The Great Cleanup…

It has been almost six months since hubbie and I started down this green and natural path. We have slowly made changes in some places, quicker in others and added a few things to our lives. Today I decided to focus on the TAKING away of things.

When you add new things and have options available, it makes many transitions easier…but it also can become pretty junk filled if you are not talking away at the same rate you are adding things in. It was time to do a purge…

Inventory: We have two bathrooms with things stored under the sinks, I have a 4-drawer rolling plastic container and another storage container. I dumped out all the perfumed, chemical filled lotions, creams and sprays. Hair products that promised straight hair or controlled curls but were only filled with empty promises and icky chemicals got their marching orders. My collection of hotel samples of soaps and lotions? Trashed.

When I was done…I had two large black garbage bags full of stuff. I found two extra bags of cotton balls and stuff i don’t even remember buying much less using. Mind you…I kept most of the hair stuff that actually worked and I am a sucker for some acne meds that zaps zits fast and things of that nature. I emptied so much stuff that I can fit what was filling up under the sinks in both bathrooms into one…with room to spare.

It felt good to get rid of the dead weight. I now had an empty draw on my plastic container for all the essential oils, oils and stuff that goes with making your own lotions, soaps and cleaning products. It feels pretty good too.

Of the not so awesome items we have left, I am going to focus on finding green alternatives. As I do, I will update you guys on it. I am glad we took our time to do this because if I had tried to do this in December/January…it would have been a mental war and half the stuff would still be taking up room. Now I have the confidence knowing that I can easily replace these items through DIY or store bought items. Everything comes in its own time.

Until next time🙂

Posted in Cleaning, General | Leave a comment

Mouthwash!

Mouthwash is a serious business in our household…even the dog gets a splash of a doggie mouth refresher in her water every day.  The thing is, most of the stuff out there burns your mouth and has weird additives…and let’s not forget the alcohol.  If you read the toothpaste post, you know it is baking soda based which makes this wash a requirement for the “minty fresh clean” we are used to after using conventional toothpaste and mouthwash.

This recipe I did not research.  I figured I needed something minty and refreshing.  Well I have two different types of mint plants in the balcony garden.  My first recipe I boiled some water (a roiling boil for several minutes), turn off the stove and added my herbs.

About this much herbs:

image

That is a 1 cup measure.  If you look closely you will see that in this batch I put some rosemary in it too.  I let the herbs steep for a bit and when it is cool, I strain out the herbs and put the liquid in the bottle I will be using. 

While the mint water (tea really) is good…it needed some UMPFT so I added peppermint essential oil (remember we are a mint only household) and a touch of tea tree.  I shook the bottle a little (and every time you use it as the oils float) and that is about it. 

I have experimented with using Aloe Vera juice but I realized that it was not shelf stable when I left a bottle of the AV juice out and it grew creatures.  There are a lot of more fancy recipes out there but for me and the hubster this works as it is easy and very refreshing.

image

I used an old Grapeseed oil bottle to hold the mixture.  I used to use an empty Tom’s Mouthwash bottle but it is plastic and I am trying to limit that a bit.

Posted in Natural Beauty | Leave a comment

Fruit Snacks: TWO options

Have you ever looked at a package of gummie snacks?  The ingredients are frightening and I think some of them don’t even taste like fruit even came over and said hi when they were making it much less be *in* the final product.  Problem though…hubbie loves these things.

Solution: we get quite a lot of strawberries and blueberries in our CSA deliveries and since we can’t eat them fast enough and I have more than enough jam…fruit snacks!

I did some research (the means I went and looked through all my pins on Pinterest on fruit based snacks) and found two options I liked

1. Requires Refrigerator
2. Oven…for hours

I made strawberry versions of both recipes:

Gummy Squares

image

image

Fruit leather

image

image

I followed the recipes in the link except with the fruit leather (the one in the oven) I added sugar.  I know what’s good for me and that is making sure they are sweet enough for the hubster. I also keep the sugar low enough that i don’t feel awful about giving it to him…in other words, about 1/2 cup of sugar to two 1lb cartons of strawberries.

Personally?  I prefer the leather because was very strawberry and not that gelatin feel to it. 

Posted in Cooking | Leave a comment

Fitness and the Naturalista

I have started training for triathlons again.  This means sweating and swimming which are two things that can turn my curly hair into a frizzy disaster.   When I used to train before, my hair was considerably shorter than my current bra strap length so this will be a challenge.

The Plan
1.  Protective styling.  This means less fooling around with my hair and not damaging it.  I am going to do a rotation of double and triple strand twists, box braids with my own hair only and cornrows/flat twists.

2.  I got a swim cap that will fit all my hair under it.  Sounds easy but I have a big head…seriously…it is big.  Then I have a lot of hair on top of that.  It can great its own atmosphere and gravitational pull so I paid good money for a cap that fits.

3.  Stockings: this I will put over my protective style while I co-wash and rinse my hair.  My sweat is very salty so between that and the chlorine,  I will be wetting my hair every day, so using a stocking cap to make sure my twists etc. don’t unravel.

4. Moisture!  Moisture!  Moisture!!  I am keeping the hair products green with no weird chemicals and the like.  Right now I am using a store bought sulphate free shampoo, homemade conditioner and an oil mixture (oils: coconut, almond oil, EVOO and Jamaican Black Castor Oil).

Here is to keeping my hair healthy AND chemical free.

Posted in Hair | Leave a comment

Homemade Toothpaste

We started using our own homemade toothpaste in April.  It has been very interesting.

1.  The abrasives in the homemade version seems to clean our teeth better than normal stuff.
2.  Baking soda…the thing that makes many baked goods beautiful is quite salty tasting (yeck!!)
3.  My husband is a purist. ..toothpaste can only taste like mint…not orange…not cinnamon…MINT and only MINT🙂

image

I got these cute flip-top squeeze bottles from a beauty supply place because I am too germ-phobic to just plop my toothbrush into a paste every day.  Makes me imagine the container turning into a petri dish with creepy crawlers growing and then eating us alive…so yeah…I found another way🙂

The recipe is pretty easy and takes five minutes to make.  It is pretty much to taste of what you like and since the ingredients are all natural, you can taste as you go along, unlike regular toothpaste which you aren’t suppose to swallow.  Interesting huh that toothpaste that goes in your mouth and can go straight to your blood stream through your gums has ingredients that are not to be swallowed?

We found when we made the first batch is that on warmer days the toothpaste was too liquid, so added xantham gum to recipe to thicken it up a bit.

1 part baking soda
1 part coconut oil melted (make sure you like the taste)
Optional: Stevia
Optional: Essential oils.  In our house…that means MINT but you can use orange, cinnamon…even vanilla
Optional:  1/2 tsp xantham gum.

For my second batch my one part was 1 cup of the Baking Soda and 1 cup coconut oil.  I put everything in a container and mixed with a stick blender, tasted and adjusted as needed and then poured in my bottles.

Go ahead and try it out and let me know how you like it.

Posted in Natural Beauty | Leave a comment

Gardening*

*I am going to attempt to do this post entirely from my smartphone.  I have been lax in posting on a regular basis and maybe this will help.

Onward to the garden…

Let me let you in on a little secret: I am a frustrated farmer. I think I am meant to have a huge parcel of land where I grow delicious things, where aphids and their friends never come and I have enough bounty to share with all. The reality of it is I have a balcony with a bunch of container, bugs love my garden and my harvests are inversely related to the amount of work I put in.

This year I am trying something new in a effort to preserve water and get healthy plants by creating a closed system called a sub-irrigated planter. Basically…You know what? This guy does a better job: http://www.insideurbangreen.org/container-gardening/

I wanted to do this because the balcony (and me too) are located in hot South Florida and my garden gets about 12 hours of full hot sun every day and I am not an everyday gardener…more like “oh damn…that looks like it is about to die…let me pour a lot of water on it.”

I used my old containers that I had from prior years and used black trash bags to block the holes.  I had saved all my plastic bottles and egg cartons over the colder months (I can’t really justify calling 50 degrees winter) and used those in the bottom of the containers.  Check out pics from the link and you will get the idea.

20130407_200028

 

I planted 4 different types of heirloom tomatoes, herbs, broccoli, red cabbage, watermelon and i have a caribbean cherry tree (that is the huge thing in the back).

Most I started from seed or from a little plant (cheaper that bigger ones at Home Depot).  I have only killed the zucchini, cilantro and thyme so far.  I will try again with the zucchini because that was due to a poor transplant and container situation than just neglect like the other two.  I have harvested some tomatoes and the taste of them remind me every time why I do this year after year…

 

Posted in Gardening | Leave a comment

Q1 Update

It has been a while since I blogged, it has been a busy couple of months. If you remember, I had set some goals for the hubbie and I for 2013 (you can read that here: https://eriscalming.wordpress.com/2012/12/30/getting-ready/ ). This post will just cover what we have done with those goals.

Food We Eat

Goal: eat organic, healthy, real food…ON A BUDGET.

Good News: We have continued with the CSA for the fruits and veggies and that has been the best thing ever. It fixes the budget for the most part and there is a lot of variety delivery to delivery. We have had to supplement things like sweet peppers, thyme, onion and garlic because I cook with a lot of that but I went to a local farmers market for those. We are getting our meat mostly from either Whole Foods or the meat CSA *but* I still go to our local butcher and fish monger for all our seafood and fish, as well as for regional meats I need for my island cuisine. I think of the local meat (goat, oxtail etc) as our 20% of non-compliance that I am okay with.

I have been meal planning before going to the market so that has been great because I do not have to wonder what to cook every day. Once you get organized it is actually pretty easy to do. I have been making water kefir, fermented veggies and kombucha tea and have stopped with the pill form of probiotics. All in all, we are eating tasty and healthy food. I also started up the garden!

Bad News: The budget. I wanted to do $400/month…it has not happened yet. It is very hard so for 2Q I am increasing the budget to $600 and must comply. I have also started using an envelope (online) system to track our spending. I will do an entire post on that another time but that will be another time.

We still eat out because there are days I am not feeling like cooking and generally when we eat out…it is NOT organic and/or healthy. Chinese food…Pollo Tropical…Krispy Kreme… I could go on but you get the picture.

Plan for 2Q: $600/month food budget. Enact a “take-out at home” night twice a month. Keep doing everything else.

How We Live
Goal: No commercial, toxic cleaners or personal items.

Good News: We have switched over to homemade laundry detergent, homemade carpet fresh, SLS/flouride free toothpaste and mouthwash. For the most part, 1Q was more about using what we have and slowly switching over to the greener side as the items we had are finished. I could not do that with the toothpaste…I decided after reading the ingredients of the same toothpaste I have been using to brush my teeth for the last 9 years that enough was enough. I switched us over to a Tom’s brand and then another natural brand toothpaste and mouthwash. I have gotten all I need to make our own homemade toothpaste, mouthwash, deodorant, lotion and bathing soap (actually already made the soap just waiting to use it) for the next quarter.

Bad News: It is a lot of work but we are doing well.

Plan for 2Q: make our own homemade toothpaste, mouthwash, deodorant, lotion and bathing soap

How We Spend
Goal: meet our debt and spending goals

Good News: With the focus on using what we have and then switching over to homemade, we really don’t spend money on too much stuff outside of food. It is very interesting to realize how much of our budget went to cleaners, air freshners and all of the other things you buy in Wal-Mart…if you are not buying them, then there is no need to be in that store right? Savings right there. With the eating real food…that cuts out most of the fast food and weekends we could blow $100-$200 on food ALONE… We have paid down some debt and more importantly, saved up a bit.

Bad News: You know this theory of an emergency fund? Why does it seem that there is an emergency every month? We really need to call it “you are going to spend this…the question is WHEN” Fund. So things like an idiot hitting hubbie and totalling our second car, the garbage disposal taking its last breath and having to replace our cell phones, yeah…it have been some hits there. Thing is it is not really bad news because we were able to recover from those things fairly well because we have been saving.

Plan for 2Q: Debt Slaying🙂

Posted in General | Leave a comment

Sauerkraut and Pickled Onions

Kraut!

Fermenting foods has been around forever and there are “Traditional” methods and new methods that involve some expensive equipment. You guys should know by now that I am cheap when it comes to certain things so I was not going to pay $30 for a modified mason jar (Pick’l it and Friends) in the beginning. If you have not heard…there is a bit of controversy in the traditional food world on the proper container for fermenting.

Check out the following:
A extensive study on 18 different ways to ferment from Nourishing Treasures-
http://www.nourishingtreasures.com/index.php/2012/07/03/sauerkraut-survivor-final-report/

Food Renegade addressing whether or not fermenting in mason jars is safe-
http://www.foodrenegade.com/mason-jar-ferments-safe/

I decided to stick to the mason jars, HOWEVER, I am submerging with either a leaf and shot glass (see below) or a bag filled with water to keep all the food UNDER the brine liquid. I am also leaving my ferments out (as in not in the fridge) for 21-28 days (see the Nourishing Treasure link as to why this is important) to fully develop the beneficial bacteria.

I researched all these links and there is even a 38 minute video on how to make ‘kraut. I about died because I do not have that kind of time and the recipes involved all kinds of weighing and brine making…what in the world. Then I found this LOVELY Lady on YT: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gObQR5Vm4M&feature=share

Less than 10 minutes in a SIMPLE way. I followed her method here (no carraway seeds) as to how to make the ‘Kraut…added benefit…you do not have to make a brine as it comes from the cabbage itself. LOVE IT! This method worked great for the pint bottles of ‘kraut.

Pint

But for the big mason jars?? Ahhh….not so much. So I had to fill a sandwich bag with water to hold down the ‘Kraut.
OnionsKraut!

So far (the smaller bottle is a week out in that picture) it has been good.  No mold or spoilage.  I will update as the weeks go by. The onions I did have to make a brine but it was super easy: water and 19 grams of salt per quart of water. That recipe was from Pickle Me Too (here: http://www.picklemetoo.com/2012/08/03/fermented-red-onions/)

Oh!  Before I forget, I made the ‘kraut while I was preparing dinner.  It took 30 mins for both the onions and green cabbage.  I am all about easy🙂

Posted in Cooking | 1 Comment

CSA and other things Food Budget-y

Fresh Veggies

So the hubbie and I joined an organic CSA.  You pay anywhere from $35-$50 for a box of veggies that is pre-selected by what is available and in season.  You can do all kinds of add-on’s like herbs, soup ingredients, and things for juicing.  It is pretty cool.  We get a delivery every two weeks and find out what you are getting in your “box” the week before.  Because I don’t get to say exactly what is in the box, it forces me to be creative.  For instance, I had never eaten butternut squash before I got it in one of my boxes.

The above picture is part of what I got in a box minus the stuff I had in the fridge: a red cabbage, red onions, chard, collard greens, celery and beets.

The fridge looked like this:

Fridge

This method basically controls our fruits and veggies costs for the month to $100-$120 which is GREAT for helping me stick to that awful thing named budget.  When I go in the week before to pay for the box, I get to see what is expect for the delivery and I meal plan for the two weeks.

Another things that I did was source a farm that had grass-fed/free-range/organic and all that jazz chicken, beef and dairy.  I found the source from a link from Pintrest and found a local farm and it has been GREAT.  Here is the link: http://www.eatwild.com/

We took a delivery earlier this week…chicken, kombucha, beef bones for soup, raw honey, heirloom popcorn etc etc etc.  It is AWESOME!!  The quality is awesome and I got all that for decent price.  I will be posting up recipes of what I make from my bounty!

Posted in Budgeting | 2 Comments

Fermented Foods and Drinks

I don’t like to write on stuff that already has really extensive sources out there. This is my favorite article…and it has a video (YEAH!): http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/video-fermented-foods-and-drinks/
If you want to read more, Nourishing Traditions is a good place to start as well.

Heard of probiotics? Ever checked the prices of the highly rated ones out there? If you have not, let me tell you that the most recommended one I have seen out there (Bio-Kult) is about $39.00 plus shipping for 120 pills and that is only a 2 month supply. To get started on healing my tummy issues before my ferments are all ready, I did buy the Bio-Kult but there is no way I am putting $240.00+/year for this stuff…especially when I can natural things…that TASTE GOOD.

I have done a lot of research and I think that our family can safely (without crazy costs or time) do the following fermented foods and drinks:
Sauerkraut
Lacto-Fermented (LF) Veggies, including but limited to onions, beets, garlic, lemons, carrots
Kombucha
Water Kefir (umm…dairy and I don’t get along so no milk kefir).
Salsa
and MAYBE Ketchup.

I have done a couple of those so far this week and will post them in the cooking section of this blog.

Happy Fermenting!

Posted in Cooking, General | Leave a comment