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Saturday, November 4, 2017

3 Ingredient Body Butter Recipe- EASY!

This is an easy, quick recipe that requires no special skills or equipment. All you need are 3 simple ingredients; Coconut oil, shea butter, and cocoa butter.  Once you melt all the ingredients and mix them together, you'll stick it in the fridge for about 30-45 minutes, then whip it with a hand mixer to get a nice fluffy consistency. Depending on the season and how warm it is in the house, the finished texture can range from a semi-solid texture during the cooler months, and more of a fluffy whipped frosting-like texture during the summer. I love this recipe because it is sooooo multi-purpose. You can use it by itself and apply it heavily as a face mask, or you can use a dab of it as a nighttime moisturizer. It's perfect for really dry skin, especially during the winter months when elbows and feet get dried out from constantly wearing long sleeves and socks. There are tons of ways to use this body butter and I'll list my favorites at the end of the pictorial.


Quick-Read Instructions:
(For a full, step-by-step description of how to make this recipe, with photos, keep scrolling)

Ingredients (makes 8 oz):
1/4 c. Cocoa Butter Pearls (Or grated, or Finely Chopped Cocoa Butter)
1/4 c. Shea Butter
1/4 c. Coconut Oil
(optional: 15-20 drops of your desired essential oil)

Directions:
1. Melt all 3 ingredients using a double boiler, or the method shown below. Take care not to overheat. Use just enough heat to melt the butters. Do not add essential oils yet.
2. Combine melted ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Refrigerate until semi-solid (30-45 mins)
3. Mix semi-solid ingredients on medium speed for 30-60 seconds, scraping sides of bowl to loosen everything up. Add essential oils if desired.
4. Use the "whip" setting on your electric mixer to whip the body butter into a fluffy consistency
5. Store your finished product in a jar with a lid at room temperature




Step-by-Step Instructions, Full Description With Photos:

It starts with quality ingredients. I try to find them in bulk to avoid plastic packaging. But even the shea butter I found is in a plastic tub. It's a nice container though, so I plan to re-use it when it's empty. If you have a whole foods or a co-op nearby, or even a nutrition center or natural foods store, those are your best bet for finding these items. But if you live in the middle of nowhere, like I used to, you may be better off ordering online. For this recipe, you only need 1/4 cup of each ingredient to make approximately 8 oz of body butter.

I buy my cocoa butter in bulk at the Boise Co-Op at The Village, in Meridian. It comes in "pearls" sort of like little white chocolate chips. Bulk form is package-free, but you can also find it in blocks or sticks. If you buy it in a block or stick, just make sure to grate it up, shave it, or cut it into small pieces before starting, to speed up the melting time.

Loose cocoa butter pearls (or chips), purchased in bulk at Boise Co-Op
To make the body butter, all you need are equal parts of the 3 main ingredients, a mixing bowl, something to melt your ingredients in, (see below) and a hand mixer. A spatula and a small spoon are helpful also. Optionally, you can add in essential oils for fragrance, but this is not necessary. My favorite oil to use is cacao essential oil for a nice rich chocolate aroma. Vanilla is another good one, because the cocoa butter already has a light chocolatey scent on it's own, and the two fragrances compliment each other nicely. For this recipe, I will be using cacao, but you can replace that step with the oil of your liking, or omit it all together.

First, you'll melt down your solids. I like to use a double boiler if I'm in a hurry, but you can also use two bowls and some hot water. If you have a double boiler and know how to use it, do that. Keep in mind you do NOT need to boil the water, just get it hot. For the purpose of showing an alternative method for people who may not have access to a double boiler, I've done this recipe using a kettle of hot water, and two bowls. The smaller bowl sits inside the larger one, and when the outer bowl is filled with hot water, it heats up the ingredients in the smaller bowl. This is often my preferred method, because it's very relaxed and I can walk away from the project while the ingredients sit in the bowl. I don't have to worry about supervising something on the stove, which makes it easy to multi-task and do mom stuff, and I don't have to stir a pot every 5 seconds. One other option if you were to make a very large batch would be to use a small crock pot. Microwaving is not recommended.

To melt your ingredients without a double boiler, use the following method. It's really easy. Place a kettle full of water on the stove and turn it on high. While you wait for that to heat up, get a shallow, heat safe dish, like a ceramic bowl, small pot, or baking dish, and place that on the counter. This will be your outer bowl. For the inner bowl, you need it a bit smaller than the outer one, it must be heat safe, and preferably have thin sides. Too thick of sides will make the process take longer.

(If using a double boiler, just put all of your solid ingredients into the top portion and heat, until melted, then pour into your mixing bowl and proceed with the refrigeration step)

Cocoa butter pearls, ready to get melting!

Pour hot water from the stove into the outer bowl. Be very careful not to get any drops of water into the inner bowl. If it's easier for you, remove the inner bowl while your pour an inch or two of water into the larger bowl, then place the small bowl in the hot water.


The cocoa butter begins melting quickly
Stir occasionally with a small spoon
Once your cocoa butter has turned completely to liquid, you can pour it into the mixing bowl, or add your next ingredient, if there is enough room in the bowl. I had a little room so I just added my coconut oil. If using a double boiler or a bigger pot, you can put all three ingredients in together from the very beginning. 
Coconut Oil added to melted Cocoa Butter
Keep melting all of your ingredients until they are liquid, then pour them into a mixing bowl. If the water in your outer bowl cools off, replace it with more hot water.


Shea Butter at room temperature
Shea Butter beginning to melt
Pour all of the melted ingredients into a large mixing bowl
Stir to combine
Once all three ingredients are melted and poured into the mixing bowl, lightly stir them to combine everything, and place the bowl in the fridge for 30-45 minutes. Check the bowl after 30 minutes, then check every 5 mins after that. You want the mixture to solidify a bit, but not be hard as a rock. Don't leave it in the fridge too long without checking it.

Solidified mixture, ready to go, press on it with your finger, it should leave a hole but not reveal liquid underneath. Slightly softer mixture will create a fluffier end result. I like mine to be on the firmer side.

If you think your mixture got too cold, set it on the counter for a while to warm up to room temperature and check it again. Next, mix with a hand mixer for 30 seconds. Scrape the sides with a spatula and mix another 30 seconds. This first step is just to loosen everything up.

My mixture after mixing for about a minute on medium speed, scraping the sides halfway through.

At this point, if you are going to add essential oils, add them, and stir them in with a spatula. I used 15 drops of cacao oil in a jojoba carrier.

Next, using your mixer on high (or the "whip" setting), whip the body butter until it is nice and fluffy. Check for clumps and continue mixing if needed. This step only takes about 2-5 minutes. If your ingredients got cold it may take a bit longer. Room temp ingredients will go quickly. 


Whipped body butter, ready for the jar!

One really great thing about this body butter is if it ever accidentally melts, you can always repeat the refrigerate and mixing process to re-whip it into it's fluffy texture. I have left mine in a warm car before while traveling and this worked perfectly.


My favorite ways to use this multi-purpose DIY Body Butter:

-cuticle softener/nail bed conditioner
-dry elbows and feet remedy
-moisturizing mask after doing a clay mask (apply generously, let sit 20-30 mins, wipe away excess)
-night time face cream (only need to use a small dab!)
-post-pedicure foot rub lotion
-soften callouses and speed healing of minor skin abrasion
-spot-treat eczema (eczema can often be overcome through diet, but this helps relieve symptoms during a breakout
-daily, full body moisturizer (just don't use too much)













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Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Citrus Vinegar Multi-Purpose Cleaner



My absolute FAVORITE all natural, homemade cleaning concentrate can be made with TWO simple household ingredients. Really, you're going to love it. And unlike basic vinegar cleaners, it smells pretty wonderful. You don't need to add any expensive oils (although you can if you want to) and it is TOTALLY SAFE to use around pets and kids. 

This takes literally less than 2 minutes to put together, then you'll leave the jar on a shelf for 2-3 weeks. Honestly, you can't mess it up! We always have a few jars in rotation. The vinegar has it's own degreasing and disinfecting properties, and when paired with the acids from the citrus peels, it makes for a supercharged vinegar cleaner. Not to mention, it smells much better than plain vinegar. 

If you eat any citrus, start saving the peels. You only need the amount from about one whole orange, or 2-3 small tangerine peels, or 2 lemon peels to make one 16 ounce jar of concentrate. I suggest making a few jars at once the first time, then make up a fresh jar each time you empty one. This way you always have one or two backups on the shelf. 

Here's what you need to do...

First, collect your items. The only things you really need are:
-Citrus Peels 
-Distilled White Vinegar 
-A jar with a lid (any old jar will do)


OPTIONAL: A couple of sprigs of your favorite smelling herb can be added. You can use them fresh or dried. My favorites to use for this are lavender, rosemary, or lemon thyme. You can also add a few drops of your favorite essential oil like lemon or eucalyptus if desired. Make sure to check the safety of your oils before using them around pets or children.

To make the cleaning concentrate:

Step 1.
Put your citrus peels and herbs (if desired) into the jar. Add vinegar, pouring to the top, leaving about 1/2 inch of headspace. It's really not an exact science, just fill the jar up. Add some drops of essential oils if that's your gig. 

Step 2.
Put the lid on. Write the date on it. Shake the jar.

Step 3.
Set the jar in the pantry or cupboard, out of direct sunlight, where it can stay for 2-3 weeks. Shake the jar every couple of days.

After 2-3 Weeks: 
Once the liquid has turned an orangey color, it's ready to use! The peels should look kind of gross and pickled, they might have some brown spots, and they will no longer be floating at the top.

Citrus Vinegar cleaning concentrate, ready to use.
You can use the concentrate by itself to spot clean really grimy stuff, but I suggest diluting it with water to make different types of cleaners whenever you need them. Use the following dilution ratios as a guideline, adjust them to your liking if desired.

Multi-Purpose Spray, Dilution 1:1
To make an all purpose counter top cleaning spray, fill a spray bottle halfway with the vinegar concentrate, fill the rest of the way with water. I use this for kitchen surfaces as well as bathroom counters and sometimes a quick wipe down of the shower in between deep cleaning.

Floor Cleaner, Dilution 1:3 
Put one part concentrate with 3 parts water in a bucket, use to clean floors with a mop as you would do with commercial cleaner. Use on linoleum or tile flooring. Avoid use on hardwood floors.

Dish De-Crudder, Dilution (approximately) 1:10
Pour about one cup of concentrate into your sink (make sure the drain is plugged) and fill the sink with HOT hot water and one teaspoon of dish soap. Let the dishes soak until the water has cooled significantly. This should help speed up the cleaning process of any dishes that may have dried up junk on them from the night before.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner
Pour 1/4 cup of concentrate into your toilet bowl and scrub. Let sit 15-20 minutes then scrub once more, if needed, and flush.


Other ways to use the 1:1 multi-purpose spray:

Car Interior: dampen a rag with the spray and use it to wipe down your car dash, doors, center console, etc

Bathroom Sink: Sprinkle some baking soda on the inside of your bathroom sink, scrub thoroughly with a scrub brush or steel wool. Spray the inside of the sink with the multi purpose spray and let sit 5 minutes. Scrub once more if desired, and then rinse.

Dishes with food baked on: Spray on the dishes thoroughly and let sit 20 mins, then wash. Most food will come off with very little effort after this.

Microwave Cleaner: Pour 1/4 cup of solution into a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high for 1-2 minutes. The steam will loosen any food splatter. Wipe clean with a rag or towel.










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Thursday, October 26, 2017

Montessori Floorbed? Our Baby's Sleep Arrangement



Recently I posted a photo of my son's Montessori style floorbed on Instagram, and several of my followers showed interest in knowing more about it. So, although I am unable to fully get all the details in one page, I am going to attempt to summarize the basics of how we learned about floor beds, why we decided to try it, some of the unforseen difficulties, and ultimately, why we plan to do the exact same thing with any future kids we might be blessed enough to raise.

First of all, the floor bed wasn't fully planned from the get-go. When I was pregnant with Theodore, we intended to have a crib for him. We knew he and I would co-sleep for at least 3-4 months though, so we really weren't too concerned with getting a crib right away. It wasn't a priority.

When Teddy came home from the hospital, he slept in bed with me and my husband (Zach), and I kept his bassinet/cradle right next to me. For a few weeks I was able to nurse him on and off throughout the night and then put him back in his cradle, keeping him an arms reach away. We used the cradle for naps sometimes as well, so that I could have time to shower and eat while he was sleeping. Pretty soon though, Teddy decided he much preferred sleeping in my arms, and didn't want to be placed back in his cradle after nursing. And to be honest, I preferred it too. We also discovered that he had reflux, and part of the reason he wanted to be held was because when he slept inclined on my chest, or propped up on my arm, it eased his discomfort. (Side Note: Months later, after many trials and errors, we finally discovered that Teddy's reflux was caused by allergies to foods I was eating, but for a long time, we were unable to figure out the exact culprits. So during that time, my mommy instincts told me that the best thing to do was to try and make him as comfortable as possible, until we could figure out exactly how to solve the problem.)

During those first few weeks, my husband was able to stay home with us and help me through the sleep deprivation and body aches, as I healed from the general soreness of childbirth, and adjusted to my new role. He was my hero.  My real life knight in shining armor, bringing me snacks while I nursed Teddy, tirelessly holding my hand while we navigated the painful phase of breastfeeding, changing diapers, truly saving me day in and day out.

And then he went back to work.

At the time, Zach was working some odd hours, sometimes waking up at 3:30 or 4 am in order to drive out of town for work. He also stayed in a hotel when he was working away from home, which meant Teddy and I were by ourselves many nights. I decided to sleep in the nursery when we were alone. It made diaper changes easier. We still had a twin bed in the nursery because prior to having Teddy, we used it as a spare room. And I had also spent some nights there during my third trimester, because pregnancy sleep was impossible, and between my tossing and turning, and getting up every half hour to pee, I was concerned about keeping Zach awake, which in turn made it even more difficult to fall asleep (even though Zach literally never complained). So having the twin bed in Teddy's room sort of worked out perfectly. Teddy and I loved having our own space, we could coo at each other in the dark of the night, move around as much as we wanted to get comfy, and I didn't really feel the need to try and be quiet while burping/changing him, because when Zach was home, he was sleeping in the other room. It was also more physically comfortable for all three of us, with Teddy and I having our own sleep space. Zach and I had always shared a queen bed, and while that worked fine for the two of us, it wasn't easy for us both to sleep well with Teddy in bed also. So this was really the perfect solution, we were all much happier and getting more sleep than we had before.

Once we got used to the new arrangement, I began trying my hand at the old "nurse, and roll away" tactic, when Teddy was napping and I wanted to get up and do things. He was not even close to mobile, but I would still block the edge of the bed, just in case. When he became more mobile, we realized we would either need to get a crib, or figure something else out, because we didn't want him rolling off the bed and getting hurt. It was around this time that I was also looking at DIY baby tee-pees online. I wanted to make one for Teddy eventually, like a little playhouse for his room, and when I typed the words into the Pinterest search bar, keywords "baby" and "teepee" brought up a blog post by Lauren Hartmann, about her daughter Fern's floor bed. I was elated! Someone else had already written a blog post about the exact solution to my problem, and I stumbled upon it accidentally. What luck! I read about her floor bed experience, and then I began researching more floor bed stories. I realized this was a common practice in the Montessori world (which I had heard of, and was curious about), as well as in other cultures. So I told Zach about the idea, and we decided to remove the twin bed frame/box spring from underneath the bed Teddy and I had been sleeping on, and we put the mattress directly on the floor. I folded quilts and blankets to put around the edge so that if Teddy ever did roll off (which surprisingly, he didn't), he'd have a nice soft landing. This made me much more comfortable leaving the room if I had to use the bathroom or eat a snack. We thought of this as a temporary solution and still had the crib in the back of our minds. But as time went on, we started getting used to the idea that a crib wasn't 100% necessary. Plus, we figured the later transition to a big kid bed would likely be pretty simple for Teddy, since not a whole lot would be changing.

This initial change from twin bed to floor bed took place right around the time Teddy turned 4 months old. He had been sleeping with me since he was born, and pretty soon would be sleeping on his own! This was also the time Zach and I were looking for a new place to live, out of state. We knew we wanted to leave California, and we had our sights set on Idaho, after having visited on vacation two years prior. Because we knew we would be moving soon, the thought of not having to buy a crib seemed even more appealing, and we became fully committed to the idea of the floorbed, planning Teddy's room in the new house to accommodate one. We had a Pack n' Play, so we knew that was an option if we ever needed to put Teddy in a temporary safe spot to sleep/nap in, until we had his room set up at the new house. Once we found a rental and had a moving date, we decided it was time for me to end the co-sleeping arrangement. We were moving in one month, and Teddy's sleep habits were not ideal.

By this time, Teddy was almost 5 months old, and he was beginning to sleep less and less, refusing to be put to bed by anyone besides me, refusing bottles of my breast milk, refusing to sleep unless I was laying with him,  and was just generally an overly tired, cranky baby. He would only sleep if I was nursing or holding him, and I was exhausted. I didn't know how I was going to pack up the house and move across state with a baby who cried every time he left my arms. I tried baby wearing, but even that didn't work for me long term. It was ok sometimes, but it wasn't a solution. After many lengthy discussions with friends and family who had already raised kids, we decided it was time to try something new. We thought with all the big changes coming up, a new house, Teddy having a new room, it might be easier to make the transition to a new room if he was already used to sleeping on his own before the move. At the time, it was the hardest thing in the world for me. I hated having a wall in between my baby and me. But looking back now, I am so glad we did it at that time. It took some getting used to at first, but we stuck with it, and by the time we left the old house, Teddy was a sleep champ. We moved one month later and he transitioned to his new home with ease. I was able to finally start sleeping more. He had gone from waking up every 30-45 minutes in the night, to sleeping 4-5 hour stretches, once he realized that night time wasn't an all you can eat boobie buffet.

Age 5 months. Consistently napping on his floor bed (Pre-crawling phase!)
At this stage, having a floor bed really wasn't much different than having a crib, because Teddy wasn't moving around too much. He would roll around a little bit, but for the most part, he was a late bloomer when it came to the mobility milestones. In the early phases of floor bed, the biggest positive for us was the fact that there was absolutely zero risk of our son getting his limbs stuck in between crib rails. If an actual crib mattress is used (which many people do) it's even more similar. The only reasons we went with the twin was because we already had one, and were planning to keep it for Theodore's toddler bed. The twin also made a perfect place for me to lay down with Teddy during night time and early morning nursing sessions. The other obvious difference between a crib and a floor bed, is that there is a chance the child could roll off the edge of the bed. If a low crib mattress is used,  they are only about 4 inches off the floor, and folded blankets around the sides can further cushion the landing if desired. But from what I've heard, most babies only roll off a couple of times, and many of them don't even wake up. I think Teddy may have rolled off once or twice at the new house, but it's hard to tell because it was around the same time he started scooting, and was practicing getting out of bed on his own anyways.

Waking up in his new room! Age 6 mo.
Once we got to the new house, I prepared Theodore's room so that when he did start really scooting around, there were no dangers. His dresser went in the closet, and there were only a couple of electronic devices, which were kept out of reach because I gated off the corner of his room where they were plugged in. He had a white noise machine, baby monitor, and a humidifier. When he started really crawling, I realized he could probably move the gate if he tried hard enough, so I took all the items with cords out of his room, removed the baby gate, and made him a special area in one corner, where I could sit and nurse him, read books, and snuggle before bed time. We call that area his "reading nook" and it has a soft rug to lay on, some blankets, and a few pillows.

One of the drawbacks to having a floor bed, is the lack of adult-related things you can keep in the room once the baby is able to move around. A baby monitor, for example (unless it is wired way up high, out of children's reach) or comfort items like a fan, heater, etc. These aren't really a big deal to do without, but when you think of a modern nursery, you think of these things being readily available, a rocking chair, a place to plug your phone in while nursing, a night light or lamp. But with a Montessori room, the room is for the child, not the grownups. So all the outlets are covered and there's nothing in the room that could pose a potential danger if the child were to crawl underneath or begin climbing on it.
Teddy's "Reading Nook" 

At this point you're probably wondering, what about when they are mobile? How the heck do you keep the kid in bed?? Well, you don't really. The idea is to allow them to have the freedom to move around, to explore their surroundings, and eventually to learn that the bed is for sleep. It's the exact opposite of a crib where the child is prevented from movement, and therefore sleeps because there is no other option. With a floor bed, the hope is that at some point, the child learns that when they are tired, they can simply go to bed. I think the first time Teddy put himself to bed completely on his own, he was around 10 months old. It isn't something he does all the time, but every once in a while he does do it. Generally, he likes to be tucked in, so he comes to one of us to let us know he's tired, and we take him to bed and give him kisses. But there are times when even after we leave the room, we hear him get out of bed to play with his toys for a while before finally deciding to go to sleep on his own. And we encourage this, because he is learning that sleep is a choice just like everything else. And he can choose to go to bed when he is ready.

Now for the biggest struggle we have had with the floor bed, the scooting phase:

The phase when Teddy learned he could get himself out of bed and transport himself across the room by scooting was by far the most complicated. I think he may have been around 7 or 8 months old. There was about a 3 week gap in between the time he learned how to get out of his bed, and when he finally learned to climb back into bed. It may have been easier for him if we had been using a crib mattress, because those are smaller, but we decided to just stay consistent and stick with what he was used to. "He'll figure it out eventually" was a basic household mantra during this time.

During wake times, this phase was great. It was amazing when Teddy would wake up early in the morning and not need anything from us for about 30 minutes, sometimes up to an hour! We would wake to hear him cooing and playing, I could hear him from our room. He'd have his books, teethers, or plush toys and be just scooting around like the happiest little guy on the planet, and us tired parents, we could continue sleeping! (Or "dozing" as I like to say, because I can never fully fall asleep when I know Theodore is awake.) These were the most rewarding moments for us, truly magical. To hear our little dude in there all proud of himself, happily playing, independently self-entertained, it was a real treat. All of our concerns and constant questioning whether we had made the right choices were slipping away. We felt validated, a sigh of relief knowing that real growth was happening right before our very eyes. Nap time, on the other hand, was a different story. Naps were hard. Really hard.

At night, Teddy would generally go to sleep where we put him, and only get out of bed if he was hungry or needed a diaper change. Night time sleep wasn't too difficult, in my opinion, during this phase, he was tired from the day, it was dark, he had a routine, it was sort of a given that he was going to fall asleep and stay asleep for at least 4 hours. But naps, wowza. What a rollercoaster. We had days when we contemplated putting him in a crib. We didn't know if we were doing something wrong, or if this was just a normal part of babyhood. Teddy would be so SO tired, showing obvious signs of sleepiness, in desperate need of a nap, and then spring back to action as soon as we put him to bed. Every day was different. Some days he would cry at nap time, other days he would play in his room for an hour and never fall asleep, other days he would fall asleep in weird places on the floor, and some times I would just give up and take him on a car ride or stroller walk because I was at my wits end, and I knew he needed to sleep, but didn't know how to help him get there. We tried putting him to bed earlier, keeping him awake longer, feeding him more, any advice we got, we tried. Also, you should know, during this time Teddy never liked being rocked or held to sleep. Apart from the newborn phase when he was constantly nursing, he generally would get fussy and cranky if we tried to rock him or soothe him to sleep. He never took a pacifier, hated bottles, and didn't want to be held. Even nursing him to sleep was no longer and option because he was always wanting to play with mommy after eating, instead of going to sleep.

For me, this was rough. I always have leaned more towards the attachment parenting side, while Zach is more of a tough love kind of guy. It actually works out pretty well for us as a family, because there's a nice balance. If I had been on my own, I would have driven myself nuts trying to prevent Teddy from EVER crying. Although, it never would have worked because he didn't even like being snuggled or rocked at that time. So my attempts to comfort him were futile. I hated seeing him tired or upset, but Zach helped me learn that sometimes we have to struggle a little bit in order to come out stronger on the other side. So there were some tears at times, both from me and from Theodore, while we experimented and learned how to best help our baby get some rest, but it worked out for the best. We had attempted all kinds of different ways to get Teddy to nap, sometimes trying my ideas, sometimes Zach's ideas. But ultimately, it had to be Theodore's choice. He had to decide on his own when he was ready for sleep. The one thing that we both think probably helped him the most, was to simply enter his room and put him back in bed every time he got up. He knew he wanted to go to sleep but he didn't know how. He was tired, his desire to practice crawling drove him to scoot out of bed, but then he would get upset when he tried to go back and was unable to get back in. We decided to consistently show him that the bed was a comfortable place, and that going to bed when you are sleepy is a really great idea. Then during awake times, we would help him practice climbing into bed all throughout the day, until he finally could do it on his own. All of sudden, we had a baby who might get out of bed at nap time, play or fuss for a few minutes, and then decide to just crawl back to bed and go to sleep! And while this whole process maybe isn't exactly ideal for busy parents who have a lot of stuff going on, it ended up being ok for us. I think that 2-3 week phase was the hardest part of the floor bed experience, so far. I could probably write an entire blog post about that alone. But once Teddy finally learned how to climb back into bed on his own, the road got smoother. Much smoother. And the payoff for him learning this valuable skill was huge.

Now Teddy is 17 months old. We still struggle with naps from time to time, but there is usually a reason. Either he is sick, or teething, or going through some sort of new change (like when he was weaning). For the most part, Theodore loves his bed. There are plenty of times during the week that he wakes up chipper and plays for a few minutes while I finish doing things around the house. It's much more relaxed. There are still times when he wakes up fussy or upset because he didn't nap long enough, or he's hungry or needs a change, but that's pretty much a normal part of being a baby/toddler.

Having the floor bed has had it's ups and downs. But every time Zach and I considered using a crib, we always circled back to the same point. We always ended up realizing that even if we had Teddy in a crib, we would probably still have the same, or similar challenges. The one thing that we probably would not have dealt with, would have been those weeks when Teddy was able to get out of bed, but not able to get back in. However, on the flip side, we never had to worry about him getting an arm stuck in a rail, or trying to climb out of a crib and potentially hurting himself. The other bonus to that struggle is Teddy found independence. He found confidence and is now able to decide if he needs to nap, or if he needs to just have a little quiet alone time. Sometimes he is tired, but not tired enough to sleep, and some quiet time with his books is just enough to help recharge his batteries and make it to the next bed time. Also, having the floor bed makes his room a really fun place for the whole family to be. Some of my fondest memories include all three of us playing in Teddy's room, sprawled out on the floor, talking, laughing, tickling, all of us laying in his bed reading together. It's opened up doors for a new kind of bonding. Teddy's room isn't just a "nursery" or a place to keep a bunch of grownup stuff to help care for a baby. It's his space, his play area, his sleep spot, his reading nook, HIS safe place to go when he is tired. It's his special room with all his own special things, where mommy and daddy go to comfort him when he is sick, and sing to him before bed. Every night I lay down with him, snuggle up close while I read him stories, sing to, and pray with him. I couldn't lay with him if he was in a crib. His room is so much more than I ever dreamed it to be, and the floor bed is the reason for all of it.

Now that we are thinking about baby number two, we realize how special and family-oriented a floor bed is. It's definitely on our mind and I can't really see using a crib for any other children we may have. We are open to using the crib if the need arises. But so far we haven't had any issues that couldn't be resolved through patience and perseverance. The floor bed is really about teaching your child healthy sleep habits, rather than forcing them to sleep because they have no other option.

I do think that there are some situations a floor bed might not work for. If you are unable to make the room safe, or if your child has a personality that doesn't jive well with the freedoms a floor bed allows, they may be safer and happier with more physical boundaries. On the whole though, I think a floor bed is a very simple concept, and allows parents to be minimal in their approach to what furniture they buy for their child, as well as what kinds of things they keep in the child's room. A child that doesn't have too many toys will often use their imagination more, and we have witnessed this in Theodore a great deal in the past few months. Looking into the floor bed option for a child can really change not only your perspective on sleep habits, but also your entire approach to parenting. Children learn by exploring and experimenting, so it's really neat to know that when our son wakes up early in the morning, he's in there learning something new, imagining, tinkering, and doing things all on his own!










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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Ways to Live More Sustainably, Right Now





Living a sustainable life doesn't have to be anything fancy. You don't have to buy a plot of land somewhere off the grid, switch to solar energy, or start making your own bread. A lot of times, living a  "sustainable lifestyle" is misinterpreted as being a full-blown homesteader. While that would be the ideal situation for many of us, it's not entirely true.

You can begin making more earth-friendly, non-consumer based, and sustainable choices right now, anywhere, any time. Whether you live in a major city or a small town, the journey towards sustainability begins as a shift in how you think about the products you consume, and the waste you create. So many factors go into this concept that I can barely graze the tip of the iceberg in one blog post. But I'll start with some basics.

One. 
Learn to make things that you would normally buy. This does not mean stop going to the store forever and ever. No, it just means, learn a new skill. Crochet or knitting are good ones to start with. So are sewing, canning, cooking from scratch, repairing broken items around the house, making your own lotions, skincare products etc. Every time we run out to the store and buy something, we are sending a message to the manufacturers to make more stuff. We are taking part in the consumer-manufacturer cycle and in turn, our planet and our oceans are becoming littered with and covered in garbage. All of the packaging from those items, as well as the items themselves (when they break or become no longer useful) end up in landfills, and consequently, in waterways, forests, and all kinds of places they don't belong. Think of how rewarding it might feel if you were able to make winter hats for your whole family using locally sourced wool or cotton. Or sewing a torn pair of jeans into a gardening apron, or shopping bags. Or even doing a DIY face mask, or hair moisturizer.

Two.
Need less stuff. What? Am I saying "need less stuff," or "needless stuff?" Good question. A lot of the crap and clutter that we have in our houses is just needless stuff. But somehow it accumulates, sitting, mocking, staring at us while it collects dust. We pick the stuff up and move it from place to place every time we clean, but we never get rid of it. Why? Well, that might be a topic for a whole different post. There are tons of reasons why we tend to hold on to things, but for now I'll just focus on the getting rid of it. When we own less things, we value what we own more. We begin to realize what we do own has value, and the desire for more "stuff" goes away. Look at the items that you no longer use and imagne your life without them. Sell them if they are worth something. Give them to a friend that will find them useful. Donate if you think someone else might need them. And then continue on with your life, needing less stuff. Before you buy something new, ask yourself if you really need it. If it's not an absolute necessity, then question its usefulness. Only bring items into your home that are truly needed or loved. Try to access tools and items that were made locally to you, or at least made in the country you live in, or shop second hand.


Three.
Learn to thrift. If you absolutely have to buy an item, try thrifting for it! This cuts down on the amount of packaging you'll have to throw away, and often saves you a whole lot of money. If you find a high quality item that was really well-made, but perhaps needs a new coat of paint or a couple of screws tightened, ask yourself if the bargain is worth the little bit of work. You can find great deals for pennies if you're willing to do a little spit-shine!


Four.
Quality over Quantity. Buy better quality items. Stop buying all the flimsy junk from Target that was made in China and won't last for more than a year. Just don't do it. There are other options. Either spend a little extra on a new, very well made item, or be patient and thrift for it. EXAMPLE: I had a potato masher that was purchased at Target for around $5. The handle was plastic and it was made in some other country, which means that a portion of that $5 I paid, was simply put towards shipping costs. It broke after the second time I used it. To replace it, I went to an antique store and got the sturdiest, most well-made masher I could find (photo at top). It was metal with a wooden handle, and I made sure that the handle was metal inside too, not just a wooden handle screwed on. It cost 12 bucks. Now, our conventional way of thinking would say "buy the $5 one, dummy!" but at my rate, I'd have to buy a new one every year, or maybe more, and well, $5 twice a year, for years to come, you do the math. The well built one will probably last a lifetime. I can practically guarantee that I'll never buy another potato masher again.

Five.
Be more patient. So much of what drives our culture's consumerist attitude is a lack of patience. When we want something, we want it NOW. We want to drive to a store and get it, right this second. We don't want to spend time making something ourselves or thrifting for it. This attitude is just feeding the consumerist machine. We are telling manufacturers "Yes! We need ALL THE THINGS! Keep making them! And wrap them all in plastic!" And then we get upset when we see our sidewalks and freeways littered with trash. Or wildlife sick and dying because they are literally eating our garbage instead of real food. In order to make our planet a safer and healthier place to raise our children and grandchildren, we need to put an end to this cycle, and it starts with our way of thinking. When you get the urge to jump up and buy something, or order it on Amazon with same-day shipping, really sit with it. Give yourself 24 hours. Sleep on it. Re-holster your wallet and unload the browser. Just chilllllll man. You might wake up in the morning and realize you really didn't need that item.

Six.
Say no to disposables. If you've been on the sustainability wagon for a while now, this may be a no-brainer. But for those who are just getting started, you will quickly learn that one of the easiest and most basic methods of creating less waste is to "bring your own." Bring your own cup to the coffee shop, bring your own straw out to eat, or to the bar (or don't use one), bring your own shopping bags to the store, and bring your own refillable water bottle wherever you would normally bring a disposable one. There are lots of other "bring your own" items, like eating utensils, cloth napkins, food containers, bulk bags, etc. But these 4 basics are the easiest ones to start with.

Seven.
Make your own: sauces, broths, salsas, etc. I listed canning as one of the "skills to learn" in tip number one, but you can still make these things without having the knowledge of how to preserve them for long term. Instead of buying spaghetti sauce or salsa from the store, learn how to make it yourself from fresh ingredients. To make things easier on yourself, make a double or triple batch all at once, and freeze the extra in single serving containers or jars. This is really a life-changer because when you have ready made food at your fingertips, you are far less likely to buy processed, packaged food, or to eat out. You'll save money and be healthier. Some great dishes I really love to do this with are chili, soups, pasta sauces, bone broth, taco meat, shredded chicken, diced veggies, baked beans, and freezer jam.

Eight.
Meal Plan. Plan your meals around locally grown and farmed ingredients. Try to use whole ingredients (whole=not processed), and ingredients with little to no packaging. If you can grow some of the ingredients yourself, that's even better. Also, don't just plan for the week, take tip number seven to the next level by planning for future meals. For example, if you're browning some ground beef for a meal this week, try doing double the amount, brown all of it at once, and then freeze the unused portion. This way you already have a partially prepared meal ready to go if you end up getting sick or too tired to cook. Any time you can use homemade food instead of running out the door for takeout, you're making a more sustainable choice. You're using something that is already available to you rather than looking outwards for something new to fulfill your needs.

Nine.
Learn to garden. If you have a sunny window, you can grow at least one plant. I grow plants on a window sill in the winter when the snow comes. You can keep some herbs indoors and use them for cooking, and you can even keep some vegetable plants in containers on a patio or balcony. If you are lucky and have even a small patch of dirt to use as a garden, go for it! Don't be afraid to try something new. Even if it's just one tomato plant your first year, those will be the best tasting tomatoes you have ever eaten, because you will be reaping the benefits of your own hard work.

Ten.
Don't try to be perfect. Seriously you guys, have fun with it. People take themselves way too seriously sometimes, and I think that's a huge part of why so many don't ever want to try anything new. The fear of messing up or not doing something properly overrides the fear of slowly killing our planet, and filling our bodies with toxins. Don't be afraid of messing up, and don't beat yourself up if/when you do. You'll never be perfect, I will never be perfect, none of us will. We are human beings and all we can do is try our best. When we fail, we just have to shake it off and tell ourselves "better luck next time, champ." and move on.


So there you have it, a few little basics that you can start any time, no matter where you live. I know there is a lot more to be said about the topic of sustainability. There are a whole ton of layers to the concept, and it really can't all be covered in one blog post. Some of the tips I didn't mention and may discuss in more detail in future blog posts would be; locally farmed eggs, dairy, and meat, locally grown produce, composting, using veggie scraps in recipes, owning chickens, ducks, goats, or other livestock, trading goods and services with friends, rather than purchasing from big companies, skipping the salon/self-care at home (diy pedicures, eyebrow shaping, hair trims, facials, etc), thrifting tips/how to spot a good buy vs. a cheap one, honestly the list goes on and on. Definitely don't be afraid to let me know if there is a specific topic you'd like to hear more about. I may turn this into a series of posts, where I can dive deeper into the different sub categories. I hope you enjoyed reading this and please feel free to comment with any questions or new ideas. Thanks!

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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Bentonite Clay Face Mask




This is my favorite way to tighten, exfoliate, and revive drab skin.

The ingredients are simple, and afterwards the skin feels smooth, tight, and full of life! This mask can be done using plain water OR apple cider vinegar (I prefer the latter) and in my blog post I detail the reasons for using either one. Of course your favorite essential oils can be used as well.

Bentonite clay is inexpensive to buy, especially when you compare it to more conventional skincare products, it's natural and from the earth, and it contains ZERO chemicals or additives.

Due to the nature of the clay, as it sits on your skin it will increase circulation underneath. The payoff is that your body will be doing everything that it needs to in order to move blood around under the surface, and as a result, push toxins out through the pores. Sometimes, you can feel this process as it occurs, as warmth in the face, and you may even feel your own pulse as the circulation increases! This is totally normal. I always do this mask at night because after getting all that blood pumping, my face is usually a bit flushed afterwards, and the redness can stick around for a little while after. Don't be alarmed at these processes, it means it is working. Just remember that with any new beauty product or regimen, it's always best to test a small amount on your skin first before using a full application.

You will need:
-A small bowl to mix the ingredients in (glass or ceramic, no metal)
-A non-metal spoon or spatula to mix with (or just do like me and use a clean finger)
-A clean foundation brush to apply the face mask with IF you desire. This is optional. I use my fingers, easier to clean after.
-Water or Apple Cider Vinegar **See Note**
-A freshly washed face with no oils or moisturizers on the skin
-A hair tie to hold hair back and a wide headband or scarf to wear at the hairline to keep baby hairs in check.


**Note: This mask can be done with either water, Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV), or a mixture of both. Using straight ACV can be a little strong for some skin types, especially for the first time doing this mask. Water is a gentler approach and highly recommended if doing this mask for the first time. That being said, when using water, it can be difficult to get all the clumps out of the clay. For some reason, ACV dissolves the clay better, and creates a nicer, more paste-like, consistency to work with. I typically use a mixture of 50/50, water/ACV to balance it all out. For your first time, try plain water, then add ACV the next time, and decide if you like it.**

Ingredients for Mask:
Approximately 2 tablespoons of bentonite clay
Enough water or ACV to form a paste

Directions:
1. Put the dry bentonite clay into the small bowl

2. Add a little bit of ACV or Water a little bit at a time, mixing thoroughly, until mixture resembles a smooth paste. Start with 1 or 2 teaspoons of liquid and then begin adding it just a few small drops at a time. It will thin out quickly and if you add too much liquid, you'll have to add more clay to balance it out.. which will just be a waste of ingredients. Go slow.

3. There may be some small chunks that won't disappear, this is fine, and if you leave the mixture to sit at room temperature for a few minutes, they will probably dissolve as the clay particles absorb more liquid. If you don't feel like waiting though, go ahead and smear that stuff on, chunks and all! It's not going to hurt anything.

4. Once the mixture resembles the consistency of yogurt or pudding, apply it to your face using a VERY clean foundation brush, or your fingers. Avoid the lips, eyebrows, and the thin skin around the eyes. If you have excess leftover you can apply it to your chest and neck, but be aware that the mask may harden in some areas, and that will make it difficult to move or turn your head. Which may be funny at some point in time, but it might not be funny while you're trying to get your chill on.

5. Leave the mask on for 15-20 minutes. If it's your first time and you aren't sure how your skin will respond, try just 5 minutes as a test run. Rinse with lukewarm water, using a washcloth to help wipe away the clay (I do this in the kitchen sink because there's more room and it can be a little messy) pat dry with a clean towel and moisturize. I love to use almond oil with a drop or two of lavender in it to help tone down redness. OPTIONAL: Apply a moisturizing mask instead, see recipe below.


Avocado Moisturizing Mask:

After rinsing and drying, apply a moisturizing mask. You can use mashed avocado with a little bit of olive oil, for a really amazing moisturizing experience. Leave it on for 10 minutes or so and then remove. Your face will feel so fresh! It may look a bit oily at first, but my suggestion is to leave it alone and let those oils work their magic overnight. You will awaken to a lovely, soft, silky face.













Disclaimer: All skin types are different. The way that one body responds to these ingredients may be different from another person's bodily response. Use your best judgement and always test a small amount of product on your skin before applying a full application. This goes for ANY new skin products, whether homemade or store bought. My blog posts are about sharing my own experiences, I am not suggesting or implying that you do anything to your skin that may damage it. My experience with these products has always been safe and harmless. As stated previously, everybody is different and therefore my experience may differ from yours.  
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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Recipe: Bibimbap (Vegan Option & Meat Option) GF, Soy Free)

Vegan, Soy Free, and Gluten Free
With meat and fried egg added
This recipe is for two adult portions, plus leftovers for about one serving the next day


To add a little extra love to this dish, make my Homemade Hot Sauce recipe  to serve with it

.

Veggie Ingredients:
2 cups Long grain white rice, cooked in rice cooker
1 large red (or yellow) bell pepper, sliced into matchsticks
2 cups green onions, cut into two inch pieces
About 2 more green onions, thinly sliced and set aside for garnish
One large cucumber, seeded, and sliced matchstick style
2-4 cups of sliced mushrooms. You can use any mushroom you like. Shiitake is ideal, but I typically           go for a more affordable option like creminis. This measurement of 2-4 cups will vary depending on if you are using mushrooms as a substitute for meat. If you are using meat and egg, two cups of mushrooms is sufficient.
1 small zucchini, cut in half and then sliced into thin pieces, lengthwise


Mushroom or Meat Marinade
1/4 c. Soy Sauce (or Soy Sauce Substitute; find my recipe here )
2 Tbs White cooking wine or Rice Wine
1 tsp. Rice Vinegar (Apple Cider Vinegar or Lemon Juice would also work OK)
3 Tbs Raw Cane Sugar (Honey, Brown Sugar, or your favorite sugar substitute should work)
Optional, but highly recommended: 2 Tbs My Homemade Hot Sauce (or Korean Gochujang Sauce, or Sriracha)

MEAT:
1.5 lbs of beef or pork sliced very thinly across the grain, into bite sized pieces
One egg per bowl

Method:
1. Make sure to prepare ALL of the ingredients before turning on the stove (This includes cooking the rice)

2. Make the marinade. In a small mixing bowl, mix together the marinade ingredients, set aside.

3. Slice the mushrooms and cut the meat. Place the mushrooms in a shallow dish, and the meat in a separate dish. Pour the marinade liquid over the meat and mix it around; use just enough liquid to coat the meat, pour the rest of the marinade onto the mushrooms and toss gently. Set these aside.

4. On a clean cutting board, start slicing the vegetables. As you slice the veggies, place them on a platter or into seperate bowls so they don't get mixed together. You will be stir-frying each type of veggie on it's own, so make sure the carrots stay in their own little pile, set the onions next to them, and the peppers next to the onions, and so on, not mixing them together. (Slice the cucumber into matchsticks, and thinly slice two of the green onions, set aside for garnish)

Keep your veggies separate, unlike a regular stirs-fry
5. Once all your veggies are prepared, and your meat and/or mushrooms are marinading, heat up a couple tablespoons of oil on medium-high heat. You can use sesame oil if you wish, but keep in mind that it will drive up the cost of this meal significantly, as you will be adding oil to the pan for each vegetable. I use grapeseed oil, avocado oil, or coconut oil, as they are all more affordable, and I add sesame at the end as a flavorful garnish.

6. Get the oil nice and hot, but don't let it get to smoking, if you toss in a grain of rice and it sizzles, the oil is ready. Put in the zucchini slices (or your lightest colored vegetable) and stir-fry until cooked. Remove the zucchini from the pan and place it back on the platter. Next add some more oil and the green onions, or yellow pepper, or whatever the next vegetable is. It is recommended to stir fry your veggies starting with the lightest colored ones, and ending with the red or dark colored ones last. This will keep your carrots and red peppers from staining the lighter veggies, and give your plate the freshest look! Cook the green onions and place them on the plate as you did with the zucchini. Continue this with all the veggies (except for the cucumber, which will be served raw) until they are finished.

7. Next, do the mushrooms. Add them to the pan with a bit of the marinade liquid and stir fry just until they are soft and darkened, it should only take a few minutes.

8. Now comes the meat and egg. But first, I recommend plating up the bowls so that the fried egg can be added directly to the top. Put some rice into the bowl, and add veggies around the edge of the rice. If the dish is meant to be vegan, put the mushrooms in the center top; like this:
Vegan Bibimbap ready to eat! Garnish with a drizzle of sesame oil, cucumber slices, a sprinkle of sesame seeds, and sliced green onion

If you are preparing a bowl that will have meat and egg, leave a hole in the middle on top of the rice, and after cooking the meat you will place the meat there, with the egg on top.

9. Clean out any veggies from your pan and add the meat, stir fry just a few minutes until cooked. Place it on top of the rice in the center of the veggies. Heat some oil in the pan and crack an egg into it, pour about 1/4 c water into the pan, carefully, and place a lid on. This will steam the top egg white so that you will have fully cooked white part, and a nice runny yolk. Once all the white part is cooked, place the egg on top of the meat in the center of the bowl. If you wish to add egg to a veggie bowl with no meat, simply fry that egg before stir frying any meat in the pan.
Meat bowl. The meat is in the center, on top of the rice, hiding under the egg.  Garnish with a drizzle of sesame oil, cucumber slices, green onions, and sesame seeds.

10. To eat the Bibimbap, break the egg yolk and mix all the ingredients together with the rice. You will want to eat and eat and eat! This is a great comfort food and oh-so filling! Add some Gochujang or My Homemade Hot Sauce to the bowl for a little kick!

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Saturday, May 6, 2017

Experiment: Chamomile to Lighten Hair

I had a fun experience lightening my hair using chamomile flowers from my garden, lemon juice, and honey. You can do it with chamomile tea bags, or loose leaf tea, if you don't already have flowers. I really loved this process and hope it works for you too!
Before chamomile treatment (L), and After two applications(R) (more updated photos coming soon!)


This recipe is very adaptable. You can add moisturizing ingredients like argan or coconut oil if you wish, or you can dilute it by using more water. I've also heard that Calendula (Marigold) has lightening effects, so maybe that could be tried if chamomile is not available.

Notes about my ingredients:
(Chamomile) I used whole, dried chamomile flowers that were grown in my central California garden last summer (2016). I used about 3 Tbs of flowers, which (if my googling is correct), is equal to approximately 4-5 chamomile tea bags. If you want to do the application exactly like mine, I suggest using whole dried flowers. These can be bought at many natural food stores. I know they are often sold in bulk where high quality teas are sold. If that is not an option for you, give the tea bags a try! But remember that everybody's hair is different, and test it on a small patch of hair before going crazy with it. 

(Honey) I added honey into the mix because it tends to have a softening effect on my hair, and I wanted to balance out any possible dryness that the lemon juice may cause. I used wildflower honey. Any kind of honey will do. Just make sure it is, in fact, 100% real honey. There are a lot of dupes at the supermarket!

(Lemon Juice) I used the juice from one small lemon. Lemon juice can dry out the hair, but it also greatly increases the lightening effects of chamomile. So I went for it. If you are concerned about damage, or if your hair is damaged already, skip this ingredient! You can always do more applications of a gentler mixture, but you can't undo damage once it's done.

(Boiling Water) I used plain old tap water to steep the tea

(Rose Water) I had a bottle of "Heritage Store" brand Rose Petals Rose Water in my cupboard. I love this stuff, and I used it to dilute the chamomile mixture (at the very end of the process), simply because I enjoy the smell of it. You can also use just plain water.


Ingredients (Measurements)
3 Tbs Whole, Dried Chamomile Flowers (if using tea bags, see my note on Chamomile above)
1 Tbs Honey
Juice from one small lemon (about 1 Tbs)
1/2 cup boiling water
1/3 cup room temperature water or Rose Water

Making the Hair Lightening Mixture
1. Put the chamomile flowers (or tea bags) into a coffee mug or small heat-safe bowl
2. Pour the 1/2 c. of boiling water in, and mix gently if necessary just to push any floating flowers under the surface of the water. Cover and let steep until cooled
3. Strain the mixture into a small mixing bowl, using a fine mesh strainer or cheese cloth. Push gently on the flowers with the back of a spoon to squeeze out any excess moisture. (If using tea bags, just remove the bags from the water, and squeeze out any excess)
4. Once you have your very strong chamomile tea in a bowl, add in the honey and lemon juice, and mix well. It will smell delicious. I tasted mine, and it was really good!
5. Add 1/3 cup of rose water (or plain water) and pour the mixture into a jar or bottle. Read the application method (below) before deciding on what container to use.

Application Methods
(Spray Bottle)
If you're planning to apply this all over your hair, then a spray bottle may be your most efficient method. I have the worst luck with spray bottles, so I didn't use that method, because for some reason  the cheap little pump sprayer thing always seems to quit on me halfway through whatever I am doing. Also, after straining my chamomile flowers, I noticed tiny particles in the final solution. Several layers of cheesecloth and a second strain would probably remedy this, but, I didn't have that. Because I wasn't planning to put this in a pump sprayer, I didn't worry about it.

(Bottle and Cloth)
I keep my mixture in a small bottle, and when I want to apply it, this is what I do: I fold a dry baby wash cloth into quarters, and holding it in my right hand, I dip the cloth into the solution. Next, using my left hand, I grab one inch sections of hair and I wrap the saturated cloth around the hair section, squeezing gently as I run it down the length of hair. It's sort of like painting. Except the mixture is too runny to use a brush.

How long to leave it on, and to sun, or not to sun?
Ehh, I'll be honest, I have no set answer on this. I've heard that going in the sun with lemon or chamomile in your hair makes it blonde. I've also heard that it works with just plain heat (like a shower cap) and I've also heard that it works regardless of the aforementioned variables. I have no idea if increasing or decreasing the amount of time will make a difference in it's effectiveness. I'm not sure if it continues to work after it dries, or if it is only processing while it is wet. I also don't know if leaving it in longer can cause damage to the hair. This was just a big experiment, I'm not an expert.

I tried to find out via the all-knowing Google, but there are people who say "throw a showercap on and leave it in overnight" while there are others who say not to leave it on for more than 30 minutes! So what's a girl to do??? As you can tell, this is all very experimental to me, but I did have several requests for details after posting my before & after pics on IG, so you were one of them, I'm sorry lol, but this is all I've got for you.
While I don't know a whole lot about this process, other than what I've learned on my own so far... I do know this: once you put this crap in your hair, it's going to
A. Smell AMAZING
B. Get incredibly sticky while wet, and "crunchy" as it dries
C. Possibly attract bees and other bugs if you go outside

SO, having said all that, I will just tell you what I did to get my current results, then you can decide for yourself what to do.

The first time I applied it, I let it sit in my hair for close to 4 hours (oops). I honestly forgot about it. I put it on my hair and left my hair down to air dry. It very much resembled that crunchy 90's gel "scrunched" look, where your hair appears to be wet, but when you touch it, it feels like dried ramen. (see photo, taken at the end of 4 hours)
Mixture still in hair (dried) after 4 hours, first application. No clue if that was a good idea or not, but I was multitasking and it sort of just got left there until I had a chance to wash it out. 
I worked in my garden (in the sun) for 2 of those 4 hours. About halfway through, I managed to wrangle the mass of crunchy, tangled, ramen noodle hair into a pile on top of my head a la "messy bun" to keep it out of my face. The jury is still out on whether or not I would go out in public that way.
I decided to do this experiment on a day that I was already planning to wash my hair, so after working in the garden (obviously well after Theodore was in bed for the night) I washed my hair as usual.
Presto! I noticed immediate (although very subtle) results.

2. The second time I applied it, I did the same thing, except it wasnt sunny out, and I only kept it on for about two hours. I gave my hair a good rinse and scrub, but I didn't fully wash it afterwards. Once my hair was dry, I took my "after" picture, which I posted on Instagram as a side-by-side with the "Before" pic.
Before adding any treatment to my hair

After the second application


As you can see, the results are very subtle. But I've also only applied the mixture to my hair twice. I think I will see greater results after a few more applications. I will be sure to post updates on here, and on Instagram, as I continue with this experiment. If you use my Hair Lightening Recipe, PLEASE let me know how it works out for you, and post pics to the hashtag #mintedrecipes! Good luck, and have fun!!





Disclaimer: I have no idea if this is going to work on your hair. I'm just being real here. This is a natural ingredients experiment that I did on myself, and I got a few requests for details. The strength of the ingredients I used may be vastly different than the strength of your ingredients. Also, everybody's hair is different, so results are not going to be the same for everyone. That being said, I think this is a relatively gentle process, and pretty harmless compared to most chemical processes. If you decide to do what I've done, I highly suggest doing a "patch test," testing this process on a small bit of hair before applying it all over, to see if you like the results. I am not a hair care professional, I have just been using natural hair care methods on myself for many years and I really enjoy it. I have many like-minded friends and I want to share the process for those who are interested.












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Recipe: My Homemade Hot Sauce (Vegan, Allergy Friendly)





This hot sauce recipe is a mashup of different Korean Gochujang inspired recipes. I tried a few and I learned a couple of things:

#1. I really LOVE gochujang as an ingredient.
#2. It can be really difficult to find gochujang in most grocery stores!

So, I took my favorite elements of the different recipes I tried, and experimented using easy to find ingredients. After a few trials and tweaks to the recipe, I think I've created something you're really going to love! It's a little bit sweet, with a mellow sesame flavor, and you can adjust the heat according to preference.

I tried using ingredients that can be found at most grocery stores with an Asian food aisle. I even adjusted some of them to be non-Asian ingredients for those who just don't have access to that kind of thing. So good luck! And if you make this recipe, please post a pic on Instagram and tag me! 

A few important notes:
You'll need a food processor or high speed blender. I use the single serving blender option on our ninja... it's quick. Also, you'll need to blend this once, let it sit in the fridge for an hour or two, and then blend it again. So if you're planning to use it for a specific meal, make it the day before, or at least get it started well before dinner time. 

Ingredients:
3 medium cloves garlic
1/4 of a sweet apple (pink lady, honey crisp, gala, Fuji are all good options)
1/4 of a small white onion
2 Tbs of soy sauce OR My Soy Sauce Substitute
1 Tbs Rice vinegar (you can use lemon juice or 1 tsp of Apple Cider Vinegar)
1 Tbs Mirin OR regular white cooking wine
2 Tbs sugar (we use raw cane sugar but regular brown sugar works great too!)
3 Tbs sesame oil 
1-3 Tbs of crushed peppers (also called red chili flakes, you know, the kind you put on pizza!


Note: if you want a more mild sauce, use only one Tbs of chili flakes, and follow the recipe, tasting when done. If more heat is desired, add another Tbs and repeat steps 2-4 until the flavor suits your palate. You can always make it spicier, but you can't take away heat once it's there. 


Directions:
1. Put all the ingredients into a high speed blender
2. Blend until smooth or almost smooth.. it's ok if there are still red pieces of chili flakes, they will break down after they soak up some of the liquid
3. Place the sauce in the fridge for 1-2 hours. 2 hours is ideal but less time will be ok. I usually just put the lid on the blender and stick the whole thing in the fridge.
4. After allowing the mixture to sit, blend again until very smooth. 
5. Use the sauce in marinade recipes, as a dipping sauce, or drizzle it on top of your favorite dishes!



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