Wednesday, December 14, 2011

An Inexpensive Christmas

There are tons of blogs out there giving tips on how to have an inexpensive, but still merry holiday season. I won't try to out-do any of them, because I know that I can't. I have limited ideas and at the moment limited time, so I'll just give a couple quick tips that I've employed myself to help keep the holidays as budget friendly as possible!

Make your own gifts.
This isn't possible for everyone on your list most likely, but for those you can? Do! This year I made Socktopuses for my younger nieces (which they all seemed to like!), homemade liquid hand or dish soap for a variety of friends, and I also plan on making some body scrub (probably like the scrub I made here) for others. For my sisters and their husbands I made Andes Mint Fudge and No-Bake Oreo Truffles (which I can say here because we already "did Christmas" with my side of the family!).

Shop at dollar stores!
For much younger children, a dollar store can be a great source of fun but inexpensive toys and personal care items (toothbrushes, fun wash cloths, hair clips, brushes, etc). They can also be helpful when attempting to fill stockings for older kids or even adults (again, toothbrushes, combs, small candles, clip-on booklights etc).

Don't go overboard with the food.
I know the holidays are considered by most to be a time for constant feasting but trust me; you'll enjoy those cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning a lot more if you haven't been living on junk for for the entire month already! Pick a few special items to have through the season and make them last! Sure, 10 cookies in one setting taste yummy, but your budget and waistline will thank you for stopping at 2 or 3 instead.

Reuse and recycle!
There's no need to spend a TON of money to make your home look cheery this holiday season. All the latest lights and decorations simply aren't necessary. Instead consider decorating with things like paper snowflakes (a great project to do with your kids; everyone will have a great time and there's something even more special about hanging decorations you made with your own hands!), or turn an old tomato cage upside down, wrap it in lights, and viola! You have a perfect lighted tree for your home or yard for the cost of a string (or two) of lights instead of $20+ for the "real deal". Also consider making your own ornaments, using old T-shirts in holiday colors, cutting into whatever shape you desire and stuffing them with cotton balls and gluing together with fabric glue, or making cut-out ornaments with applesauce and cinnamon (which happen to pull triple duty; great holiday project with the kids, fun gift to give, or beautiful on your own Christmas tree!). Also consider bundling up and taking a nature walk with the kids. Gather up sticks, pine cones, etc., paint with a thin coat of watered down Elmer's glue and dust lightly with some white glitter. Once dry, place together in a pretty bowl for a simple holiday centerpiece!

Here's a photo of our tree and mantle area -- all these items (including most of the ornaments!) were either bought after Christmas at seriously reduced prices (think 75+% off!), were hand-me-downs, or gifts. Even the tree was purchased several years before I married David for something like 80% off the original price!

Here's an ornament I made with my MIL a week or two ago, using little ornament forms (99 cents Hobby Lobby), torn up Pier 1 catalog pages, and high gloss glue: 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Life on a Budget II

In my last post I wrote about how I manage to feed my husband and myself for $30 or less per week. "Great," you may think. "I can do that too, if I want to live on cheap TV dinners, right?" Wrong! In this second installment of Life on a Budget, I'll tell you about what we actually eat.

You've probably heard it said many times before that when you're trying to eat healthily you should shop the outside aisles of the store. This is a good general rule of thumb you could follow as most grocery stores include fresh produce, dairy, and meat on those outside aisles. The center aisles are where you usually find things like Hamburger Helper, crackers, potato chips, cereal, bread, and all the other highly processed foods that do not offer health benefits and in fact are almost always detrimental to your health.

There are certain foods that we always avoid which eliminates a huge portion of our options, the biggest being grains. Neither David nor I have celiac disease, nor are we "gluten intolerant" according to average standards. In fact, I can eat a bunch of crackers or a bowl of cereal and feel nothing (except happy)! But there are many silent problems with grains, which you've probably already read a little bit about elsewhere on the internet. The gist is that gluten is only one of many problems with grains so it's best avoided entirely (if you'd like to read a little more about the problems with wheat check out Dr. William Davis's article "Name That Food"). That means no cereal, crackers, cookies, pasta, bread, donuts... nothing. Gluten-free replacements for these foods are made with ingredients like soy flour, potato starch, and rice flour, which all have their own problems as well, including spiking insulin higher and faster than regular wheat based products (which itself is worse than table sugar). This may be why you so often see someone decide to go "gluten free" and then blow up like a balloon. The replacement foods are often just as problematic as the foods you're trying to replace, so again, it is better for your health and your checkbook to just eliminate those foods entirely and learn to eat a more natural, whole foods diet, which is what we were designed by God to thrive on.

"So what do you eat?" You may be asking impatiently by now (sorry I get so wordy sometimes!). The truth is I feel like we have so many options I barely know where to start! You might think that eliminating the largest food group from the average American diet would mean there's nothing left, but that is so far from the truth. We eat 2-3 meals per day and each meal is different (usually) and thoroughly enjoyed. We eat:

Meat: Chicken, pork, beef, seafood, turkey, buffalo, venison. You name it, we'll eat it! We tend to eat beef and seafood the least often because it is always more expensive (though it happens to be my two favorite sources of protein!). We mostly eat chicken, turkey, and venison. The venison my husband and father have hunted in Texas and is fantastic. We're nearly out now though, and I really hope we can stock up again this November! Also in November when we go home to visit my family for the holidays, their local grocery store sells whole turkeys for $0.25 per pound. We stock up and get as many turkeys as we have space for, as one turkey will last us around a week and a half, depending on how we use it. We also try to eat beef liver now and then as it is super packed with nutrients -- a little goes a long way!

Vegetables: I won't bore you with a list of every single vegetable we eat because we pretty much eat any of them, if the price is right! Regulars are things like frozen green beans, frozen "California blend" (broccoli, cauliflower, carrots), carrots, potatoes, frozen stir-fry blends (sugar snap peas, carrots, peppers, onion, broccoli, etc), squash, and zucchini. Most of those frozen veggies can be got for just over $1 per pound, especially if you're careful to shop sales. Occasionally I get "lucky" and find them for even less than that though. Remember, frozen vegetables are picked ripe, which means more nutrient-bang for your buck, too!

Fruits: We don't eat much fruit. It's expensive. I try to pick out one type of fruit per week, or if there are good sales, I'll choose two or even three and in the summer we eat more fruit than during the rest of the year. More often than not though, you may find just a couple peaches in my fridge, or a bag of frozen blueberries from Sam's club ($9.78 for 64oz). Apples used to be my "go-to" fruit because they could usually be got inexpensively, but they made the very top of the "dirty dozen" list this year, so I've chosen to avoid them for the most part, unless I find organic apples on sale at a price I can afford (I realize my inconsistency here though; I avoid apples, but not several other items on the dirty dozen list).

We also allow ourselves dairy, but only keep a little cheese on hand (in the freezer to be sure it won't mold!) and fresh raw milk for making kefir with. Eggs are a staple that I'm (almost) never without! We can easily go through 2 dozen in one week if we eat breakfast each morning that week.

In our constant efforts to maintain our budget and still eat healthily in a world where food prices are skyrocketing, we've also recently been looking into traditional methods of preparation for foods like brown rice and beans. Brown rice has some similar problems to the cereal grains, but if you soak and ferment it first, those problems are eliminated. Metabolically, David and I are both able to handle rice (that is the higher carbohydrate content), so we've begun to incorporate a little rice into our diets, as well as traditionally prepared beans, and peeled potatoes (the anti-nutrients in potatoes are in the skins). We soak, grind, and ferment the rice and beans and have been baking them into little "pancakes" that work well to replace things like tortillas and flatbread.

The only items I buy organic for now are carrots ($1 per pound at Walmart or $1.56 or so for 1 pound of baby carrots), potatoes ($0.96 per pound at Walmart) and onions ($2.99 for 3lbs at Price Chopper).

Partially because we don't buy all organic foods, and also because we know that food isn't the only source of toxins, we try to always maintain at least a mild detoxification protocol, whether that means taking chlorella 3 times per day, or using the infrared sauna several times per week.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Life on a Budget

Two posts in three days? I know. If I don't stop the insanity the world may well stop turning, and that would be a terrible thing indeed. Don't worry. I'm almost positive there won't be another this weekend, as it looks to be a busy one!

I thought I would sit down and share very frankly with you all about what our budget looks like. Specifically our grocery budget. I know this is a tough and stressful subject for many of you out there. I know that personally I often come home from trips to the grocery store feeling defeated. We have so many options but what do we choose, and how can we possibly manage to feed our families healthily while maintaining a budget that doesn't break the bank? The good news is that you can do it. I cannot promise you that it will be easy. That you won't occasionally leave the store with a mostly empty cart. But it can be done if you're willing to make some sacrifices!

Before I get into how we manage to eat healthily on a small budget, keep in mind a few points and make adjustments for your household accordingly:

1. We have no children yet. So when I say we spent "X dollars" one week, or a certain item lasts "so" long, remember that I am talking about feeding two average height, trim, but mostly inactive (I know, tsk, tsk!) adults.
2. We live in an area of the country where food prices are low, compared to areas like the east and west coasts. Of course, average income is also higher in those areas, but you get my point! Take this into consideration and adjust accordingly.
3. We usually eat a relatively low-carbohydrate diet, which due to it's higher protein, higher fat composition improves satiety and somewhat reduces food cravings. For this reason and others, we rarely snack during the day, but may occasionally grab a couple slices of home-dehydrated banana, or a few nuts to "hold us" if we do get hungry between meals.

So now that we've gotten that out of the way I'm going to tell you right now, when I say we eat on a tight budget, I mean tight. I've found that in the past when I tried Googling tips on grocery shopping on a small budget, most of the blog posts, message boards, and other websites I find which claim to be all about eating well on a small budget felt like a joke to me. Their idea of a "tight" budget is usually $100 a week or more. Let me tell you right now, if I had $100 a week we would be dining like kings every night! We do our best to spend just over $100 per month on our groceries (my ideal maximum weekly amount is $30 but I try very hard to come in under that). It varies a little from week to week and some weeks it is impossible to stay under $30. So what do we eat then, on such a tight budget? The answer is really too varied to type out! Here is a list of tips I've found to be indispensable in my effort to spend less while still eating well.

1. Buy sales. Don't go to the grocery store with a pre-written list of all your "must haves" (aside from true essentials, such as toilet paper -- though I would protest that even toilet paper doesn't have to be an essential), or with a "We'll see what sounds good" attitude. Go with a completely open mind and buy the meats, veggies, and fruits that are on the best sale that week. In recent history American's have had it so easy that it has become natural for us to go to the grocery store thinking, "What am I in the mood for?" instead of, "What can I afford for my health and pocketbook?" In order to keep your budget where you want it, you must break this habit and learn to enjoy whatever that weeks shopping trip brings. We've been surprised to discover some really delicious "new" vegetables this way!
2. Make the most of what you have. Most of us buy a whole chicken, bake it in the oven, eat the breast, thighs, legs, and wings (and maybe those tender little "oysters" on the back), and dump the rest into the garbage. What a waste! Instead we should be consuming the majority of the meat and then making bone broths with what remains. You'll be pleasantly surprised to find several more days worth of delicious meals in a chicken carcass! Whenever possible, buy whole poultry with giblets. The most nutrient dense meats are organ means -- use this to your advantage! If you can't stomach the thought of biting into a chicken liver try grinding it raw with a good blender and adding a small amount to ground beef dishes, soups, and stews. Back to the bone broths, you should always save any meat bones you have (in the freezer until you have enough to make broth with) to make bone broths. Whether you use the broth for soups, to cook a little rice in, or just as a filling, nutrient dense hot beverage between meals, take advantage of this powerhouse food for your health! It's free medicine!
3. Don't be afraid to buy frozen. I've noticed that a lot of people seem to have some (and sometimes great!) disdain for frozen vegetables. Why is this? Frozen vegetables are not only almost always cheaper than fresh produce, but because they're frozen right after picking, they're actually picked ripe, unlike a lot of fresh produce that is picked before it is ripe in expectation of long transit times to various destinations across the country. Frozen veggies also won't rot when you forget about them for two weeks, so there's never any waste, and most vegetables need to be at least lightly cooked for the nutrients in them to become most readily available for your bodies use, anyway, so you're not losing anything by having to cook your frozen veggies a little. Much of the same applies to frozen meats. You can't accidentally push it to the back of the fridge and forget about it until it is hairy -- the worst that can happen to frozen foods is that they toughen up a little, or if poorly packaged get a little freezer burn. A little freezer burn doesn't usually affect the flavor of food too much (though a lot can be very unappetizing), either. Additionally, freezing can kill certain bacteria, making frozen meats and vegetables somewhat safer to consume than non-frozen meats and vegetables.
4. Buy local. It is true that you have to be careful when buying local. It is not always cheaper (a "local" produce stand we stopped at recently was downright exorbitant!), but careful research should help you to find some less expensive seasonal sources. A friend of mine gets eggs from a local small farm for $1.00 per dozen! So local can be better. But another problem is that not only do a lot of roadside produce stands try to deceive us into thinking their produce is locally grown when it isn't, but the truth is often times local organically grown produce is just puny. We visited our local farmer's market back in May and while I know that was early in the season, the produce was far less than impressive. The point? Buying local can be healthy and budget friendly, but shop wisely.
5. Barter! If you are blessed like we are to live in or near a farming community (and I realize not everyone is), consider bartering for fresh food. Not only can you feel more confident about the quality of food you're getting from a friend whose home, barn, and yard you probably spend time in, but you get the added benefit of blessing your friends in the process of personally benefiting. It's a win-win situation! Have chickens, but no time or desire for a garden? Consider trading your pastured eggs for organic, vine-ripened tomatoes during the summer months. Have property where men in your community could hunt for deer or foul? Find something you want from them and offer the exchange!
6. Grow something. Even if you have a small yard, or no yard at all, pretty much all of us have the space for at least one potted plant on a front porch or back patio! Planting and tending just one small tomato plant during the summer can be rewarding and help -- at least a little -- with your budget (store bought tomatoes are expensive). After you try a tomato or two, consider expanding if you have the space! It is inexpressibly satisfying to sit down and eat a salad you grew yourself, or to make a pot of tomato basil soup with only your homegrown produce. Even the stresses of trying to deal with pests, lack of rain, and other garden problems is far outweighed by the joy of harvesting a dozen gorgeous tomatoes, zucchini, or leeks (especially if you garden organically and know that your food is 100% natural and free of all pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides!). If you're a big potato fan, for example, but have limited space consider building a simple potato tower. We've started our first, hoping for a fall harvest, though we started about a month late, so we'll see what happens! But once people become familiar with the best potatoes to grow in their area, etc., many people claim to harvest around 100 lbs of potatoes from one of these small boxes!

Whether you can put all of these ideas into use, or only one of them, I'm sure you'll find that if you pay attention you'll see that your grocery bills will drop! How much depends on what you're already doing, and your determination to stick with whatever you decide to try. I hope this proves helpful to some of you. As always, I love discussion, so if you have any tips or tricks of your own, feel free to share them!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Persistence Pays Off

How long has it been since I posted here? No, don't answer that. I know it has been far too long.

So what has been so consuming of my time that I have neglected you all for several months? Life. But more specifically, travel, work, and gardening have probably been what's kept me most occupied.

Work picked up a lot in June and we saw quite a few clients. This was a great blessing! Then the 1st of July David and I made the 11 hour drive down to Texas to visit my family for two weeks. This was my parents graduation gift to my husband. It was a great gift, a great visit and as always, coming back to Missouri was bittersweet. Coming home, work really dropped off due (I think) to people being busy with their own summer travel and getting ready for school again. I can't help but wonder, too, if our two weeks away played some role in the slow-down.

While we were away our garden took off -- my mother-in-law did a great job of keeping everything alive and watered during those two weeks which also happened to be the start of a considerable heat wave and drought. Not good for the garden, but her persistent watering allowed the garden to thrive in spite of the heat and lack of rain. I was really excited to come home to ripe tomatoes and flowering squash and cucumber plants! Since then things have kept on in spite of the continued lack of rain, and we have harvested dozens of tomatoes, our first summer squash (I was late planting the squash, zucchini, and cucumber!), and should soon be enjoying our first cucumbers and zucchini, of which there are many! Bugs have been a serious problem though. Two or three days before we got home my mother-in-law emailed me to tell me that "something" was eating the tomato plants. My guess was tomato horn worms from her description. We came home and it definitely looked like horn worm damage, though I couldn't find a single horn worm on any of the plants. I sprinkled the plants with diatomaceous earth and hoped that would be the end of our problems. But it seemed that with each passing day the plants were getting more and more damaged, though I still couldn't find any worms! After about a week though, I began to find these tiny worms that I didn't recognize (which eventually I discovered to be army worms). Could they really be causing this much damage, in spite of their size? But over the course of the next few days I noticed that these worms grew. And grew. And what was initially less than a quarter of an inch long began to grow until some of them reached around 2 inches. I tried more DE. I tried making up concoctions of tobacco/cayenne/soap water to spray on them. I suspect my tobacco water may have been too weak, but nothing seemed to be killing these worms. Finally I resolved that if I wanted my plants to survive, I was going to have to do something awful: hand-pick! Yes, that's right. Hand-picking worms off of my tomato plants. This may sound like no big deal to well seasoned gardeners, but for someone who hasn't done any gardening to speak of since childhood, when mommy and daddy took care of the pests, it was a big deal. And it took a lot of mustered up courage to finally start doing it. I considered wearing gloves but it is impossible almost to pick worms with gloves on without squishing them, and eventually the worm juice soaks through the gloves which is... not so nice. So I took to bare-handed picking with a pitcher of soapy water to plop them into. For a while it seemed that I would never beat them. I would spend an hour picking worms in the morning, only to go back out in the evening to find many more worms. Well-intentioned gardener friends suggested that I might have to give in and do the "unthinkable" and use a commercial pesticide if I didn't want to lose my entire tomato patch. I almost gave in one Sunday afternoon when I was feeling especially defeated. It did seem wiser to use a tiny bit of pesticide once than to lose the entire garden to a stupid worm! But I simply couldn't stand the thought of spraying my plants down with dangerous chemicals after so much work to avoid it, so I persisted with hand-picking. I kept picking every morning and some each evening. Sometimes I'd even go out in the middle of the day for a bit and these worms were still there! Extreme heat (over 100 degrees) didn't seem to bother them in the least. I eventually found a few horn worms, which I still refuse to pick bare-handed, so I bring a glove with me now in case I find one of those wretched worms. But the gratifying part? The good end to this story? I'm getting the bugs under control! Each time I go out now there are fewer and fewer. I am delighted that all the hard work is paying off, and now my only real concern in the garden is the weather that's causing my tomatoes to split! Okay, that and the squash bugs that have recently discovered my squash plants. But I've read that DE works on them as well, so I sprinkled my squash a few days ago and hopefully that will be that!

And now I will leave you with a few photos from our garden since this spring:
These are some of our radishes that were HUGE. And yummy. I wish I had known then what I know now though, and that is that sauteed radishes are FANTASTIC. Slice the radishes thin, add a little butter or coconut oil to a pan, radishes, salt, and pepper, sauteed until the slices become slightly transparent and pink. I wish I had a constant supply of radishes now. And I'm pretty sure that most radish haters would find themselves loving the veggie! 
Leaf lettuce. We actually harvested quite a lot of it, considering the difficult spring we had (very wet and cloudy). Next spring (and this fall!) we will plant even more. There is nothing like a fresh, home-grown salad! 
 Tomatoes. You can see that some of them have split, but they're still very tasty! This was what I harvested last Friday I think.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011 Deal

Hey all!

Just wanted to let you know about this great deal from, where you can spend $10 to get $20 worth of supplements, home, or personal care products, groceries, etc! Just use my link and I might get mine for free -- then pass it on and get YOURS for free, too!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Danger from every cide

Today's post is going to be on an issue very near and dear to me. It's something I've been concerned with for years -- long before I was the "health freak" I am today, living on a strict diet, using all natural/organic personal care products, making my own mascara, and giving up toilet paper.

There are so many sources of toxins in the average American's life today. Did you know that scientists have measured the amount of lead in our bones today and compared it with our recent ancestors 100 years ago and discovered that we're about 650 times more toxic with lead than they were? And back then people were exposed to it in all kinds of ways we're not anymore (think paint, piping, etc). We're assaulted from every side with one danger or another. Our plastic storage containers contain chemicals that are making our baby boys turn into girls, our laundry detergent might cause cancer, our shampoo can make us infertile, and the food can be downright scary.

You get the point. With all the advances we've made over the years, there are still all kinds of dangers to avoid in modern life (even if we're no longer running from wild animals). I don't think we should live in fear of these things, but simply do our utmost to avoid known danger, with the knowledge and ability that God gives us. For example, I'm fully convinced that plastic is dangerous but I've yet to be able to afford to make the switch 100% in my kitchen. I still use some plastic storage containers for leftovers because I haven't been able to afford to buy all glass. Yet. But I am making progress. I am trying.

My topic today is the use of pesticides and herbicides. I am going to be focusing on herbicides as I've been spending much of my personal time lately studying the topic of the dreaded weed. I've loved the great outdoors for as long as I can remember. I love everything about it. I love plants, I love open spaces and sunshine, I love dirt, and I love how intricately all of those things work together to create life, through God's amazing designs. A friend of mine took me on a "weed walk" recently in her yard and around the neighborhood (just across the street from me and in my neighborhood!) to show me some of the local wild edibles since I'm still only vaguely familiar with most of Missouri plant life. What she showed me was absolutely incredible and exciting! There are people all across the country feeling distressed about the rising costs of food and all the while they are spraying their yards with dangerous herbicides to kill what we call "weeds" and never bother to learn anything about, when many of these so-called weeds are actually edible and would make a good, albeit small, contribution to the family dining table. It is unfortunate that we have lost so much knowledge about wild edibles. Your backyard full of "nasty" invasive weeds, may in fact be God's free gift of a vegetable garden to you! But whether you want to eat your weeds or not, herbicides are dangerous both to human and animal life due to runoff and even walking and playing in yards sprayed with herbicides (did you know it is common household use that makes up the majority of herbicide use in this country? We're so concerned with the appearance of our lawns that we spray more poison on our lawns than farmers do their crops!). Around 1,500 herbicide mixtures sold in the US contain 2,4-D, which is a proven endocrine disruptor. Its use has been linked to immune system damage, birth defects, and reproductive damage. Other herbicides like glyphosate (an ingredient in the most popular herbicide in the US - RoundUp) are linked to kidney problems, infertility, birth defects and more. Not the kind of substance I want my children, grandchildren, or neighbors kids playing in!

"But I'm only using a little!" People argue. "I'm not using enough for it to be a problem." But you're not alone on the planet, in the US, or in your neighborhood. Your little bit, combined with your neighbor's little bit, and his neighbor's little bit makes up a lot and is being proven more and more to kill wildlife and damage human life. This thing that by itself may have in fact been insignificant runoff is now suddenly significant and combined with other chemicals and health problems is preventing your best friend, your cousin, or your own child from having children of their own.

Studies have even shown that the use of RoundUp doesn't just kill the weeds, it actually damages the quality of the soil it is sprayed on. Glyphosate binds up nutrients necessary for the plant to survive; this is how it kills it. Does this sound like something we want to spray all over our yards?

A few more common herbicide ingredients and their side-effects include:

CHEMICAL:                         SIDE-EFFECT:

Alachlor                                              Eye, liver, kidney, spleen problems, anemia, risk of cancer
Atrazine                                              Cardiovascular and reproductive problems
Dinoseb                                              Reproductive difficulties
Endothall                                            Stomach & intestinal problems
Picloram                                              Liver problems
Simazine                                             Blood problems
2,4,5-TP                                              Liver problems

The last chemical, also called Silvex has been banned since 1985, but is still sometimes detected in water supplies today. So much for minimal effect....

Monday, April 18, 2011


This post is going to be on a topic that will make some people squirm. Others of you may decide not to read it altogether. Why? Because we're going to talk about our toilets, or more specifically, the typical American hygiene habits associated with what one does on a good old American toilet.

There's really nothing about the American's use of toilets that is right. We sit, ever so "properly" and politely while the majority of the world (approximately 2/3rds) squats to do their business. This sitting vs. squatting can contribute to a host of complaints such as constipation and hemorrhoids. Sitting to evacuate has also been determined in studies to increase pelvic floor prolapse, inflammatory bowel disease, hernia, and more. This is because in the sitting position the anal canal becomes pinched and it is then necessary to exert pressure to evacuate the bowels. This can also desensitize nerves, increasing uterine, bladder, and prostate problems.

Historically, humans have always used the squatting position, rather than sitting.  Have you ever noticed how most babies instinctively squat to eliminate, until we train them out of it? There are also hygiene problems with the way we do our business. If only we could find another way to deal with this problem, think of all the time, trouble, and lives that could be saved by avoiding e. coli breakouts in restaurants and food packaging facilities when employees go to the bathroom, wipe themselves "clean" and don't thoroughly wash their hands!

I don't know about you, but with the continually rising costs of groceries my mind is constantly on budget-related issues and how we can cut costs further without decreasing our nutrient intake. Food and personal care products are some of the most important purchases we make, after all, and making the right decisions in those areas is often the difference between simply surviving and living vibrantly.

Toilet paper has always been something I bought with great loathing. As I'd pick out another new package, trying so hard to find the best deals, I always saw in my minds eye dollar bills getting flushed down the toilet with each purchase. You're literally flushing your purchase down the toilet! How horrid. Not only do you spend a lot of money over your lifetime on something you flush away, but as far as the environment is concerned, imagine all the trees that have to be cut down each year to supply America with toilet paper. 15 million annually. That's 41 thousand trees daily. In an increasingly toxic world, can we really afford to unthinkingly do away with so many natural air purifiers?

So what if there was something you could do to affect positive change in the bathroom? I'm not about to suggest one of those toilet platforms so you can squat (but if you want to you'll be better off than the rest of us, even if you do look like a total weirdo to all of your house guests!), but what if there was an easy, inexpensive way to reduce your toilet paper use, as well as make positive hygienic change? Well I'm glad to be able to tell you that there is! It's called a bidet and most of you are probably only vaguely (if at all) familiar with them unless you've traveled outside of the US. They're used extensively in foreign countries but are still quite rare here in the States. Used to be if you wanted to use a bidet you had to have a separate unit installed (traditional European style bidets are not made to handle solid waste so you have to use a regular toilet and then get up and move to the bidet to clean yourself -- extremely impractical!), which costs hundreds of dollars. In the long run you'd still save money, but who really wants to spend $300+ on such a thing? And that's not including the cost of having a bidet installed (which would have to be done by a professional plumber since you can't just switch out a regular toilet for a bidet; you'd have to have both) Well now you can get a small attachment for your preexisting toilet which does the same thing! It cleans you using gently pressurized water, nearly eliminating toilet paper usage (some people still prefer to dry themselves with a little toilet paper afterwards). Bidets reduce toilet paper usage by 75% on average. Can you imagine spending 75% less on toilet paper annually? Can you imagine all the trees that would be saved if we all reduced our toilet paper usage by 75%? That would be less than 4 million trees cut down and pulped for toilet paper annually. And of course that says nothing of all the electricity it takes to turn 15 million trees into toilet paper annually!

 I recently purchased a bidet attachment to try it out for myself. My husband installed it yesterday in spite of a killer sinus infection he's fighting and we are both pleased with the purchase and would recommend it to others.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Plastic & BPA

If you've been reading my blog for very long, you are probably aware that I don't like plastic. I think it's dangerous for our health, and bad for the environment (and just plain ugly, to boot!). One of my goals towards more natural living is to eventually live mostly plastic free -- I've recently been doing some research on how to deal with garbage without those nifty can liners, one of the few places I've yet to give up the plastic. I think next time I run out of them, I won't be buying any more. I can wash my kitchen receptacle a couple times a week, right? Sure. We only empty the can about once a week anyhow, since we don't produce much trash. And since I am now putting all of my leftover produce bits and pieces into my garden, there will be very little "messy" garbage in the bin anyhow. So there's that. We'll never be completely plastic free though, since there are certain food items I have no intention of giving up, but that can only be purchased in plastic containers. But still. We can all reduce our output, even if we're not willing to live quite like Bea (though she is constantly offering great ideas for reducing your waste output; be sure to check out her blog!). Now onto the subject of this post!

BPA is a term most of us are very familiar with now days. We know it's bad and that we don't want it in our bodies. But what is it, what does it do to us, how can we prevent ourselves and our loved ones from exposure to it, and is BPA-free plastic really safe?

To answer the first question in brief terms, BPA (or Bisphenol-A) is a chemical used to harden plastic (think water bottles, baby bottles, food storage containers). It is also used in epoxy resins, which are used to coat the inside of tin cans, baby formula containers, and water bottle tops. The problem with BPA (or at least the one we're most aware of) is that it acts in our bodies like estrogen, which can result in serious hormonal imbalances and reproductive problems.

The FDA, however, refuses to classify BPA as a toxin and stated in 2010 that "Studies employing standardized toxicity tests have thus far supported the safety of current  low levels of  human exposure to BPA." but then went on to say that they do have "concerns" about its subtle toxic effect on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and young children.

I think that only time will tell us just how dangerous BPA really is, but I think it is clear that there is some level of danger posed by regular exposure to it. Plastics are believed by many to be at least partially responsible for things like girls hitting puberty at an average age of 9 years old (and as much as 10% of 7 year old girls are beginning to develop breasts). The fact of the matter is, there is a lot we still don't know about plastics and how dangerous they are for us, but when you consider how new they are in the history of the world and how prevalent fertility problems (among other things) are becoming, for example, you can't help but wonder how much chemicals from plastics are contributing to that problem (I think there are a whole host of contributing factors and that yes, plastic is absolutely one of them!). And it's not just a problem for young girls. Older females, and males of all ages are being adversely affected by these estrogen-like chemicals. The infertility rate in women aged 20-24 has tripled in this country since 1965. Male infertility is at an all-time high in industrialized countries. A whopping 30-40% of males are estimated to have fertility problems today, and are responsible for around half of the instances of infertility (1/3 exclusive to the male, 1/3 to the female, and 1/3 to a combination of partners). In British couples seeking help from ART (assisted reproductive technology), the majority of cases are due to problems with the male's fertility.

So now you are aware of some of the dangers of BPA and other chemicals found in plastics. Here are some easy steps you can take to avoid exposure to BPAs for yourself and your family:

  1. Throw out your plastic food storage containers and switch to glass, especially for leftovers that are placed into storage containers hot, which can increase the leaching of BPA into foods.
  2. Breastfeed your babies. Unless you have a medical condition that prevents it breastfeeding is almost always possible, with the right coaching and persistence. This saves you money and your baby exposure to BPAs at a young age when they are most susceptible to damage. If breastfeeding is truly impossible for you, purchase glass bottles instead of plastic, and look for a friend willing to donate breastmilk for your baby, or contact a milk bank for help.
  3. Avoid canned foods, since many liners contain BPA. Foods of pH 5 leach more BPA than those that are more acid or alkaline, according to a study on BPA (though it is my understanding that most fruits and vegetables are more acid or alkaline than a pH 5). 
  4. If you do use plastic food storage containers, never put them in the microwave! This can increase the levels of BPA leaching into your foods. Also, avoid washing them with harsh detergents which can also increase leaching.
  5. Buy glass or ceramic bottles for your water.  Many of them come with silicone sleeves for protection so you don't have to worry quite so much about easy breakage. The market for these has exploded since I first started looking into buying some and there are a host of options available now.
  6. Stop drinking soda (the aluminum cans are lined with plastic and sodas have a pH 5, making them one of the worst offenders for leaching chemicals into your beverage).
So now, is BPA-free plastic safe? In a word, no. But it is a slight improvement over plastics with BPA. The problem in general with plastic (as far as your physical wellbeing is concerned) is that there are far more chemicals in it than just BPA, and many of them have the very same effect on your health as BPA (some of the effects of these chemicals were discussed above).

Also, don't forget to consider the environment. Plastic grocery bags, as an example, were first introduced in 1977 to replace the good old bio-degradable paper sacks. By the 80's and 90's they were becoming more popular than the paper sacks. Imagine this for a moment. This means that for the past 34 years we've all been lugging home our purchases in these plastic bags and then sending them off to landfills. The very first plastic shopping bag to make it to the landfill is still there. Some say that plastic bags take 100 years to degrade. Others say 500 years. Some even 1000. The fact is the bags have only been around for about 50 years, so we don't know from real world experience. Scientists have tried to figure it out, but even using a method called respirometry (which tells us banana peels degrade in days and newspapers a few months), nothing happens to the plastic bag. So whether it takes 100 years or 1000, the point is simply that it takes a very long time.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Good Nosh II

So my shop, Good Nosh has a few new items up, and now also provides nutrition facts that are important to low-carbers -- namely carb count, fat, calories, and protein per serving!

I made my first sale yesterday, and am crossing my fingers for a second today. A potential customer wanted to know the carb count on my peanut butter cookies (which I couldn't make without a good quality, sugar-free, hydrogenated oil-free peanut butter, like O Organics!). I am really excited! I am also planning on trying out some new recipes over the next couple days, but am having a hard time wanting to divide my attention between baking, and spending time out in the garden, as our weather is supposed to be quite nice the rest of this week (sunny and in the 60s!). Ah, decisions, decisions!

Tonight I may attend a business meeting for our local Farmer's Market. David and I have been discussing getting involved somehow (though the actual how/what is yet to be pinned down) and thought it would be a good idea to see what it's all about. We've even discussed creating a small church co-op so some of the other ladies could sell some of their things there (produce, baked & canned goods, crafts, and live plants are all allowed I think), without having to commit to being there every single week, which I think might be difficult for most of us! I am excited about the possibility, though I honestly don't know what will come of it, since we stay pretty busy as it is.

So there is my very short update. I need to write a "real" post soon. I've just been quite occupied with other things lately.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Good Nosh

My shop is officially open for business! I'm starting out quite small and only have one item up for sale at the moment, but plan on adding a few more very soon. Check it out! I can't wait until some of my ingredients arrive (like the lovely coconut flour by Azukar Organics!) and I can play around with a few other ideas, and get pictures of foods I already plan on making so I can actually list them! There's almost no point in listing on Etsy without pictures. I know I would never buy a homemade food of any sort without pictures. I've got to work on pricing for some of my other items I plan on listing soon, too. It is no quick thing, figuring out precisely how much it costs to make some of these recipes. I mean, how much does 1 teaspoon of baking powder cost me, or 1/2 teaspoon of homemade vanilla extract? I can figure it out, but it will take time.

So what kind of baked goods would you consider purchasing online? Talk to me, people. My shop is young, and my ears are open.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Waste-Free Living

Waste-free living has been an intriguing topic to me of late. I am always looking for ways to reduce our waste, improve our health, and spend less money. Did you know, for instance, that the average American produces 7lbs of trash daily? Somewhere in Nevada people are producing a whopping 13lbs of waste per person per day. That is an incredible number! In our effort to avoid being a part of those abysmal statistics, for years we have been avoiding the use of disposable plates, napkins, and utensils on a regular basis. I don't keep paper towels in the house and haven't since I got married 3 years ago. Regular kitchen towels are perfectly capable of cleaning up spills, you know? Not only do these things cost you a lot of money over time and unnecessarily create the need for more landfills, but many of them are actually detrimental to your health. A recent study proved what many of us having been saying for years: plastics are dangerous to our health, and BPA isn't the only toxin in plastics we should be worried about.

 I am trying to get into the habit of bringing my reusable grocery bags on shopping trips, which are not only eco-friendly, but fun, too! Did you know those horrid plastic sacks they give out everywhere take well over 100 years to decompose? Sit in the Walmart parking lot for 30 minutes and watch the amount of bags that come out of there in a mere half hour. Remember that that is happening in millions of locations across the country as you sit and watch. And it happens all day, every day, without exception. It's horrific. And we each need to do our part to change that. We should be treating the world God created better than that. As an alternative to these horrible plastic bags, you can get plain bags like those to the left and have some fun decorating them yourself, leave them plain, or check out the many shops on, where you can find things like cute little birdy totes for smaller shopping trips and support small business owners in the process. even offers a search method where you can find nearby sellers, if you're particularly interested in supporting local small businesses, as well. You can also get Reusable Produce Bags to completely eliminate plastic from your shopping excursions, but don't forget to check out Etsy again, for reusable produce bags in fun colors!

Also consider reusable sandwich bags, if you do a lot of lunches on the go, or if you just don't want to deal with reusing, at least switch to the the good old  Brown Paper Bags, which you can recycle or compost.

Feminine protection is another area to consider switching to reusable items in. I keep a supply of reusable feminine protection (cloth pads/liners and a menstrual cup), which are of course, waste-free, eco-friendly, highly cost-effective, and safer for your health (no risk of TSS, etc). It's another area you can have some fun with, while doing something better for yourself and the environment -- these make your period just a teensy bit of fun. You can also make your own, if you're willing and able.

If you are blessed to have small children, a great way to reduce waste is by using cloth diapers instead of disposables. There are all kinds of places that sell them online, or you may be fortunate enough to live in a place that has a cloth diaper store, like Happybottomus, one of which I noticed recently in Overland Park, KS.

You can also reduce waste by giving up disposable food storage. Yes, I am suggesting doing away those handy plastic storage containers. Instead opt for reusable and safe (for your own health and the environment) glass storage. An easy to find and fairly inexpensive option for this is wide mouthed canning jars. You can get a whole case of them fairly inexpensively. If, however, you have the money and prefer a more "traditional" look, you can get things like Pyrex 6021224 Storage 10-Piece Set, Clear with Blue Lids. The lids are plastic, but that's still a big step in the right direction. If you really have the money, consider the really nice Kinetic Go Green GlassLock 1332 17-Ounce Square Glass Food-Storage Containers with Locking Lids, Set of 3 which has a glass lid as well as bottom.

Do you brew your own coffee? Consider purchasing one of these reusable cloth coffee filters, which will save you money, protect your health, and further reduce waste. Look for one made with unbleached and/or organic cotton. And on the topic of coffee, if you visit coffee shops, consider bringing your own mug from home to reduce your waste. Many coffee shops even offer small discounts on their coffee when you bring your own cup.

And if you're a regular tea drinker, consider buying your tea in bulk and reusable tea bags, too. The paper tea bags often contain the chemical epichlorohydrin, which is a dangerous chemical used as an insecticide and to manufacture plastics. When combined with hot water in steeping it forms a new chemical called 3-MCPD which is even more toxic and has been linked to cancer. This chemical is also found in most coffee filters, as it strengthens the paper when wet. Some tea bag manufacturers do claim that they don't use epichlorohydrin though, so if you're curious about your favorite brand, call the company up and ask.

What about all those great tools for cleaning, like the Swiffer mop and ReadyMop? Good news! You don't have to give them up. Just change the way you use them. Keep your wonderful Swiffer (I know I love mine!) and simply refill the bottle of cleaning liquid with a mixture of water and vinegar (adding some essential oils is nice, too, and one of my favorites is lemon for that fresh clean scent we all know and love!). This will protect your families health, and also reduce your waste because you're reusing the bottle constantly instead of buying a replacement each time it's emptied and tossing the old one. Also instead of those nifty disposable pads that you buy for them, stick a microfiber cloth on it, instead! They work even better than the disposable pads. Keep a few on hand that are designated mop clothes and simply toss them in the wash instead of the garbage when you're done.

We've talked in the past about making safe, economical, eco-friendly personal and home care products, and I've mentioned my homemade dryer balls. This is yet another way to improve your health and reduce your waste (by eliminating the use of the toxic sheets, and reducing dry time for your laundry which reduces energy consumption!). There is something very satisfying about tossing in a handful of wool balls with a load of wet laundry instead of a stinky dryer sheet. If you're not inclined to make your own (a project I enjoyed!), you can always buy some.

Another area to consider is having "extras". But that's not waste,  you say! Or is it? Can you go out to your garage and find only the items you need and utilize often, in quantities you actually need? Or do you have 15 hammers and 8 rakes for a family of 4? Do you have box after box of clothes you don't wear, and kitchen appliances you haven't used since you bought them sitting out there collecting dust? Do you have a pile of broken items you promise you'll fix someday, but haven't touched since the 1990s? This, too, is a form of waste, and we ought to consider giving away those excess items to people who truly need them, and bless them in the process of making your own life easier (and it does make your life easier than you might think; how many times have you been frustrated searching through a mess of a garage for that one truly important item buried under a horrific stack of "junk"?).

In an effort to reduce our "extras" I have a box in my hall closet that contains all sorts of small kitchen items I don't need. Extra salt & pepper grinders, an olive dish, some cooking utensils we haven't used since we got married, glassware we never use. After moving home almost 4 months ago and getting reacquainted with my own kitchen, I'm slowly discovering extras I don't need. I'm saving them up in a box and will try to sell a few of the larger items in a garage sale (I hope), and give the others to Goodwill, or give them away on FreeCycle.

Saturday, March 19, 2011


This past week has been devoted almost entirely to gardening. On Sunday I talked to one of the ladies at church who is an avid gardener and got some tips from her on getting a Spring garden started -- it's been so long since I did any real gardening, I felt excited but hesitant. She reminded me how easy it can be though, and by the end of our conversation I was even more excited and more than a little anxious to get started!

We decided to go with lasagna gardening, as the soil here is quite horrid without sufficient amendment, which we couldn't do in our time frame and without spending a large sum of money.

It was pretty disappointing though that our initial layer of soil was almost as bad as our own soil; we purchased it from Sutherland's and from a distance it looked great. It wasn't. Hopefully it won't be a hindrance to our success.

Layering our rows; far left is some topsoil on cardboard,
 middle row is getting it's first layer of straw, and I'm
spreading decomposed manure/humus on the far right layer.
As it currently stands we have completed three rows which will contain lettuce, kale, collards, and - ahem -- radishes (not turnips! NOT turnips. Why do I always call radishes turnips?!), and possibly onions, though I suspect I don't have enough space for all of them here. We'll expand the garden for the summer, but since we haven't gardened much in years, I felt attempting much more than this to start out with might be overwhelming.

We also planted some lovely potatoes by the house and will also plant some 2 year old asparagus roots somewhere soon. We also have garlic to plant but I don't know yet where I will put them either. I'm afraid I over-crowded the potatoes though, so I may thin those out once they start to grow.

I may still also try to find a way to add some cauliflower, and next month some carrots. We all love and eat lots of cauliflower, so we should at least give it a try!

Once the summer garden can be started I plan on adding tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, summer squash, cucumbers, and okra.


We're also hoping to get chickens soon! Not sure if that will work out, but we really want to try.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


Today was The Great Day of Organization. David put up shelves in our furnace room/closet and due to this wonderful deed, I was able to finally put away our Christmas decor and get other miscellaneous items put away. It feels great to no longer be storing my KitchenAid mixer on the floor next to the barstools! While he worked on the shelving, I rearranged pre-existing shelving. I had read in a magazine a couple weeks ago that grouping books by color can help a bookshelf to look more organized, which perhaps shouldn't have been an amazing revelation to me, but I really hadn't thought of it before. I was excited to give it a try though and today I did it! Here is the before photo:
The bookshelf in our living room,
in all of its disorganized glory!

So while David worked on his project, I worked on mine. I started with the obvious shelf; Calvin's Commentaries offered a "no-duh" place to start lining up all of our brown books! 

From there I hopped from shelf to shelf in no particular order. I did end up with two blue sections, but I did that on purpose; one of them is navy blues, baby blues, etc., while the other is really more of a teal shade, though it is difficult to make the distinction in the photo. 

3/23/11 Revision: The short story that once filled this space has been removed, because someone was overly concerned that someone else who is highly unlikely to ever read this blog, may in fact read it, or be told about it, and feel offended by something that happened in the ancient past. The person in question is not the type to be easily offended, and was not acting in an un-Christ-like fashion through the course of the story, and would therefore have no reason to be offended or otherwise upset, so I honestly don't understand the concern. Out of respect for others though, the story has been removed, though it's removal upsets me just because it was so unnecessary that it was a concern in the first place, and I am truly tired of the drama (however mild) that is so often associated with blogging in general.  

We don't use these books nearly as often as those in the office, so I felt free to disorganize them in order to organize them. Oh, it makes perfect sense in the female mind! But actually, my husband liked the end results of my labors, too. So without further adieu: 
Once again, our living room book-
shelf, this time in all of it's color-
coordinated glory!


So over a week ago I received an email from Google AdSense informing me that my account had been shut down. I hadn't noticed any changes in my earnings, no suspicious trends upward, nothing. But what can you do? Appeal the decision! So I filled out their appeal form and sent it in, confident that they would give me another chance since I'd never had any infractions in the rules prior. Sadly, I was wrong, and a small (yet at once significant) source of income has disappeared for good. They will not reconsider once you appeal their decision once, nor will they ever allow you to set up a new account. This has put an end to my writing for Natural News, and really dampened my enthusiasm for blogging (which I know is sad and pathetic because I'm not blogging to make money, that was just a nice little aside). We are allowed to use David's code on my sites, but I'm hesitant to do so in case the "click-attack" that ended my account was malicious and somebody, somewhere has it out for me.

This isn't all bad news though. As much as I will miss writing for Natural News, it has forced me to reconsider other options for bringing in a little extra income each month. Right now my focus is on I have had a shop there in the past but had little success. I made jewelry at first. It was fun, but not a passion, and not really good enough. is just packed with unique, amazing items, and my jewelry was mediocre at best. I was careful to make everything to the highest standard of quality I could, but it was nothing special or  unique. Anybody could make what I made with a trip to Hobby Lobby or Walmart. I also tried to sell prints of some of my photography, and even had one of my drawings up for a while (incidentally it never sold, and a good thing too; during the move from Texas to Missouri it got left in a storage pocket in my in-laws car after they picked us up from the car rental location and somehow it was torn before I got it back). I also made felt ninjas, which were fun, and I actually sold enough of those to cover a fair portion of our Christmas gifts we purchased last year. But that died off after the holidays and it was back to never making sales. So now my focus is on setting up a new shop, which will be devoted to low-carb, sugar-free, grain-free treats! My older sister has had amazing success with her shop Softly Sweetly, and while I have no expectations of enjoying the same level of success, I do think I could be moderately successful since the sort of healthy diet David and I follow and promote is growing in popularity. And if there's one thing people on this sort of diet miss, it's the sweet treats! Cookies and cakes and candies. I'm not sure how extensive my shop will end up, but time will tell. I've already tried a fantastic peanut butter cookie recipe and sent half a dozen off to a friend for her to critique them for me.

And they do taste as good as they look, so the challenge is going to be whether or not they ship well and still taste good and fresh after a couple days in the mail! They have never survived around here long enough to know what they're like after 3-4 days.

I also spent all day yesterday in the kitchen, making up a new grain-free, sugar-free bread recipe. I can't wait to try it again once I get to the store for more yeast though. I did a similar recipe with yeast a few days ago and it gave it a nicer crust, though this one did turn out quite yummy, especially toasted and with a bit of cinnamon-xylitol sprinkled on top. I'm running low on my healthy baking ingredients though, so I may have to postpone further experimentation for a while. I also made a chocolate cake yesterday, but that was nearly a disaster it came out so strange (though the icing was GREAT!). Perhaps I need to just stick with my usual method of not using other peoples recipes. Apparently I have a very unique style in the kitchen as I seem to have much better success when I "wing it", versus using someones written out recipe. This is even true for baking more often than not, which is unusual, considering baking really is a science, and easy to mess up!

My husband is currently putting up shelving in our furnace room/closet. Organization, here I come! I'm also planning on reorganizing one of our bookshelves today, and there may be pictures to prove it if my method is successful. We shall see.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Xylitol, People, and Pets

I would like to to talk to you briefly about xylitol. You've probably heard the name at least once or twice if you're trying to lead a healthy lifestyle and avoid sugar, but still enjoy the occasional indulgence. Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that occurs naturally in certain plants. It can be harvested from a variety of fruits and vegetables, as well as the bark of birch trees. A common source of xylitol these days is corn and corn fibers though, so be careful when purchasing xylitol to look for one labeled "non-GMO"!

So what makes xylitol so great? Unlike sucrose (table sugar) and some other sugar substitutes, xylitol has a very low Glycemic Index (7, versus sucrose at 65). Other sugar substitutes such as maltitol, which is also a sugar alcohol and found commonly in pre-made "sugar-free" foods has a glycemic index nearly identical to that of table sugar (50), making it a much poorer choice than xylitol if good health is your goal. Xylitol contains 40% fewer calories and 75% fewer carbohydrates than sucrose, and is absorbed more slowly than sugar. It doesn't need insulin to be metabolized by the body, either, which means it doesn't raise blood sugar. For anyone looking to maintain good health, this is great news, as high blood sugars damage the body over time (heart disease risk, for example, goes up with postprandial readings greater than 100 ng/dl). For these reasons, xylitol has been used in countries like Japan, Russia, and Germany as a diabetic sweetener since the 1960's! Xylitol is as sweet as table sugar, making it a perfect substitute for baking with.

Aside from the fact that xylitol doesn't cause insulin spikes, it has some other health benefits. It can help to prevent tooth decay by maintaining a more neutral pH balance in the mouth and preventing bacteria from sticking to your teeth. It has also been shown to repair damaged enamel on teeth. Because xylitol can help prevent the growth of bacteria, it has also been used medicinally (though this is not approved by the FDA) to treat ear and sinus infections. Some research suggests that it can also help maintain bone density, and slow the growth of Candida Albicans.

Recently xylitol use has come under attack from some veterinarians and pet lovers after a report came out in 2006 suggesting it may be toxic to dogs. I have even been asked to revise one of my recipes to remove the xylitol from it due to it's potential for insulin spiking in our furry friends. I have a simpler solution than that we quit using a product that is not only safe but actually healthy for human consumption. It's called not feeding it to your dog. There is always the chance xylitol consumption may occur if a dog finds something that has been dropped on the floor by accident or left within reach somehow. But why single out xylitol? There are other healthy human foods that we don't eliminate from our diets because of their potential dangers to pets. Some of these foods include chocolate, grapes, raisins, avocado, and onion. Many of the reports of "xylitol poisoning" haven't in fact been proven to be due to xylitol at all and when toxicity is seen in dogs it is often after an animal has eaten an exorbitant amount of something, like when a news story reported on this issue after a dog ate 100 pieces of sugar-free gum that contained both xylitol and aspartame. The American Veterinary Medical Association reported on this as well when another dog ate 4 large, chocolate frosted muffins which, combined, contained around a pound of xylitol. Often times, these warnings about the toxicity of human foods to dogs are blown out of proportion after some freak cases where pets consume massive quantities of something, so to suggest that we should exclude these healthy foods from our diet because of this potential problem for pets is ridiculous. The ASPCA, for example, includes raw and undercooked meat, eggs, and bones on their list of dangerous pet foods. The fact is raw foods and especially raw meat and bones are dogs and cats natural foods. Did God dump a bag of kibble in The Garden for Adam to feed to the cats and dogs? Nope. It has only become the "norm" for pets to consume grain-based, man-made food over the last 100 years (a mere breath in the history of the world!), and the truth is, we're not doing them any favors with this type of diet. It's like pediatricians who tell mothers that formula is just as healthy for their babies as breastmilk; it's simply not true, and that has been proven over and over with scientific research. We are made in the image of God. As such, we are naturally inclined to create. But we can never create anything better than God did, and this applies to every area of life, whether it is the ideal food for ourselves, our babies, or our pets (or anything non-food related).

I have really stumbled off topic here. But that's one of the benefits of having your own blog. You can write whatever you want and follow as many rabbit-trails as you please.

So the bottom line is: Eat xylitol. It's good for you. Don't let Fido eat xylitol. It might be bad for him. If you're new to xylitol, however, keep in mind that xylitol has a moderate "laxation threshold" -- that is, too much can cause abdominal discomfort (gas, bloating, and diarrhea). It's not harmful and your body will adjust in time, but starting with a small amount daily and slowly working your way up will avoid the discomfort altogether.

Saturday, February 26, 2011 Mini Minty Chocolate Chip Muffins has published another one of my articles. This one was mint (get it? get it?) to come out around the holidays, but I guess they had too much to publish at the time and it got stuck in a long line of articles waiting to see the sunshiney day of publishing. Check it out, try it out, and you won't be disappointed!

Mini Minty Chocolate Chip Muffins

It's the Little Things

Somebody made my day today by stopping by our house to pick up some scaffolding that's been sitting on our front porch since we moved in 3 months ago. There are still half a dozen or so 5 gallon buckets of noxious liquids of various kinds, but just having the scaffolding gone makes my little heart want to leap for joy. It's the little things.

Speaking of little things, what little things do you like to do to make life easier or more enjoyable? Here are a couple ideas:

  • Vacuuming has always been my least enjoyed chore. This chore has become more necessary since our move as our beautiful new flooring seems to create dust bunnies out of thin air, so while the frequency of vacuuming has necessarily increased, the chore itself still hasn't become any sweeter since moving into the new apartment. Why? I'm always afraid I'm going to pull a muscle getting the vacuum out of the closet! I have to pick the canister and wand up together (which at the angle they're at becomes quite awkward even though they're not very heavy) and hoist them over a pile of unused flooring (which I have admittedly made worse by putting a large unused crockpot on top of said flooring). Once the vacuum has been safely removed from the closet though, it's time to get busy. It sounds completely ridiculous as I'm formulating how to phrase this in my head, but I like to imagine I'm a great hunter off to kill as many Vicious Dust-Bunnies as possible. There's danger at every turn, and you never know if the next Dust-Bunny will be the end of you. Don't they just sound terrifying? Okay. So they're actually not that dangerous, and I honestly don't go through that mental routine every time I vacuum, but it doesn't hurt on the days when I'm feeling the most unmotivated. 
  • Laundry rooms should be pleasant. I know many people are in the habit of doing very little to beautify this area of the home, but why? We housewives (and especially mothers of babies and young children) spend a lot of time in this space that is often tucked away into the darkest, dingiest, creepiest corner of the home. I like to find those little things that will make my laundry area more enjoyable to be in, whether that's attractive baskets to contain stain-removers and my homemade dryer-balls, or finding a pretty container to put laundry detergent in. If your laundry space is in a dark garage or basement, consider things like painting the walls a cheery color (not that I'd recommend painting the sky and clouds; in fact, my decorating senses would strongly oppose that particular idea), or hanging some fun artwork that you enjoy but wouldn't necessarily want in your main living space. Another little thing you can do to help make laundry day enjoyable is to keep your space tidy. Nobody wants to try to work in a space packed to the ceiling with with a mess of "stuff". Oh, it makes my skin crawl! If your laundry space is already packed with junk, start with the little things to clean it up. Before you know it you'll have a spic-n-span space that you can thoroughly enjoy working in.
  • Hand-washing dishes doesn't have to be just about getting the dishes clean. Pick an all-natural dish soap in a scent you love (mine is Natural Pear!), and spend that time focusing on the little things. I keep a shelf full of small items that each remind me to pray for something or someone. 

Well I think that's it for now. What about you? What are some little things you like to do to make your day, your chores, your work easier and more pleasurable?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Free Stuff

Precisely Mine is giving away a quart of Tropical Traditions Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil to one lucky entrant. Check out their blog for ways to enter and win!

Grammy Janet's Place is offering a giveaway of 5lbs of Household Traditions Dishwasher Detergent! Check out the blog and enter to win today!

Contest Corner is giving away a jar of Organic Coconut Peanut Butter to one lucky reader. Who doesn't love peanut butter?!

Mommy Is Green is also giving away a great Tropical Traditions product: Coconut Flour! 5.5lbs of it, to boot. Can anyone say "Lemon Coconut Pound Cake"?

A Nations of Moms is offering a bottle of Tropical Traditions Moisturizing Lotion. Perfect giveaway for the dry winter months.

Tropical Traditions has a lot of other great products, so be sure to check out their website!

Or if you're in the mood to nourish the soul instead of the body, check out Noise Trade for some free music.

Also, check out Fantastic Freebies & More on Facebook for regular updates on free samples and things you can grab.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Things We Use

My sister recently inspired me to write a post on what we currently use in our home and on our bodies for personal care/hygiene and home care. I'm always fascinated to learn how others are doing these things naturally and inexpensively. If we could afford it we would be using all-natural/organic products exclusively. I am convinced that they are safer than conventional products and foods, and will contribute to good health whereas their not-so-natural counterparts are often damaging to our health. We cannot afford to go completely organic at this point in time though, and that's okay. We're doing the best we can with the options we have available to us.

One thing that we try to keep in mind, too, as we attempt to lead a healthy lifestyle is that we don't want it to become all-consuming (which can be a difficult balance to keep when your occupation is quite literally all about natural health!). I don't want to make an idol out of "natural living" or make those who can't afford to do as much as we do feel like they are somehow failing in life because they can't live up to my standard. I want to honor and glorify God in all that I do, and I do believe that as such, I am required to care for my body to the best of my abilities.

So what do I actually do for personal care and beauty products? Let's see....

Hair Care
Shampoo, conditioner, dyes, etc., 

SHAMPOO has been a difficult issue for me. I have tried the "no-poo" route, Dr. Bronner's, Jason, and many others that are at least safer alternatives to what you might find at Walmart. When I used Dr. Bronner's alone my hair just didn't feel nice and soft, like it does when I use "bad" shampoo like Herbal Essences. Knowing all that I do about the chemicals in those types of shampoo though makes it impossible for me to use them without guilt.

I use: Mill Creek Keratin Shampoo (
Cost: $4.11
Free of: Parabens, SLS/SLES, Propylene Glycol, Artificial Colors and Fragrance.

HAIR DYE is honestly one of my favorite things. I love dying my hair. It's a fun way to change things up without cutting my hair (something in inevitably regret after 2-3 days of fun with the new-do). Most hair dyes are chock full of dangerous chemicals though, so I no longer use the temporary dyes I used to use like Clairol's Loving Care. I have tried some of the dyes sold in little herb shops that claim to be all natural and safe but somehow manage to look, act, and be used exactly like traditional at-home dyes. They're "okay" and certainly safer than other more common brands, but usually still contain some harsh chemicals. Not to mention they're pricey!  

I use: Rainbow Research Henna. I honestly don't love the smell of henna, but I love how safe and natural it is (you can even safely use it during pregnancy), and that unlike all other dyes it is actually good for your hair, working as a natural protector and conditioner, and gives my hair nice body as well. I've only tried this one brand which you can find on and I love that it is completely free of all additives, chemicals, and pesticides. Some brands of henna dyes have a laundry list of ingredients, but Rainbow Research is pure henna.
Cost: $4-$6

Body Care
Soaps, lotions, moisturizers, deodorant, make-up, feminine hygiene, etc.

SOAP is something else we don't use a whole lot of. I believe that the no-shampoo theory ( is sound, and applies to the body as well as the head (though I did unintentionally give up the no-pooing on the head thing, though it was going fine!). We do use soap now and then, but overall since reducing our usage, my skin has felt better, and even in the middle of winter, I rarely have to use any sort of moisturizer and yet my skin is almost never dry.

I use: Dr. Bronner's. My favorite is the almond and the lavender, though I like them all.

LOTION/MOISTURIZER is another product I need to use rarely, which I believe is due in part to my other lifestyle choices (i.e. no excessive use of oil-stripping soaps, sufficient water intake, etc). Because it's something I apply directly to my skin though, instead of something like hair gel I likely only use on the ends of my hair, I feel strongly that it should not be full of chemicals. 

I use: Home-whipped shea butter in various scents. My favorite is scented with an essential oil blend called "Sensual" which contains ylang ylang and jasmine (I'm not sure what else is in it).

BODY SCRUB is something I've only started using recently, after I attended a "lotion making party" at a friends home. She made up some easy coffee body scrub and we all tried it on our hands and loved it. I came home and made some myself, and wrote about it here: Saturday Docket. This scrub contains a little bit of oil (I used walnut) and because of this I have been able to further reduce my usage of lotions/moisturizers since I started using it almost a week ago. I use it on my entire body every time I shower (usually every other day) and love it. One warning: Shave your legs after using this scrub, and not before. I found it highly irritating to my legs when I used it once after shaving. Another thing I love about this particular scrub is that it gives your skin an almost sun-kissed glow. Not enough that you look like you've gotten a fake tan, but just enough to make you look a little healthier during these dreary, sunless winter months. It's also extremely inexpensive to make, as you can make it up with used coffee grounds!   

DEODORANT was no easy thing for me to switch to natural on. When I was younger and very sick with Lyme disease I sweated like crazy, and while I didn't smell badly, I couldn't imagine life without antiperspirant! The more I read as I tried to improve my health, the more convinced I became of how harmful conventional deodorant/antiperspirants are, though, and I forced myself to switch. There was a slight adjustment period during which the deodorant didn't seem to work very well, but eventually my body readjusted and now it works like a charm! 

I use: Thai Mineral stone. It is my favorite by far and is completely natural, and aluminum-free. It works great for me and David. We recently switched to the Crystal brand to try it out since it cost less and it works, but not quite as well. David has to combine it with a Zum Frankincense & Myrrh cologne I got him for his birthday last year for it to work perfectly, as without the cologne, it seems to randomly (though rarely) fail him. 
Cost: my preferred brand, Thai, runs around $6-$9 depending on where you get it, and what size you purchase. The stone that comes in the tubey thingy lasts around 1 year if only one person is using it. So though the initial cost is more, you still spend less annually on deodorant than if you're buying regular stuff.

MAKE-UP is one I am just not giving up. I won't use the kind of stuff you can get a the grocery store, or drugstores, but I like it and I'm going to keep using it. My husband likes it, too, which is a huge factor for me. I don't wear much though. In the summer I usually wear little more than some eyeliner and maybe some mascara. Maybe a light blush if it's one of "those" days. In the winter though when I'm more pale due to the lack of good sun, I will apply foundation, some blush, and the eyeliner and mascara. 

I use: Bare Escentuals. Like I said before, most of their products do contain titanium dioxide, but that's about it as far as potential toxins go (and there is some debate on the issue of whether or not titanium dioxide is a danger at all when applied topically versus ingesting it), and as much as we've eliminated toxins from other areas of our life, I don't feel horrible about my moderate use of these items that have very small amounts of that in them.
Cost: Varies.

PERFUME/COLOGNE is one it took me a while to think about. Initially when I considered the issue and realized I didn't want to be spraying unknown chemicals all over my skin, I switched to spraying them on the outside of my clothing. An improvement, but if you can smell a substance that means that small particles of it are entering your body through your airways. So I've done away with all of my traditional perfumes!

I use: Crystallized essential oils by Eden Botanicals, or straight essential oils. I found the crystallized version by Eden Botanicals and fell in love around 5 years ago. I've been wearing almost nothing but them since then. 

David uses: Zum Eau De Zum, Frankincense & Myrrh. A dab under each arm keeps his natural crystal deodorant working, and makes him smell... *sigh* wonderful. According to the guy I bought it from at the herb shop, it's their most popular scent and both men and women wear it. I've used it on occasion, but it definitely has a little more of a manly scent to it than I prefer to wear, even though it does smell different on me than on David. 

NAIL POLISH is another item I use only a couple times per year. Thanks to my older sister I recently tried out Piggy Paint. It doesn't last even as long as regular nail polish (which I already find lacking and is one of several reasons I rarely use it) before chipping, but it's great that there are safe alternatives out there! She got me some Piggy Paint for my birthday, and shortly after that I discovered another safe, non-toxic brand marketed to adults, called Honeybee Gardens. They have a variety of more mature colors, and best of all, this nail polish can be removed with rubbing alcohol, so no highly toxic chemicals there, either! Since I originally wrote this post, Piggy Paint has come out with a new line of nail polish, "Piggy Paint Refined" which is a line of grown-up colors!

I use: Honeybee Gardens & Piggy Paint.
Cost: $6-$9.


Nobody who wants to lead a safer, more natural lifestyle can ignore the issue of traditional pads and tampons for long. Both disposable pads and tampons can contain dangerous chemicals, and many believe that these chemicals can cause or increase menstrual period discomforts, such as increasing cramping, and adversely affect your hormone balance as well, not to mention increasing your risk of contracting life-threatening infections like Toxic Shock Syndrome. There are some "natural" pads and tampons which are supposed to be chemical free, organic cotton, but they can be very costly, and still carry some of the same risks as other tampons. 

I use: A menstrual cup, specifically "The DivaCup" -- unlike tampons that may only last a couple hours (which can be especially scary if your bleeding is ever unpredictable), The DivaCup can be left in place for up to 12 hours, making embarrassing trips to the bathroom a thing of the past! Made from medical-grade silicone, they have a yet unknown lifespan, but evidence points to our cups outlasting our reproductive lifespans (which means instead of throwing out thousands of tampons or pads over our reproductive lifetime, we'll end up throwing out only one small cup instead). Talk about being eco-friendly! I also use homemade, cloth pantyliners as a form of "insurance" or for light days when the cup seems like overkill.

Household Products
Dish soap, dish washer detergent, laundry detergent, etc.,

DISH SOAP makes me happy. Especially when it's non-toxic, natural, and pear scented! 

I use: Earth Friendly Ultra Liquid Dishmate Natural Pear -- it smells AMAZING, is completely safe and natural, and is fairly inexpensive, too, which is great since I hand wash dishes more often than I use the dish washer!
Cost: $3.10 (

Earth Friendly Dishmate is made with: water, coconut oil derived surfactants, salt and pear oil.
And is free of: Phosphates, dyes, perfumes, SLS, cocamide DEA, animal testing and animal ingredients.


I use: Seventh Generation Automatic Dishwashing Detergent -- it's not perfect, but it's a far cry better than Cascade! Prior to purchasing this I used Biokleen Automatic Dish Powder, which was a gift when we got married and I only just bought this other brand (which goes to show you how rarely I use the dishwasher!). I prefer the Biokleen as far as ingredients, and how well it works, but the Seventh Generation was cheaper, and I decided to give it a try. I will switch back to Biokleen when my 7th Gen is gone.

LAUNDRY DETERGENT is currently Earth Friendly. Once the detergent I currently have is gone though, I plan on making my own, which can be done for mere pennies per load!

I use:  Earth Friendly Ultra Ecos Magnolia & Lily Laundry Detergent. They have a fragrance free variety as well, though they're naturally fragranced.
Cost: $6.37 for 50oz, approximately 50 loads ( 

BLEACH can be almost essential for whites if you want to keep them looking fresh and clean. In place of dangerous chlorine bleach, I prefer to use chlorine free products, which still help to keep whites bright, but are safe enough to use on colors and can help remove tough stains. In my experience, oxygen bleaches work well enough that you don't have to use them every single time you wash, either, but just now and then to keep whites looking new longer!

I use: Biokleen Chlorine Free Oxygen Bleach Plus
Cost $4.93

General household cleaners: I use homemade cleaners for wiping down counters in the kitchen and bathroom, for mopping my floors, and for cleaning my shower and toilet. My favorite is very simple and inexpensive! Just fill a spray bottle with water, add 5-15 drops of grapefruit seed extract (depending on the size of your bottle and the strength of cleaner you want), and viola. Done! I also like to add a few drops of essential oils like tea tree oil which also have anti-microbial properties, iodine, or castile soap, depending on where the cleaner will be used. For my flooring I use a simple combination of water and vinegar in a Swiffer mop (though I don't buy the disposable pads; I use old dish rags and they work wonderfully -- perhaps even better than the pads -- and are more eco-friendly!).