Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Check out this fun article form Real Simple on reuses for ordinary things.   Although they are not all green reuses, I thought the article had a lot of good ideas.  

Sunday, September 27, 2009

More Denim Recycling

Using additional material from my worn out jeans, I created a Paris themed purse for my niece, Rebecca, for her birthday. This is how I did it:

First, I took the bottom of a leg of my jeans and folded over a cuff. I then cut the bottom of the leg of jeans off about six inches up from the folded bottom. I turned the leg inside out and sewed the leg closed on the non-cuffed side.

I then decorated the purse with Paris themed iron-ons I found at the craft store for a couple of dollars. I added a fluer-de-lis on the back for an extra decorative touch.

I then took a piece of 3 foot piece of chain and wove a yard of ribbon through it to create the strap for the purse. I sewed the strap onto the side seams of the jeans inside the top. Altogether, these items created a fun little girl purse from discarded items, took very little time, and almost no money at all!

Amazing Thrift Store Finds

One of my favorite places to shop is thrift stores. Purchasing second hand keeps usable cast offs out of the landfill, prevents more resources from being used to make new stuff, and offers fabulous saving on almost anything you might want to buy. I regularly find name brand clothing in current styles at deep discounts (usually $4-$6 per piece), I often find vintage items, valuables, and antiques. This week I hit up three thrift stores and found some amazing stuff.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I have a passion for fine china. Not only that, but I have had a fantasy for many years of owning autumn china. On Saturday, I went to Savers and, tada:

I found this stunting set of vintage fall formal china right out of my dreams. For only $16, I acquired this amazing teapot, sugar, and creamer. I can't tell you how excited I am to have this set.

On Friday, I found this little jewel of a cheeseboard at Deseret Industries. The most amazing part is that I comes from the Blue Danube collection, which I already have. Although this item as some minor wear and tear, it is still a steal at $2.

On the same trip, I also found two more gems. One thing I love as much as fine china are good books. I found this 1944, leather bound, gilded, copy of Dickens, The Pickwick Papers, complete with rough-cut pages and old book smell all for $2.

I also picked up this vintage chocolate brown, classic cable knit, wool cardigan for only $4. This will be a great addition to my fall wardrobe.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Pflaumen Kuchen (German Plum Cake)

This traditional German cake made with Italian Blue Plums is a fabulous treat and a family favorite.  Thanks to my aunt, Ilse Ehlert, for bringing us a basket of these beautiful plums from her tree.  

1/4 cup butter
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup sugar
1  1/2 cup flour
 1 tsp. baking powder 
1/4 cup milk
2 1/2 to 3 pounds sm. Italian Blue Plums, depending on size of the pan 
About 1 cup chopped nuts

Cream butter and sugar.  Mix in eggs, flour, salt, baking powder, vanilla, and milk.  Grease a 9x13 or jelly roll pan and spread dough in the pan.  Wash the plums, cut them in half, and remove the pits.  Lay plums on top of the dough, cut side up.  Sprinkle nuts over plums.  Place cake in a 375 degree oven and bake for 30 minutes.   

Creamy Asparagus Soup

This soup is great to make when asparagus is in season.

2 lbs asparagus
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 tbsp unsalted butter
5 cups chicken broth
Leaves of 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
1/3 cup heavy cream
A squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper

Cut tips from 12 asparagus 1 1/2 inches from the top and halve tips if they are thick. Reserve for garnish. Cut stalks and all remaining asparagus into 1/2 inch pieces.

Cook onion in butter in a 6 quart saucepan over medium heat until softened. Add asparagus pieces and salt and pepper to taste, then cook, stirring, 5 minutes. Add broth and thyme and simmer, covered, until asparagus is tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

While soup simmers, cook reserved asparagus tips in boiling salt water until just tender then drain.

Puree soup in blender until smooth and return to pan Stir in cream and a squeeze of lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Curried Zucchini Soup

This delicious soup is the perfect flavor for autumn when the apples are ripe, the carrots are ready, and the zucchini is still on the vine.  

1 medium onion chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 small carrot, shredded
1 tablespoon butter
2 medium zucchini, sliced or chopped (about 2 pounds)
2 apples - peeled and diced
4 cups chicken broth (4 cups water and 5 chicken bouillon cubes)
2 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
salt to taste

In a large saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Add the onion, garlic, and carrot and saute until the onion begins to yellow.  Add zucchini, diced apples, chicken broth, and curry powder.  Bring to a boil and boil for 2 minutes.  Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.  Puree in blender.   

Sunday, September 20, 2009

I Quit Shampooing My Hair

It's true. I have not used shampoo on my hair for about 5 weeks. I have joined the no 'poo movement, shampoo free, in order to protect and improve my health, save the earth, and have really great hair.

Honestly, when I first heard about the no 'poo movement (shampoo free), I was horrified (which might by your reaction right now). I don't believe that going green means forgoing personal hygiene and turning into a smelly, greasy, hippie. Besides, I can't toss personal hygiene. I'm an attorney; I need to be presentable. Normally, I haven't been able to go more then two days without shampooing before my hair turned into a greasy mess. I try to work out 5 days a week, so I thought it was necessary to shampoo my hair after every workout.

But, I was intrigued by the idea of reducing the amount of shampoo I was using. So, I started to experiment. First, I tried rinsing my hair instead of shampooing and found that my hair was just as clean and grease free as when I shampoo. I started going three or four days without shampooing my hair with good results.

I then decided to see if I could go an entire week without shampooing. On day 4, my hair started to feel a little greasy. So, I tried a baking soda rinse. It left my hair clean, greasy free, and very, very soft. So, when Sunday came around again, I used baking soda instead of shampoo. I have not gone back to shampoo since.

My hair is dry, dry, dry, natural curl which is disastrous without conditioner. So, I still condition my hair; but I am looking for natural alternatives. Many people who go no 'poo also use an apple cider vinegar rinse to condition hair after the baking soda rinse. I haven't tried this method yet, but plan to sometime soon.

Why Would Anyone Want to Ditch Shampoo:

In addition to being one less thing to buy and fewer plastic bottles, shampoo really isn't that good for you or for your hair. Shampooing strips the natural oils from your hair leaving it dry which you then need conditioner to replace. However, when the oil is stripped from your hair, your body over produces oil to compensate which makes your hair oily and you shampoo again. Thus, your shampoo is causing your dirty, greasy, hair.

On a far scarier note, most shampoos contain ingredients that believed to be endocrine disruptors, cause cancer, and a variety of other health problems. Since I already have endometriosis (believed to be caused by endocrine disruptors) and fibromyalgia ( of which endometriosis is a precursor and may be caused by environmental toxins and causes a hypersensitivity to chemicals), reducing my exposure to these harmful chemicals sounds like a good idea. Here are some common ingredients found in shampoo and their health and environmental effects:

Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate - (used to make shampoo foamy) not only is this ingredient linked to cancer and organ system toxicity, but it is bioaccumulative, does not break down normally in your system and can remain for decades after exposure. This ingredient is also linked to wildlife toxicity including fish.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate - (cleansing agent and used to make shampoo foamy) - linked to cancer; developmental and reproductive toxicity causing things like infertility, reproductive cancers, birth defects, developmental delays; organ system toxicity; neurotoxicity; endocrine disruption, biochemical or cellular level changes.

Ammonium Laureth Sulfate - (cleansing agent and foaming) - linked to organ system toxicity

Cocamidopropyl Betaine - (hair conditioning agent) - linked to allergies and immunotoxicity and ecotoxicity

Methoxydibenzoylmethane - (sunscreen agent) - linked to cancer, allergies and immunotoxicity.

Superoxide Dismutase - (skin conditioning agent) - linked to cancer

Methylparaben - (fragrance ingredient, preservative) - linked to cancer; allergies and immunotoxicity; organ system toxicity; biochemical or cellular level changes; neurotoxicity; endocrine disruption.

Fragrance - many artifical fragrances contain phthalates which are linked to cancer; developmental and reproductive toxicity including cancer of reproductive organs, infertility, birth defects, and developmental delays; allergies and immunotoxicity; organ system toxicity; biochemical and cellular level changes, neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption, persistence and bioaccumulation. In this category are chemicals including: Dibutyl Phthalate, Diethyl Phthalate, Cetyl Triethylammonium copolyol Phthalate, Benzoate/Sucrose Acetate Isobutyrate Butyl Benzyl Phthalate Copolymer, Diethylhexyl Phthalate, and many others. Look for Phthalate as part of the name in the ingredient list.

Check out the Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database to find out what is in your shampoo and other personal care and beauty products.

What I lost in the process:

1. Bad hair days. I haven't had one since I quit using shampoo. Instead, my hair is softer, smoother, and has more body. I have also found that I need to use less styling products to style my hair.
2. Dry, itchy scalp.

Shampoo Free Might Not be For Everyone:

In researching internet posts, I found that people tend to have mixed results. It appears that people with dry hair and natural curl have the best results with going shampoo free. People with straight, normal hair have a harder time with no 'poo. My sister has also tried baking soda rinses and found that they left her hair dry and wiry. So, for those of you who have poor results with no 'poo, natural shampoos may be the answer.

My sister's friend, Crystal Ross, gave me this recipe for all natural, chemical free, shampoo.

Natural Shampoo

4 oz of castile soap with any scent is that available – plain, peppermint, eucalyptus.
½ oz of rosemary - stimulates the hair follicles and helps to prevent premature baldness
½ oz of
sage – has antioxidants and keeps things from spoiling and is antibacterial
½ oz of nettles – acts as a blood purifier, blood stimulator, contains a large source of nutrients for hair growth

½ of lavender – controls the production of sebaceous gland oil and reduces itchy and flaky scalp conditions
2000 mg of MSM (Organic Sulpher) – provides organic sulfur to your scalp, which improves the health and strength of your hair. It also helps to drive herbal nutrient into the skin and follicles where they can do the most good.
One empty 8 oz plastic bottle, or any other empty shampoo or soap bottle.

Mix the herbs in a mason jar, which has a lid. Boil 2 cups of distilled water. Add 3 heaping tablespoons of the mixed herbs into the boiling water. Pull the boiling water and herbs off the stove. Let the herb mixture sit for 30 – 40 minutes. Put the 2000mg of MSM into the herb mixture after 30 minutes of cooling. After 40 minutes and the MSM is melted, strain the herbal mixture into a bowl.

Pour 2 to 2 1/2 oz of strained herbal tea into the 8 oz plastic bottle. Now, pour the 4 oz ofcastile soap into the 8 oz plastic bottle. Cap the bottle and shake to mix the ingredients.

The shampoo is now finished and ready for use. Use this as a base for all of the shampoos you make. You can add different herbs as you learn what these herbs do and how they help your hair. You can vary the ingredients according to your taste

Or, make your own organic hair care products.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Sun Dried Tomatoes

I have a bumper crop of tomatoes this year; especially Roma tomatoes. So, I made some delicious Sun Dried Tomatoes. Roma tomatoes work the best because they have the lowest water content. These tomatoes are bursting with flavor and a great way to save some summer time for the long winter. This is how I did it:

First, I cut the Roma tomatoes into spears. I used about 20 tomatoes for this. Then I arranged them on the trays of my food dehydrator and sprinkled generously with salt. (Ok, they are not really sun dried, but the name is catchy). Tomatoes can also be put out in the sun to dry or, a put them on a cookie sheet and place they on the dash board of your car until they are dry.

Then, I packed away the dried tomatoes in reused glass jars for winter.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Creamy Cheddar Zucchini Soup

This delicious soup tastes far more decadent then it really is. A healthy indulgence.

8 cups chopped zucchini
1 medium yellow onion
1 tbs. canola or olive oil
2 cups water
4 chicken or vegetable bouillon cubes
1/2 tsp. black pepper
3/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese

Chop onion into large pieces. Saute onion and oil in the bottom of a large stockpot (at least 6 quarts) over medium heat until the onion is translucent and slightly brown around the edges. Add chopped zucchini, water, bouillon, and black pepper. The zucchini will not be fully covered with water. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until zucchini is very soft (about 30 minutes). Remove from heat and puree in a blender until very smooth. Return to pot and add the sharp cheddar cheese. Stir until the cheese is melted and fully incorporated into the soup. Serve.