Simple DIY All Purpose Cleaner

CT_LOGO_WEBThere are so many products that we use around the house and don’t realize they include toxic chemicals and are harmful to our health and our families.  This is a recipe from one of my favorite blogs, Wellness Mama, for a natural, chemical free all purpose cleaner.  We keep two bottles (of different scents) to use in our kitchen and family room for counters, table tops and floors as well as in the bathroom.

You only need four ingredients and a spray bottle (I reuse an old Method spray bottle):

  1. 1 tsp borax
  2. 1/2 tsp washing soda/baking soda
  3. 1 tsp liquid castille soap
  4. essential oils as preferred for scent – we love peppermint (about 15 -20 drops) and lavender orange (8 drops lavender and 10-12 drops orange)

I boil water on the stove in a teapot and then pour into a non-plastic pitcher and add the above ingredients and stir.  I let it sit until it cools and then pour into the spray bottle.

cleaning solution

Even though there are only 4 ingredients, some of the ingredients might be foreign to you. Above is a picture of each of the ingredients except for the essential oils (essentials oils can be purchased at Natural Grocers, Whole Foods, health food stores and distributors.)  There are different grades of essential oils as well as organic versus non-organic…those are next on my list because I don’t know enough about them to recommend a specific kind.

For castille soap, I use the unscented Dr. Bronner’s because it is an organic soap made from extra virgin coconut, olive, jojoba and hemp oils. It can be purchased online, at Natural Grocers, Whole Foods, etc. We also use it as our laundry detergent, either the almond or lavender scent. Just a capful for a load of laundry since it is a concentrated soap.  Normal laundry soap is one of the MOST toxic cleaning items in your home.

Borax, sodium borate, is a mineral that has been used for a long time as a component of detergents and is a natural laundry booster.  It can be purchased at your local Target or other large box retailer.  The same goes for purchasing baking soda or washing soda.

Not only does this give you a toxic free all purpose cleaner…it provides it at a much lower cost than purchasing already made at the store.  Make it once and you will be hooked!

If you want to check the toxicity level of any of your household cleaning products you can do that by going to EWG’s cleaning product database and typing in your products.

Happy cleaning!



Choose Your Own Ending

What a fun experience the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture, a.k.a fresh farm produce) has been, only week two, but it has been such an adventure! It reminds me of those “choose your own ending” books we read as kids. There are so many endless possibilities and we get to choose the delectable treats, or endings, for all the food. The first week we received the normal lettuce and spinach but also parsley, garlic florets, beans, rhubarb and even sauerkraut. This week we received beets, more spinach, leeks, beans and cilantro.  What to do with all this fresh food – that is the question!  So we started cooking up some new delights…here are just a few of my favorites from the first two weeks – time to choose YOUR own ending!

Green and White Delight – we made a fabulous pizza (using Chebe crust).  We used an alfredo sauce (I am working on a healthier version of white sauce) and then piled the pizza high with an entire bag of fresh spinach from the CSA. (Spinach bakes down and dramatically reduces in size) We sprinkled the top of the spinach with Italian spices (oregano, basil, etc) and then topped with just a dash of parmesan cheese.  The spinach baked down with the pizza and resulted in the BEST pizza I have ever eaten.  Next time we are going to add some tomatoes and grilled chicken.

Sweet Tart delight – I found a recipe on the The Gracious Pantry for Strawberry Rhubarb Apple crisp with no added sugar.  I made the filling from this recipe and omitted the recipe topping and instead used a cinnamon walnut crumble from Elana Amsterdam’s Gluten Free Cupcake cookbook.  The result was a delectable and tart treat that when topped with a dollop of ice cream was superb.

White Chicken Chili – we have an abundance of cilantro and it is so fragrant that we cooked up a batch of white chicken chili and froze it for days in the future that we need a quick meal or in the fall when the weather starts to turn crisp and cool.

Spinach balls – the CSA provides recipes each week using the fresh produce for that week. They posted a fabulous spaghetti and spinach balls recipe complete with a “spaghetti sauce” that is a white sauce and not a red sauce…great recipe and if you are thinking what I am thinking a great and much healthier white sauce to try with our Green and White Delight recipe above.

This is just the beginning to our food adventures – here’s to choosing your own path – a healthy path!

Cornucopia of Summer Fun

This is our first summer as CSA members…we are newbies! We are very excited for our deliveries – they start today! CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. We have chosen Grant Family Farms as our CSA because they are an organic farm and they grow all their food locally as well as exchange for additional foods that are grown on the western slope of Colorado (mmm peaches and cherries).  All food comes from the state of Colorado. It is a great way to build local, fresh produce into your menu each week, support local farmers and not have to set foot in a grocery store to do it. Here’s how our CSA works:

  • You choose the size bin you want each week – small, medium, large
  • You can choose from vegetables bins, fruit bins, free range eggs and organic cheeses (interesting to learn the difference and standards required between cage free and free range eggs)
  • Each week you get a “share” of the local produce (your bin)
  • You choose your pick-up location – we have enough people participating from our work place to serve as a pick-up location
  • The Farm provides recipe ideas each week, especially for the “unique” items – I will be experimenting with lots of fruits and vegetables and posting exciting new recipes this summer – first week will be a strawberry rhubarb tart
  • There is an exchange bin where you can swap out items you won’t use
  • Work for your food – we earn a discount on our shares by choosing a time over the summer to work on the Farm

Check it out. Find a farm near you so you can support local and have your fresh produce delivered to you each week.  Share your recipe ideas. Share stories and pictures of the most unique fruit or vegetable you meet this summer. Let’s have some fun and optimize your health at the same time…if you run across any cornered tomatoes…let me know!

p.s. – make sure you plant plenty of basil even if you only have a porch or deck get some planters and plant away. I will be sharing pesto recipes with you during the summer and fall and you will want plenty of fresh basil to make fresh pesto for the summer and enough to stash to last you through the winter!

Not only IN but ON

When thinking about optimizing health, I have recently been challenged by not only what I put IN my body, but what I put ON my body.

We use a myriad of products everyday that have the potential to add toxins to our bodies and most of us, me included, don’t think twice about it.  What are some of the items I am talking about that have potential toxins?

Body soap
Hand soap
Shampoo and conditioner
Hair dye
Hair products such as gel and hair spray
Makeup – foundation, eye shadow, eyeliner, mascara, blush, make-up remover
Lotions (including baby lotions)
Water bottles
Baby bottles
Lip Balm, chap stick, lip stick
Nail polish, nail polish remover
Water – both drinking and bathing
Kitchen and bathroom cleaners
Candles, air fresheners
Dry cleaning

We inhale many fumes from the above items as well as absorb them through our skin and hair.  Check next time you use your lotion or shampoo and read the list of ingredients. Can you even pronounce some of the words?

Now, if you are like me, the above list seems overwhelming. Where do I start? Do substitutes exist that are as effective? I can’t switch everything out at once.  How much will this cost me? How do I know what is good and what is bad?

My advice is to pick one item from the list above. See what you are currently using. What’s in it? What does it cost? What is its toxic level? Compare it to toxin free items in the same category and try some different ones to see what works. The next question is how do you find toxic levels and options that don’t include the toxins?

The Environmental Working Group has an awesome website called EWG’s Skin Deep® Cosmetic Database.  It allows you to lookup any product and see the toxicity rating. EWG rates the products on a scale from 0-10 with 10 being the most toxic. They include the following categories:

Skin Care
Eye Care
Babies and Moms
Oral Care

Join me in my challenge to check out items I use daily to see how they rank. If you find items that are toxic, find an effective alternative.  Then share with me what you find. I would like to develop a list of recommendations that include effective, reasonably priced alternatives for each of the categories above

I’ll start…the first area I tackled was deodorant.  I’m sure you have all heard the reports that deodorant contains aluminum but does that matter when the alternatives don’t work and you smell all day?!!!

I tried many options before finding something I liked. Finding a solution is based on your body chemistry and preference of smells. I tried one of ALBA’s deodorants and it was not effective for me. Then I tried the Burt’s Bees products (yes, both the woman’s and the men’s). Either they weren’t effective in curbing my body odor or I smelled like an herb garden.  Then I found Pit Putty with Bubble and Bee Organic. They have a great program when purchasing deodorant – if that particular scent and combination doesn’t work for you, you can return it and pick a different one. I made my first purchase and it didn’t work – I still smelled and I wasn’t fond of the scent. I made my exchange and picked a different Pit Putty with different ingredients and scent. I LOVE it – it works wonders for me AND it rates a 0 on toxins with EWG’s Skin Deep®.

So tell me – what you have found in the above categories that is low in toxins and works well for you?