Tuesday, September 8, 2015

More Ways to Reduce Plastic

Believe it or not, we are in the last four months of 2015 and my resolution to reduce my plastic usage is still going strong.  Well, stronger than if it had been another diet resolution, anyway. There have been a couple of times that I forgot my reusable shopping bags (whoops) and I'm still trying to find my way around the gargantuan plastic bags from Costco. However, there are some tips and even brands that I have come to use and depend upon on a daily basis. They are listed below in the three main categories of my life: Cleaning, Food and Beauty. (For how to reduce plastic in the kitchen with kids, read here.)


Making your own cleaning products is of course a great way to reduce plastic bottle usage. The link here will get you started on a whole bunch of effective and easy to make cleaners. After we moved, I found that my homemade laundry and dishwasher detergent was not compatible with hard water but I was lucky enough to come across these two brands that have zero plastic in their packaging.

If You Care Automatic Dishwasher Tablets work even in my hard water. Placing a 4 oz glass filled with vinegar in the top rack before starting the dishwasher will help the dishes rinse clean as well. The box is also 100% post consumer recycled paperboard that is processed with no chlorine. The tablets are wrapped in a polyvinyl alcohol that is biodegradable. You can find it here.

Eco Nuts Organic Laundry Soap are just berries from the Sapindus Mukorossi (soap berry) tree in Asia that acts as a natural detergent. They are nut allergy safe and also act as a fabric softener. To clean clothes, just throw 4-5 soap berries into the included mini linen bag and then into the washer. They can be left in even during the rinse cycle. The same soap berries can be used up to ten times or until they start to disintegrate. They can be found here.


If you have followed this blog for any amount of time, you know there are quite a few recipes to make food stuffs from scratch that can be found here. In lieu of making items from scratch, you can vote with your dollars by choosing to purchase items like condiments in glass jars over their plastic counterparts. Everything from olive oil, applesauce, local honey, mustard and mayo can be bought in glass jars. If you have the option, always choose glass. (Here's why you especially don't want your food stuff being stored in plastic.)

While this lovely local popcorn is initially housed in a plastic bag, it does get transferred to a glass jar once I get it home. By buying this popcorn local, I am assured that it hasn't been sitting on a store shelf in plastic for months at a time and that it wasn't wrapped in yards of plastic on a crate going across the country. It also cuts back on the individual plastic wrapping of microwave popcorn as well.

I realize that I blog about Yogi Tea. All. The. Time. But, oh, it is sooo good. Not to mention that the entire package and its contents are either recyclable or compostable. Like I mentioned in another post, the insides of the box also make unique and pretty names tags for gifts.

Personal Care

Just like the cleaners and food recipes above, these DIY beauty recipes will have you kicking the plastic bottle habit and looking fabulous!

Ladies, when that time of the month comes, not only do we have to deal with lovely mood swings, cramps and hormonal breakouts but we also leave the garbage dumps filled with plastic wrappers, inserts and other accouterments of that fun week. A few years ago, I switched to a Diva Cup and haven't looked back. The Diva Cup is a silicone cup that is inserted just like a tampon but only has to be changed twice a day no matter what your flow is at the time. There was a learning curve the first month but now I can never go back to tampons... and those organic tampons were expensive anyway. The Diva Cup costs $30 but it has more than paid for itself in the three years that I have had it. You can find it here.

Natracare is a natural line of women sanitary products that are organic, chlorine, fragrance and plastic-free (even the packaging). Even the paper strip on the back of the pads can be recycled or composted. You can find them here.

Even brushing teeth can produce plastic waste in the form of flossing. Countless plastic floss containers get thrown out everyday all across America. Most of them are not even recyclable. Eco-Dent packaging is recyclable and biodegradable. The floss itself is infused with essential oils to help keep the gums clean and healthy. You can find it here.

I grew up using bars of soap for hand washing and in the shower. It wasn't until about twenty years ago that liquid soap took off with all their alluring smells and plastic bottle waste. Today's bar soap can smell just as alluring as the bottled stuff without all of the plastic. My favorite is from Farmer's Market. The bar has a rich lather and rinses clean and leaves behind a yummy subtle natural fragrance. You can find them here.

Even if you don't have the time to make everything from scratch, there are many great products out there that will help lessen your eco-footprint. The power of choice is in your hands when it comes to buying products not packaged in plastic. Once you start becoming more aware of your choices, you'll find it is actually easier than you thought to reduce your plastic use.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Vitamin C and Hyaluronic Acid Serum

Vitamin C and hyaluronic acid are the new it couple. You can find this duo on many store shelves in pricey little bottles, jars, serums, packs and pastes. The benefits of this star couple are actually quite impressive. Vitamin C is a known antioxidant, however, it also aids in healing the skin, suppresses melanin and helps lighten hyperpigmentation (age spots, acne discoloration, etc.), strengthens capillary walls and supports healthy collagen formation.

There are several different vitamin C serums online, one of which is from blogger and esthetician Jenni from Jenni Rain Cloud. She had the brilliant idea to only make enough serum to last 3 to 5 days. Not only does this remove the need for it to be refrigerated like other online recipes but it also ensures that the Vitamin C in your serum stays active. Vitamin C has a very short shelf life and all those amazing benefits are literally dead in the water after a few days. That means all of those expensive Vitamin C creams that you are trying to make last a few months is nothing but a glorified emulsion of water and oil. My recipe below is based off of Jenni's with a few exceptions, one being the addition of hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid is a strong water binder that helps the skin to retain water, making it look moist and smooth with the added benefit of helping to temporarily plump fine lines and wrinkles. Along with the Vitamin C, this serum is your anti-aging Hercules and it only takes minutes to make!

Vitamin C and Hyaluronic Acid Serum
By: Living Life Granola
Printable recipe here.
1 tsp Collagen Replenish with Hyaluronic Acid and Vitamin C (Find here.)
1 1/2 tsp distilled water
1/4 tsp glycerin
1 capsule Vitamin E
1 dark colored glass dropper bottle

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl until the powder dissolves. Carefully pour the liquid into the glass dropper bottle. Vitamin C oxidizes quickly in air and light so keep the cap on when not in use and store in a dark cabinet. Shelf stable for 3 to 5 days or 1 week in the fridge.

If you have sensitive skin, do a patch test first to check for any possible irritations.

The jar of Collagen Replenish costs a little under $15 and will cover over 2 months worth of serum-making. One bottle of a store bought serum that only lasted for about a month, without the benefit of active Vitamin C, cost me close to $20. No matter how you look at it, the homemade is the better bargain all around. Not having to trudge to the fridge morning and night in the middle of your cleansing routine is another bonus. Don't forget to follow up with Cheaters Face Lotion. Here's to youthful, beautiful skin... naturally!

Linked with the Homemade Monday blog series.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Why You Should be Soaking Your Grains and Nuts

Last week I took a little hiatus for my kids' first day back at school. This week I'm back with a long overdue post on the importance of soaking grains and nuts before consumption. Not only has the wheat that we eat changed since our grandparents' day but how we consume it and other grains has as well. Soaking grains, and then going through the process of sprouting them, is a time-consuming and therefore forgotten practice. However, it is one that will yield countless dividends on your health.

All grains, seeds, nuts and legumes contain phytic acid, a phosphorus-bound organic acid, in the outer layer or bran. While phytic acid can sport some health claims, unfortunate side-effects like bone loss can occur when eaten in excess (like most American diets). Phytic acid binds with calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc in the digestive tract impeding absorption of these minerals.

In addition to phytic acid there are also enzyme inhibitors that protect the seed from germinating under less than ideal conditions but can wreak havoc in the body. If the diet is high in these inhibitors then over time it can lead to obesity, lethargy, gas, bloating, high blood pressure, gastrointestinal difficulties, enlarged pancreas, diabetes and destruction of the body's own naturally produced enzymes.

With gluten sensitivity, IBS and other gastrointestinal disorders on the rise, I feel it is important that we get back to our ancestral roots of soaking, fermenting and even sprouting our grains and nuts.Whether your ancestors hailed from Europe, Asia, Africa or Latin America, every traditional cultural diet prepared their staple grains in these ways.

When it comes to soaking grains and nuts, there are three different mediums that can be used: warm acidic liquid, fermenting and brine. Soaking in this manner greatly reduces the phytic acid content and breaks down the enzyme inhibitors. Not only does this allow the body to absorb all the nutrients but it also increases the vitamin content and makes these nutrients more bio-available to your body. Win-win! Fermenting grains also provides lactic acid and lactobacilli to help break down complex starches, irritating tannins and difficult-to-digest proteins (like gluten).

An acidic liquid is warm water (between 95 and 115 degrees Fahrenheit) with lemon juice or vinegar added to it. Slightly warm up half the amount of water that the grain or legume calls for and add in the grains and acidic medium, stir, cover and let sit for at least 8 hours. After eight hours, add in the rest of the water and cook as normal. Cooking time may be reduced. A good tip would be to start soaking any grains for the night's dinner right after that morning's breakfast.

Fermentation works best for stone ground flours and oats that are going to be used for baking, oatmeals, pancakes and the like. In this method the grains are soaked in either cultured buttermilk, yogurt, kefir or a whey/water mixture for 12 to 24 hours. The full 24 hours provides the best results, especially if you are working with a recipe that requires rising dough. I'll have more specific recipes in later posts but if you are in a hurry to try this method, the Nourishing Traditions cookbook that I reference below has a ton of great ideas to try.

The third method, soaking in brine, is reserved for seeds and nuts. There are different soaking times that are listed in the chart below. I like using mason jars to soak nuts in overnight. Just place the nuts and salt into the jar and fill with filtered water. Leave on the counter for the specified amount of time. After soaking, drain in a colander and spread out evenly on dehydrator trays to dry. (The oven can also be used. Put on the lowest setting and dry 1 1/2 to 2 hours. The nuts will no longer be raw using this method to dry.) Dehydrators vary in settings and results so make sure to taste test during your first run.  I usually do the full 24 hours dry time on 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Finished nuts will be crisp, completely dry... and very yummy.

Soak Time
Dry Time
Dry Temp.
4 cups
1 tbsp
7 to 12 hours
12-24 hours
105-115 F
4 cups
1 tbsp
2 to 6 hours
12-24 hours
150 F
4 cups
1 tbsp
6 to 8 hours
12-24 hours
105-115 F
4 cups
1 tbsp
4 to 8 hours
12-24 hours
105-115 F
4 cups
1 tbsp
7 to 8 hours
12-24 hours
105-115 F
4 cups
2 tsp
7 to 8 hours
12-24 hours
105-115 F
4 cups
2 tbsp
7 to 8 hours
12-24 hours
105-115 F
2 cups
1 tbsp
7 to 8 hours
12-15 hours
105-115 F
4 cups
2 tbsp
7 to 8 hours
12-24 hours
105-115 F
4 cups
2 tsp
7 to 8 hours
12-24 hours
105-115 F

At this point, I'd like to share my experience of when I first became aware of the practice of soaking grains and nuts. I can sum it up in two words: panic attack (because that's how I roll). However, I'm one of those people that has to jump right in and do everything all at once- right now. That never works for anyone. Soaking really doesn't create more hands-on time but it does require a bit of forethought and meal planning. This takes time, patience, practice and a good bit of humour. I can say it is worth it in the end. Certaintly for your good health, but also, soaking and fermented grains and nuts have led to some of the tastiest meals and baked goods that my family and I have had the joy in eating.


Fallon, Sally. Nourishing Traditions. Washington: New Trends Publishing, Inc, 2001. Print

Morris, Julie. Superfood Kitchen. New York: Sterling Epicure, 2012. Print

Linked with the Simply Natural Saturday blog series.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Fizzy Toilet Bowl Cleaner

Making time to clean my toilets is never a high priority- neither is spending a lot of time making the stuff that will actually clean it. This cleaner works just like a fizzing bath/toilet bomb but in a powdered form and it only takes 5 minutes to make. Cleaning the toilet will go just as fast. Just dump a scoop into the bowl and the fizzing action will start working right away. You can start scrubbing right then or let it sit a bit while the rest of the bathroom gets cleaned.

This cleaner utilizes four strong anti-bacterial essential oils that will kill any nasties lurking under the bowl but won't leave behind any hazardous fumes for you or family to breathe in. This fizzy scrub actually smells quite good!

Since powders are used to make this cleaner, it will be easy for the particulates to make their way into the air. I wear a face mask while mixing to prevent breathing any of this into my lungs. Even a bandanna tied around your mouth and nose will do the trick. This is not a concern when using the cleaner in the toilets- just for the mixing part.

Fizzy Toilet Bowl Scrub
By Living Life Granola
Glass jar with tight fighting lid or another air-tight container
1/8 cup scoop (I use the scoop that came with the oxygen powder.)
1 cup baking soda
1/2 cup oxygen whitening powder
1/2 cup citric acid (
24 drops lemon essential oil
21 drops scotch pine essential oil
8 drops tea tree oil
7 drops cinnamon essential oil
*optional but recommended: face mask or bandanna tied around nose and mouth

Mix together the baking soda, oxygen whitening powder and citric acid until well combined. Add essential oils while stirring the baking soda mixture. Use the back of the spoon to crush any clumps that may form from the oils. Transfer to the glass storage jar with a tight-fitting lid and let sit for 4 days to synergize. To use, pour 1/8 cup of scrub into the toilet bowl.  The scrub can either sit for while or be used with a toilet brush right away.

The tight-fitting lid is important for keeping moisture out of the container. If moisture does find its way in then your nice loose, powdery cleaner will turn rock hard. Cleaning toilets is chore enough- the cleaner shouldn't be adding to it!

Linked with the Homemade Monday  and Simply Natural Saturday blog series.

Monday, August 3, 2015

DIY Wood and Cabinet Polish

When it comes time to make my wood furniture shine, this homemade cleaner does the trick. It also leaves behind a delightful lemon fragrance. The fragrance comes naturally from essential oils so you need not be afraid of any dangerous phthalates that can come from the artificial counterparts. You can check out the rating for the well known lemon-scented wood polish here. ( is a great website to look up all of your commercial cleaning products to see whether or not they are truly safe for your household.)  Give this polish a try to save your money and your health!

This polish is composed of mostly water so it is important to make sure that your furniture is completely dry after wiping it down to avoid any possible warping. This is a polish, after all, so a buffing motion will really help bring out the shine on your furniture (not to mention helping to tone the arms- it is still tank-top season!). I have been using this polish for years with great results. If you are interested in safer dusting for non-wood surfaces, check out this post .

DIY Wood and Cabinet Polish
By: Living Life Granola
1 16 oz spray bottle
1/4 cup white vinegar
2 tsp olive oil
8 drops lemon essential oil
Water to fill bottle
Funnel (optional)

Place the funnel on top of the open bottle and fill with the ingredients in the order they are listed. Screw the spray top back on the bottle and shake well. Shake before use. Store out of the light in between uses. Use within 6 months.

Although cleaning is not a favorite task of mine, this lemon-scented wood polish is a definite pick-me-up that has me whipping through the house in no time. I can also feel good about not filling the air with harmful carcinogens and other bronchial irritants. Remember that breathing happy should also be breathing healthy no matter what part of your home you're sprucing up!

Linked with the Simply Natural Saturdays blog series.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Healing Herbal Toner

The weather has finally starting acting like summer this past week. While I love the heat, my pores have decided to open the flood gates, leaving my skin with breakouts, blotchy-ness and enough grease to start my own McDonald's (bleh!).

Nature does not dissapoint, for even though my pores are going through a teenage rebellion in this heat, these warmer months also provide a ready aresenal of healing herbs to help calm things down. On Living Life Granola's Facebook page, I had given a heads up to start saving your strawberry leaves in the coming weeks. Strawberry leaves are an excellent gentle astringent for combination and oily skin. It helps to rid the skin of excess oil without over-drying, which is so important, especially for skin that has to deal with breakouts and wrinkles (thanks Irony, love ya, too). To dry the strawberry leaves, just leave the clean leaves on a tea towel for two to three days until they are completely dry. Store in an airtight container or sandwich bag.

In addition to the strawberry leaves, there is also calendula, which is known for its healing qualities, rosemary as an antiseptic, chamomile as an anti-inflammatory and sage as a disinfectant & astringent agent. All of these wonderful herbs are then cold steeped in witch hazel, which itself is also a gentle astringent, to completely de-grease and refresh the skin- all without over-drying!

Most of the herbs were bought from Whole Food's bulk section.  Mountain Rose Herbs online is also a great source for all kinds of herbs. If you are lucky enough to have any of these plants growing in your back yard, use them! Just up the amount of fresh herbs to one tablespoon.

Healing Herbal Toner
By: Living Life Granola
1 16oz bottle of witch hazel
2 tsp  dried strawberry leaves
1 tsp  dried sage
1 tsp dried calendula flowers
1 tsp dried chamomile flowers
1 tsp dried peppermint leaves
1 tsp dried rosemary

*Use organic ingredients whenever possible.

Pour the witch hazel into a glass jar with a tight fitting lid. Add in all the herbs and shake well.

Store in a dark cabinet for two weeks, shaking everyday (or whenever you remember).

After two weeks, strain back into the witch hazel bottle. Apply with a cotton ball, shaking the bottle before use. The toner will last for a year.

This toner has been a life saver for me in the summer but it is also great after workouts or anytime you will be breaking a sweat. You can even pore a little into a small glass spray bottle for a little refresher through the day, as well. So no more hiding under layers of powdered foundation to help soak up all that excess oil (You're choking your skin!).  This toner will give you the glow without the shine!

Linked with the Homemade Mondays and Simply Natural Saturday blog series.

Monday, July 20, 2015

American Fries

American fries were always part of my birthday dinner requests while growing up (along with a rack of ribs and sparkling grape juice- what can I say, I've come a long way diet-wise). I remember standing next to my dad as he turned the potatoes in the hot, popping oil waiting for those babies to be just cool enough to do the "chew, blow, chew, blow, wave hand in front of mouth" routine because I could not wait to chow down.

These days, instead of frying the potatoes, they are baked in the oven. They are still as delicious and crunchy as I remember as a child but without all the cleanup from splattered grease everywhere. I have used all different kinds of potatoes with success along with olive oil (not extra-virgin!) and coconut oil as well. Enjoying fries at home has never been so easy!

American Fries
By: Living Life Granola
3 to 4 large baking potatoes or 6 to 8 small heirloom varieties
3 to 4 tbsp olive oil (not extra-virgin!) or melted coconut oil
Sea salt and pepper to taste

*Use organic ingredients whenever possible.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Scrub potatoes and dry on a tea towel. Using a mandolin slicer, slice potatoes 1/4 of an inch thick width-wise into rounds. Alternatively, slice potatoes using a sharp knife as thin as possible. Arrange in a single layer on two  baking sheets, that can fit in the oven side-by-side.

Brush the oil over each round, salt and pepper to taste, then flip the rounds over and repeat on the other side.

Place the baking sheets in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, turning once, halfway.
Serve immediately and store any leftovers in the fridge. These fries are even great cold the next day for lunch!

American fries make a great accompaniment to any meal without any of the trans-fat that you get from the fast food guys. Depending on the size of the potatoes used, you can also give these a try on the grill for another vegetarian grilling option. Just lower the cook time to about 10 minutes total. However you cook these American fries, you can enjoy not only the taste but also the fact that they are made from fresh ingredients that are safe and nutritious!

Linked with the Simply Natural Saturday blog series.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Whole Wheat Vegan Pancakes with Whipped Coconut Cream

Sunday mornings were made for breakfasts smothered in maple syrup and fresh whipped cream. Sundays are also the day our farmers market is held, so come morning time, my fridge is looking rather sad. While my family are flexatarians in practice, these vegan pancakes fit the bill for an empty pantry. The pancakes are so fluffy and yummy that I don't even miss the eggs or buttermilk in typical pancakes. It is also a great way to help lower your dairy consumption without compromising on taste.

Whipped cream is a personal favorite of mine but having pastured heavy cream around all the time isn't always feasible financially or health-wise. By always having a can or two of coconut milk in my pantry, I can ensure a steady supply of mock whipped cream that can be made up in a snap.

Whole Wheat Vegan Pancakes with Coconut Whipped Cream
By: Living Life Granola
Pancakes (makes around 20 four inch pancakes) :
2 cups stone-ground whole wheat pastry flour (or sprouted flour)
2 tbsp turbinado or coconut palm sugar
4 tbsp aluminum-free baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 cups almond milk
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted + more for skillet
1 tsp vanilla extract

Whipped Cream:
1 can full-fat or 1  11 oz condensed carton coconut milk
1 tbsp tapioca starch
1 tbsp turbinado or coconut palm sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of sea salt

*Please use organic ingredients when possible.

If using the canned coconut milk, scoop off the top cream and place in a medium-sized mixing bowl along with the other whipped cream ingredients. If using the carton, pour into a cheesecloth-lined sieve over a bowl to drain for a few minutes. Save the coconut water for a later use (great in smoothies!).  Either using a handheld or stand mixer, whip the cream for 2 to 3 minutes. The consistency will be thin. Place the mixing bowl in the freezer while making the pancakes. Move the bowl to the fridge if it is longer than 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to the lowest setting (mine is 170 degrees Fahrenheit) and place  an oven-safe serving plate on the highest rack.

Melt the coconut oil over low heat in a small pan.
Place a large skillet on the stove and turn the heat on the lowest setting to preheat the pan.

Meanwhile, mix the flour, sugar, 4 tbsp baking powder (4 tbsp is not a typo. This is what will give the pancakes the light and fluffy texture!) and salt in a large bowl.

Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the almond milk and melted oil. Whisk until smooth.  Let sit for 5 minutes to let the baking powder do its magic.

Turn the heat on the stove to medium-low and add a little coconut oil to coat the pan. I use a large metal serving spoon to scoop the batter onto the skillet- then use the back of the spoon to help smooth the pancake out. When bubbles start forming on the top of the pancake, it is time to flip. Let cook for a couple minutes more then transfer to the oven to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining batter, adding coconut oil to the skillet as needed.

Right before serving, take the cream out of the freezer (or fridge) and whip for another minute to get a nice whipped texture.

Serve pancakes with the coconut whipped cream, maple syrup and fresh fruit.

July is the perfect time to take advantage of all the stone-fruit and berries that are in season and on sale. Don't forget to check your farmers market for the freshest produce around. These pancakes are delicious on their own but the peaches and cream made them over the top. Happy and healthy eating!

Linked with the Homemade Mondays and Simply Natural Saturday blog series.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Breast Milk Lotion

OK- so I can hear the ewwwww's now but really this stuff is a miracle in a jar. We know that the benefits of feeding babies breast milk are innumerable. The milk is anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and has anti-bodies. These benefits can also be utilized topically as well. When my daughter was a few months old she broke out in eczema all over her body. We tried everything: coconut oil, homeopathy, organic eczema cream, pro-biotics- as well as me not eating any dairy for a while (not fun). Nothing was working. Even a trip to the pediatrician didn't yield any results because all they wanted to do was slather her in steroids (umm, no).

Desperate at this point to try anything, I came across a thread on Baby Center talking about breast milk lotion. Bingo! Since I make my own lotion all of the time, I had to give it a go. Within a week the eczema was gone. Diaper rash? Gone. Baby acne? Gone. My fine lines? Still here… but how awesome would that be. Fine lines aside, if your baby or toddler is dealing with any of these issues, you have to try this lotion. The most important ingredient of the lotion... you supply yourself. Everything else can be bought at Whole Foods or a local health store. This lotion will still work out to be much cheaper than the $20 per jar I was dropping on the creams that we previously tried.

Breast Milk Lotion
By: Living Life Granola
1/4 cup breast milk (fresh or thawed is fine)
1/4 cup grape seed oil
1 tbsp beeswax
1/2 capsule vitamin E or 4 drops vitamin E oil
20 drops calendula extract

Fill a skillet with 2 inches of water and put on the stove. In a glass measuring cup, pour in the oil and beeswax. In a separate glass measuring cup, pour in the breast milk. Place the oil/wax measuring cup in the skillet and turn the burner on low/med. You do not want high heat because that can damage the oil- if it is too hot it will kill the beneficial properties of the breast milk once it is mixed together.

Occasionally stir the oil/wax mixture until all the wax has melted. This can take up to 10 minutes. During the last couple of minutes, place the measuring cup with the breast milk in the skillet. If the milk and oil mixture are around the same temperature, it will mix better. Take both measuring cups out of the skillet once the wax has melted.

While vigorously whisking the oil mixture, slowly pour in the breast milk. You will start to see a white emulsion. Keep whisking for one minute. Let cool for 5 minutes and then add the vitamin E and calendula extract. Whisk for another minute. Pour into a glass jar and keep the cap off until completely cool. Store in the fridge and use within 3 months. Makes 4 oz.

Breast milk lotion truly is a magic bullet for all skin ailments. Give it a try and be amazed!

Linked with the Homemade Mondays and Simply Natural Saturday blog series.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Summer Time Facial Masks

Summer-time offers a bounty of fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables that in turn supply excellent antioxidants, vitamins and minerals to your body. Those same benefits rub off (literally) on your skin as well. Homemade facial masks are simple to make with the bonus of making your skin absolutely glow. Overly ripe fruit work best so don't throw out any fruit that has over stayed its welcome in the crisper- make it into a healing, beautifying mask!

Some of these masks can be a little messy so wearing them in the shower will not only help you multi-task, it can make clean up a breeze. If you want to use the time to relax (which you totally should!), then wear an old shower cap and lay on a towel to prevent any food spills on areas you would rather keep clean. The mask recipes below make enough for one application. If there is any extra, don't forget to do your neck and decollete!

Sun Defense Mask

A little too much sun on the face is a quick way to age a little too fast. Aloe vera is healing and moisturizing while the plum helps neutralize free radical damage. Blueberries, with their high amount of antioxidants, help protect the integrity of collagen in the skin. The herb thyme calms irritated skin and promotes cellular turnover. You can use this mask everyday until the redness calms down. It is also healing for any area of the body suffering from sunburn- not only the face! (If you are looking for a sunburn remedy that is not a mask, check out this recipe.)

1/4 of a small plum
6 large blueberries
1 tbsp aloe vera
1 sprig of fresh thyme

Pulse all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Apply with clean fingers and leave on for 10 - 15 minutes. Rinse with cool water- do not rub off.

Acne/Oily Skin Mask

The heat, the sweat, the excess oil... it all combines to make a trifecta of misery for the acne sufferer. The clay in this mask deep-cleans by drawing impurities out of the pores. Cucumber is purifying and it also tones and shrinks the pores. Strawberries are great cleansers that also have a natural form of salicylic acid that helps unclog pores... while parsley helps to lighten hyperpigmentation (it evens out your skin tone). Use once to twice a week.

2 inch slice of cucumber
2 leaves fresh basil
5 - 6 leaves fresh parsley
1 large hulled strawberry
Clay, enough to make a paste,  about 1 tbsp

Pulse all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Apply with clean fingers or fan shaped facial brush and leave on for 10 - 15 minutes. Follow with appropriate toner and moisturizer for skin type.

Sensitive (Red) Skin Mask

Help cool and calm things down with this mask that includes colloidal oatmeal (ground oats) to soothe irritation, watercress to strengthen skin and improve skin tone and chamomile tea that has potent anti-inflammatory properties. Use once a week.

1 heaping tbsp colloidal oatmeal
1 tbsp watercress leaves, chopped fine
2 tbsp chamomile tea (or enough to make a paste)

Mix all ingredients to form a paste. Apply with clean fingers or a fan-shaped facial brush. Leave on for 10 minutes. Rinse with lukewarm water- do not rub off. Follow with appropriate toner and moisturizer.

Anti-Aging Mask

Yogurt is my favorite base for a mask. The lactic acid content in yogurt exfoliates by dissolving dead skin cells and promoting the growth of newer, stronger cells for a more youthful appearance. Both blackberries and watermelons have a good amount of antioxidants. Blackberries also have vitamins B, C and K along with omega-3. Watermelon has vitamins A, B and C. Use once to twice a week.

1 tbsp whole milk yogurt
5 blackberries
1 inch cube of watermelon

Pulse all ingredients in blender until smooth. Apply with clean fingers or a fan-shaped facial brush. Leave on for 10 - 15 minutes. Follow with appropriate toner and moisturizer.

Firming Mask

As we grow older, elastin and collagen start to break down in the skin and we get the saggy, baggy look of old age. This mask, albeit temporarily, will do a wonderful job of tightening things back up. Cucumber also helps to tone and shrink pores. Can be used once a week.

1 egg white of a pastured egg
1 tsp cornstarch
1 inch slice of cucumber

Pulse in a blender until mixed well. Apply immediately with clean fingers or a fan-shaped facial brush. Leave on for 10 minutes- you will not be able to move your face once it has dried. Rinse well. A wash cloth can also be used with upward strokes. Follow with appropriate toner and moisturizer.

Moisturizing Mask

This one is hard not to eat before you actually get it on your face! I listed the benefits of using yogurt as a mask above but it is also wonderfully moisturizing. Even in summer, the skin can get dehydrated and make you look older than your actual age. Peaches have antioxidants and are high in vitamin C, while also packing calcium and beta-carotene. Honey is a great humectant, drawing moisture into the skin and keeping it there. Can be used once or twice a week.

1/4 of a very ripe peach
1 tbsp whole milk yogurt
1/2 tsp local raw honey

Pulse in a blender until smooth. Apply with clean fingers or a fan-shaped facial brush. Leave on for 10 to 15 minutes. Follow with appropriate toner and moisturizer.

These masks can be the epitome of homemade if you use produce from your backyard garden. Farmers markets would be another great place to find organic produce. No matter where you get your fruit and veggies from, just get in the kitchen and start mixing. You glow girl (boy- whatever)!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Banana Bread Muffins with Hemp Seeds

I live in a muffin house. We eat them for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and...  any reason, really. With just a few changes, these banana bread muffins will turn into a healthier version without compromising on taste.

By using whole wheat pastry flour (sprouted flour is even better!), you are upping the nutritional content exponentially while allowing for a moist, light muffin. I've written about the benefits of pastured dairy and meat here. By using eggs from pastured-raised hens, you get to reap the benefits of omega-3's and CLA's. Coconut oil has been written about extensively for good reason- the stuff is awesome! Yes, it is saturated fat but the body metabolizes it differently by using it for energy right away instead of storing it as extra pudge. Of course, this is in moderation so don't eat a quarter cup of the stuff not expecting to gain a little weight. The star of these banana bread muffins are the hemp seeds that replace the typical walnut addition. While both seed and nut have omega-3's, hemp seeds have an impressive fiber and complete protein content along with a wide range of minerals including iron, potassium, zinc and magnesium. It is also one of the few alkalizing seeds on the planet.

Costco is currently selling a 28oz bag of Manitoba Harvest hemp hearts for $13. Outside of these banana bread muffins, hemp seeds are also good in/on homemade granola bars, smoothies and salads, just to name but a few.

Banana Bread Muffins with Hemp Seeds
By: Living Life Granola

1 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or sprouted flour)
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup turbinado sugar + more for sprinkling on top of muffins
2 pastured eggs
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 cup mashed bananas (about 2 medium-sized)
1/2 cup hemp seeds
12 If You Care bleach-free baking cups

**Use organic ingredients when possible.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cream together coconut oil and sugar, add eggs and beat well. Mash bananas in with the oil/sugar mixture.

Combine flour, salt and baking powder and soda in a bowl. Stir in the banana/oil/sugar mixture. Fold in hemp seeds.

Place the paper baking cups into the muffin pan and fill each cup 3/4 full with the batter. Sprinkle a pinch or two of the turbinado sugar over the top of the muffins.

Bake for 25 minutes and then place on cooling racks.

Store in an airtight container with paper towels below and above the muffins. Consume within 5 days.

This recipe can also be doubled with the extras being frozen for later consumption. These muffins are great on their own but by adding some pastured butter or ghee you can really turn these muffins into a nutritional powerhouse. Enjoy!

Linked with the Simply Natural Saturday blog series.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Homemade Facial Towelettes

Our family loves to go camping. The food tastes better, you sleep better and just by being in nature, you feel better. The only down-side to all of this better-ness is the limitations in the hygiene department. That's why I think facial towelettes are the best thing since air mattresses when it comes to camping. They are the perfect way to cleanse your face without needing water or a towel. The towelettes can also be waste-free if they are thrown in the fire pit to be burned after use.

Unfortunately, store-bought towelettes are filled with parabens and other harmful chemicals. Anything that is put on the skin will be in the blood stream within fifteen minutes. Since towelettes are not rinsed off it is important to have the ingredients be as pure as possible. Just like the Cheaters Facial Lotion that I posted about a few months back, these towelettes can be customizable to your skin type. The different formulas are listed below.

Homemade Facial Towelettes
By: Living Life Granola
25 Large cotton facial ovals (found in the same section as cotton balls)
1/4 cup witch hazel
1/4 cup aloe vera juice
1 tbsp glycerin
8 drops essential oil of choice*
Small air-tight container

*Hormonal acne: 3 drops lavender essential oil, 3 drops geranium essential oil and 2 drops carrot seed essential oil

*Teen acne: 3 drops lavender essential oil, 3 drops geranium essential oil and 2 drops tea tree oil

*Red/Sensitive Skin: 3 drops blue chamomile essential oil, 3 drops lavender essential oil and 2 drops calendula extract

*Anti-aging: 3 drops carrot seed essential oil, 3 drops lavender essential oil and 2 drops cedar wood essential oil

Place the cotton ovals in the air-tight container. In a small glass measuring cup mix all the remaining ingredients together. Carefully pour over the cotton ovals in the container. Place the lid on the container and store up-side down until all the liquid has been absorbed by the towelettes.

If possible, let synergize for four days in a dark cabinet.

Use within 1 month.

Even if you are not big into camping, these towelettes also make great make-up removers and hand sanitizers- especially if you use tea tree oil in them. As with any essential oil, take care when using around the eye area.

These towelettes are super easy and quick to make and won't be draining to your health or wallet. Keeping it beautiful, even while camping!

Linked with the Simply Natral Saturdays blog series.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Thrift Store Summer Wardrobe Capsule

The concept of a wardrobe capsule has crossed my path several times in the past, even though I didn't know the exact name for it. The idea of having a few classic pieces, with some trendy pieces thrown in, to make up a plethora of different outfits seemed right up there with my 'less is more' philosophy. Why it has taken years to actually put this concept in place is just classically me. What helped move this plan into action was coming across Project 333 that breaks the capsule wardrobe down into 33 pieces that are worn for 3 months (a season, essentially). Things like workout clothes, undergarments, lounge wear, and sentimental jewelry don't count towards the 33 items but shoes, fashion jewelry, purses, and other accessories do. Now, that sounded like a challenge and I love a good challenge.

If you follow this blog then you know I am big into thrift shopping- it is where a good 90% of my clothes come from. (Items like shoes, undergarments, pajamas, swimsuits, socks, and the like... I do buy new.) It still amazes me to find pristine articles of clothing for such great prices. Sometimes I get so amazed that I fill up my closet with garments that I don't even end up wearing more than once due to not having anything to go with it or the item not being practical enough to wear everyday. So even though I think I'm getting a great deal and saving a ton of money...I'm actually wasting it. My husband, Dino, never could understand how I could walk out of my closet, stuffed with clothes, and bemoan not having anything to wear. Well, nothing coordinated! By working in the confines of a wardrobe capsule this issue becomes moot. Having a capsule also greatly cuts down on the time it takes to go through all the racks at thrift stores since you will have a certain color palette in mind. Shopping for my capsule was some of the quickest thrift store shopping days ever! Even though I love new clothes (new for me, anyway), going through rack after rack is just tedious. Not anymore!

Pintrest and Google images were huge inspirations for my summer capsule. It would be great to just look at a shirt and do awesome things with it but my brain doesn't work that way. At first, I was pretty sure that there was no damn way I would only be able to pare down my summer wardrobe to 33 pieces. Towards the end of my planning, however, I was scrounging for the last 3 items. To tackle this project the color scheme was determined first. From there it was choosing how many skirts, tank tops, shoes, etc. I wanted in the capsule. After that it was assigning the color scheme to the different pieces and then making a descriptive list of items that needed to be bought (if I didn't already own it). The list kept me focused at the stores and didn't allow for any extraneous items to make their way back to my newly cleaned out closet. It's important to keep all the tags on your new clothes until you have your complete capsule. That way, if you do have to return something because it doesn't match as well as you thought, you will not be stuck with it.

The Pieces:

  1. Banana Republic denim oxford (Savers)
  2. Gap aqua cardigan (Savers)
  3. White 3/4 sleeve blouse (Goodwill)
  4. Gap gray t-shirt (Savers)
  5. Black t-shirt (bought new from Meijer)
  6. White t-shirt (already owned)
  7. Banana Republic green tank top (Savers)
  8. Yellow tank top (Savers)
  9. Black tank top (Savers)
  10. Old Navy navy and white striped dress (already owned)
  11. Kenji aqua and copper embellished dress (Goodwill- tags still on from TJ Maxx!)
  12. Darjoni jean skirt (already owned)
  13. Striped long skirt (bought new at Target)
  14. Old Navy light blue capris (Savers)
  15. Gap jean shorts (already owned)
  16. Black shorts (already owned)
  17. Skinny jeans (already owned)
  18. Light brown belt (already owned)
  19. Thin black belt (already owned)
  20. Vera Bradley aqua purse (bought at a previous trip to Savers- it was never used!)
  21. Camel colored cross-body purse (bought new at Meijer)
  22. Sun Hat (bought new at Target for $3)
  23. Sunglasses (already owned)
  24. Gold key necklace (already owned)
  25. Light aqua chunky necklace (already owned)
  26. Copper chunky necklace (already owned)
  27. Gold bracelet (already owned)
  28. Pearl stud earrings (already owned- not pictured)
  29. Diamond stud earrings (already owned- not pictured)
  30. Toms loafers (already owned)
  31. Black flip-flops (already owned)
  32. White and gold sandals (already owned)
  33. Wedges (already owned)

This $6 Kenji dress from Goodwill still had the $35 tags from TJ Maxx on it. These finds happen frequently at thrift stores! 

Between the three t-shirts, three tank tops, two shorts and jean skirt there are 18 outfit combos alone. Below are some more outfits that can be put together from my capsule.

With just a few accessories this Old Navy dress can go from casual party cool to errand-running chic.

This Kenji dress can easily be worn for a special night out or a day around town.

Just a few pieces but so many different looks.

This could be a great weekend-get-away combo.

Lunch date to play date.

It has never been more fun picking out clothes and my closet has never looked more organized. I'm looking forward to do doing this in the fall and to no more wasted money on clothes that don't get worn. It's a good idea to take photos of your outfits as well to help make your morning dressing routine go quicker. Shopping at thrift stores for your wardrobe capsule is the perfect way to reduce and reuse- not to mention getting some fabulous finds at some seriously fabulous prices.

Here's to a gorgeous, put-together, organized you this summer!