Monday, December 31, 2007

Clean and Green Laundry Soap

Ever since I had a roommate who introduced me to the virtues of recycling, I have been an aspiring Granola. For those of you who didn't go to college in the mountains of North Carolina that means Tree Hugger, Earth Mama or just plain wannabe Environmentalist. Although I'm not enough of an overachiever to go all the way Granola, I still recycle, have a pair of Birkenstocks and I make my own laundry soap. Since this is saving me a bundle of money and keeping the water free from nasties, I want to share this easy recipe with you.



1 cup washing soda--NOT baking soda and cannot be substituted for baking soda
1 cup borax
2 cups ground soap--I recommend Dr. Bronner's Castille Soap

and you can put 1/4 cup Oxi Clean in there too.

I just use my cheese grinder to grind the soap. You mix it all together in a big bowl and use 2 Tablespoons for a load of laundry. It doesn't seem like much because it isn't full of all the fillers that store brands have. Some people add essential oil for fragrance but we prefer no fragrance to help with any allergies.

Generally I use cold water to wash my clothes because I like to save the hot water expense for my scalding hot baths. For fabric softener, get a Downy ball and fill up to the line with White Vinegar. I promise your clothes will not smell like vinegar. I store mine in this canister which is much more chic than a box of Tide. I'm about to start experiments on homemade dishwasher detergent so if you've found one that works, let me know.

My original recipe came from www.modcottage.com.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Is your home splitting its seams?


As I drive through our suburban neighborhood sometimes I get to peek into my neighbors home via the garage. Sometimes they are neatly organized and painted a pretty color or turned into a game room, but what I notice mostly is that there aren't a lot of cars parked there. Tidiness aside, because this isn't the norm, most garages are packed to the gills with boxes and stuff.

There is always a good reason/excuse for accumulating all these things and then taking the cars room away to store it. Based on the number of storage facilities I see popping up everywhere, I'm thinking that these people have even run out of garage space. I will never understand why a person chooses to pay a pretty large sum of cash to store, insure, and protect things that they don't need or use.

It's not only garages though. It's closets and drawers too. We all know it. We are a people who need our things. We want, we shop, we buy, then we store. Marketing is genius for making us want what we didn't know we wanted. Marketing makes us buy the last minute items at the store. Marketing creates a need that wasn't a need before. Marketing makes me feel like my house isn't decorated enough if I don't have Santa Claus soap and guest towels.

Oh sure, don't knock the Christmas spirit! I love it when someone goes all out decorating for every season. My first thought though is where do they store that stuff for 11 months out of the year. And, how much did it cost to buy those things? I really hope they aren't in debt if they are buying a couple of $60 Christmas trees, one for the front room too.

There are two things I feel passionate about right now during the Christmas season. One is about all the clutter we accumulate. The other is about the money we are spending. This all stems from a root belief that one holds, and maybe it is because of family rituals and maybe it comes from savvy marketing.

We can't keep buying everything and storing it. Our homes are busting at the seams. As a nation we live in bigger homes, but still don't have room for all the stuff. We need a FLOW in our lives. Things come in, things go out. I always have a to go bag. When it is full, it goes in my car and to charity. If you start small, you won't be overwhelmed by starting to create a flow again in your home. When you touch something that you think needs to go, put it in the bag immediately. Let it go to bless someone else.

We also can't keep buying all these things and paying for it. Most people have debt on credit cards or car loans. We have allowed debt to become an acceptable part of the American way. The truth is that it robs us of peace. It makes us work more so we have less time to enjoy the things we already have. Not long ago I was in Target and had a buggy with a few things in it. I think I was about to spend about $50 total on a wreath that was marked down to $12, a picture frame for a wedding photo, and a couple things that escape me now. As I walked toward the cash register I said "I don't need this stuff right now." and I left. Sometimes I do that online too. I fill up the cart and then exit the website. It's funny how just the act of shopping for it is therapeutic enough. Question yourself, especially now at Christmas. Imagine how much that item will sell for at the yard sale when you don't want it anymore. Is paying $25 now worth the 75 cents you'll get for it later?

Just by having less you will appreciate more and isn't that what the season is really about?


The photo is a dog we encountered in San Francisco. He is giving you the "hairy eyeball" saying "No excuses, clean out those garages and closets!"

Friday, December 07, 2007

Potions from the Pantry


I have been having the most trouble trying to find adequate and affordable skin care. I really love Ren because it is "clean" and all things good, but it is a tad pricey. While I was in Puerto Rico for Thanksgiving, a Clinique counter was giving away their three step system samples to try. I tried them and they are quite stripping. The toner smells like straight rubbing alcohol although I have to admit that it seemed to clear up my skin.

So now that I am back to the States I have been trying to go back to the basics. It just doesn't seem logical that my skin needs to be stripped of all oils and then replenished with serums and potions. In the past I have used plain olive or walnut oil to clean my skin and it worked well. I've also made my own toner from a recipe in the Dr. Hauschka beauty book. But it never fails that I get seduced into thinking that something so simple can't possibly be good enough.

The truth is that I have had occasional cystic acne for years now. It is only during times of extreme stress. Right after I got engaged I got two cystic nightmares that left me two holes that will forever be my engagement scars. It was a very stressful time. Will you marry me? Call your family. Let's stop at Barnes and Noble so you can start planning a wedding. That was all in a matter of hours. Anyway, I digress, but it's just to show I have had some extreme skin problems. The good news is that since the wedding there has been no cystic trouble at all.

This morning I tried a yogurt mask and it does seem to exfoliate quite nicely. I added a little lemon juice. I use plain, full fat yogurt, which is a good all around staple for cooking as well. You can also add some honey which has antibacterial properties. Some other skin care homemade remedies I have tried are body scrubs. You can easily make your own with salt or sugar. Just add oil.

I've been making my own eye makeup remover for awhile now and as I tell my husband, "Do you know how much money I've saved you?" Use an old eye makeup remover bottle and put one fourth baby shampoo and fill to the top with distilled water. I know this probably isnt' the Best because it still has the SLS however it's not much different from the $16 bottle so why not use it practically free?

In spite of many creative ways to make your own potions, I always find myself seduced into a marketing campaign. I start believing that some company has the right answer for my skin. My curiousity gets the best of me and my wallet. The truth is that it is fun to buy things and feel a part of the collective users of something. It's almost like we collect items from a cosmetics or skincare line like my mom used to collect dolls off of QVC. And honestly, I think the skincare costs more.

But this time I'm going to find the system that works for me. I'm open to purchasing skincare or to making it myself, but I'm tired of buying products that are only as good as their marketing campaigns or free gift with purchase. Anyone got any faves to share?

Carolina's Fifth Birthday

We have been busy celebrating someone's much anticipated birthday around here!  Carolina has been longing for five since her classmates ...