Monday, June 29, 2015

Fermented Bread and Butter Pickles (GAPS : primal : gluten- and grain-free : paleo)

This recipe for bread and butter pickles is the best fermented veggie I've had. Grown-ups love them, my kids love them, even people who don't typically eat fermented veggies love them.  These pickles are crispy and delicious. Even if you've disliked every fermented veggie you've tried, give these a shot!

This recipe is my favorite way to use up the abundant squash and zucchinis at this time of year. And, you can even reuse the brine and spices for another batch once the pickles are gone.

Fermented Bread and Butter Pickles
Makes 1 quart
  • 3-4 medium cucumbers (OR zucchinis or summer squash*)
  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • ~20 celery leaves, a stalk of celery, OR a 1/4 tsp of dried celery seed
  • 1/2 cup raw mild honey
  • 1/2 cup raw apple cider vinegar
  • 1.5 Tb celtic sea salt
  • 2 Tb whey
  • 1 Tb pickling spice**
  • Equipment needed: quart mason jar or Fido jar, rock for weighing down the cucumbers (boil the rock in water for several minutes to make sure it is very clean), cloth tea bag (optional)
  1. In a medium bowl, combine mustard powder, honey, vinegar, salt, and whey.  Stir well to dissolve the honey and salt.  You may need to leave this sitting for an hour or two to get everything to dissolve and combine well.
  2. Wash the cucumbers and celery well.
  3. Remove and discard the ends from the cucumbers.  Slice the cucumbers evenly; I've used my favorite knife, a mandoline, or the food processor and they all worked wonderfully. 
  4. Add the celery leaves/stalk (if using) to the bottom of the jar.
  5. Put the pickling spice and celery seed into a cloth tea bag.  This makes it so that you won't have spices stuck to the pickles when it is time to eat them.  If you don't have a cloth tea bag, you could just put the spices in the bottom of your jar.  
  6. Add the cucumber slices to the jar, packing them down tightly.  Put in the cloth bag of spices around the middle of the jar and then keep packing in the cukes.
  7. Pour the honey/vinegar mixture over the cucumber slices.  
  8. Pack down the cucumbers so that they are covered by the liquid. If your cucumbers keep floating up to the top, try weighing them down.  I use a rock from my yard to hold the cukes down (I originally boiled the rock in water for a few minutes to make sure it was nice and clean, and then cooled it down before putting it on top of the cucumbers.)  There should be at least 1-inch of head space at the top of the jar.
  9. Scrape any spices or cucumber bits that are stuck to the jar back down into the liquid.  Then use a clean cloth or paper towel to wipe the inside of the jar above the liquid.  (This will help in making sure that the ferment works well and no funky stuff grows at the top of the jar.)
  10. Put a lid on the jar and leave at room temperature for 2 days; then transfer to the refrigerator. You can taste-test a pickle slice to make sure they are ready before moving them to the fridge. If you'd like them a little more pickled, leave them out for another day.
  11. Enjoy!  Once your pickles are all gone, don't throw out that brine and the remaining spices.  Rather, chop some more cucumbers, pack 'em into a clean jar, pour the brine/spices over them, and ferment again! The flavor of the second batch will be a little muted, but still totally tasty!
*Zucchinis and summer squash make great pickles too, BUT they will be soft instead of crispy.
**I buy Frontier brand mild pickling spice from the bulk section at the natural foods store.  The pickling spice is a mixture of organic yellow mustard, organic cinnamon chips, organic allspice, organic dill seed, organic celery seed, organic bay leaf, organic mild chilies, organic cloves, organic caraway, and organic ginger root.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Triple Berry Kombucha

We've been brewing our own kombucha for over 4 years now. It is such a fantastic, healthy, probiotic drink, and it is one of our staple drinks. Once every two weeks, we bottle up 3 gallons of our finished kombucha and make a new batch to ferment. Our kids love to participate in the process of adding flavors and bottling the kombucha.

Over the last year, we have been loving Triple Berry Kombucha, made with strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries. We have tried individual berry flavors in the past but were dissatisfied with the flavor. With a little experimentation, I learned that a little lemon juice greatly enhances the flavor of berry kombucha. This combination of three types of berries gives the best flavor.

Required Ingredients and Equipment

To make flavored kombucha, you need to start with some plain kombucha. You can see my recipe for making kombucha here.  Once the fruit is added, the kombucha is allowed to ferment for one day on the counter to develop the flavors and create a bit of fizz.

Mason jars work well for making flavored kombucha. If you want your kombucha to be extra fizzy, Fido jars work well.  

Recipe: Triple Berry Kombucha

Makes 1 quart
  • 1/2 cup combined of strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries*
  • 1&1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 3&1/2 cups kombucha tea
  1. Combine all ingredients in a quart mason jar
  2. Cover tightly and allow to ferment for 1 day at room temperature. 
  3. Transfer to the refrigerator.
  4. Since the berries are fairly flavorless after the fermentation process, strain them out before serving the kombucha. 

Do you brew your own kombucha? What are your favorite kombucha flavors?

*Except during our local berry season, I find that frozen berries have far superior flavor to the fresh ones sold in grocery stores.
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Monday, June 8, 2015

Quick and Easy Way to Prepare Salad Greens

I stumbled upon this fantastic method for cleaning and preparing lettuce for salads many years ago.This method is quick, it has minimal dirty dishes, and it works very well. I use this method anytime I need to prepare salad greens, and it also works well for preparing herbs (such as basil or parsley).

Quick and Easy Way to Prepare Salad Greens
  • Lettuce, arugula, or other greens (this works well for herbs, too)
  • Equipment needed: salad spinner (I love my OXO Little Salad Spinner, which has worked flawlessly for many years and is small enough to fit easily in the fridge)
  1. Begin by ripping the lettuce (or other greens) into bite-sized pieces and placing them directly into the basket of the salad spinner. Do not use a knife to cut the greens unless they will be completely consumed immediately after preparation, as using a knife will cause the cut edges of the greens to brown quickly.  I like to prepare as many greens as will fit into the salad spinner which usually means there are leftover greens, so I always hand-rip instead of using a knife.
  2. Fill the salad spinner with water and gently slosh the lettuce/greens around to wash it.  
  3. Pull the basket out and let the water drain. Instead of pouring the used wash-water down the drain, I like to use it for watering plants.
  4. Repeat the washing twice more with fresh water.  Triple-washing the lettuce/greens ensures that all debris and dirt is fully removed.
  5. Drain the basket and use the salad spinner to dry the lettuce/greens.
  6. Any leftover lettuce/greens can be stored directly in the salad spinner in the fridge.

 Do you have any tips to share for easy salad preparation?


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Sunday, May 31, 2015

Homemade Hair Care Products

I've blogged previously about natural hair care, and wanted to share the latest updates to the hair products I make and use. My array of homemade hair products includes shampoo, conditioner, hairspray, styling paste, and dry shampoo. These products work well, they are inexpensive, and they are much healthier than conventional hair care products.  

Baking Soda Shampoo

I've been washing my hair with baking soda for nearly 4 years now.  This super simple shampoo works effectively to cleanse my hair, and it is easy to tailor to the dryness level of my hair, which varies somewhat throughout the year.

How to make Baking Soda Shampoo:
  • Thoroughly clean out an old shampoo bottle (or use one like this).
  • For each 8 ounces (one cup) of water, add 1/2 Tb baking soda (for normal or dry hair) OR 1 Tb baking soda (for oily hair). A funnel is very handy for preventing a mess if your bottle has a small opening.  
  • Add water and fill to the top the bottle. Put the lid on and shake well.  
How to use Baking Soda Shampoo:
  1. Give the shampoo bottle a quick shake before each use.
  2. Wet your hair.  Apply the Baking Soda Shampoo to your scalp, roots, and hair (only as far down as hair may be oily).  This shampoo is very watery, so I find it works best to just run the shampoo bottle all along the roots on the top and back of my head, which lets a trickle of the solution out.  
  3. Use your fingertips to scrub your scalp.
  4. OPTIONAL: Allow the shampoo to stay on your hair for a few minutes for extra cleansing action.
  5. Thoroughly rinse your hair.
If you want more information about how to use Baking Soda Shampoo, including what to expect during the transition period and more tips on how to tailor the shampoo for different hair types, I've blogged about that here.

Apple Cider Vinegar and Honey Conditioner

For the first few years I was using homemade shampoo and conditioner, I used an apple cider vinegar-based conditioner. However, when we moved to our new house last year, I found that the water supply at our new house made my hair more dry.  So now I have modified the recipe to include a small amount of raw honey, which makes this conditioner more moisturizing for my hair.

 How to make Apple Cider Vinegar and Honey Conditioner:
  • Thoroughly clean out an old conditioner bottle (or use one like this).
  • Using a funnel, for each 8 ounces (one cup) of water, add:
  • Add WARM water and fill to the top of the bottle. Using warm water allows the honey to dissolve more quickly into the mixture. Put the lid on and shake well.  If your raw honey was especially thick/crystallized, you may need to let this mixture sit for a little while, shaking periodically, until the honey is fully dissolved. 
How to use Apple Cider Vinegar and Honey Conditioner:
  1. Give the conditioner bottle a quick shake before each use.
  2. After washing your hair with Baking Soda Shampoo, apply the Apple Cider Vinegar and Honey Conditioner to the scalp, roots, and hair.  
  3. Massage the mixture into your hair and scalp. Let the conditioner stay on for a few minutes. 
  4. Thoroughly rinse your hair.  Then rinse it some more. Sometimes, the vinegar solution will grow some tiny SCOBY strands (these are like what is used to make kombucha), so you need to rinse your hair very well to make sure no little bits get left behind. 

Aloe and Sugar Hairspray

I've tried several different homemade hairspray recipes, and this one is my favorite. The recipe includes sugar, aloe, essential oils, and a small amount of alcohol (which helps the hairspray dry much quicker).  Rather than using aloe juice called for in the recipe, I use the natural aloe vera gel which we already keep in our home for treating itchy bug bites and sunburns.

I typically use this Aloe and Sugar Hairspray by spraying a small amount onto my hands and then scrunching it into my hair.  This hairspray works well for me, although if I apply too much it can give my hair a bit of that crunchy feel (just as most hairsprays can). I admit, though, that on days when I want to look especially polished, I still apply a last spray with Loreal Elnett Hairspray.  I have yet to find a good replacement for that type of finishing spray, which holds every hair very well since it is an aerosol and comes out in a very fine mist. That particular hairspray leaves my hair feeling soft and flexible while still holding well. But for everyday use, I stick with the Aloe and Sugar Hairspray. 

You can see the recipe and instructions for making Aloe and Sugar Hairspray here.

Hair Styling Paste

I discovered years ago that a small amount of my homemade hard lotion works fantastically as a hair
styling paste for short hair. When I have short hair, this Hair Styling Paste gives my hair a bit more texture and definition, without being sticky or stiff.

How to Make Hair Styling Paste:
[NOTE: This recipe is the same as my hard lotion recipe. This is such a versatile product!]

  • One part unrefined coconut oil
  • One part shea butter (I buy this in bulk at my natural foods co-op)
  • One part beeswax (if you have any local honey producers, you can probably get the best price by buying this directly from the beekeepers)
  • Optional: small amount of essential oil such as lavender or jasmine 
  • NOTE: you can make the end product harder by adding more beeswax or softer by adding more coconut oil. 
  1. Using small warmer crock pot or double boiler over low heat, melt the beeswax
  2. Add the shea butter and allow to melt. 
  3. Add the coconut oil and allow to melt.  
  4. Stir well to combine. If desired, add essential oils and stir a bit more.
  5. Pour the melted ingredients into plastic containers or mini-muffin tins. (This same recipe can be used for lip balm, so you could also pour it directly into lip-balm tubes.) 
  6. Work quickly to clean up the pot and spoons while they are still warm.  I find the best plan is to wipe them with a clean cloth or paper towel immediately.  If you leave them to cool, the beeswax will be very hard to clean off!
  7. Allow the Hair Styling Paste to harden in the fridge, and then remove from the containers.  I like to make enough to last for many months, so I just store the extra in the fridge until I'm ready to use it. 
How to Use Hair Styling Paste:
  1. To apply the Hair Styling Paste, rub a little onto your fingertips. Only a very small amount is needed for hairstyling.
  2. Apply the paste by "piecing out" clumps of hair or scrunching it into the ends of the hair.  Do NOT apply this paste at the roots of the hair, as that can lead to a greasy look. 
  3. I find this paste to be most useful for styling short hair. 

Dry Shampoo

I typically wash my hair once every two days, and my hair does not look oily on the second day. Sometimes, though, I don't have time to wash my hair on the 3rd day, and to combat oil on those days I use dry shampoo made from of cocoa powder and arrowroot (the link recommends using cornstarch, but I use arrowroot in mine). I use an old makeup brush to apply this dry shampoo and it works amazingly well.



Do you make any homemade hair products? Which are your favorites?

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

My Daughter's Orthodontics - One Year Update

Last year I wrote a series of posts about my daughter's orthodontics and why we are not using conventional braces for her teethIt has now been one year since she started using her orthodontic appliance, so I wanted to share our results thus far. My daughter Alina is currently 8 years old and is in the age of "mixed dentition," meaning she has some adult teeth as well as some baby teeth.


How Does the Appliance Work?

Alina is using a one-piece plastic myofunctional appliance made by Ortho-Tain. This appliance is
encouraging Alina's palate and jaw to grow so that there will be plenty of space for her adult teeth.

Alina wears her Ortho-Tain orthodontic appliance every night while she sleeps. Because we started early, she does not need to wear the appliance during the daytime at all (whereas if we had waited a few more years before starting, she would have needed to wear it at night as well as for a few hours in the daytime).

Alina has been very cooperative with this whole process and has done a fantastic job of wearing her appliance.  Her (wonderful) orthodontist is very pleased with her progress and gives her all the credit for being the one to do the work of wearing the appliance and following his instructions.

Our Results From One Year of Treatment

Over the last year, Alina has progressed through two sizes of orthodontic appliance. This means that her palate and jaw have grown enough to need to increase the size of her appliance!

By the time she had been using her appliance for six months, her minor cross-bite was corrected so that her top and bottom teeth now line up correctly. 

And now for the pictures!

Pre-treatment (April 2014) - Alina's baby teeth have no space between them (minus the one spot where she is missing a tooth)

After one year of treatment (May 2015) - Alina has currently lost 8 baby teeth. She has plenty of space for her new top adult teeth.

(May 2015) Alina's teeth no longer have a cross-bite.

(May 2015) There is still some minor crowding with her bottom teeth, but considering that there are 4 adult teeth where there were previously smaller baby teeth with no space whatsoever, you can tell that her bottom jaw has also expanded.  


Have you tried any alternatives to conventional orthodontics? What were your results?

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Lemon Blueberry Muffins (grain-free : gluten-free : nutrient-dense)

Although her tolerance for grains is increasing over time, I still like to make grain-free baked goods for my daughter that she can enjoy with impunity.  Last weekend I developed a new muffin recipe that she loves: Lemon Blueberry Muffins. 

Rich in healthy protein and fat, these muffins are moist and delicious. I like to make these muffins using a combination of sucanat and sugar for the sweetener; the lighter taste of sugar allows the bright flavor of lemon to really "pop" in this recipe. However, sucanat can be used exclusively if you prefer to use only unrefined sweeteners.

Lemon Blueberry Muffins
  • 3/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 tsp celtic sea salt 
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • zest from 1 lemon, which makes about 1 tsp of packed zest
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) grassfed butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup of sucanat 
  • 1/2 cup sugar (I used a mix of sucanat and raw sugar for a lighter flavor)
  • 5 eggs, preferably from pastured hens
  • 1 Tb organic vanilla extract (or use homemade vanilla)
  • 3/4 tsp organic almond extract 
  • 3 Tb fresh lemon juice
  • 3 Tb organic sour cream, preferably from pastured cows
  • 1 heaping cup organic frozen blueberries*
  1. Line a muffin tin with paper cups.  (I prefer If You Care Unbleached Baking Cups because the muffins do not stick to the sides of the cups.) 
  2. Zest the lemon using a microplane rasp or other zester. Then use a lemon reamer to juice the lemon. If your lemon has a very thick rind, you may need to juice more than one lemon to get 3 Tb of fresh lemon juice.
  3. Combine the coconut flour, salt, baking soda, and lemon zest in a medium bowl. Whisk it all together to break up any lumps.  
  4. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  5. Combine the butter, sucanat and sugar in a large bowl (a Kitchen-Aid stand mixer works great for this recipe). Cream together for a couple minutes until the mixture turns slightly lighter in color.
  6. In the meantime, combine the eggs, vanilla, and almond extract in a small bowl. (I find that a Pyrex glass measuring cup works great for this because the pour spout makes it easy to add these ingredients to the mixer while it is running.) Do NOT mix up the eggs at this point.
  7. Once the butter and sucanat/sugar have become well-mixed, mix in the eggs one-at-a-time.  With my stand-mixer, I can just pour in each egg while the mixer is still running.  Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice to get everything incorporated well. (It is okay if the mixture looks a bit curdled during this step.)
  8. Add the sour cream and lemon juice to the wet mixture and mix it all well.
  9. Add the dry ingredients and mix well to combine. The batter will become rather thick, but don't worry about it.
  10. Stir or mix in the blueberries.
  11. Use a 3-Tb scoop or large spoon to scoop the batter into the muffin cups.
  12. Bake the muffins at 325 degrees F for 33-37 minutes, until a they are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out dry. (The baking time will be less if fresh berries are used instead of frozen berries.)
  13. Remove from the oven and allow to cool a bit before serving.
*Except during our local berry season, I find that frozen berries have far superior flavor to the fresh ones sold in grocery stores.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Importance of High-Vitamin Butter Alongside Cod Liver Oil

Nutrients in Butter and Cod Liver Oil Work Synergistically

Photo from Nutrition and Physical Degeneration

In Weston Price's research into Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, he found that the diets of traditional people contained much higher nutrient-content than modern diets.  For instance, traditional diets contained ten times the amounts of Vitamin A and D present in modern diets.  The higher nutrient-content led to people with robust health and virtually no cavities, heart disease, or cancer. One easy way to boost the amount of nutrients in our diets is through the use of superfoods such as extra-virgin cod liver oil, which is a nutritional powerhouse providing Vitamins A and D, plus Omega 3's, DHA, and EPA.

Weston Price found that cod liver oil worked synergistically with high-vitamin butter. Price wrote of controlling and preventing cavities through the following:
"The program that I have found most efficient has been one which includes the use of small quantities of very high vitamin butter mixed in equal parts with a very high vitamin cod liver oil... When this butter oil is mixed in equal parts with a very high-vitamin cod liver oil, it produces a product that is more efficient than either alone...The quantity of the mixture of butter oil and cod liver oil required is quite small, half a teaspoonful three times a day with meals is sufficient to control wide-spread tooth decay when used with a diet that is low in sugar and starches and high in foods providing the minerals, particularly phosphorus. A teaspoonful a day divided between two or three meals is usually adequate to prevent dental caries and maintain a high immunity; it will also maintain freedom from colds and a high level of health in general. This reinforcement of the fat-soluble vitamins to a menu that is low in starches and sugars, together with the use of bread and cereal grains freshly ground to retain the full content of the embryo or germ, and with milk for growing children and for many adults, and the liberal use of sea foods and organs of animals, produced the result described."
It is clear that, to get the most benefit from taking cod liver oil, the nutrients in high-vitamin butter should be consumed alongside cod liver oil.

My Family's Experience with Butter Oil

My family stopped taking fermented cod liver oil (FCLO) years ago because of digestive and flavor issues. Back when we were still using FCLO, my family tried taking high-vitamin butter oil along with our cod liver oil, but we had a hard time with the flavor.  The butter oil had a very strong smell and flavor that I found to be unpleasant; my toddler daughter did like the butter oil, but my husband and I could never get ourselves to take it with any regularity.  At that time, I gave up on the idea of having butter oil, and just focused on liberally using high-vitamin butter (usually on toast or waffle) whenever we took our dose of cod liver oil.

For nearly a year now, we have been using extra-virgin cod liver oil (EVCLO), which we aim to take a couple times a week. EVCLO has such a light, pleasant taste that it is no chore to take it regularly. Thus far, I have been continuing to rely on high-vitamin butter to enhance the benefits of the cod liver oil.  However, recently Corganics sent me a complimentary bottle of their extra-virgin butter oil to try.

I opened the extra-virgin butter oil with the expectation that it would have the same strong and somewhat offensive smell and taste as the butter oil I tried years ago, but I was in for a surprise. Extra-virgin butter oil has a pleasant smell that reminds me of the smell of homemade popcorn, and it tastes like unsalted butter.  I like to add a tiny pinch of salt or dab of raw honey to the butter oil and that makes the taste truly fantastic. Both of my children enjoy the flavor of extra-virgin butter oil and like taking it along with their EVCLO.

We will still be using high-vitamin butter liberally, but especially for those times of year when the butter from the store is on the pale side, it will be a pleasure to supplement with extra-virgin butter oil to make sure we are getting the most benefit from our extra virgin cod liver oil.


What are your experiences with butter oil? Do you take cod liver oil and butter oil together?

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Friday, May 8, 2015

Homemade Ranch Dressing and Dip (probiotic : nutrient-dense)

Ranch dressing is a staple item in our household. We use it as a salad dressing, as a dip for veggie sticks and homemade pizza, and as a sandwich condiment. I previously blogged my original ranch dressing recipe 4 years ago; this new recipe is another version of ranch dressing that we have been enjoying for about a year now.  The milk kefir adds wonderful flavor and a good dose of healthy probiotics to this ranch dressing.

Homemade Ranch Dressing and Dip
  1. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl or 2-cup measuring cup. (Putting all of the ingredients into a 2-cup measuring cup saves on having to dirty many different measuring cups.) Whisk or stir well to combine. 
  2. If possible, make this dressing at least an hour before it will be consumed, so the flavors have a chance to meld.
  3. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge.  This ranch dressing will keep for at least a week. If separation occurs, just give it a quick stir before using it. 

Links to Amazon and Corganic are affiliate links. If you use these links, your price remains the same, but I earn a small commission. Thanks for supporting this site!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Easy Homemade Sunscreen, Mosquito Spray, and Arnica Lotion

With hot weather arriving here, I thought I'd share some of my favorite homemade skincare products. I blogged previously about my Top 10 Storebought Body and Hair Care Products, and now I am excited to share some of my favorite homemade products. I love using homemade skin products as they are healthier than most of the storebought products, and I can customize them to fit my family's needs. 


On a daily basis, I don't use any sunscreen at all, but on days when I will be outside for extended periods of time I find that I am likely to burn without sunscreen.  We have a high UV factor here in the dry desert with its many sunny days, especially at our altitude. I have always abhorred store-bought sunscreens: they were too heavy, some were greasy, and they often led to breakouts on my face.  About a year ago I decided to try making my own sunscreen after reading this Natural Homemade Sunscreen post.

I opted to try the "Even Faster Way to Make Sunscreen" from that post, and have been very happy with the results.  My own homemade sunscreen is made by combining the following:
  • Ingredients:
  • Instructions:
    • Remove a small amount of lotion from the bottle so there is space for the added zinc oxide powder.
    • Using a funnel, very carefully pour the zinc oxide into the lotion bottle. Beware that the zinc is a very fine powder, so you may choose to wear respiratory protection during this step.  
    • Put the lid back on the bottle and shake well to combine.
    • Shake well before each use. Apply the sunscreen and rub it in to reduce any whitening effect from the zinc. Re-application may be necessary if there is heavy perspiration.
I don't know the equivalent SPF of this homemade sunscreen, but I do know that this keeps me from getting sunburned when I am outside for several hours. This sunscreen is not waterproof, so I will stick with my Badger Sunscreen for those times when I will be perspiring greatly or swimming outdoors.

Arnica Lotion

I've blogged previously about the many wonderful uses of homeopathic Arnica in treating soft tissue injuries such as bumps and bruises, sprains and strains. For particularly strong injuries we do take Arnica pellets internally, but for very minor injuries I prefer to use Arnica lotion externally.

Because I was dissatisfied with the inactive ingredients in storebought Arnica lotions, last year I decided to make my own as follows:
  • Ingredients:
  • Instructions:
    • Remove a small amount of lotion from the bottle so there is space for the added Arnica liquid.
    • Pour the Arnica liquid into the lotion bottle.
    • Put the lid on the bottle and shake well to combine.
    • Apply lotion as needed for bumps, bruises, or sore muscles. (NOTE: Arnica should NOT be applied externally to broken or scraped skin.  Calendula salve is better to use in those instances, and can be used alongside Arnica taken internally for any shock or pain with the injury.)

Mosquito Spray

Here in the desert, the mosquitoes arrive with our yearly monsoon season in July. I've always been one of those people who is highly attractive to mosquitoes, and I can be literally covered in mosquito bites in just a short time outside.  Sadly, I seem to have passed this trait on to my children as well.

For several years, we used natural mosquito-repelling bracelets, and we did have some success with those (especially if we used multiple bracelets per person). However, the smell of those bracelets is so very strong and even leaves a taste in my mouth, so so I was still open to finding a better solution.

Thankfully, last year my sister-in-law passed on a recipe for homemade mosquito spray that is made with essential oils.   My family used this spray last year and found it to work very well so long as it is applied often.  It smells heavenly, so it is no chore to spritz myself and my children with it every 30-60 minutes when we are outside during mosquito season.

(This recipe is re-printed with permission from Camp Wander.) 

What are your favorite sunscreen and mosquito-repellent products?

Links to Amazon are affiliate links. If you use these links, your price remains the same, but I earn a small commission. Thanks for supporting this site!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Home Birth is Safe and Healthy

In planning to have a home birth for each of my children, the response I typically encountered from others was something along the lines of “what if something goes wrong?” or “you are really brave”. These responses underscore the fact that most people in our society have no idea that home birth is a safe option, and they certainly don’t think labor is something we are designed to handle naturally, without interventions or drugs. As an avid researcher of so many decisions in my life, it was surprising that people would think I was somehow being cavalier by deciding to have a baby at home, as if I was potentially sacrificing the safety and health of my unborn child.

In fact, home birth is as safe (if not safer) than hospital birth for low-risk women. A recent study of nearly 13,000 births was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal [1]. There were three groups of women in this study: those planning home births with a registered midwife, those planning hospital births with a registered midwife, and those planning hospital births with a physician. Both groups of women that were attended by a registered midwife were attended by the same group of midwives; additionally, all of these women met the eligibility requirements for home birth, which means that women in both of these groups did not have any preexisting disease, significant complications of pregnancy (such as hypertension and gestational diabetes), or multiple fetuses, among other criterion.

The study showed that rates of perinatal death (i.e. death during the last weeks of pregnancy and up to four weeks following birth) were slightly lower in the planned home birth group (0.35 deaths per 1000 births) than in both of the groups of women planning to give birth in the hospital (0.57 deaths per 1000 births in a hospital attended by a midwife and 0.64 deaths per 1000 births in a hospital attended by a physician). This means that there were fewer deaths of mothers and babies in the planned home birth group than in both of the hospital birth groups.

All obstetrical interventions, such as episiotomy, electronic fetal monitoring and assisted vaginal delivery, pose some risk to the mother and/or baby. The same study [1] showed that “women who planned a home birth were significantly less likely to experience any of the obstetric interventions [that were] assessed, including electronic fetal monitoring, augmentation of labour, assisted vaginal delivery, cesarean delivery and episiotomy.” For instance, 3% of mothers in the planned home birth group received an episiotomy, while the women who planned hospital births with midwives and doctors had episiotomy rates of 7% and 17% respectively. 24% of women who planned homebirths had some augmentation of labor (such as rupture of membranes or oxytocin), while the women who planned hospital births with midwives and doctors had labor augmentation rates of 40% and 50% respectively.

In the same study [1], women who planned to birth at home were also much less likely to have adverse maternal outcomes, such as 3rd- or 4th –degree perineal tears or postpartum hemorrhage. Additionally, newborns in the home birth group were less likely to have birth trauma, require resuscitation at birth, or have meconium aspiration.

All of these trends make it clear that mothers and babies in the home birth group were safer and healthier than those that planned births in a hospital.

This article is part of a series on home birth. For more about home birth, check out these articles:
Why home birth?
Natural birth is optimal and empowering
Home birth allows mothers the freedom to move
Home birth facilitates bonding and breastfeeding
Home birth works cooperatively with the Sphincter Law 
Home birth is great for siblings 

Are these home birth statistics surprising to you?  How was your birth experience?

[1] “Outcomes of planned home birth with registered midwife versus planned hospital birth with midwife or physician”, Patricia A. Janssen PhD, Lee Saxell MA, Lesley A. Page PhD, Michael C. Klein MD, Robert M. Liston MD, Shoo K. Lee MBBS PhD, Canadian Medical Association Journal, 15 September 2009, Volume 181, Issue 6-7.