Category Archives: Green Living

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Herb Thursday: Tea Tree Oil Deodorant

I finally took the plunge and made my own deodorant. My husband is under strict orders to give me his honest feedback on whether or not it works. This is my variation on a recipe that I have seen in many forms around the internet, so I have high hopes.

Here in South Texas, our coconut oil tends to be liquid at room temperature this time of year. Keeping my deodorant in the fridge is kind of inconvenient, as it is for most people I imagine. So I added some carnauba wax to keep it solid at room temperature.

Tea Tree Oil Deodorant

1/2 cup arrowroot powder

1/2 cup baking soda

8 Tbsp coconut oil

2 Tbsp carnauba wax

20 drops tea tree oil

20 drops peppermint

I used a pyrex measuring cup in a pot of water to warm the coconut oil and melt the carnauba wax. Once the oil and wax mixture was completely liquid, I removed from heat and let sit at room temperature. I then added the arrowroot powder and baking soda and mixed well. I then added the tea tree oil and peppermint and mixed the deodorant by hand. I kneaded the mixture like playdough to distribute the oils. I then transferred to a glass jar and stored in the fridge overnight to cool completely. The deodorant was then stored at room temperature.

For daily use, a small amount (dime size) is removed and warmed in the palm. Deodorant is then rubbed into the skin under the arms. This is not an antiperspirant, so it will not prevent sweating. But the deodorizing and antibacterial properties of the ingredients will keep you from smelling bad. I added peppermint essential oil as an added scent, but any scent can be added to personalize the deodorant.

 

 

tea tree oil deodorant

 

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Herb Thursday: Body Powder

One of my fondest memories of my grandmother, who recently passed away, is of the body powder puff that was a fixture in her bathroom. It was not anything fancy, just a simple shallow container with a matching powder puff on top. She would dust herself with a bit of talcum powder after her shower.

While not part of my daily regiment, a light dusting of powder can be nice. It is deodorizing and refreshing. But store-bought powder is not something I am interested in putting on my skin.

This is a simple body powder recipe, adapted from Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health (an absolute necessity if you don’t already own this book!).

Orange Body Powder

1/2 cup kaolin clay

1 cup arrowroot powder

30 drops orange essential oil (more if you want a stronger scent)

 

Combine powders and add essential oil. Mix and cover with a light cotton cloth. Let powder dry for several hours before transfering to a covered container. Dust lightly with a cosmetic brush or a powder puff.

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Herb Thursday: Essential Oil Room and Linen Spray

Last year I started a series here at the vegan bee called Herb Thursday. My original intention was to focus on one herb for several weeks and write about different uses, background information, etc. Well, life happened and my project got put to the side. But I really like the idea of writing about herbal remedies and natural household products – I just haven’t been able to figure out the best way to schedule and plan everything out.

Well, I recently started a few different herbal projects and I decided to put together smaller posts detailing what I am working on . Rather than make it a project with a lot of research and writing, I figured I would keep it simple. I’ll be sharing the different herbal recipes and ideas I am working on.

As a homeschooling family, I firmly believe that one of the best ways to encourage a love of learning in my children is to model this. I’ve put off a lot of personal reading and personal projects in the past few years due to busyness, but recently decided that I needed to make the effort to spend some time working on my own interests. My kids need to see me do this. So I am putting a lot more effort into a natural products self-study. Look for weekly updates, posted under Herb Thursday, on the things I am currently working on.

We have four dogs and so it’s a constant battle to keep the house smelling fresh. I would love to be able to open up the windows a lot more, but our Texas summers almost require A/C be running at all times. I want to find a scent that I love, and that I can use to freshen the air as well as the bedding and furniture. I have tried commercial sprays and even the natural ones tend to be quite strong. And don’t get me started on Febreeze. That stuff is horrible – it makes everything smell like dryer sheets and it is so overwhelming. I can’t imagine the fumes from Febreeze are healthy for anyone.

Making a room spray with essential oils is quite simple and allows for a lot of personal experimentation. While I have been reading a lot about aromatherapy and different essential oil blends, I decided to keep it simple for this room spray.

1 1/2 cup distilled water

1/2 cup white vinegar

12-15 drops essential oil (I used Lavender)

Mix and store in a spray bottle. Gently shake before each use.

I spray this in the air and on carpet and furniture – not to soaking, just a few spritzes until slightly damp. Vinegar does an awesome job of deodorizing the room as well as carpet and furniture as it dries (and doesn’t leave a vinegar smell behind!). The essential oil scent stays behind. You might want to check colorfastness of furniture or carpet before spraying, but I didn’t experience any staining or color fading from the vinegar.

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wholewheatbiscuits

Real Food

Life has been a little hectic around here for the past few months. Juggling homeschooling and trying to keep up with the house and administrative stuff while keeping up with our 18-month old AND being very pregnant – well, some things have fallen to the wayside. Like cooking.

Obviously, I make a ton of effort to cook most of our food around here. I love cooking from scratch, and prefer to know exactly what goes into what my family is eating. But I have only so many hours in the day, and lately my hours have felt squeezed as a result of increased family demands and just being tired as a result of being in the final months of pregnancy.

I have found myself letting the kids eat graham crackers and saltines and pretzels. These are easy to pack for car rides and park days, but when we get home, I find myself still reaching for them. And near the end of my pregnancy I was really craving juice, so I went through A LOT. And when I keep juice in the fridge, Kyri drinks a lot more than she should as well.

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you may remember I admitted to leaning a bit too heavily on Mac and Cheese as meals around here lately. This pretty much sums up the state of my kitchen over the last 6 – 8 weeks.

But I am happy to report that baby Julian has just hit 4 weeks, and I have had such an easy recovery (is that even the best  word for it?) from delivery. Aside from general weariness resulting from keeping up with three kids, I’m really feeling like my old self and have lots of energy. As a result, I have begun tackling the sorry state of affairs around here.

I have so enjoyed reading about the 100 Days of Real Food challenge that I mentioned it to Dan last night. He seemed quite interested in doing a purge of our recent negative eating habits – he’s been eating out a lot with his hectic work schedule and has been feeling the effects of all that crappy food.

I don’t think we will do the official challenge but I love the idea of the mini-pledges and the 10 day challenge. The mini-pledge is great because it lets you focus on one area for the whole week and then either add the next challenge (while keeping up with the previous week’s goal) or shift your focus to the next challenge.

Our plan is to tackle as many of the food areas mentioned in the 100 Days of Real Food challenge, without the pressure of officially taking part in the challenge.

I decided to start tackling two areas this morning – 1) processed flour and 2) sugar.

Processed Flour

I love to bake so I always keep a supply of 100 % whole wheat flour and Unbleached All Purpose Flour in the pantry. In the challenge, though, all purpose flour is out because it is too processed. I tend to bake and cook with a mixture of the two flours, since whole wheat by itself tends to be a bit heavy. But I am going to switch over only 100% whole wheat. My main foods around here that will need to be adjusted are pancakes, biscuits, bread and tortillas.

Sugar

In the challenge  processed sugar is out and as far as the challenge goes, honey or maple syrup are the only two allowed sweeteners. Since we don’t use honey (and agave is out because of how much processing is involved in preparing it), I will be sticking to maple syrup. Lucky for me I have a gallon of Grade B unfiltered maple syrup that I am working through. I’m not used to subbing in a liquid sweetener for a dry like sugar, so there might be a learning curve as I start using only maple syrup in recipes. I’m also not sure how maple syrup will work when a recipe calls for honey, like the whole wheat bread I will be prepping today. I think the last time I made this bread I used agave syrup.

This weekend I prepared our usual Saturday breakfast of pancakes and sausage. For the pancakes I used 100% whole wheat flour rather than a mixture of the two, and replaced the sugar with maple syrup.

Two ingredients or items this morning would have been an issue had we officially started the 100 Day challenge. One is the Gimme Lean breakfast sausage. This has more than five ingredients (another no no, and a separate mini-pledge challenge), and some sugar as an ingredient. This is one item that I want to make from scratch anyway, but wasn’t prepared this weekend for a new recipe.

The second ingredient was milk. We use almond milk around here, which isn’t a problem for the challenge, but it is store bought and with several ingredients is considered out as far as the challenge goes. One of the suggestions on the 100 Days website is to make nut milks from scratch rather than use store bought. At this point, though, I don’t see this happening. I would like to try making my own almond milk for sure, but I know it won’t happen this week. This might be something I work on it the next week or so. Also, because I give the kids almond milk, and it is fortified, I like using this. So while I plan to make my own to try, I don’t see switching completely from store bought at this point. This will have to be something I make as an exception.

For our Sunday breakfast, I cooked up the last of the Gimme Lean Sausage, and made a batch of biscuits. I used my Southern Style biscuit recipe, but with some changes. I used only 100 % whole wheat flour, and instead of cutting in Earth Balance margarine and shortening, I instead used only coconut oil.

I really liked how the biscuits came out – maybe not quite as fluffy but fluffy enough. And they were very flavorful.

So here is the one other difficulty as a vegan even considering the real food challenge. Vegans don’t have  a butter option besides vegan margarine. Now for baking, like with the biscuits, this wasn’t a problem. But what about buttering a biscuit? I could either leave it plain or use a little vegan margarine. This morning at least, I justified putting a tiny amount of Earth Balance on my biscuits by telling myself I had not used any in the biscuit batter.

Two days into our purge and I think we are doing alright. I’ve got some goals for this week:

1) try a vegan breakfast sausage recipe.

2) make homemade granola (even our healthy breakfast cereal has added sugar!)

3) make homemade graham crackers

I’ll post some details as I tackle each one.

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Rain Barrel Workshop at San Antonio Botanical Garden

As promised, here is another post about San Antonio Botanical Garden (SABOT) and another of their wonderful offerings. I attended a Rainbarrel Workshop at SABOT just a couple of months ago. It ran a couple of hours on a Saturday morning, and was split into two parts. First was a sit-down lecture-style session where the attendees learned about the importance and benefits of rainwater collection, as well as various rainwater collection techniques. Examples of rainwater collection systems, of varying degrees of complexity and located around the state, were presented. Next, there was a wonderful demonstration on making the rain barrel from a 55-gallon food-grade barrel. Finally, we all went outside, where we helped make our own rain barrel to take home. Three simple steps and the barrel was finished! A larger drill attachment was used to drill the hole on top, and a simple flower planter pot serves as a filter basket. Small rocks placed in the bottom of the planter pot serve to filter debris before it goes into the barrel (and to help keep mosquitos out). A smaller hole was drilled on the side near the top to serve as an overflow spout (or to connect to another barrel). Finally, a simple brass bib was put in near the bottom for attaching a hose. Don’t be intimidated by the barrel size – I put my barrel in the back seat of a Toyota Corrola for the drive home! These workshops are offered every few months so when one is available, the opportunity should NOT be missed! The next workshop being offered is scheduled for Saturday, May 19th from 9:00 to 12:00. The cost is $55 (this includes the cost of the materials) and registration is required. Details and contact information are listed here. The food grade barrels were purchased locally through Dave the Barrel Man, so picking up additional barrels and putting this new knowledge to good use is so simple!

Homemade Health and Beauty

We have spent the last few years reducing our consumption of storebought goods – food, cleaning products, health and beauty products. I am a big proponent of making things from scratch. This ensures minimal ingredients and no added chemicals that are at the least, not necessary, and at the worst, harmful to us. For years I have used natural cosmetics and beauty products – Aveda and Urban Decay, Beauty Without Cruelty, LUSH and Nature’s Gate are several brands I have used over the years. But because they are commercial products, they still have added products to ensure shelf stability. I’ve become determined to switch to all homemade products for my personal care. For years, I have worn makeup daily coverage with either a base or more recently, tinted moisterizer from Urban Decay. This past Spring, however, when I used the last of my tinted moisterizer, I made a conscious decision to not reorder any. I’ve been going makeup free since then (except my for Urban Decay Peroxide lipstick and the very rare eye makeup). For my face washing regimen, I use natural almond soap – the soap is not homemade (yet!), but that is on the horizon. Over the summer and fall, I did not have any problems with dryness, but winter dry skin is something I have always battled even in warmer places like Florida and Texas. I debated whether to get some face lotion when I started to feel the tight skin that signals winter’s arrival. This spring, however, I got Green Beauty by Julie Gabriel with the intention of trying several of the skincare recipes. When my skin began to tighten, I flipped through looking for a good recipe to try. In a moment of either frugality or just plain laziness, I decided against making anything elaborate and just went with the simplest ingredient that would help my skin. I bought a bottle of Grapeseed Oil and a bottle of Almond Oil, both from Spectrum – both are good for either cooking or skincare purposes. Grapeseed Oil is a little heavier than the Almond Oil so I have only used that a handful of times, but the Almond Oil is so light, it has really become my “go to” oil. At night after I wash my face, I pour a moderate amount into my hand (1 tbsp approximately?) and coat first my hands (my hands crack in the winter) and then slowly massage the oil onto my face and neck. If I have used a lot of oil, I will usually blot with a piece of flannel, but leave enough oil on my skin to keep it supple. I tend to wipe most of the oil off my hands (mainly to prevent leaving fingerprints on my phone) but the oil that remains helps with the dryness. For problem areas, like my knuckles that are usually cracked pretty bad, I use Calendula ointment.
Almond Oil is light enough that I actually use it during the day as well. I will put a small amount in my hands (less than a teaspoon) and lightly massage onto my face after my morning shower. A light blot with some flannel and I am good for the day. I even use a little oil for lip gloss rather than using lipbalm.

After my last bottle of Nature’s Gate shampoo was emptied recently, I decided to use Castille Soap. I usually use Dr. Bronner’s Unscented Castille soap for my children – including for washing their hair, so I figured I would do the same for myself. While my hair is definitely clean, I find the castille soap a bit “harsh” leaving my hair feeling a little bird nest-y. So I added (you guessed it!) a little Almond oil and it really improved my hair texture after shampooing. The largest bottle of Castille soap (32 oz) costs somewhere in the range of $16 – $18 dollars and this is for the concentrated soap – it should be diluted a fair amount before use. So obviously for the money, I am getting a lot of use. I feel comfortable using on my children’s skin and hair as well. While I am using the unscented soap, either getting a scented version or adding my own essential oils is an easy option.

Things I would like to make myself in the near future and which are on my ever-growing To Do list:

Toothpaste
Deoderant
Soap
Lotion
Body Balm

Review: Gaia’s Garden: A Guide To Home-Scale Permaculture

Gaia's Garden: A Guide To Home-Scale Permaculture
Gaia’s Garden: A Guide To Home-Scale Permaculture by Toby Hemenway

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m about half way through this book so far, and am loving it. Packed full of information, but not dry and unbearable to read. It’s not just a gardening book of “do this/don’t do that.” The author does a wonderful job explaining the whys and hows of things like soil composition and water conservation, provides extensive information on specific plants, and mixes in anecdotes to really make this an enjoyable read. I have a totally different mindset as I walk around my suburban property. I am really trying to notice things like sun exposure and how water runs off or pools on the property. We are new homeowners so we are still in the early stages of landscaping the property to fit our needs and preferences, so this is a perfect time to read this book and get introduced to home-scale permaculture.



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