Monday, August 15, 2011

Fueled Up and Ready to Clean

     I really tried to post something last week.  Really tried.  But after two days of being back at work, I was too tired to think.  Too tired to type.  Too tired to turn my computer on.  I spent Thursday and Friday unpacking crates in my classroom, moving furniture and boxes in what felt like 150 degree temps, and doing some deep cleaning.  The school district graciously offered to build us a new school building that should be ready at the beginning of the 2012 school year.  The price, one school year spent in a transition campus that deserves to be torn down and rebuilt itself.  And the third grade classrooms aren't really even in that building at all.  We are out in a portable annex, grounded securely on cinder blocks.  We are the third or fourth school to set up camp in this transition campus that was well past its prime even before it was deemed the transition location.  However after a couple 10 hour work days, some deep cleaning, and a lot of colored paper to decorate the walls, my room in the T Shack is finally looking almost cheery.
     With everything in place, I pulled out my Branch Basics cleaner and paper towels and went to work sanitizing EVERYTHING.  It kills me that the district requires all the supplies in my classroom to be non-toxic and have a non-toxic label to prove it, and yet Clorox, Lysol, and antibacterial soaps are allowed.  The chemical soup that forms in the air when these cleaning supplies are used are a lot more harmful to the students than the occasional marker.  I could smell cleaning supplies all over the campus as teachers brought in economy packs of Lysol wipes and began wiping down desks and tables, assuming they were cleaning.  I posted a while ago about what clean really is.  Are those classrooms full of Lysol and Clorox really clean?  I'm not sure that they are.  They smell clean, or smell like what we associate with clean, but my Branch Basics cleaner did a great job cleaning all surfaces without the strong smells and chemicals.  I also know that it is killing bacteria and viruses that might be lurking around the room.
     In preparation for this week, I refilled my spray bottle with Branch Basics and made some energy bars to help keep me fueled throughout the day.  I can't even begin to tell you how obsessed I am with my Clean Start cookbook.  The recipe for my energy bars came from Clean Start, and they are amazingly good, fantastically simple to make, and free of any sugars or unwanted additives.  They can be made with any kind of nut butter, the nuts of your choice, dried fruit or chocolate chips and are sweetened with a touch of pure maple syrup.  I used almond butter with sunflower seeds, cashews and almonds.  I included a picture so you could take a peek.  I ate more than my fair share before I even put them in the refrigerator to harden.  I always need snacks throughout the day, especially when I'm at work.  Now I'm sure I'll have enough energy to keep cleaning and organizing my classroom.  I have until Thursday to get everything set up.  Wish me luck!       

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Goodbye Summer

     How is Day 2 of your No Sugar Challenge going?  I woke up this morning dreaming that my sister-in-law had a kitchen full of baked goods that she swore were made without sugar.  As I took a bite of a cookie she said, Well those might have been made with sugar!  She really wouldn't do that to me, would you, S?  I love my sister-in-law.  But do you think my brain misses the sugar?  I kind of started avoiding sugar in Colorado...I had one Dr. Pepper on the golf course when I thought I was getting a migraine and an icecream that my husband bought me, but that was all, and I didn't miss it.  Maybe all the activity outside made me forget that I wanted sugar.  But last night, Day 1, all I could think about was dessert!  It will get easier as the days go by, but I definitely want what I can't have right now.
     For dinner last night I tried out one of the recipes from my new Clean Start cookbook.  The Sesame Scallion Brown Rice Salad was delicious!  Filled with orange bell peppers, mango, scallions, ginger, sesame seeds, it was a really satisfying side dish.  I'd even eat it as the main dish, but R2 wanted something else to go with it so I added some tilapia on the side.  If you haven't checked out Terry Walters' website you definitely should.  She has some great recipes!

     Today is my last day of summer.  It's hard to believe that two months of vacation have already come and gone.  I'm still trying to get everything pulled together around our house so that it is easy to fly out the door at 6:30am or to make dinner when I come home after my graduate classes at 8:00pm.  (As a side note, please excuse the poor quality of my pictures this week.  In all my organizing I have misplaced the charger for my camera battery and have been taking pics with my iPhone!)  This morning I've been washing and putting away the Snapware Glasslock containers I bought at Costco.
     Every day for lunch I take whatever leftovers we have from the night before.  In the past I used plastic Ziploc storage containers for both my lunches and for any other leftovers that I would leave in our refrigerator.  However, because of all the chemicals that can leech out of plastic, I decided to buy some glass containers.  The 18 piece set I found at Costco was only about $25.  The lids are plastic, but they are BPA free.  I usually don't heat up my lunches at school, but having glass containers now makes that an option.  The containers are definitely heavier than the plastic Ziploc ones I was using, but they are small enough to throw in my bag to get from home to work.  They will also be great for storing leftovers or snacks at home.  Do you take your lunch to work?  What do store your leftovers in?  I'm off to enjoy my last day of freedom!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

30 Day No Sugar Challenge

     I didn't really realize how badly I had cabin fever until we got to Colorado last week.  From the day we got to Beaver Creek to Sunday when we left, we spent all day every day outside in the fresh air.  It was awesome!  We hiked, biked, played golf, swam, kicked the soccer ball around, played putt putt, walked, ran, and just enjoyed being outside.  Oh how I had missed being outside.  With temperatures hovering around 100 degrees here in Houston and the humidity factor making it even more unbearable, I hadn't spent much time outside all summer.  Outside is my favorite place to be.  I need to be outside.  I feel guilty when I'm not outside.  Especially when the sun is shining and the sky is blue and I'm sitting inside...unless of course it's 100+ out there.  Being in Colorado made me even more jealous of my younger brother who is working in Alaska, spending his days outside and eating the fresh fish he's catching in the Pacific.  Sometimes I miss my free spirit, but wouldn't give up what I have here in Houston for anything!  A week in Beaver Creek was just what I needed.  And now that we're back, R2 and I may have to jog together at 9:00 at night just to beat the heat, but we are home.
     So now it's time to get serious about going back to work.  Everything starts up on Thursday and is sure to be a whirlwind until June.  There's no stopping the chaos for 9 months, until the next glorious summer break.  On the plane home Sunday night I unwillingly thought about what I need to get done by Thursday.  Thursday morning is inevitable, and all I could think about was how tired I get during the school year.  Getting up at 5am, on my feet until about 3:00 and then graduate classes that last until 8pm wears me out.  But I do know that what I eat directly affects my energy level and how I feel.  As tempting as it is to eat the candy and junk food sitting around at work, I know that I have to have whole food snacks packed and ready to go every morning or I won't make it through the day.         
     Fortunately, before I left for Colorado I ordered a cookbook called Clean Start: Inspiring You to Eat Clean and Live Well by Terry Walters.  I found the cookbook on my front porch when we got home and leafed through the beautiful pictures of delicious recipes that are gluten-free, vegetarian, dairy free, and contain no refined sugar.  I'm excited to try out some of the dishes.  The best part for my family is that she makes suggestions of meat and fish that could be paired with all of the meatless dishes.  Her philosophy is to start cleaning your diet however suits you, no matter how small the changes are.  Click on the link above and it will take you directly to her website which is full of recipes and ideas for eating clean food.
     I'm also picking up my share of fruits and vegetables from the Rawfully Organic co-op today and challenging myself to try a few new recipes out of Clean Start this week.  In an effort to clean my diet and increase my energy, I have decided to challenge myself to a 30 day break from refined sugar.  No refined sugar, one whole month, period.  And while Tuesday, August 9 is kind of a random day to start a No-Sugar Challenge, I'm marking it on my calendar and starting today.  We'll see if I even want sugar come September 9. 
     Are you up for the challenge?  Join me!  We'll feel better and have much more energy for whatever it is you have in front of you this fall.  I'm struggling to accept that summer is over, but I'm looking forward to feeling up to accomplishing what lies ahead.  Mark your calendar, get set, and let go of sugar.  It's just one month, let's start today.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Get Some Fresh Air

Healthy tip of the day: Get some fresh air.  I know what you're thinking...kind of hard to do when it is 100+ outside.  That's why we are headed to Colorado tomorrow!  I'm so excited to spend a week outside getting some fresh air.  The air quality around us directly affects our health and well being, and I am in desperate need of some revitalizing air before the school year starts.  Here is some information about air quality to get you thinking... 

According to Three Branches:
     + Indoor air is 200 times more polluted than outdoor air!
     + 50% of all illnesses are from poor indoor air quality!
     + According to a study at Harvard, cancer risk from exposure to chemicals inside the home is greater
       than if you were to be exposed to chemicals at a hazardous waste site!
     + According to an EPA study, women working at home have a 54% greater chance of developing
       cancer because of the chemicals and poor air quality in the home!

It's pretty scary!  But there are things we can do to increase the air quality in our homes.  When it isn't 100 degrees outside I open all my windows every chance I get.  Just letting in a little fresh air significantly improves indoor air quality.  Removing the chemical sources that are contributing to poor air quality in your home is a must!  Chemical sources include conventional cleaners filled with chemicals, and candles and air fresheners that can contain up to 600 chemicals.  Another important step in improving air quality is changing your air filters regularly and using filters with a high merv rating.  There are also air purification systems that can be purchased from Austin Air if you're really serious about having clean air in the house.  However the small steps I mentioned above really help improve the quality of your indoor air.  Going to Colorado is even better, too bad I can't just live there!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Shower Time!

     I want to say a big thank you to those of you who took advantage of the 25% off sale on Branch Basics products!!!  I'm so happy you're on your way to chemical free cleaning.  If you haven't taken advantage of the sale yet, there's still time.  I'm offering 25% off your purchase of Branch Basics non-toxic cleaner until the end of August.  Email me at if you're interested.  You can also check out my posts, "Babies, Bubbles and A Branch Basics Giveaway" from July 20 or my post on July 16 entitled "Looking for A Non-Toxic Cleaning Solution" if you want some info first.  Three Branches Healthy Living also has some great information about the product.  I'm only promoting it because it is a product that I use on a daily basis and have been really happy with.  Plus, I know my house is clean without the toxic burden.  It is free of chemicals that mimic estrogens and disrupt hormone function, it is free of chemicals that affect how our bodies store fat, and doesn't create a chemical soup that lingers in your house!
     And now for today's post:  R2 and I spent Sunday and Monday at the Marriott Hill Country Resort in San Antonio.  He was there for meetings for work and I was there for....well, I was there so that I could take advantage of the pool, float the lazy river, and enjoy a mini vacation!  Both days I grabbed an inner tube and floated around and around.  With temperatures as high as 105, I could have spent all day in the lazy river.  It's clearly too hot to be anywhere but in the water.  However, as I floated and enjoyed the day, I couldn't help but think about all the chlorine in the pool and how unhealthy it really is.  I'm not trying to ruin your summer pool experience. I definitely need my pool time and spent my fair share of time in that lazy river.  But, I do want to share the small changes we can personally make to protect us from the chlorine and chemicals in the water around us.
     Water comprises two-thirds of our body weight.  We have to drink it every day.  We use it to shower or bathe every day and yet the water running out of the tap is filled with chemicals.  The Environmental Working Group did a study of the chemicals found in the water of big U.S. cities and the findings are pretty astounding.  Click on the link and see if you can find your city.  Houston was one of the cities with the most polluted water, coming in with a whopping 46 total contaminants found, the largest concern being radiation particles.  So what do I do other than freak out and consider boycotting the use of water at my house???   I started with the water that makes the most impact, the shower.  According to Three Branches Healthy Living, because our skin is such a large organ and soaks everything in, our bodies absorb 10 times more chemicals from the water in our showers than if we drank that same water.  I installed a New Century Shower Filter with a Bernoulli shower head and am cutting the chlorine and chemicals in our water by 90%.  It was really easy to install (I did it by myself while R2 was at work) and the filter is good for 18 months.  If you take baths or have kiddos you have to bathe, there is a Bath 3000 Filter that you drag through the water to reduce the chlorine.  Both can be found on the Three Branches website or if you Google them they can be purchased from a variety of sources including this link at Amazon.  Without all the chlorine in the water, there is instant relief from dry skin, scalp and eczema.  How's your shower water?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Babies, Bubbles & A Branch Basics Giveaway! (just the cleaner, we're not giving away babies or bubbles :)

     I spent the end of last week at Cedar Creek lake with 4 fabulous friends.  All moms, these girls needed a little break from the Dallas heat, so they brought their kids and we hung out at the lake.  I was a little intimidated.  Being in the classroom all day with 17 eight-year-olds doesn't bother me, but the thought of 9 kids all under the age of 4, that's a little intimidating.  However, all the kids were so well behaved, a true testament to what good moms my friends are.  We played in the pool, iced cookies, and took naps.  We made chemical-free bubbles with Dr. Bronner's Pure Castile Soap soap, a great alternative to conventional bubbles.  It was an especially good alternative when the soap ended up in little mouths.

     It was great to hang out and have some girl time when all the kids went to bed.  As we washed dishes and caught up, we briefly discussed the dishwashing soap.  By the sink was a bottle that boasted being pure & clear.  We talked about whether it was truly pure & clear.  It contained "no unnecessary chemicals" and "no heavy fragrances".  So I investigated this pure & clear soap and this is what I found: sodium laureth sulfate (the second ingredient and therefore the second largest ingredient by quantity), fragrances, dyes, and a short list of other chemicals.  Sodium laureth sulfate is a known carcinogen, and I always stay far away from fragrances as they can be made up of 1,000+ synthetic chemicals.  And as far as the claims of "no unnecessary chemicals" and "no heavy fragrances", what does a multi-billion dollar company consider necessary or unnecessary in the chemical world?  And how do they determine whether the fragrance is heavy or not?
     I only highlight this to show my frustration with the companies who are leading us to believe that their products are healthy and chemical-free.  They are not.  They look healthy, they look natural, they seem to be good, economical alternatives, but they are still full of really dangerous chemicals.  That's why we love Branch Basics cleaner at my house.  You know exactly what you are getting.  The ingredient list is: Purified water, fatty aids, coconut oil, organic alcohol, folic acid, minerals and enzymes derived from edible and seed-bearing plants.  That's it.  No fragrances, no dyes, no sodium laureth sulfates, no other weird chemicals.  And, it cleans EVERYTHING!  For the end of the summer I'm offering 25% off your first purchase so you can try it out and be guaranteed a clean home without the chemicals.  The concentrates are to be diluted with 5 parts water, 1 part concentrate and go a really long way!  Contact me at if you're interested!
       Branch Basics All-Purpose Cleaner
     Pre-diluted ready to use solution

Branch Basics Concentrate


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Yes...2 Years to Celebrate

     Yesterday R2 and I celebrated our 2 year anniversary.  We have been blessed with 2 fun years of marriage and have a lot to be thankful for.  We spent the day yesterday hanging out, painting our house, moving furniture, watching TV, talking, laughing.  What we did was nothing extraordinary, and yet being together made the most ordinary of days special.  It was a perfect day.  We rarely have a day at home to hang out and enjoy each other.  At our house, we don't run, we fly, and we usually fly by the seats of our pants.  We are always travelling, always busy and rarely stay still.  Our plan had been to spend the weekend in Galveston, but somehow being at home seemed to make more sense.  There is a lot that I love about R2.  He makes me a better person, a happier person, a person with purpose.  The list could go on and on, but I'll just share a few of my favorites:

1. You are a man of integrity.
2. You actively care for me.
3. You make me laugh every single day.
4. You are my number one fan.
5. You are honest.
6. You love your family.
7. You enjoy being with my family.
8. You put the concerns of our family above everything else.
9. You know how to make me forget my cares and laugh.
10. You are a hard worker.
11. You are handy.
12. You make everyone feel important and worthwhile.
13. You go out of your way to do things for others.
14. You pick up after our dogs.
15. You love any chance to spend time with me.
16. You trust God.
17. You have great ideas.
18. You care about things how I feel.
19. You love me for who I am.
20. You eat whatever I prepare for dinner although you'd rather be eating a meal from Whataburger.
21. You're trying your best to embrace Meatless Mondays and Fresh Fruit Fridays...

     So what does all this have to do with healthy living?  R2 is the encouragement behind this blog.  Without him, I probably wouldn't have 20 posts and 23 followers.  Not only did he think starting a blog was a good idea, he got in the kitchen and made the first batch of coconut oil deodorant for me.  He has traded in his Windex, a HUGE deal at our house, for chemical-free cleaners, because he knows that living chemical-free is important to me.  He has even dared to try chemical-free deodorant, shaving cream, and toothpaste.  He keeps me going writing about something I am passionate about, sharing what I am learning about cutting toxins.  So thank him when you wake up and have a new post to read about another chemical-free product.  He also created my website:, which is not ready yet, but coming soon!  I almost didn't write this post today at the risk of sounding overly sappy and cliche, but I couldn't write without including the most important piece.  
     And now your little bit of healthy living: Yesterday we spent the morning painting the entry way of our house.  We bought No-VOC paint from Lowes and turned our understated entryway into a glam foyer that I wouldn't mind sitting in all day long! VOC stands for volatile organic compounds, which are chemicals released into the air from certain solids and liquids.  Most paint has VOCs that seriously compromise air quality.  The EPA's website says that these chemicals stay in the air "long after the activity (painting) is completed".  Olympic brand paint has great colors and is good quality paint without the VOCs.  We were happy with the results and felt good about painting without the harmful fumes!  Happy Anniversary, R2, I love you!  And by the way, I'm out of deodorant, could you make more?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Are You Up for the Toothpaste Challenge?

     I hate going to the dentist.  Despite the fact that I've always had a great dentist, I loathe going.  Embarrassingly enough, my current dentist has a note in my chart that says, "Doesn't like getting her teeth cleaned."  At least they know.  However, when I went for my 6 month check-up this summer, I had the most painless teeth cleaning ever.  I think part of it has to do with the fact that they are extra careful with the cleaning, thanks to the nice note, but also because of my switch to a cleaner, healthier toothpaste and mouthwash.
     I tend to jump into things with both feet, so when I started thinking about chemical-free cleaning products I also considered healthier body products including toothpaste.  I Googled homemade toothpaste and read an article of an extreme case of a little girl whose teeth were actually decaying because of the ingredients in conventional tooth paste.  Knowing that children's bodies have a harder time dealing with chemicals than adults, I thought I'd probably be fine with regular toothpaste.  Besides, I have used it all my life.  However,  wanting all of my house and body products to be clean, I looked beyond the article and found a recipe for homemade toothpaste.  The recipe called for baking soda and hydrogen peroxide, both items I had on hand, both inexpensive.  I mixed up a batch and tried it out, but my gums immediately started burning and felt raw for days.  Not quite what I was looking for.  I was going to have to find a more conventional, but at the same time natural toothpaste.

     Off to Whole Foods.  Whole Foods has a wide array of healthy toothpastes.  I grabbed a couple different brands and took them home to try them out.  I even challenged R2 to swap out his regular toothpaste and give one of the healthier ones a try.  The outcome: R1, Weleda salt toothpaste, and R2, Spry toothpaste.  So now I buy both.  For mouthwash, I like using plain old hydrogen peroxide, but I also bought some Spry mouthwash because R2 insists that "conventional" mouthwash is the only guarantee for healthy teeth.  He really likes the Spry mouthwash, although I do think he sneaks in some bright blue Listerine every now and then! 
     Three months into my Weleda and hydrogen peroxide teeth regime, I am at the dentist for my 6 month cleaning, and the cleaning was virtually painless.  They told me that my teeth and gums were healthier than they had ever been.  I hadn't changed my habits, just the products I was using.  That's where the rubber meets the road.  You can argue that conventional toothpastes aren't really that bad, but I have never been told that my gums were really healthy, and I have never had that painless of a teeth cleaning.  I use less than a pea-sized amount of the Weleda toothpaste and the tube lasts about 3 months.  And I got great results.  Hydrogen peroxide is also great for cleaning, whitening, and healing.  Are you up for the challenge?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Rehydrate without the Chemicals

     I tried to make myself sit down and write yesterday, but I think writing my final research paper for my grad school class did me in.  I could not sit down and make myself face the computer again.  I did do a lot of thinking about what I could have written, too bad you can't just make your thoughts appear on a blog :).      
     Yesterday morning my skin and lips were so dry, and I could hardly breathe.  In addition to needing to start off the week with a detox from the weekend festivities in San Diego, I was in desperate need of hydration after the long plane flights.  Since I couldn't breathe, I decided I needed to fix that little problem before rehydrating my skin.  I love love love my Neti pot.  For those of you who don't know about them, they are amazing.  I'm not going to lie, I was really skeptical about pouring warm salt water through my nasal passages initially, but now I don't think I could live without it.  There are several versions available that can be purchased at just about any drug store or health food store.  My favorite is the Neil Med Neti pot.  I use it when I'm feeling a little congested and especially when I'm sick.  I used to get sinus infections almost every year, but the Neti pot has kept any infections from starting.  It  also helps moisturize and alleviates the headaches that often come with sinus issues and dry nasal passages.  I immediately started feeling better after the saline rinse.
     Able to breathe again and sans headache, I could think about my face and lips which were also desperate for moisturizing after spending 6 hours on a plane within 2 days.  I probably should have done all of this moisturizing as preventative steps before and even during the plane flight, but it's sometimes hard to think about that when you're soaking up the last few minutes of California sun!  For my face, I followed my daily baking soda scrub with my Genoma skin care.  The Age Inhibiting Toner comes in a spray bottle and is amazing, I should have used it during my flight to keep my face refreshed.  On hot days when my skin need a little nourishing, I will spray it on top of my makeup for a little pick-me-up.  Did I mention it feels amazing?  I always follow the toner with the Genoma Day Light Face Cream.  It is super moisturizing without feeling greasy and like the toner always leaves my face feeling refreshed.  The Genoma skin care line was developed by Dr. D'Adamo, the brains behind Eat Right For Your Blood Type which I also love.
     My lips were all kinds of dry and cracked.  Not attractive, definitely not comfortable.  For my lips and even for extremely dry skin, I always keep Alba Botanica un-petroleum jelly on hand.  It is made with beeswax, coconut oil, and vitamin E instead of chemical-based petroleum jelly.  I've written before that pure coconut oil is great for moisturizing, but I really like the un-petroleum jelly for my lips.  It instantly heals and protects them while moisturizing the cracks away.  Also, instead of lip gloss, I often use the un-petroleum jelly on top of my lip color for a little shine.  Yesterday though, there was no lip color, no looking pretty.  I just needed straight up moisture.  I finished my detox with my daily vitamins and herbal tea and sat down to finish my research paper.  See, I didn't forget about you yesterday after all, I just needed some time to freshen up.

Friday, July 8, 2011

California, Baby!

I am packed and ready for California!  I am so excited to spend the weekend on the beach with my family, celebrating my cousin's wedding.  I packed all my chemical-free essentials and thought I'd share with you my favorite shampoo and conditioner that I never leave behind.  California Baby shampoo and conditioner are fragrance free and also free of the harsh chemicals in most shampoos and conditioners.  It's a kid's shampoo that also works great on my hair.  Because there is no sodium lauryl sulfate, the shampoo doesn't create big suds, but it definitely makes my hair feel clean.  The bottle is small enough to travel with and doubles as a body wash, which is a major plus.  It's hard to travel with a bar of soap, but I'm not about to use the fragrance and chemical filled soaps they leave out at hotels, tempting as they may be.  So my California Baby shampoo is the perfect solution.  The California Baby conditioner leaves my hair soft and tangle-free and also doubles as my shaving cream.  My legs feel smooth and refreshed from the moisturizing conditioner.  I get shampoo, body wash, conditioner, and shaving cream in two bottles.  Can't beat that when you have a tendency to over pack.  And we're off, to California, Baby!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Healthy Piggie Polish

     In preparation for my cousin's wedding in San Diego this weekend polished piggies are in order!  When I started on my non-toxic voyage I was so bummed to find out about all the harmful toxins in nail polish.  I had a hard time living without nail polish, I love using funky colors and changing them frequently.  However, as I began looking around I came across different nail polish brands that were free of Formaldehyde, Toluene and DBP, three cancer-causing chemicals found in most nail polishes.  Zoya nail polish is my standby which can easily be found at Whole Foods and is fairly inexpensive.  Recently however I came across Butter brand nail polish and decided to treat myself!
     I started with a warm foot bath of water and a few drops of tea tree oil.  The tea tree oil is my favorite part of a cleansing and refreshing pedicure.  After getting my feet in order (I'll spare you the details), I applied Melt Away, a cuticle eliminator by Butter.  Melt Away is one of my very favorite nail products because you brush it on cuticles, wait 2 minutes, push back cuticles, and then wipe your cuticles away.  It really does "melt away" cuticles.  Then I applied my new Teddy Girl nail polish and I'm ready for a wedding weekend on the beach!  How do you keep your piggies polished?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

What's Your Signature Scent?

     Who doesn't love fresh smelling soaps and lotions?  Magazines occasionally have personality profiles for the scents we choose.  Our signature scent.  They define us.  We smell good, we feel good.  We slather our bodies with a wonderful smelling lotion or soap thinking we are enlivening our bodies, but all those perfumed soaps and lotions are actually causing more damage than good.  Manufacturers can simply put the ingredient fragrance on the back of any bottle without having to disclose the list of chemicals they use to create that perfumed scent.  "These ingredients include a wide range of allergens. They also include synthetic musks, particularly tonalide and galaxolide, designed to mimic natural scents derived from musk deer and ox. They are persistent and bioaccumulate in the body, have toxic hormonal effects, and have been identified in breast milk" (Epstein, 2010).

     Because of the dangers in fragrances, I have stopped using perfume and changed the soap and lotion I use.  Aveeno makes a really refreshing fragrance free soap and lotion that is made with natural colloidal oatmeal and is recommended for dry skin.  It makes me feel fresh and clean without the toxic load that perfumed soaps and lotions have.  I don't miss my perfume or my scented soaps and lotions.  My new signature scent is now clean, healthy, and natural with a little bit of coconut oil, of course!  Is your signature scent good for your body?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Mosquito Combat on the 4th of July

     The Fourth of July makes me want to be outside, afternoon until nightfall, enjoying friends, fresh fruit and fireworks.  My absolute favorite part of today is dusk, when the sun is setting and the air has cooled (to a mild 92 degrees), and the anticipation of fireworks is building.  However in Houston, in my backyard, being outside is not possible, thanks to the Super Mosquitos.  These Super Mosquitos survive all year long, but are especially bad in the summer.  They are outside, they are inside, they are even in my car when I get in to run an errand in the morning.  Houston Super Mosquitos are everywhere. 
     This summer I determined to be ahead of the game and ready for the Super Mosquitos before they could strike.  My plan of attack was to use only natural products.  As much as I don't want to be covered with mosquito bites, I have an even greater aversion to slathering my body with chemicals.  Chemicals that add to the toxic load on my liver and kidneys, chemicals that aren't safe in my bloodstream.  R2 and I set off at the beginning of the summer in search for citronella plants.  We had been told that they were  effective mosquito repellents and fit the bill for something natural and chemical free.  We left the plants in pots so that they could be moved around as needed.  I also bought some Bert's Bees bug spray that is made from 9 different natural oils that supposedly ward off insects, mosquitos included. 

     With all my combat gear, I set out earlier this weekend to get our backyard ready for tonight. I slathered a bottle of my All Natural Herbal Insect Repellent all over my arms, legs, neck, wrists and ankles and got to work outside pulling weeds.  I stood outside for all of five minutes and looked down to legs covered in mosquitos.  Combat began.  I moved closer to the citronella plants and even rubbed some of the leaves on my skin.  The mosquitos kept swarming and kept stinging.  I killed about 7 of them with my bare hands before I  threw in the towel and went inside.  Yard unfinished, me not happy about the mosquito combat: Mosquitos 20, Me 7.  I was covered with mosquito bites.  The natural repellent had obviously not done its job, nor had the citronella plant.  The mosquitos swarmed like I was covered in sweet nectar. 
     I'm not giving up on my search for a natural mosquito repellent, but I'm not going outside this evening either.  A few streets down our friends have bats in their backyard and haven't been tormented by mosquitos at all this summer.  Bat houses cost $20-$30 online.  I'm getting desperate.  The mosquitos might carry me away before the fireworks even start.  Do you have any natural solutions for surviving the Super Mosquitos?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

How clean are your clothes really.....

     I love freshly washed clothes.  I especially love freshly washed towels, still warm from the dryer.  I would even wash my sheets every single day just for that crisp clean feel if I didn't so loathe changing them.  But is clean really clean?  Just because a product promises to get the stain out and is full of the freshest of fresh fragrances does not mean your favorite tshirt is clean.  My favorite tshirt is white, plain and comfortable as long as she is washed correctly.  You see we've had a long journey, me and my favorite white tshirt.  It started the day I introduced her to Tide.  She'd gotten a little grungy along the day and what better way than a rinse with Tide to get her sparkling clean.  Off she went with the white towels and white socks into the washing machine.  A wash and rinse cycle later, she was back in business.  However, the minute I put my shirt on, my body was a walking allergic reaction.  The culprit: Tide.

     From then on I have tried everything from baby detergent to various detergents that claim to be free and clear.  As I learned more and more about all the harsh chemicals and hormone disruptors in laundry detergent, it became more and more obvious why I wasn't able to tolerate so many detergents.  I even found one brand at Whole Foods that came in a recycled container and promised to be free of dyes and fragrances.  And yet, when I got home and opened the back of the container (they have sneakily written all the ingredients inside a flap that you have to open...looks a little creepy doing that at the grocery store), sodium lauryl sulfate (a cancer-causing chemical) was one of the first ingredients.  Plus, I have learned that free and clear frequently means that the manufacturers use more chemicals to cover up the fragrances and colors in their detergents.  Makes you think twice about that detergent with the baby on the bottle, doesn't it?  I recently found NaturOli products online which uses soapnuts and a couple other natural products to clean, but I haven't tried it.  For now I am just using 1 to 2 Tablespoons of Branch Basics to clean my clothes, but constantly on the search for a truly clean detergent.  Is your favorite tshirt really clean?

Monday, June 27, 2011

How to make healthy changes that even your husband can live with

This weekend I sat down with a friend from high school and helped her pick some chemical-free products she could use for cleaning her house.  We discussed how much more damage chemicals cause to our bodies than most people even realize.  We talked about alternatives for the chemical-laden products she was currently using.  And we both lamented how crazy our husbands thought we were for essentially throwing out every household product they were familiar with and replacing them with cleaning solutions with labels like plant-based, chemical-free, toxic-free, made with essential oils that covered the outside of these unfamiliar containers.  So if you are like me and are interested in changing to a healthier life-style that is free of chemicals, here's my 10 step program for getting your significant other to think you're not so crazy and get on board:

1.  Discuss why you are wanting to make these changes, it's only fair you let him know what's about to take place, but tell him you won't get rid of any of "his" stuff.
2. Instead of throwing all of your chemical-laden products in the trash, put them in a box and take them out to the garage where they can be accessed in the case of a cleaning emergency "that only Windex can fix".
3. In the event of said emergency, hand him your bottle of chemical-free, plant-based cleaner [Branch Basics].
4. When your husband repeats the request for Windex, again nicely hand him your bottle of chemical-free, plant-based cleaner [Branch Basics].
5. When your husband asks for the Windex in a panicked voice, kindly suggest that he at least give your bottle a try [Branch Basics] (in extreme cases offer to go out to the garage and get the Windex even though it is pouring down rain and 11:00 at night).
6. Take a deep breath and remind yourself "small steps, small steps" when he takes a swig of Listerine after every use of the healthy mouth-wash you just bought [Spry Oral Rinse] and says, "I'm trying your stuff, but the blue Listerine is really the only thing that protects my teeth."
7. Buy a soap bottle with a pump that is just for him (full of your favorite Sodium Lauryl Sulfate-Free soap) to keep at the sink.  Unless you're really good, it's probably a good idea at this point to abandon the idea that your multi-purpose Branch Basics cleaner can double as his hand soap.
8.  Buy natural and chemical-free deodorant [Tom's of Maine] and shaving cream and leave it next to the sink where his Old Spice deodorant and Gillette shaving cream always sit.  Make his old staples a little harder to find.  When he asks for help finding them, suggest that he just try the new stuff while you look around and try to figure out what happened to his "good stuff".
9.  Fill his Pantene Pro-V Shampoo bottle with Sodium Lauryl Sulfate-free shampoo [California Baby fragrance-free Shampoo].  Ok, so I haven't actually done this, but it's a good idea, isn't it?
10. Be thankful for the small changes he is making and be patient.  When he realizes how important all this is to you, he'll start accepting the change.  Before you know it, he will be making your coconut-oil deodorant for you!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Makeup on, Makeup off

     At the end of the day it always feels so good to take my makeup off and wash my face.  New, chemical-free palette of makeup in hand, I determined to find an equally suitable makeup remover.  As soon as my Neimans-quality makeup remover ran out, I ran over to Whole Foods to search out the next best alternative.  I came across a 2 ounce bottle of remover made with herbal oils that promised to wipe makeup away.  I put a small drop of the herbal oil concoction on a cotton ball and rubbed the greasy stuff on my eyes.  The makeup was somewhat off my eyelids and very much under my eyes.  Not quite the effect I was going for.  My next idea was to use the Alba brand Un-petroleum I had recently bought for chapped lips as a makeup remover.  I wiped a little under my eyes and then used a cotton ball to remove my makeup.  The Un-petroleum worked much better than the herbal oils, but it was really think and just not quite what I was looking for. 
      Then I found the makeup remover of all makeup removers!  I was was looking through natural products on Passionate Homemaking, a blog with great ideas for natural products, and found the perfect solution, coconut oil.  I have a tub of coconut oil on hand at all times for making deodorant, so I dabbed some under my eyes, wiped it away with a cotton ball, and voila!  All makeup was gone, I was left with no thick, oily residue, and my skin felt clean and refreshed.  I scooped some into a small jar that I can keep in my bathroom and use a little bit every night before I wash my face.  The greatest thing about it is I now have two uses for my coconut oil.  As an added bonus, the delicate skin around my eyes feels rejuvenated even before I get a little shut-eye!
     Last night before I went to bed, I decided to look around on the Internet a bit to see what reasons people gave for removing makeup at night.  Most of the websites I found stated that the chemicals in makeup are especially harmful to the skin if left on over night.  Others cited that our skin needs time to breathe and regenerate while we sleep.  The bacteria in makeup was also suggested as the cause of infections if makeup is left on.  People obviously know that makeup is full of harmful chemicals, chemicals that they apparently think will only do damage if left on the skin overnight.  I'm just glad that I now know how harmful the chemicals in makeup really are.  And, it's probably important to remove makeup at the end of the day no matter how healthy it is.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder...

     Today is the first time we've gotten rain in Houston in I don't know how long.  You'd think I would be happy to finally get a reprieve from the hot summer weather (it was only 70 this morning!) and some nice rain for my dying flowers, but the grey clounds and slow rain have made me quite the Grouchy Ladybug today.  So I decided to write about something that makes me happy: makeup!

     I love makeup.  I love the way it looks.  I love buying it.  I love opening all the pretty little boxes that it comes in.  I love running out of my favorite products, just so I can experience that new makeup feeling all over again.  My grandmother used to take my cousins and me to the downtown Neimans in Dallas at Christmastime.  We would get makeovers and then she would buy us whatever we thought we "needed".  I loved choosing the new makeup, and I especially enjoyed the special time with my grandmother and three cousins.
     However, as I began to realize that makeup products are among the most toxic we put on our bodies, I began to develop a different perspective of that makeup I once loved.  Don't get me wrong, I still love getting new makeup and finding new colors, but I've become much more selective of the products I choose.  Mascara for one, is a highly toxic product, and yet we apply it on the very hairs that are supposed to be protecting our eyes!  EWG's Skin Deep Cosmetics Database is a great resource for finding out just how toxic makeup is.
     As always, there has been a silver lining to my black cloud of realization that makeup is harmful.  I have found some cosmetics that are chemical-free and still hold up as well, if not better than the expensive brands I used to buy at Neimans.  I was worried that I would be paying more for chemical-free or mineral-based makeup, but the truth is that it is actually less expensive.  My first step towards healthy makeup was mascara because that was the most toxic product I was using.  Three Branches Health suggests ZuZu brand mascara which can be found at Whole Foods.  While the brush isn't exactly the best, the mascara does work well.  Plus, my eyes no longer get red and irritated when I apply mascara (direct evidence that the mascara I was using before was not good for my body). 
     The next step was finding the rest of my eye makeup products in an affordable, healthy version.  Thanks to One Green Street, one of my favorite spots for clean products, and Sari Motley, a fabulous Houston makeup artist who uses only the best chemical-free makeup, I was able to still enjoy the experience of buying and using makeup, but this time it was healthy!  Sari Motley's website offers so many great products that are clean as well as beautiful.  I now have restocked my beauty arsenal and am loving the results.  How well does your makeup rate?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer is Here!

     Today marks the official start of summer although it has felt like summer for about a month now.  In celebration of summer's official start and considering that today is the longest day of the year, I thought it appropriate to talk about my favorite sunscreen.  According to the Environmental Working Group, a group of scientists, lawyers and policy makers who work to investigate the health effects of a multitude of products we use, sunscreens contain chemicals that often do more harm than good to our bodies.  EWG's website has a ton of great information and a database that shows the toxicity of personal products.  I found the following information on their website,

     "The most common ingredients in non-mineral sunscreens are oxybenzone, octisalate, octinoxate, and avobenzone found in 65, 58, 57, and 56 percent of all non-mineral sunscreens on the market, respectively" (EWG Sunscreens).

And a little more information about kids:

  • “It is evident that [oxybenzone] undergoes conjugation in the body to make it water soluble. However, we do not know at what age the ability to conjugate is fully developed, and therefore for children physical filters such as titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide might still be considered a more appropriate sunscreen component.” — Gonzalez HG, Farbrot A, Larko O. 2002. Percutaneous absorption of benzophenone-3, a common component of topical sunscreens. Clinical and Experimental Dermatology 27(8): 691-94.

  •      Research is still being done, but there is enough evidence out there for me to switch to a healthier sunscreen.  I have tried a few different "healthier" sunscreens and really like Aubrey Organics the best.  I tested it out in Belize and loved it!  Some of the other brands I had tried were really thick and difficult to apply.  The Aubrey Organics sunscreen went on easily and I didn't burn at all on our trip!  Also, I assumed that I would go through the whole bottle during the week because we tend to apply sunscreen a little generously, but I'm still using the same bottle and have plenty left. 
         They also make a face sunscreen which I apply on top of my moisturizer every day so that my face is always protected.  It's not too greasy or too thick and really protects my face from the sun's damage.  Happy Summer!  Go out and enjoy the long day of sunshine, but be sure to protect your skin.

    Monday, June 20, 2011

    Healthy Eating

         I hope everyone had the opportunity to celebrate their fathers this past weekend!  We enjoyed our weekend in Dallas with friends and family, and celebrated father's day with my dad at the farm.  It was a little hot, but nice to be out in the fresh air and summershine!

         I keep trying to encourage my mom to set up an organic garden at the farm, and we've (or really SHE) has been reading up on different ways to get a garden started.  What we eat is a huge part of living chemically-free.  And while I'd like to say that washing my face with baking soda is the sole reason my skin looks healthy, what I eat also directly contributes to healthy skin.  The pesticides, antibiotics and hormones that are added to our food cause a myriad of problems that show up in our body, on our skin, and affect our quality of life.

         "You are what you eat! We hear that so often; yet don't consider what that truly means. What we eat determines what kind of life we will have. This process starts from where we buy it at the supermarket or the grocery, how we prepare it, and how it is cooked. Also, some other aspects to be considered are when we eat, how much, and how often.
         Studies have shown that buying organic foods and eating it can be beneficial to living health lives. For couples, it is very important to consider the possibility of having a child. Eating food that lacks the right amount of vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients may impede the child's growth development.
         For a few years now, scientists and other experts in the field of health have been carefully monitoring non-organic foods and its affect on people’s health.
         To their shock, they discovered that the fertilizers and chemicals used to help the crops grow are more harmful than good. Tests have shown that increased amounts of these substances, when entering the human body, can lead to diseases." (courtesy of Organic Food Corner

         In an effort to start eating more healthy with less chemicals ON A BUDGET, I recently found an amazing produce co-op in Houston called Rawfully Organic.  Every other week I go down to the Houston Arboretum and get a half-share of produce for $47.  All of the fruits and vegetables are organic and seasonal.  We have loved eating fresh produce without the chemicals and my wallet has really gotten a break.  Not to mention, deciding what to prepare for dinner has become so easy because I plan around what I have.

         Local Harvest is a great resource for finding co-ops wherever you are.  My best advice is to try to find one that is convenient to get to and also does not charge a membership fee.  At Rawfully Organic, I can order a share whenever I want, and because there is no membership fee I don’t feel bad if we have to skip a week because we are out of town.  We continually get a bounty of healthy, fresh produce that is nourishing and satisfying.  What are you doing to eat healthy?

    Friday, June 17, 2011

    Finding Healthy Deoderant Can be the Pits!

         Wow!  I'm not sure how the day got away from me, but here I am at the end of the day, sitting down to write for the first.  As I ran around town in the Houston heat, I thought about how thankful I was to have finally found a good-smelling, natural deodorant that works for me.  Neither of my younger brothers wear deodorant and they haven't for a few years, but until recently I didn't know just how smart they were! And while I'm not sure I could really go without anything to deodorize, I am all for finding healthy, natural alternatives to commercial deodorant.  Our bodies get rid of toxins through sweat, so blocking that process with cancer-causing chemicals doesn't seem right.  However, the search for finding a chemical-free deodorant that I can live with has been tough.  For lack of better words, let's just say it has been the pits!

         I have tried 5 different ways to mask my scent, a long and often expensive process.  My first attempt at a deodorant alternative was Tom's of Maine brand deodorant.  Tom's is natural and free of chemicals, but at the end of the day, I felt like I really didn't smell that great.  I would continually ask friends (really good friends) at work if I smelled bad and they always said no.  They could have been lying though because I really didn't like the odor.  R2 is always quick to give me his honest opinion, so I asked him what he thought and he agreed with my friends, I didn't stink.  I however wasn't happy with the smell and kept looking.  Attempt #2 was in the same aisle as Tom's at Whole Foods in the form of a Thai crystal stick.  The directions said to wet the stone and apply.  Easy enough.  However, the directions also said not to apply to broken skin.  Shaving and the Thai crystal were not friends which either meant I had to give up shaving or find something else.  You'll be happy to know that I didn't give up shaving my arm pits, but instead continued my search. 

         Attempt #3 was a little more extreme.   I talked to a friend who said lemon juice was great because it kills the bacteria that causes the odor.  I sliced up a fresh lemon and applied it directly to my underarms.  It smelled fresh, but I spent the next 10 minutes picking pulp out of my armpits.  During the week I need to be able to get out the door quickly, so this wasn't going to work.  Instead of abandoning my lemons, I decided to make a small spray bottle of lemon juice.  With anticipation I collected the juice of two lemons in my spray bottle and started using that as deodorant every day.  Again, I asked my very good friends as well as R2 what they thought about the smell, my smell, and everyone said they couldn't smell anything.  Odor reducing powers, check!  However, as the week wore on, I began to notice that my underarms were really sticky, my armpits stung like crazy after I had shaved, and the fresh lemon juice went bad really quickly.  Admittedly, I may have been a little over zealous in squeezing two lemons at a time for my spray bottle.  Ultimately I decided that I needed to keep looking.

         Attempt #4.  I have to say, trying new concoctions of natural products is somewhat addicting to me.  I sat down and googled how to make natural deodorant.  I filtered through various search results until I came to a blog called Passionate Homemaking that had a recipe for natural deodorant.  R2 didn't jump on the chemical-free bandwagonbeen quite as quickly as I, but he got right in the middle of making a batch of coconut oil deodorant. 

    6-8 Tbsp Coconut oil (solid state)
    1/4 cup baking soda
    1/4 cup arrowroot powder or cornstarch (arrowroot is preferred)

    I used cornstarch instead of arrowroot, because that's what I had on hand, and bought pure, extra-virgin organic coconut oil from the grocery store.  We mixed everything up and put it in a little container.  I dipped my fingers in, applied it to my underarms, and voila!  This deodorant smells amazing.  I was so happy with our new recipe and tested it out over the next week. 
         This mixture was absolutely painless when applied to recently shaved underarms, smelled good all day long, and was really cheap.  I did note that coconut oil melts at 76 degrees so that "dry" feeling isn't really there, but over time I have gotten used to not using an anti-perspirant.  I thought I had found my match until I traveled with it to Belize for a friend's wedding.  I had thankfully put my little tub of deodorant in a plastic baggie, because when we arrived at the hotel, some of the liquid mixture had leaked.  In no time though, it was back to its solid state and on my armpits.  I was happy, until the night of the wedding.  I put on my coconut oil deodorant, noting how tropical I smelled, and put on the apple green chiffon dress.  I didn't think about my deodorant again until right before we walked down the aisle on the beach.  I looked down and realized that I had small stains on my dress.  Awesome.  Just in time for pictures.  The stains were partly from the coconut oil, and partly from me.  I vowed to keep looking and use a better alternative the next time I had to put on a fancy party dress.

         Said Belizian experience led me to natural deodorant attempt #5.  One Green Street is one of my favorite spots in Houston for organic and natural products.  Sherry has truly put her heart and soul into offering amazing products that are healthy and safe.  One afternoon I noticed she had a new deodorant, organic, natural, eco-friendly that I decided to try.  It promised a dreamy creamsicle scent and looked fun!  The packaging was intriguing and had funny one-liners on it.  I was sold.  My week of trials began.  By this point I had stopped asking R2 and friends how they thought I smelled.  If you can't tell already, I'm pretty sensitive to smells.  I wasn't particularly fond of the creamsicle, and my days ended smelling like the Tom's deodorant, not bad exactly, but not great.  Not to mention, the price tag on that little stick of deodorant didn't compare to the economical coconut oil deodorant.

         So my deodorant of choice after all those weeks of trying, coconut oil.  It may not keep me as dry as some of the other options, but it smells great all day long.  Aside from my experience in Belize, I haven't experienced any notable stains or problems with it.  Traveling with it becomes an issue when it is hot outside, but I just make sure the tub is well-sealed and in a plastic baggie.  I'll call in for back-up the next time I put on my party pants, but for now, I love my fresh coconut scent!

    Thursday, June 16, 2011

    Looking for a Non-Toxic Cleaning Solution?: Cleaning Up the Way You Clean

    I'm excited to share with you my favorite Non-Toxic, Multi-Purpose cleaning solution: Branch Basics.

         Everyone wants a clean house, but how clean is your house really?  A lot of what we typically use to clean our houses is actually contaminating more than cleaning.  Even products that claim to be "free and clear" are often filled with chemicals the manufacturers have tried to hide.  Most cleaning products are full of dyes, fragrances, and synthetic chemicals that weigh down our immune system and mimic our hormones, often causing a host of side effects and problems that you would never suspect from your "cleaning" products.  My mantra is to "give those chemicals a rest and let your body relax" by considering a lifestyle free of harmful toxins.  I have personally seen the effects of change as I have switched over to non-toxic cleaners and am so excited to share this with you!

         Branch Basics is a plant-based, non-toxic and chemical free cleaner that you can use for EVERYTHING!  I literally hauled all of our cleaning products out of the house and replaced it with this one bottle.  I use it to clean dishes, counters, windows, mirrors.  Toilets, showers, tubs, tile floors, hardwood floors.  For laundry, to remove stains, for just about everything.  Branch Basics kills bacteria, ecoli and a host of other germs that you don't want lurking in your clean home and is human safe.  While I wouldn't recommend sitting down and drinking a cup of it, Branch Basics is absolutely not harmful if swallowed (a huge perk for those of you with curious kiddos at home). 

         The best part about it is, I'll bring it to you!  Let me know what you want and I'll get it to you.  I have a pre-mixed multi-purpose cleaner as well as bottles of the concentrate.  I'm more than happy to answer any questions you might have or help you clean up the way you clean your home.  The most important thing to remember is that you don't have to do it all at once, although you certainly can!  I'm also in the process of putting together a "Starter Kit" for those of you who need some help getting started.  You can email me at if you have any questions or want to order Branch Basics.  I use Branch Basics to clean my home and have experienced amazing results.  I'm passionate about living chemically-free and am excited to help you get started too!  Happy Cleaning!
           Branch Basics All-Purpose Cleaner
         Pre-diluted ready to use solution
    Branch Basics Concentrate


    Wednesday, June 15, 2011

    Saving Face

         First, I have to say that I am SO EXCITED to have followers already!  There may just be 5 of you, but it's a dedicated 5 of you, and what can I say, I'M EXCITED.  In determining what to share with you today, I think it's only fair to start with the face.  That is of course how this whole thing got started.  One super star friend pays me a compliment about how good my face looks (that'll make any girl's day), and I'm off!  I'm not sure if that means that I'm extremely vain or not, but it definitely gave me the impetus to start writing about something that I am extremely passionate about.

         Everybody wants to have a pretty face.  The beauty industry pushes and promises that with their products years will be taken off your face, and that they have the secrets to a smooth, clear complexion.  What they don't tell you is that the chemicals in their products do more harm than good.  The long-term effects of those chemicals can be so severe no matter how enticing the "quick fix" is.  I don't care how young and beautiful they can make me look, I'm not buying it.  As I began seeking out clean alternatives, I came across a secrent little agent in a little orange box.  Yes, I'm talking about the little orange box that sits in your refrigerator and deoderizes everything.  The little orange box with the manly looking arm and hammer.  Baking soda.  Baking soda is made from a naturally ocurring mineral called soda ash.  It is a great neutralizer, mild exfoliator, and gentle cleanser.  It is apprently used at the end of many facial treatments to balance the pH of the skin.  In addition to all that, it is super cheap and can easily be found at any grocery store.

         I bought a box to keep in my bathroom and let the baking soda do its thing.  Twice a day I pour a little baking soda into my hand and mix it with water until it has a paste-like consistency.  I massage it all over my face and neck and voila, beautiful skin!  Any blemishes I had disappeared almost instantly when I started using baking soda.  And let's be honest, I still get the occasional break-out (I'm sure the harsh Houston climate is to blame), but nothing cleans and balances my face like baking soda.  It's also great to use on your back and chest if you have any problem areas there.  Baking soda has a multitude of uses, which I'll save for another day, but I'm especially happy with how effective it has been on my face.  It gently exfoliates without drying out my skin, and what really makes my husband  me happy is that it is so inexpensive!

         This summer we have been travelling a lot and I have constantly been experimenting with the best travel-friendly container.  So far I have found a little plastic tub with a tight-fitting lid works best.  How do you travel with your new favorite face wash?

    Tuesday, June 14, 2011

    I'm a Believer

         I'm no hippie.  The contents of my cabinets might lead you to think differently.  My family might argue that I am.  I make my own deodorant and carry around baking soda for face wash.  My husband definitely got worried that I was.  I hauled all of our household cleaners out of the house.  I'm not unconventional, I'm just trying to live without all the unwanted chemicals that sneak into everyday life.  I'm a believer that it works, and I'll tell you why. 

         Most of the credit for my changes goes to Allison Evans at Three Branches Healthy Living.  A friend of a friend, she did a workshop at DEFINE, one of my favorite Houston spots, that really got me thinking about how harmful the chemicals in "every day household products" are.  As I began replacing the chemicals with plant-based, natural solutions, my body immediately began to feel the cleansing effects.  For the last few years I've experienced throbbing pain in my neck and shoulder that often kept me awake at night or required repeated doses of Advil.  Chemicals gone, problem solved.  I have not once experienced that pain since I made the switch.  I have also suffered from hives as a result of chemicals in laundry detergents and had irritated eyes from makeup.  Again, I have not experienced any issues since I changed to a healthier detergent and started buying more naturally made makeup.  Convincing my husband had probably been the greatest challenge, but as I have started to feel better and we have made more and more changes, he's jumped on the bandwagon too!

         Since March I have been slowly but surely replacing every item in our house that contains contaminates, from cleaning supplies to personal products and everything in between.  I have tried and tested what works best for us with a little guidance and support from all the chemical-free resources in Houston.  The task can definitely be overwhelming at times as well as expensive, but my goal is to provide my readers with a small database of what has worked best for me.  No matter what city you're in, you can find ideas, suggestions, support, and research here.  And who knows, you might just evolve into an "illegitimate hippie" like me!  When you do, be sure to send me your ideas and findings as I am constantly trying new things, looking for better and safer alternatives.  I'll start sharing my favorite alternatives soon so you can get ideas for creating a healthier home.