Monday, January 28, 2013

Divine Haircut!

I have found my salon.

I am not necessarily a girly girl, I don't use any hair products except shampoo and conditioner on a daily basis, I wash, dry and go, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy a good wash, scalp massage and haircut at a salon.

And I have found my new favorite!  Divine Body and Styles Organic Salon and Spa is Madison's first and only organic salon, and it's just beautiful!  Located in Westport, the space is open, light and airy with a delicate, tranquil fragrance wafting through the air.  No chemical or nose-stinging scents here, just gentle, herbal tones of essential oils.  I instantly felt peaceful when I walked in Friday afternoon after a full work week.  

Angela Kowieski, the owner and Certified Organic Hair Colorist, is welcoming, friendly and knowledgeable about alternatives to chemical-laden beauty products.  She is even creating her own line of skin care products, to be sold at the salon.

After a relaxing wash with wonderfully scented shampoo, I received a calming scalp massage and an application of leave in conditioner oils.  Then the most awesome part - I got the best haircut of my life!  I had about 3 inches of dry, split ends - I know, I waited too long.  But, I was waiting for the Divine, and I got it!  My hair is bouncy, healthy and easy to manage, and I will be stopping back in to get some of the hair oil Angela put on for conditioner - it made my hair soft and shiny - not greasy at all!

I highly recommend getting yourself over to the Divine Body and Styles Organic Salon and Spa as soon as possible, especially if you are looking to clean up your act, and want to use products made from naturally derived ingredients that are actually good for you and the earth.  I can't wait to go back to try the other services, including a facial, massage and a Mehndi Henna Tattoo!


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Product Girl No More!

I used to be a total product girl, buying so many different products from body wash to 3 different facial scrubs in the effort to find that ‘miracle’ product for some unseen skin issue.  My shower and bathroom cabinet were a testament to this addiction – half used bottles, tubes and tubs falling everywhere.  That is, until I made the decision to simplify my life, cut down on products, and switch to all natural or organic product alternatives wherever possible.  This extends to lotion, shampoo, deodorant, face wash, hair products etc.  I just feel that there are too many chemicals and toxins in these products, and have made a vow to myself and my family to cut down or find healthy alternatives.  After all, your skin is your largest organ, and it pays to keep it healthy.  My pact with myself is to not put anything on my skin that I would not put in my body. Pretty easy if you think about it.
The first thing I did was eco-dispose of or give away the products that were old or I had stopped using.  That was a complete relief, but it was hard to get rid of some items that cost more, so I used those up.  Then I did research on all natural and organic products, and also looked into making my own.  What I discovered is pretty amazing.
I don't wash my face with soap any more, I use oil.  Yep, even though I have oily skin, I use a gentle trio of oils that I tweaked for my personal use to clean my face:  olive, almond and castor oils.  I found the basic recipe and directions here.  Oil washing eliminates the need for a separate makeup remover, and leaves my face soft with a healthy glow.  During the winter, I use my homemade lotion bars as an after wash moisturizer.  I use every night, then just rinse my face with water in the shower each morning.  My skin has never been so clear or so healthy looking.

I tried making my own toothpaste, but I didn't like the texture or how salty it was.  So, we use Tom's of Maine non-fluoride varieties and the children's fluoride free variety.  They taste good, don't have the 'bad for you junk' in them, and there are sometimes coupons or sales available!  

I also tried making my own shampoo.  I have really long hair, and using castile soap on my hair left it in a tangled, straw-textured mess - the boys in the house use it, but not me.  Finding an all organic shampoo that doesn't contain castile soap is tough, so I tried Avalon Organics Lemon Clarifying Shampoo.  This shampoo smells great, is 70% organic, and does not contain parabens, harsh preservatives, synthetic colors or fragrances, phthalates or harmful sulfates.  Also, they do not test on animals, which is important to me.  My hair is shiny, fresh smelling and smooth.  Love it!

For conditioner, I use a 3:1 white vinegar to water solution that I mix up and keep in a squeeze bottle in the shower.  Apply at the ends and roots, massage into your hair, and rinse.  Tangle free and soft, plus no harmful chemicals!

Mountain Rose Herbs has my favorite facial scrub.  With oily skin, I like to do a facial scrub about once a week.  This helps keep my skin clear, smooth and just feels and smells darn good!  

One of my little guys has seasonal dandruff, as do I on on the crown of my head, so instead of potentially harmful, commercially produced dandruff shampoo, we use organic Rosemary Essential Oil, also from Mountain Rose Herbs.  Simply massage onto troubled areas, wrap your head in a towel and let sit a minimum of 10 minutes.  Wash your hair as usual.  If you can stand to leave it on overnight, even better.  Stops the itchies and the flakes!

For years I have searched for an all natural deodorant that actually worked.  I tried at least 5 or 6 different brands to no avail, always falling back to the commercial brands.  That is, until I started selling Evolution Salt and got introduced to the Deodorant and Cleansing Bar.  Every day, I use my deodorant bar, and it's amazing!  It goes on a little wet, dries quickly, and leaves me with a refreshing feeling all day.  Sure, by the time evening rolls around, you may need to reapply if you are going out, but it does last all day.  I barely sweat, and when I do, I don’t smell bad, just natural because the salt doesn't allow smelly bacteria to grow.  It even works in the heat of the summer - bring on the sun dresses!  No more white deodorant balls, yellowish armpits, white marks on dark clothes or chemical laden commercial deodorants!  I have been using the same one for over 2 years - so it is cost effective as well.  The man about the house doesn't use it, as he has a higher sweat ratio than I do, and it doesn't work for him.  But, he did find an all natural deodorant that does work - Kiss My Face Active Life Sport Stick.  The boys use a Tom's of Maine variety.  
For cleaning our bodies, we use our own blend of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps that we buy in bulk at the Co-op, or the Dr. Bronner's Almond bar soap.  The man about the house and the boys use the liquid for their shampoo as well, and we use a blend of the Dr. Bronner's liquid soap and water in our hand soap dispensers.  
It is a challenge to find a good, organic or all natural lotion.  I am a lotionaholic, and need to moisturize every day.  I found a good one in Alba Organics, as it has a pretty clean label, and doesn't go on greasy.  I also make my own lotion bars - the boys love them!
I use Physician’s Formula organic mascara and use Mojo Spa foundation and powder, as well as their mineral eye shadows.  I love Mojo Spa's Illuminata foundation, it makes my skin look dewy and younger looking - who can't use some of that!  The powder is great if you want a matte look, and the eye shadows double as a silky eye liner if you take a makeup brush and apply it wet.  All the Mojo Spa products are handmade using natural ingredients.  I can get behind that!

And last, but certainly not least.  I like to paint my toenails.  Fingernails I can do without, but I am not without a certain amount of girlishness, and I like to paint my toes.  I did not want to keep using the harmful commercial nail polishes or removers.  Acetone, yuck!  So, after some research, I found Safe Nail Polish.  This stuff rocks!  Awesome colors, safe to use even on kiddos, non-acetone remover, and lasts just as long as commercial nail polish.  Summer toes coming soon!

It did take some trial and error and a fair amount of research, but I feel really good about the products we are now using.  They are good for my family, good for the earth, and we have vastly cut down on waste, and the number of items we purchase, as many can be used for multiple applications.  It's a winning situation all around!
I am always looking for tips and new ideas, so please share yours!

Friday, January 18, 2013


What?!?  Huh?  What are these?  Essential parts of daily life, and so very important, that’s what.  But, as a full time job holding, business building, school attending, extremely busy, single mom of two active boys in a long term relationship, how do I find the time to rejuvenate myself?
It’s not easy, that’s for sure.  And sometimes I do wonder if I am going to actually make it.  In times like these, I try to focus on finding even just a few minutes a day to decompress and recharge to keep on living the joyful life.  Here are some things that I do – and the best thing is that they are all FREE!  

  • Soak in the tub for 15 minutes (minimum) after the kids are in bed…candles, soft music, maybe book, but mostly just the quiet.
  • Take a morning or evening walk – solo!
  • Lie on the floor and imagine yourself filled up to the top of your head with iced tea (or whatever your favorite beverage is).  Then envision yourself being slowly emptied, relaxing each muscle as the iced tea drains ever-so-slowly out your toes.  Let it last at least 10 minutes, and breathe deeply along the way, trying to empty your mind.
  • Do a Yoga video in your living room (you know you have one!)
  • Go grocery shopping by yourself - and take time to browse.
  • Take time to read a book, magazine, catalog or newspaper before bed…NOT on a computer, Nook or Kindle…actual paper printed materials here…there is nothing relaxing about a computer – it’s like work! (Plus, I get my news fix off the 'net during the day!)
  • Turn off the radio during your commute – the quiet car can be soothing.  Put your phone on silent too.  Take some audible deep breaths.
  • Every once in a while, just say ‘Screw it!’ to the housework waiting for you and just SIT DOWN!
  • Teach your kids how to do housework – it gets done much quicker and they learn very valuable life skills.
  • Plan time by yourself now and then – might not happen every week, but at least try.
  • Trade time with another neighborhood mom or friend - the kids can have play time, and while they are gone, you can either get your things around the house done without being a referee and entertainer, or just take a nap.
  • Take a few minutes each morning just after your alarm goes off to meditate, pray, stretch, plan, whatever you need to do.  Enjoy that bit of quiet time by yourself.
  • And, if all else fails…take a book into the bathroom, lock the door and take 5 minutes just for you!  (No phones either!)

Not me, but wish it was!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Oven Roasted Potatoes

Want a new and healthier way to make potatoes?  Try my oven roasted potatoes.  I have it on good authority (my 8 and 11 year old sons), that these are the best potatoes ever!  Yes, even better than french fries - and that says a lot!

Oven Roasted Potatoes:
Wash and cube about 5-6 potatoes of mixed variety into 1/2" cubes  and put into a large bowl (I like red, purple and whatnot - more nutrients!  Also, leave the skins on.)

Drizzle with grapeseed oil and toss to coat (about 1 tablespoon).

Sprinkle on 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning, 1/4 tsp Pink Himalayan Sea Salt, and fresh ground pepper to taste.  Toss to coat.

For an added zip, add 1 tbsp of grated Romano cheese before tossing.

Spread on the baking pan of your choice, single layer.

Bake at 350 degrees F for about 30 minutes, or until lightly browned and slightly crispy.  Serve immediately.  These quantities feed a family of 4.  If you have a larger family, adjust the quantities accordingly.

 (Photo is prior to baking)

Friday, January 11, 2013

Easy Homemade Taco Seasoning

The ingredients below are from the nutritional statement from a popular, commercially produced taco seasoning.  Why is there sugar, yeast and corn starch added?  What exactly constitutes 'Natural Flavor'?  Why the 'Caramel Color'? Yikes!  What is in our food?!?

Yellow Corn Flour, Salt, Maltodextrin, Paprika, Spices, Modified Corn Starch, Sugar, Garlic Powder, Citric Acid, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Natural Flavor, Caramel Color (sulfites).)

In my quest to simplify and feed my family a cleaner, healthier, whole foods diet, I decided to try and make my own taco seasoning.  A few bulk spices later, and I had an economical, tasty mix that works well with meat, beans and vegan meat alternatives.  

Homemade Taco Seasoning:
4 1/2 tbsp chili powder
3 1/2 tbsp paprika 
3 1/2 tbsp ground cumin
2 tbsp onion powder
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp jalapeno pepper powder
1/4 tsp pink Himalayan fine ground salt

Mix all the ingredients well in a bowl, then transfer to a sealed container.  Keep in a cool, dry place. Makes about 8 ounces of taco seasoning.  

To make taco meat:  brown your meat or meat alternative of choice (about 1 pound), add 2 heaping tablespoons and 1 cup water to the pan.  Stir well and simmer on low until the liquid is just about gone, then serve.  

You can also sprinkle it on or mix it with just about anything you want to have a little zip...rice, quinoa, beans, mix with sour cream or yogurt to make a veggie dip - the possibilities are endless!  I made quinoa the other night and added about 2 teaspoons to about 2 cups quinoa along with some of my homemade veggie stock - the result was delish!  (My partner even tried it on raw, homemade sauerkraut.  Strange I know, but he thought it was 'interesting'. :))

How will you use your Homemade Taco Seasoning?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Little Tips for Healthier Living

Wow, there is so much information to remember for healthier living.  Do this, don't do that, try this, what about that.  Whew!  It's enough to confuse anyone.  Well, to make it simpler, I've come up with a list of Little Tips for Healthier Living that will be easy to implement into your daily life and rewarding for both you and the earth when you do.

I will call this Installment #1, as I am sure I will think of more to share with you.  Also, please be assured I do all of these things in my own home, or I wouldn't recommend them to others.  
Homemade Veggie Stock

  1. Use veggie stock instead of oil when sauteing foods.  This will cut down on the oils you consume.  Don't get me wrong, there are healthy fats you need in your daily diet, but sauteing with olive oil (which most people tend to do) is not healthy.  Olive oil turns toxic to your body at high temperatures.  Sauteing with veggie stock both sautes and steams the foods you are cooking, and adds a wonderful, savory flavor.  I make and preserve my own veggie stock using pulp from my juicer, but there are many healthy options available as well. Choose organic and low sodium if available.  My favorite brand (if not using my own) is Pacific.
  2. Make your own bread crumbs.  I don't know about you, but I buy bread that has a clean label - usually about 5-6 ingredients.  What I don't understand is why there are 15+ ingredients in prepared bread crumbs.  What are they putting in there?!?  I came up with an easy way to make my own.  Purchase a loaf of whole grain bread (or bread of your choice), toast it to dry it completely, run it through your food processor or blender to your desired crumb size, and store in a sealed container like a glass mason jar.  Use at will and season creatively.  How much easier could it be to make bread crumbs that are 'clean'?
  3. Use citrus infused vinegar to clean your home.  Start getting rid of those nasty, chemical-laden cleaning products in your home, and get back to the basics.  Let's face it, vinegar smells kind of yucky, so to make it better smelling, take some lemon, lime, orange or grapefruit peels (or a combination thereof) and put in a glass mason jar.  Cover the peels with white vinegar.  Let soak for 10-14 days, then pour into a labeled spray bottle.  Vinegar is a natural disinfectant, so use this mixture to clean counters, mirrors, toilets, sinks, whatever you need cleaned.  You will still detect a small hint of vinegar scent, but can also smell the sunny citrus.  
  4. Substitute unsweetened almond or coconut milk for milk in recipes.  Personally, I am trying to consume less dairy.  I am from Wisconsin, the dairy state after all, but lots of dairy doesn't serve my body well.  So when cooking, I do substitute alternative milks in recipes. Think mac n cheese, creamy soups, french toast, oatmeal, baking, hot chocolate, etc. My kiddos frown on drinking alternative milks, but I do substitute in recipes for a healthy balance. My favorites are So Delicious Organic Unsweetened Coconut Milk or Pacific Organic Unsweetened Almond Milk.
  5. Citrus Vinegar
  6. Make your own lotion bars.  Most commercially produced lotions are full of mystery ingredients that are not good for you.  I have a pact with myself - I try not to put things on my body that I wouldn't put in my body.  Your skin is your largest organ, and it pays to keep it healthy too.  I use this recipe to make my own lotion bars, with one small addition - I add about 15 drops of tangerine essential oil to make them smell prettier.  This recipe is cheap to make, and literally takes about 10 minutes to do, not including the hardening time.  The boys use them too, and love the heart shape mold I have.  I hope you enjoy the blog writer's humor as much as I do!
Here is a challenge for you...try at least 2 of these in your own home, and post your results in the comments.  I would love to learn from your experiences, and can't wait to hear from you.  Happy New Year!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

To Organic or not to Organic, that is the question!

There is a lot of news around the web and beyond about how organic fruits and vegetables are not any different from commercially grown produce.  Hogwash, I say! (I don't think I've ever said 'hogwash' before, but this certainly warrants it!)

Did you know that...

  • 98% of commercially grown apples have detectable levels of pesticides?
  • Domestic blueberries tested positive for 42 different pesticide residues?
  • 78 different pesticides were found on lettuce samples?
  • Every single nectarine the USDA tested had measurable pesticide residues?
  • As a category, grapes have more types of pesticides than any other fruit with 64 different chemicals?
  • 13 different pesticides were measured on a single sample of celery and strawberries?

How are these not different from organic produce, which have none of this?  What is all this stuff that is put on our fruits and veggies?!?

Thanks to the Environmental Working Group for this information.   

The EWG has also put together a handy list of produce that should  be purchased organic - the Dirty Dozen, and some items that have very low detectable pesticides that are okay to purchase commercially - the Clean 15.

Here is a link to the handy, printable list.  I use this each and every time I go to the market.  I do try to purchase mostly organic produce, as I believe that is best for my family.  However, there are times when some items are cost prohibitive, or simply not available.  

If organic produce is out of your price range, consider visiting your seasonal farmer's market.  Many producers do not use sprays or other pesticides, be sure to ask!