Monday, April 30, 2012

Strawberry Peppermint Foot Scrub: Spring Treat for Your Feet

I confess, when I'm home I am usually shoeless. And living in South Texas, 90% of the year I am in sandals. My feet get dry and calloused. After a couple of annoying nights dealing with dry itchy feet I set out to find a natural foot scrub I could make at home and came across this wonderful recipe just perfect for spring strawberry season, and it makes just the right amount I'll use up before it goes bad. Strawberries are rich in alpha-hydroxy acid which helps get rid of dead skin cells. Peppermint cools and soothes the skin with a pleasant tingle. This scrub smells delicious and is a great way to get your feet summer ready.

Strawberry Peppermint Foot Scrub

2 Pureed Strawberries
1 Tbsp Olive oil
1 Tbsp Almond oil
2 Tbsp Granulated sugar
4-6 drops Peppermint oil

Mix together in a small bowl or other container.Apply generously to feet and massage in a circular motion.Rinse well, towel dry, and for added softness apply your favorite foot lotion and slip into your most comfortable pair of socks for the night. Refrigerate any left over scrub in a tightly sealed container.

Bonus Recipe:

Lavender Peppermint Foot Scrub

1/2 cup Sea salt
5 drops Peppermint oil
5 drops Lavender oil
1/4 cup Almond oil
1 tsp Vitamin E oil (optional)

Mix together and apply as above. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

10 Things You Can (And Probably Should) Live Without

Shutterstock image by Tischenko Irina

Not everyone will agree with this list, and that's ok. I'm not here to make you feel bad about your choices, only to think about ways to simplify your life, save money, prioritize your time, and decrease your environmental impact on our planet. We all hold onto little luxuries that we don't want to give up (mine happens to be that one morning cup of coffee with real half and half and two teaspoons of sugar). We all can do better in the small daily choices we make. Over time small things can have a big impact. And if you have anything else to add to the list, feel free to leave me a comment below. I would love to hear your thoughts. Plus, there is probably something in my daily life I should give up that hasn't even occurred to me yet :)

10 Things You Can Live Without:

  1. Paper Towels. It is just as easy to reach for a reusable cloth towel and you save a bit on your grocery bill. I use worn out bath towels, dish towels, and cotton bed sheets cut down to size so I am recycling and not spending money on anything special. And if you hang them outside on a line to dry, the energy it takes to wash them is minimal.
  2. TV. Yes, you can live without it. I haven't had a television in my home in years. I find them to be huge time wasters. Now don't get me wrong. I can fall into other time waste traps like Facebook, but I just don't miss having a television around and I feel like my kids have benefited from it. If we want to watch a movie at home we do so on the computer. No big deal. I was also quite happy not to have to deal with all the added expense and hype about the switch to digital TV.
  3. Soda. Very rarely do I buy soda. Soda is simply just not good for you. It increases your chances of obesity and diabetes. I have taken to drinking water with a slice of lemon or homemade flavored water such as the spa water recipe I posted a few days ago: Cucumber Spa Water
  4. Fast food. It usually constitutes a major emergency or poor planning if I stop at a fast food restaurant, or quite usually both. But we all know fast food is not healthy for us and not just because it is usually full of calories and high in sodium and sugar. Its not good for our well being to eat on the run and the conditions fast food is prepared under can be horrid.
  5. Anything prepackaged for convenience. It really doesn't take that much more of your time to buy larger sizes and then divide in reusable containers. It saves your wallet and its better for the environment.
  6. Credit cards. We are no doubt a nation of debt. I, too, have fallen into that trap and am digging my way out of it. Make a point of carrying a set amount of cash with you for emergency purchases and simply use your bank issued ATM card for everything else. No spending money you don't have and no debt owed at high interests rates. No handing our money over to a system just about everyone agrees is corrupt.
  7. Buying New. You can save a lot of money going to thrift stores and garage sales, or even by getting things for free off of networks like I buy all my jeans for about $7-9 a piece at our local thrift store and they usually have plenty of wear. I recently got a table for free that I painted with paint I bought at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore for under $3. Garage and yard sales are great places to find used furniture and baby items. I usually avoid buying shoes unless they look hardly worn and avoid things like swimwear and intimate items. 
  8. Your Morning Stop at Starbucks. Starbucks is a treat for me, a very rare occasion. Instead, I save money and time by using my little one cup coffee press and making my own. I love my coffee press and it is so easy to use. I heat up a mug of water in the microwave, add my coffee grounds to the press, pour in the water, and get breakfast ready for the boys while it brews. Simple. I could cut back on the sugar and half and half but I just haven't been able to learn to drink it black.
  9. Paper plates, plastic silverware and cups. Buy reusable and you'll do less damage to the environment and save money over time.
  10. Regrets. We all make mistakes but we can't dwell on them or let them eat us up. We spend more than we should. We say things we shouldn't. But they are lessons to be learned. We need to stop being so hard on ourselves, myself included.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Benefits of Hanging Your Laundry Out To Dry

I enjoy hanging my laundry out on the line, but there are many benefits I gain from it as well. I have a small back yard so I only have one retractable line purchased from that stretches from the back of the house to the fence, but it is usually just enough for one load of clothes.

One of the most obvious benefits of hanging your clothes out to dry is its effect on your wallet. Depending on your dryer wattage and the amount of laundry you do a year you can save anywhere between $120-$250 per year on electricity costs.

Of course, it is also good for the environment. The less electricity you use, the smaller your carbon footprint.

Your laundry smells fresher.

The sun kills bacteria and germs naturally and even helps make whites whiter!

Clothes last longer. The harsh heat and pounding from the dryer wears out fabric and weakens elastic.

Hanging your clothes out gets you outside in the sun and moving.

Clothes dryers are fire hazards. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, there are an estimated annual 15,500 fires, 10 deaths and 10 injuries due to clothes dryer fires. Improperly installed vents contribute to several hundred people a year exposed to carbon monoxide poisoning.

One of the biggest complaints about hanging your clothes out to dry is stiff towels. To avoid this, simply add about 1/4 cup white vinegar to your wash load. I also get more room on my line and avoid clothespin marks on my shirts by hanging them on hangers first. When you take them off the line they are all ready to hang in the closet! I also fold the laundry as I take it down. Why handle each item more than I have to? Saves time and keeps me outside a little bit longer.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Gluten Free Carrot Cake Recipe

I don't lead a gluten free life. I do have friends with gluten intolerance and I also think it is important to not solely rely on wheat as a grain source when there are so many other nutritionally superior sources out there, so I do have some gluten free recipes I use from time to time. I must confess it was a bit hard sharing this recipe because I made it for a special occasion for someone I cared a great deal about who has chosen not to be a part of my life anymore, especially hard when I am feeling a bit melancholy this morning. But it is a yummy recipe meant to be shared.

Carrot Cake

(adapted from Flying Apron's Gluten Free and Vegan Baking Book)

2 cups brown rice flour
1 1/4 cups garbanzo bean or chestnut flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
1 cup canola oil
2 cups water
1 Tbs vanilla extract
2 cups agave syrup
1 1/4 cups grated carrot
2 1/2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut
2 cups chopped walnuts or pecans
1 cup golden raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottoms of three 9 inch cake pans with parchment paper.

Combine flours, baking soda, salt, and spices in a large bowl. In another bowl, combine wet ingredients. Slowly whisk flour mixture into oil mixture until thoroughly combined. Fold in grated carrot, coconut, nuts, and raisins. 

Pour batter into cake pans and bake until a toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool, and if desired frost.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Earth Day Savings - Coupons from Target

I'm not a shopper. Spending money stresses me out. I do enjoy thrift stores and garage sales. Something about the thrill of the hunt. It feels good to find a bargain priced treasure. That being said, sometimes it is necessary to head out and buy new. I must confess when I do, Target is my go to store. Right now Target is offering some coupons and deals in celebration of Earth Day. Part of me knows this is just a feel good gimmick on behalf of Target marketing, but when it involves saving money on something I need, hey, I fall for it just like the next gal. I suppose that is part of the dilemma of living a frugal, Eco-friendly, simple lifestyle.Besides, I'd really like a set of those organic sheets in purple...

photo from

Here are the coupons: Target Earth Day Savings.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Blueberry Lemon Scones...or is that Lemon Blueberry Scones?

I love making scones. They are easy and make a yummy breakfast on the run. I kind of get in a rut with my favorite lemon poppy seed scones, so the last time I made them I decided I wanted to make some with the blueberries I had on hand. There are dozens of versions of blueberry lemon scones, but this one is my favorite with the yummy glaze sealing in the moistness. They didn't last long, so I'm going to have to whip up another batch soon.

 Blueberry Lemon Scones

2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
6 tbsp butter, chilled
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp lemon zest
1 cup frozen blueberries

Preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut butter into 6-8 chunks and add to flour mixture, tossing to coat. Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour until mixture is sandy and butter is well distributed, with no pieces larger than a big pea.
Add in milk, lemon juice and lemon zest and stir until dough comes together. If dough is too wet, add an additional tablespoon of flour to the dough.
Either keeping the dough in your mixing bowl, or turning it out onto a lightly floured surface, knead dough for about 1 minute. Flatten dough and add blueberries. Knead gently for 30-60 seconds to distribute them. Divide dough into two balls and press each into a disc about 3/4-inch thick. Use a knife to divide each disc into quarters and place scones on prepared baking sheet.
Bake for 17-22 minutes, until scones are golden brown.

Lemon Glaze 
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
Whisk glaze ingredients together until smooth, then drizzle over still-warm scones before serving.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Cream of Tartar: The Best Nontoxic Mildew Cleaner Around

Let me tell you, I had tried nearly every nontoxic mildew cleaner around. Baking soda and vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, tea tree oil. Nothing seemed to be effective in removing the stains from my shower. In fact, the peroxide left behind this awful yellow stain. All of the methods I read about and tried seemed to take more elbow grease than anything else. Maybe the mildew in my bathroom is some super strain, but I wasn't about to shower in some toxic sludge left by a chemical cleaner.

I found my new love on Pinterest, cream of tartar. You know, that stuff you use about once every year or so to stiffen egg whites but otherwise just sits in your cabinet neglected while you reach for the bottle of cinnamon or nutmeg sitting next to it. I must say when I read about using cream of tartar to clean the mildew out of my shower I was skeptical after all my other failed attempts, but this really did work!!! Simply make a paste with it using a little water and apply to the tiles using an old toothbrush to scrub the hard to get areas in the grout. It even removed the yellow stains the peroxide left behind! I now wish they sold it in larger bottles. Maybe bakery supply stores?

I have read that you can add hydrogen peroxide to make the paste instead of water. I haven't tried it yet, but it is also supposed to be a great stain remover on clothes as well. I imagine it works quite well.

What the heck is cream of tartar anyway? Turns out it is a byproduct from wine making called potassium hydrogen tartrate. Even more reason to love it. If you want to read more about it, check out this informative little article at Baking Bites.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

DIY Cucumber Spa Water

My good friend April, who also happens to be the most nurturing doula around (She helped me through an all natural childbirth with my son, Ben), knew I needed to pause and take time to care for myself after having a really rough year and a half. For Christmas she blessed me with a gift certificate to a.r.t. massage body spa. The certificate sat folded up on my desk reminding me daily I should take advantage of this gift, but I just kept putting it off. Until I hurt my back a couple weeks ago and the pain lingered on.

April, in another act of generosity, watched Ben for me yesterday so I could go. Let me tell you, as overstressed as this gal's body is I could have been worked over all day and still had kinks. I had the gal working on me concentrate on the most painful spot - my lower back. Wow, no pain after I left! I did long to take a nap for the rest of the day, but considering my appointment was at ten in the morning that was unfortunately not an option.

Anyway, when I first walked in the spa I was handed this delicious, cooling glass of cucumber water. Of course, before I left I had to find out how to recreate this tasty beverage. Turns out it is very simple. I made some today. Ideally I'd like to get a glass drink dispenser and keep it loaded in the refrigerator, hoping I will drink more water and stay away from less healthy beverages.

I infused my cucumber water in a quart size glass pitcher. To the water I added about a third of a sliced cucumber, half a lime cut into four wedges, and two sprigs of mint. Then, simply cover and place in the refrigerator for a couple hours to allow the flavors to infuse into the water. If you'd prefer, replace the lime with lemon. That is what the spa used in their water. Either way, it is quite refreshing and zero calories.

Easy DIY Bird Bath

I've been wanting a birdbath in my garden for, well, it seems like forever. Before becoming a single mom, my husband would grumble about the standing water being a breeding ground for mosquitoes, though I don't think water stays in those things long enough for it to become a problem. Somehow the seasons passed and I never got my birdbath. A year or so ago I saw a simple do it yourself birdbath in Family Fun magazine and knew I had to make it. I've since seen it posted on Pinterest. It is super easy and inexpensive. Here is my version:

I have it suspended from one of my Dad's shepherd's hooks. My Dad is a blacksmith. It is really cool to have something he made in my garden.

As you can see, it is super easy and uses things you may already have around the house. I found the wreath at the thrift store and the clay flowerpot saucer at Lowe's. I already had the jute twine on hand, I just wish it was a darker color. The birds had been drinking out of the dog's water bowl, so I was delighted when they started using the birdbath.The little sparrows especially seem to enjoy it.

Here is the original link to the Family Fun article, if you'd like to check it out and get more detailed instructions on how to make: Easy Wreath Birdbath

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Milk, A Garden Miracle Against Powdery Mildew

I get excited about little things, mainly because they turn out to be big things, like this organic gardening tip I discovered on a New Zealand web site after doing a search to find out what the white spots were on my cucumber and squash plants. Turns out it is powdery mildew and it seems New Zealand grape growers are particularly menaced by this common plant disease. Evidently powdery mildew is lactose intolerant! They found that mixing one part milk to nine parts water to spray on the leaves of the plant effectively got rid of the disease. I didn't have milk on hand because I have been trying to cut back on dairy products in a restructuring of more healthy eating habits (let me tell you, that is a tough one for this dairy girl), but I had my little pint of organic half and half. Since it is a little bit heavier than straight milk, I diluted my mixture ten to one and immediately went out to treat my plants.

A bit of a cautionary tale here. Don't do this in front of your pets! I gave the cucumber a good coating and then turned my back to go spray down the squash plants, which are in a different garden bed. I glance back toward the cucumber, probably catching the motion of our dog, Duke, moving past. He is standing in the garden. This is something Duke and I fight over all the time, so it took me a moment to realize he is licking the milk off the cucumber leaves and not in the process of digging a hole to lay in. Silly dog.

 Here are the results of my using the milk spray just after two days. The leaves even look healthier. Take a look for yourself:


 After two applications:

There are still some spots of mildew, but the difference in just two days is amazing! I will probably keep applying the milk mixture for another 3-4 days to make sure the downy mildew is all gone. One down side I noticed was that it seems to attract flies, but my mixture could still be a little strong since I used half and half instead of milk.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Free Gardening/Natural Lifestyle Book Downloads

I don't own a Kindle or any other fancy tablet device, but I did download the Kindle app for PC. I love curling up with a real book and feeling the paper between my fingers when I turn the page. Especially when I am withdrawing from the world into a wonderful story. However, I love the idea of being able to tote a whole library with me in the form of digital media. I like to travel light. But enough on my thoughts of books versus e-readers. On to some freebies you can download today at

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Library Adventures and Fresh Berry Bismark

The kids and I love spending time at the library, especially the fairly new Semmes branch at Comanche Lookout Park. The library is beautiful and has a large window overlooking a patio facing the park. If the weather is nice we can walk the trails or Ben can run wild with the other little ones on the playground. Usually the playground beckons pretty quickly so I have to either look up the call numbers of books ahead of time on the internet or settle for browsing the new books section. Sometimes I will put the books on hold a few days before we plan on going so then all I have to do is go to the "on hold" section and pull them all off the shelf at once, but that usually requires a fair amount of forethought that I seem to be lacking lately.

The last time we went I was drawn toward cookbooks. It was a bit of a hasty browse down the cookbook section, but one did catch my eye and I am glad it did. The recipes we have tried so far have been yummy. I ended up renewing the book and finally finding a cheap copy on I am now awaiting its delivery. The book is The Family Kitchen by chef Debra Ponzek. If you want to try before you buy, I will be returning my library copy shortly ;)

I especially like her breakfast recipes. I was searching for a recipe to use up the fresh berries I had on hand and came across the recipe for fresh berry bismark. This was my first time making a bismark, but they are fairly easy and delicious. The boys seemed to think so too.

Fresh Berry Bismark

(from The Family Kitchen, by Debra Ponzek)

2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup milk
2 large eggs
pinch of salt
pure maple syrup
fresh berries ( I used blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries)
confectioners sugar
10 inch oven proof skillet (my cast iron worked perfectly)

Preheat oven to 475 degrees.

Put the butter in a 10-inch skillet and heat in the oven until the butter melts and begins to bubble. Watch carefully to avoid burning the butter.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl whisk together the flour, milk, eggs, and salt until smooth.

Pour batter into the skillet and return to the oven for about 12 minutes, or until the batter is puffy and golden brown.

Slide the puffed bismark onto a serving plate. Drizzle with maple syrup, fresh berries, and confectioners sugar. Cut in half or quarter and serve immediately.

Serves 2 big people and one little one.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Apple Fritters on a Saturday Morning

This morning I had great intentions of me and the boys all working together to make apple fritters, but my oldest just wasn't up to it. Apparently the little one shared his stomach virus with him. So Ben and I forged ahead without him. Ben loves to pour and stir, though he is a bit independent and wants no help from momma. He gets frustrated if I try to help, so I usually just wait until everything is in the bowl and "ready" to cook. I give the batter a couple good stirs on the way to the stove. Happy three year old and no harm done.

These are a great alternative to donuts and yummy with a cup of morning coffee or a tall glass of milk for the kiddos.

Apple Fritters

1 heaping cup unbleached flour (do not level)
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp lemon juice
1 Tbs melted butter
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1 - 1 1/2 cups apple, chopped in small pieces
oil for frying
Glaze: mix 1 cup powdered sugar with 1 Tbs milk (alternative: mix granulated sugar with cinnamon)

Mix all dry ingredients together in large bowl. In separate bowl, mix together wet ingredients. Gently stir into dry mixture until just combined. Fold in apple pieces. Heat oil on medium high. Oil will be ready for frying when a drop of dough floats to the top. Using a tablespoon, place a few balls of dough into the oil, careful to not overcrowd. When the underside is golden brown, turn and continue frying until done. Be careful to avoid getting the oil too hot or fritters will turn brown without fully cooking the inside.

Place fritters on a paper towel lined plate to cool slightly and drain off excess oil. Roll in glaze mixture and serve. An alternative to the glaze is to roll fritters in a cinnamon sugar mixture to coat.