Found: (Some) Suds

I have never made soap. Its one of those things that I’ve read about, considered doing, but haven’t quite found the gumption to try – yet. It is on “the list”.

What I have done is sorta-made some of my own soaps.

Soap, grated with my food processor in about 1 minute, ready to add the other ingredients then get caught up on laundry! 

Laundry soap was the first I tried. I have made a gel recipe, and a powder recipe. I make the powder because its just easier to whip up a batch. It works well, my clothes get clean, and a batch lasts quite a long time. It is cheap and effective.

Recipe: Combine finely grated soap (Fels Naptha is recommended, but you can mix it up. My fav is Ivory), 1 cup of Borax, and 1 cup of Washing Soda (not the same as Baking Soda. Do not make this mistake!). Easy. I keep it in an old plastic salad shell on my dryer.

Be forewarned, this is a low-sudsing soap. We have grown up with many misconceptions. Clean equals: sudsy, smelly (like, as in, floral, or ‘clean’ smelling) and that the more the better. This laundry soap, like many homemade soaps, uses not very much to get your stuff clean. One Tbl. scoop (I use an old espresso scoop) for the average load, a little more for a dirtier or larger-than-average load. Wash in cold, warm, or hot. Sometimes I put the soap in first, then add a little hot to get the soap to disintegrate faster, especially if the load is really dirty.

I found I was going through a lot of hand soap, with all the good hygiene in the house (coupled with kids who use a half-dollar dollop when a dime-sized amount will do – oy!). I bought the containers that make foaming soap from Target, and then bought ONE expensive refill bottle, before I decided to try to make my own (have I mentioned before I am cheap?). I was not a maverick in this area, as there were many blog posts about doing this. I decided to try this method. It works great, no complaints. I find it is easier, especially, for my little kids to get their hands clean with the foaming soap.

Empty foamy soap bottle – ready for the easy recipe!

Recipe: Get an empty foaming soap container, fill to the fill line (which is probably the bottom of the pump aparatus. You don’t want to fill past that. Bad things may occur.) then add around a Tbl. (maybe a little more, a little less) of Dr. Bronner’s soap. I like the eucalyptus one, and the peppermint one. Make sure you add the soap last, or you will have a foamy mess on your hands. Just cap the container, slightly agitate it, and you’re ready to go!

Dish soap can be made using good ol’ Bronner’s soap, though it doesn’t get dishes grease-free IMHO, which has caused remarks from Hub’band, who is the evening dish-doer. So, though we have done this, we really don’t stick to it. I usually use Seventh Generation brand soap. (Oh, and if you’re bored, check out the documentary about “Dr” Bronner on Netflix. Kind of interesting, kind of sad.)

Recipe: Put 3 Tbl. of water, add 1 cup of  Dr. Bronner’s soap or other castile soap in a small container (I re-used a single serve yogurt that had a plastic lid). That’s it. You can halve or quarter the recipe. Just use a splash, as usual. Again, this won’t be crazy-sudsy, but it will be clean!

Likewise, though dishwasher detergent CAN be made, it seems to leave a crusty mineral-y film on the heating element of my dishwasher. At least, that is what I intuit is doing it (I suppose it could be the minerals in my water, but I did notice it at least getting exponentially worse when I started doing the homemade stuff.) I now realize, however, after revisiting my recipe, I have been using baking soda, where actually, washing soda is called for! So now, I may have to try it again, to see if I have better results. Usually I have bought the  Seventh Generation or Full Circle (Cashwise generic natural/organic) brand. The good thing about using a natural detergent – well, at least one good thing out of several – when you open your dishwasher while its running, you don’t get a chemical facial. Nice!

I give thanks for my dishwasher, every day. Seriously.

Recipe: 1 part washing soda to 1 part Borax. Put vinegar in your rinse cup, and your dishes will be less spotty, too!

It is empowering to do these things myself, easily, cheaply, and effectively. What do you make yourself? What new things should I add to the list? 

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Getting Personal: a Lost and Found

First, the excesses of modern Western “culture” sometimes make me a little queasy. A whole aisle of toothpaste? Two aisles of hair care products? Don’t even get me started on body washes and face soaps. And secondly, if you’re like me and have struggled either with general oiliness and acne and have had a tough time finding something that was OK for your hyper-sensitive skin, it just makes you all the more queasy. Whole aisles of stuff that not only don’t work, they make the problems worse.

How did it go in the olden days? I think either you didn’t brush your teeth, or you made your own toothpaste. Huzzah. So – here we go…..

There are some easy things you can make at home, if you want. Now, there are always going to be some things that ALL of us will say, “Why would I EVER make that? I can walk into any store and buy it!” If your reaction to any of these things is that, that’s totally cool. We can still be friends, yo.

I’m just sayin’ — here are three that *I* make and use, and they’re all easy.

Deodorant – Easy! Mix cornstarch (or arrowroot powder) and coconut oil in roughly equal amounts, heating until soft yet thick. If its too liquidy, add more starch. If too dry, add more oil. You can also add some drops of essential oil – I like tea tree or lavender. Just 2 or 3 drops, mind you, the stuff is strong! Scoop into a used deodorant tube, and keep in bathroom (if you house stays cool) or in fridge (if, like my house, yours gets over 73 degree or so in the summer, at which temp the coconut oil will get soft and/or melt). Does it work? Yes. Is it weird to have deodorant in my fridge? Obviously *I* don’t think so. I think the less chemicals I put into my body, especially close to my chest, the better. Some studies link certain kinds of chemicals (found in deodorants) to increased cancer risk. Maybe so, maybe not – but this is easy, and effective. I’d rather not take chances where cancer-causing agents are present. Pros: you can choose your own fragrance? Cons: If you’re looking for a clear-gel type, unfortunately this is not the best one. I have to be honest. As I don’t wear a lot of sleeveless shirts, there isn’t much of a risk for me. There is a great post about making your own underarm stuff here: http://homesteadrevival.blogspot.com/2011/01/homemade-deodorant.html

Shampoo – Even easier! So, this is a concept called “poo-free”. You use baking soda, perhaps 1 – 2 times a week, so scrub your scalp and get rid of any dirt or build up. Run a mixture of apple cider vinegar and water through your hair, concentrating on the ends. I do this process once a week. To freshen up, I do wash and scrub, but with water only. I also am going to make begin using some jojoba oil, or a mix of grapeseed oil and lavender essential oil through my hair, just because it has a really pleasing scent. For a lot, lot, lot more info on this and some very helpful faq’s, check out http://ourlittleapartment.com/2011/10/still-shampoo-free/

Now, the trick with going poo free? When you start, your poor hair isn’t going to know what has hit it. Every time you use a conventional shampoo, it strips your hair of its natural oils. You’re tricking your follicles, then, to produce MORE oil. Yor very dazed and  confused hair follicles may commonly OVER-produce oil, to compensate. For a week or so (up to a month for some people, I’ve heard), you may have some oily hair. So, either just go for it, or pick a ‘hermit month’ and don’t go out.  Seriously, for me, it wasn’t too bad.

The other trick is finding out what baking soda method works best for you. I’ve tried a couple of things: 1 – 2 Tbl. baking soda dissolved in a squeeze bottle (an old mustard bottle works well), and baking soda mixed with water. It is the latter that I’m currently using. I put about 1 tsp, very small amount, in my hand, just wet with water, and rub on my scalp. I spend about 3 -4 minutes massaging my scalp lightly, yet firmly, in a circular motion with my fingers. I rinse well with warm water. Then, I get my jar of ACV/Water (half and half mixture is what I use, but you can increase or decrease the strength) and wet the end of my hair, but also I put it throughout my hair (that is the step that might not work for everyone, but it works for me). This is a natural softener/conditioner. The last step, I turn the water on cold. I rinse the ACV out in cold water, which I think tends to close up my hair follicles and prevent oils from being over-produced.

Pro: My hair is soft, manageable, and has more volume. Seriously! Con: I sometimes miss the smell of my old shampoo. Seriously. But, since so many people are affected by our overly-smelly chemical-ly world, I figure taking some smell out of the air is a small sacrifice.

Oil Cleansing Method for Skin: Using the proper ratio of castor oil to olive oil, and 3 drops of tea tree oil, I clean my skin using the ‘like dissolves like’ principle. I have struggled with acne all my life, and this method has given me some good results. I break out from the slightest irritation. I also know now that I have some food triggers that affect oil production in my skin, as well as hormonal cues that affect me. Both subjects of other posts. You can check out the post that got me going on this method at this site, right here: http://simplemom.net/oil-cleansing-method/

So, once you’ve got this concoction mixed up, you put a dime-sized amount in you palm, and rub it right in to you skin. Then, take a washcloth and get it wet in realllly hot water – as hot as you can stand (without getting burned of course)  – Wet and wring on the cloth, then lay it over you face. Give yourself a relaxing facial steam. Stand there until it gets cool, then lift off cloth and repeat. You can do this 2 – 5 times; I usually do twice, then I gently rub my face in a circular motion, lifting off any oil that remains. Make sure to get good and rinsed off around your hairline and ears. You’ll only need to do this every other, or even every third day!  Pro: You’ll notice soft skin with a glow! I hope, like me, you will notice fewer breakouts as well. Con: It is especially important to REMEMBER to do this. I do sometimes forget, and when I’m not diligent, I notice more oilyness and breakouts that my skin seems to be prone to anyway.

So, you made it through the post. Congrats. And more kudos to you if you consider trying one of these things, even if its just for a week, or for a month, or for the summer!

Beneficial Bugs….for you to eat…

As promised, a list of some probiotic things You, Too,(like me!) can make in your home! With simple equipment you already have! With things you’ve already bought from the grocery store or a local farmer’s market! This is not rocket science, but a rather long-standing tradition of letting things go bad on purpose. With great, great benefits! Its like a lazy cooks guide to eating healthy. Love it.

Gut flora, gut health, beneficial bacteria — this is so important! Our gut acts like a ‘second brain’, which helps us to live a healthy life. Our intestinal health is important to our overall health, which we’d all love to be optimal, I’m sure. Having good bacteria helps break down our food, and if we’re eating healthily, the good bacteria in our ‘gut’ helps us get the most  from the healthy food we eat! Everything runs smoothly when we’ve got these good bugs inside us. I am even MORE aware of this after I suffered a weeklong bout with a nasty intestinal malady recently. I am very thankful for the good health I generally enjoy!

I wish I had more time to write this week – I simply can’t say enough about how relatively easy these are, and really fun! The feeling you get when you make something yourself is just so great.

Yogurt – and along with that, soft  ‘yogurt cheese’

Kefir

Sourdough bread starter

Sauerkraut

Fermented carrots

Brined pickles

My recommended resources for tutorials on these topics (and I would love to write about each of them in depth at some point!):

the Wild Fermentation website

Nourishing Traditions, and the Weston A Price website

Simply in Season cookbook and website

Things on top of my ‘fridge:

image

A playmobil guy with Viking helmet

A staple gun

A shim

Brown rice crisps

Dust

Lactoferment(ing) lemonade

It is a rainy day – can’t play outside, a bit tired from a late night. Besides the fact that its always a great day to ingest healthy bacteria, its also a great day to give more of them life, so to speak.

This recipe originally came from the cook/book “Nourishing Traditions” and I was reminded about it be fellow blogger arealfoodlover.  Scaled due to laziness on this rainy day – prepared for a Sunday after-church where I will wish I would have squeezed 6 more lemons.

6 lemons

1/8 c whey (if you make yogurt or have some in the fridge, just dribble off the clearish-whitish-yellowish top ‘juice’ to get this amount. Learn more about whey here)

1/2 c sugar

1/2 gal (8 c) purified water

Juice lemons into container. Add whey water and sugar. Stir til dissolved. Cover, put note on it so no one in your house touches it (see above), and set in a warm spot to ferment. Wait 24 – 48 hours. Chill to slow fermentation when finished, drink and enjoy! *add more sugar to taste*

Watch for a post next week about some other easy lacto-fermented foods you can make at home, on YOUR fridge. Give the playmobil guys an eviction notice, and get some healthy gut flora goin’!