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.

SONY DSC

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.

*     *     *     *     *

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?

goal #13

5K goalThis morning I ran my first 5K, the Run to Remember event to benefit a local Big Brothers, Big Sisters chapter and to memorialize the lives lost on 9/11. It was a hot, bright morning, and the races began at the same times that the towers were hit 12 years ago. The course zig-zagged through the local college campus and across dirt fields, along the cross country course and back again to where we started. It wasn’t the most pleasant experience, but I crossed the finish line strong and crossed another goal off of my list for the year. And of course, big love goes out to my husband and coach, my cheerleader and my biggest fan. He rallied my spirits at the end of the race and was there with a smile at the finish line.

Nine goals down, four more to go!

summer salad, take two

SONY DSCI made this for lunch last week, with more produce from the farmers market and plenty of inspiration from this salad. Those tiny new potatoes were boiled until just tender, then tossed in a knob of ghee and some of that smoky spiced salt blend. Onto a bed of arugula they went, along with leftover smoky roasted corn, some chopped toasted almonds, half an avocado and lemon zest. It was filling and fresh and immensely satisfying all at once.

SONY DSC

the first day of summer

SONY DSC

A few summer things happening lately: the farmers market has started to sell more than plants and cups of coffee. This week I picked up ears of corn, a bag of arugula, a bunch of carrots, pecans, and the teensiest new potatoes I’ve ever seen.

I spotted my first miniature watermelon on display at the grocery store.

Sno-cone stands have popped up like mushrooms all around town.

SONY DSC

Sunsets are getting lustier.

Mosquitoes are emerging.

Our air conditioning unit is getting a daily workout.

I’m craving iced coffee and ice cream.

SONY DSC

A few “new” pairs of thrifted shorts were totally justified.

I’m antsy to get out of the house every morning for a daily dose of sunshine.

Freshly polished toes are the best dress code.

Heaping salads are plenty for dinner.

SONY DSC

If I could celebrate the first day of summer in any way I could, I would cancel work and delete deadlines, pack a picnic and find the nearest creek. Mandatory naps would be taken under shade trees, beers would be drunk with cold pork tacos, guacamole and a big salad. We’d cut into a watermelon and eat it with the juices dripping down our arms. There would be books and hats and maybe a campfire in the evening, and then there would be stars.

Instead, it’s just another Friday, and later we’ll be heading into the big city to see family and lounge in a nice hotel. Not quite my first day of summer fantasy, but I’ll take it.

I made this salad for a dinner with friends, served alongside roasted pork, bacon-mushroom-onion gravy and mashed cauliflower. If you can recreate that entire meal, I would certainly recommend you do so.

SONY DSCSONY DSC

Smoky Roasted Corn + Kale Salad with Basil-Avocado Dressing

3 ears fresh sweet corn, husked and cut from the cobb

1 Tbsp. ghee

1-2 Tbsp. smoky spiced salt blend

2 bunches curly kale, washed and torn

extra-virgin olive oil

handful of fresh basil leaves

1 large ripe avocado

1 lemon

sea salt

For the spiced salt blend: In a small bowl, combine 1 Tbsp. chipotle powder, 1 Tbsp. smoked paprika, 1 Tbsp. garlic powder, 1/2 Tbsp. cinnamon and ground black pepper, and 1 Tbsp. sea salt. Whisk to combine.

For the dressing: In a food processor, combine the flesh of an avocado, the juice of a lemon, a small handful of fresh basil and a generous pinch of salt. Process until smooth, adding a bit of water to thin.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. In a large baking dish, melt ghee and toss in corn. Roast for about 30 minutes, or until charred and slightly crisp. Stir in 1-2 Tbsp. of smoky spice mix and set aside.

In a large bowl, massage a hefty drizzle of EVOO into the kale, working the oil into the leaves until the kale begins to soften and decrease in volume. Pour dressing over and top with warm smoky roasted corn.

daily dose of green

SONY DSCMy dad tells a story about how his grandparents would, in the springtime, hunt various roots and shoots and make them into a spring tonic. These concoctions were meant to clean the blood after a long winter of eating canned food, heavily salted meats and little fresh produce.

I can imagine them, savoring the first weak rays of sunshine as they foraged garlic scapes, combed the fencerows for baby ferns, tended to the well-kept secrets of wild berry bushes. What joy those first harvests must have brought!

How different that is from the way we eat and live today. We can go our entire lives without understanding the seasonality of foods, taking all that we can get from our ’round the clock grocery stores and co-ops. Thanks largely to the state of California, I can buy engorged strawberries in March and artichokes in November if I want…but who wants something like that after the first taste of a real June berry, tiny and sweet like a gem.
SONY DSC In the early summer, old timers start talking about poke salad, or poke sallet, as another tonic for the impending hot months. Taken from the back forties or the fencerows, baby shoots of the pokeweed plant would be peeled, boiled, and tossed in some mixture of butter or bacon fat or raw egg to make a fresh, mineral-rich side dish that must have been so refreshing to palates dulled by winter’s dark.

This is my equivalent of a tonic – a jolting shot of fresh green juice, full of vitamins and water and feel-good freshness. Instead of sasafrass tea or plates of poke, I’ve been putting my birthday present from Andrew to good use each week, churning out a few new combinations of juice, but mainly sticking to this recipe, my old standby. (It is fitting that my birthday present is helping me recover from a two-week-long birthday celebration full of too much cake and wine, isn’t it?)
SONY DSCVibrant Green Juice

1 head of romaine

1/2 bunch of kale

2 Granny Smith apples

2 cucumbers

4-6 stalks of celery

1 inch of ginger root

1 lemon

Thoroughly wash and chop juicing materials and, bit by bit, feed into juicer. Make sure to follow softer, juicier vegetables with something more firm, like an apple after a cucumber. Stir to combine and serve over ice.

This is also a great way to use up organic vegetable scraps from the week — trimmed kale stems, cucumber peelings, lemon rinds, and the like. We’re working on putting a backyard composter together to continue to reduce waste and recycle, plus I’m working on learning to cook and bake with my fruit and vegetable pulp. My first experiment was with these muffins, and I’m hoping to turn some savory scraps into a binder for meatloaf or meatballs sometime soon.

brownie mishaps

SONY DSC

I tried my hand at gluten free brownie baking this weekend, at the problems were evident before I even began. Qualities one must have when embarking on a kitchen experiment include, but are not limited to: a well-stocked pantry and an unlimited supply of patience. I had neither. What I did have was a hankering for something chocolate, a scant cup of my handy gluten free flour mix, and several nifty recipes with which to play mad scientist.

My intentions were good, but the result was a sad one.

SONY DSCI sifted flours, cocoa powder and a pinch of salt and cinnamon together. Over a double boiler, I melted an orphan stick of butter, two hefty scoops of coconut oil, a drizzle of maple syrup and the handful of chocolate chips left in the canister, the only bits left after a week of Andrew’s after-dinner sweets foraging. The dry and the wet were mixed together and baked for an unscientific amount of time, in a pie plate no less.

My brownies had, to be sure, a good and rich flavor, but the texture of sand. I scooped crumby lumps of brownie into ramekins and scraped it and my pride up by the spoonfuls.SONY DSCInstead of my recipe, I leave you with some of my favorites from some of my favorites. I was originally inspired by Shauna of the Gluten Free Girl fame, and then pulled from an old standby, Deb at Smitten Kitchen.

I’ve made Deb’s easy cocoa brownies more times than I can count, and these  from Shauna caught my eye once I started looking for a gluten free replacement. Make sure you pour over her round-up of links to other gluten free brownie recipes, ranging from classic to esoteric — with orange zest, with peppermint, with ricotta, vegan banana nut or raspberry, just to name a few. These look like the kind my mother used to bake for my dad when they were dating, although a little more vivacious, and these look downright naughty.

Happy baking — I wish you better luck and more patience, as with everything.