a simple, [mostly] homemade beauty routine

beauty IIHi, my name is Erin and I have a confession: I’ve gone all-out hippie. I always smell of herbs (not those herbs)  and I dream about composting and layering ethnic fabrics all over my home. I prefer to sit on floor cushions and would rather drink kombucha than a margarita. Well, most of the time.

Hand-in-hand with my crunchy tendencies go my green-and-clean beauty routines. For the past year I’ve been working hard to detoxify my beauty and body care products, and the more I research it, the more I love it. I’ve gone from purchasing products to making my own, and not only is it saving my money but my skin is reaping the benefits. Let me tell you a little about what I’ve been doing lately.

In the mornings I wake up, drink some water, and make myself a mug of apple cider vinegar tonic. Inspired entirely by my friend Jane at Raw Milk Marathon, I boil water and measure out 1 Tbsp. unfiltered raw apple cider vinegar, 1 Tbsp. local honey and a few dashes of a cinnamon-tumeric combo, plus some fresh grated ginger if I have it. That, plus 8 oz. hot water, makes a stimulating tea that tastes exactly like hot apple cider and does incredible things for my digestion and clears up my morning brain fog. Take note of this, because it’s remarkable: digestion affects skin. Isn’t that crazy? It’s amazing, and I learned it from Liz Wolfe’s Skintervention Guide.

Whenever I remember in the mornings I like to do a quick lymphatic massage and some dry brushing to stimulate circulation and wake my body up. I’ll usually splash my face with water or a spritz of a toner, then moisturize and add makeup, if necessary for the day.

The bulk of my cleansing happens in the evenings. I cleanse my face with the oil — not surprisingly, it’s called the Oil Cleansing Method — using only hemp oil these days. To oil cleanse, you simply massage a small amount of oil into the skin on your face, then steam the skin with a washcloth soaked in warm/hot water. The warm washcloth opens the pores and will also eventually help remove the excess oil. I do this cycle a couple of times before gently wiping my face with the washcloth and finally splashing my face with warm water.

For a while I was using a combination of olive oil, castor oil and tea tree essential oil, which worked well enough, but I was craving some experimentation and hemp oil fit the bill. I’ve also cleansed with straight jojoba oil and coconut oil before, and those were also good alternatives — I still remove mascara and other stubborn makeup with coconut oil. After cleansing I spray on a toner, like Lovely Lady Everlasting toner or a homemade apple cider vinegar toner (from the Skintervention Guide). Now I’m spritzing with plain orange blossom water and it’s incredibly refreshing.beauty III

To moisturize, I apply some more hemp oil or any variety of salves and oils I have stockpiled. I have a bottle of Tarte Maracuja Oil that I like, a little tub of Green Pastures Beauty Balm, some Lovely Lady Everlasting-Argan Immortelle Facial Nutrient, and a tin of Zum Rub in frankincense & myrrh. They are all different and beneficial for different situations, but lately I’ve been using the Zum Rub exclusively to combat breakouts and it’s worked really well. Speaking of which, I use tea tree or lavender essential oils for spot treatments or a dab of Primal Life Organics Banished Primal Blemish Serum for more serious breakouts. (Which are, thankfully, rare these days.)

I exfoliate my face gently with baking soda, and I exfoliate the rest of me with dry brushing before the shower and my homemade coffee scrub while in the shower. I wash my body with Dr. Bronner’s liquid castille soap or an herbal-infused Lovely Lady bar, and moisturize with Everyday Shea unscented shea butter lotion or plain coconut oil.

I brush my teeth with homemade tooth powder and finish with a swish of hydrogen peroxide and flossing.

My deodorant is another homemade concoction, made with coconut oil, baking soda and lavender + orange essential oils. I recently won some goodies from Primal Pit Paste and I’m eagerly awaiting their arrival in the mail.

Every Sunday evening I try to make the time to apply a cleansing mask, and for a few minutes I feel like I’m at a spa. My current favorite mask  is a mix of equal parts clay, cocoa powder and maca powder, combined with water. Find the recipe here. In the evenings I also try to drink some herbal tea — I love Traditional Medicinals brand Detox tea and Roasted Dandelion tea — for its relaxing and liver detoxifying qualities. Quality sleep and regular liver detox can also help with skin health and vitality.

But, above all, a healthy diet and good stress management are key to maintaining good skin. I take a few supplements here and there to help out with the process, but by keeping my food in check, my rest plentiful, and my reactions to stressful situations positive, I can manage skin health and rely less and less on products. Because really, natural beauty is truly the most beautiful!

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wake-me-up coffee scrub

SONY DSCI can feel a metaphor in here somewhere. Sloughing off the old to make way for the new, shedding dull skin for fresh growth, rebirth. Somehow the creation of this exfoliant is inextricably linked with where I am currently. Our movers come next week, and shortly after I will ship my car and take one final Ikea trip. By the end of next month, we’ll be out of here and on our way to our new home.

And in this transition phase I am feeling itchy, emotionally. All of the plans, the time crunch, our belongings packed hither and thither are rubbing me the wrong way and I am not reacting as gracefully as I wish I could. I’m starting to rely much to heavily on afternoon screenings of Parks & Rec and homemade waffles — too much of a good thing can be, well, too muchSONY DSC

But looking at all that’s around and all that’s ahead makes me excited for what’s next. It’s multi-faceted, filled with travel and simplicity, living with less.

Through it all it’s good to remember to pause, to take care of myself. I made this scrub out of things I already had around the house, and although it cost very little to make when I first used it I felt a sense of luxury and relaxation I hadn’t experienced in a while. Something about the warm coffee aroma mixed with the cloves spice reminded me of my college coffee shop and the mornings I would spend there after my early Spanish class, working on a big cup of black coffee, an apple and a granola bar. I knew the regulars, imagined their stories, watched the food service workers unload the trucks at the back of the cafeteria and listened to the baristas banter over opening chores. It was my ritual every Monday-Wednesday-Friday to sit near a window or out on the patio if the weather was nice and watch the campus wake up.

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In a way, I am on my way to waking up. Through this hurricane of change and preparation my sense of curiosity has been blunted by the all-too-present “to do list.” The pressing needs of the immediate moment smother the desire for adventure, the task right in front of me — wash and pack the linens, post the piano to Craigslist, take a load of books to the thrift store — takes precedence over what I’ve been dreaming about.

Standing in the shower, scrubbing the rough patches of skin on my elbows and knees, I thought about the me of four years ago, lonely and lost on the patio of a cafe, clinging with my little hands to a buoy of ritual. And now, clinging to some semblance of familiarity, of comfort, to transition into the newest phase, I see so much of what was to be in that person.

I still have some of the same rough patches, some of the same feelings of being lost in a great big ocean of “shoulds.” But in the same way that cicadas shed their skins when the seasons change, slipping out of the old for a fresh perspective, I’m seeing a little of the same transformation.SONY DSC

Wake-Me-Up Coffee Scrub

1 c. dry coffee, finely ground

1 c. coconut oil or your favorite liquid oil: jojoba, hemp, olive…

15-20 drops clove essential oil

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1 tsp. cinnamon

To melt the coconut oil, place the sealed jar in a sink of warm water until the oil liquifies. Measure out desired about (one half to one cup) and shake in 15-20 drops of clove essential oil. Cypress or another earthy, spicy scent would be delicious and equally stimulating to the circulatory system.

In a separate bowl, sift together coffee grounds and spices. Stir into oils with a non-metal spatula until smooth. Pour into a jar and keep in your shower — the steam and hot water will liquify the coconut oil if it solidifies in a cold bathroom.

Apply anywhere that needs a good scrubbing or a boost in circulation and massage into skin in wide, circular motions.

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Additionally, I just found out that today is National Coffee Day — fortuitous, as I had no knowledge of said holiday before I drafted this post! This morning I’m drinking a variation of butter coffee, this time with coconut oil, Pure Indian Foods Digestive Ghee, grass-fed gelatin and a little dab of local honey, all blended up until frothy and perfect. This is my version of a pumpkin spice latte, and I definitely prefer it to the over-priced, over-sweetened version from Starbucks. What are you drinking this morning?

organized simplicity // a review, a lifestyle

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I recently finished reading the book Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living by Tsh Oxenreider, recommended to me by a good friend. It was incredibly inspiring.

Tsh writes about pragmatic ways to live a simple, organized life, and outlines a comprehensive plan to turn your home into a clean, well-managed place through ten steps. She also delves into the emotional and spiritual realm, discussing how clutter and chaos can negatively impact our ability to live life on our own terms. To be controlled by one’s objects is to not to have life to the full, she writes, but to be steered by the society of more, the attitude of the consumer.

The more I think about our impending move, the less I want to own, to schlep in luggage through airports and across oceans to a new place. I’ve done plenty of work to get to where we are now — i.e., to where all of our stuff fits in our little 900-square-foot house — but reading this book revealed to me some junky places in my heart in addition to the junky places in my home.

As I read through the ten steps, in which Tsh outlines a plan to comb through every detail of every room, I kept a notepad by me on which to jot down any notes that came to mind as I mentally walked through our home with her guidance. I ended up filling an entire notebook page with ideas for things I wanted to sort or get rid of. Within a week I was taking it all to the charity shop. This meant drastically reducing the size of our record collection, tossing out dingy college t-shirts and home decor items, and researching how to responsibly dispose of old prescription medications. I discarded old makeup and unused scrapbooking materials, organized our toiletries and first aid kit, corralled all of the many electronics wires and culled our collection of orphan pens. I disbanded the concept of a junk drawer and, thanks to a little bug infestation, ended up cleaning out and reorganizing our kitchen pantry. Now I know where everything is. Now I know exactly what I have. Now I have control over these objects in a way that, before, they had ownership over me.

One of the most important concepts in the book is the idea of purpose. Tsh describes simple living as “living holistically with your life’s purpose,” and one of the first exercises she encourages in her book is to create a family purpose statement. This will guide the direction of your life, yes, but will also determine the purpose of your home, which will further direct how the home is curated. Is your family purpose statement focused on friendships and hospitality? This will be reflected in the warmth of your home and the diligence with which you maintain it — ready to host at a moment’s notice. Is your purpose statement centered upon environmental stewardship and the love of the outdoors? This will be reflected in your commitment to reduce, reuse and recycle.

Andrew and I are still working on our family purpose statement, but I loved this concept. How refreshing to have a team decision already formulated about life goals and the purpose of our home. We often discuss these things — how we want to live, what we value, etc — but to have a fully-composed vision to turn to when making decisions will be helpful in pursuing our goals to streamline and simplify.

Another aspect of Organized Simplicity was an insistence on the value of relationships over objects. One of the factors that is contributing to our general de-socialization, Tsh writes, is the importance placed on getting more over loving more, being more. We are so consumed with buying, collecting and earning that we forget to care, to establish a home base, to spend quality time with loved ones. I know that everyone in the country isn’t this way, but I concede that there is a reason that we are more “connected” than ever and yet feel more isolated. This phrase — “value relationships over objects” — will definitely become a part of our family purpose statement.

Tsh ties in all of this organizational theory with personal values: her commitment to living a life glorifying to God, one that is in harmony with the environment, one that is simple and frugal and full and rich. She advocates homemade body and home care products as a way to save money and limit exposure to toxic ingredients. She homeschools her children because she values the freedom to travel and individualize the curriculum in accordance with her kids’ personalities. She values debt-free living and rigorous savings plans, and outlines her budgeting system in great detail.

But she does not push for us to do more just for the sake of it. She does not want her reader to feel compelled to take on meal planning and DIY deodorant-making just because she says so. There is purpose behind her every action, behind her every word — and it is to cultivate a simple life. A life that is good and bountiful and beautiful in its slowness, in its attention to detail.

This is the sort of life I want to live. (I also want to be her friend.)

How I’m implementing Organized Simplicity:

1. Getting back to a budget.

2. Tightening up my spending.

3. Bringing less into and taking more out of our home.

4. Composing a family purpose statement.

5. Making my own household cleaners.

6.  Letting go of objects; releasing the hold they have over me.

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I’ve started reading 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker, and I’m finding it to be the perfect follow-up to this book. This prayer is the lodestone of her work — “Jesus, let there be less of me and my junk and more of you and your kingdom.” Amen.

feed your face (or the skin on it, at least)

As soon as I finish up operation revamp :: the closet this month, I’m moving on to yet another project — this time, to makeover my makeup and skin care routine. Today, Caitlin at Roost is giving away a bundle of nourishing, natural Tata Harper products, all of which are wholesome botanicals made in small batches in Vermont. These serums and masks are the real deal. With ingredients like apricot seed, narcissus bulb, date palm extract and rose water, Tata’s products are the best around for nourishing our largest and most important organ — our skin. Click the links for more details and good luck!

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photo via Roost