Jan 032011

I actually started on the road to naturalizing my deodorant even before my adventures with the No Shampoo Method, so I thought it was about time I shared!

Like my friend Lisa Stone, I started with simply dampening my armpit and using baking soda. I confess I was surprised – it worked really well!

The only immediately drawback was that it was somewhat messy (baking soda dust all over the bathroom).

As time went on, I also got some irritation starting (especially on one side). I guess it is a little harsh – we use it as a scouring agent in cleaning, after all!

So I decided to jump in with both feet and try the homemade deodorant so perfectly explained and illustrated over at Kitchen Stewardship (her photo). There’s another great tutorial at Passionate Homemaking.

The recipe is simply this:

  • 6-8 Tbsp Coconut oil (cooled to a solid)
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch (or arrowroot powder)

You just mix this up, then fill an old commercial deodorant container, and you’re all set!

This recipe filled my old “Secret” tube, with enough left (stored in a Tupperware in the refrigerator) to fill it probably twice more.

I have been using this preparation for a while now, and I am very pleased with the results.

As a deodorant, it works beautifully. And since switching over from plain baking soda, I have not had any skin irritation.

Although solid when cool, the mixture is a little more gooey than the recipes seem to indicate when I apply it, so I think I probably need to use less oil and/or more cornstarch next time. I’ll try adding more cornstarch to the leftover mixture before the next refill. (Obviously it is not a problem that has stopped me from using the mixture as is…)

Wolf dislikes coconut a lot, so I’m not sure if he’ll be willing to use this. It doesn’t leave you smelling tropical all day, but it does have a scent (which I actually like a lot!) when you are putting it on.

We could try another oil, but coconut has various properties that make it a superior choice (such as being antibacterial).

I’ll keep you posted…

Dec 282010

My decision to move away from commercial shampoo products was based, as most things are, on a complex range of factors…

  • Toxic chemicals used in the commercial products
  • Desire to be able to live a more simple life
  • Trying to use products with a more “green” footprint, including production, as well as less disposable packaging
  • Trying to get back to the simple goodness of the things God created for us
  • Frugal desire to avoid the high cost of the store-bought solutions

As I mentioned in my post on the No Shampoo Method e-Book, I dove right in and started experimenting on myself after reading a number of blog posts and articles.

Being a little squeamish of using eggs, I started with the seemingly universal “shampoo” – baking soda.

I poured some into my hand, mixed in enough water to make a paste, and scrubbed it in.

It seemed to work well enough. But it didn’t help my dry scalp, and it left my hair more dry and unpleasant than usual.

I figured I needed conditioner, but was frankly hesitant about the smell of vinegar, which seemed to be what most people use. Heck, I couldn’t even imagine how it could be a “conditioner”!

After perusing the No Shampoo Method e-Book, I got a better handle on some method variations.

First, I took my trusty Tupperware shaker cup, put some baking soda in the bottom, and added about a cup of warm water. Shaken up, this was a terrific shampoo that used much less baking soda.

Then I rinsed out the cup, added about 1/2 c. of apple cider vinegar, and filled to 2 cups with water. Voila, conditioning rinse!

I also found a great article about many uses for apple cider vinegar in hair care on a blog called Sweet Additions (about which I know nothing else).

This was a winner!

My hair feels silky soft, my scalp seems to be normalizing and balancing out, and best of all – once dry even my husband couldn’t detect a vinegar smell in my hair! (He has a very sensitive nose, and I asked him to sniff my hair without giving him any clue as to why I was asking).

I am hoping that with continuing use I will see even more improvement in my scalp.

Essential Oils are the next step. They can both add a pleasant fragrance, and also provide their own beneficial effects…

Reminder: Until Jan. 6, you can enter to win a copy of the No Shampoo Method e-Book, just by clicking over and leaving a comment!

Dec 272010

I enjoy vanilla, and having already purchased whole vanilla beans because we like to use them in ice cream I was inspired by the Heavenly Homemakers post on making your own vanilla (extract).

In the end, I more closely followed the instructions at VanillaReview.com – but it’s all pretty similar. (I also liked the instructions at Vanilla Enchantment).

Sadly, we did not think to photograph the process… I guess I’m just not quite used to the idea of documenting everything I do!

We only waited a few weeks before we started using the vanilla, which isn’t long enough in anyone’s book.

It does have a strong vanilla flavor already, but it is rather harsh. Hopefully it will become richer and mellow out as it ages more…

Dec 242010

A friend recommended a chocolate-chip recipe that several women in our online group think are wonderful, so I was anxious to try them. When I looked at the ingredients, though, I noticed that one thing called for was a box of Instant Vanilla Pudding.


I sparked an interesting conversation on my Facebook wall when I asked folks who might know how to make pudding from scratch – “What would I substitute in this recipe to do this naturally?”

The long and short of it, we decided, was that there are lots of (relatively) healthy, natural ways to make pudding, and even pudding mix… But they won’t work in that recipe without the “Instant” – which is simply something not found in nature.

What is it, you ask?

Well, the ingredients in a box of band-name Instant Pudding include a bunch of things like sugar and cornstarch, their various “natural and artificial” flavors and colors, and…

Disodium Phosphate (for thickening)

That’s exactly how it is listed in the ingredients – like they know it’s a weird thing, so they felt the need to explain…

Now disodium phosphate, it turns out, is not as un-natural, or as scary, as I had though the “secret ingredient” might be.

It is actually commonly used for such purposes, as well as sometimes in cheese making.
People even take it straight as a health supplement (especially for the liver, gallbladder, and overall pH balance)!
It’s also used to prevent calcium deposits in steam boilers… Hmmmm.

I feel better knowing.

But I think I’ll stick with pudding from scratch ingredients I have in my kitchen… And stick with my old favorite chocolate chip cookies, too.

Dec 232010

Recently, I have been inspired to carry my “simplifying” and “greening” past using vinegar and baking soda as cleaning products, and into the realm of personal care.

After reading about Natural Haircare on A Pondering Heart, and the No Shampoo Method on Feelin’ Feminine, I decided that was a good place to start.

Being me, I did a bunch of Internet searches, read a lot of articles, and got a lot of conflicting advice and recommendations.

I’ve been dabbling with some various things over last few weeks, but I was delighted to hear the announcement that Feelin’ Feminine has put together a brand new No Shampoo E-Book!

I was delighted to receive a pre-release copy of the e-Book for review, and was delighted by it for a variety of reasons.

  • The style is warm and friendly, with multiple authors giving their own unique voice and viewpoint
  • There is a terrific accumulation of information – about hair, and caring for your hair, as well as several ideas and “recipes” for substitutes for commercial shampoo, conditioner, and styling products
  • Many “testimonials” tell real-life experiences of different people, in different places, with different issues
  • The book is well written and easy-to-read, and is graphically designed and presented in a fun and enjoyable style. (So much nicer than so many straight-text e-books out there!)
  • A special section give advice on using essential oils. Not only can you smell great, but they will actually help with various hair issues!

In short, although most of this information is doubtless “out there” for you to find yourself, I think this book is well worth the inexpensive price, to have all the information gathered, organized, and at your fingertips.


Order it directly from Feelin’ Feminine (only $8.99!)


One lucky As For My House reader will win their own copy of the No Shampoo Method E-Book!

Make sure to leave your email address with each comment. (Used only to contact the winner. If your email is entered in the form it will be saved for me but not displayed).

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Dec 072010

My desire to eat real food has been re-ignited, thanks to my latest read.

I’m looking forward to a more earnest drive towards homegrown, of course, when we move up to Contentment.

In the meantime, though, I decided to go check out what might be found at the Biloxi Farmer’s Market in this chilly weather.

Ignoring anyone with bananas and other obvious imports, we asked the vendors what was grown locally, and tried to gather a little something from everyone. We came home with:

  • Snap peas
  • Mustard greens. (What’s something yummy to do with these?)
  • Green onions
  • Butternut squash
  • Kumquats

Not bad for this time of year. Apparently if we had gotten there earlier, we could have picked up some salad fixin’s, too.

So tonight we’ll make up our favorite Butternut Squash casserole and some snap peas with our kielbasa…

It may not be much, but it’s a step in the right direction!

Dec 042010

First in a series of ramblings on the perils of being a “first generation homemaker.”

That’s not to say that my mother didn’t clean our house, or feed the family. There were even stretches of years when she was a “stay at home mom.”

But she never considered “homemaking” a vocation. She didn’t have more than a curiosity or hobby interest in crafts, sewing, gardening or serious cooking; she would never even have thought of canning food, making soap or candles, or baking all her family’s bread.

So I am trying to return to some of these activities, which would have been considered strictly “normal” as recently as two or three generations ago.

Learning to sew has been particularly frustrating for me lately.

Much more so than, say, cooking, sewing defies the simplicity of following the steps of written instructions.

There’s only one way (at least as far as it matters) to add 1 cup of flour and 1 teaspoon of baking power to the bowl.

With sewing there are things that are hard to describe, things that are assumed “common knowledge” that may not be mentioned, things about your particular sewing machine or situation that may change what is needed…

I’ve wished many, many times that I had a “mother figure” here to show me how to do certain things.

Practice makes perfect is okay with me, but hardcore trial and error is tough. Even more so when your funds for supplies are limited, and your time for projects is restricted by family needs.

How quickly these skills have passed out of common usage!

Hopefully I can learn enough to start Jewel off on an easier homemaking path…

Nov 012010

I recently ran across a post by Felicia Sullivan called The 15:30 Challenge, based on a Halogen TV Clean Out Your Closet idea.

Her “Rules”:

1. Select 15 items from your closet: These can include shirts, trousers, jeans, cardigans, dresses, etc — in short, clothing. Make your final selections by August 30th.

2. Use unlimited accessories: Remix your outfits relying on all of your jewelry, shoes, scarves, outerwear (blazers/suit jackets do not equal outerwear!), and belts.

3. Captain Obvious: your pajamas and lounge-at-home clothing do not count, undergarments do not count, gym clothes do not count.

4. Make the COMMIT LIST: Document your list on your blog, iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, loose-leaf paper, etc. Feel free to snap photographs of the items, list them — get creative! This is your commit list, and you can’t stray from it. Stain on shirt? DEAL WITH IT. Cat ripped your pants? Get a SEWING KIT.

5. Keep a diary: Document your outfits each day, whether it be via an “outfit of the day” photo or a log of what you’ve worn and how you’ve mixed it up.

6. Ask for help!: Call your friends, pen a blog. Don’t be afraid to ask friends for help on creative ideas on keeping your wardrobe fresh!

Could you do it?

I had a good laugh when I went to my closet to see what 15 items I would pick.

I started listing things:

  • Denim jumper
  • Flower jumper
  • Camo jumper
  • Blue print church skirt
  • Denim skirt
  • Black print church skirt
  • Blue blouse
  • Tan Blouse
  • White button shirt
  • Green button shirt
  • Black print church blouse
  • Long-sleeve blue shirt
  • Other white button shirt (pattern)

Okay, that’s really pretty much everything I wear, barring the weather getting colder and needing warmer things.

Ummmm… That’s only 13 things!

Laughing. Much laughing.

I guess the only cleaning out my closet needs is to get rid of the things hanging back in the back collecting dust.

Since obviously I’m not using them…

Sep 232010

Nick and I have been growing in our green housekeeping practices… Sometimes intentionally, sometimes more or less coincidentally.

We have *still* not found any of the cleanser, window cleaner, or toilet cleaner from our move. Obviously, at some point you can’t put off cleaning the bathroom anymore.

Rather than go out and buy what I was certain would be duplicates, and furthermore a strain on our budget, I decided to improvise.

A quick online search revealed some “recipes” people use for cleaning with vinegar.

Here’s the window cleaning solution we tried:

  • 2 c. water
  • 3 T. vinegar
  • dash of dish-washing soap

And it worked… like a champ!

Showing a delightful bit of initiative, Nick just added a little more dish soap, and the formula became a perfect general cleaner for the sinks, counters, shower, and toilet.

So cheap, so easy – and so non-toxic.

Why would we ever go back?

Aug 232010

Now begins the quest for a simpler life.

My wife and I have been wanting a simpler lifestyle more and more over the past few years. We are both used to the big cities of California.

She has come to long for a simpler life for us and our children. I was born and reared in northeast Mississippi and hunted and fished and heard stories of farming and having animals.

We felt that if we could ever buy a decent-sized plot of land with running water it would be a dream come true.

I grew up spending lots of free time at “the farm”. My uncle had purchased upwards of 80 acres of land outside of town. After he died in the Air Force the land went to my grandfather, and when he passed away my dad got the land and eventually built a house there.

My father passed away on August 16th, 2010 and my brother asked if I had any desire to move onto the land when our step-mother moved away. She will stay for a while, but eventually retire to the town further north where her family lives.

I thought about the 80-plus acres with a creek running through it.

I think our dreams have just begun to come to fruition.

Our plans are to have an essentially self-sufficient life on a small homeplace. We have planned out little bits and pieces of it over the years; we have lovingly come to call this place “Contentment” after Paul’s description in the Bible.

I plan to document and pass on the things that work and the things that don’t.

The journey will begin now for me and my wife Tiffany (in our 40′s), oldest son Nick at 16, Jewel at 5, and R.T. at 2 years of age.

The following months or years will be planning and preparing the land.

On some undetermined date in the future we will move to the homeplace and start our new life … one step at a time.

So, here we go … on the road to Contentment.

 Posted by at 8:17 am