Thursday, October 2, 2014

Healthy gummy fruit snacks you can feel good about giving your kids

My 2 year old goes ape$#@! over fruit snacks.  I mean, he'd literally eat the entire box of 10 pouches in one sitting if I'd let him.  The bad part?  They can barely be considered fruit.  The box I had in the house made me cringe when I read the ingredients.  "High fructose corn syrup, fruit juice from concentrate, dehydrated corn syrup, sugar…"  Yes, those are truly the first four ingredients.

So I made healthy gummy fruit snacks today on a whim. They turned out great!  You'll need:

A high speed blender (or a blender and a saucepan)
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup lime juice
1 orange
Real maple syrup (or other sweetener of your choice, like honey, agave, or liquid stevia)
2 cups of strawberries (fresh or frozen, doesn't matter)
1/2 cup of blueberries (same as above)
5 tbsp of powdered unflavored gelatin. 

Put 2 cups of strawberries in your Vitamix.  I left the tops on.  Throw in one whole peeled orange, the lemon and lime juice, the blueberries, and a handful of spinach.  Not too much so that it turns green, unless you don't care about the color.  Blend for a while until smooth.  Taste it and if it's really tart start adding sweetener until you like how it tastes.

Now blend it on high for 5 minutes or until steam comes out of your Vitamix.  Turn the speed down to around 4-5 and add the gelatin.  If you don't have a high speed blender, pour it into a saucepan and heat it until it's hot but not boiling.  Just enough so that the gelatin will dissolve.

Blend until there are no chunks or clumps of gelatin, and then you can either:

a) Pour into a large, shallow baking dish.  Stick it in the fridge for an hour or two and then slice it up into squares, or even use a mini cookie cutter to cut out shapes.  Or...

b) Pour into really cute little silicone molds.  I have been accumulating them from Amazon for quite a while.  They're not very expensive, they don't have to be greased first, and you can use them for making bath bombs, soap, chocolates, other candy, gummy vitamins, ice cubes, you name it.

I only have two trays of the little hearts, one tray of medium sized random shapes, and a couple large muffin sized pans.  So I had to use them all to use up all my "batter."  This made somewhere around 35-40 oz of batter.

Put the trays into the fridge and let it set up for an hour or two.  Then pop out of the molds (or slice up your pan, and/or use the mini cookie cutters) and transfer to a resealable plastic bag.

What's the shelf life?  I have no idea.  I'd think a week or so in the fridge since it has no preservatives but I doubt it will last that long in my house!  Next time I'll try it with some flu and cold busting ingredients to help the kids stay well this winter.

The way my toddler goes through fruit snacks I'll feel much better giving him these.  He happily ate two of the huge, muffin sized ones at lunch today and was begging for more!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

DIY bathtub fizzies for kids

I keep making bath bombs for myself and my kids keep stealing them.  I had bought some little tablets that color the water for my toddler, but then I looked at the ingredients.  Ew!  Seriously?  This stuff is safe for two year olds?  

So I decided to make some especially for the little ones.  It's really easy and requires only one ingredient that's out of the ordinary (at least in my household.)  


1 Cup citric acid (I buy it in the bulk food section at Whole Foods or on Amazon)
2 Cups baking soda (I buy it in bulk at Sam's Club or Costco and it's a huge bag for $6 or so)
4 Tbsp epsom salts (bought at the dollar store)
1 ounce coconut oil or other light body oil like sweet almond or apricot
Essential oil for fragrance - go easy since this is for kids
Food coloring - I found some that were neon bright colors.  You could also use soap coloring drops that you can find at craft stores.  I've used them before but they don't seem to color the bath water, just the bath bombs themselves.
Spray bottle of witch hazel (another Dollar Store find)

Mix the baking soda and epsom salts in a bowl with a whisk.  Get it all really well incorporated and break up all the clumps.  Note:  A lot of recipes use cornstarch.  I find it good for one reason only - it makes your batch of bath bombs go farther.  Instead of making 12 it might make 16, for example.  But it gets everywhere, there's dust in the air that you're breathing in, and I feel like I need to wear a gas mask while I'm making these.  So I don't add cornstarch.  Problem solved.

Next, add the coconut oil (or almond, or apricot, or even plain ol' olive oil) and stir.  The small amount of oil makes your skin really soft but it doesn't leave a ton of oil in the bathtub after the bath.  I LOVE getting my toddler out of the tub after a bath.  He's so smooth and soft and he smells so yummy!  

Then add the food coloring (I used about 15 drops of the neon blue) and your fragrance oils (I used a few drops of Warm Vanilla and a few drops of Lemon - it smells like cookies!  You can omit the fragrance altogether, of course, or you can do eucalyptus and rosemary to clear sinuses, lavender to help them calm down before bed, etc.  I'm no expert on aromatherapy.  I just use what smells good.)  Stir well.  I mean, REALLY well.  The food coloring seems to clump up into the coconut oil so it takes quite a bit of stirring to make it evenly distributed and not mostly blue with big blue clumps here and there.

NOW we add the citric acid.  Every other recipe I've ever read says to add it to the baking soda in step one, but then when you add your liquids it starts to fizz.  So on a whim I didn't add it till the end.  NO FIZZING AT ALL.  I must say, I'm a genius sometimes.

Now we grab the witch hazel.  It works much better than water for helping the mixture bind together, and it softens your skin too.  Spritz the mix 3-4 times and stir.  Grab a handful and make a snowball.  If it sticks together you're done.  If it's too dry and crumbly spray a few more times and try again.  Don't overdo it or your citric acid will start fizzing and then your bath bomb won't fizz much later.  You'll probably need about 8-12 squirts of witch hazel.

When it's done you're ready to fill your molds.  I have these cute silicone molds I bought on Amazon.  They're really just muffin pans with fancy shapes and they come in different sizes.  

I use them for everything - baking, homemade fruit snacks, homemade chocolate, and bath bombs.  You can also use plain muffin tins. They're plain but they work fine.  So grab your muffin pan, put some of the mixture in and pack it down like brown sugar.  Then fill it the rest of the way and pack it down again.  Try to make it flat across the surface.  Fill as many molds as you have mixture.  For me this makes 6 large bath bombs and 30 of the little hearts.

Here's my favorite trick:  preheat the oven to 200 degrees.  When it comes to temperature, turn it off.  Put the silicone molds on a cookie sheet for stability and stick them in the oven.  Leave them in the warm oven that is TURNED OFF for several hours.  This really helps them dry out faster, especially if you live in the hot and humid south like I do.

After several hours take them out of the oven and turn them upside down onto the cookie sheet.  Leave them there to dry overnight on the counter if possible.  You might even be able to use one that evening if you let them sit in the oven for at least 4 hours.

I usually drop two little ones or one full sized bomb into the bathwater when I go easy on the food coloring.  This turned out pretty bright blue so we'll see what it does to the water tonight at bath time.  They fizz like crazy but they have never turned the water blue before so here's hoping I'll get lucky this time!

The hardest part is keeping him from trying to eat them as they're fizzing in the water.  But as far as I have learned, none of the ingredients are toxic (just taste really nasty!) in small doses.

Here we are, fizzing away.  I dropped two of the small hearts in.

If this kid would ever talk he'd be saying, "Look, mama, it's blue!!!"

I threw one more in for good measure and voila, that's some blue water!  Didn't stain the tub or towels either.  Happy baby, happy mom.

Friday, August 1, 2014

DIY Lush Bath Bombs - Lust Fragrance Hack

Ok, anyone who's ever been in a Lush store knows the distinctive fragrance.  I can walk into a mall and immediately tell if there's a Lush store in there somewhere.  I love the smells!  But I hate the $6 per bath bomb price tag.  I don't think my husband and I have ever gotten out of there for less than $50, and that was a cheap trip.  Sigh...

So let's do it ourselves!  I've made several batches of bath bombs lately and they're so easy!  And fun too.  It's like making cupcakes and sand castles rolled into one.  My 9 year old daughter helped me yesterday and we had a ball.

There are a hundred recipes floating around on Pinterest but here's the one I like best so far.  I've tried with and without arrowroot powder (which I used as a substitute for cornstarch because I had it on hand and didn't have cornstarch) and it works just fine without it.  Since it seems unnecessary I just leave it out now.


1 Cup citric acid (I can't find it locally so I buy online - $10 for 2 lbs)
2 Cups baking soda (buy it in bulk at Sam's Club or Costco and it's a huge bag for $6 or so)
4 Tbsp epsom salts (bought at the dollar store)
1 ounce coconut oil or other light body oil like sweet almond or apricot
Essential oil for fragrance
10-30 drops food coloring
Spray bottle of witch hazel (another Dollar Store find)

Mix the dry ingredients in a  bowl with a whisk.  Get it all really well incorporated.

Then add the body oil and stir.  The small amount of oil makes your skin really soft but it doesn't leave a ton of oil in the bathtub after the bath.  Then add the food coloring (I used about 30 drops of a peach color hoping it would turn more orangey but it never did, so I could have stopped at 10) and your fragrance oils, and stir well.  I find that the oil doesn't make the mixture fizz but sometimes the food coloring does, so add it a drop at a time.  The more your mixture fizzes now, the LESS it will fizz in the tub later.  (The Lush Lust recipe is at the bottom of the page, so keep reading!)

Now we grab the witch hazel.  It works much better than water for helping the mixture bind together, trust me.  Spritz the mix 3-4 times and stir.  Grab a handful and make a snowball.  If it sticks together you're done.  If it's too dry and crumbly spray a few more times and try again.  Don't overdo it or your citric acid will start fizzing and then your bath bomb won't fizz much later.  You'll probably need about 8-12 squirts of witch hazel.

When it's done you're ready to fill your molds.  I have these cute silicone molds I bought on Amazon.

They're really just muffin pans with fancy shapes.  I use them for everything - baking, homemade fruit snacks, homemade chocolate, and bath bombs.  I also have silicone muffin pan liners and they worked great for this too.  They're plain but they work fine.  I don't make spheres because you'd need at least a dozen molds since you want to dry the bath bombs in the molds.  This keeps them from cracking apart as they dry.  If you pack the mold, dump out the bath bomb, and then use the same mold to make the next one the bath bombs don't seem to hold their shape nearly as well while they're drying.  So grab your muffin pan, put some of the mixture in and pack it down like brown sugar.  Then fill it the rest of the way and pack it down again.  Try to make it flat across the surface.  Fill as many molds as you have mixture.  For me this makes 12 smallish and 6 large bath bombs.

Here's my favorite trick:  preheat the oven to 200 degrees.  When it comes to temperature, turn it off.  Put the silicone molds on a cookie sheet for stability and stick them in the oven.  Leave them in the warm oven that is TURNED OFF for several hours.  This really helps them dry out faster, especially if you live in the hot and humid south like I do.

After several hours take them out of the oven and turn them upside down onto the cookie sheet.  Leave them there to dry overnight on the counter if possible.  You might even be able to use one that evening if you let them sit in the oven for at least 4 hours.

Ok, let's talk fragrances.  You can do whatever fragrance combination floats your boat, which is the cool part.  The first time I made bath bombs I did lemon and tangerine.  I used orange food coloring.  Just enough to color the bath bombs and slightly tint the water, but not enough to stain your tub.  Probably 6-8 drops total.  Next I tried spearmint and rosemary with green food coloring, and I used dried rosemary sprigs to make it look cool too.  Put the rosemary leaves in the bottom of the mold before you fill it with your mixture.  Dried rose petals would also be gorgeous.

But the holy grail of fragrance for me is Lust at Lush stores.  According to their web site, it's made from jasmine, ylang ylang, rose, sandalwood, and vanilla.  The jasmine scent is intoxicating.  (Don't even get me started on the Godiva solid shampoo bar.  It's so fabulous I just want to eat it.)  You can buy the perfume from their web site and use that if you like, or just make your own.  I found all these oils for less than $16.00 on by buying the smallest sizes.  I threw in two pounds of citric acid for another $10 and my whole order before shipping was just over $25.00.  Not bad!  I'll get easily over 100 bath bombs out of two pounds of citric acid.  ***Updated to add: these are fragrance oils, not pure essential oils.  If you buy essential oils the cost will be higher but they will not be artificial.  So it's totally your call.  These tiny bottles have lasted me forever too.***

When trying new fragrances, I mix one drop of each in a bowl and give it a sniff.  Make a list of the fragrances on a piece of paper and put one tick mark next to each.  Then add more of whichever scent you feel is lacking. Update your paper with tick marks next to the ones you added.  (I happen to have a Lust solid fragrance stick in my cupboard to compare it to, so that was very helpful.)  When you're happy with the result your paper should have tick marks next to each scent so that you'll know the ratio to use next time.

Here's what I used and although it's not an exact duplicate, it's pretty darned close!

Lush Lust Fragrance Hack

30 drops jasmine oil
15 drops ylang ylang
25 drops sandalwood/rose blend
20 vanilla sugar

I estimate it cost something like $5 to make 18 bath bombs, which makes them 46 cents apiece.  The citric acid and essential oils were the biggest chunk, but everything else (like the baking soda and apricot oil) cost very little.  Score! Now I just need to find a cute container to store them in.  A plastic baggie really doesn't do them justice.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Almond joy coconut chocolate almond green smoothie

Almond joy coconut chocolate almond green smoothie 

I love green smoothies.  Let's face it - that's pretty much the only way I get any fruits and vegetables into my diet these days.  I'm not much of a cook so when I cook, you get an entree.  Side dishes to go along with it are usually beyond my capabilities unless it's a frozen bag of veggies or a bag of salad.

However, green smoothies are amazing!  It's a fruit smoothie with veggies thrown in, and I promise you will NEVER TASTE THEM if you do it right.  If you've never had a green smoothie before, try this and you'll be hooked. 

Best thing about this?  Every single ingredient in it is good for you!  Yes, even the chocolate.  I drink this for breakfast, or have it for dessert when I'm jonesing for chocolate.  I even add extra ice and make it into "ice cream" and give it to the kids.


1 1/2 cup almond or coconut milk (or the new one that's a blend of each - my favorite!)
2-3 cups of kale - this is a superfood and is arguably one of the healthiest leafy greens out there.
1 1/2 bananas - makes it sweet and creamy 
1 tbsp coconut oil - unbelievably good for you!  And tastes great too.
1 tbsp almond butter - full of heart healthy fat.
3 tbsp raw unsweetened cacao powder - antioxidants galore.
2 tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut - yum, more coconut!

You'll need a high speed blender for this, such as my beloved VitaMix.  

Add the liquid first.  I used Silk Almond/Coconut milk blend, which was not unsweetened.  I wish it were but it's all I had on hand.  It adds just a bit of sweetness so because of that I didn't have to add any other sweetener.

I freeze all my kale because it goes bad so quickly.  If I don't cook it the day I buy it I remove the stalks, rip it into small pieces, and freeze it.  I also freeze my bananas once they are good and brown.  They're nice and sweet that way.

So toss in the kale.  If this is your first green smoothie just use a handful.  You'll see that you can't taste it so next time add more.  I can now add three huge handfuls of kale before it gets noticeable (and turns the drink green.)

Add all the other ingredients.  I had homemade almond butter (also from my beloved Vitamix - I cannot rave about this thing enough) but store bought is fine.  Just try to get an unsalted version.   I used this video to make mine.

It has one ingredient - raw, unsalted almonds.  No oil, no seasonings, just almonds.  And it's sooooo good!  Here's what mine looked like.

The raw unsweetened cacao is ideal but if you can't find it, unsweetened cocoa powder (like your grandma used for baking when you were a kid) is the next best thing.  I buy mine off Amazon because I can't find it locally.  This is the one I bought and if I can keep my daughter from making hot cocoa with it, it lasts quite a while:

100% Natural Raw Cacao Powder From Latin America. Raw, Pure, Non-gmo, Vegan, Gluten-free

When it comes to coconut oil, try to get unrefined.  Refined isn't as good for you and it has no flavor.  Unrefined tastes like coconut.  Here's my baby licking the spoon after I tossed it into the blender.

Now blend it all up.  I turn it to high and let it run for about 45 seconds.  Enough to make it totally smooth but not too long or it will start to heat up.

Now taste it.  If it's not sweet enough add some dates (with the pits removed please!)  Maybe 2 or 3.  Raw honey or pure maple syrup would work too but I honestly don't think you need it.  If it's not cold enough, add a handful of ice cubes.  If it's too thick, add some more liquid or just plain water.

If you want some chunks in it toss it a bit more shredded coconut and a few raw almonds.  Then blend on low for 10 seconds.

And that's it!  It tastes like an Almond Joy because of the chocolate, coconut, and almonds but it has NO SUGAR and it's great for you!  I mean, HELLO!  You just had a decadent chocolate milkshake that had three cups of kale in it.  Kale’s health benefits are primarily linked to the high concentration and excellent source of antioxidant vitamins A, C, and K.  One cup of kale provides more than 100% of your daily requirement of these vitamins.  It has cancer-fighting phytonutrients, lowers cholesterol levels, helps reduce the risk of heart disease.

I often add ice and mix it till it's like ice cream and give it to my daughter for breakfast.  She goes to school and tells everyone she had ice cream for breakfast.  I'm waiting for her teacher to call me and say, "Do we need to have a little talk about proper nutrition?"  I'm kind of looking forward to that call!  ;)

If your kids are resistant to veggies, the following foods can be added to almost any smoothie and you'll never know they're in there:

raw zucchini or yellow squash

Just add them in small amounts and work up to larger amounts over time.  If you're making a berry smoothie and it starts to turn green, just add more berries to keep it purple.

Do you drink green smoothies?  Share your favorite recipes as I'm always looking for new ones!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Free Kindle Book This Weekend!

New Kindle children's book dirt cheap - or even FREE!

Ok all, I'm asking you guys a favor.  My grandmother wrote a children's book back when my mom was little and tried for years to get it published.  For whatever reason she was turned down so she just shelved it.

Years later after my grandmother had passed away my mom wanted to try to get it published in her honor but I didn't know where to begin and quite honestly, I forgot all about it.

Suddenly it occurred to me to publish it on Kindle.  So I did!

I have it available for download FOR FREE on Saturday, June 28 2014.  Otherwise it's a whopping $2.99.

I would love it if you would go grab a copy while it's free.  I'm not looking to make money here, just want to do this as a surprise for my mom.  And then, if you would be so kind, write a quick review.  The books on Kindle that have the most reviews seem to appear at the top of the search results so the more reviews I can get, the more people will become aware of it and get it all on their own.

My parents both turn 70 this year and we're having a joint birthday bash in July.  All the kids and grandkids are flying in for this, so what a great surprise it would be to show her that her mother's book has been published after 60 years!!!

Please, if you think of it, please go get this.  If you want to pay for it, awesome!  But I'd be every bit as happy if you get it while it's free.  Here's the link and THANK YOU in advance for making my grandma's dream a reality.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Say goodbye to satellite or cable TV and save a bundle!

Say goodbye to satellite or cable TV and save a bundle!

I've been a loyal Dish Network customer for years.  I love their service and have had almost no problems with it.  But one day I looked at my bill and thought, "We're spending over $100 a month to watch TV."  And most of the time we don't really even "watch" what's on.  I'm on my Kindle, hubby's on his iPad, and the TV is just on in the background.  That's more than $1200/year that we're throwing way!

So I did a ton of research on streaming with a Roku-type device, polled all my Facebook friends, and called my brother.  He gave me the 30 Minute Nutshell version of how to get rid of satellite.  So I took the plunge.

It's been trial and error but I think we finally have a winner.  Here's what I've learned.

You need:  a modern (or old fashioned) TV antenna, just like the rabbit ears on your grandma's old TV but probably much cooler looking.  Mine is a totally flat, flexible square that sticks on your wall or window.  If you live more than 30 miles away from the nearest station that's broadcasting a local station like ABC, NBC, CBS, etc. you may need something stronger.  I bought this one first and if we didn't live so far away, it would have worked just fine:

AmazonBasics High Performance Ultra Thin Indoor HDTV Antenna -Made in USA

An outdoor antenna or one that goes in your attic might be a better choice for you.  But a typical antenna will set you back somewhere between $25-100.  After I returned the first one I exchanged it for this one instead.  It's about $57.00.
AmazonBasics Extreme Performance Ultra Thin Amplified Indoor HDTV Antenna - Designed and Assembled in USA

You also need a way for your TV to access the internet (more on this later.)

Last, you'll probably want a few subscription-based channels like HuluPlus and Netflix.  Each is approximately $8/month.  I find that Netflix has more movies and kids shows and Hulu has more TV shows.  We subscribe to both.

So we were ready to begin!  Luckily we have an internet enabled TV in our family room.  Meaning it already can access Netflix and some other sites on its own without needing a media streaming device of some sort. 

The pros:  It's free.
The cons:  There are only a few stations to choose from, like Netflix, Hulu, and Youtube, plus a few others I've never heard of before.  The interface is terrible too.  Trying to find a show to watch takes 10 minutes using their search feature.  Trying to type a movie or TV show title on my TV remote takes forever.

But then again, it's free!  So we did not buy a streaming device, such as Apple TV or Roku.  Why bother, right?

Here's what the interface looks like.  Not much to choose from.  (I am absolutely, hands down, the world's WORST cell phone photographer.  Sorry!)

If you want to watch Scandal from last night's episode, you have to find it first.  You go search on Netflix, can't find it.  Then you search on Hulu.  Not there either.  Ok, how about if we go to and click on "Full Episodes".  Yes, that worked.  That took about 10 minutes.  Hmm, kind of a pain.

We used this method for about a week but hubby was not happy that he couldn't find any of his favorite outdoor shows to watch (hunting and fishing), car shows like Chasing Classic Cars, or live sporting events.  So then we bought an Apple TV.

Since we are an Apple household with two Macbook Pros, two iPads, and two iPhones, we thought this would be great.  And the ability for the mobile devices to sync with the TV is pretty awesome.  If I were watching a movie on my iPad I could just display it on the TV screen instead.  Which is very cool!

Unfortunately they still don't have that many channels to watch and the search capability still sucks.  And the remote is the size of a big, pink pencil eraser that my 9 year old uses in school.  I mean seriously, what full grown adult could possibly press those tiny little buttons?  It's ridiculous.  I get the whole minimalist concept but come on!  The picture below is of the regular TV remote and the Apple TV remote.  It's truly about 5" long.

So after a week of this and still no outdoor channel type programs, I hit the internet to do some research on which unit is the best for streaming.  And the one that kept showing up over and over again?  The Roku 3.

Roku 3 Streaming Media Player

The Roku 3 was by far my favorite!  More channels to choose from but you can search by title and it will look through ALL their channels for that show/movie.  This is so much easier!

In review, here's the cost for our setup:

$59.99 for the antenna  

$89 for the Roku 3  (It seems like the price has gone up a bit since I bought it a few weeks ago.) 
**These are both one time costs.**

$7.99/month - HuluPlus
$7.99/month - Netflix

**These are our only monthly costs.**

Former DishNetwork monthly cost - $112.00
Total savings the first year alone - $993.00
Total savings the second year - $1153.00

So seeing those numbers on paper, is it worth giving up cable or sat TV?

Sadly, to my husband, the answer is no.  I was totally willing to go this route but he couldn't watch his favorite shows on Velocity or a few of the other "guy" shows he likes - car shows, gun shows, shows where the build something and then take it out and blow it up.  So he insisted that we continue to pay for cable.

I'm bummed but after listening to him bitch and moan about it for a week I gave up trying to convince him.  I wish you all much more luck than I had, my friends!

Comment below and let me know if you have tried this and whether you think it's doable.  I'm hoping I can wear hubby down after another year or two of getting that stupid Dish bill each month.

Monday, May 5, 2014

DIY deodorant

DIY deodorant

Another one of my "I didn't invent this idea but it's so awesome I have to share it!" posts.  I am not sure whether aluminum in antiperspirant is cancer causing or gives you Alzheimers, but why take the chance?  Besides, at the end of the day my armpits would be a bit smelly, no matter what brand I used, so clearly it wasn't working all that well for me.  Why not try to make my own?

As I've mentioned in my No Poo post, baking soda is incredibly drying to me.  And I've read many a reader review who said that the DIY deodorant made their armpits sting and itch, so I cut way back on the baking soda and increased the arrowroot powder instead.  I've had little red bumps in my left underarm for 30 years.  I thought they were ingrown hairs but when I'd attempt to extract them nothing came out.  So if my skin is that sensitive even to store bought stuff, I wasn't going to go nuts with the baking soda.

I used:

3 tbsp coconut oil
3 tsp baking soda (that's teaspoons, not tablespoons)
2 tbsp shea butter
3 tbsp arrowroot powder
Optional - essential oils and/or vanilla

I put a saucepan with an inch or so of water on the stove to boil.  I put a Pyrex measuring cup in the pan so that the water was surrounding it.  You can also use a mason jar or a double boiler.  I like the Pyrex cup because you're not supposed to rinse melted coconut oil down your drain for fear that it will solidify in your pipes.  I just wipe it out with a paper towel until it's as clean as I can get it and then stick it in the dishwasher.

Ok, back the the instructions.  I put the coconut oil and shea butter in the measuring cup and stirred frequently till it was all melted.  Then take it off the heat and add the baking soda, arrowroot, and I used about a teaspoon of vanilla.  Stir really well till all the powder has mixed in.  It stays a little grainy if you don't mix well enough.  Still works, just feels gritty.

I bought some deodorant containers from Amazon and poured the mixture into them, thinking I'd make stick deodorant.  I got these:

 But honestly?  The formula is just not solid enough to work.  As soon as the mixture touches your underarm it starts to melt and run down the side of the container.  Next time I'll just put it in a small glass screw top container.  In fact, I'm going to go buy a 12-pack of mason jars in the smallest size just for beauty concoctions like this!  To truly work in stick form I think you'd need to use beeswax or a LOT more arrowroot.

So to use, I just scoop out a pea sized amount and rub it in on each side.  It has very little scent (almost none) since I didn't use any essential oils.  You can use whatever fragrance you want, of course.  But the best part?  At the end of the day there is still no body odor!  None!  This kind of boggles my mind.  I figured this recipe would work ok, but probably not as well as store bought deodorant.  Wrong!  It's 10 times better.  Unless I go to the pool and forget to reapply when I come home and change clothes.  I've done this a few times and noticed I was a bit aromatic by bedtime.  But that's because it had pretty much washed off in the pool!

I've heard that over time it also helps you sweat less.  I've only been using it a few weeks so I can't comment on that yet, plus it's been 90 degrees and 80%+ humidity so I'm sweating a ton anyway, but so far, I'm hooked.  And this probably cost me all of $1 at most in ingredients.  

Cheaper and better, I tell ya!

***UPDATE 6/21/14 ***

I tried another, easier variation using only room temperature coconut oil, baking soda, and lavender essential oil.  You just mash it all together in a bowl with a fork and then smush it into the clean deodorant container.  Here are my thoughts:

A) It was certainly easier than using a double boiler.  And it almost works just like regular store bought deodorant because it's solid enough to rub on using the applicator.  It does start to melt down the side from your body heat so I just wipe it off and then rub it into my skin.  But…

B)  It's really gritty because the baking soda didn't dissolve into the hot liquid.  Since I used solid coconut oil it doesn't dissolve at all.  I used more baking soda than in my previous recipe and after using it a few times I have a horrible red rash under my arms.

So I'm back to my original recipe using shea butter.  I like the texture and consistency MUCH better.  The shea butter makes it more like a really thick body lotion instead of a gritty paste.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

DIY Whitening Toothpaste Recipe

DIY Whitening Toothpaste Recipe

I have been on such a DIY kick lately when it comes to health and beauty products, my husband thinks I'm losing it.  But everything seems to work better, it's much cheaper, it's all natural so I know exactly what's in it and most of the time I could even eat all the ingredients if I wanted to, and I can use it on my kids too.

My latest adventure is toothpaste.  I've been brushing with plain baking soda and water for a few months.  After a week my mother said, "Your teeth look really white.  What have you been doing?"  Honestly, I'm not making it up!  This from a woman who points out how much gray is in my hair whenever my roots have grown out more than half an inch.

Let me start by saying that I took a ton of antibiotics as a kid for strep throat.  Apparently I was sick all the time and unfortunately they later found out that a side effect of this particular medication was that it permanently stains your teeth.  I've had several whitening sessions at the dentist (can you say torture?) and I used to use Colgate Optic White every day.  They were never white, just slightly less yellow.  Coffee and red wine certainly didn't help either but I wasn't about to give those up.  So I just tried to smile with my lips closed.

Then I remembered that I had a bag of activated charcoal under my sink that I had gotten months ago to make a whitening treatment.  The charcoal binds to substances on the teeth and pulls them out, according to what I've read.  This is why they often have kids swallow activated charcoal when they accidentally ingest poison - the charcoal binds to the poison and somehow keeps your body from absorbing it.  Or something along those lines.  Anyway, back to the whitening treatment.  You just brush your teeth with straight charcoal and water and try to leave it in your mouth for a few minutes.  You're supposed to do it a couple times a week but it was so messy I stopped using it.  Imagine baby powder - except it's jet black.  You know  how when you put the baby powder bottle down on the counter, dust floats out all over the place?  Yeah, not so great.  Even worse when it's black.  It would get all over the sink, faucet, and counter every time I used it.  It cleans up easily and doesn't stain, but it's a PITA.  So I forgot about it.

But then I read a recipe for making more of a liquid toothpaste rather than powder and I figured, why not?  But how could I make it more of a whitening toothpaste?  How about adding the charcoal?  And voila, this recipe was born!

You need:

1/3 C baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
Spearmint or peppermint essential oil
Boiled and somewhat cooled water
1 tsp Activated charcoal

Mix the baking soda and sea salt together.  Stir in the charcoal.  Black dust will float around all over - don't worry too much.  It cleans up with just a rag and water, but don't use your good white towels or anything.  Now add enough boiled and slightly cooled water to make a paste.  Add a smidge at a time until you're happy with the consistency.  Now add several drops of mint essential oil.  I'd say I used about 10 but it's totally personal preference.

That's it!  Store it in an airtight container with a lid, preferably glass but mine is plastic because it was exactly the right size.  Just wet your toothbrush, dunk it in the paste, and brush as you usually would.  It looks horrible!

Your lips turn black and it drips out into the sink as a black, goopy mess.  But it rinses right off, I promise.  Unless you have an unsealed marble sink or something crazy like that.  If your sink and counter are at all unsealed this is probably not a good recipe for you!  Rinse well afterwards.  Your toothbrush will look nasty so do what I do - hide it under the sink with your black toothpaste so hubby doesn't make fun of you.  ;)

Considering that my teeth are a little off white naturally from all the antibiotics, this is pretty freakin' white for me.  I've been using it about two weeks now.  Imagine how white yours will be if you don't have this issue!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

How I went no poo!

Ok, that sounds pretty awful.  Let me rephrase.  It means No Shampoo.  This is not something new.  I didn't invent the idea, and I take no credit for it.  But it works for me so I had to share it.

I moved from a low humidity area in October 2013 to a high humidity area (Northern CA to South Carolina.)  In CA I used to straighten my wavy hair all the time.  But when I got here I quickly realized there was not much point in doing that.  I'd waste a lot of time in the mornings only to have it frizz right up when the humidity got high.

I'd also been using all natural shampoos and conditioners from Trader Joes for years.  But alas, no TJ here in my area.  So when I ran out I went to Publix and bought the crappy drugstore brand and within a week my hair felt awful.  Then I remembered the whole No Poo thing I'd read about years before on  So I decided to give it a try again.

Here's a great description of the idea, why it works, and how to troubleshoot issues:

I'll just give you my personal experience too.  My scalp doesn't get oily until at least 3-4 days after using traditional shampoo.  So I can have good looking second day hair, brush it really well at night before bed (when I've straightened it) and again in the morning and it's still fine on day 3.  Day 4 usually requires a ponytail.   My scalp is drier than the desert though and gets itchy as hell.  I have battled this for 25 years.  No matter what dry scalp/moisturizing/dandruff/eczema shampoo I tried, nothing worked.  My hair gets dry too.  So when I first started I was washing with baking soda.  Didn't work for me.  My hands would be ridiculously dry for days after washing my hair with BS (baking soda) so if it does that to my hands, what's it doing to my scalp?  The itch was gone though.  GONE completely in the first two weeks.  So I think BS works better for people with an oilier scalp.

So now I wash my hair every 3-4 days with either 1/4 C of aloe vera and 2 tbsp of honey, or a mixture of coconut milk and aloe vera from this recipe:   Then once every two weeks or so my scalp starts to feel itchy, like it needs a good scrubbing, so I use a baking soda paste.  But that's it, only once every two weeks.  And the healthier my scalp gets the longer I'll go between washes.  

I love that these things are all natural and totally free of chemicals, and pretty cheap as well.  My scalp is clean, doesn't smell weird, and much much healthier.  I have a LOT less frizz too.  When I was using traditional shampoo and conditioner I would let my hair air dry and then use a flat iron or my InStyler.  I would never consider leaving the house without smoothing it down.  It looked too awful to show in public.  Now it looks a ton smoother.  I still wouldn't love to go out without using the InStyler but I wouldn't feel like a frizz ball if I had to.  But I've also realized the futility of straightening wavy hair in humid climates so I see a lot less of that in my future anyway.

Now for the conditioner part:  You mix a cup of water with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (ACV) in a spray bottle and keep it in the shower.  After you wash your hair with your chosen method, spray the length of your hair with the GODAWFUL SMELLING ACV mixture.  Let's not beat around the bush and downplay this part, ok?  It stinks to high heaven.  Makes me gag half the time.  And if you need more conditioning you use a higher ratio of ACV to water.  Leave it on a minute or two, then rinse.

Now the good news is that once you get out of the shower the smell dissipates by at least 75%.  Once your hair is dry it's gone altogether.  But you'll get whiffs of it while you're drying your hair.  Not as bad but it's still there.  It's nasty, sorry.

This works really well for most people but I could NOT get a comb through my hair either in the shower while the ACV was in it, or after I got out.  It felt horribly tangled and icky to the touch.  I hung in there for about two months of this hoping it would get better but it never did.  So I finally bailed and bought an all natural conditioner, this one.  

The first day that I used it I almost wept with joy at the feeling of the conditioner squishing through my fingers.  I could comb my hair for the first time without yanking it out at the roots!  So I guess I'm now considered Low Poo instead of No Poo.  And I'm ok with that.

Monday, March 31, 2014

DIY Infinity, aka convertible, aka multi wrap dress

Fast, easy, and inexpensive convertible dress

I was fooling around online one evening and I don't remember how I stumbled across these dresses, but they're just so cool!  They are dresses that allow you to wear them a million different ways.  I'm a babywearer and I have used woven wraps for well over a year now so maybe that's why it appealed to me so much.  Or perhaps it's the fact that it is just a giant circle with a hole cut out for the waist and two crazy long straps attached.  Plus a waistband to keep it from falling down.  That's it.  If you buy the right fabric you don't even have to hem it because it won't unravel.  A cool dress I can make in three hours that looks fabulous?  Right up my alley!

The only down side with the ones I saw online, whether ready made or DIY, was that it's pretty bare.  I have a small bust so I never show cleavage.  I mean, I have cleavage, it's just 6" wide.  And side boob? Uh uh, ain't gonna happen.  I'm a 40-something mom who's breastfed kids, after all.  So I was concerned that if it was too revealing I'd never wear it.  In the photo below, the straps just barely covered my chest and honestly, while this would be great for dinner out with hubby on date night, I wouldn't wear it with clients even if it were 100 degrees out.

Enter this tutorial:

She made a detachable tube top to wear under it.  I tried it with my first attempt, the purple dress above,  and now it was TOO conservative for me.  I wanted to find that perfect line between skimpy and frumpy.

So as I was searching for an alternative I saw this photo on Amazon.

This was perfect!  It's like an empire waist strapless dress with the infinity straps.  So I made the waistband from Cate's blog post taller and voila, exactly what I wanted!

Now for the specifics:

When I made the purple dress I used polyester/spandex I found at Joann's Fabric for $15/yard (on sale for $10.)  I bought 4 yards and had lots left over so I probably could have gotten away with 3 or so.  It's stretchy and has a lovely drape and was somewhat thick.  You wouldn't necessarily need a bra under it but I use those self adhesive bras that hook together in the front.  They are unbelievably awesome and are right up there with the wheel and sliced bread in my book.  In the summer I wear them almost every day.

For this project I totally lucked out and found a stretch jersey knit for $1.50/yard at Walmart, so I bought 6 yards for $9.00!  It's like a t-shirt.  Very soft, quite thin but not transparent, and most importantly it doesn't need to be hemmed because it doesn't unravel when you cut it.

I decided to do a handkerchief hem this time just for kicks.  I did a circle skirt with the purple dress and had it hit just below my knees.  For me, that was 26" long but I'm 6'1".  For the handkerchief hem it's even easier than a circle skirt.  Start by folding your fabric in half lengthwise.  Match up the selvedges and cut off about 1" where all those little perforations are.  Then fold it in half again crosswise (imagine you're making a paper snowflake.)  Hold the edge that's folded twice in front of you at waist level.

Figure out where you want the dress to end and mark it with a pin.  Then lay it back down flat and measure what that length was.  For me it was 29".  Cut straight across WITH A ROTARY CUTTER AND MAT!   I can't stress this enough.  I made the first dress with scissors and the edges are wonky.  The rotary cutter is pure perfection.  They're about $15 but you'll thank me later.  Use a straight edge like a yardstick and roll your rotary cutter along it to make a nice big square.  Again, this will NOT be hemmed so a straight cut is mandatory.  This is your finished edge.

Now to make the waist hole.  Make it smaller than you think you need - this fabric is super stretchy!  You can always make it bigger but you can't make it smaller without a lot of work.  I pinned my tape measure to the corner where all the folding is and measured out a semi circle 4" from the corner.  Then I put a bowl on it to use as a guide while I cut it out.

I traced around the bowl with my rotary cutter and made a perfect circle.  It was almost too big and I have a 34" waist!  So I'm serious when I say make it tiny.

Now you're going to cut out the straps.  Cate's blog recommended 105" long if you're tall or plus sized, 95" if you're average sized, and 85" if you're petite.  I used 105" long for the purple dress and I was able to wrap those straps about four times!  So this time I made 95" and it's just fine.  Did I mention that I'm 6'1"?  So make yours however long you want.  But make them at least 85" long.  You can always cut more off.

Strap width:  This is highly variable.  I a) didn't want to show cleavage and b) wanted the sides covered too.  So with the purple dress I made 14" straps.  I overlapped them by 5" in the center and it's way too much.  Looks weird with certain variations.  So with the red dress I made the straps 12" wide and only overlapped 3" in the middle.

I used my rotary cutter to cut a nice long straight line through both layers of fabric so I cut both straps at once.  Then I cut the fold right off.  I put my straight edge about 1/8" from the fold and cut it off.

Now for the tube top/waistband.  Measure above your bust where the tube top's top edge will be.

Mine was 37".   Subtract 7", so now it's 30".  I cut two pieces for the tube and have seams on each side.  I could have done one long piece with a seam down the back but I thought they'd be less noticeable on the sides.  My two pieces were 15" wide and 8" tall.   Use your machine's stretch stitch if it has one.  It looks like a zigzag where the zigzag is on an angle instead of going side to side.  If you don't have that option, do a zigzag with a fairly short stitch length.  Sew the two pieces wrong sides together along the two outer edges with a 1/2" seam allowance.  Optional:  I also folded the top edge down about 1/2" and hemmed it.  I don't know why exactly, except that I thought it would help keep the top up better.  You could also make a casing and thread an elastic through.

IMPORTANT:  Try it on!  Mine was HUGE.  I had to take it in twice before it fit without falling down.  UPDATE:  It was still huge.  I ended up taking it in another inch on each side.  The weight of the fabric just kept pulling it down even with a strapless bra underneath.  The heavier poly/spandex fabric didn't do this so I'm guessing it's the fabric I chose.

Now for assembly!  : )

Lay the skirt out flat with the circular hole in the center, right side up.  Lay the straps coming down from the waist side by side, right side down.  (With a solid color there probably is no difference but if you have an obvious right and wrong side, make sure the straps are right side down.)  Overlap them in the middle as much as you want.  1" overlap = tons of cleavage.  5" overlap looked weird to me whenever I tried to cross the fabric in front before it gets to your neck.  So I chose 3".

Pin the two straps all the way along the front edge of the skirt, like this.

TRY IT ON!  Ok, this is tricky because there are a million pins sticking out but I'd rather get poked than have to use my seam ripper.

If you're happy with the look, start sewing!  (In the photos above I didn't pull the tube top up.  I left it down around my waist to see how bare the straps would be without it.  I was perfectly comfortable with the way the front looked and the back would be great in hot weather, but I like having the tube top option.)  Sew it with a 1/2" seam allowance using your stretch or zigzag stitch.  An overlocking stitch is even better.  It makes it look more professionally done and finished on the inside, plus I feel like it will hold up better to repeated washings since I'm not the world's greatest seamstress.  UPDATE:  I forgot to change the needle on my sewing machine before starting this project.  It was a heavy duty needle for sewing the camo baby carrier (also posted in this blog) and now the needle holes are so large that the fabric pulls and you see daylight through all the holes.  Arrgh!  So be sure to use a ball point needle specifically made for sewing stretchy fabrics.

If you don't like the coverage, move the straps further apart/closer together until you're happy with it.

Now for the tube top.  Turn it inside out and side the tube down over the skirt and straps (which are hanging down on the floor) so that the top edge of the tube is at the bottom.

The skirt is right side out, straps are wrong side out, tube is wrong side out and upside down.  Make sense?  Pin all layers together.  If the tube is smaller in circumference than the waist hole stretch it until it goes all the way around, using lots of pins.  It will kind of snap back together for a gathered look when you're done.  Sew with your stretch stitch all the way around the waist hole.  Use a slightly larger seam allowance so that the first line of stitching won't show.  I didn't, but you can always do an overlock stitch or something to finish the edges if you want.  I'm assuming you'd do that on the skirt and the waistband/tube top separately before assembling the dress.

That's it, you're done!  It seriously took me about 3 hours and would have taken less if the baby hadn't been trying to pull out all my pins every time I turned my head.  And put every spool of thread I have on the dress.  Pay no attention to the potty chair in the background.  He's interested in it so we carry it around the house for him to sit on whenever the urge strikes.

No idea how to tie it?  Youtube is your friend!  Remember, you can pull the tube top up for more coverage or you can leave it down around your waist for less coverage.  You can even turn the dress around backwards and have the straps come up over your shoulders to make a cap sleeve, sweetheart neckline.  Here are a few of my favorite videos.

Here are some of the variations I tried.  I am the world's worst selfie taker!  Sorry about the focus and lighting.

Good luck!  Hope you love it too.

Edited to add:  I made another one!  I bought some turquoise stretch knit off eBay, of all places, for $4/yd.  It's gorgeous!  Lightweight but not as thin as the red one above.  This time I got the idea to make some gathers in the straps right where they go over your bust.  I have a halter style bathing suit like this, which I love because it's so flattering, so why not?  May I just say it was one of my more brilliant ideas.  ; )

So I made the straps 14" wide but when I laid them down on the floor I made a few big pleats at the end where they will attach to the skirt.  I'm so sorry I didn't take any photos because it worked great!  But it kind of looked like this:

This strap was for a baby carrier and I pleated it all the way across.  For the dress I only did 4 small pleats in the middle but left about 2" on each side untouched.  I hope you can visualize what I mean.

I still overlapped by about 3" in the middle so I have enough coverage for my sense of modesty and the straps wrap around the sides enough that I don't have any side boob showing.  I still made the tube top style waist band but honestly, I haven't had to use it at all.

Have fun!