Tuesday, December 1, 2015

DIY Whipped Body Butter and Other Stuff I Make on the Cheap

Just a quick note:

Blogger is being a PITA, every time I try to upload an image it pops up a sign-in request which loops back to the same sign-in request over and over, meaning I can't upload any images into the post. I apologize for that and will edit with images if this glitch ever gets fixed. Thanks for understanding and now, on to the post!

Good morning greenies!

It’s been some time since I’ve posted here, the last post was all about homemade toothpaste. But I promise, I have a good reason for my disappearing act.

For the past 11 months I’ve been a pretty busy gal. Between work (released two books this year which you can see at my Amazon author page) and figuring out ways to homestead(ish) in the city, my time to write about greener experiences has been limited.
Because I’ve been living them!

But today I’m going to give you a post-game wrap up of all things homemade that I’ve been working on for the past year. Hopefully it will inspire you to get out there and give DIY a try in 2016!

Before we go any further I want you to be aware that there are affiliate links in this post, that means if you purchase the products (other than my books above) you’ll pay nothing extra but I’ll make a small commission. It helps fund my green endeavors and I appreciate the support!

Now, with that said…

First up – whipped body butter

I’m a regular reader of (okay, I admit, I’m obsessed with) Katie, AKA: Wellness Mama. She’s been doing this stuff for a long time and has a good mind for creating healthful products from scratch.

So when I wanted to try my hand at a body lotion, her blog was the first place I went for inspiration.

I was excited to see that most of the ingredients she suggested were ones I already had in my closet/cabinets and some of the same ingredients I was considering using in my formula!

For this recipe I used:

The first thing I did was work out ratios. For this recipe I used: 2oz = 1 part (1 part can be anything you like – a pound, 6oz, ¼oz – whatever works for the needs you have).

Because, while Katie has a family to use up the items she creates, over here in Casa de Shon there’s just Matt and myself (and sometimes, like in this case, I’m the only one using the item in question).

Determining ratios helps with a couple things:

1. I can reduce / increase as necessary so my product fits in the container.
2. I want it to remain shelf-stable until I run out (nothing extra / wasted!).

Of course, #2 isn’t going to be a problem. I live in the desert. I’m using this stuff at least 3 times a day!

But here’s the thing, I’m kind of a lazy homesteader. There, I said it. I just loathe spending tons of time because I have a day job and a life to live on top of doing all this green stuff. I want things as efficient as possible so I can get in, get out and get it done.

That’s why I use a crock pot instead of a double boiler.

It’s one of the small ones but it works great – 1 “pan” = minimal cleanup. Convenient, efficient and simple…what’s not to love!?!

Here’s how I do it:

1 part cocoa butter
1 part shea butter
1-¼ parts coconut oil
¾ part sweet almond oil

Put everything in the crock pot, heat on warm until melted – stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Stir in 20 or so drops EO of choice. Put in fridge** for an hour and a half. Reheat on warm setting and add more cocoa butter (because mine was staying liquid, if yours starts to set don’t add more), stirring until melted. I put the crockpot back in the fridge and left it there overnight. Next morning it was hardened completely. Put on counter and once at room temp (3 or 4 hours), whip with a hand mixer until it resembles meringue. Scoop into container and / or slather all over your lizard-like skin. (Oh, that’s just me?)

In the winter it gets chilly in my house, so everything gets a bit more solid, but this stuff scoops right out of the container no problem and it’s light, fluffy and so chocolatey smelling!

I love using this after I shave my legs, all day as a hand moisturizer, and anytime I need a healthy glow to my skin.

A couple notes:

1. This doesn’t “spread” like a commercial lotion.
2. As you warm it in your hands it will resemble melting butter.
3. The oils can stain clothes, wait about 5 or 10 minutes after applying before dressing.
4. This won’t cure anything but it sure feels wonderful and is chemical free.
5. So far I’m on my second batch and haven’t had any problems with shelf stability (each lasting about 4+ months, I use a gasket air-tight glass jar and don’t let water creep in to harbor bacteria).

What else have I been working on?

This year has been about lots of experimentation with various household and beauty products. Some of which I’ve mastered (hello never having to buy lip balm again!), while others are taking numerous tries to get good enough that I’m comfortable sharing my method (I’m looking at you deodorant!).

Now, it may seem like a lot of money spent and up front, it is. But in the end I’m actually saving. I buy my ingredients in bulk and the good news is I can use many of the same ingredients across multiple items.

For example, in the past 2 years we would have bought a tube of toothpaste roughly every 2 months. That’s 12 tubes, at about $5 per tube we would have spent $60.

As of right now I’m still on the original box of baking soda ($4), vat of coconut oil ($25) and peppermint EO ($14).

Add it up and in 2 years I’ve spent $43 on toothpaste. It may not seem like $17 is much but all those $17 items add up over time and help our one income family live more healthful, planet conscious and frugally. And don’t forget, the coconut oil is also used for more than half my beauty products as well as our cooking oil when needed.

In the last couple years or so I’ve managed to switch over to the following chemical-free products:

  • Lip balm
  • Shampoo / conditioner (so much fail in this experiment, I use Shea Moisture brand now)
  • Wool dryer balls (best investment ever!)
  • Cleaning products (lemon juice, vinegar, baking soda – that’s it)
  • Laundry detergent (summers bode well for liquid, sadly winters in my garage are cold so I’m testing different powdered formulas now to see what works best with our hard water & will report back eventually)
  • Hair color (henna rocks)
  • Deodorant (I’ll get this one eventually but for now using Tom’s of Maine)
  • Candles (I use a wax burner, beeswax and a couple drops of EO)
  • Toothpaste
  • Face lotion (straight coconut oil works just perfect for me but some people have issues because it can clog pores so be aware)

Next on the list of items to DIY for health?

  • Body wash (exfoliating)
  • Dish soap
  • Dishwasher packs
  • Hairspray
  • Makeup (which I’ve started experimenting with and hope to get at least 1 good cover stick, loose powder recipe by next year)
  • Air freshener / fabric refresher

And that may not be everything but it sure feels great to be living more healthfully!

How about you? What commercially produced, chemical-laden products are you trying to replace in your house? Share your recipes in the comments!

**if you go right to the fridge it can strain the cold glass shelves, use a hand towel under the ceramic vessel to protect both from breaking.

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Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Great Homemade Toothpaste Experiment of 2014

For the past year or so I’ve been really thinking about the impact that chemicals and additives have on our bodies. I stopped drinking soda years ago and that seemed smart but in recent months I’ve been even more concerned about the other stuff.

Stuff like cleaning products, deodorant, toothpaste.

For the most part Matt and I have gone straight vinegar now for all of our cleaning needs. It works awesome at breaking down the calcified water we have here in Phoenix. Plus it’s:

  • Virtually streak free
  • Known to have anti-bacterial properties
  • Got an odor that dissipates quickly
  • Natural (so I don’t need to wear gloves while cleaning)
  • Not harmful if the fumes are inhaled

So I’ve been on the prowl for other stuff like that and over the summer I started what I’m now calling the Great Homemade Toothpaste Experiment of 2014!

I believe after some trial and MAJOR error (more on that in a bit) I’ve perfected a toothpaste that is refreshing, effective and costs next to nothing.

I’m going to switch up everything so I started here

Anyone who has been reading my blog for a while knows that one of my very favorite things is to explore new ideas in eco-friendly living.

Over the years I’ve tried all kinds of products touted as Green. A company would send an item for me to try. It was kind of cool to get free merch in exchange for an honest review.

But as far as I’m concerned, the Greenest possible option was not having all that extraneous stuff hanging around doing nothing.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that goes for ingredients too.

So I started doing all kinds of research, trial and error creation, and now (on our 5th batch of homemade toothpaste) we’ve got a version that really works!

The general disclaimer

Please note that this isn’t meant to cure, diagnose or treat any health issues. I’m not a doctor or other health pro so I can’t offer advice on your ailments or maladies. This formula works for me but may not be right for everybody.

I’m only a Greenie with a blog. But, just because it worked for me doesn’t mean it will work for you. Use your own best judgment and/or consult your healthcare professional.

Got all that? Good. Now, on with the details!

Ingredients and information

2 Tbsp baking soda
2-ish Tbsp coconut oil
20+ drops Peppermint essential oil
10+ drops Organic Liquid Stevia (optional)

Let’s talk for a second about each ingredient.

Baking soda is a very mild abrasive. It only took a couple days for my mouth to get used to this ingredient and now I feel like my mouth is less clean if I have to use a commercial paste.

Coconut oil is the carrier oil. Basically that means it will “carry” the peppermint, Stevia, etc. to the corners of your mouth. It also helps dilute and spread the peppermint around the mixture itself.

Essential oil is the flavoring. Trust me, you probably want something because baking soda is not delicious. A word of caution: use a food or therapeutic grade oil, NOT Aromatherapy grade. Some oils are better than others; test on your arm or other inconspicuous place to make sure it won’t bother you before making a batch of toothpaste. For example, cinnamon can be an irritant for some people. Do research!

Organic Liquid Stevia is a natural sweetener. I like using a bit to cut the peppermint. Stevia is a plant based product. If you’re looking for some extra info on this herb check out this resource. I use it instead of xylitol because I’m still not convinced that xylitol is healthy.

Now, on to the mixing!

Remember I said I had a MAJOR error? Here’s where I went a little awry.

On the first try I added the coconut oil to the baking soda and then added the peppermint and sweetener.

BAD idea!

The carrier oil didn’t carry the essential oil as far as I would have liked. There was way too much coconut oil and my mix was nothing like toothpaste consistency.

Because baking soda is sodium bicarbonate – salt – it’s inherent flavor can be a little off-putting (to say the least!).

In that first batch, Matt and I were brushing with a soupy version of lightly pepperminted ocean water.


We used the whole batch of it (because we’re troopers and don’t like wasting stuff) but both of us were concerned that to be Green we’d actually turn green every time we brushed our teeth!

The second time around I got a little creative and that’s when we realized this whole thing was going to work out just fine.

Here’s what to do:

Put your baking soda into your toothpaste storage container.

Next, add most of the peppermint you plan to add (I generally use about 20-25 drops in total so I’d add about 15-20 drops at this stage).

Add in about half of the Stevia drops you plan to use.

With a small fork, blend the three ingredients together really well by smushing, mashing and stirring. The mixture should still be dry looking.

Slowly add coconut oil until the mixture gets to toothpaste consistency. Sometimes that’s a full 2 Tbsp and other times it’s not, so pour and stir slowly.

Finally, taste test a small dot of the mixture. Continue to add a small number of drops of essential oil and/or Stevia until it gets to the flavor you want. (Rinse and spit it out)

Keep in mind what happens when water and oil touch - the oil will spread. Too much peppermint can make it feel like your mouth is on fire. Use your best judgment.

My final thoughts on all things homemade toothpaste

After doing this for the past 6 or so months I’ve got a few observations to share:

  • One batch lasts about a month for two of us brushing twice a day.
  • I like to do a brushing rinse after spitting out the paste.
  • A pea sized blob is plenty.
  • I start by brushing “dry” (AKA – don’t put the brush under water or you’ll lose some of the oil’s benefit).
  • We scoop the paste out with a separate tool so no water enters the paste container which could add bacteria and shorten shelf life.
  • My teeth have actually whitened a bit since starting to use this paste.
  • This stuff is all pretty shelf stable for up to about 6 months (but we’ve never had it last that long!)
  • My mouth feels clean and refreshed every time I brush.
  • I’ll likely never go back to conventional paste.

If for no other reason than cost benefit!

I haven’t done the exact math yet (because I’ve had all the ingredients for months and use them in different stuff as well as the paste) but suffice to say the Stevia and baking soda aren’t even half empty. I’ve only had to replace the peppermint once. Buying a gallon of coconut oil brings the price down to pennies per Tbsp.

**Here’s the exact ingredients I use**

**Please note that there are affiliate links so if you purchase any of the products from these links I’ll make a commission but you won’t pay anything extra**

Baking soda has experienced some controversy in recent years. The alleged aluminum debate rages on. If you want to know why I don’t mind using this product as packaged from a big box store (until it is gone) this article should explain it nicely. 

Like I said before, I’m not trying to treat or diagnose any ailments, so use your own judgment if you decide to try this or any other variation of this recipe.

My next experiments will include laundry detergent, body lotion, deodorant, face lotion, lip gloss and chapstick. Wish me luck! 

Have you tried any experiments at making more natural versions of everyday products? How many tries did it take before you got it right? Does it save you money? Share in the comments!

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Happy Earth Day!

Good morning friends of the planet, I love Earth Day because it reminds us that this rock we're standing on is something we really need to take care of all the time.

I came across this graphic on a friend's Facebook page today and thought it was the perfect Earth Day image to share.

What do you think? What are YOU doing to make the Earth a better place to inhabit on this day?

Friday, March 7, 2014

Have You Heard of Oil Pulling?

As I wiped the night’s cobwebs from my eyes and began the slow IV drip of caffeine (wishful thinking) I came across an article that immediately intrigued me.

Turns out that a couple weeks ago FashionLush discovered oil pulling. As of 15 minutes before reading her post I had no idea what this could be. And I’d wager a guess that you’re all thinking the same thing.

Rooted in thousands of years of wellness practices

Here’s the thing. All the parts of our bodies are connected, right? For example, when we eat sugary foods full of preservatives they can (and will) settle on our belly, ass, thighs, hell even fingers can get fatter!

So when we do something good for our bodies – eating organic, exercising – it’s safe to assume the same chain reaction would happen, right? Yes!

That’s the basic theory behind oil pulling so let me tell you a little bit about what I learned when it comes to this strange sounding activity.

What does Ayurveda have to do with oil pulling?

I set to research the act and got about 26 million hits on ‘what is oil pulling’. As a part of the ayurvedic approach to medicine the activity is actually pretty common in some cultures. Now, I’d never heard of Ayurveda either but it sure has a solid history. That’s because the ayurvedic approach to wellness began over 3,000 years ago.

Traditionally an Indian wellness ideal, this style of medicine and whole-body approach has roots in Indian, Greek, Tibetan and Chinese medicines as well. According to The Chopra Center:

“Ayurveda is a science of life (Ayur = life, Veda = science or knowledge). It offers a body of wisdom designed to help people stay vital while realizing their full human potential. Providing guidelines on ideal daily and seasonal routines, diet, behavior and the proper use of our senses, Ayurveda reminds us that health is the balanced and dynamic integration between our environment, body, mind, and spirit.”

Part of that full potential includes oil pulling, sometimes called oil swishing.

How does it work?

There’s no complicated process. Remember, thousands of years ago they didn’t have technology like we have today. But they did have a greater sense of connection to the earth and our place upon the delicate crust of this round rock.

In just 5 steps you’ll be on your way to better health:

1. Purchase organic, virgin (non-hydrogenated) coconut oil. I like the Whole Foods brand commonly found in the vitamin section. Here’s a little on the benefits of different oils.

2. First thing in the morning (before food or coffee) take a teaspoon of coconut oil and begin swishing with it.

3. Continue swishing for 20 minutes. Yes this seems like a long time but try doing it while you shower so the time passes faster. Something to note: as your mouth creates saliva the fullness factor might become overwhelming. Spit out a little if you need to reduce the volume in your mouth and try to swish for at least 10 minutes; but try for the full 20.

4. Spit the oil out. Don't spit the oil down the drain. Coconut oil solidifies and, over time, it will build up on the inside of your plumbing. Not good.

5. Rinse out your mouth and drink a glass of water.

That’s it!

What are the health benefits?

The theory is that toxins and bacteria are pulled out of your body through your mouth and directly into the oil. Clever name what with that whole oil pulling thing huh?

When you remove toxins your whole body is going to start to feel better! And look better too.

Here’s just a few things you could see happen within a few weeks:

  • Whiter teeth
  • Lessened or eliminated halitosis
  • Healed gums and jaw
  • Clearer sinuses
  • Improved sleep
  • Cleared acne/skin conditions
  • Lessened general pain
  • Hormones brought in check
  • Saponification (cleansing) of mucus

Want to know even more? Check out the findings by the Indian Journal of Dental Research on PubMed, this article on Elephant Journal, or read the original post I discovered on FashionLush.

How has oil pulling worked for me?

In the interest of full disclosure, I don’t know just yet. In fact I discovered the article and all of this information after I’d already had my cup of coffee and breakfast. I plan to start this practice tomorrow morning and will absolutely report back on my personal findings.

However, I’ve become familiar with the vast health benefits of coconut oil (in particular) over the past year or so. As far as I’m concerned I’m willing to give this a try because:

  • Coconut oil is a natural alternative to chemically produced medicines
  • Coconut oil could have positive effects on preventing Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Coconut oil is thought to have anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties (Look at those Green housecleaning products you buy and note that the surfactants are generally coconut oil. This same theory could apply to our bodies (ie – reduce toxins inside).
  • Coconut oil has a bunch of other positive benefits that you can read about here.

Bottom line, I plan to start swishing, or oil pulling, tomorrow and hope to report back in a couple weeks as to what I’m seeing or feeling. If it does nothing then so be it. But if it makes me feel better, look better and improve my overall well-being then I’m probably in for life.

Have you tried oil pulling? What were the benefits you found from practicing this technique? Did it not work for you? Share your experiences in the comments!

Image courtesy Victor Habbick

Please note: I am not a medical practitioner and I make no claims to that end. Don’t misconstrue this article as medical advice. I’m just a writer and Greenie who likes to try different natural paths to better health and better living. Please consult your doctor or health practitioner with questions or concerns about your health.

• • •

I'm Jenn, a Content Marketing Strategist, Blogger for hire and owner of Copywrite That. I can write your blog posts, articles, emails, newsletters, web copy and more. Contact me today: info[at]copywritethat[dot]com

Thursday, January 16, 2014

How do you feel about Shifting Perspective?

Recently, a friend shared a link to an article she thought I might find interesting. The article was clearly something that would speak to my environmental side as the photo in the link showed a long-stretching line of trash on a beach.

But I dove right into reading it because the title -  “What if We All Quit Judging this Scene as ‘Sad’” – and the image didn’t seem to line up. I was, admittedly, intrigued.

My gut reaction

My instinct was to read objectively and I started out doing so because I like to view things as impartially as possible where other’s opinions are concerned. But the further I got into her post full of a moderately lackadaisical attitude toward her environment masked behind a Zen attitude about our planet, my objectivity went right out the window.

My gut reaction to this woman’s words and images was an emotional one, I will admit. The planet loving (especially the beach loving) side of me felt like it had been donkey-kicked in the side of the head after getting through the post.

If you haven’t already clicked the link above to read the article, please do so now.

Like I said, my emotional ‘punched-in-the-face’ meter was skyrocketing after getting through her tale and photos. I intended to post a comment back to my friend who had shared the link with me but it became far too long winded for a simple comment.

Word for word

Here’s what I was planning to say in response:

“Interesting article. I had no idea this extent of trash was washing up on beaches in the Yucatan. On the one hand I see her point about letting go of looking at it in a bad light, that it is what it is so we need to live with it as part of our everyday lives.

On the other hand that attitude reads as complacency and ignorance.

To just shovel directly through an obvious issue, without doing anything about it is sad; it’s a sad commentary on the human condition. At least that family’s human condition.

What would her take be if all that trash suddenly showed up inside her home and spread itself out across her living room floor? Would she just shovel a pathway to the kitchen and decide to see the filthy waste in front of her as an adventure for her kids to explore?

That beach is the home of some form of wildlife. And we humans screwed it up for those other living creatures. We trashed their living room. And now she wants all of us to embrace it?

In this case, it isn't as much the debris on the shore that's sad, it’s the attitude toward seeing it but not looking at it as an issue that's the sad part to me.”

Further investigation

Like any good blogger I did a little digging on the area where her photos were taken – Tulum, Mexico – to see if there was more to the story.

Turns out there isn’t much information out there on the beach trash in Tulum but the few links I did find were even more eye opening.

First, I came across this announcement:

It’s a year and a half old but I know the issue isn’t miraculously solved considering ‘Not Sad’ article writer posted her thoughts yesterday.

Then I came across a couple more beach cleanup posters – one from 2011 and another on a blog, owned by a Tulum resident, called I Go CentralAmerica:

The fact that this much debris is still washing up on the beaches there after at least 3 years’ worth of cleanup efforts got me thinking even more about the words and images in the original article.

And I realized she was right. I was no longer sad. I was mad. Furious in fact. What was I so angry about? This line from the original article:

Then for safety’s sake, plowed a path from our picnic to the water…

After reading this other resident’s polar opposite take on the issue and learning there could be all manner of items in the debris, up to and including needles, I was outraged at the lack of compassion present in that one statement.

They cleared a path to the water. Not that they brought trash bags and gloves to get rid of even some of the debris on their way out to enjoy the perfect beach day at the water’s edge in their own community. No. They knew the trash could be unsafe so they cleared it out of their way to access the ocean.

The very same ocean that had regurgitated all of that debris onto the shoreline in the first place.

The sad part is their few trash bags, had they filled them, are something that could easily be dropped off at the Centro de Acopio de Tulum (Tulum’s Recycling Center).

Everyone is entitled to their opinion…

But all I could think was that complacency breeds indifference.

The one thing I will agree with her on is that trash is there and that is simple fact. Accepting the fact that trash washes up on shore shouldn’t make a person sad.

Because we should be mad about it; mad enough to effect positive change.

I don’t live in Tulum and don’t suspect I’d be able to get myself there anytime soon to physically help clean up their beaches. So instead I’m writing this article in hopes that more people will be made aware of the bigger issue.

Based on the post I understand that our choices in life did open the door to products made from plastics that enrich our everyday lives. I’m typing this on a laptop right now. But that doesn’t make me okay with knowing hundreds of laptops might be sitting at the bottom of the ocean. How could I ever just accept that?

So when I’m done with my plastic product I don’t intend for it to end up there. Can I stop it if it does? I’d like to think that if my voice joined in with others we could bring about that change eventually. I guess I just can’t come to terms with shifting my perspective to one of acceptance & awareness but lack of action on an issue like this.

I hope everyone gets mad. Then instead of offering your anger to the sea in Zen-like reflection, how about you go and channel your anger into taking care of the problem. Raise awareness however you can and be the change you want to see.

Unless you’re comfortable with seeing that change come in the form of millions of tons of petroleum based plastic washing around in the ocean for years before ending up inside fish you’ll be eating later. Or perhaps in the middle of your living room.

In that case, feel free to do nothing but accept it and move on.

Images Courtesy: 
I Go Central America (photos 1 & 3)
In the Roo (photo 2)

• • • • • • • • • • • Content Marketing Strategist and Blogger for hire, Jenn has over 12 years of freelancing experience. Let her write your next webpage, blog post, article or newsletter. Get in touch with her today info [at] copywritethat [dot] com • • • • • • • • • • •