cabbage soup, starvation except for one hour of the day where I could gorge myself, Atkins, South Beach, and then there was what I thought was the end all, be all... Weight Watchers (WW).

July 2009, size 20

Weight Watchers seemed to be the most productive for me.  I actually lost quite a bit of weight this way but when I stopped attending meetings the weight trickled back.  And would I really need to count points for the rest of my life?  I don't want to journal forever.  Most of the methods I tried proved to be successful for a period of time.  For months I paid my dues only to step on the scale at the same weight, frustrated with myself for not following the program better.  I was 20 pounds from goal after having lost 70 pounds!  The end was in sight but I just couldn't move the scale.

Jan 2013 very close but still trying to get rid of those last 20 pounds, size 10/12

My story is not uncommon.  Our society has programmed us to diet.  Millions of dollars are being made on the next miracle trick/pill/diet.  Meanwhile our bodies are SCREAMING at us to stop with with the yo-yoing already!!!  And how many toxins are we putting in our bodies by trying to eat "light" or "fat free" or "low carb"?

You may have heard this before but keeping the pounds off is not about "dieting" for a period of time and going back to your bad habits.  It's about a lifestyle change.  I used to say I was making a lifestyle change by doing Weight Watchers.  But then I would "cheat" and feel guilty.  There is no "cheating" in a true lifestyle change.  It's a complete different way of thinking.

In January 2013 our family decided to try to live a more natural lifestyle.  We began cutting processed foods, chemicals and toxins, Diet Coke or any pop for that matter, and significantly reduced our intake of meat.  In doing this we replaced our old food with organic whole foods, lots of water, juicing, and tons of fresh fruit and veggies.  If I can make it myself I don't buy it pre-made from the store.  This includes things like all kinds of bread, tortillas, crackers, salsa, pasta sauce, salad dressings, and many snack foods.  We didn't switch because I wanted to lose weight.  I wasn't even trying.  The weight started to come off on its own.  No counting, no "watching what I eat".  I eat real butter, full fat cheese, several different oils, and even homemade sweets with gooey chocolate.  I generally eat when I'm hungry and stop when I'm full.

Dancing with my hubby in a size 8 dress, May 2013

The trick, I found, is not to get hung up on the calories, fat, carbohydrates, or protein.  Sure they are important.  But by instead focusing on the ingredients we have been able to clean up our food, reduce the chemicals that trick us into eating more processed foods, have more energy, and ultimately come to a healthy weight range.

If you are stuck in the yo-yo diet world or even if you are a recovery yo-yo-er addict like myself, I would encourage you to watch the documentary, Hungry For Change.  This show will help you understand why the statistics are so bad and how cleaning up your diet can save your life.  Check out the trailer HERE. This is one of the biggest reasons we decided to take the plunge and change the way we eat.  And I'm so glad we did.  Goodbye pounds.  I will not miss you.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Work it while you Work it

We all make excuses sometimes why we don't exercise.  I do it too.  I'm too tired, too busy, not in the mood, would rather do fill-in-the-blank...  But what we forget is that we can work out anywhere and in any way that makes you move just a little bit more.

That means that you can exercise by doing laundry, mowing the grass, working in your garden, even playing with your kids.  Here are 5 ways you can boost your calorie burn and get in an extra "hidden" workout in your own backyard.

Doing Laundry

Not my favorite chore by far!  But I have discovered the joy of hanging my laundry to dry outside.  The fresh air and knowing that my energy consumption is being cut down make this act very satisfying for me.  It also happens to be a little bit more work and therefore burns more calories!

Here's the calorie breakdown:

Regular Laundry - standing and folding: 136 cal/hour*
Carrying clothes up and down stairs: 340 cal/hour* (about 6 cal/min)

That means for regular laundry, lets say for 30 min and going up and down the stairs twice, it is about 98 calories.  Because hanging my clothes on the line takes more time and trips up and down stairs (lets say 20 min and 2 extra stair trips) my 98 calories burned turns into about 173 calories - almost twice as much!

Tilling the Garden

Skip the rented tiller and do it by hand!  Tilling the ground is hard work.  It's a great way to burn some extra calories.  Just make sure to grab some gloves.  My blisters were not so fun to deal with later.  My husband and I tilled our our 15X10 garden together.  It probably took about an hour total with both of us working on it.  According to we burned about 340 calories each!

Mowing the Grass

I am pretty spoiled.  I have an amazing husband who enjoys mowing the grass and therefore, I have not really had to worry about it.  Over the summer of 2012 our family was split across two states and I was  forced to mow my grass.  Little did I know what a great work out it was.  374/hr or 405/hr if not using a power mower.

Pulling Weeds

Believe it or not you can actually burn 306 calories per hour simply weeding your garden or lawn!  Now, the trouble is, do you have that many weeds?  I do!!!  I have this silly area of rock in my back yard that weeds just love to haunt.  So I pick weeds on a regular basis.  Hey, if you don't have many weeds of your own, you can come pull mine!  Or pull your neighbors weeds.  You know, the one who has a thousand dandelions in their yard?  Then you can say, "oh I'm just getting my work out in!" with a smile.

Watering the Garden via Rain Barrel

Standing and watering a garden or your yard doesn't take that much effort.  I mean really, you basically just stand and hold a hose right?  But according to you can still burn 102 calories per hour.  Well when you use a rain barrel there is a little more effort involved.  I can still use a hose but because there is not a lot of pressure I often have to bend down and water close to the plants.  When the barrel is running low, I have to use a watering can and dip it, then walk it to the garden and water my plant.  That process takes time because those little watering cans don't hold much and I have a large garden!  I'm not sure the exact calories burned but I'd say at least double!


The lowest impact of dancing burns 340 calories per hour.  Think about it.  What if you dance while you do these things?  If you throw on your headphones and turn up your favorite dance music you can burn tons of extra calories without even knowing it!  Who cares what the neighbors think!!  Here are a few of my favorite "chore" Pandora channels:

Latin Workout Station
Dance Workout Station
Toby Mac Station
Pitbull Station

Monday, June 10, 2013

30 Day Challenge Wrap Up

A whole week since my last post... poof!  I've been under the weather with no desire to blog or really look at a screen for that matter.

My 30 days have come and gone.  This has been an enlightening experience.  I would love to say that I'm sold on all these natural remedies and will forever make my own everything.  But that would be a lie and the last thing I want this blog to be is fake.

First, I have a confession.  At about day 24 I accidentally left my travel pack of shower items at the rec center.  When I called back no one was able to locate it.  Since then I just used the shower products at the gym.  The lesson?  Sometimes convenience is king as my mom would say.  If I'm going to stick with natural products I will have to have back ups and stay on top of making my stuff so I don't run out and get lazy.  Yup.  Sometimes I'm lazy like that but I think we all have a little bit of that in us.

There are certainly things that I LOVED and will keep using and things that I'm ready to start looking for ready made natural alternatives for.  Click on the links to go back to the original blog posts.

The things I loved the most (and will continue to use for sure) were:

Shaving Cream
Body wash
Oil Cleansing method (and the use of tea tree oil to spot treat my pimples)
Body Lotion
Hand Wash

Things I don't necessarily love yet but will continue to use:

Deodorant - I don't want to waste my concoction and I haven't found anything better to use.  However, my house is way too hot for a coconut oil based recipe.  At least during the summer.  At this point I'm using my fingers to dip into a jar and then smear on my pits.  Yeah it sounds kind of gross right?

Shampoo - Again, I will keep using because why should I waste what I made right?  Also, it's really cost efficient which is kind of important in our house right now.  I think I'll use homemade shampoo at home and the gym stuff at the gym.

Body Spray - I don't love that the smell doesn't last long but I do love that it's chemical free.

Loose Powder - While this works, I prefer my mineral makeup.  So it's not totally out but more of an emergency fix.

Tinted Lip Balm - For some reason the tint faded over time.  So while this is still a good chap stick, it's not very good for color.

Things I don't care for:

Eyeliner - too goopy
Eyeshadow - doesn't spread well and limited colors.  I have a TON of old stuff still and I don't wear it often.
Coconut Oil Conditioner - totally greasy
Toothpaste - tastes gross.  You get used to it over time but I'm sure I can find something better.

So that's it for my 30 day Skin Care Challenge.  My experimenting will not stop though!  And as I find other things to use I will share them.  My next step is to find some good, hopefully not too expensive, natural products to buy instead of make.  Because like I said before, sometimes convenience is everything.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Sweet and Savory Snacks

Ready for some more snack recipes?  My last snack post went over pretty well so I figured I would expand on it a little.  Thank you everyone who takes the time to read this blog.  Hope you are enjoying it as much as I enjoy writing it.

Here are few more snack recipes that we like to munch on around here.

Roasted Chick Peas

I saw this one on Pinterest and decided to give it a try.  You can find the original recipe HERE.  There are so many ways you can dress these up.  I think I'm going to try a chex mix flavor next with some Worcestershire sauce and garlic salt... maybe some onion powder.

I prefer to use dried Garbanzo beans (chick peas) but you can certainly use canned as well.  Just like beans, you can soak these babies over night if you have time or you can use a quick method.  Since I am a total procrastinator I almost always use the quick method.  Place your chick peas in a pot and cover with water.  Remember that they will expand to about twice their size so allow room for that.

Bring the water to a boil for five minutes and then turn the burner off.  Leave the pot there and let the beans soak for an hour.  Once they have doubled in size, drain and rinse.  Now you are ready for the recipe!


Granola is such an EASY snack to make.  You don't have to go off of this exact recipe.  Just use what you have!  Sometimes I put sunflower seeds in it or use different grain cereals.  You can use peanut butter and honey or just honey.  I found that if I use more honey it becomes crunchier and sticks together more.  This is the basic recipe I use.

1/4 c peanut butter
1/4 c honey
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup organic rolled barley
1 cup organic rolled oats

Melt peanut butter and honey together either by way of microwave (which I did to save time) or on the stove top.  Add in cinnamon and vanilla.  

Add in barely and oats and mix well.  

Spread out on a cookie sheet lined with a baking mat or parchment paper.  Toast in the oven at 325 degrees for 8-10 min.  Let cool completely before eating as it gets crispier when cooled.

Enjoy by itself, as a cereal with milk, or on top of yogurt!