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!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Bugger Off Natural Bug Spray

Summer break has officially started in my household and that means it is time to make up a batch of my Bugger Off Bug Spray. (This post has a great bug bite balm if the 'squitos were out before you were protected) This spray is just as effective as its store-bought counterparts, without all of the dangerous chemicals and a lot more affordable than the safer natural brands.

I purchase all of my essential oils from either Mountain Rose Herbs or Swanson's Vitamins. If you are new to essential oils then there might be a sticker shock- but there are typically 600 drops in one ounce. Each bottle lasts a long time. A quick note on the essential oils being used: omit the peppermint oil for children under 6 years of age as it can effect their breathing if inhaled. Just up the lavender and citronella essential oils another 15 drops each. As with any bug spray, be very careful not to get into the eyes.

Bugger Off Bug Spray
By: Living Life Granola
4 oz glass spray bottle
1/4 cup raw apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup distilled water
40 drops lavender essential oil
40 drops citronella essential oil
30 drops peppermint essential oil*

Combine all ingredients in the glass spray bottle. If possible, let sit for four days to synergize. Shake before use and store out of direct sunlight.

*Omit if using on children under 6 years of age. Add additional 15 drops each of the lavender and citronella essential oils.

Wishing everyone a safe, fun and bug-free summer break!

Linked with the Simply Natural Saturdays blog series.
*This post was their featured article of the week.