Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Update on My Natural Hair Care Routine

I originally posted about using baking soda and apple cider vinegar for haircare over a year ago.  Am I still using this method? Have I made any modifications to the method? What other products and methods do I use on my hair?

Am I Still Using Baking Soda and Apple Cider Vinegar on My Hair?

Yes!  It has now been nearly two years since I ditched shampoo and started using baking soda/apple cider vinegar (ACV) to wash and condition my hair.  I am still loving this method of natural and frugal hair care.

My hair and scalp are healthier than they have been any time in my adult life, so using baking soda/ACV has allowed me to grow my hair out much longer than previously.  Even without a hair cut in over a year, I do not have any split ends.  My hair is soft, shiny, and seems to resist tangles with this method. 

Have I Made Any Modifications to the Method?

For all of my adult life, my hair has been relatively short (sometimes super short), and has never reached shoulder length.  Right now, I am growing my hair long, and it is longer than it has been in over 20 years.  My hair is now a few inches past my shoulders.

With my new longer hair, I noticed that my hair was getting to be a bit dry.  I changed the mixtures of baking soda and apple cider vinegar a bit, and this has remedied the problem. (You can read more about how to modify the baking soda and apple cider mixtures to accommodate dry or oily hair here.)

Additionally, thanks to a tip from my sister-in-law, I sometimes add a couple drops of essential oils to the ACV conditioner for a nice fragrance.  While I actually like the smell of the plain apple cider vinegar conditioner, I am also really enjoying mixing things up a bit with the essential oils. 

I am currently using the following shampoo and conditioner mixtures (which I premix in old shampoo and conditioner bottles for ease of use):
  • Shampoo: 1/2 Tb baking soda for every 8 oz (one cup) of water
  • Conditioner: 2 Tb apple cider vinegar for every 8 oz (one cup) of water plus a couple drops of optional essential oil (lavender and/or jasmine oil are my current favorites)
With my longer hair, I have also changed the method of applying the baking soda and apple cider vinegar mixtures slightly.  The method I am using is as follows:
  1. Wet your hair.  Apply the baking soda mixture to your scalp, roots, and hair (only as far down as hair may be oily).  I run the shampoo bottle all along the roots on the top and back of my head, which lets a trickle of the solution out.  I only apply the baking soda mixture just as far down as my hair may be oily. There is no need to apply it all the way to the ends of my hair. Then I use my fingertips to scrub my scalp.
  2. Thoroughly rinse the baking soda mixture from your hair.
  3. Apply the apple cider vinegar mixture to the scalp, roots, and hair.  With my longer hair, I find that I need to apply the apple cider vinegar mixture to the full length of my hair. I let it 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 I need to rinse my hair very well to make sure no little bits get left behind.

Other Hair Products and Methods I am Using

The rest of my hair care routine includes the following:
  • Curly Girl Method: I am using the Curly Girl Method which allows me to get the most curl out of my wavy hair. (The Curly Girl book gives detailed instructions for all different types of curly hair, from kinky curly on down to wavy hair.) The method I'm using for my wavy hair includes:
    • scrunching up my hair while using my baking soda and ACV mixtures in the shower to prevent the water from over-straightening my hair, 
    • drying my hair with a microfiber towel after showering, 
    • letting my hair air dry most of the time, and
    • protecting my hair from being over-straightened by the blow dryer by using a diffuser on days when I blow dry my 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 equal parts of cocoa powder and arrowroot (the link recommends using cornstarch, but I use arrowroot in mine).
  • Giovanni Sunset Styling Lotion: Most of the time, the only product I use on my hair after showering is Giovanni Sunset Styling Lotion.  This is a very lightweight product that contains essential oils, and has a watery consistency.  I use it because it reduces frizz and flyaways in my very fine, wavy hair. I apply a small amount of Giovanni Sunset Styling Lotion right after towel-drying my hair.  Giovanni Sunset Styling Lotion has a score of 3 on the Skin Deep Website. (I have yet to find a homemade or frugal alternative to this, as all hair gels I've tried are far too heavy for my very fine hair.  However, I use such a small amount that one bottle of Sunset Styling Lotion lasts me nearly a year. If my hair had a more robust curl that wasn't so easily weighed down, I would try using plain aloe vera gel on my hair.)
  • Giovanni L.A. Hold Hair Spritz: On days when I want to look a bit more polished, I use a bit of Giovanni L.A. Hold Hair Spritz to smooth out any frizz in my hair and help hold my curl. I apply this by spraying it onto my palm, rubbing my hands together lightly, and then smoothing/scrunching it into my hair.  This results in a very soft hold that doesn't feel crunchy or hard. With the small amount of Giovanni L.A. Hold Hair Spritz I use, one bottle will last me around 6 months. Since I don't use much hairspray, I've never looked much into homemade alternatives; but in looking up the Giovanni Hair Spritz for this article, I was surprised to see it is given a score of 5 (moderate hazard) on the Skin Deep Website (whereas I prefer to use products that rank 0-2 if possible).  So I will be experimenting with these homemade hairspray recipes in the coming months to see how they compare:

What natural hair care products do you use?

This post is part of Traditional Tuesdays!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Coconut Chocolate Candy (GAPS : gluten-free : primal : SCD : paleo)

With only a few ingredients, this is a simple and delicious chocolate candy recipe.  Making this candy is very easy to do, and a great way to get the kids involved in the kitchen.  We all enjoyed the flavor and texture of this candy.  This recipe comes from the Cooking with Coconut Oil eBook. My notes on this recipe are in RED.

Coconut Chocolate Candy
  • 1 cup coconut oil, melted (I used unrefined coconut oil)
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup honey (I used mild-flavored local honey)
  • pinch of fine-ground celtic sea salt
  1. Pour the coconut oil into a bowl, and sift in the cocoa, stirring to blend evenly.
  2. Stir in the honey and salt, and mix until smooth. (I tasted it after adding the honey, and found that I wanted it to be a bit sweeter, so I added a bit more honey.)
  3. You can pour it into a glass dish (lightly coated with coconut oil) or silicone mini muffin cups and refrigerate until hard.
  4. If using a glass dish, cut into one-inch squares. (This candy melts easily, so keep it refrigerated until just before it will be consumed.)
This recipe and many more can be found in the Cooking with Coconut Oil eBook, which is part of this week's Real Foods eBook Bundle only until June 24th. Whether you are new to real foods and looking for resources, or an experienced real foodie who just needs a bit more variety, this bundle of Real Food books is sure to help!

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    Nourishing Eats Cookbook cover
  • The Nourishing Eats cookbook by Sarah Smith is packed with 60 nutrient-dense, grain-free, delicious recipes. Filled with full-color photos and lots of tips, this cookbook is a must-have item for those following real foods diets. The cookbook includes 16 breakfast recipes, 16 snack/dessert recipes, 18 main course recipes, and 10 dressings/sauces/fermented foods. This book is perfect for the GAPS Diet since 57 of the recipes are legal for the Full GAPS Diet. It is also suitable for Primal/Paleo eating. The book comes in PDF format, and is ready to print for those who prefer to have something they can easily refer to in the kitchen. 71 pages / Retail Value: $5.00
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Remember – this sale is for ONE WEEK ONLY!
It disappears forever on June 24th at 11:59pm!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Picking and Preserving Cherries

Each June, my family has a tradition of driving up into the mountains to pick cherries. We live in the very hot, very dry desert of southern New Mexico where it is too hot for cherries to grow. With just a 1&1/2 hour drive, we can pick cherries in a much cooler climate up in the mountains.  With temperatures at our house topping out over 100 degrees most days right now, it is a wonderful treat to drive up into the forest and enjoy the cooler weather.

This year, a late frost made the cherry harvest much smaller than usual, so that the U-Pick farm we usually visit was not open for regular hours. However, we were able to make an appointment to pick cherries there, and in a few hours we picked about 16 pounds of cherries.  Because these cherries were picked at the peak of ripeness, their flavor is far superior to anything we could buy in the store.

Now most of the cherries are in the freezer so we can enjoy them for the next few months.  In the past, I would often pit many cherries to freeze, but it was very time consuming and very messy.  Nowadays, I just pack the cherries (with stems still attached) into quart-sized freezer bags.  We thaw them a few at a time whenever we want to eat some, and they are most often eaten with some plain, whole milk yogurt. 











Do you have any family traditions for harvesting foods during their peak season?



This week, my grain-free eCookbook, Nourishing Eats, is featured in a real foods eBook bundle from my affiliate partner, the Nourished Living Network. From June 17-24 only, you can get 5 eBooks with a retail value of $69.80 for only $14.97. Click here to see more details about this eBook bundle.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Finding Time for Ourselves

Today I'm a guest poster over at Loving Our Guts.  Here is an excerpt:

As a stay-at-home mother of two young children, I often find it hard to make any time for myself. It can be easy for me to go about my day-to-day life making no time for reflection, meditation, relaxation, or even my own health.  After all, there is always more to do with the kids, around the house, in the kitchen, or on the blog. 

I find that if I fail to find any time for myself, I am setting myself up to burn-out, lose my temper, and feel dissatisfied.  This doesn't help out anyone in the house! By giving some time to myself, I am able to recharge my energy, my compassion, my kindness, and my passion for life.  Some techniques that have worked well for me in finding time for myself are: 

This week, my original eCookbook, Nourishing Eats, is featured in a real foods eBook bundle from my affiliate partner, the Nourished Living Network.  From June 17-24 only, you can get 5 eBooks with a retail value of $69.80 for only $14.97. Click here to see more details about this eBook bundle.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Fresh Fruit Salad (GAPS : primal : no refined sweeteners)

This fruit salad is amazingly simple to make and leaves us all licking scraping our bowls every time. The sauce is sweet, tart, and delicious thanks to honey, lemon juice, and my secret ingredient: a dash of milk kefir!  That secret ingredient lends just a touch of creaminess to the sauce, and also makes this fruit salad a source of probiotics too.

This fruit salad delicious on it's own, and can be dressed up for dessert with some sweetened whipped cream or homemade ice cream.  It also makes a great dish for potlucks and community dinners.

Fresh Fruit Salad
  • 2-3 medium lemons, to make 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup raw mild-flavored honey
  • 2 Tb plain milk kefir, preferably made from raw milk (you could substitute whole plain milk yogurt)
  • pinch of finely ground celtic sea salt
  • 6 cups chopped fresh fruit of your choice
    • Our favorite fruit combination includes:
      • 2 ripe bananas, sliced
      • 2-3 sweet apples, cored and diced
      • a couple handfuls of frozen blueberries*
      • 1 cup frozen strawberries*, sliced
      • sweet-tart fruit such as 2 kiwis or an orange
  1. Juice the lemons to make 1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice.  I find that a reamer works wonderfully to get lots of juice out of each lemon.
  2. Combine the lemon juice, raw honey, milk kefir, and pinch of salt in a small bowl.  Use a fork to stir a bit, but don't worry that the honey will still be chunky right now.  The honey will have time to dissolve more fully while you prepare the fruit.
  3. Chop and dice all of the fruit. Combine it in a large glass bowl**. 
  4. Stir up the lemon juice/honey mixture until the honey is fully incorporated.  
  5. Pour the lemon/honey mixture over the fruit.
  6. Cover the bowl and let it chill in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes.  Overnight is fine too, although some of the fruit will soften a bit.
  7. Since the fruit will have released it's juice, give this a quick stir immediately before serving. This is delicious by itself or fancied-up with sweetened whipped cream (recipe follows) or vanilla ice cream.
*I find that, outside of local berry season, frozen berries have superior flavor and price compared to the fresh berries available in stores.
**Because this fruit salad contains acidic lemon juice, I make sure to store it in a glass bowl.  The lemon juice could probably leach plastic from a plastic bowl.

Sweetened Whipped Cream

  1. Beat the cream and salt together until the mixture starts to get thick and fluffy.  I like to use my Kitchen-Aid stand mixer with the wire whip attachment, but you could also use a hand mixer.
  2. Add the vanilla extract, and drizzle in the honey while the mixer is running.  Alternatively, you could drizzle in the honey a little at a time and mix between each honey addition. 
  3. If you're using a stand mixer, use a silicone spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times to make sure you don't have any clumps of honey at the bottom.  I like to beat it until it gets a bit stiff since it will tend to soften up a bit in the fridge over the next few days.
  4. Store the whipped cream in the fridge in an airtight bowl.
***If your raw honey is very crystallized, place it over a bowl of warm water to make it a bit runny.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

My Interview on the Living Kitchen Podcast

This week, I was interviewed by KerryAnn Foster for the Living Kitchen Podcast.  We talked
  • What led my family to start eating traditional, nutrient-dense foods
  • My family's experience with the GAPS Diet
  • Finding health through nutrition and homeopathy
  • Balancing real food preparation with other life priorities
The Living Kitchen is the show where real food, food intolerances and preparedness become a sustainable lifestyle....

Read More at www.cookingtf.com/?s=podcast © Cooking Traditional Foods
The Living Kitchen is the show where real food, food intolerances and preparedness become a sustainable lifestyle....

Read More at www.cookingtf.com/?s=podcast © Cooking Traditional Foods

Listen to my interview below!

Listen to internet radio with Preparedness Radio Network on BlogTalkRadio

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Arnica: An Essential Remedy for More Than Just First Aid

picture by Bernd Haynold
So far in my series on homeopathy basics, I've focused on homeopathy as compared to conventional medicine. Now I'd like to provide some guidelines for practical application of homeopathy, by discussing the homeopathic remedy Arnica montana and its uses.  Arnica montana is among the most well-known of homeopathic remedies, as it is used frequently for first-aid of bumps and bruises.  Arnica also has many other uses, including treatment for concussions, pre- and post-surgery, sore muscles, and labor and delivery.

The Legend Behind the Plant

Homeopathic Arnica montana is a remedy made from the mountain daisy plant. Legend has it that a sheep farmer first discovered this plant's curative powers after observing his sheep: if any sheep were ever injured on the steep mountain slopes, they would go eat the mountain daisy.  When the farmer was injured himself, he ate the mountain daisy and learned that it made him feel better.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or licensed healthcare professional.  I am a mom who takes responsibility for my children's health by learning as much as I can. The uses of homeopathic remedies described below are provided for educational use only.  


Bumps and Bruises

Homeopathic Arnica montana is well-known as a remedy to use for injuries.  According to The
Family Guide to Homeopathy,  
"Arnica montana... is traditionally used to minimize the immediate effects of shock, falls, bruising, bleeding, and injuries caused by blunt objects." 
Arnica montana excels at treating bumps and bruises.  It is an essential remedy in my first-aid kit.  With two young children in the house, I use Arnica montana regularly, and it is the most often-used remedy in my collection.

I use Arnica montana anytime one of my kids has a particularly bad fall. My son typically falls down and gets right back up, laughing it off.  I know it is time to give him some Arnica when he falls down and starts to cry hard.

My daughter is a child who is rather clumsy (just like me) and she seems to be hypersensitive to pain. Even the tiniest fall or scratch can cause her to cry and cry. So I don't use Arnica every time that she falls down and cries.  But I do use it whenever she has had a particularly bad injury.

For instance, inexplicably, a rocking chair once fell on my daughter's forehead.  She, rightfully so, began to cry and scream, and I observed a large bump forming immediately.  This was a perfect time to use Arnica, and within a few minutes, my daughter was up and playing once again.

I know from past experience that my daughter can cry for a LONG time after she gets hurt, so for her to be up and playing so soon after a real injury is simply awesome.  Arnica montana seems to help with not only the shock of the injury, but also the pain and bruising that accompanies it.  I have been amazed at how little bruising and residual pain there can be if Arnica is used for an injury.

Labor and Delivery

According to Homeopathic Medicine for Children and Infants, Arnica montana is the primary remedy for the trauma of birth for both the mother and infant. 
"[Arnica] is also good for the mother's muscle aches caused by straining during labor and helps to promote proper uterine contraction. It can also stop uterine bleeding during or after labor."
According to The Family Guide to Homeopathy,
"After the birth... bathing your vaginal area with Arnica solution (10 drops of mother tincture to 0.25 liter [1/2 pint] warm water) will take away some of the soreness and promote healing."


Arnica is also useful in the treatment of concussions. According to Dr. George Guess, MD,

"Both acute concussions and post-concussion syndromes (which can include such symptoms as headache, dizziness, difficulty concentrating, amnesia, apathy, depression, etc.) can benefit from homeopathic medicine... Of course, the use of homeopathy should by no means be used as justification for bypassing standard medical protocols for diagnosing and treating cerebral concussions/head injury. Self or family home treatment of concussion should be reserved for relatively simple cases after medical evaluation. More complicated or long-standing cases remain the province of the homeopathic professional...
Arnica... is the first and major remedy for concussion. Usually bruising or a hematoma accompanies the concussion. The striking peculiarity of this remedy, if the patient is conscious, is that the afflicted will profess that he is well and needs no care; he may recoil from efforts to examine him or touch him. He may be sleepy, going in and out of stupor. If asked a question, he will answer correctly, then go back to sleep. His face may be hot while the rest of the body is cold. Patients with chronic after-effects of head injury needing Arnica are often spacey and seem disconnected, almost as if they aren’t quite in their bodies."

Sore and Pulled Muscles

A lesser known use of Arnica montana is in the treatment of overworked muscles. Arnica can be used for muscles that are cramping as a result of fatigue, for sore muscles, and for pulled muscles.  I have used Arnica successfully to ease the pain in my muscles after particularly long hikes or vigorous strength training.

Rather than waiting for muscle soreness to set in, Arnica can also be used during activities that will lead to muscle soreness.  For instance, in two double-blind, placebo controlled studies, Arnica was shown to reduce the muscle pain in marathon runners.   


Arnica can also be used before and after surgery. According to the article A Homeopathic Perspective on Pre- and Post-Surgical Treatment by Dana Ullman, MPH,
"Once it is determined that surgery is medically necessary, homeopathic medicines can reduce complications of surgery and augment healing so that people can recover more quickly afterward... Arnica is another common homeopathic medicine given to people before and after surgery because of its ability to reduce surgical shock and minimize bleeding. Surgical shock is a condition that trauma or surgery can cause in which all the capillaries and small blood vessels are filled with blood at the same time. A randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover study showed that Arnica significantly decreased bleeding time."
(The same article goes into considerable depth on several different homeopathic remedies that are helpful for surgeries, so you may want to read the full text if you are planning on having a surgery.)


Topical Versus Internal Use

Homeopathic Arnica  is sold in topical form as well as pellets to be taken by mouth.  My family has only ever used the Arnica pellets taken by mouth, but that is only because that is what I have on-hand. I've been meaning to by the topical Arnica for a long while, but have used what I have in the mean time with great results.  I know others who have used only the topical Arnica (applied directly to the skin over the injured/sore area) and have had great results as well.

One thing to note: topical Arnica should NOT be used on broken skin.

Disclaimer: The uses of homeopathic remedies described in this article are provided for educational use only.  


Potencies and Dosing

I generally use Arnica in either the 30x or 30c potency.  While c and x potency remedies are prepared in different ways, a simplified way to think about them is that c potencies are roughly twice the strength of x potencies.  So a 30c remedy has roughly twice the strength of a 30x remedy.

Homeopathic remedies are typically given 4-6 times a day for many ailments, but for severe injuries they can be given more often (up to once every 15 minutes).  A general rule of thumb is that higher potencies will last for longer, so I give 30c potencies less frequently than 30x potencies.  I have never needed to give my kids more than one dose of Arnica for any of their injuries.  But I have taken more than one dose myself when treating sore muscles.

With all homeopathic remedies, the least number of doses is always the best. Anytime there is a noticeable improvement, no more doses should be given. Homeopathic remedies work by stimulating the body to heal itself; once the body has started healing itself no more remedy is needed unless the symptoms start to regress (or unless there is a plateau, where the symptoms get better to a point but then stop improving).

Have you tried homeopathic Arnica?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Methods for Teaching Reading

NOTE: My philosophy for teaching reading has changed considerably since I wrote this post! To see my updated post about teaching reading, go here:
When and How Should My Children Learn to Read? 

Last summer when I posted about our favorite resources for teaching reading, I promised to post
about the methods I used for teaching my daughter to read.  I certainly didn't think it would take me nearly a year to get around to doing writing this post, so my apologies to any of you that were waiting and anticipating this post.

Reading is our top schooling priority

I focus on reading as the most important skill in my children's early schooling. When a child can read well on her own, she immediately gains access to all sorts of knowledge through library books and your own bookshelves. When a child can read well, it also lessens the burden for the parent,