Getting My Groove Back: Baby Boot Camp

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Welcome back to my fitness journey! It’s a new year, so where’s the new me?! Trust me, I’ve been looking for her, too.

The holidays were such a cliche of a struggle. I was sick for over a week just before Christmas, and then my husband was on vacation from work for the last two weeks of the year. There were so many delicacies to eat, so many lazy, cuddly mornings in bed… and it all led to so much slacking. As the holidays often do, they completely derailed my efforts to be disciplined in my health and fitness.

But, I went to Baby Boot Camp whenever I could. I didn’t give up – so all is not lost! That said, let’s take a moment to focus on what I did lose – like 3 inches from my waist – what what?!? That’s right, even with my holiday dalliances, I’ve still managed to shed a trifecta of inches from my body and that gives me just the hit of inspiration I need to double-down my efforts and approach 2016 with renewed energy. And I know it was all thanks to the exercise I do at Boot Camp, because who’s got 2 thumbs and couldn’t control her diet over the holidays? THIS GIRL. Guilty as charged.

Just in time for a new year and all the self-care resolutions on everyone’s lists… It’s MOLO time! The Baby Boot Camp 2016 Mother Love Wellness Challenge (aka MOLO) is upon us.

MOLO_2016_a
From the Baby Boot Camp – Culver City and Marina del Rey site:

Are you looking to make a lifestyle change through proper fitness and nutrition, but need some extra motivation? The Baby Boot Camp® Mother Love Wellness Challenge (MOLO), held each year from February-April, is our 12-week wellness challenge that focuses on helping moms across America to achieve their health and wellness goals safely and effectively, and to help them make their own health and wellness goals a priority. In addition to fitness and nutrition, we will also be focusing on communication, relationships, self-esteem, and emotional support.

Each MOLO participant will receive the following with their paid registration:

  • A challenge tee
  • ‘Before’ and ‘After’ measurements and photos
  • A week-by-week calendar with 12 weeks full of fitness and wellness challenges
  • Access to private challenge content, including weekly videos, a MOLO newsletter, and a private Facebook group with 1000+ other moms nationwide cheering you onOverall challenge winners will qualify to win national prizes, including a Mountain Buggy® stroller! And to help inspire other girls to get fit, too, Baby Boot Camp Corporate will donate $2 to the charity Girls on the Run® for every 2016 MOLO registration purchased.Gain control of your health and wellness goals safely and effectively by joining our Baby Boot Camp 2016 Mother Love Wellness Challenge!

I love that MOLO isn’t just about fitness or weight loss. It’s about whole-self improvement. Lord knows, self-care is a top priority for new-and-seasoned moms alike! Get in on the fun, and come join me! We’ll motivate each other 🙂 And stay tuned here for updates!

I think I can… I think I can… I think I can…….

 


Drink this: Califia Farms Toasted Coconut Almond Milk

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best coconut almond milk

Yes folks, a post about almond milk. Why? You ask? BECAUSE IT IS THE BEST DAMN ALMOND MILK IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD. How much do I love it? Enough to write a whole post about it, out of the kindness of my own damn heart, to enrich your mouths and lives. That’s how much. Dammit.

Or at least, it’s by far the most exciting new grocery-store find Paul and I have had in the past year.

We’re not huge “milk” people. Don’t get me wrong… I love me some cheese, and all the butter, like any good midwestern girl should. But, keeping cow’s milk around isn’t my super jam. We really only use it in our morning coffee/tea, and our acupuncturist prefers that we avoid true dairy as much as possible. So one day last year I picked up Califia Farms Toasted Coconut Almond Milk after seeing it in the refrigerated section at Whole Paycheck Foods and thinking the bottle was cute. I looked at the nutritional information, and I thought it was all good – no added or artificial sweeteners or any creepy unpronounceable ingredients. Then I learned Carrageenan, one of the ingredients, is super shady, which put me off it for a while, and it as back to cow’s milk for us. Sad trombone.

But thanks to a recent flare-up of my arthritis, which is exacerbated by too much dairy, I revisited the non-cow’s milks on the market, and my dreams came true. Califia just announced they’ve removed “the C-word” from their products. REJOICE! In fact, it boasts better-than-milk nutrition with 50% more calcium, less fat, less sugar and less calories. So I took it home for a spin. And rekindled my steamy love affair with their creamy, coconutty concoction.

It makes everything better.

Their unsweetened, plain version is also delectable, if coconut isn’t your lover the way it is mine. We all have different predilections. I understand.

I mean, I think you’re a weirdo. But we’re cool.

I guess.

I also got a sample container of their Almond Coffee Creamer last weekend at Club MomMe’s Fall Family Fest, and it makes my mouth sing. Takes our quotidien PG Tips tea and elevates it to somehow taste like my most beloved fancy french tea.

But here’s what’s absolutely no bueno, much to our shock and dismay… do not, by all means, buy or drink their seasonal “Holiday Nog” flavor. That shit was foul. I was so disappointed. Also, I wish it came in paper cartons rather than plastic. But you can’t win ’em all. (Califia, do you hear me? I love your sustainability practices, and your bottles be cute, but plastic is persona non grata around my house!)

Go, get you some, friends. You won’t regret it. I promise.

Screenshot 2014-03-04 23.23.02You’re welcome.

(this post was not sponsored by Califia. it really is just that good.)


Korean Wife Camp: Korean-Style Chicken Soup

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korean wife camp recipes

My usual staple chicken stock recipe is courtesy of the domestic goddess to end all goddesses, lady Ina Garten herself. (Bow down, people, and hail your queen.) But her method, while delicious and consistent, requires a whole day and night of time and energy. Which I can spare maybe once every three or four months in pursuit of a ginormous bulk batch of her nectar. It’s kind of a lot of work.

In between those times, this Korean-style chicken soup, or dak guk (닭 국), adapted from Maangchi.com) takes but a laid-back hour to make, and is incredibly soothing and delicious given how dead easy it is to make. I mean, who ever heard of one-hour chicken stock that was full-bodied and tasty as hell?! It’s almost good enough to completely supplant my beloved Barefoot Contessa stock. Almost. 

What I also love about this recipe, is that it makes better use of the ingredients, and produces less food waste. It always chaps my ass to fish out, strain, and throw out (or even compost) the stewed-past-death chicken carcasses, dried out meat, and baby-food mush veggies when making Ina’s recipe… but this one avoids that, giving second life to the ingredients that make it so flavorful and hearty in the first place.

dak guk korean chicken soup recipe

What you’ll need:
(serves 4)

For the broth:
2 chicken breasts (I’ve made this with boneless, skinless breasts and, as pictured, a spatchcocked double breast on the bone. Both were totally delicious, so it’s up to you! I use breasts because they’re healthier, and easy to shredm… but you could use legs, if you’re more of a dark meat connoisseur.)
16 whole cloves of garlic – skinned. (Do you know about this method of peeling large quantities of garlic? You’re welcome!)
1 medium/large onion – halved and quartered, skin on
2-3 Tbs ginger – sliced roughly
16 cups water
2 Tbs fish sauce (I love this brand, because it’s just fish, salt, and water – wayyy less additives than others. If you can’t find (or stand) fish sauce, you can use soup soy sauce, or simply plain soy sauce.)
1 Tbs salt

For the chicken topping:
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper – ground
2 Tbs sesame oil

For optional spice:
2 Tbs gochugaru powder
2 tsp sesame oil
cayenne pepper (to taste)

dak guk dalk kug korean chicken soup recipe

Brace yourselves for how easy this is, because at first blush, it appears too good to be true.

Put the first four ingredients into a stock pot and add the water. Bring to a boil and simmer for one hour, uncovered.

After an hour, remove the solids, reserving the chicken and garlic. The ginger and onion can enjoy a trip to the compost or trash.

Add the fish sauce and Tablespoon of salt to the stock, and stir. It will have reduced to about 12 cups at this point. Now taste that shit. Can you believe that only took one hour?! The stock is now DONE.

Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, use your hands to pull it into shreds. Don’t snack on it just yet.

Place the garlic cloves into a small bowl, and mash them into a paste with a fork. Mix in the sesame oil, salt and pepper, and then massage the garlic oil paste into the chicken meat. This gives the chicken an incredibly moist consistency, perfumed with so much aromatic flavor… it’s addictive. Snack on some now. Marvel at what you have created. Then, stop snacking. You want there to be plenty for your assembled soup!

dak gook korean chicken soupI personally like to gently sauté sliced carrots and celery and add them to the broth for a bit more veggie bite and fiber – but carrots and celery are my chicken soup favorites. You could do this with any vegetables of your preference, or give veggies the middle finger and let the chicken and stock speak for themselves. If you do add veg, once they’ve reached your desired level of doneness, hit them with a splash of soy sauce for a bit of extra umami caramelization. Then just layer them into your serving bowl with some chicken, ladle on some stock, and enjoy the simple, rich, soul-soothing properties!

This recipe is extra brilliant, because you can make it in advance, which makes it great for entertaining or daily lunches! Just keep the chicken, broth, and veggies (if you use them) in separate containers in the fridge. When you’re ready to serve, reheat the stock to a simmer, and pour it over the chicken as you serve. Easy peasy. And oh, so good.

For those of you who enjoy a bit more spice in life, here are two ways to heat things up a bit:
1. sprinkle whatever veggies you sauté with cayenne while they’re cooking.
2. make a paste using 2 Tablespoons Gochugaru (korean red chili flakes) and 2 teaspoons sesame oil in a bowl. You can add some to the chicken when mixing in the garlic, or just spoon it directly into your soup. Or both! Which is what I do. Mmmmm.

I hope you try this. It might just change your life forever.

If you do, come back and let me know how it went! Until next time…. 안녕히계세요! (Goodbye!)


Korean Wife Camp: Bori Cha – roasted barley tea

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korean wife camp: bori cha (roasted barley tea)

I’m straight up addicted to this tea. It’s traditionally served in Korean homes and restaurants, either hot or cold, in lieu of plain drinking water – and has a delicious, nutty, clean, refreshing taste that compliments whatever it accompanies. I am head over heels in love with it, drinking gallons each week like I’m some weird herbal vampire and this barley tea is my life blood. It’s dead easy to make, and even easier to drink.

And it’s good for you! Roasted barley tea has been found to inhibit bacterial colonization and adhesion, specific to the major cause of tooth decay and implicated in cardiovascular diseases. It’s also known to assist in digestion, improve blood health, and (according to eastern medicine) control damp heat in your system. Which is something I struggle with a lot. I’m super damp guys. No joke.

But even if for no other reason than general thirst, this shit is the yum.

You can find roasted barley in packages at most Asian supermarkets, as this tea is also widely consumed in Japan (as mugicha) and China (as dàmàichá). Or you can find it on Amazon. It looks roughly thusly, depending on the brand:
bori cha roasted barley tea
It takes about 1 Tablespoon in about 2.5 cups of water for a small batch.
But I say, fuck small batches. This stuff is meant to be consumed with gusto, not merely sipped!

So, I fill up my giant 16 quart Le Creuset stockpot to the handles, and scoop in about 15-20 Tablespoons (or basically just enough to cover the surface of the water).

bori cha roasted barley korean tea

It’s really not an exact science, which I love. Depending on how weak or strong you like your tea, adjust the amount of barley and brew time accordingly. We like a hearty brew around these parts, so I set it up to boil rapidly for about 15 minutes, but have been known to get distracted and let it boil as long as 30. It was delicious and no one died.

But most people get it to a boil and go 5-15 minutes. Depending on the strength, the color will fall somewhere between weak tea and strong tea.

Then, because I make such giant batches, and prefer to drink it iced, I usually just take it off the heat, pop the lid on, and let it sit overnight to cool before I bottle it. But you can drink it hot, immediately, if that’s your bag. A bonus to letting it sit until it cools is that the barley sinks to the bottom and I can just ladle it out into jars, or dunk jars in to fill them quickly without hassling with a strainer. I always advocate for less dishes to dirty.

Then I throw the leftover barley into my composter, or feed it to the dogs. I suppose you could toss it into a salad, if you felt like it.

Here’s my haul from the pot above:

korean roasted barley tea bori cha

So, the large mason jars are half-gallons, and the milk jugs are 4 cuppers. And the glass on the right was the little bit that didn’t fit anywhere except my very thirsty mouth. It will last me maybe a week. Probably less.

As you can see, I was practicing my Hangeul on the labels, and have quite a ways to go until my block lettering skills are better than a 3 year old.

….And I just finished off another batch while writing this. Try it yourself! It’s a real summertime, or anytime, treat!


Our Farmer’s Market Lifestyle: FarMarCore

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local, organic, seasonal eatingFrom left to right:
Back row: asparagus, mixed green lettuce, artichokes, bacon, pork chops
2nd row: mixed green lettuce, cheddar cauliflower, satsuma tangerines, persian cucumbers, baby broccoli
Front row: ground breakfast sausage, hot and sweet italian pork sausages, black cod, eggs, pork chops, sirloin steaks, ground beef, strawberries

One of my favorite things about life in Los Angeles is the year-round availability of seasonal, fresh food through our local farmer’s markets. And on Wednesdays, we can walk out of our gym after our morning workout, and literally be steps from the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market – one of the biggest and best markets in the city, shopped by local yokels and some of the hottest chefs in town, alike. And on Saturdays, a smaller version pops up, but with more meat purveyors.

What started for us as a weekly trip for our fresh vegetables, has evolved into our main grocery outings for the week – including meat, fish, and eggs… all from small local farms that we feel wonderful supporting. *Pats self on back*

Santa Monica Farmer's Market

I was a vegetarian from 1997-2012, and a vegan from 2009-2011. Now, I’m a pretty voracious carnivore… but with a crushing conscience. I’m all: “give me the beef! But did this cow have a nice life?!?” Like some kind of existential carniv-angst. Since going back to meat, I’ve struggled to reconcile all the horrors of factory farming industry against my appetite and what makes my body function best. I’ll admit it: I’m a huge meat snob.

We had already eradicated farmed fish from our diets, relying solely on whatever was wild, sustainable, and on-sale that week at the market. And for a while, I was content buying meat from Whole Foods, thanks to their meat rating system… but I always harbored deep abiding fantasies of buying an auxiliary freezer, and signing up for whole shares of animals from local farms. I pictured us, sitting down to dinner, able to think of Old Bessie, grazing on the fields of some idyllic local farmland, all happy and anti-biotic free, and say a little thanks to her for the delicious steak. Or saying a grateful prayer to the spirit our sow Porky, for the yummy bacon. I dreamed of raising backyard chickens, clucking busily away, as they laid our breakfast’s healthy, humane, happy eggs.

Alas, we own a condo, with a freezer is barely big enough to manage all the many quarts of homemade stock we keep on hand, a terrace that would not give any chicken a very happy life, and persnickety neighbors who would not much care for any carefree clucking so close to their homes.

… for now.

But! We quickly realized our farmer’s market is so much more than just organic, local, seasonal and delicious fruits and vegetables! There are purveyors of beef, heritage pork, fresh fish caught by independent fisheries, and super fresh eggs laid by sprout-fed, happy chickens, too! And the more we dabbled into these delights, the better we felt about our diets, our ethics, and our connection with the community. So we grab our reusable produce bags (like the good hippies we are) and head there twice a week.

Santa Monica Farmers Market 3(source)

I’m sure you’re thinking, “but Dana! Doesn’t that cost like a hundred million dollars every week!?!?” But the answer, my friends, is NOPE. It actually kind of balances out!

The salmon, for instance, is $3 less than the usual sale price at Bristol Farms, a whopping $10-$30 less than the regular price. And it’s absolutely the best salmon we’ve ever had. Fresh from the Alaskan waters of the Atlantic, scaled, filleted, and de-boned to perfection – and we buy it from the fisherman himself! The beef is around the same price as we were buying it at Whole Foods, and way more tasty and tender than anything we’d ever had from grocery. The pork, eggs and chicken are all decidedly more expensive – but the difference in taste is enormous, and the confidence and comfort we get from knowing the source, and it’s superior nutritional content makes it absolutely worthwhile to us. Plus, the affordability of the produce we buy helps make up for those more luxurious expenses, because it’s almost always less expensive than store-bought prices.

And that’s how we came to adopt a FarMarCore lifestyle. Yeah, it’s a word I made up. But in my defense: A) I love a good portmanteau. Can’t resist the chance to make one if the opportunity presents itself. (see “carniv-angst, above); and, B) Everyone and their mother are adopting the suffix -core… appending words to connote a rebellious, anti-mainstream lifestyle, social movement, type of music, style of fashion, or genre of film (see: nerdcore, normcore, mumblecore, beardcore.) And that’s kinda what we’re doing, shirking the mainstream grocery chains in favor of local, seasonal, independently-run farmers for the majority of our food. FAR-MAR-CORE. It’s totally a thing now. Hashtag it, bitches.

Anywheeze: if you’re in the area, or are headed to another LA market soon, here’s our favorite vendors + products to keep an eye out for. Most of them roam to various markets throughout the week:

peads and barnetts pork
Pork – Peads & Barnett’s: Locally-Raised Heritage Breed Pork– Specifically Mangalitsa, Middle White and Pure Berkshire. Oliver, the owner, is adorable… and it’s simply the best pork I’ve ever had. We especially recommend the sausages and the baby back ribs. SO INCREDIBLY GOOD. I never was much for pork, until we discovered Peads & Barnett’s. Now it’s easily our most often consumed meat each week. Oliver also sells beautiful pincushion and protea flowers, if you want some beautiful florals to accompany your pork!*

Beef – Rancho San Julian: 100% grass-fed beef, from cattle all born and raised on Rancho San Julian, never fed corn or soy. Each cow is of traceable heritage, raised humanely and grazed on a rotational system out on the hillsides of Santa Barbara. The beef is dry aged and delicious. We especially love their NY strips, rib eyes, and sirloins. (Wednesdays)
– Novy Ranches: 100% grass-fed, free range, born-and-bred Angus cattle raised by a veterinarian and his family with great love and care in Northern California. Their care and feed produces a highly nutritious, healthier meat than those fed corn and soy. Dry aged aged 21 days to perfection. Absolutely delicious. (Saturdays)

Eggs and Chicken – Lily’s Eggs: Lily’s 400 hens are the sole proprietors of several acres of open pasture, roaming freely. What we love about Lily’s Eggs is their dedication to the humane treatment of animals and their fierce commitment to quality production. We buy the sprout-fed variety, which come from four different breeds of chickens, and makes for a lovely assortment of eggs that not only taste great, and are packed with nutrition… but also look great on a counter-top, where they can be stored and double as decoration! And their fresh chicken is to die for. Succulent, juicy, and antibiotic/hormone-free, humanely raised, openly roaming.

Salmon – FishWife Salmon: We were falling over ourselves with excitement when we found Ryan selling his sockeye salmon at the Saturday market. He, himself, captains the vessel that catches thousands of pounds of wild sockeye in Bristol Bay of Alaska. How much closer to the source can you get? The fish is gorgeous, pre-cleaned, filetted, and flash frozen. And less expensive than anything we could buy at Bristol Farms or Whole Foods. Even on sale.* (you can also order online through his site, even if you’re not local!)

Misc. Fish – Community Seafood: This is a membership service that brings in the freshest catches from independent fishermen, varying by week according to what was most recently caught. They have a small amount of fish available to non-members for a couple dollars more, and we’ve tried their ridgeback shrimp (meh) and their halibut (absolutely incredible). I’m a bit too picky about seafood to subscribe to a CSA like this… but it’s a great option for people who have less persnickety palates.

Butter – Organic Pastures Dairy: If you’ve not yet cooked with raw butter, you’re in for a treat. The smell of it melting in a pan is almost too much to bear. It’s nutty, rich, creamy, and tastes so wholesome it’s like the cow is just chillin’ in your backyard. Made from 100% USDA certified organic, Grade A, raw milk of super premium quality from cows that are pasture grazed 365 days a year.

Bread – Bezian’s Bakery: Don’t be put off by the pro-sourdough propaganda posters all over his stand. This bread is made with virgin organic wild yeast, resulting in a probiotic fermented sourdough that’s the best we’ve ever had. I’m not gluten intolerant or anything, but am often left feeling slightly “nervous” inside after eating breads. Not Bezian’s! And he swears that it’s tolerable to people even with gluten sensitivities/allergies. Just not to those with Celiac. And they offer many unique flavors, all delicious (except the tea – skip that). It’s worth trying, even though his stall look cray.

Lettuce – Fairview Gardens: Absolutely the most tender, crispy, juicy, refreshing and delicious organic lettuce blends we’ve found. I swear, we eat like ten times more salad than ever before since happening upon their pre-washed, bagged mixes. It just makes life so easy, and so tasty.

Apples – Cuyama Orchards: They’ll only be around another week or so until the fall, but their Pink Lady apples have been a staple in our house for months. Crisp, juicy, always organic and delicious, every week.

Berries – Harry’s Berries: Definitely a splurge, but oh, so slurgeworthy. Their strawberries are like ruby jewels of sweetness. We consume them like rabid animals.

Tangerines – Regier Family Farms: Clementine season is almost over, but their little tangerines are absolutely phenomenal. (Hint: pick the golf-ball sized fruits for the best flavor.) After a brief break until mid-May or so, they’ll be back with peaches, which I’m sure will be just as good in their own peachy way.

Meyer Lemons – Garcia Organic Farm: I can eat these babies by the slice! They taste like tangerines and lemons had a delicious baby. We start every day by drinking a glass of water, with a half lemon squeezed into it. Good for our livers, our acupuncturist says. And this makes it good to the very last drop.

Broccoli and Cauliflower – Gloria’s Fruits and Vegetables: Sweet, tender, and clean-tasting, their broccoli (and baby broccoli) are hard to beat. And their cauliflower is always firm, fresh, and often available in heirloom varieties like cheddar (yum), or the gorgeously fractal romanesco.

*These vendors can be found at Santa Monica Farmer’s Market exclusively.

Note: I am not being paid to promote any of these farmers, nor am I getting kickbacks or anything from them other than possible hugs. I just really want to share their great work with the people of LA, and encourage others to explore their local farmer’s market as an alternative to store-bought groceries.


BPA Be Gone! 10 ways we’re kicking plastic to the curb.

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This article published by Mother Jones last week was a frightening reminder that we don’t know the whole story about BPA and how the chemicals in plastics affect us. It seems that even so-called “BPA-free” plastics are not safe. And I promise I’m not going all tin-foil hat on you. These allegations are backed up by some pretty significant science.

In fact, a lab called CertiChem ran extensive testing on 18 everyday plastic items from places like Target, Walmart, and Babies R Us,  and found that a quarter of the items “came back positive for estrogenic activity. These results mirrored the lab’s findings in its broader National Institutes of Health-funded research on BPA-free plastics.”

“CertiChem and its founder, George Bittner, who is also a professor of neurobiology at the University of Texas-Austin, had recently coauthored a paper in the NIH journal Environmental Health Perspectives. It reported that “almost all” commercially available plastics that were tested leached synthetic estrogens—even when they weren’t exposed to conditions known to unlock potentially harmful chemicals, such as the heat of a microwave, the steam of a dishwasher, or the sun’s ultraviolet rays. According to Bittner’s research, some BPA-free products actually released synthetic estrogens that were more potent than BPA.”

This type of hormonal exposure is incredibly dangerous, and I want none of it. And while it’s unclear if we’ll be able to see or pinpoint it’s effects in our lifetime, this statement particularly affected me, and influenced our decision to make some drastic changes in what we use in our home:

“A chemical like BPA reprograms your cells and ends up causing a disease in your grandchild that kills him.”

Fuck. That. Noise. To that I say…

NOT IN MY HOUSE, THANK YOU VERY MUCH!

I fully support LN Smith‘s idea that “every dollar you spend… or don’t spend… is a vote you cast for the world you want.” And the world I want encourages companies to give a shit about the safety of me and my family. But not all of them will, so we’re spending our money on those that do, and trying to avoid shopping with those who don’t.

Here’s some of our favorite plastic-free gear for the kitchen, where minimizing BPA exposure matters most.

bpa-free glass stainless options kitchen bottles storage

1. 4-Ounce Jelly Jars: these are as versatile as they are cute. Just perfect for small batch jams, snacks, salad dressing, spices, pills, or individual portions of almost anything. Also perfect for traveling with. I put lotions, my homemade deodorant, and hair ties/barrettes in these little jars and pop ’em in my travel bag. Easy peasy, and all under the 4oz. TSA maximum for liquids!

2. Half Pint Mason Jars: we use these for canning, but also to store small-batch dry goods like popcorn, seeds, sauces, nuts, etc. They are also great for using as vases to hold flowers, or certain produce items that want to be upright. And a great size for loose craft items too!

3. Quart-Size (32-oz) Wide Mouth Mason Jars: Maybe the most versatile size of our collection, these are awesome for storing large-batch stocks, since they can be frozen. Or we store produce in them, with a small square of damp cloth, in the fridge. (Here’s an awesome guide on storing produce without plastic, for more ideas.) I also like these for keeping leftover dried pasta, rice, quinoa, couscous, etc once the bag is opened. I keep my whipped coconut oil in one of these on my bathroom vanity for body lotion. I use them for storing our homemade almond milk. And, as you know, they’re the perfect size for making/storing my homemade laundry lube.

4. Half Gallon Mason Jars: oh, how I love my big daddies. These are brilliant for storing larger amounts of dried goods that we get in bulk – like flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, washing soda, borax, etc. Also great for brewing large batches of sun tea, or infusing waters.

5a. Flip and Tumble Reusable Produce Bags: these always come in my canvas tote with me to the farmer’s market, so I don’t have to use the plastic bags provided there. These have such a fine mesh they can also be used to pick up dried goods in bulk like rice. Then when I get home, I can transfer them to a jar for long-term storage.

5b. Simple Ecology Organic Cotton Mesh Produce Bags: with a wider-gauge weave, these are sturdy as hell and hold produce like a mean m-fer. Also a staple for our weekly farmer’s market trips.

6. Snaplock Tempered Glasslock Storage Containers: tempered glass means they can go from the freezer to the oven and not crack on you, so these are multi-talented like crazy. We use them mostly for storing leftovers and packing Paul’s lunches for work, but they can also be used to freeze portions of stock or lasagna or whatever you like… ready to be reheated in a snap. And speaking of snaps, the lids are the most secure I’ve tried. They snap on and over the lips of all 4 sides for an air-tight and water-tight seal.

7. Klean Kanteen Stainless Steel Water Bottle: These guys come with us to the gym or out shopping, filled with water. Lightweight, unbreakable, and dishwasher safe… they’re perfect sports bottles.

8. Aquasana 18 Oz. Glass Bottles: We’re hardcore slaves to our SodaStream machine, but the plastic bottles are so no bueno. Since we haven’t found a great option to replace it yet, we’re carbonating the water in their bottles, and immediately transferring it to these sturdy glass bottles. I also like to use these for iced tea, when I brew a big batch.

9. Cuisinart PerfecTemp Stainless Steel Electric Kettle: RIP, Keurig. We barely knew ya. Yup, had the sucker for about 6 months, but decided there’s far too much heat and plastic involved to feel comfortable about it. So, we’re selling it and pulled Paul’s old stainless steel kettle out of retirement. It has variable temperature settings, heats up in seconds; and the kettle is cordless, so once it’s been heated, you can move with it easily.

10. Glass Bottles With Stoppers, 33 3/4 oz: We use these rarely, but they’re lovely for storing larger amounts of carbonated water. Especially if we have company and want a couple carafes on the table.

…and this is just the start.

Sure, the lids on some of those items are plastic, but their contact with what’s stored inside is so minimal, I don’t mind too much. And hey, baby steps right?

Pretty soon, those baby steps are gonna add up to quite a journey. And we feel pretty great about the direction in which we’re headed.


Homemade laundry detergent, aka Laundry Lube!

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My inner domestic goddess (a much nicer, more elegant way to name my “inner hippie”) is taking over, y’all. After a long, hidden hibernation, she re-appeared quite without warning last year, and has been dancing barefoot around my house ever since.

Around the same time I started taking a more active role in my health care, I also enrolled in a series of classes at The Institute of Domestic Technology to learn various and sundry food preservation techniques – from cheese making, to jam making, bread baking, and beyond. And as if by magic, some kind of past-life spirit was ignited inside me that has a fervent need to make things. Like, from scratch. And grow things that we can eat, and know the sources of the food I buy. To eliminate as many unnecessary chemicals from our home as possible, and embrace a more natural, wholesome lifestyle. My teachers dealt in the alchemical arts of home economics, and I was hooked.

If you knew me before, this is when you’d laugh uncontrollably and fall out of your chair. But it’s true! And it’s a rabbit hole of endless possibilities that are actually fun to play with, as well as eco-conscious and health-conscious… but most of them are insanely cost-conscious, too. Me likey.

I’ve already shared my recipe for homemade, natural deodorant. And today, I’m happy to pass along my latest endeavor…

Homemade Laundry Soap (aka: Laundry Lube)!

(because, don’t get it twisted, living a cleaner lifestyle doesn’t put an end to my filthy mind.)
homemade diy laundry soap

You’ll need:
1 bar Fels Naptha (5.5 ounces)
1/2 cup Arm & Hammer Washing Soda
1/2 cup Borax
plenty of hot water
2 one-quart Mason Jars (or 1 half-gallon mason jar)

make your own laundry detergent

Fels Naptha (aside from being incredibly fun to say) has been around for over 100 years, and is by far, the most efficient, affordable and versatile laundry soap on the market. It’s also one of the least chemically-laden. It’s widely known as a great stain-fighter, and can stop the spread of poison ivy in clothes that have been exposed. For this recipe, you can either hand-grate it, or do like I did, and cube it before sticking it in ye ole Cuisinart for some hot pulsing action until it resembles chopped nuts. Bonus: your food processor bowl will be polished beautifully once you wash it out!

Divide the gratings equally between each of your quart-sized mason jars, and add 1.5 cups of near-boiling water to that (between 180-212°). Hint: if you have a keurig, just run water through that to heat it up. It’ll do ya just fine. No need to mix or jostle it around too much. Just put the lids on the jars and let it cool for about 12-24 hours. Or longer, if you’re busy. I actually waited around 3 days, cuz life got busy.

When you come back to it, the Fels Naptha will have sort of jelled up at the base of the jar. Take a butter knife to it and slice around until you can stir it into a consistency like a mucous-y, lumpy, gooey vanilla pudding. It really doesn’t have to be exact. You can’t do this wrong. Just mush it around.

Then add your 1/2 cup each of Borax and Washing Soda, to each jar. Note: this isn’t the same thing as Baking Soda. It’s just not.

borax and washing soda

Now add enough hot water to reach just where the curve of the mason jar starts to narrow, an inch and a half below the lippy top of the jar.

If you have an immersion hand blender, great! You can stick that baby right down into the jar and turn it into a lovely mayonnaise of laundry cleaning power! No immersion blender, you say? Well, do you have a regular blender? Because you can use this amazing hack to screw your mason jar directly into your blender blade housing and mix it that way! Don’t have a blender, either? Well, you might be amish. But that’s ok! Break out a whisk, and some elbow grease, and make like you’re going for a stiff meringue.

The photo on the left, below, is what the gelled Fels Naptha looks like when after it soaks up all the hot water and you come back to it (top), and after you stir it up a bit (bottom). The photo on the right is what it looks like after the Borax and Soda are blended in. Looks pretty delicious, actually! But don’t eat it, yo. Basically, when you’ve got something between a mayonnaise and a smooth silky pudding, you’re done!

diy laundry soap step

The end result is a highly-concentrated laundry lube that will leave your clothes bright and clean and fresh, without all the creepy chemicals and high price tags of store-bought products.

(Now, I think that it smells pretty darn lovely all on it’s own. The Fels Naptha gives it a slightly lemony freshness that is particularly well-suited to laundering. But, in theory, you could add 10-20 drops of your preferred essential oils to the washing soda before mixing it in, to personalize your scent. I might try this later, and will update with results then. If you try it before then, just be sure to choose a scent or blend that will play nice with the lemony scent that it naturally carries.)

To use it: just plop 1 Tablespoon on top of your clothes before starting the load. I find it simplest to use a cookie dough scoop, which is exactly 1 Tbs and has a handy release lever built-in. For super duper dirty loads, you can add another 1/2 or full Tablespoon. But here’s the catch: don’t put it into your soap tray. Just plop in directly into your washing tub with all your dirty duds.

I know what you’re thinking – can it possibly work in High Efficiency (HE) washers? YES! It does! That’s what we have. It works in both, regular or HE washers, whether they load from the top or front. Does it really clean your laundry – like really clean it? YES! It does! Believe you me, my hippie aspirations will never stand between me and a well-cleaned load of clothes. This stuff works. And, according to the general consensus of people who’ve used it for a while, it won’t fade your colors, either.

But how much does it make, and what does it cost? Well, let me break it down for ya:

The most amazing part? This recipe makes enough laundry soap for 128 loads. That’s, like, a year’s worth of laundry! And the cost breakdown comes out to about $7 for a YEAR OF LAUNDRY. But, guess what? You can make it even cheaper. I shopped at Amazon for these prices (because I’m lazy), but word on the street is there are lower prices out there that can reduce this whole shebang to as low as $2 for the whole recipe if you shop super smart.

My price breakdown – through Amazon
Fels Naptha Bar: $4.40
Borax (76oz box) contains 9.5 cups. At $11.74 box, it costs $1.23 per cup
Washing Soda (55oz box) contains 6 7/8 cups. At $9.68 box, it costs $1.40 per cup
Total Cost for 128 loads of soap: $7.03

So there you have it! My homemade laundry lube. Saving the world, and my wallet, and making my inner domestic goddess do a happy dance… one load at a time.

Go forth, friends… and be clean!


Supplementally Speaking…

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For most of my life, you couldn’t pay me to take vitamins on a regular basis. My aversion to their size and taste had me reaching for Flintstone’s chewables or Emergen-C in the rare instances that I actually would cave in and allow them past my lips. And oh, how times have changed.

In the past year, I’ve made my health much more of a priority… partly because I know I’m headed toward motherhood, partly because my adulthood has been wrought with unfriendly wake up calls about my health and habits, and partly because I met Paul – who already had a strong vitamin routine of his own and could help educate me about what I might consider taking.

My supplemental needs break down into a few categories:

1. To offset our insane dining habits (aka we eat way too much, y’all), Paul and I have an equally insane workout schedule, that keeps us strong underneath the extra cushion that our many meals have provided. So, supplements to support my metabolism, my endurance in my workouts, and the strain they put on my muscles, was definitely an essential.

2. My immune system is… unreliable, at best. It has a mind of it’s own, but I’d like to “brainwash” it and bend it to my will. So, strengthening immunity was definitely a must.

3. Balance. My system had none. I needed lots. Supplementing my diet and hormonal structure provides balance, and I likes it. Also, my mental health is rickety at times, and while I’m on an anti-depressant to manage my illness, supplementing with natural boosters can only help keep my blues at bay.

4. Vanity. I’m getting older every day. Anything that can help my skin and hair stay youthful, I want. I especially want things that will not just help me stay youthful, but even improve the situation. Vitamins can do that, yo. SCIENCE!

5. Fertility. I need all the help I can get in strengthening my reserves in the ladybits department, so I’m taking anything I can to support my hormones and fertility through supplements and diet. My future babies will thank me, I’m sure.

Now, witness the daily insanity!

Daily Supplements copy

Aooooga, am I right? Dudes, I know this looks excessive. But taking them has left me stronger, healthier, more consistently energized, and vibrant than I ever was before I made them part of my daily routine. It takes some time (around 21 days) of regular use for your system to adjust to any new supplement, so don’t expect immediate results. But, they’ve changed my quality of life for the better, so I wanted to share them here.

Now, here’s what they are, and why I take them:

Optimum Nutrition Opti-Women Women’s Multivitamin
Just your every day multi for us ladies. I love Optimum Nutrition, because they come in tidy capsules that are pleasantly sized, easy to swallow, and don’t have the vile vitamin-y smell or taste that have kept me away from most multi-vitamins until now.

Turmeric w/ Bioperine
Turmeric is credited with helping prevent cancer, improve digestion, boost immunity, among other things. But it’s most notably known as a powerful natural anti-inflammatory, which is my primary reason for taking it. And it works! I no longer require prescription-strength Aleve to manage my arthritis pain! I never thought that would be possible. It’s kind of a miracle drug.

Nutrigold CoQ10
This is an enyzme that supports heart function and promotes energy production in cells. It is also said to boost energy and speed recovery from exercise, improve gum health, and have anti-aging properties. All good things, yes?

Natrol DHEA 25mg
DHEA is a naturally occurring hormone that the female body converts into androgens (mainly testosterone). I take it because science suggests that it can be very beneficial for women with low ovarian reserves and increase the likelihood of pregnancy through IVF. Yes please!

Viviscal Extra Strength Hair Renewal System
I met the Viviscal folks at Blogher last year, and was thrilled when they offered me a six-month trial. It features a deep sea vitamin complex that helps nourish thinning hair and promotes existing hair growth, resulting in thicker, fuller hair. Paul and I been taking it for 3 months now and can absolutely tell a difference. I have tons of new hair growth and more volume than ever, and Paul’s hair is noticeable thicker too. I’ve always struggled with my fine hair, and I’m so thrilled to have found something natural that helps! It’s brilliant.

Macro Greens Nutrient-Rich Super Food Supplement
Paul and I start every day with a protein shake containing the next 3 products. The Macro Greens contain 38 nutrient-rich superfoods and 18 billion probiotics, along with some herbal anti-oxidants. It supports immunity, provides part of our daily servings of fruits/veggies, and fills our bodies with lots of good stuff in one little scoopful. And it doesn’t taste bad, either! Especially when mixed with…

Optimum Nutrition 100% Whey Gold Standard Natural Whey (Chocolate)
Now, I’ve always given protein powders the side-eye because they’re often so gritty or thick I can’t stand the texture. This one dissolves beautifully without barely augmenting the texture of the water you blend it with, and has a really nice, light, clean chocolate flavor that reminds me of old school Carnation Instant Breakfast. (Does anyone remember that stuff?) It has no artificial colors, sweeteners, or flavors, either, which I love.

Miracle Reds Nutrient-Rich Super Food Supplement
This tasty powder features 19 anti-oxidant rich fruits and berries, and a ton of plant sterols, which help keep cholesterol low. It boosts immunity, combats aging, and is a great workout recovery complex. Together with the greens and protein powder, it lends a slightly fruity flavor to the shake, which is super yummy.

20oz Sundesa Blender Bottle
These little babies are what we use to mix up our morning shakes. Super easy to use, easy to wash, and inexpensive. I love ’em.

Natrol Melatonin
Melatonin is a naturally-occurring that helps regulate your sleeping and waking hours. Taking it as a supplement helps me get to sleep, when my mind is churning. Fair warning: it can cause super vivid dreams if taken in too high a dosage, so if you try it, stick to 2mg each night and no more. I learned that the hard way!

Optimum Nutrition ZMA
Zinc, Magnesium, and B6, in the right dosage, are shown to increase speed of muscle recovery, as well as boost their growth, in people who are athletic or who do weight training. It’s also shown to increase the quality of REM sleep, so I take it at night to help my body recover from the day’s workout and help me sleep a little deeper.

WHEW! That’s a LOT right?

And that doesn’t even take into account the foods I’ve also incorporated into my daily diet, or the herbs my acupuncturist recommends!

Do you have a supplement regimen? Or am I alone in my crazy, pill-filled world?


My Pits Don’t Stink: Homemade Natural Deodorant

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“Oooh, that smell! Can’t you smell that smell?” Listen closely, chickens. I’m about to let you in on what has been a life-changing recipe for me. See, my quest for the perfect deodorant ain’t because I’m scared of my own smell, or even, that someone else might find themselves in the wake of it. Oh no no no, friends, it is that “deodorant” smell that is just as sure a giveaway of a sweaty lady as her own B.O. might be. That awful, damnable powdery smell… or that floral whiff that is forever in contest with your chosen eau de toilette. Whenever I smell it on myself, or another girl, I cringe. Almost all the scents available in commercial deodorant fall into the “I would never choose that” category, the same way 90% of the perfumes at a department store counter do. There was one exception, when Secret briefly offered a “vanilla chai” scented stick, but it was discontinued, and I cursed the heavens for a long time to follow.

And on the other hand, in recent years, there’s been more and more noise about the potential dangers of aluminum, which is present in all antiperspirants, and their rumored cancer-causing properties. There’s the problem of other additives that may not be doing our skin or our health a service, but are convenient, inexpensive fillers for “big B.O.” to use in their products. And the older I get, the more I realize that knowing what I’m putting in or on my body matters to me. I’ve got far too many mysterious, incurable maladies – and the more I learn, the more it would appear that “cleaner living” can benefit our health at all levels.

So, when I learned that it was exquisitely simple to DIY my own deo with only 3 all-natural ingredients that I probably already had in my kitchen, and control the scent, I jumped at the chance to try. After all, I already exclusively use whipped coconut oil as a body lotion, and love it, so why not add 2 ingredients and call it deodorant?

DIY Natural deodorant

It’s that simple, folks. Mix together the ccoconut oil, baking soda, and your choice of cornstarch or arrowroot. Hit it with a hand blender, if you want to ensure a lumpless, fluffy cream, and slap it in a mason jar. If you have an old jelly jar, or spaghetti sauce jar, use that. By all means, recycle. Note: I definitely prefer the texture of the cream made with arrowroot, as opposed to the cornstarch. I find it is a softer touch, and emulsifies better into the oil. But, I recommend you experiment with both, and figure out which suits your taste better.

In this state, it has, and will impart to your pits, a very light coconutty smell. One which will not interfere with your perfume of choice. Nay, in my opinion, it will only enrich any scent it comes into contact with, like umami does for savory foods. But, if coconut just ain’t your jam, you can experiment with whatever essential oil(s) floats your particular boat.

To use it, just dip your finger in the salve, grab a dollop about the size of a dime, and slather it on your skin. But, in my opinion, there are a couple key tips that can improve your experience getting used to this switch, and they are thus:

1. If you can, do a 3-day “detox” before starting on your natural deodorant regimen. Simply trade out your deo for a few drops of Tea Tree Oil for 3 full days. If you can’t, don’t sweat it (ha!), but if you can, it’s a nice way to sort of “cleanse your palate” from commercial, inorganic ingredients it’s been force-fed for who knows how many years.

2. If you’re of a more sensitive nature, you may wish to start slow. For some, putting this on immediately after shaving can cause a little irritation, due to the somewhat abrasive texture from the powders in the cream. I’ve also heard rumors of break-outs from applying it to skin just after shaving. So, wait a bit before putting it on. Maybe shave the night before. As time goes on, you’ll acclimate, and it will cease to be a problem. And the bonus is, if you ever suffered from over-pigmentation in your pits, this can actually help fade that, over time!

3. If you can, reapply once, mid-day, for maximum potency. As this isn’t an antiperspirant, you’ll still be sweating, and you’ll want adequate coverage. BUT, the good news is that, once you’re allowed to perspire freely, no longer confined by the chemicals of commercial products, and your body acclimates to this freedom, you’ll find that – over time – you actually sweat LESS. And when you do sweat, it’s much less likely to have as much of a funk as it used to. And that, my friends, is like an alchemical miracle. It’s like how they say your lips can become addicted to balm, because they “forget” how to moisturize themselves. The same appears to be true of armpits, kind of. So by lacquering ourselves in chemically-derived antiperspirants, we’re actually teaching our bodies to fight harder to produce sweat. How crazy is that?

So, sure, it might take a bit of dedication to acclimate your body to a new means of odor control, but not only is it safer, more natural, and infinitely cheaper (at pennies per jar versus several dollars per stick), but it’s absolutely worth it for all the same reasons. I can safely say that I’ll never go back. And if you’re a friend of mine, don’t be surprised when I gift you a small jar for yourself, and try to convert you. ‘Cuz I’m preaching the gospel of DIY deodorant to anyone and everyone who will listen!

What do you think… would you give it a shot? If you do, come back and let me know how it works for ya!