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Can Natural Living Become an Idol?

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This post is the finale of our TOP 10 CELEBRATION here at Passionate Homemaking. This post received the most general comments over the last 5 years then any other post on the blog, so I thought it fitting to republish this article for you all.
Originally published on January 21, 2010.

Please note: I want to express my heart from the outset of this post to assure my readers that these are musings that the Lord has been working in my heart lately, and I felt compelled to share them with you. I in no way desire to condemn anyone, but my motivation in sharing is to challenge us all to guard our hearts in this matter.

I recently encountered two stories that have challenged me in the motivation and out workings of my pursuit of natural living. The first account began with a friend desiring to throw a baby shower for an expectant mother in her church. This friend was expecting her first little one. The hostess simply wanted to bless and encourage this new mother in her pursuit. When she asked for gift ideas, the new mother stated that she only wanted organic baby clothing, wooden natural toys, organic cloth diapers, and the like. Half of the guests could not afford these products. One lady missed the memo and came with a few plastic toys.

How do you think this made her hostess and guests feel?

The second account took place when I heard a couple share that they had not been tithing for several months and wanted to begin again. They had not been able to afford it. I knew that this family ate all organic and natural foods. This appeared like it could not be sacrificed.

What is more important?

I have had conversations with friends or family members on various occasions when I tried to persuade them of the health consequences or benefits of a certain product. What has resulted? Relationships have been hurt. I have left others feeling condemned or inadequate. Or at a shared meal gathering, when another mom instructs her son not to eat that food item because “it’s not food”, relationships are damaged because we exalt food over fellowship.

Do I consider myself superior to others because we have adopted a more natural lifestyle?

In the past I have skimped on hospitality because I did not want to spend the money to buy good quality food for my guests or when bringing a meal to another. I made the excuse that I couldn’t afford it. In all honesty, I wanted to keep the best of our budget for my family. This is not true generosity. True generosity takes place when I joyfully give the best that I can following the Scriptural command to do unto others as you would have them do to you (Matt. 7:12).

Where is my heart?

The apostle John’s last words in 1 John are, “Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts (1 John 5:21).” These last words are significant…He wants them to be remembered.

How often do I turn a good thing into a god thing?

As Tim Keller states in Counterfeit Gods, “Most people know you can make a god out of money. Most people know you can make a god out of sex. However, anything in life can serve as an idol, a God-alternative, a counterfeit god…What is an idol? It is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give.”

Natural living can become an idol when we willingly give our emotional and financial resources to achieve it.
Natural living can become an idol when we think that it can give us significance, security, safety and fulfillment.
Natural living can become an idol when we hoard the benefits and not freely offer it to others.

What is my motivation for eating healthy and living naturally? Because I have desired to be a good steward of creation and for the health and wholeness of our family.

Can preserving the safety of my family become an idol in my life? Yes!

When I give my money first towards the purchase of good healthy food prior to giving it back to the Lord in my worship of tithe, natural living has gone too far. When I am more concerned about the safety of my family to the extent that I sacrifice relationships, the service of my brothers and sisters, than natural living has become an idol.

Eating healthy will not guarantee my family a more peaceful longer life. It will not add a single day to my life than God has already determined. Only God knows the number of my days. (Psalms 139:16) He calls me to be faithful to care for my physical body, and this includes being wise in what I put into my body, knowing that it will affect my ability to serve the Lord; but when I raise that to a god-level, it is no longer a good thing. My security must only be found in Christ. He controls my family’s health and wellness.

Eating healthy and living naturally does not make me any more honorable in God’s eyes than any other. We are all in equal standing before Him.

Our first fruit of income should always go to tithe and not food. (Lev. 23:10; Numbers 28:26). Where your money is, there your heart will be also. (Matt. 6:19-21) If I put more money towards my health and wholeness before God and giving unto others, than that is where my treasure lies. It will burn up at the end.

Unity in the body is more important than the safety of our family. (Rom. 14:1-3; Psalms 133)

God calls me to be generous, not to hoard the good stuff for myself. Am I only concerned about my health and not the well-being of my friends, family, and fellow brothers and sisters in Christ? God loves a cheerful giver. I am challenged to serve the best to my guests as I possibly can. The more you give the less hold it has on your heart. (2 Cor. 8:9)

I have seen and confess to these evidences of idolatry in my heart. Am I implying that organic food, clothing, or wooden toys are bad? In no way. It is a matter of the heart. What is my motivation? Is that a God-glorifying motivation? My challenge to you all…let’s not raise being a good steward to a god position. Let’s not make others feel guilty, discouraged, or overwhelmed because they cannot afford the natural lifestyle or only in part. It’s about relationships. Let’s keep God first, love one another, and pursue giving generously to one another as we are able. Jesus commanded in Luke 10:27 states, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” I hope you understand my heart in communicating this message. There is no condemnation here. This is just a challenge to go further up and further in in our pursuit of Christ Jesus with me.

“Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. For instance, one person believes it’s all right to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables. Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who don’t. And those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them.” - Romans 14:1-3

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Homemade All-Natural Deodorant

This is the top homemade recipe posts that I shared here on Passionate Homemaking in the very beginning that has been passed around the internet in incalculable ways, so I thought it was fit to re-share it with you all in our top 10 celebration! Did you get a chance to try it? Our family continues to use this recipe to this day.

Republished from March 21, 2008. Updated to include FAQ’s, photo, and video tutorial.

Did you know that nearly all commercial deodorants contain aluminum salts, usually aluminum chlorohydrate? Manufacturers like aluminum because it effectively suppresses perspiration but the metal has a dark side once it makes its way into our body. Aluminum toxicity It has been linked to cancer, Alzheimer’s Disease, and other health issues. It is especially important for women to take thought to the harmful aluminum materials in deodorant as it has been linked to breast cancer, being that the breast tissue extends up into the armpits.

Most commercial deodorants also contain parabens, which act as preservatives and stabilizers, but which like aluminum can be absorbed into the skin. Parabens mimic estrogen, and though the amounts we absorb on a daily basis might be small, over time, the accumulation can be significant.

Did you know you can make your own wonderful effective deodorant with just a few completely natural ingredients? This recipe is awesome! It’s even edible! It is frugal and very effective! Aaron & I have been using it for over two years now, and it has worked wonders. It smells wonderful, but very faint. For years I tried every natural alternative on the market without much success. It has been successfully tried by hundreds of readers! Coconut oil is an all natural oil that has wonderful anti-bacterial and immune boosting qualities. It can effectively nourish and moisturize the skin. This recipe is also very frugal, costing less than a dollar per batch.

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

  1. Combine equal portions of baking soda & arrowroot powder/cornstarch.
  2. Slowly add coconut oil and work it in with a spoon or hand blender until it maintains a firm but pliable texture. It should be about the same texture as commercial deodorant, solid but able to be applied easily. If it is too wet, add further arrowroot powder/cornstarch to thicken.
  3. You can either scoop this recipe into your old deodorant dispensers or place in a small container with lid and apply with fingers with each use. Makes about 1 cup. This recipe lasts about 3 months for two people with regular daily use.

For a picture tutorial placing this recipe in an old deodorant container, visit here.

UPDATE (5/17/12): Today I tried using a immersion hand blender to make the deodorant, and it worked surprisingly well. It took maybe 10 seconds to combine the ingredients without a mess or heating and melting the ingredients too much, which is the main concern when using a electric mixing alternative. If it becomes too liquidy, it is difficult to apply, so limit your mixing to no more than 5-10 seconds for best results. It firmed right up when I let it sit for a bit in the storage container. Great option to simplify the process! 

Check out my video tutorial for a visual guide through this recipe. Excuse my nervousness….yes, this is the first time I have gotten behind the camera for this site!

Frequently Asked Questions

Since the original publication of this post, I have received numerous repeated questions. I have compiled them all here.

1. I am having issues with an itchy rash under my armpits. Any solutions?

Baking soda can be an irritant for some people. Sometimes this may be a detoxing method of the body to remove impurities in your skin from previous standard deodorants. If you wait it out a few weeks, it may disappear altogether, as it happened with me. If not, try decreasing the baking soda by 1 Tbsp and replacing with more cornstarch/arrowroot powder. Itchiness can also often be related to applying this too soon after shaving. Wait an hour or two after shaving to apply. Add 1/4 cup shea butter or cocoa butter to the recipe for its healing benefits is another alternative. You also can try using arrowroot powder as it is more natural on the skin or make sure to choose a talc-free cornstarch. The final option is to apply a thin layer of aloe vera gel/juice to your skin for its healing benefits before applying the deodorant. It will help cool, refresh, and prevent irritations to the skin.

2. Can you use any other oils for this recipe?

It is possible to use other oils on this recipe, such as sweet apricot oil, but we do not recommend other oils simply because they are not as effective as coconut oil with its anti-bacterial benefits. Apricot or olive oil also remain liquid in form, and thus make this messy to apply. Coconut oil remains solid under 76 degrees, so it is perfect for deodorant. You can use palm oil as it is another natural oil that is solid at room temperature, but again not as effective as coconut oil.

3. Will this deodorant stain my clothes?

Not likely or not any more than a standard deodorant or antiperspirant. I have only noticed slight staining on white garments, but this can be avoided by soaking with soap after wearing and before washing. Dishwashing soap and hot water are very effective stain removers.

4. What kind of coconut oil can I use? Is there a recommended brand?

It is recommended to use a high quality coconut oil purchased from a health food store, if possible. I recommend Mountain Rose Herbs coconut oil for its superior quality and benefits. Other recommended brands include Nutiva, Tropical Traditions, and Wilderness Family Naturals. You can also use refined coconut oil, as that version is suitable for the skin but not recommended for consumption. Refined coconut oil will be cheaper in price.

5. Can I add essential oils to this recipe?

Yes, feel free to add various essential oils for the added scent, but beware that essential oils can cause irritations. Start with making a small batch to make sure you do not react. Tea tree oil is an excellent oil to add for its pleasant scent (men and women alike enjoy it), and it has great antibacterial qualities.

6. Is there any solution for preventing this from melting? (Note: coconut oil melts at 76 degrees).

If you live in a particularly warm climate, add a little melted candelilla wax or beeswax to the mixture. Store in your fridge, if necessary. For summer travel, I recommend storing in a cooler. Remove from cooler or refrigerator 10 minutes before use to allow it to soften slightly for application.

7. What’s the benefit of using arrowroot powder over cornstarch?

You are free to use cornstarch or arrowroot powder as desired. Arrowroot is a more natural thickening agent alternative. I use arrowroot powder as an alternative to cornstarch in all my cooking. Arrowroot powder is available through your local health food store, Whole Foods, Azure Standard, or Bob’s Red Mill.

8. I am allergic to coconut oil, is there any alternatives?

I have heard people experiencing success by replacing coconut oil with equal quantities of shea butter and cocoa butter. You can also use palm oil because it remains solid like coconut oil. Add a few drops of tea tree essential oil for the antibacterial properties.

9. I am heavy sweater? Is this an antiperspirant?

No, this is not an antiperspirant, so you will sweat but it will definitely be decreased quantities. Sweating is a natural bodily process that is necessary for health in removing toxins from your body. I am definitely a heavy sweater myself, but this deodorant works to remove the smells like nothing else I have ever tried. I do recommend multiple applications if you are doing strenuous work or exercise for it to be effective.

Learn more about the benefits of coconut oil and all its wonderful uses here.

To read all the reviews on this recipe, check out the original post here.

Please note: Passionate Homemaking is an affiliate of Mountain Rose Herbs (my coconut oil source) and receives a small percentage of each sale purchased through my links. I only recommend products that I have successfully use and can highly recommend.
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My Favorite Things: Natural Recommendations for Your Home

I frequently get asked, “what’s your favorite natural detergent? what’s your recommendations for cloth diapers? What homemade products do you still make and use?” Since I have been experimenting and reviewing various natural products for the last several years since I began my own journey to sustainable living, I have certainly bought, sampled, liked and disliked numerous things. I want to save you some trouble today by offering a list of my personal tried and true products in the natural world. You will discover that I keep things very simple in my home to the best of my ability. I don’t like several different cleaning products – I want one tried and true that can do it all! I don’t like numerous options of body care products – I want to stay frugal and sustainable with one or two products to get us by.

Body Care

Deodorant – my homemade recipe has withstood the test of time (except when you use old baking soda – keeping it fresh seems to be pretty important)! When I’m lazy, I keep Tom’s of Maine aluminum free deodorant on hand.
Shampoo & ConditionerTrader Joe’s Nourish Spa line (this is the cheapest and most conveniently accessible product I have found at just $3 per bottle at Trader Joe’s. Sorry, Amazon prices are definitely higher, but I wanted to give you a visual of the product). We made our own homemade shampoo for awhile until we just didn’t like the texture, lack of lathering ability, and smell. I dilute the shampoo with baking soda to make it stretch further. I have found 1 Tbsp baking soda to 1 Tbsp shampoo to be very effective in cleaning my hair, removing all problems with itchy scalp and allowing me to go 3-4 days between washings. The Nourish line is made from mainly organic ingredients and essential oils and works really well to clean our hair naturally. It just feels good! Another good backup option, is to use the subscribe & save feature on Amazon for Kiss My Face shampoo.
SoapGraham GardensI absolutely love Graham Gardens soap bars. They are so wonderful for the skin and natural and safe for the whole family. Graham Gardens offers buy 4 get 1 free sales with flat rate shipping making it affordable to stock up on soap for our family. I’m not into have a special separate products for the little ones, so we all use these with great results. This is all we use in the shower and for shaving. I use this soap bar to shampoo up the kids’ hair as well. Our favorite alternative is Dr. Bronner’s lavender or unscented soap bars.
ToothpasteTrader Joe’s fluoride free toothpaste (this is so nice and mild and not hot for the kids like most peppermint flavored toothpaste) – at just $1.99 per tube at Trader Joe’s this natural toothpaste is much more simple to purchase than make my own. If TJ’s was not accessible, I would likely use Tom’s of Maine children’s toothpaste
Lotion – My all time favorite lotion and moisturizer are  the Graham Gardens lotion bars. They work for all my skin issues and I don’t use anything else. This works on all of us too. Otherwise, coconut oil alone would works as a backup although more greasy to the touch naturally.
Hand soap – I have really been enjoying the foaming hand soap from Jenuinely Pure…it is certainly the best refillable natural hand soap option I have found. I also have used and love Mrs. Meyers hand soap refill packs. A great way to save on packaging waste. Mrs. Meyers is my favorite natural household product line for the wonderful scents, texture, and effectiveness of their products!
Makeup – I currently use Everyday Minerals base and face powders for my makeup with a touch of mascara. I love mineral makeups and this company offers you the ability to test any powder shade for free with the cost of shipping. The samples lasted me forever! I was formally using Bare Minerals but found over time that they irritated my skin. Everyday Minerals has been a perfect non-irritating product!
Sunscreen- I only apply sunscreen if we are going to be outside for several hours or outside in a pool/lake or something when a lot of skin would be exposed. Otherwise, I just put sun hats on the kids. I personally think that it can often do more harm than good on our skin the way it absorbs into our bloodstream. But if you are in a hotter environment, you may need to use more. It’s pretty mild here in the Northwest. When we do use it, I use Avalon Organics Baby sunscreen. I also recommend California Baby, which is also available at your local Target.
Bug Repellent – Graham Gardens Bug Bar and Apple Valley Natural Soap Bug Spray are two natural bug repellents that work equally well. We used both extensively in the Philippines last year and highly recommend them. Graham Gardens is a rub on lotion and Apple Valley’s is a spray…so chose whichever you prefer.

This is honestly all that we use on our skin! For my hair, we use a few not so natural options…but they work well to give us the results we desire. I use Foxy Curls to maintain my natural curls otherwise I also like to straighten my hair for variety, and my hubby uses Tigi’s Men’s Workable Wax.

Baby Care

Diaper Cream - I use my homemade salve for any problems with yeast infections and Graham Gardens diaper cream for any standard rash when I need a quick healing together with a disposable diaper. Graham Gardens is such an effective cream that lasts forever!

I occasionally use Burt’s Bee’s Buttermilk Lotion to give my kids massages after bath times as well.

Household Items

Laundry DetergentCharlies Soap (while I still love Soap Nuts, Charlies’ Soap is wonderful and simple because it works great for our cloth diapers and regular laundry. I love the subscribe & safe option through Amazon.)
Stain Remover – I’ve tried a lot of natural stain remover options without much success. The one product that I have found that really works the best is OxiClean Stain Remover spray. It is made from oxygen bleach so definitely superior to regular chlorine bleach.
Dishwashing Detergent – Bright Green Dishwasher Powder (Bright Green natural products are available at Safeway), Green Works or Seventh Generation (whichever is most convenient or frugal). Green Works product line is available in most every grocery store now giving us all a frugal natural cleaning line. They all work equally well.
Dish Soap – Again, any of the above mentioned product lines for dishwashing detergent works for finding dish soap.
Cleaning Product – Mrs. Meyer’s All Purpose Cleaner - I love this concentrate because it lasts forever! I dilute it in individual spray bottles and use it for cleaning everything in my house. I place small spray bottles with a rag in each bathroom under the sink for easy clean up of messes. I also use a homemade window cleaner, made from vinegar and lemon juice. My final cleaning product, is baking soda in a shaker for dusting inside the toilet. My cleaning bucket has literally 2-3 items in it!. Jenuinely Pure’s all-purpose cleaner is another great option.

I am a firm believer in the concept of less is more and that is why we use very few products in our home. Our skin doesn’t need tons of products to keep it healthy. I don’t use any sort of face wash, toner, etc. I personally find them unnecessary. It also saves money to keep your product choices to a minimal.

I may have missed an item or two in this list…so if you have a specific question for a product recommendation you don’t see discussed here…feel free to ask! What are your favorites? 

Please note: There are affiliate links in this post which we only use to share products that we truly love and recommend for your family. We receive a small percentage of each sale made through our links which we use to help support an orphan home in India and other ministries. 

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Frugal & Natural Christmas Decor

Photo by Michele of frugalgranola.com

This post is written by contributing writer, Michele Augur.

Decorating with found items is both frugal and beautiful! As we bring in items found on walks, our family savors the scents and colors of the season.

I honestly don’t spend a lot of time decorating (and I’m certainly not trained in floral design!), but it is a joy to bless my family and friends with a festive and comfortable atmosphere.

I created the wreath in the photo above, using tree boughs and holly sprigs from the woods around our home. (If you live in the city, ask a neighbor if you can snip some branches from their overgrown holly or juniper bushes!) Carry small pruning shears with you on walks, or just gather fallen items from the ground.

I re-purposed an old wreath frame and floral foam from a dusty old silk flower wreath. (You can often find these at thrift stores or garage sales, or purchase them on sale from craft stores.) I accented with a few of the silk/paper flowers. I also enjoy decorating with dried rosebuds, seed pods, and hydrangeas from summer gardens.

To attach the greenery to the wreath, I used a combination of floral pins (reused from the old wreath) and green floral wire. Some of the branches were also just securely pushed into the floral foam. Mine has a bit of a  “rustic” look, but if you prefer a more classic look, you can trim the branches with pruning shears.

For my thick wreath, floral foam was tied to the wreath frame. (But you could omit the foam, and just tie items directly to the metal wreath frame.) If you don’t have floral wire, you can also attach flowers and holly sprigs with a hot glue gun. I followed Melissa’s advice, and purchased removable hooks to attach a wreath to our glass front door window.

During the past few months, my daughter has enjoyed collecting leaves and other found items to make garlands for our home along with me. For the leaves, she would poke a hole with a toothpick, and then thread them onto string. (This made a simple Thanksgiving decoration.)

You can also add in dehydrated slices of oranges or apples to your garlands. As we approach Christmas, you can create similar garlands out of pine cones or holly, as well.

Photo by Michele of frugalgranola.com

I keep decorating simple by filling bowls, baskets, and cake stands (from thrift stores) with greenery, paper/dried flowers, and fresh fruit. Instead of trying to make formal bouquets, this is a way for little ones to contribute their favorite found items! (We had a bowl of beautiful fall leaves sitting by our front door this past month to greet visitors.)

You can also place some greenery, mossy branches, or holly springs in a vase or pitcher, if desired. (And even use it as a Jesse Tree for Advent!) Just use what you have on hand.

A picture from Lindsay's Christmas table - ornaments in a punch bowl

A bowl of bright red apples is easily replenished with seasonal grocery purchases, and decorated with a holly branch. Some red vintage glass ornaments fill a cake stand, and are accented by simple white candles. Look around your home for glass or wooden bowls or baskets that you could use for the season!

How do you decorate naturally for Christmas?

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Homemade Natural Chapstick

I frequently experience dry and chapped lips and often use chapstick as a means of solving the dryness and providing me with moisture and comfort to my lips. Today, I want to share with you a simple tutorial on how to make your own chapstick with 3 completely natural ingredients. They happen to be my favorite: shea butter, coconut oil, and beeswax. These ingredients help moisturize, sooth, heal, and restore dry lips naturally. They grow in creation and team up together for a very effective lip balm! The balance in the ingredients gives it a very moisturizing and non-greasy affect. It blends into your lip in a matter of a few seconds and does not leave a glistening oil appearance. This recipe is so easy, it would make great Christmas stocking stuffers. And the beauty of it is that this simple recipe also makes a fabulous hard lotion bar – perfect for dry and cracked skin. You can easily make a smaller or larger quantity as desired. Any extra can be made into a hard lotion bar by pouring into ice cube trays.

Ingredients:

2 Tablespoons beeswax (about 1 oz)
2 Tablespoons coconut oil
2 Tablespoons shea butter
12 lip balm containers
dropper

Directions:

1. Melt beeswax in a small pan or crockpot over low heat. Add coconut oil and shea butter until all ingredients a melted. Add a few drops essential oil if desired. I did not use any essential oil and it is smells wonderfully like honey!
2. Using a small medicinal dropper, pour the melted liquid into your lip balm containers. Add a few extra drops to the top after filling each container as the ingredients will shrink as they cool.
3. Cool completely to harden. Cover with cap and decorate or label as desired.

Enjoy nice cool and refreshing natural lips!

I purchased all the ingredients, including dropper and lip balm containers from Mountain Rose Herbs.

This video is offered courtesy of Made On Hard Lotion bars, where you can purchase these lovely lip balms already prepared for you!

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Natural Homemade Mascara


Photo by Michele of Frugal Granola

Post written by contributing writer, Michele Augur.

After using activated charcoal as a natural pimple remedy (moisten your face, and dab a little as a “mask” onto the spot; leave on for 15-20 min, then wash off), I realized that it could also work as a natural, inexpensive mascara option!

I have purchased the Aloe Vera Gel from Mountain Rose Herbs, and use the activated charcoal from NaturoKits. I have also found activated charcoal at natural herb stores in bulk.
.Photo by Michele of Frugal Granola

Natural Homemade Mascara

  • 1/8 tsp. Activated Charcoal (about 1/2 capsule)
  • 1/8 tsp. Aloe Vera Gel

Mix together aloe and charcoal. (I use a small baby spoon, since I’m not using them for baby food!) Then, dip in a clean mascara brush wand, pressing it against the inside of the bowl to coat it evenly onto the wand, smoothing out any clumps. Apply to eyelashes as usual. Wait a few seconds before blinking, to let the mascara dry, so that it doesn’t get on your cheeks.

I was able to remove the majority of mascara with a warm washcloth, just like typical mascara. (I haven’t usually purchased “waterproof” mascara, anyway.) The mascara has stayed on well, even when I got teary-eyed during a worship service, but I haven’t tried wearing outside in a downpour yet!

I haven’t tried storing this mixture, as it tends to dry out fairly quickly, and I don’t use makeup everyday. (However, experiment, and see what works for you! It might be feasible to store a little bit in a small airtight jar or makeup “pot.”) I was not able to successfully stuff it into an old mascara container, since this mixture is very thick and does not pour.

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Safe & Frugal Shower Curtain Options

Have you ever sensed that stench from a new shower curtain liner that invades your bathroom? This smell is PVC plastic (#3 plastic) that out gases toxic odors that you really want to avoid if all possible. Studies have shown that these vinyl curtains contain high concentrations of chemicals that are linked to liver damage as well as damage to the central nervous, respiratory and reproductive systems, some of which can remain around for up to a month after installing.

I used plastic vinyl shower curtain liners for several years and just knew inwardly that those smells were probably not good for our family, especially because it regularly caused headaches. This last year, I made the effort to find an alternative when the time came to replace it. I wanted something that would not contain this toxin, but also wouldn’t be wasteful. Plastic shower curtains liners get quite disgusting in a short time and then disposed of and replaced.

There are several alternatives on the market. Choose fabric! Hemp, bamboo, organic cotton, or recycled materials are all available. They are excellent options but rather expensive (ranging in price from $85-195 dollars).

The best option I have found is the simple 100% polyester fabric shower curtain liners. They are available online or at your local Bed, Bath, and Beyond for $10 in an array of solid colors. The polyester repels the water and dries quickly. They last forever and can hide any water stains very nicely, especially if you get a chocolate colored one (like us!). When it comes time, you can throw it in the wash on a gentle cold cycle and then hang to dry back in its home. Mine just received its first washing after 9 months of use and it looks practically brand new again. These liners can actually be used completely on their own in replacement of any shower curtain. They function perfectly well in keeping all the droplets in the shower.

There are also other PVC free plastic curtains made from EVA vinyl, which is a non-chlorinated, odor free, environmentally friendly vinyl, on the market. They are safer but just as disposable and thus a fabric choice would be more sustainable due to its washability.

I think $10 is a worthwhile frugal investment to keeping those toxic smells out of your home, what say you?

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Homemade Calendula Salve

CalendulaNearing the end of summer, my herb garden is ready for harvest!

This post is written by contributing writer, Michele.

A homemade Calendula Salve is a staple in my homemade remedies box. It is the perfect treatment for chapped hands and faces (such as from winter winds, gardening, or babies’ teething drool), soothing little ones’ scraped knees, or mild burns.

I purchase organic herb seeds inexpensively from Mountain Rose Herbs, along with saving seeds from previous harvests (the most frugal option!) to plant in my garden. If you don’t have access to the fresh flowers, you can also find bulk dried calendula flowers from Mountain Rose Herbs or your local natural food/herb store. If you are harvesting your own flowers, pick the petals later in the morning, after the dew dries, but before the noon heat sets in.

To prepare my Calendula Salve, I have used Hemp Oil, which has a very high percentage of Essential Fatty Acids, and can be especially nourishing for skin conditions, such as eczema or dry skin, while being non-greasy and easily absorbed into skin. However, Olive Oil (which typically has a longer shelf-life) could be substituted instead.

When preparing the salve, make sure not to overheat it! Both the oil and the petals must be kept over low heat to prevent “cooking” them.

This is also a wonderful project for incorporating into learning a home with little ones! They love to harvest the petals, and sprinkle/stir them into the pot, before you turn on the heat. (I prepared my most recent batch along with my own daughter, as well as my visiting youngest sister.)

Salve

Calendula Salve

  • 2 Cups Calendula Petals (not the entire flower “heads”)
  • 1 Cup Hemp or Olive Oil
  • 1/4 Cup Beeswax Pastilles/Pellets
  • 10 Drops Lavender Essential Oil
  1. Pour calendula petals into a stainless steel pot, and add oil. Turn on low heat, and stir to combine. Watch for tiny bubbles in the oil to gauge the temperature- it should not get any warmer than the “tiny bubbles stage!” Continue stirring occasionally over the next 2 hours, keeping the oil gently warm.
  2. Meanwhile, begin gently melting the beeswax in the top of a double boiler (don’t let this get too hot; you’ll want it to be a similar temperature as the oil, when you combine the two).
  3. After 2 hours, strain the petals from the oil. (You can use a fine-meshed strainer, tea filters, or cheesecloth.) Squeeze/press out as much of the oil as you can into a bowl. Then slowly pour the oil into the melted beeswax in the double boiler, stirring to combine. Then stir in the drops of lavender essential oil. (The oil acts as a “preservative,” as well as being a healing and calming ingredient.)
  4. Pour the warm oil into small jars/containers, and allow to cool. Avoid using clear glass, if possible. Choose containers (such as white plastic cosmetic containers or amber/cobalt-colored glass jars) that will help protect the salve from sunlight. (I repurpose containers from purchased shea or cocoa butters.) Store in a cool place.
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My Simple & Natural Housecleaning Routine

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As I have pursued the art of learning how to maintain my home simply and naturally, my methods have changed and adapted to the seasons of life. I started out with the all frugal natural method of vinegar for most housecleaning, but found I didn’t care for the way the homemade concoctions always seemed to clog my spray bottles or go bad. Then I adapted to using more of the commercial natural products, but didn’t care for the expense and complexity of such a variety of products for your every need. Does it really have to be that complicated?

I have finally concluded that all of these homemade recipes and commercial products are truly not necessary. You don’t need 10 different products to clean your home. You really only need water and a little soap on occasion. I personally have found my  favorite tool is the Norwex Microfiber Enviro Cloth (this link provides my full review). With one of the Norwex Enviro cloth and one Norwex Window cloth (buy in a set here), I am practically set. These cleaning clothes are quality and do the job well. They kill any bacteria through the silver particles in the design. I accomplish all my housecleaning with these two simple tools.

When it comes down to it, it is really not worth it to stress over germs. Consider that the chemicals are likely more harmful than the germs. Keeping a simple maintenance method is key. It makes natural homemaking possible and stress free. It makes it easy to keep my home maintained and prepared to be a welcoming place of comfort and rest to my family and the community that God has desired for us to reach out to.

Here’s our current natural housecleaning routine:

MondaysLaundry (I wash all the laundry over the weekend and fold on Monday and put it away so we are covered for the week)
Tuesdays - Toilets – I take my damp Enviro cloth and wipe down the sink, mirror, toilet, and tub. I use the dry Norwex window cloth to polish and dry the mirror and counters, and it does a beautiful streak free job! I then use my toilet brush to scrub out the inside of the toilet with a little oxygen bleach or castile soap and occasionally a stainless steel scrubby for any tough dried scum. Wipe bathrooms floors as needed with enviro cloth.
Wednesdays – Dust & Vacuum (upstairs every other week, downstairs every week) – I use the Enviro cloth to dust as well, and simply rinse out with a little soap and hang to dry between uses.
Thursday - Kitchen – wipe down kitchen counters, floor and appliances with damp enviro cloth. Polish appliances with dry window cloth.
Friday – reserved for any larger monthly or quarterly chores – such as cleaning out cupboards, spot cleaning carpets, decluttering a closet, etc.

Does it stay the same every week? Hardly. In fact, many weeks I only clean the bathrooms and vacuum the floor. But that’s okay. It a guideline and its simple. I don’t stress over perfection, because with two littles ones, I don’t have time for that. We have time to cultivate beauty and simplicity. We have time to keep things picked up and light cleaning maintained. Beyond that is another season.

My encouragement to you…don’t stress over the perfect maintenance schedule or what cleaner to use for every little job. Keep it easy. Soap and water will honestly accomplish most any task. Put some Dr Bronners organic castile soap or your favorite natural soap diluted in a spray bottle with a basic rag and get to work. And if you use the Enviro cloths, no spray bottles, only water is needed! How frugal is that? No chemicals…just pure simplicity.

Have you learned any tips for simplifying your routines?

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Natural Thrush Remedies for Breastfeeding

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Thrush (yeast) is a common issue for breastfeeding mamas and new babies.

You may notice symptoms such as white spots in baby’s mouth, and painful nursing.

When my little boy began presenting early thrush symptoms when he was a couple months old, my doctor guided me to some natural and inexpensive remedies instead of automatically prescribing an expensive chemical-based remedy.

With some simple steps, the thrush was gone!

  • Most importantly, take your probiotics!
    You can purchase acidophilus/probiotic supplements and/or eat live-cultured unsweetened yogurt daily. The probiotic benefits will pass from the nursing mama to baby, but if your little one is old enough to eat solids, give baby some yogurt too. There are some probiotic solutions available for little ones, too, if your doctor recommends it.
  • Reduce/eliminate sugar.
    If thrush is especially lingering, you may even want to limit fruit and dairy products, as they contain natural sugars. Make sure you are getting plenty of B vitamins, too.

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  • Use a 1% solution of Genetian Violet.
    (Apply to mama & baby before & after feeding). Beware of the purple-staining factor, though; keep bibs handy! If you can only find 2% solution, dilute it by half with sterile water. I have seen this in natural food stores and in the cosmetic sections of “hispanic food aisles” in grocery stores.
  • Wash the nipple-shield (and Mama), if using.
    Use a diluted solution of 5 oz water + 5 drops of grapefruit seed extract after every feeding, and rinse well. If using a nipple-shield (with a lactation consultant’s direction), this can be a barrier to your body’s natural “self-cleaning” antimicrobial process during breastfeeding. (I purchase the grapefruit seed extract from Mountain Rose Herbs.)
  • Wash bedding, towels, nursing bras, blankets, washcloths, etc!
    Thrush is very easily spread. Even if you feel it’s a bit “obsessive,” wash all items after one use, and change to a fresh one. My no-sew cloth bed pads are can be tucked into the bed, and changed each morning (instead of changing the whole bed everyday!).
  • Get some sunshine!
    Dry your clothing/linens in the sun, which has an antimicrobial effect. If your bedroom window is secluded, mama can nap privately to allow for air flow and sun on her bare chest, which will help clear the yeast.

As an additional resource, Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding offers some additional tips for addressing thrush and healthy breastfeeding.

Do YOU have any helpful tips to share?

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