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!

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?

oh true apothecary

SONY DSCI started working on my May goals with perhaps the oddest one: make my own toothpaste or, in this exact case, tooth powder.

It was easy. I used this excellent recipe from Wellness Mama, tweaked to my personal taste. Grinding herbs and powders in my mortar and pestle made me feel very witchy, like the mysterious-gypsy-herbalist-with-a-cabin-in-the-woods that I wish I was.

I’m keeping my powder in a little glass jar in our vanity cupboard in the bathroom. When it’s time to brush my teeth, I simply wet my toothbrush and dab it in a little of the powder, and scrub away. It really makes my teeth feel clean, and my mouth fresh. Don’t be alarmed when the Bentonite Clay turns your toothbrush and your sink brown — yes, it tastes a bit like dirt — because it all washes right out.

Re-mineralizing Tooth Powder

4 Tbsp. Bentonite Clay

3 Tbsp. Calcium Magnesium powder

1 Tbsp. baking soda

2 Tbsp. powdered mint leaf

1 Tbsp. cinnamon powder

In a mortar and pestle, grind nine Calcium Magnesium tablets into a fine powder. Combine in a bowl with clay, baking soda, cinnamon and powdered mint leaf. (You can order powdered mint leaf online. I had some dried mint from last summer’s balcony garden harvest, so I ground that up in my mortar and pestle and saved a little cash in the meantime.)

I mentioned that the clay tastes a bit like dirt, and it does, but in the most pleasant, earthy way. The flavors of the cinnamon and the mint help make the powder feel a little more like using regular toothpaste, but with a subtle flavor.

This is one of many small changes I’ve been making in my efforts to simplify and green-ify my home and beauty products. This tooth powder joins homemade deodorant, oil cleansing, homemade laundry detergent and citrus vinegar wash, plus the hunt to find the perfect non-toxic mascara.

That herby witch cabin in the woods gets nearer to reality every day…

a look at beauty + a nomination

The conventional concept of beauty is so different from the way I like to think of it. Conventional beauty applauds falsity and the strain to fit into a certain mold. It overlooks natural imperfection, the details that are so often beautiful in their own right. Freckles, laugh lines, too-long legs or a too-short torso. An antique tablecloth with a coffee stain, a pair of jeans so worn with holes and grass stains and memories. Whether it be a woman’s body or the design of a garden, I’m more in favor of the effortless, the embraced mess, or the simplified.

A Table in the Sun — with her natural foods approach to recipes and love of gardening — has nominated me for the Beautiful Blogger Award, and in turn it is my pleasure to nominate 15 other bloggers for the same honor. To me, a Beautiful Blogger is someone who is real and honest in their depiction of their beautiful life, however messy and imperfect it may be. As a Beautiful Blogger, they look for the beauty in the details without straining to create perfection in every vignette.

But first, I’m supposed to share seven random facts about myself — here are a few silly things that my readers have probably never wondered about!

1)   I’m an only child, and the only grandchild on both sides, and the only great-grandchild on one side of the family. (Can you say attention hog?)

2)   I’m working on launching my own business.

3)   I used to be really good at dancing. Then, one day, I woke up and my skills were gone.

4)   My favorite movie is “The Dead Poet’s Society.”

5)   If I had a lifetime supply of scented candles it still wouldn’t be enough. I love to light a pretty votive candle and watch it warm up the room.

6)   I have a dream of writing a cookbook, a novel, and a children’s book.

7)   Grapefruit is my favorite fruit.

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Here are my 15 Beautiful Blogger nominees — all proponents of a real life lived with purpose and conviction, sometimes with a little mess thrown in for good measure.

The Blue Squirrel: A girl on baking adventures with a writing style that is just as quirky and kind as she is you feel as if you’re sitting across the table from her, sipping on some tea. She channels Julia Child as she tries to grow her baking business…but right now, she’s got her own bun in the oven, which takes up more of her time than blogging. Still a Beautiful Blogger, regardless.

m.davis: Armed with a slick new blog redesign, Mille blogs about the decadent details of life, thankfulness, style, and a few recipes thrown in for good measure. As a social media expert, she rocks at Instagram. And accessorizing.

There and Back Again: A photo and word diary of one girl’s adventures at home and abroad, with old friends and on new adventures. Lately she’s documented her summer full of travels and her future as a teacher-in-training.

My Sister’s Pantry: With healthy recipes (usually vegan/vegetarian) spanning homemade bread and baba ghanoush and natural sweeteners, these sisters also tackle issues like taking baby steps to better overall health, quitting sugar, and stocking a kitchen pantry.

Bettencourt Chase: “Things we make, bake and photograph” on this blog always keeps things fresh. Helen and Lindi are incredible photographers, and bring their joy for life to every project they undertake. Whether it’s a beautiful cake or a newborn portrait session, each post and photo is artfully crafted.

Day At a Time: A look at newlywed life amidst jobs, triathalon training plans, house renovation adventures, with two ornery pet-children thrown in the mix for good measure. Always a joy to read an update here.

The Urban Poser: “Yoga & Vibrant Gluten-Free Living” does little to sum up this sweet blog, but the description at least hits the tip of the iceburg. I love her better breakfast posts and her focus on veggies and wholesome, healthy living – but her healthy-fied paleo desserts add some decadent balance to it all.

The Delighted Momma: This Momma offers a simple, lovely perspective on a real life, busy with kids and a home and a hubby. I love her “Things that make me say Yay” posts. Plus, she offers great beauty and skincare advice from her knowledge as an esthetician.

Heed the Feed: This blog is beautiful because the recipes are creative and as close to natural foods as possible, with plenty of whimsy to boot. Check out Jessa’s recipe for chai spice pumpkin pie and miniature fried green tomatoes!

Whole Larder Love: Growing, cooking, making, building, baking, and everything in between is documented on this blog, from the homestead of a foodie committed to farm-to-table life. The recipes are wholesome and rustic with an intense connection to the farm, and here even the slaughter of a bird for a meat pie becomes a poetic commentary on life and death.

The Verdant Home: Here, you can find yummy, healthy recipes and musings on real life. With topics ranging from learning how to let go of worry to how to shape a rustic pear tart, this is a beautiful catalog of ways to make life lovely from an ex home-economics teacher.

Five And Spice: Emily is a nutritionist with impressive credentials and a creative hand in the kitchen. She knows her stuff but isn’t afraid to indulge a little and enjoy life.

Natalie Creates: Natalie comes across on her blog just as sweet as she is in real life. Here she documents her adventures gardening, canning and preserving, thrifting, and homemaking.

Health Faith Love: Honesty, transparency and encouragement from a sweet girl learning to eat and live her way back to full health. Sarah also offers plenty of product recommendations and recipes for a nourishing lifestyle.

Mama’s Weeds: Her writing is quick and witty, her recipes are easy, her photos are simple and explanatory, and her struggles are real. Allison just had her third child and is trying to keep up with a healthy lifestyle, vegetarian cooking, exercise, and Barbies in the midst of it all. But her banana bread is ballin’, so check the girl out.

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How do you define beauty? Who do you think is beautiful? Be sure to visit my Beautiful Blogger nominees and give them some love, and thanks again to the sweet A Table in the Sun for the nomination.

wish list :: summer essentials

Sometimes I catch a slip of a breeze that has a cool edge. Sometimes I catch a whiff of wood fire and damp leaves in the air, or smell the undergrowth of the forest and think it’s fall. Sometimes I need a cardigan in the evenings, or an extra blanket at night. Perhaps it’s my imagination, but it feels as if summer is on the downswing.

Part of me is thrilled that autumn — with the chill and apples and sweaters and boots — is just around the corner, but a big part of me is mourning the loss of sticky-sweet summertime. This has been a particularly wonderful summer, albeit a ridiculously hot one, and I’m sad to see it go. In honor of summer’s demise, I’ve put together a list of my summer essentials that have made life nicer the past few months.

(Although I don’t predict that we’ll be enjoying crunchy leaves and pumpkins anytime soon: summer always seems to wear out it’s welcome long after we’re finished with it.)

But now, while we remember her with fondness and premature nostalgia, let us eat as many ice cream cones as possible, and wear out our sundresses and sandals. The sunshine still beckons!

American Eagle shorts; Moroccan Oil; Josie Maran SPF 40; Bing cherries and farmers market peaches; a thrifted flannel picnic blanket; Ray-Ban Wayfarers; ColdStone Creamery cake batter ice cream + sugar cone; linen scarf; Franco Sarto leather “Gia” sandals; Skosh gold heart necklace; lifefactory glass water bottle.

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These shorts and sandals have become my ultimate summer uniform. The shorts are long enough to be appropriate, but cool and stretchy to be comfortable. The “Gia” sandals go with everything and are just plain easy. Add a tank, a breezy scarf, a delicate necklace and some Ray-Bans, and I am set for any summer adventure.

My glass lifefactory water bottle goes with me everywhere, keeping me hydrated with everything from kombucha, to lemon water, to SportTea. Everyone asks if I’m afraid to break it, but I’ve dropped it once or twice with no harm done.

I found a great cotton flannel blanket at Goodwill that has been our picnic blanket for the summer, and it works so well because it’s lightweight and soft and easy to roll up in a tote bag or backpack. On this blanket, we’ve had a few picnic meals, although I’ve been lucky to eat anything but fresh Bing cherries, soft peaches from the farmers market, and ice cream cones this summer. Seasonal berries and stone fruits are my favorite treats, and ice cream is probably my biggest weakness. There’s just something so quintessentially summer about an ice cream cone, preferably with sprinkles.

With the extreme heat and humidity, I’ve been protecting my skin and hair with Moroccan Oil and Josie Maran’s SPF 40 Argan Oil moisturizers. Both products are simply nourishing and deliciously scented with plenty of good oils and fats.

Overall, this summer hasn’t been my most stylish, but it has been one of the simplest and most lovely. Cheers to you, summer, and all of the good things that you bring with you.