Monday, January 21, 2013

Handy Chart for buying Organic vs Non-Organic Produce

I found this handy chart over at  It is a great reminder of which produce to buy organic vs non-organic due to pesticide levels. Here is a printable version courtesy of definitely something worth printing out to keep on your fridge or even in your wallet.  I am going to print a small copy and laminate it for my wallet so I always have it handy.

Organic vs non-organic produce chart

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

All Natural Bubbling Lemon Floor Scrub

lemon and vinegar bubbling floor scrub
I have a confession to make... I hardly ever mop my kitchen floor.  I despise mopping floors almost as much as I despise ironing.  I will happily do dishes, scrub toilets, vacuum, wash, fold and put away clothes, but I will put off mopping floors as long as humanly possible. I do wash up spills and such as they happen, and sweep daily, but my kitchen is lucky to get mopped once a month.  As of late I have been in the kitchen a lot more than normal since I'm in there working on my new interest, making probiotic fermented foods, which include thus far: milk kefir & water kefir,  kefir cheese, and sourdough kefir breads.  And also as of late I am just cooking a lot more whole foods from scratch than I used to.  So my floor was looking pretty darn scary.  It needed some serious TLC!  

In the past I would have pulled out the big guns like ammonia or even bleach but since I have gone all granola-like, and am concerned about the toxins in my home, I couldn't do that.  

Instead I drew inspiration from one of my favorite bloggers', Rebecca, over at Camp Wander. She posted last week about her recipe for the Great Lemon Bomb Toilet Cleaner made with baking soda, vinegar and lemon essential oil.  I tried that and loved it, and figured that combo might be just what I needed for deep cleaning my kitchen floor.  

First I sprinkled a good amount of baking soda around the trouble areas (mainly the corners and edges, and under the garbage can and pet dishes where everything likes to build up), then I filled a bucked half full with hot water, added 1 cup of vinegar and a few drops of lemon essential oil.  I took a rag and dipped it in the bucket and then squeezed the vinegar water over the baking soda, let it bubble & foam for a minute (haha, I love playing with baking soda and vinegar) and then gave it a good scrubbing.  Then I went over the entire floor really well with the mop and the vinegar solution, and then finally rinsed with just plain water.  

*I am not 100% sure, but you could probably get the same bubbly reaction with lemon juice and baking soda, and it would smell lemony fresh without the lemon oil!

**Do not use this combination on wood floors.

My floor is clean and shiny and my kitchen smells like lemons!  Doesn't get much better than that!

Happy Lemony Cleaning Goodness!


Friday, September 7, 2012

Wood Polish

Over the past month I have been searching for a homemade and natural recipe for wood polish.  I have 2 year old knotty alder cabinets in my kitchen.  I have never used any form of wood polish/wax on them, and it shows.

Below is what is looked like before I tried any wood polish at all:

Below is what is looked like 60 minutes after trying a vinegar/lemon oil mix.  I was so excited!  I blogged it right then!  It looked great. 
Until the next day, when it looked like the "before" picture again.  sigh. That post was removed. (hangs head in shame).

Since then I've tried every combination of vinegar, olive oil and lemon oil I could think of/find.  And it all would look nice when applied, but about 12 hours later, the cabinets were back to looking dried out and yucky.  

In desperation, and after hours researching, I tried a few other things I have in my pantry.  Like butter.  And coconut oil (after all, it works for everything!).  Surprisingly they worked pretty well.  But it just felt wrong smearing butter on my cabinets!  And the effects didn't last long.  I think straight coconut oil would work well for a monthly polish, but I needed a deep thorough moisturizer after two years of neglect.
Above: After a few applications of butter/coconut oil.  Not too bad.  But still wanting.

So I started looking for something that was less liquid and more like, well, butter.  I found a few recipes suggesting beeswax, but I couldn't find it at any of my usual stops.  And I despise unloading  the kids from the car for one little thing.  When Mars suggested beeswax as well, I decided to find a new "usual" stop.
Above: Cutie balancing beeswax blocks on a lid on a jug of apple juice at Good Earth.  Olympic sport?

And now, for the recipe: Beeswax Wood Polish!
Above: Ingredients for the three varieties I made.  and a cute plate from my Grandma. :)

Wood Polish Recipe
yields: 1/2-2/3 cup of polish
2 Tbsp of grated beeswax
6-8 Tbsp of oil of your choice (I tried olive oil, jojoba and coconut oil)

Put about two inches of water in a pot and bring it to a simmer.  Place a glass jar (the final storing place for your Wood Polish) in the simmering water.  You're creating a double boiler.

Here is my double broiler.  double triple broiler.  Just starting to melt.

Next add 2 Tbsp's of grated beeswax into your jar.  Let it melt.  Takes about 8 minutes.  Then add the oil of your choice.  Let it melt again and then mix things up well.  Then turn off the burner and let it cool.  Once it has completely cooled, you have Wood Polish.  You can apply it with a clean rag or with your bare hands!  And it is safe enough for your children to use!  

Above: the finished product
Now for the true test.  

above: before pictures.  Don't they look thirsty?

above: after pictures!  LOVELY!!

My Notes:

The jar in the boiling water: a homemade double boiler.  But here is the genius of it.  By using the same jar that you will store your Wood Polish in, you have no cleanup!  Unless you drop oil/beeswax in the boiling water, like I did.
Melted.  See the oil in the water?  Don't do that.
You could melt the wax directly in your pot, without the boiling water but you'd have to a)make sure it doesn't burn and b) clean up the wax when you're done.  Use the double boiler method!

6 Tbsp of oil makes a very thick product (like chapstick).  8 Tbsp of oil makes a runny product, kind of like a thick syrup.  I used 8 Tbsp of the coconut oil, because my four year old distracted me.  At first I was dissappointed when I saw the consistency, but after using all three, I think I prefer the more syrupy texture.  It was easier to spread and get into all the cracks and crevices.  The coconut oil polish definitely wins for best smell.  The other two just smell like the beeswax.  eh.  

As for cost, each jar used about fifty cents worth of beeswax.  The olive oil was the cheapest at $1.34/jar.  Next was coconut oil at $2.20/jar.  And in DEAD last, the jojoba oil at $9.54/jar.  Wow.  And I ordered the jojoba because it was cheaper than replacing all the lemon oil I used in my primary attempts.

grated beeswax.  I worked hard for those 6 Tablespoons!
I thought the hardest part of this recipe was grating the beeswax, until I tried cleaning the beeswax off of said grater.  In the end I discovered that my blendtec grates beeswax like a champ. And cleaning up the blendtec canister was a breeze too.  Next time I'll either buy the beeswax pearls or use the blendtec.

It has been more than a month since the first application of the beeswax wood polish and it still looks lovely!  Now I need to do the rest of my kitchen...

And one more time, here is the before and after!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Homemade Fabric Softener that really works & smells good too!

I have had quite a time with fabric softeners...kind of a love hate relationship to be honest.   I love the smell and the softening power, but I don't want to use the commercial products due to the dangerous toxins in them.  It really blew my mind to find out that most fabric softeners contain cloroform, among many other not so lovely ingredients that are either not environmentally friendly or are known allergens, irritants, and some even carcinogenic.  Here is a fantastic article with all the details over on Natural News.

That said, finding a homemade fabric softener recipe without all those bad ingredients, that actually works, has been quite a chore.  Lots of people and websites swear by good old vinegar.  I tried it, a lot, and was less than impressed.  I often ended up having to toss in a dryer sheet and running the dryer a little longer because the clothing came out somewhat staticky.  I also tried the homemade dryer sheets, (which used commercial fabric softener) and was, once again, not a happy camper.  Websites and blogs all across the net rave about these amazing DIY dryer sheets that can be reused upwards of 40 times.  They just weren't cutting it for me.  And finally I have heard of people making their own fabric softener using store bought conditioner, usually recommending the cheapest stuff you can find, like suave or V05.  I couldn't go there, because those conditioners are some of the worst offenders as far as toxic ingredients go.  So I just started adding things to my vinegar and finally came up with something that works for me.  First I added essential oils, but still struggled with static, then I added the conditioner, that helped a LOT.  The final ingredient though, for some reason, is what really made the difference for me, not sure why, because as a stand alone fabric softener, I wasn't terribly impressed with the Seventh Generation, but in this mixture, it works.  And while it doesn't offer the overpoweringly wonderful "Downy fresh" smell (that I honestly miss), it does give me soft clothes with a light fresh scent.

So after lots of trial and error, this is the final recipe.  Hope you love it as much as I do!

Homemade Fabric Softener

2 cups white vinegar
1/2-3/4 cup natural conditioner (paraben, sulfate and pthalate-free)
1/2 natural fabric softener (I used Seventh Generation, scent free; but Meyers or other natural brands should work)
60 drops of essential oils, I used Lavender and Lemon because that is my favorite combination, I have heard sweet orange oil is good for brightening, but haven't tried it.

Mix all together and use a hand blender or throw in the blender to get rid of all the clumps.  I store mine in a small 2 quart vinegar bottle for easy pouring into the dispenser.  I use this in my HE front loading washer with no problems, although I usually only fill the reservoir about 1/2 to 1/3 full.  I think mine reservoir holds about 1/4 cup.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Grandma Susan's Homemade Granola

This is my (and Mauri's) Mom's recipe. She learned it in 1968 from her college roommate. She attended Southern Utah University  in Cedar City back when it was called Souther Utah State College. She's old (Love You Mom).

This recipe is fun and easy to make. My four year old loved mixing everything together with her hands. I filled 6 mason jars with one batch!

Grandma Susan's homemade Granola
8 cups of rolled oats
8 cups of rolled wheat
2 cups of un-toasted wheat germ
2-3 c coconut
2 t kosher or sea salt
2 cups of brown sugar

Mix well in a large bowl.  Then add:
1 c cooking oil
1 c water
1 T vanilla

Mix well and spread on 4 cookies sheets.  Bake at 225 degrees for one hour.  Stir it every 15 to 20 minutes

Add ins we have tried: raisins, walnuts, cranberries and flaxseed.

I have also made it without the wheat germ (I was too lazy to go buy it), and it still turned out wonderfully delicious.  And it is a heck of a lot cheaper than buying granola at the store!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Simple Homemade Powdered Laundry Detergent

A few months back I wrote a post about my homemade liquid laundry detergent.  I was mostly happy with it, except for one thing: the mess factor.  It was incredibly messy.  It stuck to the jar, it stuck to the lid, it stuck to the scoop, stuck in the detergent dispenser, and dried powder was alway falling everywhere.  I was constantly cleaning up after my laundry detergent, and so when I finally ran out, I made the decision to go with a homemade dry detergent instead.

I could not be happier.  The powdered soap works just as well, isn't clumpy, and I have no more messes to clean up.  Also because its so finely ground up, I can pour it into my laundry soap dispenser with no worries of it clumping up and getting stuck in the dispenser.

It was so easy, so quick, and so simple to make, I was kicking
 myself for all the hassle I went through the last go round.

Homemade Powdered Laundry Detergent
2 cup grated bar soap*
1 cup Washing Soda**
1 cup Borax

*Zote or Fels Naptha, both are old fashioned bar soaps found in the laundry aisle.  If you can't find them, you can also use all natural bar soaps like castile soap or handmade soaps.

**Washing soda is in a yellow, not orange, box in the laundry aisle.  If you can't find it, make your own, very easily, with baking soda.  Penniless Parenting has a recipe here.

Blend all three ingredients in a food processor or blender for a minute or two.  Pour into a container with a lid, find a scoop, and that's it!  Your laundry soap is complete.  So easy, and literally no time at all.

~Depending on load size, use 1 to 2 tablespoons per load. 
1 Tbsp for small loads, 2 Tbsps for large or heavily soiled loads.
 At 1 tablespoon per load, this will wash 64 loads of laundry~

A 77 oz box of borax cost $3.50, there are about 8 cups per box, which works out to about 44¢ for this recipe.
A 55 oz box of washing soda cost $3.68, there are about 6 cups per box, which comes to 61¢ for this recipe.
The Zote soap cost me $1.  And I used the entire 7 oz bar for the recipe.

Grand total for 64 loads? $2.05  Not bad at all.  And it's so much safer for your family and the environment.  No sulfates,  phosphates, dioxanes or other harsh chemicals!  And it's so easy, there is really no excuse to not at least give it a try! So come on, what are you waiting for? There's no time like the present to start making little life changes, that can make a big impact on this planet we call home.


Friday, July 27, 2012

Bug Bites got you in a tizzy? Activated charcoal to the rescue!

I was at the health food store the other day and stumbled across a bottle of activated charcoal.  I have heard lots of great things about the stuff, most recently from Crunchy Betty, who blogged about activated charcoal being amazing for teeth whitening.  Who doesn't want whiter teeth?

So I bought some.  And am currently in the process of making my teeth shiny, bright white. (I will let you know how it goes in a couple of weeks.)  I knew, however, it was also good for absorbing poisons and toxins, and if you go to the emergency room after eating something you shouldn't, it is highly likely that they will feed you some activated charcoal to soak up the toxins.

I went online and started looking for other uses of activated charcoal and came across multiple articles and comments about bug bites. Mosquitoes LOVE to bite me.  My kids only occasionally get mosquito bites, and they almost never wear mosquito repellent.  I, on the other hand,  cannot go to any outdoor event during the summer months without at least a few new mosquito bites.  Heck, if a mosquito makes it into my house, it will hunt me down, and it will bite me, all the while laughing and saying in it's teeny little Transylvanian mosquito voice "I vant to suck your blood!"

To make matters worse, I am slightly allergic because my bites nearly always turn into huge welts that stick around for a week or two.  I sometimes remember mosquito repellent but more often then not, I do not.  (enter Homer Simpson "Doh!"  moment here).

Anyways, activated charcoal apparently works not just for mosquito bites, but also bites from spiders, ants, bees, wasps, hornets and even scorpions.  Now granted, if you get bit and you start swelling up like a balloon or you are having a hard time breathing, get to the hospital stat!  Activated charcoal is for minor bug bites not for major life or limb threatening problems.  *However, If you are in the middle of nowhere and can't get medical attention right away, by all means, DO use a poultice and ingest some activated charcoal as well, it probably won't make you all better, but it may help slow down the toxins and swelling and give you extra time to get help.

You should be able to find activated charcoal at any healthfood store, some pharmacies, and online at many different sellers including my favorite,

I bought my activated charcoal in capsule form, so it was already ground up. I just had to pull the capsule apart and dump out the powder.  If yours is in a tablet form, you will have to crush it down to a powder.  It is very black and very messy, so be warned.  If you don't have a mortar and pestle, I would put it between a couple of sheets of waxed paper prior to crushing it.

Now that you have your powdered activated charcoal ready (you don't need much, one capsule is more than enough for a few bug bites), you just mix a little water into it to make a paste.  For smaller, individual bug bites, just apply a little of the charcoal paste to the white fabric part of the bandaid, and stick that baby on.  Leave it on for at least 2 hours or overnight.  If it dries out, you will want to change the bandage.

If you have a larger bite or a cluster of bites, you might want to take it a step further and make a poultice.

I have never made a poultice before, so I had to look it up.  I found great instructions here:

Jelly Poultice
  • Blend 3 tablespoons of milled or ground flaxseed (or use cornstarch).
  • Mix flax meal together with 1-3 tablespoons of charcoal powder.
  • Add 1 cup water.
  • Set aside for 10-20 minutes to thicken, or mixture may be heated and allowed to cool.
  • Spread the jelly evenly over an appropriate size cloth or paper towel.
  • Cover the jelly with a second cloth or paper towel.
  • Position poultice over the area to be treated (i.e. - liver, stomach, kidneys, spleen, knee, eye, ear, sting or bite area).
  • Cover poultice with plastic 1 inch larger all around (to keep paste from spreading and drying too quickly- when it's dry, it quits drawing toxins). Secure with surgical tap or ace bandage.
  • Leave poultice in place overnight or from 2-4 hours, if applied during the day.

I tried the simple version and just put a bandage with the charcoal/water mixture on a particularly itchy, ugly skeeter bite I got last night and went to bed with it on.  Today it hasn't itched at all (very unusual for me) and is all but gone.  I would recommend the poultice or at least a better bandage if you are wearing it to bed, because the bandage came loose during the night and smeared some lovely black coal on my sheets.