Ooh, my favorite!

Skullcap as a sleep aid
May 13, 2013, 10:44 am
Filed under: Beauty, Health


I used to accept my difficulty sleeping as a part of life. My brain just wouldn’t shut off and I would literally lay in bed for hours spinning. I’ve since become a better sleeper, and while I feel that much of it is because I’m dead tired after work and because I am blissfully happy in my little urban farmhouse with Andrew, I also owe much of it to a tincture of Skullcap. 

If you’ve gone the natural route for sleep aid’s I’m sure you’ve tried Valerian and/or Melatonin, and I’m sure those left you less than enthused. Melatonin, especially, made my eyes heavy and tired but did absolutely nothing for restful, extended sleep. It wasn’t until I met Andrew that I found out about the benefits of Skullcap. (Kind of twisted because he is so much of the reason I sleep so well now, even when he sleeps diagonally across the bed.)


This vintage Disney reference doing it for anyone? Anyone?

Perhaps that greatest thing about Skullcap is that it’s not a sleep aid directly. Mostly it’s a nervine, meaning that it relaxes and calms the central nervous system while also restoring optimal function (neuro-trophorestorative). So more than anything it serves as a wonderful anti-anxiety remedy that can be used anytime of day. (I will often take a few droppers before busy nights at the restaurant.) But when used before bed it simply soothes your nerves and naturally helps you drift into a very relaxing and restful slumber. The only note of caution I will give is that Skullcap before bed makes for some pretty lucid dreams. If you’re not in the best frame of mind I would skip it until you’re in a happier place. 

When I’m feeling especially wound-up I will take two droppers-full 30-minutes before bed. Because I don’t usually add the drops to water I prefer the tincture in glycerine instead of alcohol, but they’re both the same. (The Herb Pharm brand uses organic alcohol.) Available at most health food stores or pharmacies like Pharmaca.

As always, consult with your physician if you are worried about potential allergies or reactions with other medications. 

Health & Beauty
April 24, 2013, 3:39 pm
Filed under: Beauty, Clean, Green, Health

ecohealthbeautyToday I’m sharing some of my faves for eco-friendly health and beauty. Some you may have seen around here before, and others are new and have been secret favorites for a while. My focus for an eco-friendly beauty routine centers around finding products without the use of petrochemicals and toxins that pollute our watersouces, sea life, and our bodies. When I first started this blog I wrote a lot about our water and its sad state. These guys are all water-soluble, toxin-free, and whenever possible I buy in bulk to reduce packaging and materials, and of course recycle or reuse.

1.  Auromere Ayurvedic herbal toothpaste  After some of my go-to natural toothpaste brands sold out to larger corporations I was happy to find Auromere. It actually kicks the ass of any other toothpaste I’d tried with 24 herbal extracts and a fluoride-free formula. Contrary to popular belief, we do not want fluoride in our toothpaste.

2.  Raw Organic Coconut Oil  My lotion for body and face. Be sure to find one that is organic, raw, and cold pressed. Since we also use it for cooking we buy it in bulk from Aunt Patty’s. I keep a small container around the house and refill as needed. I’ve seen some people that whip it into a cream since it’s hard at room temp, but it is an oil after all, and introducing that much air can turn it rancid if you don’t use it fast enough. I prefer to leave it as is.

3.  Baking soda  Baking soda is a great way to naturally whiten your teeth, and it’s quite noticeable, but not in a fake Hollywood sort of way. Brush regularly for a few days and you’ll notice a difference. More than the aesthetics it’s an important addition to brushing because it changes the pH of your mouth to make it less acidic, and ultimately creates a happier environment for your teeth and gums. I keep a small dish in the bathroom and dip my toothbrush (with toothpaste) and brush as usual. Baking soda already in toothpaste does not count. Give this a try and see the difference.

4.  NatraCare Organic tampons  Cotton is one of the most sprayed crops around the globe. We don’t often think of a polluted t-shirt or cotton ball, but the sad truth is that it is. And because of this, organic feminine hygiene products are so important. NatraCare is a wonderful brand at the forefront of women’s and environmental health; their products are all chlorine-free, biodegradable, and made of 100% organic cotton. No synthetic materials (including plastics, rayon, dyes, or fragrance) are ever used.  I’m sorry, but your girlie bits are an absorbable organ, what goes there is ultimately absorbed and stored in fatty tissues…which is how cancers begin to form. And since a woman can use as many as 11,000 tampons in her lifetime it matters what we use, and it matters what we throw away.

NatraCare is available online or at health stores and Whole Foods. (Trader Joe’s also has an organic version. I don’t know as much about it, but I have used them before.)

5.  John Masters Organics shampoo  I just wrote about this last week, but if you’re looking for a high-end product line to replace your go-to shampoo this is a great one. They do not source products that have been genetically modified or extracted with heat. A majority of the ingredients are organic, and each product has a stamp to show you precisely what percentage is.

6.  Josie Maran creme blush  My favorite blush free of GMOs, pthalates, synthetic fragrance, and petrochemicals. Organic oils make for a soft and creamy texture that’s easy to apply (just a tiny bit is needed), and the natural dewey color is just beautiful. The compact is also biodegrabable.

7.  Food Grade Hydrogen Peroxide  This is one of those products that’s sparked fierce debate. I can only imagine it’s because a single product with so many uses frightens people, and because in super concentrated form it is as volatile as bleach. But here, for health and beauty (and of course first-aid) uses, we are using food grade at 3%.  As a mouthwash I take 3% hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) and add an equal part of filtered water (stored in a glass container with a loose fitting topper). In addition to the baking soda it’s a great whitener but more importantly it kills harmful bacteria between your teeth and gums.

It’s also great for skin, and we often add some to our baths. It truly is a wondrous ingredient that’s good for the planet and for you too. Tomorrow I’ll share how we use it for cleaning. Be sure to use only food grade! Conventional hydrogen peroxide you find at the drug store has harsh metallic stabilizers that should not even be used topically! It’s difficult to find so you’ll have to search online. We buy in bulk and create our own solutions, but this product is available at Pharmaca and other health stores.

8.  Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castille Soap  Vegetable based, biodegradable, and made from organic, fair trade oils, there are no synthetics or preservatives. Read the ingredients…you can actually recognize all nine of them. The scent comes from the oils, so no artificial fragrance has been added. My fave is the almond, but there are many others that are nice too. (I will also occasionally add this into my shampoo rotation.) These guys are available to refill, so buying in bulk is easy and cost-effective, just look for the large jugs. Central Co-op here in Seattle has them, and I believe Whole Foods does also.

9.  Organic sweet almond oil  The best eye makeup remover ever! No need for scary conventional brands when all you need is a single ingredient. We all know how tender the skin around our eyes is, so gently removing make-up with almond oil will help keep us looking younger while removing and moisturizing. Mom buys in bulk and shares with me. It’s also great to use as a massage oil.

* Other favorites not shown here are Tarte BB Tinted Moisturizer and Aztec Bentonite Healing Clay.

Tomorrow, some of my favorite eco-friendly cleaning products. Yay!

john masters organics
April 11, 2013, 12:54 pm
Filed under: Beauty, Clean, Health

johnmasters1. lavender rosemary shampoo | 2. zinc & sage shampoo with conditioner | 3. sea mist | 4. lavender & avocado intensive conditioner | 5. pomade | 6. bare shampoo

Far from a product junkie I mostly skip beauty products in exchange for home concoctions like homemade masks or repurposed tea toners, but that doesn’t extend to hair care products (except for a seaweed water rinse!). And while I have no desire to make my own shampoo, I should also admit that I used to find myself missing conventional shampoo: the fun of trying new brands, the ease of shopping, and the excitement of a good hair day that follows when you switch formulas. Squeal! I can totally see why so many people call themselves junkies.

The truth is that most “natural” hair care products either completely suck or are anything but natural. And that combined with my missing gene for hair styling, and my usual hair routine of drying my hair…in the car…with the window rolled down, leaves me needing as much help as I can get from a shampoo and cream rinse. So with all of these things to consider, it’s no wonder why I love the John Masters line of products. Killer products with great ingredients I have all the elements I miss from conventional shampoo but without the cocktail of toxic ingredients.

Check out their strict standards for ingredients:

No sodium lauryl sulfate, parabens, DEAs, MEAs, or TEAs | No GMOs | No animal testing | No artificial colors, fragrances, or fillers

And check this out, good stuff to know:

All products must be made with 70-100% organic content |All essential oils used must be steam-distilled and not extracted with propylene glycol – which kills the effect of the oils | All plant oils must be cold pressed, not heat distilled – which kills the therapeutic properties of plant oils | All ingredients must be harvested in an environmentally-friendly manner (wild-crafted)

If I remember correctly (its been so long) the price is comparable or even slightly less than salon products. I alternate between the products here, but also have one less expensive brand in the mix as an attempt to prolong the life of each of them. They last us quite a while (even with long hair) and it’s an easy way to save some dough.

Available at Whole Foods, Pharmaca, or Madison Market for Seattle friends.

[PS – the sea mist is awesome and infinitely better than the one from bumble and bumble!]

Tarte BB tinted moisturizer
April 3, 2013, 10:50 am
Filed under: Beauty, Clean, Health, Organic


I still don’t really get what a BB cream (blemish balm) is and to be honest I moved passed it as a silly cosmetic trend, but now that my favorite product and vanity staple has been “rebranded” to include “BB” on the label I guess I knew more about it than I thought.

Like every schoolgirl venturing into the make-up world I tried wearing a mixture of primer, cover-up, foundation, and powder when I was in high school. And after exactly one attempt I knew that routine was not for me. Aside from the process of it all, I hated the cakey and artificial look all those things combined to be. So I quickly moved to a simple tinted moisturizer and have never looked back. A tinted moisturizer evens skin tone with a light coverage, and also provides SPF protection. It’s one step, gives a natural look, and with Tarte’s version it’s as clean as you can get in cosmetics. For me it’s everything, or more importantly free-from-everything:

phthalates | parabens | petro-chemicals | GMOs | sulfates | dyes | fragrances | oils

Who knew we had to worry about genetically modified make-up, but we do, and it matters. Our skin absorbs up to 5 pound of make-up every year. It matters.

I was concerned because with the new BB rebranding the packaging did not mention the GMO and petro-chemical free formula, so I sent a note to Tarte and they promptly responded to reassure that the formula was the same and it is still free from those elements. Too bad those weren’t considered selling points any longer, but regardless, having Tarte’s toxin-free coverage as a cosmetic staple is a great step for cleaner living.

Tarte Amazonian clay BB tinted moisturizer $36


Bag Balm
March 7, 2013, 12:01 pm
Filed under: Beauty, Health

bag balm

I have been cursed with eternally chapped lips and over the years I’ve found that only one thing helps to keep me kissable. Bag Balm has been made in Vermont for over 100 years, and legend has it that it made its way into the home, by way of the barn, when farmers wives noticed how soft their husbands hands were after applying it to the dairy cows. There are a million different uses from new tattoo ointment to ammo lubricant, but I’ll use it on a patch of dry skin, cuticles, and heels.

The Skin Deep Cosmetic Database scores it a very happy 1 out of 10, which is a low hazard and perfect for use as a lip balm. (While you’re at the Database check out how some of your other products score, it’s always surprising.)

Look for the green tin in your local drugstore. For Seattleites I know most Bartell’s have it, and they have the mini tins too which are perfect for purses. I have one at work and one in the car!

bag balm

Epsom Salt Baths
February 26, 2013, 12:02 pm
Filed under: Beauty, Clean, Health

Picture 6

I think I may have underestimated the toll restaurant life would take on my feet and legs, and it hit me all at once a few months ago when I noticed deep aches in my legs and feet and knew my work sneakers and boots were not cutting it anymore. I’m not exactly excited about it, but I grabbed a pair of work shoes that have helped a lot. But the part I am excited for are the Epsom salt baths that I take after work a few nights a week.

Interestingly, Epsom salt isn’t really even a salt, but a pure mineral compound of magnesium and sulfates which are both easily absorbed through the skin and have strong healing benefits individually:

  • Magnesium reduces inflammation, helps muscle and nerve function, and prevents artery hardening. Since stress reduces magnesium levels in the body, soaking in a warm Epsom bath can replenish magnesium levels and restore calm and relaxation (and elevated levels of the mood-elevator serotonin).
  • Sulfates help improve the absorption of nutrients while also eliminating toxins and heavy metals from cells, easing muscle aches and pains.

Epsom salt bath

Use 2-3 cups in a nice warm bath (depending on how achy or stressed you feel). Soak for at least 12 minutes.

Andrew gets our salt by the 20-pound bag (for real) from The San Francisco Bath Salt Company. They have tons of high-quality salts, but our favorite is the unscented Epsom. We did get a sample of the Dead Sea Salt with our last order and that was really nice too. Lots of minerals in there also which would be another great soak.

Also, if you are interested in using baths as a regular part of a health and beauty regime you might want to consider investing in a water filter for your shower. We fill the tub with an Aquasana shower head. It takes the same amount of time as the bath faucet, just a little bit more dramatic (and kinda fun!) from the shower head above.  Your skin and hair will be really happy too.




Winter Garden at the Arboretum
February 25, 2013, 10:30 am
Filed under: Beauty, Clean, Green, Health, Nature, Seattle


I’d never seen a Witch Hazel blossom before last year (god, I love this shot!), and ever since I’ve been dying for its return in the Winter Garden at  the Arboretum. I’m kind of ashamed to say that it never dawned on me to think beyond the magic tincture I splash on my face each night, but behind the natural toner is a wonderfully fragrant and vibrant tree that blooms in winter. So if you’re in need of a floral fix and can find an upcoming dry day you should head into the Winter Garden for a quiet stroll and a few deep breaths of the Witch Hazel blossoms. (It makes for a great little date too!)

Oh, and can we just talk about the rules of visiting public gardens for a moment? Let’s all agree not to snap off a branch or blossom to take away. Didn’t we cover this in Kindergarten? I seem to remember the lesson, but sadly so many others we saw didn’t. Savor and share. 

How I use Witch Hazel toner 

After cleansing, the purpose of a toner is to remove excess oil and dirt, and also to close the pores and restore pH balance. Witch Hazel is a natural antiseptic, so if you make sure the product you’re getting is alcohol free, it can perform all the functions of a conventional toner, but without the added preservatives and chemicals. After that you’re free and clear to lotion it up.

Bottom line: it’s natural, it works, it’s cheap, and it will last you quite a long time.

I use Thayer’s. Different varieties here for about $6.

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