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?