Sunday, October 28, 2012

Liquid Castille soap: You are the love of my life!

We humans are pretty crafty beings, aren't we? Why use what works and has worked fairly well for centuries when we can make NEW and "better" items using massive amounts of chemicals and toxins to cleanse ourselves with, all in the quest for bouncing and behaving hair!

Okay...that's a bit harsh. There are good reasons why we as a society switched over to shampoos and cleanliness has been greatly improved in the past 100 years or so, with reduction in diseases being the result. But we've also created massive ecological problems in the's a vicious world isn't it?

So that being said, I am falling in love with liquid castille soaps, a part of my quest for more natural cleansers. I discovered when making laundry soap that you could buy my favorite Dr. Bonner's bar soaps in liquid HUGE bottles if you so wish. Of course I didn't want to start out with a huge bottle so I bought the small size and I've been experimenting.

1. It makes a great hand cleaner! I put some in a used out "foaming" hand soap dispenser. I put in about 2 tbsps of soap and then filled the rest of it up with water. What you get is this fantastic foam to wash with that is sharply scented with peppermint (Since that's the scent I picked) that doesn't leave your hands dry AND that cleans paint brushes nicely....(Hey, you have to wash your brushes out SOMEWHERE...)

2. It can be used all over the house to clean. Mix it with some baking soda to make a paste that is great for cleaning the kitchen sink, bath tub or toilet (non-abrasive too!), Mix it with hot water to make a great wash for the counters, floors, sinks and mirrors. Use some to make some liquid laundry soap...I haven't tried this yet but I'm sure you can!

3. Wash your hair with it. Oh...I'm still mostly "No-poo" but curiosity and the longing for lather lead me to try this a while back. My hair came out nicely clean but not stripped of it's oils. Now I wash once per week week with lavender castille soap and "no-poo" the rest of the time. It's been fantastic!

4. Wash your body with it. A tiny bit on one of those loofah sponges goes a LONG way to creating lots of lathery goodness!

5. Wash your doggy with it. My ITCHY. I grabbed a bottle of lavender castille soap and added a tiny bit of tea tree oil to the mix and it seemed to help. (we're also making changes to her diet since she's itchy all over). The lavender and tea tree scents also will help to repel fleas and ticks and it left her coat nice and soft and shiny all over.

I am sure there are about a million other uses for it, but these are ones I've tried and tested myself and they all work very well! I bought my soap at wegmans but it is also available on Go ahead...get the BIG bottle. But a little of this stuff goes a long ways, no matter how you are using it!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Crunching on squirrels is NOT the kind of Crunchy I want going on in this house!

Okay..maybe eating squirrels is acceptable to some of you. I know hunters and such who are all to happy to bag a cute little critter. But that's not what I'm writing about today...

I'm writing about the puppy dog and her new found NEED to eat EVERYTHING SHE FINDS ON THE SIDE OF THE ROAD. We've been going for these lovely walks and lately she's been coming up with some interesting finds: Dead frogs, squirrells and possums. Bugs, grass and bits of corn that have blown off from the crops. It all goes in her mouth and I have NO idea how to break her from this disturbing habit. I know, I know...she's a dog and it's what dogs do. They roll and frolic in dead things in order to stink themselves up. I understand it on an intellectual level but as we're walking along...all that logic flies out the door and is replaced by the immediate need to scream and leap away from the dead thing my sweetie has discovered.

So..any thoughts or tips? I love my girl and I love our walks together but I'd like to be able to get home without having to repeatedly gag at what she eats before I can stop her.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

But...why not beans??!!

Beans are one of those foods that FEEL and look hearty and wholesome to eat. One of my favorite cook book authors once said "people who live close to the earth depend on beans...." and this is true. Beans offer a rich source of proteins and minerals, fiber and carbohydrates. They are easy to keep, store for huge amounts of time when properly dried and they are relatively easy to cook. They are cheap, readily available and filling.
So when I started down the path of the Paleo diet I was surprised and a little bit...shall I say..MIFFED that beans were on the NO NO VERY NAUGHTY list. Beans? Really? They are good for your heart after all and the more you eat the more you....

Okay, never mind.

So why no beans? Why exclude this pretty little packet of nutrients from our diets? What is the reasoning? I did some digging and I'm still trying to come to an understanding with this elimination.

The first reason: Beans have to be processed before you can eat them. I guess that this means green beans, which you can eat in their raw form, are okay? Dried beans though, you definitely can't eat them raw, in fact doing so would involve a great deal of distress to your system. Hmmm..okay...I can see that. The paleo diet is meant to closely mimic our hunter/gatherer ancestors and to walk around trying to munch on some hard beans while on the hunt for boar would not fit into that lifestyle.

So why else? This is according to Legumes also have similar traits to grains in their make-up; they contain phytates which inhibit nutrient absorption and cause inflammation. They also contain lectins and play with healthy hormonal functions.

Part of the rational for the paleo diet is to restore proper levels of blood sugars and hormones, something that modern diets have thrown WAY out of whack. I understand this on a health care worker level as I've seen the absolute pandemonium a plate of beans and rice can play upon a diabetics body, even when appropriately portioned. Maintaining blood sugar balance is a game of balance and beans, while full of fiber, are also full of starchy carbs. Soy beans for certain have issues with hormone disruption as they can mimic estrogen.

All of this is good stuff but by far the best article on the topic of beans is here:

Look it over and...decide what you think! I adore a big pot of pintos beans made from soaked beans cooked low and slow with a bit of ham. I don't know if I'm ready to completely exclude it...YET but the thought is an interesting one, especially as I move on in my weight loss journey.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Ten Uses for Lavender Essential Oil

Lavender happens to be one of my favorite scents of all time, right next to Lilac. I love the stuff but I hadn't really given much thought to it's usage beyond scenting items. So I thought I'd look some up. I was surprised by what I found! So here are ten uses for my FAVORITE of essential oils: 

1. A drop of lavender  on a bug bite or bee sting will stop itching and reduce swelling. 

2. Lavender has been used forever for insomnia. Drop several drops into your palm then rub it over your pillow for deeper sleep. 

3.To reduce or minimize the formation of scar tissue, massage lavender oil on and around the affected area.

4. Place a few drops of lavender oil on a wet cloth and throw into the dryer which will deodorize and freshen your laundry.

5. Diffuse lavender oil to alleviate the symptoms of allergies.

6. A drop of lavender oil on a cold sore will reduce swelling. 

7. Rub lavender oil on the back of your neck, chest, and in between your eyes to alleviate sinuses, sinusitis, allergies. This is also very helpful for a headache. 

8. Place a few drops of lavender oil on a wet cloth and throw into the dryer which will deodorize and freshen your laundry.

9. Massage a few drops of lavender oil into your lower abdomen or apply a hot compress onto the area, which a little lavender oil has been sprinkled.

10. Add 8 drops of lavender oil and 4 drops of peppermint oil to a teaspoon of jojoba oil. Pour it into a cool-to-lukewarm bath and soak for 10 minutes to reduce the pain of a sunburn. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The laundry debate: What is the cost of homemade laundry soap?

A while back, I shared with you my recipe for homemade laundry detergent. Today, as we made a new batch (Our 4th batch in 1 year) I decided to take a look at how the laundry soap is working out for us.

First batch I made, I used borax. Borax is a mined mineral and does a good job with laundry. It's marketed in fact as a "Laundry  booster". The Duggars, famously of "19 Kids and Counting" have made the recipe for borax based laundry soap popular amongst the cheapskate/DIY internet world. I have to say, the borax based laundry soap worked really well! Your clothes come out fresh and clean, with no scent excepting the tiniest trace of whatever bar soap you used in the mix. If you are interested in using borax in your soap try out the Duggar's recipe:

Duggar family soap

But....I did some more digging and decided that I did not want to use Borax any longer, or Fels Naptha for that matter. Why? Because they are both harsh on the environment and my reason for making my own soap was to be greener as well as cheaper. Read more about it here:

So..I looked around and finally came up with this recipe:

Borax free laundry soap:
1 cup arm & hammer super washing powder
1/2 cup baking soda
1 bar dr. bonner castile soap grated

Mix together and use 1 tbsp (heaping if your laundry is really dirty) per load. Works for front loading washers AND top loading)

Now, this makes a small batch of soap. I make it in HUGE batches because we are a large family and I don't like grating up soap very's messy business! (though MUCH easier thanks to our stand mixer with grater attachment!)

This recipe works really well! My clothes are clean (but not softened) and again, no smell on the. The baking soda especially gets rid of the odors and the washing soda (NOT the same thing as baking soda) dissolves dirt. Plus there is little impact on the gray water that comes from the wash as the castille soap, baking soda and washing powder are all green. Yay!!

So what does it cost to use this soap? The most expensive ingredient is the bar castille soap which I get either from Wegman's or in a pack of 6 for $21 or $3.50 a bar. It's pricey! But..remember that you're grating up a bar and then only using 1 Tbsp per load of your wash. The baking soda I found at Aldi's the other day for $.48/box. Yes!! Under a dollar! And a box has two cups in it so you only need 1/4 of the box to make this small batch! (But trust me...make a large batch! It's worth it!) Washing soda comes in a box of 55oz for about $10 or less. So...if you use all 6 bars of your castille soap you got from Amazon you'd need 6 cups of washing soda (less than one box) and three cups of baking soda (1.5 boxes). You'll be able to do this for about $32 for the big batch. You'll get about 400 loads of laundry, which comes out to.....*Drumroll please*.........$.15/load.


So, is this worth it? Heck yes!! How much do you pay per load to use Tide? About $.50/load. But remember you're also adding toxins into the enviroment AND onto your body as they soak in through your skin....

So, think about it. Is it worth it to YOU to go through the soap grinding effort to have clean clothes?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Food Co-op: Some thoughts

Our experience with our local food Co-op is drawing near to a close. I have mixed feelings about the entire process and I wanted to ruminate about them some here. Overall, it was a positive experience. That being said however..I won't be signing up again next season. There were some things that I had trouble with:

1. We signed up for a full share of veggies each week. Now this was supposed to be enough to feed a family of four, and most times, it was. But we would get sometimes just one small turnip, or four small beets. I would be okay with this number, but I know that our co-op also holds a weekly farmers market which means they are selling all of their "surplus"...stuff that was technically already paid for by the co-op  members prior to being grown.

2. We got a few things that we wouldn't have bought for ourselves, over and over again. Like basil. I love basil but I also have some growing outside my door. I received a big handful of basil each week from the co-op and it's not something I would have purchased for myself..which means it got thrown away every single week. This is a waste and also...a waste of money. Not getting to pick what you get each week can equal more waste if your family simply won't eat it.

3. Often times what we got...seemed like seconds. I can't say for sure if this was the case or not, but for example, we got a sweet potato that had clearly been hacked in half by a blade. Still edible, yes, but since we only got one sweet potato (for a "family of four?") half of it had to be thrown out...this means we only got 1/2 of a sweet potato. We also got some extremely tiny carrots that were...not quite big enough for rabbit food (One or two bites per carrot). This was very disappointing.

So, the positives:

1. I loved getting farm fresh eggs weekly. If it didn't require such a drive down to the farm, I would consider doing only an egg share.

2. The chickens, always sold as extras, while expensive were definately delicious. Pasture raised birds that you know lead happy, grub eating lives.

3. I loved the IDEA of the co-op. Of farm fresh veggies each week, and I got just that. It just had enough flaws that I think for our family it'd be better to take our money down to the local organic farmer's market...and buy exactly what we want each week (and enough for all of us to have some).

Just my thoughts, I still think the idea is a good one and worth investigating! I still think eating locally and organically is important, but we will have to find another way to do it.