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Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Simple Cast Iron Cornbread and Chili

This has been my favorite go-to winter meal, for two years in a row. You can easily double the chili recipe to feed a crowd, which makes it the perfect take-along for parties. The chili also freezes well, so it’s a great meal to have ready any time.

Dairy Free Cornbread
Prep: 5-10 mins
Cook: 19-22 mins

This is intended for a 10 inch cast iron skillet. However, a cake pan would likely work just fine. Do not attempt the preheating method in Step 1 with a cake pan.

1 cup corn meal
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
4 Tbs Sugar
1/4 tsp. Salt
2 eggs
1 cup dairy-free milk (almond, oat, rice, or coconut)
1/4 cup melted coconut oil

1. Preheat oven to 400° F. If a crispy crust is desired, preheat your skillet in the oven for 10-15 mins, with 1 Tbs of vegetable oil in the pan. Before pouring in batter, swirl the oil around to coat the pan well.

2. Combine all ingredients in medium mixing bowl and stir well to combine.

3. Pour batter into oiled cast iron skillet and bake for 19-22 mins

To make Gluten Free: Substitute your favorite Gluten Free flour blend for the all purpose flour. My favorite is King Arthur's Measure-For-Measure. To make Vegan: Omit the eggs and add 1/2 of a mashed banana

Weeknight Chili
Prep: 15 mins.
Cook: 3-8 hours in slow cooker, or 30 mins in pressure cooker (Instant Pot)

16 oz each of the following beans (already cooked, canned works fine): black beans, pinto beans, and kidney beans
2 medium tomatoes, diced (or one can)
16 oz tomato sauce
1/2 small white onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced (or 2 tsp garlic powder)
1 Tbs Cumin
1 Tbs Chili Powder (use less or more, depending on how much spice you like)
1 Tbs seasoned salt
3 Tbs brown sugar (seems weird but trust me)
Optional: 1-1.5 lb ground beef or turkey, browned and seasoned with salt and pepper

1. If using meat, brown it in a skillet or directly in your pressure cooker, drain any fat

2. Combine all ingredients in slow cooker or pressure cooker

3. Slow cook on LOW for 7-8 hours, or HIGH for 3-4 hours. If using a pressure cooker, cook on Medium for 30 mins

Other Delicious Variations of this Chili to Try:
-omit the sugar and add one small sweet potato, diced
-serve the chili over baked potatoes instead of corn bread
-garnish with avocado, shredded cheese, sour cream, and corn chips instead of corn bread


Friday, December 14, 2018

Life Update: Mom of 2

Hey all! It has been a while since I've written anything. The past year has been unlike any other (in a good way) and I am so excited to be back on this platform and sharing all the fun things I am learning about being a mom, trying to live more sustainably, and really just enjoying life instead of being overcome by it.

Our daughter was born on September 18th of this year and her big brother is adjusting to the new lifestyle really well. Being that my body has now been a home to two tiny humans, it has changed a lot. I embrace, love and appreciate many of the changes. The softness and squishiness does not bother me. The part that bothers me is that I feel SO WEAK. I stayed pretty active in my last pregnancy up until about 30 weeks. From that point forward, I struggled to maintain muscle mass and just general stamina due to a wide variety of reasons, some of which I may go into in a later post. As a result of losing so much muscle and generally becoming inactive, when my pregnancy ended, I struggled to get my energy back, to feel at home in my body, and even to do simple tasks like put kids into carseats and carry laundry.

Around 10 weeks postpartum I decided to make major changes and began working out daily. That was just a few weeks ago and I already see great results by feeling stronger and much more energized. I will likely post little tidbits of this aspect of my life, but will try not to go overboard as this is not a fitness blog. I just truly believe that all moms should feel strong and safe in their own bodies, so when I find things that work for me, I want to share that so other women can feel empowered to do the same for themselves. Sometimes we know we want to change things, but we don't know how, and it takes someone else who's been in our shoes to go before us and teach us how. I hope to do that for anyone who wants or needs it.

A big shift in our sustainability journey has also occurred. I find myself using plastic and convenience items a bit more since Normandy was born. But in some ways, I also find myself being more mindful and in-tune with reusables because they have become such a habit for me. I'm trying to do what I can and find the balance. There are certainly areas where I could make progress, and there are other areas where I have improved dramatically without even realizing it! I'll try to get better about sharing more of the struggles, as well as the victories.

The main things I hope to grow from and share here in this space, are ways to continue living slowly. To really soak up all the love and sweet moments that being a mom has to offer. To begin each day with intention and purpose. We live in a crazy, scary world. And as a homemaker, I feel a strong urge to make our home a safe haven. A place of rest and contentment. I think we can all use a little more contentment in our lives, so rather than searching for it, I want to share ways that you can create it.

Please feel free to comment or message me with any topics you are interested in hearing more about. Whether they are things I have written about in the past, or ideas of stuff you think I may be able to share more of. As always, I hope to leave you inspired and hopeful.


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

DIY Cleaning Solutions

Here is a quick list of my favorite, most basic clean-up tips using stuff you probably already have at home.  

Bathroom Sink: Rinse the sink and then sprinkle it with baking soda. Scrub with a sponge or brush. Spray your DIY vinegar cleaner (or plain vinegar/water) onto the surface and let it fizz as it reacts with the vinegar. Let it sit for a few minutes while you clean something else. Then scrub the sink once more, if desired, and rinse.

Bathtub/Shower Tile With Soap Scum: Make a paste out of baking soda and dish soap, apply it to the soap scum areas with a scouring sponge and scrub, then rinse. This is probably my favorite tip, it works really well!

Pet Hair/Odors in Upholstery or Carpet: Sprinkle baking soda on the area, let it sit 30 minutes or so and then vacuum it up. Optional, mix a few drops of your favorite essential oil into the baking soda before applying.

Coffee Maker: Fill the water reservoir with white vinegar. Turn the pot on. Once it has cycled through, repeat the process using plain water. Wash the pot and basket with dish soap and water. Wipe down the exterior of the machine.

Stovetop: Remove any removable parts and knobs, place them in a sink or shallow bin with 1/4 cup of laundry powder, and fill with very hot water until all the parts are covered, let soak 30 mins or more. Spray the stovetop with a solution of 1 part vinegar to 1 part water (or DIY Vinegar Cleaner), let it sit 5 minutes, then wipe clean. Rinse/Dry the stove parts and place back on stove.

Microwave: Fill a microwave safe bowl with 1/2 cup of water, and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice or vinegar. Place it in the microwave and turn the microwave on for 3 minutes. The steam will loosen any dried up food inside the microwave. Wipe with a cloth and you're done.

Peel Labels and Glue off of Jars/Bottles: Peel as much of the label as possible before getting it wet, some labels will come off pretty much in one piece. For stubborn labels, place the bottle or jar in hot water for a few minutes, then attack it with a scrub brush, butter knife, scouring pad, or fingernails. Do what you can. For leftover adhesive residue, make a paste of baking soda and olive oil, apply a thick layer of the paste and let sit for 30 minutes. Most adhesives will wipe clean off after this. Sometimes you may need a second application.


Saturday, April 21, 2018

Calming Kaolin Clay + White Tea Mask

Relax and reset with this calming mask. Different from the invigorating bentonite clay facial, this mask soothes and  detoxifies in a subdued, gentle manner, while toning down redness, and smoothing away rough spots and blemishes. The Kaolin Clay and White Tea combination gently draws out impurities, and passively tones down irritation. For this reason, the Kaolin Clay Mask is more suitable for sensitive skin that cannot handle the invigorating Bentonite. While this mask doesn't perform a full intensity, deep detox the way a bentonite mask does, it is great at helping remove toxins from the skin's surface, while banishing unwanted bacteria and microbes. It can also be effective at removing redness from the skin.

White Kaolin Clay has strong oil absorbing properties, so for very dry skin it may not be suitable. For semi-dry or combination skin, use a heavy moisturizer afterwards, like this homemade body butter. For oily skin, your regular face moisturizer will most likely be suitable to use after removing the mask.

A non metallic bowl
A non-metallic spoon (baby spoons work great!)
A clean foundation brush or even a soft paintbrush

1/4 c. White Kaolin Clay
White Tea
Honey, Yogurt, or Oatmeal (blended smooth)

About the Ingredients
To start with, you'll need 1/4 cup of powdered White Kaolin Clay, which can be found at many health food stores, and even some beauty supply stores. I bought mine package-free in bulk, from World of Nutrition, in Nampa. It is very inexpensive and I believe I got about $2 worth last time, which was more than enough for one mask. You will also need some white tea. I use Chinese She Mea tea, because it is also available in bulk at the same store. You need about 2 tablespoons of loose leaves, or two teabags. The last thing I recommend adding to this mask, which is optional, is raw honey. You will need 1 teaspoon, and I suggest using it because of its wonderful antimicrobial and skin soothing properties. It also helps with the consistency of the mask, and makes application easier. If you do not want to use honey, or you don't have any, you can use one teaspoon of plain yogurt, or cooked oatmeal, pureed completely smooth in a blender to thicken the mask.

-Once you have all of your ingredients gathered, steep the white tea. Do not make a full cup, rather, use only about 1/2 cup of water. Place the tea leaves in the mug or glass and add 1/2 cup of hot water. Let steep, covered. Set aside until it cooled to room temperature.

-In a small, non-metallic bowl, put 1/4 cup of Kaolin Clay.

-Slowly add the cooled, strained tea, one teaspoon full at a time, mixing with a non-metal spoon. Add the liquid SLOWLY. Start with 2-3 teaspoons and mix. Then add another, mix. Then another, mix. It's really easy to accidentally make this mixture too runny, and then it will drip all over while you apply it.

-If you make the mixture too runny, the only way to fix it is by adding more clay.

-Once your clay/tea mixture is smooth and consistent, add one teaspoon of honey (or honey substitute). Mix it all together. The consistency should resemble the texture of thick paint. (You will most likely have some unused tea leftover.  At the bottom of this blog post I will add a recipe for a toner you can make using the leftover tea.)

-Cleanse your face very well. Make sure there are no oil residues leftover from sweat, makeup, moisturizers, or makeup remover. Using a makeup removal wipe is not enough. You'll have to clean that residue off with soap and water, or use some witch hazel, or a 50/50 mixture of Apple Cider Vinegar and water. Oil residue on the skin will cause the mask to seperate on the skin, leaving spots that the mask will not stick to.

-Apply the mask mixture to your face, avoiding the eyebrows, under eye area, and mouth. It helps to use a clean makeup brush for this part if possible. Let the mask sit for 15-20 minutes, it will harden when it is dry. Rinse with lukewarm water, using a soft cloth to wipe the mask away.

-Pat your skin dry and apply your moisturizer.

Extra Tea leftover?? 
Mix the strained tea with an equal part of witch hazel. Add 2-3 drops of lavender oil if desired. Keep in a bottle in the fridge for a refreshing face toner! Shake before using. This toner helps even skin tone and reduce puffiness. It applies antioxidants from the tea directly to your skin. Apply it with reusable cotton rounds or cotton ball. It is lovely to apply before makeup, or to use at night as a light cleanser, followed by nighttime moisturizer. I love to use this toner on groggy mornings to help wake me up.

Disclaimer: I am not a healthcare or skincare professional. I have been usig natural and DIY skincare products on myself, my friends, and family for many years and I am simply sharing what I have learned from my experiences. Please use common sense and do not try products you may be sensitive or allergic to. It is always a good idea to do a test patch before trying new skin applications. 
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