Monday, October 31, 2011

Lavender Love Lotion Bars

I have purchased a few "massage bars" from Lush before, so when I learned how easy it is to make homemade lotion bars, I was excited to try it out.

I've moved to a new website! Head on over to Heartful Habits for the Lavender Love Lotion Bars recipe. Thanks!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Excuse Me, You Have Food on Your Face - Honey Face Wash

On another blog I follow, Crunchy Betty, she organized a challenge for her readers to wash their face with just honey and water at least once a day for 2 weeks. I had been having decent results with my tea tree bar soap, but I thought this would be a good opportunity to take it another step in the all natural direction.  Brad and I purchase raw honey at the farmer's market already, and we began to use that to wash our face in the mornings.

The benefits of using honey as a facial cleanser are...
-it is antibacterial and antimicrobial
-slightly drying to soak up oiliness
-incredibly moisturizing at the same time
-contains enzymes which are thought to have anti-aging properties
-it is great for any skin type - acne, aging, normal, dry, etc
-healing properties help repair blemishes and scars

I washed my face with honey daily for about 2 months.  The first few times, it seemed funny spreading this sticky stuff all over my face, but I really enjoyed the way it felt.  It even works when your honey gets a little harder.  I imagined it was adding an exfoliating aspect.  I found that the honey was really effective in reducing and healing any blemishes I had already.  The problem for me was that new ones were still popping up each day.  At the same time each month I broke out worse than I have in years, and that is when I realized that my acne must be partially hormonal.  The honey didn't seem to be strong enough to fight against those exceptionally bad break out times, and I have since stopping using it.

I would still encourage others to at least try it out.  What works for some, doesn't always work for others.  Which is shown in our situation even because Brad still continues to wash his face with honey daily.  It has been great for him.  For more information, you can check out Crunchy Betty's post about it here - Crunchy Betty's Honey Challenge.

What do you use to wash your face?  Do you have any tips for treating hormonal acne?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Yoga - Stretched and Unstressed

Over the last few years as yoga gained in popularity in the West, I have resisted.  I have awful balance, I'm not the typical body type of those I see practicing yoga or wearing yoga gear, and  I feel some unexplained moral aversion to Lululemon.  This September I found a free yoga class that practices twice a week about 10 minutes away from my house.  I didn't think I could pass up the opportunity to at least try it.  Now I have fallen in love with yoga.

The word "yoga" comes from the Sanskrit root "yuj", which means "to yoke" the spirit and physical body together.  From what I can tell, the yoga I am practicing is hatha yoga which traditionally is a holistic path that includes disciplines, physical postures, purification procedures, breathing, and meditation.  Yoga is really a way of life.  Our yoga instructor always talks about how there is a personal practice which takes place on the mat, then there is our interactions with those around us, and then the effects we have in the world on a global scale.

The many benefits of yoga can improve different aspects of life.  Physical benefits include improved overall health, flexibility, stamina, improved balance, increased strength, pain prevention, better breathing, improved digestion, and increased blood circulation.  Mental benefits include stress relief, mental calmness, body awareness, and increased self acceptance.  The list could go on and on.  Plus, yoga is for everyone be it men or women or from young children to the elderly.

This has been the first form of exercise I have ever actually looked forward to going to.  It has certainly made a difference in our lives.  I have begun feeling physical changes regarding strength and flexibility.  Brad has had amazing success with pain prevention for a shoulder injury the medical doctor wasn't able to do anything for.  What I really crave though before practicing yoga is the mental calmness.  I find that there are so few instances in our busy lives where we carve out time to be calm and introspective.

I think that Donna Farhi describes it beautifully in her book Yoga Mind, Body, and Spirit here:
But the slowness of this path is part of the healing.  It is part of finding one's place in the rhythm of life again.  This reunification with nature lies at the heart of the true healing power of yoga practice.  Through that practice we can become peaceful, we can experience ease with ourselves and others, and ultimately we can create a society that values such things.  Then as we advance in our yoga practice, we will realize that however far we go, we are always in the process of returning to this natural self.
Have you had any experience with yoga?  What form of exercise do you enjoy?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Healthy Homemaking Series: Congratulations!

We have voyaged all the way through Stephanie Langford's Healthy Homemaking.  I know that many positive changes towards a more natural, nutritious, and sustainable lifestyle have been made in my life.  I hope that some have taken place for you as well.  Thank you so much for joining me on this journey.

If you're interested in having the book yourself to work through or for reference and more resources, you can purchase it from her blog's website, Keeper of the Home, there are digital copies or paperbacks to choose from.

Now where shall we go from here?  I would love to hear from YOU!

What are you particularly interested in reading more about?

PS - If you are looking for something to do, here is a simple, quick quiz you can take to size up your environmental impact -  Measure Your Eco-Footprint.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Healthy Homemaking Series: Dairy Choices

Baby Step 26 - Evaluate Dairy Choices (last one!)

I have to begin this post with a bit of a disclaimer.  The views expressed in this post are Stephanie Langford's and do not necessarily reflect my opinions.  I have only just begun looking into dairy products with regard to health and environmental impact, and my husband and I are currently discussing whether dairy will continue to be a part of our diet.  Now, on with the post.

Challenge: Consider what changes you could make for the better in regard to dairy.

Why: As with any animal products, the diet and health of the animal directly effects the quality of the food product.  Healthy cows make nutritious dairy products, while sickly/ill treated/drugged cows make unwholesome, even harmful, dairy products.

How: This is the criteria given for choosing dairy...
-grass-fed cows and organic dairy is best
-raw is preferred if you can get access to it, otherwise pasteurized but unhomogenized
-stick with full fat as saturated fats from healthy animals are actually good for you
-consume lots of cultured dairy - yogurt, kefir, sour cream, buttermilk, etc
-eat butter that is from grass fed cows and organic is ideal

To keep it affordable, Stephanie makes her own yogurt and kefir.  They eat butter which follows the above criteria.  She purchases large blocks of raw, natural cheese from a food co-op for a decent price.  Her family is also part of a cow share which they receive raw milk from.

Brad and I purchase D'Dutchmen Dairy milk.  It is located a few hours away from our city (but we can buy it at our local health food store), and they offer old-fashioned, handmade dairy products with a focus on top quality ingredients.  This is what currently fits into our budget as it is only 10 cents more per litre than regular milk at the grocery store.  We would love to find somewhere we could get raw milk (illegally, eek) or just organic for a better price.  Right now we also buy mainstream cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, etc. because it is already pricey to begin with.  A goal we have is to learn to make these things at home in the near future.

Where do you get your dairy?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Healthy Homemaking Series: Natural Remedies - The Neti Pot

Baby Step 25 - Treating What Ails Ya - Naturally! (only one left!)

Challenge: Seek a replacement for one conventional medicine with a more natural option.

Why: While pharmaceuticals can occasionally have their rightful place, in general we rely on them far too heavily.  This creates an unnatural and unnecessary dependence on them and are losing our abilities to heal naturally.  Most conventional medicines are full of preservatives, dyes, sugar, and harmful (often synthetic) chemicals which can cause dependence and damage our immune systems and even our internal organs.

Most cold symptoms are a good response to illness.  They are not really "symptoms" of the illness, they are defensive actions our bodies take to heal itself or let us know something isn't right.  An example of this is the heat of a fever which kills bacteria and serves as a warning to us that something is wrong.  Eczema is often just an allergy, lack of nutrients, or hormone imbalance.  Headaches are most often caused simply by dehydration. Other than extreme cases perhaps, these problems don't require drugs.

How: I love natural remedies.  It is always so amazing to me how effective they are.  I have talked about a few in prior posts.  One that I can't believe I hadn't talked about yet is my neti pot!  I got a head cold recently, and thus I thought it would be a good choice to talk about today.

Looks pretty weird, eh?

I began using a neti pot after being told by my doctor that I would have to take prescription Nasonex everyday for the rest of my life.  Nasonex is a steriod, and thus I was not comfortable with this.  It can cause or even hide infections and impair the ability of wounds in the nose to heal.  Other side effects included headaches, nosebleeds, inflammation of the throat, nasal irritation, nasal burning, nasal ulcerations, and smell and taste disturbances.  Uh, wasn't this medication supposed to be helping my nose?  Didn't sound like it to me.

Originating in ancient India, the neti pot is used to flush out the nasal cavities with a warm salt water solution. When I first started I used it daily, but after my body was able to heal itself, I only use it when I am sick now. To treat a nasal problem, I use it once in the morning and again at night.  The first couple of times ever using one it can feel slightly uncomfortable, but I've got it down now and it takes no time.  During this last sickness, I was also adding eucalyptus essential oil to my diffuser at night to help clear up nasal congestion.  I felt better in a couple days, and that is coming from someone who used to use up an entire value pack size box of extra strength Sudafed or Sinutab every time I got a cold or sinus infection.

There are lots of good resources for finding natural remedies on the internet, but my tried and true resource is my book 1001 Natural Remedies by Laurel Vukovic.  I would encourage anyone interested in more natural living to check it out.  It has sections on health, beauty, home, and even pets.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Healthy Homemaking Series: Better Baking

Baby Step 24 - A Better Method for Baking

Challenge: Try a new recipe that incorporates the soaking (2 step) method for quick bread, muffins, etc.

The importance of soaking grains was mentioned briefly in the oats post.  Grains are full of vitamins and minerals and have the potential to be very healthy.  They also contain antinutrients though which can cause serious health problems.  An example of this is phytic acid which when untreated (unsoaked) will block the absorption of calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, and zinc into the body.  And that is only one example.

How:  This is the basic premise, though it can be adapted for different recipes.
-flour and grains are soaked overnight in liquid that is acidic (buttermilk, kefir, yogurt, whey, lemon juice)
-mix the flour and liquid well
-put a damp dishtowel over mixture and leave it
-add the rest of ingredients according to recipe and bake
-baking will take longer than usual

Before even starting I was quite frustrated by this challenge.  All the different recipes I looked through seemed pretty complicated and used a lot of ingredients I don't keep in the house regularly.  Once I actually just did it through, I thought it was so cool!

To begin, using a recipe already adapted for soaking is a good idea.  This is the one we tried:
Blender Batter Pancakes by Sue Gregg

1 c yogurt thinned with water
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 c uncooked oats
1/2 c uncooked brown rice (we used black rice)
1 egg
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Combine first 5 ingredients in blender and blend on highest setting for 3-5 minutes.  Leave at room temperature covered for 12-24 hours.
Right before baking, add egg, and blend for 1-3 minutes.
Sift in remaining 3 ingredients and blend briefly until mixed.
Bake as usual in frying pan/on griddle.

Ours are a funny colour because of the black rice but still tasty!

We loved them!  This will be the only pancake recipe I use from now on, that is how much I love these.  I think it is so cool that they don't have any flour in them, just using the ground up oats and rice instead.  From what I can tell, they're very nutritious too.  You could add all sorts of different grains or seeds as well.  For all the putting off and frustration beforehand, it was very worth it.  I am so glad I learned about this method and this recipe.  (Oh, and it made way more pancakes than that.  The picture is only about half way through.)

Do you do any baking with the soaking method?

PS - I recently discovered No Impact Man, and now I want to read his book. I then just this second discovered that there is a documentary about it all too!  I've got to see it.  Here's the trailer:

Monday, October 10, 2011

Our Vegetarian Deliberation

As I've expressed a couple of times in past posts, Brad and I recently became vegetarians (it's actually been about 4 months now, wow).  It is a very personal decision, and for us it really ties into our natural, healthy, eco-friendly quest in life.  Thus I thought it would be a good topic for discussion here.

I've moved to a new website! Head on over to Heartful Habits to read the post 3 Reasons Why I'm a Vegetarian. Thanks!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Saying Goodbye to the Microwave

I have not been on the ball enough this week to get to my next baby step in the Healthy Homemaking series.  With starting a new job, it's been a little crazy.  Luckily I do still have something to talk about, so here it goes.

In the purging of most of our possessions, Brad and I decided to ditch our microwave.  The first reason was to be more minimalist.  Why do we need another appliance to do a job that we can do without it?  Then I began to come across posts on blogs and other websites of others who had given up their microwaves for health reasons such as Red and Honey - Bidding Farewell to the Microwave Oven (the most recent blog I have discovered and fallen in love with), Keeper of the Home - Life Without a Microwave (a woman who's opinion I hold in high regard), and Naturally Knocked Up - Are Microwaves Dangerous to Your Health? (who's post is a little more informative).

I am not going to try and convince you whether or not microwaves are safe.  There has been much controversy and discussion over the years.  I encourage you to read about it and make a decision for yourself.  A website article I read can be found at Global Healing Center - The Proven Dangers of Microwave Ovens which was in my opinion informative and research and facts based.

I don't know if this is proven, but I found it amusing.

Instead I am going to tell you how we live without it.  Here is what we used a microwave for and our new alternatives.
Cooking vegetables --> Steam them in a pot or fry them in a frying pan on the stove
Reheating left overs --> In a pot on the stove or in the toaster oven (we LOVE our toaster oven)
Melting food items (chocolate, butter) --> In a pot/makeshift double boiler on the stove or in the toaster oven
Defrosting --> Bring it out a day or two ahead or use a sink of water
Clock --> Clock on the wall
Timer --> Cellphone timer

Having grown up with a microwave and probably using it daily, I was surprised how easy it was to give up.  I don't miss it one bit.  And I love all the extra counter space!  We have a grand total of 5 feet of counter top (I measured), and the microwave used to take up 2 feet of it.

Do you have a microwave oven?

PS - If you will do me the courtesy of allowing myself some selfishness, I have a favour to ask of all of you. 
Brad and I entered a photo contest with RW&Co to win a shopping spree.  I found out today that we are in the top 12 finalists.  Voting begins tomorrow, so if you are a RW&Co.nnection member (or don't mind becoming one for a good cause) on their website, please vote for us starting tomorrow (October 7-16th)!  As some of you know, my husband is currently going to school for his Bachelor of Education.  Winning this shopping spree would really help us out to build him a professional wardrobe for upcoming practicums and his future career.  Thanks!

This is the photo... (he's wearing a RW&Co vest)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Healthy Homemaking Series: Better Meat

Baby Step 23 - Finding Better Meat Sources (Only 3 steps left!)

Challenge: Research a source of better quality meat, and commit to replacing one item regularly purchased.

Why: Today's meat and poultry sources are of inferior quality to those even just a few decades ago.  They have higher percentages of fat because they don't get exercise, they're often sick because of crowded living conditions and then treated with antibiotics, and they are eating foods they were never intended to which causes toxins to build up in their body and be passed on to those who eat them.

Grass Fed Beef

How: Brad and I recently became vegetarians, and thus this step did not apply to us.  In a post soon after this series finishes, I will be explaining our reasons for becoming vegetarian.  For this post, however, I will be passing along Stephanie's information for you to consider.

Be informed about what you are purchasing.  Carefully read labels.  Ask questions to farmers or meat shop employees.  This is the basic criteria to look for:
Beef - primarily grass fed, free range, no cottonseed meal or soy protein, no hormones, steroids, or antibiotics
Poultry - free access to pasture, not confined (free range), able to eat insects,worms, etc, no hormones or antibiotics

The easiest way to locate better sources of meat is to ask around.  Talk to people at local health food stores, at farmer's markets, nutritionists, naturopaths, farmers, or others you know who are trying to eat better.

Wild game is an excellent option as well including deer, buffalo, moose, duck, geese, pheasant.

Free Range Chicken

Where do you purchase your meat?

PS - I see I have some new followers, so I wanted to let you all know that there is The Wife Life page on Facebook as well, if you search for it.  I update when I post new blogs as well as use it to share interesting articles, videos, or photos I find online that relate.