Natural Ways to Detox

 

Detox your body naturally and gently.  These simple practices everyday will help to keep your system running smoothly. - thesimplehive.com

As Spring is quickly making way for Summer, I find that I am needing a push to get to the end of our homeschool year. So much has been happening, seemingly all at once, and I feel the need to detox and renew.  I also feel the need for a long vacation, but that’s not happening anytime soon.

I’m not talking about the need to wring out my liver, although after the large family get-together we just had, that shoe might fit. What I need is gentle and natural approach to clearing out what is slowing me down and zapping my desperately needed energy. Continue reading

Yoga Trapeze yoga swing

I love yoga.  I love yoga.  I love yoga.  I almost typed “I love Yoda.”  That’s a totally different love, and a little weird, but one I will not deny.  I just want to put him in a baby sling and carry him around all day while he dispenses sage advice.  He might not appreciate being treated like an infant.  Maybe a piggyback is more his speed.  That post is for another day.

Today, I’m feeling the love of yoga.

I have been practicing it on and off for over 20 years.  Lately, it’s more off than on.  Whenever I start up after a hiatus, I always look back and wonder why on earth I ever put it on hold.  Nothing feels better than beginning and ending the day with core-strengthening and muscle-lengthening stretches.  It makes all the chaos of the world manageable, invites deep sleep and helps define a time for prayer, so that I can go about my life in a state of rest and reassurance.  Why not do something that awesome everyday?

Because life gets in the way sometimes, that’s why.  It shouldn’t get in the way of being healthy since ignoring your health will shorten and diminish your quality of life.  I’m guilty of putting my health on the back burner.  You?

For me,  yoga happens at home when I can fit it in between teaching, cleaning, cooking, sewing, gardening and blogging, among other obligations.  I enjoy yoga mat simplicity, but I sometimes feel I’m missing out on some deep stretching and strengthening.

Enter the Yoga Trapeze!

yoga trapeze yoga swing

 

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Health Benefits of Matcha Green Tea

Health benefits of Matcha green tea - the simple hive

Because I’m over forty and don’t want to feel like it, I’m trying to be good about taking care of myself.  Just about every morning for the past 10 years, I have a green smoothie for breakfast.  It’s a good start, but lately, I’ve been adding Matcha green tea powder to it for an added energy and I love the calm boost it gives me in the morning.  Because I like this boost, I’ve been looking for ways to incorporate it into other foods.

One delicious way to consume more matcha is to make a healthy, vegan Shamrock Shake.  It’s loaded with goodies and tastes like chocolate-mint ice cream!

Ice cream for breakfast!  I’ll do it.  I’m not afraid.

As I was browsing the internets, I came across some convincing reasons to consume matcha.  Because I want us all to enjoy good health, and jiggle less, I’m sharing the love.

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goat’s milk and honey soap in the crock pot

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When I tell people I make my own soap, I’m sure many of them think it’s a waste of time.  After all, soap is readily available in just about every grocery, drug, convenience and dollar store and it’s inexpensive.  So why do I make my own?  I’m glad you asked.

Your skin is your largest organ.  Some adults carry around 8 pounds or about 22 square feet of it.  While it does a good job at regulating temperatures and keeping our insides on the inside, it’s porous, and that means it is penetrable.  Some of the  stuff we put on the surface of our skin can make it’s way into our bodies.  If you are not convinced, think about the medication patch delivery system.

Because my girls suffer from food allergies and psoriasis, we spend more time than I would like traveling to and fro and sitting in the office of our allergist.  On his advice, we have been removing fragrances from the cleaning, laundry and toiletry supplies we use.  We have completely omitted dryer sheets (replaced with dryer balls) and said sayonara to store-bought liquid fabric softener in favor of homemade fabric softener and cleaning concentrate.  Our cleaning supplies are baking soda, vinegar and a few essential oils like tea tree and eucalyptus.  When extra cleaning power is needed, I break out the big guns like borax and washing soda.

Now, back to why I make my own soap.  I don’t know what is in the mass-produced soap.  The “fragrance” on the list of ingredients doesn’t have to be disclosed.  It can be a dangerous cocktail of chemicals that have been linked to cancer and  phthalates that can lead to asthma and allergies.  Not in my bath water.  No thanks.

If you are a homeschooling family, like we are, a lesson in soap-making is a great way to connect chemistry and real life.  Do a unit study of organic chemistry and make something useful in the process.  Embrace your inner geek!  We all have one!

There are other goat’s milk soaps on the market that are safe and lovely, but at 5-6 dollars a bar, it’s not doable for my family of six.

So that’s why I make my own soap.  I get to design the soap with the cleansing, lathering and moisturizing properties I want.  Fragrance and color can be added by using essential oils and natural pigments.  Although, my favorite unscented “scent” comes naturally from goat’s milk and honey.

Here’s how it came to be.

A few years ago, I made my very first batch of cold-process soap.   It was unscented and made with goat’s milk. It was mild and even though it did not contain any added fragrance, it smelled heavenly. There is something about the scent of goat’s milk when it “cooks” in the soap that I find irresistible. If you don’t have any idea what I mean, then you need this soap in your life!

Today, because I needed mild soap and didn’t want to wait, I made that same goat’s milk soap by the hot process method. This is the first time I have used this method and I have to say, I’m a convert. You see, with the cold process method the bars require a curing period to make sure that the oils are completely saponified and the lye is no longer present. The curing period can last for several weeks and is difficult if you want it now!  With the hot process method, the lye “cooks” away in the crock pot (yes, you can make soap in the crock pot!) and the soap is ready to use in as little as 12 hours.

I want my soap now! My winter-ravaged skin needs it. I’ll bet many of you feel the same way, so I’ll tell you how I did it!

You will need:

  • a kitchen scale that measures ounces or grams
  • safety goggles
  • gloves
  • face mask
  • spoon for stirring
  • glass container for mixing milk and lye
  • crock pot
  • olive oil (22.4 ounces or 635.029 grams)
  • coconut oil (8.96 ounces or 254.012 grams)
  • castor oil (0.64 ounces or 18.144 grams)
  • goat’s milk (12.16 ounces or 344.73 grams)
  • honey (2 Tbsp)
  • lye (4.521 ounces or 128.158 grams)
  • pH strips (or phenolphthalein )

You also need 2 Pringles cans to use as molds (my kids thought I was the bees knees for buying Pringles) or a soap mold that accommodates 2 pounds of soap.

Warning:  Lye is a caustic substance.  Failure to follow safety precautions and to wear proper safety gear can result in injury.

This recipe is for two pounds of soap. It fills two Pringles cans about 3/4 of the way. It’s important to note that Pringles can may only be used during the hot-process soap method because the soap being put into the cans is already soap.  Do not use Pringles cans with cold-process soap as it still contains lye until it is cured.

Safety first: If you make any changes to the oils, run your oils of choice through a soap calculator. SoapCalc.net is the one I used.

When using goat’s milk or any other milk in soap making, it must be ice cold to keep the sugars from caramelizing too much and creating an off-putting scent.  On the morning I make soap, I measure out the amount of milk needed for the recipe into a container and place it in the freezer.  Within a couple of hours, the milk is slushy and ready for the lye.

weighed oils into crock pot

weighed oils into crock pot

Weigh each oil and place in the crock pot on low.  While the oils are melting, measure out your lye (I used a disposable paper cup).  Be sure to wear your safety goggles, mask and gloves when handling lye.

Turn off the crock pot when the oils have melted.

Transfer your slushy goat’s milk into a large glass measuring cup, or pitcher.  Wearing all you safety gear (long sleeves are a good idea here, too) sprinkle the lye slowly into the milk and stir gently until completely dissolved.  I add the lye to the liquid outside to avoid breathing in any fumes.  I recommend doing this.  Always.

Safety note:  (This post is full of them!) Never pour your liquids into the lye.  It can make a very dangerous volcano-like situation.

Once the lye is fully dissolved in the milk, slowly pour into the oils.  Stir gently with a spoon to mix, then break out the stick blender!  I wouldn’t think of making soap without one.  I’m pretty sure by the time I stirred the oil/milk/lye mixture to trace, my arms would fall off.  I’m pretty attached to my arms, so I use a stick blender.  You should, too.

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With the stick blender, immersion blender or whatever you want to call it (call it Hank, if you want) blend until the mixture looks like a soft-set pudding.  This is called “trace” because your blender (or Hank) will leave a trace of a trail when pulled through the mixture.  This stage usually takes 8-12 minutes, depending on the oils being used.

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When trace happens, turn on the crock pot to low and cover with the lid.  I offset the lid slightly so the heat stays in, but the lid does cause condensation.

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As the soap cooks, it will bubble along the edges.  Stir with a spoon occasionally to keep the mixture cooking evenly.  While cooking, the soap mixture looks like applesauce.  Resist the temptation to taste it.  When the soap is ready, it will resemble waxy mashed potatoes.  At this point, use a pH test strip to make sure the lye is cooked out.  Remove a small blob of soap mixture and test it with your pH strips or phenolphthalein, whichever one you’re using.  Your goal is a pH of 8.2-10.  Some soap makers use the zap test.  If lye is still present, the soap will zap your tongue like a 9-volt battery.  When the soap is fully cooked, it just tastes like soap.  Using pH strips or phenolphthalein is more accurate and the recommended way to go.  Do that.

This recipe took about an hour and 15 minutes to cook.

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When you have determined that your soap is fully cooked, turn off the crock pot and add the honey.

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Stir until the honey is fully incorporated.  If using any other additives, such as coloring or essential oils, add them at this point.

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Spoon the mixture into the Pringles cans.  (You do not need to line them with parchment or freezer paper.  Beautiful, isn’t it?)  Work quickly and tap the cans on the counter occasionally to avoid air bubbles.  Fill the cans no more than 3/4 of the way.  You need a little space to cut and tear the can away when the soap has hardened.

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The soap needs at least 12 hours to cool and harden in the molds.  When ready to unmold, take a sharp knife and cut straight down and then tear the can off the rest of the way.  Slice into bars.

Congratulations!  You made soap!

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I usually let my bars sit on a wire rack to continue to harden after I cut them into bars.  By allowing them to dry out, they last longer in the shower.

This recipe yields 12-14 bars (3/4″-1″ in thickness).

As soon as I force more Pringles on my kids and the youth group (or I make my own wooden soap mold), I’ll be making more soap in the crock pot.  I’m see  Lime-Basil or Lavender-Mint in my near future!

What about you?  I’m curious.  What is your favorite soap scent?

(I am also curious how many people have the urge to watch “Fight Club” after making soap.  Is it just me?  Please tell me I’m not alone.)

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a simple plan

2014

This is the year we go back to basics.  We already live fairly simple lives as compared to many families of our size, but life gets out of control in a large spiral then gains momentum.  Before you realize, it’s string cheese for dinner as you fly out the door to youth group or 4H meetings.

This must not continue.

I’m sharing my plan for 2014 to accomplish my goals for health, homeschool, church, my home and my garden.  It was born from exasperation stemming from too many days of buzzing around in circles and accomplishing little.  I need results, people!  I thrive on them, in fact.

In sharing my thoughts, I hope to clarify the foggy areas and focus on my priorities.  Also, I feel if I don’t get some organization to my thoughts, they will make my head explode in dazzling display of glitter, rainbows and unicorns.  Oh sure, that sounds fun for you, but I wouldn’t be right after that.

So here I am.  I am hoping you will keep me focused and hold me accountable.

Health

  • Drink plenty of water daily.  This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s so hard to remember.  I begin the day with good habits but as the day progresses, I get busy and never have a free hand to perform the physical act of holding a glass and bringing it to my lips. I need a beer hat with the flexible tube straws to hold a couple of bottles of water.  You may think I’m just saying this be funny, but I kid you not.  Don’t be surprised if you ever meet me in person, is what I’m saying.
  • Incorporate more fruits and veggies into daily diet and move away from meat-based meals. Buy organic produce when possible and grow more in the garden.  We eat healthy meals overall, but we have room for improvement.  We deal with multiple food allergies in our family so meals can become complicated when trying to feed everyone.  Over the years, I have tweaked recipes to allow for delicious and healthy meals for all.  We have a good-sized garden so with a little more effort, we can achieve this goal.
  • Cardio and strength-training workouts.  We have an old one-and-a-half story bungalow.  Before we bought our house, the upstairs had been gutted and renovations began.  We spent a couple of long, dusty days up there recently to organize it more efficiently.  I now have a sewing and crafts area and we now have a workout area for the weight bench and elliptical.  Now I have no excuse for not exercising.  I have mixed emotions about this.
  • Schedule annual check-ups for everyone early in the year.  I’m guessing most of you don’t have an issue with this like I do.  I usually put off scheduling doctor appointments until closer to the month we need them.  My thinking is that I will be better able to schedule appointments around the other chaos and obligations.  This. Never. Works.
  • Start a routine of getting the kids out for a daily walk.  We homeschool and the day can get pretty hairy in the afternoon if the kids don’t get a break from schoolwork and chores.  A short hike through our property or to the mailbox (we live in the country) will hopefully prevent them from turning into angry bees.

Homeschool

  • Keep ongoing records on computer for easy management and to print year-end records to be stored with work.  This is pretty straight forward, but up until now, I have been keeping handwritten records.  I know!  What was I thinking?
  • Allow for more field trips and journaling to replace textbook curriculum.  After all, I’m teaching them not just to make a living, but to make a life. We learn naturally from experiences. This might be the best thing for my little ADHD bee. She’s an eager learner when it doesn’t feel like learning.  
  • Incorporate life skills into homeschool day. Teach cooking, fiscal responsibility and time management.  We all grow up and leave the hive someday. These skills aren’t optional.
  • Weekly trips to library for movies and books.  This is me being self-indulgent.  I love the library! I could live there! They won’t let me, though.  Need a business idea?  Library/B&B.  There you go.  You’re welcome.
  • Use Spanish immersion technique to reinforce what has already been learned by my older child and to begin teaching the girls.  I’m planning on driving my family crazy with this.  When they get frustrated with me and the shouting begins, I’ll shout  back “Espanol por favor!”.  This will be fun!

Church

  • Phase out responsibilities of youth group and Sunday school to prepare for busy school year.  I almost didn’t include this.  We currently are the youth leaders and Sunday school teachers for high school kids at our church.  These activities require planning and time in an already stretched schedule.  Many days I feel like we aren’t making a difference and anybody could take our place.  (Here is where I mentally scream and stomp and then sigh.)  God called us to do this. He led us here for a reason. So, phasing ourselves out of church responsibilities probably will not happen this year.  I think I’m ok with that.

Home & Garden

  • Improve soil in existing garden beds and maintain.  Easy peasy.  We have plenty of organic compost.  The hard part is digging it out from the bottom of our bin.
  • Create cleaning schedule and keep clutter under control. This should more accurately state Blow the dust off the cleaning schedule created last year and put it to use!
  • Regularly go through household items and donate unwanted items.  When we cleaned upstairs to make room for a workout/sewing/lounge area, we cleared out and donated several bags full of clothing and items we no longer need.  Well, we haven’t donated them yet.  They are sitting in my kitchen.  I like to think of them as frumpy fans cheering me on as I channel my inner rockstar while I cook.  I feel badly as I kick them aside to access the lower cabinets.  They understand.

Cancel newspaper subscription and Netflix.  Done and woohoo!  Man, those two innocent-looking subscriptions are a beast to control!  Unfortunately our day doesn’t allow for sipping coffee leisurely while catching up on local events.  I have to say, newspaper wrangling just isn’t for me.  As for Netflix, it became a burden to sit down and watch a movie and return it in a timely manner.  We plan to check out movies from the library.  Problem solved.

This next goal doesn’t fit in any one category above, yet it fits perfectly in all of them.

Find the funny in everything.  Humor keeps me sane by laughing hysterically and it is everywhere!  We have all heard that laughter is the best medicine, but did you know it’s also the best workout?  It’s true (in my head).  If you laugh hard enough, it’s an excellent ab workout so you don’t have to spend any time upstairs in your newly created workout room.  Two birds, one stone.

Join me in my journey of simple living. If you have any tricks up your sleeve that help keep your life simple, I would love to know.