Posts Tagged With: health

Make It Yourself – Simple & Sweet – ONLY 6 Days ’til Christmas!

ornaments

I know! It’s crunch time! Only six days left until December 25th! You have gifts to give and not a lot of time to go hunting down special items to give to friends and family that are in keeping with the whole “green & healthy” thing you are trying. AND you are probably thinking you don’t have time to make stuff, either, because “OMG the mess!” or you think of yourself as “craft-challenged.” Or maybe you think your unconvinced giftees won’t want your homemade crafty crap. And maybe they won’t (because, hey, some people are just like that—whatevs).

But maybe, JUST MAYBE, a Christmas miracle will happen and that anti-green Scrooge in your life will realize that the simplicity of your gift is a perfect representation of the spirit of the season. Or that the freshness of essential oil fragrances are not only sweet to smell, but also elegant in their homes, and uplifting to the spirits. Or—and this would be the best realization—that these homemade things are really superior to the chemical laden versions they are used to buying in the stores. AND, you can even let them in on your crafting secret, if you so choose, and share the cost savings with them, because srsly, people…a little goes a long way.

And it’s not hard, I promise. If you can melt stuff, you can make some amazing gifts for people. Here’s a guide to making candles and a balm that is commonly referred to as “un-petroleum jelly” but works well for lips and soothing chapped hands. I *could* go into making soap, but that’s pretty involved and you don’t have time for that, but tune in during January and I’ll share my soap-making secrets with you, too.

Making Candles
First, you DO have to go to a decent craft store or some location where you can buy wicks, soy wax, and/or beeswax. Also, you need some containers. I used recycled jars with the labels soaked off (a little orange oil will take off any sticky remainders, and alcohol will take off any inky date-stamps). Beware that the size wicks you need to buy are dependent upon the diameter of your jars. For example, your average spaghetti jar is somewhere between 3-4 inches in diameter. Just look at the wick package–it should tell you what size container they are for.  Be sure your wicks are lead and zinc free, and for the sake of ease, look for the kind with the “pre-glued” metal disk (also called a “tab” in the candle-making world) that you can stick to the bottom of the jar. If they don’t have the pre-glued kind, pick up a pack of the candle wick stickers or Stickum that should be in the same candle section of the craft store as the wax.

Now you have a choice at this point to splurge on a wax melter like this (also called a pouring pot):pouring pot

Or just use your own pots/pans to do this. Most of your ingredients are food grade, and should clean up readily with the help of paper-towels and heat, so you can opt to use what you have, or head over to Goodwill and pick up some cast-offs. Your choice. I bought a wax melter because I am serious about making these things for a good long time and wanted the handle and pour spout to make my life a little easier. You need to set up a double-boiler situation, for this project (a larger pan with water in it, and a smaller pan or bowl goes over this to melt the wax with the boiling water’s heat, not direct stove heat).

If you have a vegan giftee, please note that you should avoid using beeswax in your candles.

Now, for calculating how much wax you will need, there’s a formula. Each pound of wax (16 ounces by weight) will fill about 20 ounces of volume. You could, in this instance, make it super easy on yourself and find some 20 ounce jars for your gifts—that way you just have to melt a pound for each one. But, if you’d like a formula with more explanation, check out this blog post.

For the sake of making this quick and easy for you, I’m going to assume you will be using a 16 ounce jar (this is a pint-size canning jar (aka mason jar), which can be found at your local grocery or craft store). I’m also going to assume that you just want to make one candle, but you can just increase the recipe by however many times for more candles.

You will need:
Double Boiler
1 16-ounce glass jar, preferably intended for canning or previously used as such
1 tabbed wick, at least 2 inches taller than the height of your jar
1 wick sticker (to attach the wick to the bottom of the jar, if needed)
2 drinking straws, chopsticks, pencils, etc. (to help you stick the wick to the bottom of the jar, and to hold the wick upright during the cooling period)
4 ounces beeswax (if vegan, just replace this four ounces with additional soy wax)
9 ounces soy wax
Essential oils in the following combination:
25 drops of clove
22 drops of lemon
15 drops of cinnamon
10 drops of eucalyptus
8 drops of rosemary
(this is a historical blend of essential oils that has the reputation of not only smelling amazing, but also working as an effective anti-bacterial)

NOTE: If you don’t have these essential oils on hand, you can work out your own blend, but it should be about 80 drops per 1-jar recipe. Be advised that most essential oils are flammable and need to be kept away from open flames.

Prepare your container by ensuring it is clean, dry, and sitting near your work area…you want it to be a little warm when you pour the wax in.

Get the double boiler set up and the water heating.

Attach the wick tab to the bottom of the jar with a wick sticker or stick-um, using the straw (or chopstick or pencil) to help you really push it down. Make sure it is centered in the jar for even candle-burning.

Add your wax to the top of the double boiler, and wait for it to melt. You can stir the wax around a little to help it melt, but don’t do so too vigorously or you will end up with a bubbly candle that burns unevenly. Don’t walk away from the wax at this point. It shouldn’t take long for all the wax to melt. Make sure the double boiler doesn’t run out of water, but also be sure that no water gets in your wax, or again…uneven burning or a wick that won’t work.

Once all the wax is melted, you can turn the heat down on the double boiler, but leave the wax over the hot water. Add your essential oils and stir well to distribute the scent throughout the wax. Pour this mixture into your prepared jar. Leave the jar in a place it will not be disturbed and wait for it to cool. Use your tools of choice to prop the wick to an upright and centered position in the jar.

DON’T clean up yet! As your candle cools, you may notice a “well” developing in the center of your candle around your wick. All you need to do is melt a little more wax, add a few more drops of essential oil, and pour it into this well. Depending on how warm or cool your house is, it should take about an hour for the candle to solidify (at least mine did). At this point, you can trim your wick, to about a ¼ of an inch and decorate your jar for gifting.  Voila! They’ll look something like these from the gardentherapy site

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

For the balm I mentioned above, aka “unpetroleum jelly,” you can go through the same double-boiler process of melting stuff together, but this time it’s going to be a little bit of wax mixed with your oils and/or butters of preference. This is my recipe:

For 8 ounces of balm:

2 4-ounce jars (like baby food or pimento pepper jars)
1 ounce of beeswax (or soy wax for a vegan balm)
1 ounce of cocoa butter
4 ounces of coconut oil
1 ounce of olive oil
1 ounce of Vitamin E oil
40 drops of your essential oils of choice (I use the same combo as above, but half of each oil)

NOTE:  You can also use shea or mango butter instead of cocoa butter, if you prefer.

Prep your jars…baby food jars are a great size for this product—you will need two. Or if you can find smaller glass “pots” for a purse-sized, use those. Make sure they are clean and dry.

Melt the beeswax, cocoa butter, coconut oil, and olive oil together in a double boiler. Once everything is melted, turn the heat off the double boiler, and add the Vitamin E oil and essential oils to the still-hot mixture and blend well.

Pour the mixture into the jars and let solidify.  Decorate the jar to your liking!

BAM!  A second homemade gift item, just like that!

I LOVE this balm. I put it on when I sleep at night and wake up with perfect lips every morning. Do be careful with some essential oils—they can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight. If you use one such essential oil in this balm, be careful not to let your lips get sunburned when you use it outdoors.   Please note that this is going to be more solid than actual petroleum jelly, but it works wonders, I promise.

So, there you have it. Two amazing gifts you can give to friends and family. You can add a store-bought soap (South of France brand is a fave of mine), or a clove-studded orange (which becomes a pomander once it is fully dried), and you have the perfect green and healthy AND homemade gift.

Whew! I think this post might be my longest yet, but it’s so worth it!  Good luck with your crunch-time gift making!

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What Matters Most?

Since we are getting close to the new year, I’m planning my future research and product reviews and wanted to pose to the people: What matters most to you?

I’ve listed the top-ten most common things that crop up as questions regarding the healthful qualities of a better-for-you product.

Please let me know what matters to you and I’ll put those things highest on my list to delve into this coming year.

And thanks in advance for playing along!

The Southern Girl

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Green ‘n Healthy Gift Baskets Ideas – Part 2 (Minty Spicy Delights!)

So, last time I wrote, I recommended a slew of “beach-themed” gift-basket fillers for the person on your gift list who yearns for summertime year round. For something more seasonally appropriate for winter and holidays and warm-feely-good feelings, you might be looking for gifts that have more some traditional fragrances like cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, mint, or pine. Try some of these green & healthy products for a wintery-basket for those who relish the season of snow!

For some sweet, Christmas-y perfumes, look no farther than Demeter. Demeter makes all kinds of crazy scents that are “at least 95% derived from natural and sustainable sources, and…use no artificial color or phthalates or parabens” (from their website). The best-reviewed holiday-themed fragrances are: Egg Nog, Christmas in New York, Cinnamon Toast, or Fraser Fir. They also came out with a Candy Cane Truffle this year. Sounds delish! This is a very affordable perfume line and the fragrances are great for layering. I recommend spraying this perfume on clothing, rather than skin, for a longer-lasting effect. Since Demeter doesn’t use the harmful phthalate-based chemicals, these fragrances do tend to volatilize faster than non-natural perfumes when sprayed directly on the skin.

candy cane truffle

For a good body wash, look for JASON Orange Clove, Cranberry, or Frosted Plum. I’ve seen some combo packs with a natural sponge included for about $6. JASON is a company created and committed to the purpose of providing healthy products based upon scientific knowledge and human-based testing, only. This product is terrifically moisturizing, too, which means it will not only smell great, but also chase away the itchiness of the dreaded winter skin. Hooray!

You might also want to try Nourish Organic’s Spiced Citrus body wash paired with the Spiced Orange Hydrating & Smoothing lotion…these products are certified organic and come highly recommended not only for the lasting and delicious fragrances, but also for the product effectiveness and extremely high standards of purity. Nourish Organic also promises the following: “No parabens. No phthalates. No sulfates, petrochemicals, synthetic dyes, or silicones. No propylene glycol, mineral oils, synthetic dyes, triclosan, EDTA, or aluminum. And absolutely no artificial fragrances or preservatives. Period” (from their website). They are also cruelty free, use recycled packaging, and most products are vegan (except those containing beeswax). They also have several products in Lavender Mint, which is seasonal, but also can be used year-round.

spiced citrus

Everybody knows Aveda, right? They are preferentially featured in fancy hotels and chic hair salons and their Rosemary Mint is a great, greeny-wintery fragrance that works well for men and women. You might be a little reluctant to buy hair products for your giftee because everyone has hair product issues, but you should be fine getting the body lotion and maybe even a bar of soap in the Rosemary Mint. According to their website: “Aveda’s products are formulated without parabens, phthalates and sodium lauryl sulfate.” And their “definition of a green ingredient requires that it meet at least one of the following criteria: Be naturally derived, which we define to be those for which more than 50% of the molecule comes from a plant, non-petroleum mineral, water, or some other natural source; be certified organic; and/or be sourced from sustainable or renewable plant-based origins, and does not negatively impact the ecosystems from which they are sourced.” And because they do specialize in hair products, look for the travel-sized sampler—enough to try and still experience the splurge of a special product.

And you might like to try a few things from Love + Toast, which touts its products as having “No parabens, no phthalates, no mineral oil, no propylene glycol, no retinol, no synthetic color, never animal tested.” Sounds cool, right?

Wait. I just realized something.

Maybe you’ve noticed a plethora of citrus-y things on this list…It just now occurred to me that “citrus” might not seem Christmas-y to many people. Well, before I recommend yet more citrus for this list, let me explain. When I was a kid, on Christmas Eve, there was always a big church pageant with the kids and a candlelit “Silent Night,” and when we left church all sleepily excited for Santa (yes, the cultural amalgam of religious/secular Christmas was completely, overwhelmingly, and magically confusing), some dear soul at our church passed out mesh stockings full of oranges, grapefruits, apples, uncracked nuts, and hard candy. The smell of those ripe oranges and grapefruits in the midst of the cold, quiet hush before bed has been burned into my olfactory memory forever. Put my grandmother’s orange-spiced tea recipe with that and I’m in Christmas heaven. That’s why oranges and grapefruits equal Christmas. Sorry if it doesn’t for you (but get these things anyway, because hello, they smell delicious!)…

ANYWAY, Love + Toast has a “classic” collection called Mandarin Tea that features a blend of these fragrances: African rooibos, Pomegranate, Neroli, and Orange blossom. YUM. The collection includes one of each: Handcreme, Eau de Parfum, Little Luxe Eau de Parfum, and Vanilla Chai Lip Balm.  They also have a classic scent called “Sugar Grapefruit” that just sounds good enough to eat!  One of their newer fragrances is Persimmon Plum, a wonderful blend of fruity + woodsy that will be sure to remind your giftee of a delicious, juicy winter punch. They have body butter and sugar scrubs among other body care items to choose from. Sounds marvelous!

persimmon plum

And again, fill your basket or stocking with some all-natural extras like a pumice stone or natural-fiber wash cloths, a loofah or a natural-bristle nail brush to round out the gift set.

Next up: MAKE IT YOURSELF! (I promise it’s easy and people will be so impressed)

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Green ‘n Healthy Gift Basket (or Stocking) Ideas – Part 1

I don’t know a girl alive who doesn’t enjoy a good “basket o’ stuff” for the holidays. Of course, it is important to personalize this basket for the particular girl you have in mind, so I thought I might offer some basket filling ideas that are green and healthy! And clearly, you can stuff a stocking with this stuff, too.

If you are looking for some healthy bath products for a girl who likes tropical or beachy themes, try these:

Indian Coconut Nectar, Island Vanilla, Hawaiian Ruby Guava, or Brazilian Mango Grapefruit perfume and body butter by Pacifica. Each one is an exquisite blend of tropical and luscious fragrances. The coconut is reminiscent of your favorite summertime sunscreen, but more subtle (though surprisingly lasting). The vanilla is really an all-year kind of fragrance that reminds me of Aquolina’s Pink Sugar, but richer, less candy-scented, and all-natural guaranteed. Hawaiian Ruby Guava is fruity, warm, and floral, while the Brazilian Mango Grapefruit is fruity, crisp, and bright. Pacifica is one of my favorite makers of natural perfumes…you can normally find them in stores like Whole Foods, Central Market, Sprouts, etc…but they are also online and you have plenty of time to order now! They often have candles, diffuser reeds, and solid perfumes to pair with their perfume scents, as well. They also have a relatively new line of face care and makeup that is getting rave reviews.

Honey Mango or Island Citrus body wash by Alba Botanica are very much like “standard” body washes that smell incredible, hydrate the skin, and omit the following types of ingredients: artificial colors, parabens, phthalates, sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate or sodium methyl sulfate. Alba Botanica is a company focused on vegetarian and earth-friendly products and is usually easy to find in your natural grocery stores. Try iherb.com for sweet online prices.

Coconut & Hibiscus Body Butter by SheaMoisture is a luscious lotion that is super softening and moisturizing—so much so, that I keep it on my desk at work. When I first started using it, my co-workers immediately commented on how “lovely” it smells. It’s a nice floral and tropical scent that works with those Pacifica perfumes above and it should be fairly easy to find at your local Target.

Himalayan Pink Salt Scrub – Grapefruit or Brown Sugar Body Polish – Kumquat by Hugo & Debra Naturals make great scrub options for your basket. Hugo & Debra Naturals are committed to creating vegan products that omit the following ingredients: parabens, phenoxyethanol, sulfates, PEGs, propylene glycol, petroleum products, silicones, phthalates, synthetic surfactants, artificial colors, or synthetic fragrances. Also soy free, gluten free, and cruelty free. These products smell amazing and are gentle enough to be used on the face and décolleté. Find them at your local natural grocer or online.

Coconut Foot Cream by Burt’s Bees is, in my humble opinion, Burt’s best creation. Not only does it have a wonderfully simple coconut (and rosemary and peppermint) fragrance, it is the best healing “balm” type of product I have ever found. It’s super rich, and although it is oily, it works wonders at smoothing out rough heels! I even use it on my hands in the winter time because they get chapped and cracked…this is the only thing that heals that dryness. I cannot recommend enough. Also, it should be super easy to find at stores like Target and Walmart.

And it might sound weird to give your gal deodorant, but if you do, it will be a very special treat for her. Fancy deodorant by La Vanila comes in all kinds of scents, but Vanilla Passion Fruit or Pure Vanilla will stay within the “tropical” theme we have going here. These puppies are expensive for deodorant, but are all-natural and effective, luxurious and lasting. This is Oprah’s deodorant of choice, if that means anything to you. I find it hard to spend this much money on deodorant, personally, but that’s what makes it such a special treat! You can get this from Sephora or directly from Lavanila.com.

Round out your basket with a natural loofah, pumice stone, nail brush, and towel, and you have got a magnificent gift to give that someone special.

Dang. I wish someone would buy all of this stuff for me. Note to self…have hubby read my blog.  Happy gifting, y’all!

Up next: Peppermint and Cinnamon!

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WHAT? Only 7 Shopping Days Left?!

AAAAAAHHHHHH!  How did this happen?!  Time is flying!

All the more reason to make living greener a priority now.

My whole blog started a year and a month ago, because I watched “Bag It,” the documentary.  And I started learning about all the harmful chemicals we have around us, not only in toys and products and all things plastic, but everywhere.  It takes a real commitment and continued vigilence to start living a cleaner, greener life.  But it doesn’t have to be hard.  That’s the part where I think a lot of people get overwhelmed.  I think blogs like mine and stores you should have near you (and yes, online stores, if you are more rurally-located) are making it much easier to live healthier, less polluted lives.

So…with 7 days left until Christmas, I am going to point  you in some directions for last minute shopping, if you haven’t already found them yourselves.

1. Sprouts/Whole Foods/Central Market – These grocery stores have a wide range of all kinds of products that are suitable for stocking stuffers and gift baskets.  Each of these stores have quite the treasure trove of natural/healthy personal care products in all sizes and for all purposes.  Even a gift card for one of these stores could be a most excellent gift!

2. Target/Walmart – I KNOW most of you are close to one of these stores.  If you are looking for personal care products that might be nice for gifts, I have had luck finding Burt’s Bees products in most Walmarts.  They also usually have “Yes to” products.  These are normally in the cosmetics aisle, not where shampoo or lotion are.  Depending on your store, they may have much, much more to choose from–this seems to be especially true for Target.  Not only do they have Burt’s Bees and “Yes to” goodies, they may also have Shea Moisture (a luxurious line of bath and hair products), Dr. Bronner’s liquid soaps (Peppermint is a nice wintery zing!), natural candles by Mrs. Meyer (in Iowa Pine!) and Beeluxe (Mandarin Clove is a awesome seasonal scent), and I even found some Caldrea products (on sale, no less!).  Take a tool around the aisles and see what you find!

3. Your Local Department Store – Okay, so call me crazy, but TRY IT.  You might be surprised.  There are a few premium brands that are healthy and you never know what your store might carry during the holidays.  It seems like Origins might be your best bet for a higher end product line that “are formulated with natural and certified organic ingredients and 100% natural essential oils.  And formulated without parabens, phthalates, propylene glycol, mineral oil, PABA, petrolatum, paraffin, DEA and animal ingredients.  We manufacture using a combination of renewable resources, wind energy, and earth-friendly practices.”  They have lots of great gift sets that are probably perfect for someone on your list.  Maybe yourself? (I totally bought myself a gift box of this stuff on Black Friday…shhhh…don’t tell).

4. Sephora/Drugstore.com/iHerb.com – All of these places have a bevy of products with a lot of information about ingredients (usually in separate tabs on the product pages).  You can get reviews at these places, too, to see if you really want to get something.  If you are going to buy something here, though, you better do it asap because they do have to ship it to get it there before C-Day.  Sephora is probably the best bet for sussing out perfumes and specific products within a brand line (like Philosophy) that are better than others.  Drugstore.com has really huge variety of things, especially things that are hard to find in a store.  iHerb.com has more “regular” products, but you can find some items at super awesome prices.  Give ’em a whirl…but do it today!

5. Amazon – Same thing goes with Amazon for the shipping, but this is (as most of us know), the new general store of the world.  Because individual vendors can post their own products, you really can find almost anything.  I was looking for more BeeLuxe products, and that’s where you can find them.  Of course you can also get books and media and other things…where Amazon started it all.  Look up some books about natural products and/or how to make your own products for the craftier folks on your list…everyone likes new know-how and recipes (at least I do).

6. Pinterest – Okay, so maybe you have some time to do some last minute creations…go perusing for ideas here!  I think I just might go find some of the more excellent recipes, print them out on some nice paper, create a little box or book of them, and use this for a stocking stuffer for some of the cooks/bakers in my life.  It doesn’t have to be super elaborate…maybe even write a few recipes out by hand and tie them with a ribbon.  Or, heck, make some of those marvelous creations and take them with you to the office party or give out samplers to your friends in lieu of “stuff.”  Your only limitation at this point is time!

7.  Etsy.com – Again, time/shipping is of the essence, but this website is the website of crafters the whole world wide.  You can buy anything from art to  jewelry to homemade soaps or purses or shirts or even vintage items…just anything really at this site.  Individual crafters/collectors have their own pages, so you will be paying them and they will be shipping the items. HOWEVER, there is a “search by” feature that can limit your options to a zip code or town.  I can’t guarantee that a seller would be willing to have you come over to their home, but you can communicate directly with people via a messaging system (if you create an account)…you could probably work out some sort of “pick-up” method.  This way you can get something super-special and unique from a local crafts person AND avoid the shipping (thereby reducing your carbon footprint).  You might even make a new friend or become a loyal customer if you find the right craftsperson.  You never know until you look.

I hope this gives you some ideas at the very least…GOOD LUCK, Last Minute Shoppers!  Go get ’em!

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Greener Christmas Day 2 – Make Some Snacks!

You know who you are, oh you of the kitchen, who prefers to cook for your best pursuit of the holidays, to show people you love them, to feel jolly and creative and, well, just right with the world.  To eat is human.  To cook is divine.  In my opinion.  BUT, you don’t have to be a master chef to make delicious goodies.

What better way to avoid consumerism and meaningless gifts than to give the gift of yumminess?  And with a little bit of effort, food can become a wonderfully special surprise for your friends and family.  If you use the right ingredients, it can even be healthy, or vegan, or local, or organic, or all four!

Here’s a super easy formula you can follow:

1.  Make three snacks.  These should be relatively easy to store (no refrigeration).  Keep in mind any allergies or food limitations of those whom you would like to give the gift. 

2.  Decorate three lunch size paper bags with stamps or stickers or drawings, or….don’t.  But you should probably, at least, write the name of the snack on the bag so that it is visible before the person opens the bag. 

3.  Fill the paper bags with snacks and tie them with ribbons or raffia or twine or whatever you like to make it festive. 

4.  Write the recipe for each snack (or type it up and print it out if you don’t like your handwriting), and enclose them in a Christmas card.  Write a sweet note to your giftee, too, while you are at it.

5.  Put the snacks in a basket with some colorful tissue paper.  Add things like pinecones, cinnamon sticks, and uncracked walnuts or pecans if you like.  Or, and this is the one I like best, place the three snacks and card with recipies into a seasonally appropriate reusable grocery bag.  Some of them are quite lovely, and when the food is gone, they can go get more with the bag!  Yay!

Easy, right?!  Of course there are so many variations to this that can make it less or more fancy.  You could use tins or jars for the snacks.  You can just give one snack, and maybe just put the recipe on a card and tie it like a tag to the bag.  Maybe write it directly on the bag.  Maybe don’t make a snack, but a drink mix instead.  There are really so many possibilities.

Here are some snacks that might be good:

Granola, spiced or glazed or candied nuts, “real” Chex mix, cookies, trail mix, chocolate dipped pretzel sticks, spiced tea mix, cocoa, homemade marshmallows, and stuff like that.

Do note that anything with butter or oil as an ingredient will make a plain brown paper bag become spotted with oil…in this case, think about using a jar or tin.  If you use any chocolate or white chocolate, make sure it is the kind that will essentially harden after cooling and don’t leave your gifts sitting in the car for too long.

And, to boot, check out the recipe tab of my blog for a good, healthy recipe for Pistachio Cherry Granola.  I’ll likely add some more recipes as the season progresses, so check back often!

If you double or triple your normal recipes, this formula might take care of several people on your list.  Don’t forget to include directions with your recipes so that someone could actually re-create the snack.

Most people love gifts like this, so take a chance and give some food.  Be divine for a day.

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25 Days ’til Christmas! Day 1 Gift Ideas

Now that the season is upon us, it is time to think about celebrating the traditions, sharing good times with family and friends, and making new memories.  In our pursuit of a greener holiday, there are all sorts of options to have a smaller impact on the environment while still making the holidays special.

Some of us may be choosing a life of reduced consumerism, while others may finally have a little bit of money they’d like to spend on nicer gifts this year.  Some of us may merely be on a budget, while others may be wanting to keep their money in the local economy. 

Over the next month, I’ll try to give everyone some good ideas that are greener, cleaner, local-er, and still special.

Today’s idea is one that may not be available to everyone, but you never know until you do a little research. 

For the foodies in the family, for the localvores, or really anyone who enjoys fresh food, check into your community for farms that participate in a CSA program.

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  How it works is usually something like paying for a magazine subscription, except instead of a magazine, you get fresh, usually organic, usually extremely local, freshly picked vegetables and fruits.  Many of the farms that offer CSA participation call your investment in their farm a “share.”  Most CSAs operate under the concept that you are helping support the farm by paying for the products they produce in advance of the season.  With this investment in a share, farms are better able to plan their seasons, crops, deliveries, and profit.  Some farms (most of the ones I’ve checked out) even offer eggs, dairy, and meats also raised on the farm or a partner farm for an additional cost.  Some CSAs deliver while others have pick-up locations at farmer’s market locations.  You can even tell them which vegetables you would rather not get or trade with another shareholder.

You can get weekly or bi-weekly (meaning every other week) “shares” of food that are in season.  Of the farms local to me, they indicate that throughout the year there are 60-70 types of vegetables, fruits, herbs, and sometimes flowers you can get as part of your share, and most shares are 6-10 different kinds of produce that come to you in a box or paper grocery bag–sometimes up to two paper bags full.  What you get, of course, depends on what is in season. 

Additionally, several of the CSAs I have read about have “field” days where you are invited to come help harvest or do other work on the farm, which is optional and completely up to you.  Some even offer a “work for your food” kind of plan where you can earn your food through sweat-equity.  A couple of CSAs come with newsletters and recipes for cooking ideas.  There are even a few that have community meals where members come to the farm once a season and dine with fellow CSA shareholders and the farmers.  It sounds like so much fun!

As for payment plans, they seem to be as varied as the vegetables you can get.  Some have an annual fee, some break up payments throughout the year, some charge “per box” and some have a system that sounds like a season-specific plan, where you get anywhere from 4 to 8 boxes per season.  Right now, many of the local CSAs are offering gift cards or gift plans for as low as $25 for the holidays.  Of course, you can gift as much as a whole year’s worth, if you want, and I am sure they extend the gift-card giving to birthdays and other special occasions.

Considering how much produce I buy every week, this sounds like an amazing alternative/supplement to getting grocery-store fruits and vegetables that are sometimes already “over the hill” or weeks away from being ripe.  Additionally, you’ll not only get more nutritious food (because it’s so fresh–sometimes picked that day!), but you can also have the peace of mind that organically grown foods are lacking in toxic pesticides and have a lower impact on the environment with less inorganic inputs.  Since these foods have been grown so close to home, less energy has been spent on getting the food to you, which reduces air and water pollution.  At the same time, you are actively supporting farmers and their families make a more reliable living without having to be so dependent upon bank loans.

It is a really exciting option that I know I am going to look into not only for my own family but probably a few of my friends.  I hope you will look into a CSA for the holidays and think about giving this gift of green not only to the people on your shopping list, but to yourself as well!

 

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Endless Summer…Coconut and Mango!

I think I have well established the fact that I am addicted to fragrances. I use them to affect a mood that makes me feel…happy (hopefully). Since the scent-center of the brain is so strongly bound with memory, coconut (or coconut-inspired) scents are like summer in a bottle for me. Put a little bit of mango with that, and I am whisked away like in those old Calgon ads, except to a tropical island drenched with sun and sweetness. And in the face of the impending time and season changes to something ever more dreary and less sunshine-y, I intentionally cling to my summer with coconut and mango inspired products.

I know most people are all into the “pumpkin spice” or chocolate or mint or other seasonally appropriate scents, but not me. Not yet. So…let me, as your all-natural product guide who is also addicted to summer, offer some things worth trying and some things to avoid.

Let me first start by admitting that Alba Botanica is the brand that first introduced me to “good for you” products in the form of it’s Honey Mango Very Emollient Bath & Shower Gel.  This product literally smells good enough to eat.  When you look at the details of the ingredients, you will even find that there is no actual honey in the product, meaning that it is vegan (the company also conducts no animal testing and is cruelty-free).  This bath gel creates a creamy, moisturizing lather that seems to work (for me) against the drying powers of more wintery weather.  You can find a 12 oz. bottle for about $8-ish in natural stores and probably for less online.  If you aren’t super excited about a “honey mango” fragrance, they do have other scents like French Lavender, Island Citrus, etc.  I haven’t tried ’em, but I am sure there is something everyone can love.  I give this product a “Hooray!”

And just as a refresher, straight from the company’s website:

Alba Botanica® products are formulated without: parabens, phthalates, artificial colors, propylene glycol, aluminum, mineral oil, petrolatum, oxybenzone, PABA, nano-particles, DEA, MEA or TEA, PEGs and PEG derivatives, ethoxylated ingredients associated with 1,4 dioxane, formaldehyde donors, or GMOs.

Which leads me to the second Alba Botanica “Endless Summer” selection:  “Coconut Milk” Shampoo and Conditioner for “mega moisture.”  I bought a dual-pack of these two (also in a 12 oz. size), for around $11 at the end of September.  I expected something that looked, well, like coconut milk.  I also expected it to smell like, well, like coconut.  So, the shampoo is clear and gel-like and smells like coconut mixed with something that reminds me of that oh-so-popular potpourri fragrance:  mulberry.  Now I like the smell of mulberry, but I don’t think it smells like coconut, and I’m not sure how they arrived at that fragrance given the ingredients listed like pineapple and papaya and ginger.  Must have been a magical alchemy of sorts.  The shampoo works to clean my hair, but it seems to take a bit more than usual to get a good lather going and I sometimes feel compelled to “wash, rinse, repeat.”  So, that’s a bit wasteful.  The Coconut Milk conditioner is very thick and creamy, coming out of the bottle very “dollopy” instead of runny.  It smells like a lighter version of the shampoo, which is fine.  Still not too coconutty.  It does a good job at detangling and moisturizing without weighing my hair down.  So.  I’ll give this duo a “Yay.”  It does the job, and it smells fine, but just not what I’m looking for to satisfy my “coconut” craving.

On to Desert Essence, another brand I have featured before…they are dedicated to natural products that are phtalate-free, cruelty-free, organic, etc.  The Coconut Shampoo/Conditioner (Nourishing for Dry Hair), is also specifically touted as having no:  “parabens, sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfates, Phthalates, artificial fragrances or colors, silicones, EDTA, glycol or petroleum based ingredients (from drugstore.com’s product details).”  For about $7.49/8oz., I think this product (on sale) is a bit too expensive for me.  But I wanted coconut shampoo and it was on sale!  This shampoo is also clear, but lathers really well…I’d say it’s just like “regular shampoo” with a nice rich lather that really leaves my hair feeling clean.  Unfortunately, I think the fragrance is…terrible.  I’ve really tried to like it, but I just can’t.  Again, it is another instance of coconut not being the “superstar” of the fragrance.  This was meant to smell like a pina colada, I think, but…sigh.  Okay, I’ll tell you what it smells like to me.  You know that white shoe polish people use to write on their car windows?  Yeah.  That’s what it smells like to me.  If I *try* to think about pina colada, I can kind of get it, but no.  White Shoe Polish.  The conditioner is similar to the Alba Botanica above, thick and rich, moisturizing without being heavy.  The fragrance is much diminished in the conditioner and I WOULD consider using just the conditioner with some other shampoo.  So…in the end.  This shampoo gets a “Not So Great” and the conditioner gets a “Yay.”

And now, the piece de resistance…the one that has NOT let me down, once again…Pacifica Perfumes, I love you.  I swear they are not paying me.   This IS summer in a bottle, to me.  It is a “true” coconut in my mind, not mixed with a variety of other fruity fragrances that detract from the star of this show.  There is some vanilla in the mix, but even with the dry down, coconut is the feature of this perfume.  I also think that this particular perfume lasts longer than some of the other, more citrusy fragrances that I love from Pacifica.  Here it is 3pm on a warm day and I still smell great.  One of my friends says it smells like sunscreen…which is just fine with me.  I wish they sold “Coppertone” as a fragrance.  All those childhood memories of my favorite time of the year come rushing back when I use this perfume.  Winter-schminter…now I can keep it summer all year long (which makes me happy–mission accomplished)!  So, if you haven’t guessed…this one gets a “HOORAY!”

I am still on the search for a natural shampoo/body wash that will really strike home that coconut summer of love when January rolls around.  If you have any favorites that achieve that feat, please DO share!  Stay tuned…I’ll share if I find some other good ones!

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Post Christmas Splurge!

So, I couldn’t resist…I bought some more shampoo, hairspray, and toothpaste.  They were all on sale!

First, Everyday Shea Shampoo in Vanilla Mint.

Vanilla Mint Everyday Shea Shampoo

This came in a gigantic size (32 oz.) for $13.99 (about $0.44/oz).  I’ll use it for body/hand soap, too, to justify the cost.  The mint (spearmint), in my opinion, overpowers the vanilla, but it’s still lovely and makes me feel all happy.  It produces a nice lather and doesn’t leave hair feeling…shall I say… TOO clean?   If you’ve ever washed your hair with Dr. Bronner’s you know what I’m talking about.  It’s not like that at all.

Shea butter and oil, as well as coconut oil, are the saponified fats in this product, so it should be quite moisturizing.  I’ve only used it for a few days, but so far, my hair seems manageable and not greasy and not crunchy.  So far so good.   The company uses fair trade ingredients, no synthetic fragrances, no parabens, and does not test on animals.  The fragrances are created with essential oils (and they have unscented versions of their products, too).  This means no phthalates!

Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss an ingredient: cocamidapropyl betaine.  This is a surfactant that is synthetically made by chemically manipulating coconut oil and it can be an allergen to some people.  If you know you have skin reactions to surfactants, you may want to avoid this product.  If I notice anything strange, I’ll report back.

Second, Giovanni L.A. Hold Hair Spritz!

Giovanni L.A. Hold Hair Spritz

Okay, so I delayed getting hairspray after my purge, thinking I didn’t “really” need it and most brands cost about $10/bottle.  Unfortunately, this meant I couldn’t wear my hair up, because I can’t stand the falling-down fly-aways that happen without hairspray.  And, honestly, I’m one of those people who like my hair to be neat and without the hairspray, all of those little pieces that wouldn’t lay flat after midmorning drove me nutso.

THIS hairspray to the rescue!  Giovanni products are vegan with a few exceptions of beeswax in their lip balms and milk in some of their products.  They do not test on animals, they do not put phthalates in their products, most fragrances are created naturally from essential oils and plant extracts, and many of their ingredients are certified organic.

This hairspray smells slightly floral, and holds lightly all day without being stiff (although this is touted as “maximum hold,” I don’t think it can be compared to the hard/crispy hairsprays we remember from high school).  At least the hairspray holds enough that I don’t have to fuss with my hair in the  mirror at work with those crazy fly-aways.  I haven’t tested the up-do hold, yet, but I’ll do more homework and get back to you on this.  It also hasn’t had to stand up to any crazy humidity yet.  I’m happy with it so far, so I hope it works for the occasional bun or ponytail.  It cost $7.95 for 5 oz…which will probably last about 4 months for me.  Not bad. And yes, ANOTHER toothpaste:  Now XyliWhite Cinnafresh Toothpaste Gel.

I have decided for my own health concerns to avoid fluoride.  This toothpaste doesn’t have any fluoride, but it does have xylitol, which works to prevent cavities by killing bacteria.  It also contains papain (a fruit enzyme) for whitening effect.  The paste itself is very much like gel, but it has the same color as beeswax, which I suppose could be a bit off-putting at first, but at least it’s not full of fake food dyes.  Here are the other ingredients: water, hydrated silica, glycerin, sorbitol, sodium bicarbonate, sodium carbonate, sodium coco-sulfate, carrageenan (Chondrus crispus), cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia) leaf oil, tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) leaf oil, potassium sorbate.   Keep this FAR away from dogs, because the high quantity of xylitol could be fatally toxic (this is true for anything containing xylitol, obviously).  I like the cinnamon flavor, but it certainly isn’t as powerful as Jason’s Powersmile pepperminty-blast of fresh.  It does foam up nicely even though it doesn’t have any SLSes, and the slick-clean sensation is about a 9/10 for me.  I feel like my teeth keep that quality longer than with regular toothpaste…like it’s 11 pm now (I brushed my teeth around 8:30 am), and there’s no noticeable plaque-y feel on my teeth like there normally would be.  I find this amazing!  It  cost about $4.39 for a big 6.4 oz tube.  On www.iherb.com, you can get other flavors, and it is on sale for $3.81 right now.  It’s a definite thumbs up, and I am happy to feel un-conned on fluoride with this one. AND…although I haven’t tried any of their products, the Yes To Inc. company that creates Yes to Carrots and Yes to Cucumbers (and other vegetables)…have passed the no phthalate test!  They have a wholly organic line of baby products, which of course are good for adults to use, too.  They also avoid the use of parabens and SLSes.  They try to use as many organic and non-synthetic ingredients as possible, so just read the labels to see if there might be anything objectionable in it.  They do not test on animals and most products are also vegan…those that aren’t contain only beeswax and honey.  This is another brand that is widely available at WalMart and drugstores, but you might find a better selection at a “natural” store.  You can also shop at their online store, of course.  So, huzzah for finding another good and easy to find natural brand.  Options are awesome and variety is the spice of life!  Next time…the deodorant test continues.  Spoiler Alert!  I am breaking up with Tom’s of Maine forever!

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Reporting Back, Finally!

Found this bag by Credo Bags today...love!

 

I have updates! 

I was asked to contact Aveda and Philosophy specifically by friends and I contacted each company and finally received responses from each company.

First, Aveda. 

Verbatim from their e-mail response:  “Aveda’s plant-based mission and principles, on which the company was founded, have always steered us toward using plant-based or plant-derived ingredients whenever possible.  In keeping with this mission, Aveda products are developed using pure flower and plant essences and are phthalate-free. Aveda does not use phthalates in its formulations.”  So, this is good to know, however, I have learned to go ahead and take a look at the other ingredients to make sure that nothing is listed there that might be harmful in a different way. 
 
Secondly, Philosophy.  Also, verbatim from their e-mail: “thank you for contacting philosophy! we do have many different products that are phthalate free. please reply to this email with any specific products you are interested in and we would be happy to verify if they are phthalate free.”  Yes, the e-mail contained no capitalized letters.  Weird. 

Anyway, this is more of a “skirting the issue” response to me, because while Philosophy does have some phthalate-free products, they are not committed to using natural products, and so, don’t.  This means that phthalate-free products may have different harmful chemicals in them.  I confess to completely crushing my sister-in-law’s favorite lip gloss from Philosophy by letting her know that it contained three different ingredients that are considered to be carcinogenic, bio-accumulating, and/or endocrine disrupting.  Whoops.  So, I am debating crafting a doozy of an e-mail in response, listing every Philosophy product I can find, also asking pointed questions about the oxybenzone, octinoxate, and benzyl benzoate they put in their lip gloss. 

Thirdly, Thymes.  This is a fancier-than-usual product line that they sell in my fancy grocery store, but you can also find them in gift shops and on-line.  I wanted to buy my mom some of their candles/soaps, but decided to see if they were “okay.”  Their response, also verbatim, was:  “Thank you for your reply. No, we no longer use SLS/SLES, propylene glycol, DEA, TEA, formaldehyde donors, or phthalates in our products. I hope this is helpful and if you have any further questions, please let me know. Thank you!”  Similar to my Aveda research, it would be wise to check out the other ingredients they use to make sure they are “good enough.”

So, if you want to hunt down info about specific chemicals, you can either read up on wiki or head over to EWG’s Skin Deep database.  They have a big databank of products that they grade based upon ingredients.  There are a couple of caveats with the EWG database, though…some of their listings are outdated and therefore do not necessarily have the current product formula in the database.  They also score heavily for potentially harmful side-effects that don’t necessarily affect people in the same way.  For instance, I am not allergic to fragrances.  Anything with an undisclosed fragrance (possibly because fragrances can contain anything from phthalates to synthetic fragrances that do not occur naturally) gets a high score of 8/10.  Hence my research that entails actually contacting the companies and asking for clarification.  However, if you want info about a particular chemical, it’s a good source. 
 
And my own review of the ridiculously cheap, homemade baking-soda-based deodorant spray that I wrote about last time:  Day 1, I wore a wool sweater over a long-sleeved tee and jeans, the temperature high for the day was 50 degrees, and I did not do much in the way of exercise. Day 2, I wore a loose jacket over a t-shirt with a scarf (and jeans again), the weather was a little warmer, and I matched the same level of effort for the day.  I am not a sweaty person, usually, so I’m not really concerned about wetness, but on the funk-level, I am more concerned.  In all honesty, I have to say that at the end of each day, there was surprisingly *almost* no stink.  I think this works better than Tom’s for me.  And when I say almost, that means, there wasn’t zero odor, but I’d say it was at about 97% funk-free even the next day. 
 
Day 3-4 were spent on the weekend doing not much.  Then came Monday, which was, notably, the first day I wore synthetic fabrics.  And this was the first day of funk.  I thought maybe I had not applied enough.  So, of course, like the good little researcher I am, I made sure I put enough on the next day, and wore another outfit of synthetic fabric.  Same result.  I switched back to cotton, and voila, no stink!  And then, I did go to the gym.  And I did sweat.  But I did not stink.  So all those health classes touting natural fabrics to allow the body to breathe weren’t lying!   Natural fabrics allow any moisture to wick away.  Synthetic fabrics?…not so much, therefore encouraging funk-causing bacteria to grow.   So, at least for me, I will continue to use the non-aluminum, baking soda and water “deodorant” on those days when I wear natural fibers, and someday, when I splurge on the La Vanila stuff, I’ll use that when I wear the synthetics.  In the meantime, though, I have stumbled upon a reason to buy more natural-fiber clothes.  Oh, dang.
 
 P.S.  The only drawback to the baking soda and water formula is that the spray pump seems easily clogged by the baking soda in the solution, so I now I just “splash” it on.  Maybe less baking soda or more water will reduce that problem? Next batch I’ll tinker with the amounts.  But, definitely a thumbs up.    Try it!
Categories: deodorant, endocrine disruptors, phthalates, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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