Put a Little “Green” In Your Beauty Routine

by Tiffany in Beauty

green your beautyNo doubt you are catching on to the fact that the “beauty industry” is actually code for “toxic crap you don’t need”. Never in a million years would you think women would willingly line up to slather noxious chemicals all over their face but guess what? They do! But we can green up our beauty routines and make them more natural and safe too. Here are some tips for greening up your beauty regime.

1. Read the ingredients. Look closely at the ingredients in your cleanser, shampoo, hair gel, make-up, and so forth. Look them up in the cosmetics database and read first hand about what you are actually putting on your skin. If you find a lot of suspicious chemical names, look for alternatives. All sorts of toxic substances have been identified in conventional makeup and other beauty aids but there are companies making alternative products. The more people that purchase better products the louder our collective voice becomes against toxics.

2. Keep it simple. It’s amazing what you can accomplish with just lemon juice, for example. You don’t need an abundance of elaborate, complicated beauty aids.

3. Use natural products, such as lemons, honey, oatmeal, avocado, and yogurt on your hair or skin. The beauty tricks of long ago still work! For more info on that check out Beauty Secrets of the Bible. Its not a religious book is just gives us insight into Biblical women and what they used for beauty. They were just as concerned about it as modern women can be.

4. Use baking soda instead of shampoo. It makes a wonderful cleanser for your hair. Mix about a teaspoon of baking soda per cup of warm water, and pour over your head while in the shower. Work it in to your scalp and rinse.

5. Use an apple cider vinegar (ACV) solution as a rinse following the baking soda wash. Mix a tablespoon of ACV into 2 cups of warm water and pour over your head and hair. Rinse with as cool a water temperature as you can handle.

6. Look for natural make-up. Many top cosmetic manufacturers specialize in more natural formulations. Avoid make-up that has aluminum, phthalates, formaldehyde, fragrance, and parabens.

7. Combine cooked oatmeal with mashed bananas and spread on damp hair to treat dry scalp and dandruff.

8. Cut out beauty products with petroleum-based ingredients. Some ingredients to look for include parraffin, Propylene Glycol, and Isopropyl Alcohol.

9. Look for the “not tested on animals” label to assure you are not supporting the harmful and cruel practice of animal cosmetic testing. Human beauty is NOT worth animal suffering.

10. Use reusable products rather than disposable ones in your beauty routine. Examples of common disposable beauty items are: razors, pre-packaged, single-use hair treatments, and cotton balls.

The two BEST books on this subject happen to be written by the same person, Julie Gabriel. The first is the Green Beauty Guide. That link takes you to my review. The second is fairly new, Green Beauty Recipes, and I have LOVED puring over the recipes. My daughter is ecstatic to make some of these and I feel good about letting her go wild with it because they are safe and natural. Carrot Cake Cleansing Cream, Milk and Olive Facial Toner, Breakfast Yogurt Scrub, Pumpkin Mask, Natural Clay Deodorant… its fun, practical, and informational.



How to Make Kefir

by Tiffany in Healthy Eating

If you have been around any traditional foods / nourishing traditions enthusiasts then no doubt you have heard them sing the praises of Kefir. What exactly is it though and how do you make it at home?

Kefir grains are actually a gelatinous grouping of bacteria and yeasts that grow during the process of fermentation. The grains themselves look very much like tiny cauliflower heads but they can turn milk, or other beverages into a drink that is deliciously sour and sparkling, charged naturally with carbon dioxide. The grains can be used again and again to make a continuous supply of kefir drinks.

Kefir was discovered accidentally by shepherds carrying milk in skin bags. Over time the milk would ferment and create a tasty drink. Now foodies everywhere are buying and making kefir drinks from cow’s milk, soy milk, rice milk, coconut milk, juice, and even water. Fruit and other sweeteners can also be added to make a sweet sparkling juice, a drinkable yogurt style beverage, or a smoothie. If you want to try some before purchasing the grains, many natural foods grocery stores offer bottles of flavored Kefir but trust me it is yummy!

How to Make Your Own Kefir

The process for making kefir is actually pretty easy. You just add 1-2 tablespoons of the Milk Kefir Grains for every two cups of milk (or other liquid) to a glass mason jar. Fill the jar 3/4 with milk and let it sit at room temperature on your countertop for 12-24 hours. Keep away from direct sunlight. While the milk is culturing, gently shake the jar a few times to stir the mixture. The Kefir is done when it starts to taste tangy. Just strain the kefir grains out of the milk and set them aside to use again. You can also refrigerate them and the cold will cause them to go dormant if you don’t plan to use them for awhile. When stirring and straining make sure to use plastic or stainless steel utensils and kitchenware because certain metals can react to the acidic nature of milk grains and heavy metals can leach onto them. This is not true of water kefir grains, also called sugary kefir grains. For storage use glass, as it is an inert and non-reactive material.

The kefir grains will grow as you make more batches and if you mark your mason jar with a permanent marker you can tell how much they have grown and remove the excess. You can add the excess grains to the strained drink and blend to increase the probiotic value. You can also store them for future use, or you can donate them to someone who wants to try their own hand at making kefir.

Kefir is favored by health enthusiasts because it contains vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and strains of friendly bacteria and beneficial yeasts that help with digestion, immunity, healing, and the improvement of regular body functions. Many people swear that kefir has helped them to recover from serious illness and that it has anti-aging properties. The nutritional value of kefir makes it a beneficial drink for just about anyone and making it yourself is incredibly easy. So why not try it today?

For more info about live cultered foods I recommend: Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods and you can buy Milk Kefir Grains at Cultures for Health, eBay, or on Amazon.

Top Photo Credit

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

10 Comments on How to Make Kefir


WildCraft – A Game for Holistic Families

by Tiffany in Children, Natural Toys

wildcraftgameWe love to  play games in this house or uh… couldn’t tell ya by this post on educational games, or this post on eco theme board games? Until my kids can give me a run at Gin Rummy, Hearts, or Bonco then board games do the trick.

For MANY months now the favorite for my kids has been The Farming Game. Mom was getting mighty board with it and I thought they might never find a new favorite. I hate to even say that since it is an awesome game that teaches the concepts of farming, farmer’s markets, and food value and it is great for teaching math at many levels. But playing it over, over, and over… can wear on you.

But no worries, they have found a new favorite and this one I can see us playing for a very long time. No doubt the weekend tradition that will be with us all winter will be a couple rousing games of Wildcraft and I am THRILLED because I love this game as much as they do. In fact I am thoroughly convinced this is the coolest game ever… no seriously… coolest EVER. This purchase was well worth the money, even if it was a hair pricier than CandyLand.

It is a gorgeous game that teaches the players all about herbs and how useful they are. The players are on a mission from grandma to go and pick wild Huckleberries. They have to go up and down a long mountain path to get them and along the way they find herbs (plants cards) and they they even run into some trouble (trouble cards). Some of the trouble you find would include sore muscles, an earache, a toothache, a hornet sting, diarrhea, splinters, and much more. But thanks to the herbs you have been collecting you may just have an herbal remedy to help you.

On the trouble cards it has little pictures of herbs and you must identify what they are. I love that it doesn’t just give you the name of the plant, it makes you look closely at the leaves and flowers so you can visually indentify the plant. That feature makes it easy for non readers to play and it ensures that older players are really learning these herbs and their uses. If you get a hornet sting you look in your collection of plant cards to see if you have the herbal remedy and if you don’t you must wait until you do before you can discard that trouble card.

Cooperation Cards

Another cool feature is that there are cooperation cards, yes the entire game is cooperative instead of competitive. The whole mood that it created was wonderful. I admit I went overboard with the imitations of pain and anguish when I got a sunburn or a toothache but it was still lovely to see my kids so worried about getting to their turn so they could help me (or another player) out with an herbal remedy they had in their own stash that I did not.

As you play you risk backsliding down streams or landing on “moon” spaces. The moons then have to cover the suns at the top of the board game, giving you less time to finish the game. Everyone has to get back to grandma’s house with two buckets of Huckleberries each before nightfall. The cooperation cards (or rainbow cards as my kids call them) can also be used to move a player that is far behind forward so that the game can be completed on time… its all about cooperation!

I love that we learn about the medicinal uses of plants as we play and learn to identify them by eye. Hearing my kids talk about how they can use St. John’s Wart for this and Dandelions for that is just amazing. So many kids grow up thinking over the counter medicines are required for healing and soothing but it just isn’t so. And for all of us to learn to identify edible plants that can be eaten when hungry is incredibly useful. The earth has always provided what we need if we care to educate ourselves and look. I love that this game was invented by a Dad who just wanted his kids to play something more valuable than Candyland.

This game is also eco friendly! Box/board made with 100% recycled chipboard, printed with vegetable oil based inks, water based coating on paper, no varnish. Forest Stewardship Council certified paper. All material is 100% recyclable.

Wildcraft is a real gem and one that I think every natural, holistic, green, family is going to want to play.

Herb Robert Card on Wildcraft


Save Money on Healthy Organic Foods

by Tiffany in Frugal Green

save-money-on-healthy-organic-foodsYes, the conundrum that most families into natural health and wellness will face. On one hand we have the argument that organic, healthier foods cost more and therefore cannot be justified when we have a modest budget.

There is some truth to this no doubt. Organic cow’s milk might cost you $4.99 for a half gallon at the grocery store. The non-organic milk sits right next to it at $2.79 per whole gallon. The raw organic almonds I buy at $12.99 a pound to make breakfast bars with seems extravagant when I could buy Pop Tarts for a couple dollars a box right? Why go buy $15 worth of ingredients at the store to make a good dinner when we can shop the $1 menu at McDonalds?

But then the counter argument is that unhealthy foods and non organic foods will cost us more in the long run. Why? Because food is our medicine. An unhealthy diet will eventually lead to health problems, doctor visits, unpaid sick days, hospitalizations, pharma prescriptions, etc. If you need proof, look at me. My bad choices turned around to bite me in the behind BIG time. I chose bad foods…REALLY bad foods for many years and got lovely colon cancer, $50,000 worth of surgeries, and chemo treatment at $7000 a week for 6 months. Don’t I wish I could go back and buy healthy foods and complain about how expensive it was. ;)

I see both sides of the coin but only one  really stands up to tough scrutiny. If we cut corners on a healthy diet due to expense…we may likely be paying the piper later…with interest. But like everything it seems there is no black and white here. Some things we may need to compromise on. How can we cut costs and allow access to better food? Let’s explore some of the ways.

Menu Planning – This is probably the best way to cut costs, good old fashioned planning. It gets really pricey when we shop piece meal and only pick up ingredients for a couple days worth of meals. You also might not know what you already have to work with and that can be costly. It just makes good sense to sit down every month or every two weeks and plan out every meal you will eat. Take an inventory of your frig and pantry to see what you have already and work with that. If you have a 5 pound bag of jasmine rice then plan 2-3 meals each week that incorporate rice. If you shopping listhave lots of dried or canned beans then plan some meals with beans, etc. And when staples like beans and/or rice go on sale, make sure to take advantage.

Meal planning alleviates stress because you always know what you will be making and that lessens the chances that you will just call out for pizza. And eating raw takes planning cause if I want to use rice I have to allow four days for it to soak! But it is kind of fun to do. If it is not your thing you can also use online meal planners or services. Try Menu Planning Central or the Healthy Menu Mailer.

Also don’t be afraid to eat the same thing multiple times in a week if it saves money. There is no law that says dinner has to be totally unique each night.

Buy in Bulk – Sometimes bulk food warehouses can be a bad deal if we buy stuff we don’t need or want just because it is cheaper. But if you shop wisely they are wonderful. Personally I avoid paying the membership fee at Costco by shopping with my mom. I save money on the fee and my purchases count towards her cash back bonuses.

I like to buy frozen fruit at Costco. I can get a huge bag of frozen strawberries for $7.99. A bag ¼ that size can be found at my local grocery store for $6.99. That is a BIG savings since I can easily go through one bag a week and this is one of those areas where I opt not to go organic due to cost. If I had to pay triple for that amount of strawberries I would not buy them nearly as much and I would not make green smoothies nearly as much so the health benefit in that scenario favors the non-organic strawberries. Same goes with their bag of mixed fruit. But when strawberries are seasonal I buy organic and freeze my own. I just run out pretty quick. :(

Organic Baby Spinach is also a great price at Costco so I stock up on that. Fresh, seasonal fruit is better priced too. Costco it is one of the few places I can find wild caught salmon in our area. They have big bags of baking soda that I use to make my own green cleaners. They also add to their organic offerings all the time. Just don’t buy stuff for the sake of buying cheaper stuff.

You might also look into a food co-op where you join with other people to get bulk food at wholesale prices.

Shop Less – This ties in with meal planning. Frequent trips to the store end up costing us more than if we just plan for one or two shopping trips a month. Of course a diet rich in fresh fruits and veggies might mean more trips but the bulk of the shopping should only be done at certain times. The book America’s Cheapest Family discusses this.

Don’t Eat Out – Just stop it already, it is expensive. Make your own meals and save money. Presuming you don’t shop the dollar menu then value meals at fast food places will run around $25 for a family of 5 and it is crap food! That $25 could be dinner for 2-3 nights if you plan well. And don’t waste money on $4 coffees from coffee houses. Yes, it is easy for me to say since I don’t drink coffee but it seems like such a waste. I had to speak with my hubby about this recently and his iced coffee from Dunkin Doughnuts habit.

Make Your Own – Are you buying bottled salad dressing or salsa? Bags of bread? Think about making your own foods and condiments and save money.

Look for Deals – When staples go on sale like rice, beans, nuts, grains, etc, stock up and fill your pantry. Use coupons when you can but do not buy stuff you don’t need or want just because it is on sale. Wasting food is not cool.

If you find you regularly buy certain brand products then contact the distributor and see if they can send coupons. Join their online mailing list to get printable coupons. Pick up Mambo Sprouts coupon books in front of Whole Foods. Look at online sales flyers to see which stores are having sales and even if you have already shopped this week check them anyway, just in case. Don’t go to Whole Foods to buy your almonds when Trader Joe’s down the street has them on sale. If you use Agave Nectar a lot then stock up when they have a sale. I recently found my favorite brand of raw Agave Nectar for $1.99 a bottle! It was an unadvertised sale and needless to say I bought every bottle they had. Which leads me to a little tip: the little natural food sections of mainstream grocery stores often have unadvertised sales. I guess maybe they decide that no one is buying this stuff so they want to clear it out which is good news for me.

Also start keeping track of your purchase in a spreadsheet so you can get a feel for average pricing. This will help you figure out if something is a real deal or waste of time.

egg comparisonCSAs and Farmer’s Markets
– Do the math and see if a CSA membership will be a good deal for you, it usually is. BUT if you end up with veggies you don’t like or use then perhaps not. Also check out Farmer’s Markets at the end of the day when the farmers mark down produce to get rid of it. Also be sure to look for local Amish for great deals on organic veggies and eggs.

Eat Less Meat – Meat is the budget killer so try to incorporate as many meatless meals as you can. If you see my sample rice meal plan above you will see only one of the three meals includes meat. That was deliberate. I have been amazed at how much food I have been able to bring home on the average shopping trip since we stopped buying so much meat. If anything we buy fish now instead for 1-2 fish meals a week. Ultimately I would like to see us move to buying sushi only… at our local Japanese grocer.

Eat in Season – Buy according to the seasons for cheaper prices. In the fall buy apples and persimmons and skip the pineapple and green grapes. In the summer load up on watermelon and strawberries. It might also be advantageous to buy a stand alone freezer and freeze some. You can also dehydrate to extend the life of seasonal foods.

Grow Your Own – Even if you have never gardened or think you don’t have the space I bet you can grow at least ONE thing. Pick one item you always buy and see if you can grow it yourself. Cherry tomatoes, strawberries, or herbs are a great place to start. They can be grown on a patio or at a sunny window. I love this post fro J.D. over at Get Rich Slowly about gardening. He found that for every dollar he spent on the garden, they harvested $1.91 worth of food and the expenses were often one time things like a wood chipper and young fruit trees. That is awesome. Wouldn’t you like to make every dollar go twice as far?

There are lots of ways to reduce costs that I can see. How about you? What tips or comments do you have?


Green School Supplies Letter to Teacher

by Tiffany in Children, Eco Tips

blackboard at schoolWhen I wrote about a Green Back to School I received a question about how to handle supply lists you get from the school with specific product requests that are not so green. I am all too familiar with these lists and yes many do request specific products or brands that are not so great for green people. So I have written a sample letter you can send along with your student to explain why you have deviated from their recommendations. Feel free to use it, edit at will,  and it pass it along to others who might appreciate it. This is just a sample with a few of the products I remember on these lists. Others can obviously be added. Tell me, does it sound okay? Not too preachy?

Dear (Inserts Teacher’s Name),

My son/daughter (insert name here) is happy to be a part of your class this year. To help us get prepared we shopped for the necessary school supplies together and used the list you and the school provided to guide us. I wanted to write a quick note to you to explain why there are some deviations from the specific products you recommended.

In our household we have “green” values and we strive to live our lives with as little environmental impact as we possibly can. This no doubt effects some of the choices we make in our every day lives and the type of products we buy. We believe that every consumer choice we make is essentially a vote for the type of world we want to live in and we want a clean and beautiful earth for generations to come. To that end we have made the following deviations from your original list. I hope you understand why we have done this and will support our efforts for a cleaner planet.

Big Name Hand Sanitizer – This product has some unsavory chemicals that can be potentially dangerous for children so instead we have purchased a bottle of Clean Well hand sanitizer. In lieu of harsh chemicals, it uses essential oils from plants to kill bacteria. While it may not be the specific brand or type of sanitizer you had requested I hope you can see that it has the same function and it is a product I am comfortable with as well.

Big Brand Paper Towels – I have purchased a package of Seventh Generation paper towels for this requirement. While we generally do not use disposable products such as this in our own home but I recognize the need in a school setting where clean up resources are limited. To that end we are positive that these unbleached paper towels made from 80% post-consumer waste paper will work well.

Ziploc Plastic Bags – We do not use plastic bags in our home as they have many negative environmental impacts and recycling facilities for these are hard to come by. I would appreciate a quick note or phone call (insert number) to let me know what these bags would be used for so I can find an appropriate alternative that will work for us both.

Thank you for your time. I know I will enjoy working with you this year. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.

The Nut-job Parent