Monday, February 27, 2012

Natural Deodorant Stick Recipe

Switching from antiperspirant to homemade deodorant was a crunchy leap I have wanted to take for a long time, but I was too scared.  Buying natural or crystal deodorant is another option, but I find them expensive and often the ingredients are not 100% natural.  Another preference for me was that it would be in stick form.  I found this recipe on Keeper of the Home which she has altered and worked on, and thus I trusted it would turn out well.  I have finally made the leap!

Natural Deodorant Stick
-1/8 c arrowroot powder
-1/8 c baking soda
-2 1/2 tbsp coconut oil
-1 heaping tbsp beeswax
-2 drops castor oil (optional - helps it to slide on better)
-8 drops tea tree essential oil
-8 drops lavender essential oil
-up to another 10 drops of another essential oil for scent purposes

1. Add all ingredients into a small pot over medium heat on the stove.
2. Stir until everything has melted into a smooth consistency.
3. Have a container ready.  We emptied mainstream deodorant containers and washed them out in a pot of boiling water.  Make sure it is turned back down the bottom.
4. Pour the melted mixture into the container until full.
5. Allow to cool and set on the counter for a couple of hours.

It is a good idea to have a "detox" period of about a week where you use no deodorant or antiperspirant after quitting the mainstream stuff and before beginning the natural replacement.  I was happy to be doing this in the winter.  When you do use it, this homemade deodorant will be softer than conventional deodorant.  Be careful not to twist it up too high when using or to put on too much.  Also, this will not prevent you from sweating, it will only prevent you from smelling bad.  I have heard that your body will adjust as time goes by.  I am still waiting to see.

I have been really impressed with the effectiveness of this deodorant.  We made one for Brad as well, and it works even on his man sweat.  Neither of us have been smelly, in fact we can smell the scents of the essential oils we each used.  Mine is lavender scented, and Brad's is the spa spirit essential oil blend from the Spa Spirit Lip Balm post.  The only downside I have come across thus far is that our white shirts end up with yellow in the arm pits, but I haven't found it to be a big deal.  I am not sure what exactly causes this though.  Is anyone out there able to educate me?

Have you tried any natural alternatives to antiperspirant?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Eating Animals

{Today is a "guest post" by none other than my most wonderful husband, Brad.  In one of his university classes, he was required to do a book critique.  He chose Eating Animals which I thought would fit in with the blog.  I asked him to write a post for us once he was done, and here it is.}

In Jonathan Safran Foer’s book titled Eating Animals he talks about his research on factory farming.  Foer spent three years researching this topic in order to write this book, but admittedly he has no background in the food industry.  He lived in New York City and admitted that he had never touched a farm animal.  He wanted to find out for himself and his family what meat is.
Foer is a vegetarian and wanted to research the ‘production’ of animals because he wanted to give his newly born son the best nutrition as he grew up. Whenever Foer told someone he was writing a book about ‘eating animals,’ they assumed that it was a case for vegetarianism. This is the assumption that in reading about how animals are treated it would lead one away from eating meat, most people know this to be the case.  Interesting, isn't it?

Throughout the book, Foer ends up telling several stories, each ending with the same horrific result.  The first story is about microbes.  People in the United States are prescribed 3 million pounds of antibiotics per year, while livestock are fed nearly twenty-eight million pounds.  The animals become resistant to the antibiotics and produce a new strain of germs which are resistant to the antibiotics.  Then new antibiotics are given to fight the new germ.  Humans then ingest the meat and the new strains of antibiotic resistant germs.  We now become resistant and when we try to treat illnesses, the drugs have a decreased effect on us, causing us to increase the amount of drugs needed.

He uses dogs as an example by saying that “no reader of this book would tolerate someone swinging a pickax at a dog’s face,” yet this is a common practice for how fish are killed.  Chickens are dunked in a bath to shock and stun them, pigs are electrocuted, and cows who have a bolt shot into their heads.  Often these methods do little more than put the animal through more torture as then they are put through the process of skinning and dismemberment alive and fully conscious.

A third story the Foer tells is about the waste that animals produce, and do they produce a lot.  One report that Foer states is that the excrement produced by pigs from a single company is as much as all human residents of the states of California and Texas combined.  Unfortunately, “concentrated animal feeding operations,” of CAFOs, have no waste-treatment systems.  The waste gets dumped into holding ponds.  This is just an open-air pit where all the waste from the animals is piled all year round.  To no one’s surprise, the waste in these ponds tends to seep into nearby streams and rivers which cause aquatic “dead zones.”  It is estimated that some thirty-five thousand miles of American waters have been contaminated.  To top off these ponds that are destroying aquatic life, humans who work with the ponds also die.  Either due to the effects of breathing it in for years, or falling in and drowning, this has happened on multiple occasions.

 Using these three stories to illustrate what factory farming is composed of, Foer asks us to make an informed decision if we want to support treating animals this way.  He is not saying that we should all become vegans, or vegetarians even.  He is saying that we should be informed about what we are supporting when we buy our meat, and decide for ourselves if we want to be support those companies.  I think that if more people were aware of the process in which their food went through to become their food, they might choose differently in what they consume.

What aspects do you take into consideration when choosing your food?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Herbal Fire Starters

On Whole Living's website they have a list of 25 Eco-Chic Ideas for Your Home.  Most of them are really fantastic, and I encourage you to check them out.  One that caught my eye was the herbal fire starter.  I thought this would be especially relevant for a winter post because I am sure some of you heat your homes with wood fires or have them occasionally as a treat.

Herbal Fire Starters
To make:  Bundle combinations of herbs and small pine cones in newspaper.  Tie ends with twine/raffia/hemp, etc.
To use: Place one fire starter underneath the log pile with ends sticking out.  Light newspaper end on fire.

We put ours in groups of cinnamon with sage and lavender with rosemary then secured them with hemp.

Herbal fire starters are a natural alternative to lighter fluid.  They also add a wonderful aromatic aspect to the fire.  Putting the bundles together was actually a lot of fun as well.  Brad and I made most of these as a gift for an outdoorsy friend and also a few for ourselves to enjoy this summer out at our fire pit or while camping.

As a side note, I want to briefly mention that wood fires do quite significant damage to the environment.  I encourage those who enjoy the warmth and coziness of a fire to look into composite logs.  There are many options made from clean burning renewable resources.

What is an eco-chic idea you've implemented in your home?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Listening to Your Body

{photo source}
I used to have a lot of issues with my arms and legs falling asleep and going numb.  I have always been easily susceptible to this, but when it got to the point where it was happening more severely and seemingly without cause, constantly throughout the day on a daily basis, I began to worry.  As I like to do, I decided to self-diagnose with the help of the internet (though not Wikipedia).  I came to the conclusion that my limb "paresthesia" (fancy word I learned on the internet) must be caused either by a vitamin deficiency or anemia.

Back story:  I already knew that I was somewhat anemic from various attempts to donate blood and a blood test.  My doctor told me that it wasn't severe enough for me to worry about or treat though.  I thought that seemed odd, but he is the one with the medical degree.

Later, I went to see a walk in doctor for a different condition (I work in a daycare and routinely contract unusual childhood diseases), and thought I'd mention the severe limb numbness I had been experiencing.  She told me not to worry about it.  I was told that unless it started inhibiting my ability to move and function (which it kind of did during the episodes), I shouldn't concern myself with it.  My body was telling me differently, and I felt as though that was an unsatisfactory response.

I had my vitamin levels tested privately (more on that to come in another post), and they were superb.  I ruled that out as being the cause.  The next time I was at Nature's Fare, I noticed a WomenSense IronSense vegetarian iron supplement on sale.  I bought it and began taking one a day.

Now my body is feeling better than ever.  I can sit cross legged, have a child sit in my lap without fear, and wake up without feeling as though my arms are missing.  Those were far off dreams even before it became so severe.  I can't think of the last episode and am thrilled with the improvement.  Especially because I was able to remedy the problem with a simple, somewhat natural solution.  In the summer I hope to be able to get my iron intake high enough from (vegetarian) food alone.

You may be sitting there thinking, "Hm, that was a moderately interesting story."  I'll tell you now that my purpose in sharing this tale is to encourage you to take responsibility for own health.  It is important to listen to your body.  When there are significant changes, be mindful.  Don't always take your doctor's first word as absolute truth.  When you have a concern, educate yourself, keep records, and think critically.  No one knows your body better than you.

Disclaimer: I am not encouraging hypochondria here.  Please do not interpret normal sensations or minor abnormalities as serious conditions or become obsessively preoccupied with your health.  Also, it is not always the right situation to go against a doctor's opinion.  They have studied for years, and they are professionals.  Just be analytical and reflective.

Have you ever questioned or even opposed a doctor's opinion?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Onion Cough Syrup

This is such a great, simple cough and cold remedy.  I first discovered it on Vintage Savoir Faire, a fantastic blog I read.  A while back Brad had a nagging cough, which was the perfect time to try it out.  Onion is a common home remedy for a variety of ailments.  Onions are high in the anti-oxidant quercetin which boosts the immune system.  Also, it is also known to be an effective expellant of phlegm.  Onion is similar in its healing power to garlic, though more gentle.

Onion Cough Syrup
-1 small onion
-container with a lid

Peel and slice onion.  Make layers of onion and sugar inside the jar.  Cover with lid.

Allow to sit 6-8 hours.  Take a spoonful of the syrup as needed.

Brad thought it was a good remedy.  It tasted pretty bad, but not unbearable, like sweet onion.  It was easy to make and easy to take.  He said it felt very soothing when he took it, and it helped quickly with the cough.  The biggest downside was his breath afterwards, haha.  The downside from my point of view is that it takes 6-8 hours to make.  Also, I have read that sugar suppresses the immune system, and thus I wonder if it is hindering the healing process.  Perhaps honey would work in place of it.

How do you fight off a cough?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Chalkboard Organization

As we have been working to eliminate plastics and become more repurposeful in our house, we have been collecting jars for storage.  Between washing and keeping emptied ones and being given many from my generous mother-in-law, our fridge and pantry are full of them.  The only problem we were running into once not being able to tell the difference between steel cut oats and rolled oats, baking soda and baking powder, etc.  Our solution (inspired by a pin on Pinterest) is chalkboard paint.

Simple to do, looks awesome, and is reusable!

How do you keep your kitchen organized?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Cold Hands, Warm Heart - Hand Warmers

We only have one car, and thus Brad spends a lot of time outside waiting for the bus.  Usually this isn't a big deal, but at 6 in the morning through the winter, it's certainly not enjoyable.  For this reason, I made Brad hand warmers for a stocking stuffer at Christmas.  It was simple and cheap.  I had all the materials in my house already.  Plus, these use natural products and are reusable as opposed to the processed, disposable kind.

Hand Warmers

What you need:
-felt/wool/fleece (I used scraps of felt from another project. An old or worn out sweater or blanket would be another great option.)
-needle and thread

Cut fabric into reasonable size pieces.  I cut mine into circles 2 3/4 inches in diameter.  Sew two together along the edges leaving a gap of about an inch.

Carefully pour 1-2 tsp of rice into the packet.  Sew the gap shut and tie.
To use:
Warm in microwave/oven/toaster oven.  If using an oven or toaster oven, lay on the rack.  Place into pockets, gloves, boots, slippers or anywhere else for extra warmth.  Great for waiting for the bus, watching outdoor sporting events, engaging in winter sports, walking in cold weather, etc.  No chemicals and no disposal.

It's so easy.  Once they've warmed up, they hold their heat well.  I recommend them.

What have you done to combat the cold weather?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Homemade Peanut Butter

We love making our own condiments.  I think it is because I once thought they would be impossible, but now  I am pretty well unwilling to buy most condiments.  Peanut butter is no exception.  After trying (and hating) natural peanut butter, I began to purchased the unsalted, unsweetened kind.  This was an improvement, but it still contained hydrogenated oil.  Making our own peanut butter was an empowering experience.  We didn't have or follow any recipe.  Just play around with the quantities until you get it how you like it.  Here's how ours went.

Roast plain, unsalted peanuts in the oven

Blend roasted peanuts in blender (or food processor) and add a little oil.

Optionally, add honey to sweeten.


I want to start this off by saying that I hate natural peanut butter, and our homemade peanut butter is not like natural peanut butter.  Our homemade peanut butter is delicious.  It just tastes like roasted peanuts.  It also has lasted a long time (couple months) without appearing to have gone bad, storing it in the fridge.

I'm not quite sure it worked the way it is really supposed to though.  The oil from the peanuts themselves never separated the way I have seen in natural peanut butters.  Also, our peanut butter is extremely thick and completely un-spreadable.  I mix one portion sized amount with more honey to make it spreadable and sweet as I use it.

Have you made peanut butter?  How did it turn out?