Monthly Archives: August 2009

Preserve the earth’s beauty, but go gentle on the booty…(recycled toilet paper)

Please pardon the eye-roll-worthy title; I couldn’t resist.

seventh gen tpOkay, this is a blog post that I wanted to write myself, but then I discovered someone else had already done the research and written it much better than I could have:

http://www.grist.org/article/the-wipe-stuff/

The author reviews several brands of post-consumer content (recycled) toilet paper for comfort and durability and actually comes up with a winner…This will be one of those areas of greenness where my husband might fight me a little…but I’ll win him over.

(Paper towels are our family’s biggest stumbling block; we use ridiculous numbers of them, and we should so switch over to cloth, but we just haven’t been able to make that jump yet…there’s another review over at Grist similar to the toilet paper reviews, comparing different brands of paper towel, but honestly it’s the first comment on that one that hits it on the head: the best paper towel is no paper towel.)

–J

Recycling old denim jeans (project links)

Sometimes I think my whole commitment to the green movement stems from my natural pack-rat-throw-nothing-away-if-it-might-be-someday-useful nature.  It gives me a reason to rationalize that particular aspect of my personality and make it into something positive.

Blue jeans, for example.  (And khakis, and other-colored twill pants–whatever.)  I think I’ve mentioned before how my son seems incapable of wearing a pair of jeans more than a few times without ripping out the knees. (I’m pretending the “wear ripped up jeans” look is still the fashion, most of the time.)  Then there’s that plastic bin of size 10 and 12 pants I will realistically never get my post-childbirth rear end into again. (They’re fairly beat up anyway.) I kept them, eternal optomist that I am.  But I know the truth.

Then somewhere I discovered websites with information about how to recycle and repurpose old jeans, and my whole being lit up–a new project! And I don’t have to buy stuff for it, I actually have it all in my closets!

Blue Jean Quilt–This is by far the most common link one finds looking for uses for old pants.  You do need (or really, really want) a good sewing machine.  I have not made one of these yet, but I’m working on collecting the materials for it.  The easiest version is to cut a bunch of squares of equal sizes from your various denim castoffs (putting a strategic pocket here and there is a cute touch), sew them together into strips, and then sew the strips together into a rectangle or square of whatever size you want.  You then need to find backing material–for a big quilt you could probably find a plain blanket or sheet, either new or from a thrift shop, or the fabric store usually has some wide muslin.  For a smaller quilt you could buy some cute fabric off the bolt. (These usually come in either 45″ or sometimes 58″ wide, and then just get enough for your length.)  Sew your jeans piece to your backing piece, wrong-side out, leaving a hole to turn it back right-side out, and then sew the opening closed. (Do this slowly–sewing machines don’t generally care for denim anyway, and the seams may be too thick for your machine.) Most sites I’ve seen do not recommend adding batting in between the layers–the denim is pretty darned heavy, especially if you have a blanket for backing, and is seriously warm without the help.

For quilting the layers together, you have a couple of choices–the easiest would probably be to thread some cute yarn through a needle and tie-quilt it in the middle of each square; you could tie little bows or knots at each juncture.  Or, if you’re feeling adventurous (which I seldom am, I’m too lazy) you could Quilt It Properly with running stitches in whatever pattern you wish. 

protect the tech bagProtect the Tech pocket–So far, this has been my favorite project (they are very good instructions, too!), partially because it’s just a good item, but also because after having made one item by the directions, it’s become really easy to make bags, purses, backpacks, etc. without a pattern at all. 

Jeans Purse: Easy-peasy.  Essentially, you chop across the jeans from side to side right about at crotch level and sew across the bottom.  Make a strap out of part of the legs, and then decorate the heck out of it.  An easy version of this pattern, with photos, can be found here. (I made one of these for my daughter and decorated it with a lot of pink ribbon and buttons and stuff.  She loves it.)jeanspurses

Bags/purses/totes in general are great things to make from old jeans or pants.  The beauty of it is all those awesome pockets already in there, sewn and finished and ready to go.  An old pair of cargo pants, for example, is a real treasure–there are pockets everywhere.  Find a basic pattern for a lined purse or tote almost anywhere (Wild Ginger has great free software for accessory patterns that lets you dictate the size and shape of all kinds of things from hats to purses to what-all), and plan it around the pockets that already exist in your castaway jeans, and you’re in business.  

Essentially, after all, making a bag of any kind involves a couple of rectangles sewn together. Make a purse by sewing a flap on top.  Make a laundry bag by making a bigger bag and adding a drawstring. Make a backpack by putting in a drawstring and (maybe) a flap and straps to wear it over your shoulders. Make a lunch bag by making a smaller version and pinching in the bottom to make it flat on the bottom. And so forth.  Once you get daring, you’ll find yourselves adding linings and embellishments.  And the beauty of it is that since you didn’t spend anything on the fabric, if you royally screw it up you can scratch it and start again with a new pair of jeans. (Save the pieces of the messed up bag to make part of that quilt, though! :-))

Here are a few of the sites I’ve found with some good ideas:

Twenty-five things to do with old jeans: http://www.wisebread.com/twenty-five-things-to-do-with-old-jeans

Someone else’s idea of twenty-five more things to do with old jeans: http://lifehackery.com/2008/06/22/25-wonderful-ways-to-recycle-your-old-denim-jeans/

How to recycle jeans into a skirt (sewing knowledge needed, sort of, for this): http://www.savvyseams.com/clothing/jeanskirt.php

Bootie Bag purse (with a no-sew option): http://www.craftbits.com/project/blue-jeans-denim-bootie-bag-purse

Make a braided rug: http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/326783/want_to_recycle_your_old_jeans_make.html?cat=24

 The list is fairly endless, actually–and there are so many possibilities that I will most likely embrace my now larger-than-pre-kids rear end (not literally, of course) and chop into some of those size 12′s pretty soon to make that quilt. 

(UPDATE: if you found this interesting at all, check out my guest post over at The Green Phone Booth about crafts made from recycled felted wool sweaters!)

peace,

J (time to go move the crockpot to the next phase for this coming week’s homemade yogurt…now that school’s in session and we’re packing lunches every day, I can’t stand going through two of those quart plastic containers each week, which is what it would amount to…)

Hybrid vehicles–our Highlander

I have very mixed feelings about the current crop of hybrid vehicles.

I also have extreme Prius envy.  The two emotions are vaguely related. 

Mostly it boils down to this: If they can make a car like the Prius, that’s well-made, lasts a long time, and gets appallingly high mileage (with promises next year of up to 100mpg…though we’ll see if it materializes), why are they now making hybrids that crow Great Gas Mileage which get anywhere from only 27-34 mpg for ordinary cars, and as low as 20 for big hulking SUVs? Obviously the technology is here, but they keep building and marketing mostly these huge hulking cars that use hybrid technology to increase the mpg slightly and make the driver feel all warm and fuzzy about buying a hybrid. (Unless the buyer is me.  I’m allergic to a lot of warm fuzzy things.)

Rant out of the way…because ultimately the main emotion behind the rant is my slightly guilty conscience about how much I love the used Toyota Highlander hybrid we just bought a few weeks ago. 

On the one hand–yeah, everything above.  Its mileage isn’t so great (though it’s better than any other SUV), it’s big and hulking, and I’ve been wearing an SUV-shaped chip on my shoulder for years.  Always swore I’d never get one.

On the other hand…we are a family of four, and not infrequently we’re in situations where we need to drive more than 4 or 5 people around–my husband’s parents are local and don’t drive, and though my own folks live far away, we see them often enough that it’s really good to have the car space. (And even 5, in most non-minivan-type cars, is tricky with two booster seats in back.)  Our old Caravan had passed that indefinable point that you know you’ve passed when you’ve passed it, where the odometer is creeping into territory you’ve never had a car survive into and you find the frequency of visits to The Shop increasing to the point where the amount you’re spending on it with each month that goes by is making you wonder more and more if maybe It’s Time…and for a change, the financial stars sort of lined up for this brief shining moment…

We began our research. I started with minivans, to try to find who makes hybrid minivans.  It was a short search; no one makes a hybrid minivan.  I was fairly shocked–how can NO ONE be making a hybrid minivan?

Then I did a search for “minivans best gas mileage.”   Also a short search: just about the only thing we came up with was the Mazda5, a sort of in-between vehicle shaped like a minivan but just generally all-over smaller; it does have the third row and can, in theory, carry seven passengers. (Which means, it can carry only 6 unless the 7th is a really short supermodel.) We test-drove one–it’s actually a very nice car, well-priced, and the third-row seat is surprisingly comfy even for a long-leggedy person like me. (That is not to say that the third-row seat was Very Comfortable, just that it wasn’t the hell-on-earth I’d expected.) It drove well, looked slick, and we basically liked it…except. When we travel, we have not only the two adults and two kids, but also two wiener dogs.  I know one would think they can’t take up too much space, but it’s amazing how much surface area one of those little doxies can take up.  And in the end, it was just a little too small for us.  Though I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to others. Its gas mileage, though not great, is advertised as 22 mpg in the city and 27 in the highway. So very very not great in the slightest, but head and shoulders above the next best minivan.  

Then my husband cautiously mentioned to me that the Toyota Highlander has a hybrid model with a third row.  He was wise to be cautious, because in 7+ years of marriage he’s learned that certain utterances are apt to send me into a tirade. “That’s a nice looking SUV” is one of them.  But…he had a point.  The Highlander has everything we wanted and better mileage than the best-mileage minivan.  I swallowed my automotive-class-prejudice and went to drive one with him.  It drives beautifully. I was won over fairly quickly.

So:  Our new (to us) Highlander Hybrid. Claims 25mpg highway, 27 mpg city.  

P8080007We drove it from Chicago to Maine and back again; for practical purposes we were really only getting about 24 mpg on the highway, which isn’t too far off from the claims.   But we really love it–its drive is smooth, and the whole hybrid technology thing is fairly cool. (When it’s going on the electric engine alone, it runs absolutely silently…)

The little blue car sitting forlorn in the lower right of the picture is my sweet Subaru Impreza wagon from 2002, which is approaching its 100,000 mile mark…I still love that car, even though mileage-wise it’s nothing to write home about.  But Subarus tend to live forever, and that in itself is a fairly footprint-worthy thing. At the very least, I want this one to live until the affordable full electrics are available, or until I can get a Prius. (Back to the Prius envy.)

I still don’t like SUV’s as a whole.  But what I hate about them is that they are big and unwieldy, get crummy mileage, and are unsafe.  This thing is big, yes, but it drives like a car, gets reasonable if not great mileage, and good safety ratings.  How can I complain?

–J

Do you ebay?

A few years ago I discovered ebay.

In case any readers live under a virtual rock, ebay is the huge online auction site where you can buy anything from clothes to a car to a peanut butter sandwich with the face of Jesus Christ in it. (I’m not making that up, though I might not remember the details correctly.  Some crazy thing like that was up on ebay for auction.) What some people may not know is how extensive it is.  It pretty much has changed the way I shop.

At first I thought of ebay only as a way to get what I wanted for much cheaper than I could get it in the store–which doesn’t always work; you have to pay attention, not lose your head, and do a lot of research about whatever you are buying.  And it’s a lot more work than walking into a store and going, “Okay, I’ll take that” and plunking down the plastic, or logging onto a retail website and doing the same. 

But after I saw “The Story of Stuff” and began thinking about how “carbon footprint” is about a lot more than how much garbage I generate or how many miles per gallon my car gets, I began to realize that my plan of buying cheap clothing for myself and my kids from big box stores and such, clothing that would wear out in a season and get tossed or sent to Goodwill (and probably get tossed) wasn’t even remotely carbon-savvy–and in the long run, probably not all that cost-savvy either.  So I started paying attention.

Now I buy almost all of my children’s clothes from other moms who make a few extra dollars for their families by selling their own kids’ gently used outgrown things.  Holiday dresses for my daughter especially are easy to find, since those kinds of things tend to be worn only once or twice and then outgrown, but it’s also a huge relief to spend just a few dollars per piece on already slightly worn play clothes and not have to worry if she spills allegedly-washable-but-we-moms-know-the-truth blue paint onto her new pink top.  My son’s knees and the ground seem to be great friends, so it’s better when the holes in the jeans happen in the used ones I paid $3 for than the brand-new ones I spent $14.99 on.

I occasionally find good stuff for myself, too–once you know what brand names and sizes fit well, you can just search for those.  It’s thrift store shopping from your living room, but a really big thrift store and you need to pay attention.

In my experience, most ebay sellers are good honest folks who just want to run a business and recognize the value of good customer service.  With a little experience, it’s not too hard to find the pitfalls and know what deals and sellers to avoid.

A few tips:

  1. Read ALL the small print. Assume nothing.
  2. If you are buying something to wear and the listing includes measurements, don’t assume it will fit just because you wear a Medium. Measure yourself and be sure.
  3. If the listing doesn’t provide enough information, ask.  And be wary–sellers who don’t know enough to include all the info in the listing are probably less experienced and might make mistakes.  You could get a great deal–or you could get burned.
  4. Check the return policy.  Every seller is different, so every seller sets his or her own policy. Also realize that unless your reason for return is entirely the seller’s fault, you will get back the purchase price but probably not the shipping costs. (See tips #6 and #7 regarding shipping costs!)
  5. Check your seller’s feedback rating.  Every transaction leaves the buyer with the option of leaving a feedback rating of positive, neutral, or negative for the seller. I personally never buy from a seller with less than a 99% positive feedback rating, and I always check the ratings to see where the negatives come from and if there’s a pattern. (Some sellers, you should understand, also get burned by dishonest buyers who leave negative feedback that’s not really deserved.)
  6. Ask questions about the item, if you have any at all.  Good sellers will respond quickly; a seller who doesn’t get back to me after maybe 48 ours at the latest is probably not someone I want to do business with anyway.
  7. Beware shipping fees–they can be huge, because they can include “handling fees” from the seller.  Remember that a $3 shirt you have to pay $14.95 in shipping for is essentially a $17.95 shirt.
  8. Check the item location and how long it will take to get to you. Increasingly, people in Hong Kong are selling on ebay, and these take a long time to arrive and usually cost a lot to ship.
  9. Don’t get caught up in the “OMG I might lose it!” thrill of the auction.  Rarely is there an item, at least in my world, that will never come up again or that is such a good deal that you can’t afford to miss it, and also such a hidden treasure that no one else will recognize it’s such a good deal and thus drive up the price till it’s not such a good deal after all.
  10. Obviously, increase your research/care/diligence as the cost of what you’re buying increases.  It’s one thing to get burned on a $15 coat, another to get jerked around on a $1200 computer.  On the other hand, I am typing this on a laptop computer I got for a really good price on ebay.
  11. Don’t assume that the “buy it now” price on any item is cheaper than you could get it retail.  Research, research, research!
  12. Consider using a sniping site, like www.auctionsniper.com or several others (do a Google search!).  There are mixed opinions about the ethics of sniping, but I personally think it’s a great field-leveller.  It sort of turns things into a closed-envelope auction.  When bidding on ebay, you put in the maximum amount you’re willing to pay for an item, and the actual bid only goes to the lowest necessary to top the next highest bid.  So if you say you’ll go to $15 and the previous bidder only put in up to $10, your bid will stand at $11 or so unless someone else says they’ll go to, say, $13, in which case you’ll still be winning but your bid will automatically go up to $14. And so on.  If you just place a bid on an item and someone else wants it, they may place another bid and keep inching up to see how far your bid will go, and that’s how bidding wars happen and folks end up paying much more than they should.  What happens when you sign on with a sniping site is that you put in your maximum bid amount there, and the site automatically places your bid during the last 7 seconds or so of the auction.  That way you decide in advance what you’re willing to pay, and you take away both your and the other bidders ability to hem and haw and inch up your amount.  I just think it’s smart.  Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.  But a lot of people snipe these days, so it’s at least important that you know how it works.

I think that’s most of it–happy bidding!

peace,

J

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

While out of town, I had the chance to do some Actual Reading.  It was delightful–staying at my folks’ place, we were all four of us staying in one big room, so there wasn’t much we could do after the kids went to sleep besides read.  I guess we could do it at home too, but we for some reason just…don’t. Which is too bad…

I finally read Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, MiracleIt’s a nonfiction chronicle of her family’s year of eating entirely seasonally and locally–a really wonderful read about a family’s amazing journey.  I enjoy Kingsolver’s prose a lot, and her account of the year (from the first asparagus of spring through a year of planting and cheesemaking and turkey sex) (no, really, she breeds turkeys. Or learned to, that year.) is comfortable and fun and feels very Real.  And makes me want to go out and plant a thousand veggies, raise chickens, and maybe get a nice dairy goat or something. (Don’t worry, I won’t. But she makes me feel as though I could.)  And throughout the book there are little sidebar essays by her husband elaborating on points she’s mentioned, and each chapter ends with a reflection and several recipes by her college-aged daughter Camille. And they also have a website with lots of info and recipes.

Even for folks who aren’t sure about this whole local eating thing–heck, especially for those folks–this is a great book to read.  Because the thing is, most of us have grown up not even realizing we have choices about what we eat and where we get it.  Food comes from the grocery store shelves, that’s that.  But in this newly awakening world of urban gardens and farmers markets and local eating and awareness of the amount of fossil fuel required to put our dinners on our table, we’re beginning to realize we have choices.

I’m not ready to go Barbara’s route yet.  We still buy bananas and pineapple, we still eat New Zealand apples in the summer, and I don’t always take the time to figure out the absolute happy chicken factor in the eggs I buy. (God, it’s confusing.)  But she’s made me think.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle By Barbara Kingsolver, Camille Kingsolver, Steven L. Hopp

Going On Vacation

For the two or three people who eagerly hang on every word of this blog (one of whom might be my husband, who already knows because he’s driving the first leg), we are GOING ON VACATION.  Which means it’ll be another couple of weeks before I post again.  I’ll be back!

Happy August!

Making herbal and fruit liqueurs at home

Last night I spent hours in the kitchen, and when I was done these were in my fridge:

liqueurs

We ended up with one large bottle of “Melissamint” liqueur, which is a combination of mint and lemon balm (melissa officinalis), one slightly less large bottle of orange mint, and one bottle of tart cherry.  And one small bottle of “drunken cherries,” which are essentially the fruit leftover for the cherry liqueur soaked in sugar syrup, which strike me as possibly the most delightful way to get stinkingly smashed that I can possibly think of.

In another post, I gave my recipes for making herbal tinctures and liqueurs…essentially, you soak whatever it is in some clear flavorless booze, either 80-100 proof vodka or a half and half mixture of distilled water and grain alcohol for anywhere from two weeks to two months, drain it through cloth or coffee filter or something, and then mix equal parts of simple sugar solution (equal parts sugar and water heated till the sugar dissolves) and your drained herb-infused alcohol. Bottle and wait a couple more months.  Takes a long time, but it’s actually really easy.

This time specifically: I’d made a large jar of orange mint tincture, out of a combination of orange mint from the garden and one orange worth of zest and juice.  I also had a good amount of last season’s lemon balm tincture still in a jar in the garage.  So I made two different potions: One of straight mint with sugar solution, and one half and half with lemon balm.

Now, all of these need a couple of months to deepen and mellow, but I always do initial taste tests to see where they started and what direction they are heading.

The Orange Mint Liqueur was very good, very strong and minty.  In hindsight, two oranges would have been good; the citrus is only present as a very faint aftertaste; still, it’s a nice bright -tasting drink despite its rather nondescript brown color.  And there is a good chance that the mint will calm down and the orange will assert a little more as it ages. We shall see.  This is likely to be used as Christmas gifts for some of those friends whom we know we can give liqueurs to.

The Melissamint liqueur is much more “herbal” tasting, and much more complex.  We make tea out of mint and balm together all the time, so I’m not surprised this combination is really nice in a liqueur also.   It’s a sort of syrupy dark brown, mostly from the balm, which gets really gooey and hard to strain.  But it’s very nice.  This also should age well. And this will likely be drunk mostly by my husband.

The Tart Cherry liqueur, the one that came from the beginning-to-be-overripe farmers market cherries three weeks ago, is a deep rich gorgeous ruby red; one almost doesn’t care what it would taste like, it looks so pretty. My husband, when he tasted it, said immediately, “It tastes like cough syrup.” When I kicked him, he said, “No, I like cough syrup!”  I have to admit, to anyone who grew up taking cherry-flavored cough medicine, the similarity will be hard to escape.  I didn’t take too much of that stuff as a kid (Hated it, actually), so I’m not quite as saddled with the association.  What I taste is a nice delicate cherry flavor, very genuine and with just enough tartness to balance the sweet of the sugar syrup.  This one, actually, could probably have been a much less sweet drink and been even nicer. (That cough syrup thing.)  I may play with this one a bit–while some I will leave alone, it does make me wonder what could happen if I mixed it with some other herbal flavors, perhaps some of the more savory or even floral ones–I wonder what cherry chamomile would be like, for example?

That fourth little bottle, as I said, was the leftover cherries that I couldn’t bear to throw away. I mixed them with more of the sugar syrup and bottled them.  In hindsight I should have left them alone, or maybe poured orange juice or something over them instead–they taste, I sadly confess, a lot like cough syrup now, whereas when they were fresh out of the alcohol they were just insanely intoxicated cherries.

And now I’m going to go have a glass of last year’s lemon balm liqueur…

peace,

J

Forget thin–just get healthy

A friend of mine sent a link to this article.  I find it very problematic, for a whole bunch of reasons.  Someone commented on it (my response is below):

Funny – I have heard this from a couple of different sources recently. Perhaps there is a new “public” strategy to just get people to reduce their intake and control weight as an easier first step to a healthier society. Obesity is a major problem for the western world. I suppose the concept is that someone who goes from 300 pounds down to 180 pounds is going to be better off (whether they have exercised or not).
 
In fact, some of the so called medical weight loss programs focus 100% on reduced calorie intake with little or no exercise component. Then once the pounds are off, I guess the question would be whether the non-exercising 180 pound person is as healthy as the exercising 180 pound person – my guess is that the exercising person would be “healthier”. But it seems to make sense that both of the 180 pounders are overall healthier than the fatty…!
 
And what about the choice of foods that make up the reduced calorie diets…?
 
My two cents,
XXXXXXX 
My own response to the comment:
The whole slant on this article I don’t have faith in is the “thin equals healthy, exercise equals thin, therefore exercise to be thin” non-logic.
 
How about, moderate and healthy eating + moderate and healthy exercise (+ other moderate healthy variables)=healthy? If we think of exercise as only a route on the way to losing weight, and weight loss as the key to health, I think we’re missing the boat.  Because exercise is JUST A GOOD THING. 
 
The 300 lb person who shifts to a regimen of healthy, balanced, moderate eating is probably going to lose weight. And be healthier. Ditto if that person exercises, as long as they are safe and careful about it.  The 200 lb or 175 or whatever technically overweight person might not lose weight, or much of it, doing either of these things–but they’d still be healthier.  And I suspect they’d be much healthier than the really thin person who eats garbage and doesn’t exercise at all.  The problem is that we as a society look at a thin person and think they are healthy and “take care of themselves” and a not-as-thin person (I’m not talking morbid obesity here–that is its own set of health problems) and think they are less healthy, and don’t.  Doesn’t always follow.
 
(I know lots of healthy exercising good-food-eating overweight people, lots of eat garbage don’t exercise thin people, and not a single healthy exercising good-food-eating obese person. Just for the record. I’m not advocating obesity at all, or dismissing its importance as a huge health problem in this country. But I firmly believe that focusing on lifestyle, not weight, is the key to addressing it.)
 
Off soapbox now.

Picky Eaters vs. The Parents: daily dinnertime battles

I love posts like this one, over at The Green Phone Booth.  They give me this lovely warm feeling of Not Being Alone, and some small amount of validation for the choices I make. (Not that just because someone else makes the same choices as I do makes them more right, nor that being the only one making them makes them wrong…it’s just a solidarity thing, you know?)  And I love her phrase, “missiles of mass complaining…”

I feel like I could have written this post, just about. (Except for the part about her kids liking avocados.)  We have two kids: a 6 year old bear and a 4 year old peanut, and they are eating nightmares, especially our son, the elder.  And yes, we did the same thing as the writer did with starting out making alternate meals (of chicken nuggets and hot dogs) for him while eating the food we like, often the spicier kinds of one-dish meals no kid ever seems to like.

Now we’ve basically settled on two ur-meals, with variations. Ur-meal 1: grain product with butter and salt.  This can be pasta or brown rice or even barley; with butter and salt they will eat it.  Sometimes “herbs” (alias garlic and oregano) can be sold with it; “sprinkle cheese” (grated parmesan) is a plus for our daughter.  Ur-meal 2: bread product with cheese melted on top. This can be “pizza” (except they won’t eat red sauce) or quesadillas or grilled cheese.  We have two veggie options: carrot sticks or cucumber sticks.   We refuse dessert unless the kid eats a reasonable amount of dinner.  And whenever possible, dessert is some nice fresh fruit or yogurt with nutritional virtue all its own. 

There are lots of blogging moms out there.  It’s awesome finding each other…

peace,

J

DIY facial moisturizer

A couple of months ago, on sale from drugstore.com or something, I bought a lovely little bottle of Little Twig brand “Nurturing Families Organically” baby oil. (Just to be clear–my babies aren’t babies any more; they are 4 and 6. This was for me.)

Baby Oil - Lavender, 4 ozIt is a 4 oz. pump bottle.  Drugstore.com doesn’t appear to carry it any more, but this site is selling it on sale for a little over $10 (it lists at just under $14.)

The ingredients: Helianthus annus (sunflower) seed oil*, Prunus amygdalus dulcis (sweet almond) oil, Lavendula Officinals (Lavender), Citrus Limonum (Lemon), Melaleuca alternifola (Tea Tree), Tocopheryl acetate (Vitamin E acetate). 

If you really look at these, they are fairly simple, which is a good thing for those of us wishing to not put Weird Stuff onto our or our babies’ skins, right?  On the other hand–the ingredients are basically a combination of two cooking oils you can buy in the grocery store (sunflower and sweet almond) and three of the least expensive essential oils, easy to buy at your local Whole Foods (Make sure you’re getting theraputic grade oils!) or from awesome sites like Mountain Rose Herbs or Natures Gift. Tocepherol, or Vitamin E, is usually added to these things as a preservative; if you are making something yourself you can pretty much take it or leave it.

I will say, right up front, that this little bottle of oil is absolutely wonderful–they’ve achieved a really nice scent blend that lets the lavender dominate but keeps just a little citrusy astringency.  I love it.  I use it daily just after I step out of the shower and dry off, while there’s still a little moisture on my skin.  But on the other hand, knowing I can easily make my own at a fraction of the cost, I probably won’t purchase it again.

We’re sort of programmed to believe that there’s this huge divide between Stuff For Food and Stuff For Cosmetics.  But when you come right down to it, it’s a fairly silly divide.  One of these days I’ll post my recipe for a lovely smooth skin cream, which is fun to make, can be done in your kitchen, and works beautifully, but for those of us who don’t have the time to gunk up our blender, just a little bottle of some lightweight cooking oil (sweet almond, grapeseed, or apricot kernel are best for facial use) and a few drops of some nice essential oil (lavender and/or chamomile are wonderful; tea tree is a good antifungal/antibacterial; lemon or other citrus oils should be used very sparingly if at all, and with caution, as they can irritate or cause sensitization.) Especially in summertime, a little oil on moist skin is the perfect moisturizer.

And so easy.  Hey, isn’t that what I’m about? Trying to be healthy on a low budget without putting any more time or effort than absolutely necessary?

peace,

J

…now that I think about it, why did my mother spend so much time when I was young giving me a hard time about not wanting to do any more work than I absolutely had to? Efficiency is only a happy marriage of perfectionism and bone-deep laziness anyway…

OTHER NICE IDEAS:

Other nice blends: for tired or icky or scaly feet, try a mixture of a lighter oil with olive oil, and some lavender and peppermint essential oils.  Make a little foot bath and soak your feet in it…or mix a little of your oil blend with coarse Epsom salts or raw sugar, and rub it all over them, and then rinse. (Er…but be careful when you stand up so you don’t slip and crack your skull on the sink or tub, okay?)  This oil-with-sugar-or-salt thing can work as an all-over body scrub too, just use lighter essential oils…

Heat up a little olive oil (if it’s too hot to dip your fingers into, it’s too hot) in the microwave, just a quarter-cup or so, put a few drops rosemary or lavender oil (are you beginning to see how versatile lavender is?), and massage it into damp hair.  Leave it on for a few minutes, then shampoo as usual.

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