Consumerism in the Natural Realm

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This has been on my mind for a while.  I put off blogging about it, but it keeps slapping me in the face every time I browse through message boards and Facebook groups.  Let me start by posing a question.

“I’m looking for a natural facial cleanser and exfoliator.  What would you (the natural community) recommend?”

Seems innocent enough, right?  But then the responses start rolling in.

“I sell *insert MLM company*, and we have the best!  PMing you!”

“You can order *insert $47 3oz cleanser* at this website, and shipping is only $12.”

“I will only ever use *insert product claiming nonGMO, certified organic, soy-free, vegan, sustainably sourced, cruelty free label*”

“Have you tried blahblahnaturals on Amazon?  Target has so-and-so brand.  Earth Fare also carries the blerbidyblerb brand.”

The same responses get doled out for body care products, hygiene items, household cleansers, and almost anything else.  And nine times out of ten, these suggestions are quite pricey.

My beef with this particular outlook is that it seems to totally circumvent the whole point of trying to live more naturally.  I understand the convenience factor.  I understand that it’s sometimes easier to just go out and buy what you need rather than make it at home. But the consumerism in the natural community is getting to a near overwhelming level of unnecessary… Maybe even to an exploitative degree.

This brand obsession is what makes people believe they can’t afford to live naturally.  They ask for suggestions on replacing their $3 Johnson’s Baby Wash, and they get rushed with brand names sold hundreds of miles away at double, triple, or even ten times the cost of their original item.

The pressure to not “use poison on your family!” is so blindly powerful that many of us succumb to the fear and start throwing dollars and sense to the wind.  My baby NEEDS this special soap-free soap!!

You know what you can use to wash your kid AND yourself?

Water.

Need a facial cleanser?

Try the oil in your spice cabinet.

Exfoliator?

A wash rag.

Clean with vinegar or hydrogen peroxide. Bulk shea butter for moisturizing.  Shampoo your hair less frequently.  Grow your own food.  Upcycle your old clothes into cloth diapers, menstrual pads, family cloth, kitchen rags.  Learn to love your face without makeup.  Nourish your body with food, exercise, water, and sun. Rid yourself of excess stuff and get with the multipurpose life.

I’ll continue to buy a couple of my favorite products.  But my goal is to decrease my dependence on brand names. Let’s face it.  A good chunk of the costs involved with these big, natural brands is not the value of the item itself.  Often times, we’re just paying these companies to do the research and thinking for us and then have them hand us a simple, safe product.


What are your thoughts on consumerism in the natural community?

Natural Alternatives That Are Actually Bunk 

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I’ve been wanting to create a few posts about some of the natural remedies and alternatives floating around. Some of these methods are extremely popular and even touted as THEBESTTHINGEVAR by some users. 

But once you start digging, it starts to get sketchy. Sure, these items involve organic products or they’re mixed up in a cozy kitchen, or that other crunchy lady said it worked. But… These alternatives…  

Do they actually work?

Are they safe?

Do they make a lick of sense?

I love natural options as much as the next hippie, but far too often, the answer to these questions is a big ‘ol nope. Snake venom is natural, but I’m not gonna brush my teeth with it, ya know?

Instead of rewriting what other exceptional writers have already written, I’ve decided to do a link round up post. This also proves I’m not just being contrary and that many others have come to similar conclusions as myself.  I’m not crazy.

I preemptively apologize for the bubbles I’m about to pop.

Continue reading

A WEE Bit Greener

familycloth

Bad puns. Gotta love ’em!

But yes!  I’m ready to test these waters.  (there’s another pun there somewhere)  I’ve always used cloth wipes on my babies, but I’ve been hesitant to try them for myself.  I don’t think I’m ready for adult #2’s in my washer just yet, but I can handle #1’s!

I prefer to use nursery flannel to make my kids’ cloth wipes.  It’s soft and even softer when two layers are turned and topstitched together.  It does the job so well and they’re super cute.  It’s also a really easy sewing project for beginners.

Alas….I care not even a little bit about cuteness when it comes to grown folk wipes.  But that’s what makes this DIY so awesome.  It doesn’t matter what they look like.

I’m taking this little leap, and I want to encourage you to try it as well!  This is so easy.  Just minutes from start to finish.

The secret to this DIY is KNIT FABRICS.

If you’ve done much sewing, I bet you already see where I’m going.  Knit fabrics don’t fray.  No sewing required, no serging, no special scissors needed.  Just cut it up and go.

BOOM.

Knits are available at any store that sells fabrics, and you can feel free to skimp a little and buy the cheaper stuff or check the discount/remnant bin.  This DIY is also perfect for those of us clearing out closets.  Tshirts, PJs, tank tops, etc…A lot of these are made with knits.  Minimize, recycle, DIY, and save the planet all in one go!

I chose to cut my fabric into rectangles so I could easily fold them into thirds for use.  I didn’t measure or get too fancy.  However, keep in mind that knits will roll around the edges a good bit, so plan accordingly when deciding on a rough size.

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Perfectly Imperfect!  Full size to the left, folded in thirds to the right.

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Ample hand coverage!

That’s all it takes!  I store mine in a basket underneath my bathroom sink and pull out a tiny stack each day.  Used wipes get dropped into a mesh lingerie bag for washing.  If you don’t already have a mesh bag, I’d definitely recommend getting at least one.  Tiny wipes could get stuck in your washer!  The bag also makes it easy to refill your basket.  Just dump the clean wipes out of the bag and carry on.

We can do this!


Do you use cloth wipes?  What do you use?  What are your experiences?

The Lowdown on DIY Deodorant

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Let me start by saying that this is not a recipe post.  I do make my own deodorant, but in the process of learning how, I’ve come across about a zillion recipes “that really work!” and comments like, “What if I don’t have organic mango butter and an instant read infrared thermometer?”

Fret not.

The truth is that homemade deodorant is one of the easiest things you can DIY.  You may have to go through a couple versions to find out what works best for you, but it is literally as simple as stirring a mixture in a bowl.

In this post, I’m going to share some basic natural product DIY tips and break down the pros, cons, and properties of various ingredients you can use for deodorants.   You can start developing your personalized product by choosing ingredients that fit your skin type, your budget, or any other preferences/needs.

The Ingredients

Coconut Oil

  • Coconut oil is super popular as a cream or paste deodorant base and mixes very easily
  • Light/white in color
  • Light coconut scent
  • Vegan
  • Soft solid at room temperature, melts easily when applied to skin
  • Pros : Contains antioxidants, antimicrobial, moisturizing, antifungal, mixes easily
  • Cons : Slightly greasy feel, can cause dryness in some users, known comedogenic

Shea Butter

  • Shea butter is very firm and easier to apply when blended with a softer base.
  • Cream color
  • Nutty aroma
  • Vegan
  • Melts at around 110*F
  • Pros : Moisturizing, anti-inflammatory, good for a firmer deodorant
  • Cons : Requires melting either by microwave or double boiler, may cause a reaction in those with nut/latex allergies (very rare!)

Cocoa Butter

  • Cocoa butter is very firm and easier to apply when blended with a softer base.
  • Tan color
  • Sweet aroma
  • Vegan
  • Melts at around 95*F
  • Pros : Long shelf life, anti-imflammatory, great thickener, reduces the appearance of scars or blemishes, good for firm or stick style deodorants
  • Cons : Requires melting either by microwave or double boiler, can cause crystalization or “balls” in your product.  (still safe and usable, just less homogenous)

Beeswax

  • Beeswax is too stiff and waxy to be used alone, but it adds stability and firmness to other softer bases.
  • Various shades of yellow
  • Sweet, warm aroma
  • NOT vegan
  • Melts at around 145*F
  • Pros : Soother, protective barrier for skin, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial
  • Cons : Waxy feel, requires melting either by microwave or double boiler

Arrowroot Powder

  • Arrowroot powder is a root starch used in many natural products as well as foods!
  • Very fine, light, white powder
  • Vegan
  • Pros : Moisture/oil absorbing, thickener, helps to neutralize odors
  • Cons : Can be messy to work with
  • Cornstarch or potato starch may be substituted.

Baking Soda

  • Baking soda is extremely accessible and inexpensive and makes a great addition to DIY deodorants.  However, it sometimes has negative side-effects and should be paired with other ingredients to avoid excessive concentrations.
  • Fine white powder, slightly abrasive
  • Vegan
  • Pros : Moisture/oil absorbing, thickener, excellent odor neutralizer
  • Cons : Is known to cause irritation, redness, or rash in some users

Probiotics

  • Probiotics are the “good bacteria” that help to fight and balance the “bad bacteria.”
  • Can be purchased in capsules or loose powder
  • A shelf stable probiotic is necessary for deodorant usage! Refrigerated probiotics are amazing but won’t survive the heat/air of this DIY.
  • Capsules may not be vegan
  • Pros : Helps to fight odors, anti-(bad)bacterial
  • Cons : You body’s natural micro-flora may require you to tweak the amount of probiotics you include in your deodorant.

Essential Oils

  • Essential oils are a staple for many naturally minded DIYers and offer endless possibilities and combinations.
  • Pros (depending on the oils and amounts you choose) : can soothe the skin, fight off bacteria, prevent odors, lift your mood, or just make you smell fabulous.
  • Cons (depending on the oils and amounts you choose) : can irritate the skin, can result in sensitization, photosensitivity
  • Always dilute oils in appropriate ratios and choose your oils wisely.  For example, don’t load up your deo with cinnamon bark oil because it’s Christmas…ouch!
  • Common favorites include tea tree, lavender, citrus oils, pines, ylang ylang, frankincense, patchouli, sandalwood, bergamot, mints, etc.

Other Great Add-Ins

  • Vitamin E Oil
  • Mango Butter
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Various Oils (grapeseed, avocado, etc)
  • Vegetable Glycerin
  • Bentonite Clay, French Green Clay
  • Herbs or Herbal Powders (calendula or chamomile powders, for example)

Where do I find these things?

Some of these items can be found easily at your local grocery store.  Coconut oil, baking soda, and arrowroot powder can be found almost anywhere.  Some of the butters and oils can be found at health food stores or vitamin shops.  Earth Fare, Whole Foods, and so on.   And there’s always Amazon!  But here’s a list of natural friendly online stores to give you even more  options.

Mountain Rose HerbsStarwest BotanicalsFronteri Co-opiHerbPlant TherapyBulk Apothecary

Try to aim for organic, unrefined, nonGMO, cold-pressed, fair trade, virgin, etc.

What do I do with all this information?

This is the really beautiful part…  You choose what you want to use and just toss it all together!  The most elaborate recipe would still only require some sort of heating method, a bowl, a utensil, and a container for your finished product.  You can’t mess this up.  Remember that this is a Do It Yourself project, not necessarily a Do It The Way Someone Else Did It project.  Pick one or two ingredients or pick twenty.  It’s yours.

General DIY Tips

  • Work in small batches.  You don’t want to waste ingredients or end up with a gallon of product that you don’t like.
  • Clean up properly.  Things like coconut oil and beeswax should not go down your drain.  A flexible spatula ensure you get most of your product from your mixing bowl into your end product container.  Before washing, and ideally when your mixture is still pliable, use a paper towel or bit of toilet paper to wipe out any remaining product from the bowl and discard.
  • Remember that some of these ingredients will change in texture once they’ve been allowed to come to room temperature.  Coconut oil will naturally soften and melt a little as it’s being stirred, but it will stiffen up again if left in a cool room.
  • Be ready to adjust your product as your needs change.  Some of us can get away with a simple swipe of just arrowroot powder on wintery days.  Suit YOUR needs.
  • Be on the lookout for adverse reactions.  You may need to use less baking soda, you may need to add a few less drops of EO, you may need to skip them altogether.
  • Make notes as you go.  I’m horrible at this, but I absolutely see the merit in it.  Nothing is worse than ending up with the perfect product and then not having any idea how to replicate it.  Record how many spoonfuls, how many drops, how many tablespoons…

If you haven’t already jumped on the natural deodorant train, I hope this post encourages you to try! If you do already make your own, I’d love to hear what you use, your tips, and where you like to gather your ingredients.

Smell ya’ later!  ….OR WILL I?!

 

har har

 

Tracing Without Waste

I just read this post, Pre-Writing Activities for Toddlers and Preschoolers, by Angela at MOMtessori Life (great blog to follow!), and I want to share our family’s favorite method of tracing!

When I first started “schooling” my oldest child, I wasn’t the most wise in my methods.  I was printing off stuff like this.

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Source

This could be useful if you needed to occupy a dozen kids.  But one?

My eyes are rolling so hard at my past self.

MOMtessori Life knows what’s up.  Get a piece of paper.  Draw a line.  Boom.  Done.

But wait!  I’ve discovered another option that provides the same skill practice without sheets of paper mounding up.

Enter…The Dry Erase Marker.  Mini onesskinny oneseven SKINNIER onesbold ones, washable onescrayon ones, or even wet erase markers for the Littles prone to smudging or for the lefties.

And while dry erase boards are awesome and have their uses, there is another, even better, even cheaper option that you may not know about.

Report covers and sheet protectors.

Like these report covers or these page protectors from Avery.  I found a pack of ten report covers at WalMart for less than a dollar.

You’re welcome.

Some report covers come with a sliding bar to close the edge, others have a locking tab if you want to get fancy. Taping two of the open sides while leaving one side open to slip pages into is my preferred option.  Hellooooo, pretty washi tape!  Page protectors on the other hand, only have one open end so they require no closure.  But I’ve found that report covers are a bit sturdier.

How to use them?

Draw or write your to-be-traced stuff onto a sheet of paper, insert that sheet into the sleeve you’ve made, hand the kid a marker, and TADA!  Let the no-waste tracing begin. If you’re not into tracing, you can insert a blank sheet, a lined handwriting sheet, a page of math problems, a game blank.  Or leave one of the long sides open and slip one of these sleeves right onto a page inside of a workbook.  It’s endless.

insert

Insert and remove easily.

You can be even more less-waste by finding and upcycling plastic film sheets from other items you may have at home.  Some recipe books come with splatter pages that would work.  Maybe you bought a packaged toy item with a clear window film.  Trim that baby out and use it for good! Clear vinyl would also work.  You could even use an old picture frame and glass if you like to live dangerously.

erase

Easy peasy.

 

Happy Wednesday, y’all!

 

Clear Out Your Medicine Cabinet

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This post is for minimalists, crunchy folk, families with kids, your neighbor, and everybody else.  Whether you want to live more simply with less clutter or just want to improve the health of those in your home, this is for you.

My medicine cabinet is not even a cabinet.  It’s a tiny basket with a pack of bandaids that we never use, a few essential oil personal inhalers, and a thermometer.

*gaspSHOCKhorror*

“But what if your kid gets a fever?”

“What do you take for headaches?”

“You’ll change your mind when you get a sinus infection!”

So, now that we’ve got THAT out of the way, let’s continue to the meat of this post.

I encourage you to go grab a package or two of OTC medication from your cabinet and read the labels.  What are the intended uses of these products?  I’ll use a popular brand of acetaminophen as an example.

“temporarily relieves minor aches and pains due to: the common cold, headache, backache, minor pain of arthritis, toothache, muscular aches, premenstrual and menstrual cramps, temporarily reduces fever”

Source

temporarily relieves minor aches and pains

temporarily reduces fever

I want to use this example because this is one of the medications so many people keep on hand and use for so many purposes.

My point here is that drugs like this do not fix your problem.  They do not cure anything.  They do not prevent anything.  They slightly alter the presentation of the actual problem for a short time and then bring to the table a slew of side effects, noticed or not.

And then there’s this…

giving these medicines, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, to prevent fever after vaccination may also blunt immune responses to the vaccine.

Duke University/CDC – Click for Source

And also this…

Our previous case-control study showed that use of acetaminophen at age 12–18 months is associated with increased likelihood for Autism Spectrum Disorder (OR 8.37, 95% CI 2.08–33.7). In this study, we again show that acetaminophen use is associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder (p = 0.013).

Click for Source

These medications aren’t helping you.

Yes, your headache might ease off.  But why do you have a headache?  Did you consume too much sugar or caffeine in the past few days and now your body is having to readjust to normalcy?  Did you skip a few glasses of water and allow yourself to become dehydrated?  Did you watch too much television or play on your phone too long?

Are you medicating yourself for something a glass of water, a dose of sunshine, or better time management can cure?

There are natural, better ways to not only treat common health issues, but also many, many ways to circumvent these issues entirely.

  • Prevent seasonal allergy reactions by consuming local, raw honey.
  • Utilize a steamy bathroom, facial massage, and a mug of tea instead of consuming decongestant medications.
  • Use a netti pot instead of OTC nasal sprays.
  • Know that the foods and beverages you put into your body directly affect how you feel at that moment and for a time afterwards.
  • Clean water, mild soap, and applied pressure are all most minor wounds need.
  • Recognize that things like fevers or upset tummies are the body’s way of dealing with an attack that started well before you ever noticed the symptoms.
  • Wash your hands with a mild, *non-antibacterial soap.*
  • Know that your attitude, how you manage yourself mentally and emotionally, plays a role in how you feel physically.
  • Treat the origin of your issue, not just a handful of symptoms.
  • Understand that your body is made to defend and repair itself and often doesn’t need assistance.

We’ve been so conditioned to believe we *need* these medications to “heal” or “get better.”  Even the drugs themselves don’t claim to do that.  Human bodies are powerhouses of sustainability…as long as they are treated with the respect and care they deserve.

I’m not saying that “medicine is evil” or “Big Pharma is killing us all!”  I’m saying that we live in a world where many people would rather take on additional risks, spend extra money, and live in a state of dependency than make a diet change or go for a walk.

I’m saying, “Simple solutions to simple problems.”

I encourage you to make today the ending point of concealing symptoms.  Make today your starting point for genuine, “I love you, self,” self-care.

Protein Balls, Breastfeeding Cookies, Breakfast of Champions

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If you haven’t already found these things on Pinterest, let me go ahead and enlighten you. These are crazy easy and nom-worthy snacks everyone will love, including your budget. You need to make these. Like, today.

These yummies can be relatively healthy or SUPAH healthy depending on your ingredient choices.  For example, I try to avoid nut butters with extra ingredients (added sugars or oils) to ensure my kids don’t go berserk after eating a mini mound of these things.  I also like to add in some ground chia seeds for a little nutrient boost and use local, raw honey for allergy protection.  The great thing about these goodies is that ALL of the ingredients are either pantry staples or have multiple uses.  If you have a local store that sells bulk items by weight (lucky you), you can save a few dollars by only buying a handful of each of your add-ins.

There are recipes out there, but I prefer to wing it. So here are my instructions for how you can wing it too 😉

You need this.

The basic ingredients are

  • rolled oats
  • nut butter
  • honey

I do about a half a cup of peanut butter and maybe a third of a cup of honey with probably a little over a cup of oats. Add and tweak to get a solid mixture.

I love recipes that aren’t even real recipes.

You can customize your cookies with all sorts of awesomeness.

  • dried fruits
  • nuts
  • seeds
  • chocolate chips
  • cocoa nibs
  • toasted coconut
  • cinnamon
  • vanilla
  • brewer’s yeast for the milky moms
  • whatever you have in the cupboard

Chop or pulse these ingredients in a processor so they’re relatively small but still retain their unique textures.

Now do this.

Toss everything into a large bowl and stir together.  You’re aiming for a spackle consistency. No loose, dry oats sitting in the bowl. No soupy goopiness.

Once you’ve got it all mixed together (and you’ve taste tested one or seven spoonfuls) you can roll into balls, flatten into cookies, or freeze into bar shapes. Lightly oil or wet your hands before handling the mixture. I like to refrigerate mine, but all the ingredients are suitable for storing on the counter. Just keep them covered and relatively un-warm.

I toss a few of these at my kids in the mornings because I CAN’T EVEN when it comes to food preparation first thing in the A.M.. And what kid says no to cookies? (weird ones)  I love to grab one (LOLONE?!LOL) when my sweet tooth starts raging.

I’d love to hear your favorite combos or special ideas for these!

Happy January, y’all!

Two Ingredient DIY “Everything Butter”

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A goal of mine as an aspiring minimalist and crunchy gal is to be more simplistic with the products I use.  Minimal products with simple ingredients serving multiple purposes.

This “Everything Butter” is my jam.

It’s made with two ingredients, coconut oil and beeswax.  Both items can be found easily and are pretty inexpensive.  Each ingredient also has multiple uses, so there is no waste.  This butter lasts forever and can be used for a multitude of things.

  • A body moisturizer
  • Lip balm
  • Essential oil carrier
  • General “booboo ointment”
  • Frizzy hair control
  • Homemade deodorant base
  • Baby butt cream
  • A quick and easy, made-with-love gift
  • Errthang

I wish I could say I have beautiful photos of my ingredients laid out on a classy wooden cutting board and all that jazz, but I’m not that blogger.  My DIY experiments are…heavily experimental.  This is actually the only thing I’ve ever made that I have measurements for!  Everything else I’ve made involves me side-eyeing my homemade concoctions, flicking in a little more of this or that, and hoping for the best.

But this is so simple.

All you need to do is…wait for it…

Using a double boiler, melt together 1/4 cup of beeswax pellets and one cup of coconut oil. Then let it cool.

You read that right.  Melt.  Cool.  Done.

The beeswax gives the coconut oil just a bit of extra stability and adds some moisture retaining qualities.  It holds as a solid but melts quickly when applied.

It’s impossible to mess up and the tweaks are endless.  If you want a firmer consistency (for example, making it into a deodorant stick or using in a chapstick tube), you can simply add more beeswax.  If you want to add some essential oils, just drop them into the melted mixture.  Add some colored clay or natural powders to make colored lip gloss.  Blend in some arrowroot powder and/or baking soda, and voila, you have basic deodorant.   I like to whip my cooled butter so it’s extra light and fluffy.

I love this stuff! And this is a great DIY for beginners. If you try it, let me know how it goes, how you tweaked it, and what you like to use it for.

#DIYALLTHETHINGS