taking a break

empty house III

Our house is empty, our things are packed. In the flurry of these last few weeks I have, multiple times, shoved all of my belongings into various cabinets, boxes and suitcases. Needless to say, I’m ready to take a little break as Andrew and I travel to see family before jetting off to our new home. In my absence here I’ll be breaking in a new journal and wearing out an old pair of shoes, and I’ll tell you all about it when I get back.

empty house side by side II

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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!

goals for october

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// SEPTEMBER //

Get back into running. — I have so enjoyed leisurely jogs in the cool mornings or in the afternoon rain, and I have determined that those runs are more my speed than any kind of race. But I’m so glad I tried out a race — see my post-5K photo here.

Finish out the Whole30. — Read my recap here.

Teach a Pilates class. — Eight classes down and going strong!

Finish those refinishing projects. — I finally finished painting and staining a couple tables and a dresser, and now I’m ready to put away the sander for a while.

Celebrate. — A craft beer-tasting party and lots of brownies were the stuff of celebration for Andrew’s birthday, and I’m looking forward to doing a little belated-birthday celebration when my parents visit.

// OCTOBER //

Keep running. These short, relaxed runs make me feel great.

Soak up fall before heading to the Land of Eternal Summer. This means picking apples, wearing boots and sitting by a fire. And enjoying plenty of autumnal baked goods, like the pumpkin cinnamon-sugar muffins from Health Bent and chocolate zucchini bread from The Paleo Chocolate Lover’s Cookbook pictured above.

Curtail spending. I did well on my last spending hiatus, and after reassessing the month’s budget and re-reading 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, I’m recommitted to purchasing only the essentials (groceries, toiletries, etc). Not to mention the fact that soon our household goods will be in a crate on their way to Hawaii and we’re limited to a what we can carry in a few suitcases, so accumulating more is simply not an option.

Relax. This is the month in which everything comes together, and at the end of it we’ll move. I’m going to do my best to chill out through it all and enjoy the ride!

What’s going on with you this month? I love October, and I’m looking forward to soaking it all in without any pressure to achieve big things.

around here

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetThis weekend we got the first taste of fall in the form of chilly mornings and bright blue September sky. We harvested our final tomato and made pumpkin pancakes in the span of two days — a sure sign that autumn is around the corner. There’s a beauty to seasonal eating, and the overlap that characterizes the switch from summer to fall. It’s not as if the leaves begin to turn and the pumpkins ripen on the exact day of fall equinox, but instead we have this gentle season of transition that is  not quite one thing and also not quite another. We wear long sleeves and scarves in the morning, but by lunchtime we’ve shed our layers, thankful to be wearing sandals instead of boots.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetI think it’s a shame to wish away one season in favor of the next. Already Halloween decorations are out in the stores and coffee shops are advertising their version of pumpkin lattes. Why not relish this last stretch of summer here and now, work on our flexibility and adaptability as we traverse varying temperatures and a mixed bag of bounty from our farmers markets?

I like this time of year. It keeps me on my toes. And only recently have I arrived at a place in which I can be content in the present instead of wishing it away for the future. Autumn is my favorite season, but I can say with confidence that the here and now is my favorite place to be.

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Speaking of favorites, Saturday was Andrew’s birthday! We celebrated all weekend long with big brunches, steak dinners, a craft beer tasting with friends and plenty of his favorite brownies. We saw a special showing of Fight Club at our local theater and went on a couple of hikes to stretch our legs and soak up the gorgeous weather. Happy birthday to my love — may we celebrate many more in the years to come!

memory as witness

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The reason Elie Wiesel writes is to give witness to the horrors he endured, to employ his memory as a tool to bring to light the suffering of tens of thousands of Jews who perished in the violence of the Holocaust. Today we face another sort of memory, another sort of reason to remember the attacks on the World Trade Centers on September 11, 2001.

We all have our own versions of the day. I was in the seventh grade, and we first heard the news in Mrs. Gary’s English class. Teachers and principals spoke in hushed tones and there was a buzz of fear in the air. My mother picked me up from school and we drove home and watched the news, as one by one the planes demolished buildings and futures and lives and our sense of false security. I remember the way the day looked outside, all golden light of early fall with only a touch of chill in the air, the pastures cropped short and still speckled with bound hay bales. I remember watching people jump from the buildings — to escape, to take one last leap of faith that somehow they might be saved. At eleven years old I could hardly watch.

This incredible piece from Tom Junod for Esquire is a lasting testament to “the jumpers” and those they left behind. Instead of condemnation, Junod suggests that we see ourselves in them, we see the parts of our own characters looking for escape, and that by bearing witness we are doing our very best to uphold their memories. Read the entire piece here. It’s lengthy but worth every word.

Photographs lie. Even great photographs. Especially great photographs. The Falling Man in Richard Drew’s picture fell in the manner suggested by the photograph for only a fraction of a second, and then kept falling. The photograph functioned as a study of doomed verticality, a fantasia of straight lines, with a human being slivered at the center, like a spike. In truth, however, the Falling Man fell with neither the precision of an arrow nor the grace of an Olympic diver. He fell like everyone else, like all the other jumpers — trying to hold on to the life he was leaving, which is to say that he fell desperately, inelegantly. In Drew’s famous photograph, his humanity is in accord with the lines of the buildings. In the rest of the sequence — the eleven outtakes — his humanity stands apart. He is not augmented by aesthetics; he is merely human, and his humanity, startled and in some cases horizontal, obliterates everything else in the frame…

“But now the Falling Man is falling through more than the blank blue sky. He is falling through the vast spaces of memory and picking up speed.”

AP Photo “The Falling Man” by Richard Drew, via Esquire

My poem, posted here two years ago and written in the weeks after 9/11. 

simple, homemade cleaning supplies

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Simplify, simplify, simplify. This has been my song of late. I’ve been working hard to pare down our belongings and, in the process, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about living cleaner and wasting less.

Waste not, want not. That’s the refrain that I hum in a round with the first tune, wondering all the while how I got to be such a child of the disposable era. My grandparents are incredibly frugal, and my great-grandfather most of all; a trait he held onto from his Depression-era childhood, no doubt, and he is waste-less to an almost frustrating extreme. My family likes to tell the story of one Christmas in which we got him a new horse blanket to replace an old one ridden with holes and worn to shreds. A few months later my dad found the new one in the barn, still pristine in its original packaging – my great-grandfather was intent upon using the original until it could be used no more.

Instead, I’m tossing out things left and right – single-use containers, old things of mine that are still useful but no longer desirable, food scraps that have plenty of potential for nourishment. Since when did it become acceptable to discard paper plates and napkins and towels like it all just disappeared into thin air?

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There’s enough potential discussion here for an entire blog post – instead of continuing with the rant, however, I want to share a few ways that I’m making our household a little greener and cleaner, a little simpler and a little less wasteful.

When citrus was in fine form this winter I started thinking about how I could get some use out of the vibrant, fragrant fruit peels that I had been previously tossing in the trash. A quick web search gave me the idea to steep them in vinegar to make my own citrus-infused, all-purpose cleaning solution. Now I have a collection of citrus-infused vinegars – lemon, lime, orange-grapefruit – that I use for all manner of things around the house.

A quick spritz from a spray bottle cleans my bathroom surfaces, while a splash in my dishwater keeps hard water spots at bay. I add some baking soda to scrub my bathtub, and use the same mixture to clean the toilet. The same vinegar goes into my laundry to make everything super-soft and add an extra dose of disinfectant.

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We don’t have a dishwasher, so cleaning the pots and pans is an in-the-sink ordeal every day. Add to the equation the local water – it’s infamously bad – and I have a potential for grimy dishes all day long with a lot of my money going to Dawn dish soap. But I’ve found an alternative in Dr. Bronner’s Sal’s Suds – an all-natural, super-strength, multi-purpose soap. A couple teaspoons in a sink of hot water, plus my vinegar, makes for an inexpensive and eco-friendly dishwashing alternative.

I use Sal’s Suds around the house for anything that needs a deep clean, particularly the floors. Again, the formula is simple: soap + vinegar + water. I recently invested in some reusable cleaning cloths from Natural Linens on Etsy to replace my disposable Swiffer wet mop pads. A couple of these soaked in my cleaning solution and tucked around a Swiffer mop is just as easy as conventional mopping, only instead of contributing to my week’s waste at the end I just toss the cloths in the laundry.

I also make my own laundry detergent, and have been for a couple of years now. I use this recipe and like the combination of citrus and lavender-scented soaps in the mix. I’ve been considering switching to Soap Nuts but I hear mixed reviews. Any thoughts?

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I’ve been slowly but surely working through a bulk box of scented dryer sheets, and hoping to find a less wasteful alternative once that batch is used up. However, in the interim I’ve been finding new uses for my spent dryer sheets – like polishing the stainless steel hardware in my kitchen and bathroom. The waxy finish the dryer sheets leave behind help keep fingerprints and watermarks at bay for a little longer than usual, and I feel better getting some extra miles out of what would have been a single-use product.

I’ve been learning more about homemade cleaning solutions made from essential oils, and hope to implement more of those formulas in our new home. (I don’t want to make a batch of cleaners that I can’t take with me before the move.) Some key players in the world of essential oils-cum-cleaners include: clove, rosemary, tea tree and thieves essential oils. All of these are antimicrobial and have disinfectant properties, plus smell like a garden. Bonus!

In other parts of the home, I’m working toward making greener shifts. I prefer burning pure beeswax candles over anything else nowadays – they don’t release any toxins, unlike many synthetic fragrance-laden candles, and instead clean the air and impart a warm, honey aroma. I’m hoping to invest in one of those cool rolls of reusable “paper towels.” I’ve seen a few on Etsy that are made of absorbent fabric, in which each sheet is affixed together with Velcro or snaps to mimic traditional paper towels. It’s defying convention while still appearing to be a conventional product!

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I’m slowly switching from plastic sandwich and snack bags to reusable cloth bags for packed lunches, and I’d like to get my hands on some Bee’s Wrap after I go through my store of aluminum foil, plastic cling wrap and waxed paper. I just ordered these to replace my oft-used plastic freezer bags. I’ve always used glass Pyrex containers and mason jars for storing leftovers and packing meals to-go, but there are certainly many ways where I can improve in the realm of food storage.

We are big believers in using reusable tote bags for grocery shopping around here, but it wasn’t until recently that I realized how much plastic I still consumed with produce bags. Even when I buy my fruits and veggies at the farmers market they still want to give me a plastic bag to store everything in! The solution? Reusable bags, just like those I use for shopping, but smaller and breathable. I’ve found a few organic cotton muslin options online that I’ll be investing in sometime soon.

Another “to do” item on my green home transformation list is to purchase some houseplants that purify the air. Peace Lily, Mother-in-Law Tongue, Boston Fern, English Ivy and Rubber Plant are just a few that do double duty in the home. For outdoor living, I’d like to make a big batch of homemade citronella candles. Mosquitos love me – I’m sweet! – and there’s nothing I’d like more than to stir together a big pot of beeswax and citronella essential oil to make sure that those pests stay away.

Are you making any changes in your home this year? This journey has been a gradual one, but it’s been rewarding to know that my home is simpler and cleaner in a healthy, wholesome way, all thanks to a little effort and research and the work of my own hands.

tips for thrifting

SONY DSCThrifting has become one of my favorite hobbies.

Some of my best, recent finds include: a strapless cotton J.Crew dress, a silk robe for mornings and evenings, perfectly scuffed overalls, gorgeous pottery platters and bowls for serving and for holding plants, cut-glass whiskey tumblers, Parcheesi, a wooden-bead necklace, a stationery set, swingtop jars for storage, records, old canvases to use for new projects, a wooden table for our porch, gifts for friends and family members, side tables for our living room, camping stools and plenty more.

In my pursuit of simplicity, I’ve been trying to have more of a conscience about what I buy and from whom. I try to stay away from big-box retailers in favor of small artisans, fair-trade items or, my personal favorite, secondhand stores. Thrifting is like a big game of hide-and-seek. You search through the dusty corners and staggering piles to find what you’re looking for, not knowing even if it exists but hoping all the while. Sometimes I get extremely lucky and find amazing stuff, and other days I walk away empty-handed — but this, my friends, is all part of the game.

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I’ve been thrifting for about ten years now. What began as an occasional and timid foray into my local Salvation Army has become one of my favorite pastimes, and along the way I’ve collected some tips to help others who are just starting out.

Have patience and take your time — If you don’t find what you’re looking for (or even something purchase-worthy, for that matter) on your first few trips, don’t give up. Learning where to look and  how often to shop is part of the rhythm of thrifting, and it takes a little practice. Additionally, make sure you have plenty of time to wander when you take a thrifting trip.

Be willing to dig — Don’t be put off by crammed clothing racks or piles of dishes, but be willing to go through piles and really search for something good. You may find something within plain sight, sure, but then again you may have to rummage under a thousand other objects at the bottom of the box. It’s all about taking the chance and hoping for the best, plus a little extra elbow grease thrown in for good measure.

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Think outside the box — We are in the age of repurposing, in which old rake heads hold wine glasses and suitcases get mounted on walls as shelves. Be imaginative with what you find at the thrift store and reuse old objects for a new purpose. I recently scored two sweet little yellow juice glasses for a few cents each, and now they hold my makeup brushes and our toothbrushes, respectively. A little vintage baking pan I found for 99 cents will also make a nice drawer organizer for my jewelry.

Look for brand and fabric — When you’re rifling through the racks, look first for colors and patterns that catch your eye and then check the label. If it’s a recognizable, quality brand, you may have found a good thing. If it isn’t recognizable, there’s a possibility you’ve stumbled upon something vintage…but it also may be from Walmart. That’s where fabric comes into play. Choose leather over PVC, silk over polyester, cashmere over cotton, and you’re guaranteed to have made a good choice.

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Take a chance on tailoring — If you find a piece of clothing that is from a good brand or has quality fabric, but doesn’t fit as well as you’d like, take it to a tailor. You can take in a dress, hem a pair of slacks, cut off a pair of jeans or do any manner of things to make a thrifted item fit your body and your style. I recently found a Nanette Lepore dress for less than $10 that had a great silhouette but was about a size and a half too big. I bought it and have high hopes for it after a good tailoring.

Go with a list and with an open mind — I find it helpful to keep a running list of what I’m looking for at a thrift store. It keeps me focused in an sensory-overload situation. But don’t put on blinders to the rest of what’s out there; make sure you have the freedom to look beyond your list, because you never know what you’re going to find.

Please feel free share any of your favorite thrifting tips in the comments. Or, leave me a note telling me about what good secondhand finds you’ve snagged lately!