Monday, December 10, 2012

Homemade Lotion Bars

Note: This recipe makes a very thick, greasy lotion.  This is something that is best used for seriously dry skin or skin conditions like eczema.  I prefer to use it at nighttime and I find that when I wake the next morning my skin still feels moisturized.  It's that thick!

You can find many different recipes for lotion bars.  Most include beeswax, a butter of some type (shea, cocoa, coconut, etc.), and oil.  After some experimentation, here is what I decided on for mine - Shea butter, Beeswax, Coconut Oil, Almond Oil, and Olive Oil.

Shea butter is pretty much a staple in my house during pregnancy.  I go through an 8 ounce container of it each month in an effort to prevent stretch marks and an itchy belly  (four pregnancies and no stretch marks, so it must do something helpful).  Aside from being a great moisturizer, in Africa where the butter is harvested, it is used as a sunblock and also as a massage oil for painful joints.  This makes it the perfect ingredient for lotion.

Shea butter can be pretty expensive if you buy it at your local health food store in a tiny jar.  It runs me nearly $10 for an 8 ounce jar.  But you can find great deals online in bulk.  For this project I found five pounds for $15 (plus shipping) on Amazon.


Beeswax is obviously included in the recipe to help solidify the mixture.

Coconut Oil has many wonderful benefits for your skin - it can help protect you from infection, prevent aging, heal bruises, clear up rashes, and treat skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema.

Almond Oil is a great lubricant that also helps with skin conditions and can fight aging.

Olive Oil is great for dry skin and some scientists believe it can also protect your skin against sun damage and cancer.


Once you have all of your ingredients, the process is very similar to making lip balm.  For my recipe I used 1 part shea butter, 1 part oil (1/2 coconut, 1/4 almond and 1/4 olive) and 1/2 part beeswax.  Most recipes call for equal amounts of each, but I wanted my lotion to be a little greasier and less solid.

Throw all of your ingredients into your double broiler and let them melt.


Remember, it is much easier to melt the beeswax if it is grated, however, another way to speed up the process is to throw your solid chunk of wax on the heat for a while and once it softens, remove it and chop it into smaller chunks.


Once everything has melted you are are ready to fill your forms.


If you prefer a scented lotion, now would be the time to add your essential oils - once everything is off of your heat source.  If you're using cocoa butter, it has a very chocolatey smell, and some essential oils aren't going to mix well with it.  Shea butter has a distinct smell that is very earthy.  I prefer to leave it unscented, but if you don't like the earthy scent, something like lavender oil would be nice.  Just remember that you DO NOT want to use citrus oils on a lotion that you will use before you head out into the sun.  Citrus oils are phototoxic and can burn your skin, leaving permanent dark patches.

Something to consider if you're thinking pretty far ahead of time is infusing your own oils with fragrance.  You could clip fresh herbs and flowers from your garden, or use your kitchen spices, and place them in a jar with the oil you plan to use for your lotion.  Put the jar in a window sill and let it sit for a few weeks to a month.  Calendula-infused oil would be great for eczema and other skin conditions.

Some people like to use silicon molds to create their lotion bars.  These are cute and can be placed in a small tin or jar for storage.  I prefer something that keeps my hands from getting too greasy when I apply it, so I purchased some empty deodorant containers.  These can be reused when I'm done with them.  To fill I used a ladle to get my hot mixture from the double broiler and into something with a spout.


If you're using deodorant containers and you want to use the dispenser tops that come with them, your recipe needs to have a high percentage of oil.  If it is too solid, your lotion will not squeeze through the holes and will just pop the top off.  If you're using them, make sure you don't fill the containers all the way to the top so you can still pop on the dispenser.



If you prefer to skip the dispenser top, you can fill to the top.


Either way, the lotion bars are very easy to apply this way, leaving your hands grease-free.

 It's easy to apply on my son's eczema patches on his legs.


And it's also great for my pregnant belly.


If you want to give these as gifts, you can buy some shipping labels to add a cute touch.  Just make sure to cover your paper label with some clear shipping tape or else it will get really greasy or even start to peel off after a while.


Total cost per 2 ounce deodorant bar was approximately $2.50.  If I skipped the deodorant containers and just used recycled jars from around the house my cost would drop to about 90 cents per 2 ounces.  Not too bad!

Have fun experimenting!


Monday, November 12, 2012

Homemade Lip Balm

I suffer from terribly dry lips.  In the winter they crack and bleed and look just awful.  Unfortunately, my oldest son inherited my lovely dry skin and suffers from the same problem.  I've always settled for less than natural chapsticks for myself, but when my son started needing something to moisturize his little lips, I began a search for safer alternatives.

ChapStick brand lip balm is some seriously nasty stuff.  The original flavor even contains the controversial carcinogenic oxybenzone.  The full list of ingredients is:  arachidyl propionate, camphor, carnauba wax, cetyl alcohol, D&C red no. 6 barium lake, FD&C yellow no. 5 aluminum lake, fragrance, isopropyl lanolate, isopropyl myristate, lanolin, light mineral oil, methylparaben, octyldodecanol, oleyl alcohol, paraffin, phenyl trimethicone, propylparaben, titanium dioxide, white wax, propanol.

Gross!  I wouldn't eat any of that stuff or feed it to my kids, so why would I want to rub it on our lips, where it could potentially end up inside of our mouths?

Burt's Bees is a common "natural" brand that is a little better for you.  The ingredients for the beeswax lip balm are:  beeswax, coconut oil, sunflower seed oil, peppermint oil, lanolin, tocopherol, rosemary leaf extract, soybean oil, canola oil, and limonene.

These ingredients aren't horrible, but I know that the oils and extracts that companies like this use are not food-grade.  I wouldn't fry my eggs in the canola or soybean oil they use in this product, so I don't want to taste it on my lips.

I had finally found a great locally-made chapstick at our local bulk foods store, but the Amish man who made the stuff moved out of the area and it was no longer available.  After my son ruined my last tube of this wonderful stuff, I decided to look at the ingredients and see if it was something I could handle making myself.

I felt really silly for paying that $2.99 after taking a look at how simple it is - beeswax, coconut oil, honey and vanilla extract.

The beeswax is to help solidify the mixture.

The oil is obviously the moisturizer.  As you may know, I'm a huge fan of coconut oil for its nutritional benefits.  But coconut oil is also antimicrobial and anti-aging because of its high lauric acid content.  It's great for skin and can even help heal bruises and rashes.

The honey is what preserves the lip balm.  Not only does the honey taste good, but it will keep the mixture from molding.

The vanilla is for flavor, but you could use anything in its place.

For my balm I decided to use peppermint oil instead of vanilla.  I like the soothing and calming effect that peppermint seems to have on me.

My recipe:

10 T coconut oil
3 T beeswax
1 T honey
30ish drops of essential oil

I placed the coconut oil and beeswax in a double broiler and melted it down.  It would be much faster to grate or chop your beeswax.

Once everything melted I added my honey.  Make sure your honey completely mixes with the oil.  It's going to naturally want to separate, so it takes a little work to keep it mixed.

Once you take it off the stove, add your essential oils.  If you add the oil while it's on the heat you run the risk of breaking it down and losing the scent.

From here I filled my containers.  I prefer a lip balm that I can use my finger to apply, but my son needs it in a tube or we'll end up with grease everywhere.  You can order empty tubes online.

For this batch I filled empty lidded paint cups that I got at Hobby Lobby 12 for $2.99, so they end up costing a quarter each.  The great thing is that they can also be reused when I make my next batch.

I use one of my kids' medicine syringes to fill them.  Something like this is especially helpful for filling the tubes.

You want to make sure you stir your mixture before filling each container.

The recipe I posted above filled 15 of my containers.  I figured my cost to be a little over fifty cents each.  Why would I ever buy lip balm again??

This stuff is rich and creamy and really stays on your lips for a while (that is if you can keep from licking it off your lips - it tastes wonderful)!

These would make a wonderful Christmas gift for friends and coworkers.  You could even slap a cute mailing label around the container to dress it up a bit.

The total time to make these was less than twenty minutes and it was so easy my five year old could do it.  In fact, when his empty tubes arrive in the mail I plan on having him make his own batch (with a little supervision).

After this project I have realized just how much money you can save by making your own moisturizing products.  In the next week I plan to make some diaper rash cream, lotion bars, belly butter (to prevent stretch marks on my pregnant belly) and cream for my second child's eczema.  I'll make sure to share my results after some experimentation when I settle on recipes that work.

I think we know what everyone around me is getting for Christmas this year! :)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Homemade Banana Freezer Pops

I'm pregnant again.  And when I'm pregnant I crave popsicles.  It's also summer and my kids love the occasional popsicle treat on hot days.  I dislike giving them store-brought frozen treats because of the ingredients.  For example:

Popsicle brand cherry pop - water, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, sugar, contains 1 percent or less of each of the following: cherry juice (from concentrate), malic acid, citric acid, guar gum, vegetable juice (for color), natural flavor, locust bean gum, red 40.

Edy's fruit bar with real fruit (lime flavor)water, sugar, lime juice concentrate, citric acid, natural flavor, lime pulp, guar gum, carob bean gum, lime and lemon peel, ascorbic acid (vitamin c), lime oil, yellow 5, green 3.

I don't know about you, but guar gum (which has been known to cause gastrointestinal problems and can also decrease blood glucose levels), food dye (which has been linked to attention deficit disorder and other behavioral problems in children) and corn syrup/refined white sugar aren't part of the ideal summer snack for my children.

One of the most obvious and easiest ways to avoid the additives and preservatives in most store-bought popsicles is to freeze juice.  But that can get boring and every now and then you want a tastier treat to cool you down during the summer.

I came across an amazing popsicle recipe for dairy-free banana freezer pops in a cookbook and wanted to share it with you.

Here is how we made them:

  1. Pulse 4 organic bananas in a food processor.
  2. Add 12 ounces organic 100% orange juice concentrate, 1/2 cup filtered water, 2 tablespoons local/raw honey, and 2 teaspoons of organic alcohol-free vanilla extract; process in the food processor until smooth.
  3. Pour mixture evenly into cups.
  4. Add sticks and freeze.


No food dyes, "natural" flavors, or junky sugars to worry about - just a tasty fruit treat to cool the kids down on a hot summer afternoon.  They were a hit!

The bananas really give these freezer pops a nice thick texture, but in place of the orange juice concentrate you could add any type of frozen fruit.  



Saturday, May 19, 2012

Extended Breastfeeding Rant

I wrote this rant for my personal blog, but thought I would share it here too.  It seems appropriate for a blog about health, because I feel that breastfeeding is one of the most important decisions you can make for your baby's physical and emotional health.

I finally got around to reading the TIME attachment parenting (AP) article today.  I knew better, but did it anyways.  I've been hearing nothing but negativity about the cover and parenting philosophy for over a week now, so I should have known that the article would portray these mothers negatively.

At first glance I disliked the picture.  Not because I thought it was "pornographic" or "disgusting", as I've heard it described to me, but I thought it was the wrong choice for an article about this type of parenting philosophy (one that is about nurture and comfort).  I've met some very militant AP moms that have made me roll my eyes HARD before and I feel like this picture (camo and all) just catered to that stereotype.  If the author's intention was to help people understand these types of choices, this wasn't the picture to do it.  But of course, I know now that it wasn't the author's intention to portray these mothers positively.

After a week of hearing negativity, I now love the picture.  It's sort of how I feel about extended breastfeeding in general after hearing comments from the peanut gallery - the more you try to make me feel like a pervert for feeding my child naturally, the more I want to whip my boob out in public just to upset you.  In this respect, the picture is perfect.  The mom is beautiful and fierce, and you know what?  She doesn't give a darn what you think about it.  Take that, America!

I nursed David until 18 months and would have gone longer if my milk hadn't dried up with the pregnancy.  Grace is still nursing at 14.5 months and my plan is to let her self wean.  If she wants to nurse until she's four and I still have milk then, she can have it.  That's why God gave me boobs and there is nothing wrong with using them in a way that gives my child comfort.  I could rattle off a bunch of Scripture to support this notion right now, but I'll spare you.  Just remember that Hannah nursed Samuel well into toddlerhood (most people think around age four).  I have a feeling Jesus was nursing as a toddler too.  Hmmmmmmm.

This all got me thinking about why America is so messed up.  People blame our Puritanical background for our messed up relationship with breasts.  I don't think that's all of it.  I bet the Puritans were nursing their toddlers.  In fact, you find a lot of orthodox religious communities (not just Christians) that support nursing.  Of course you find some that don't, but that's the case in any culture.  I mean, Muslim women who aren't even allowed to expose their face are allowed to nurse their children in public.  A culture that goes to the extreme to deny female sexuality recognizes that the act of nursing is non-sexual, yet a culture like ours that goes to every extreme to expose female sexuality can't tell the difference.  My head wants to explode.

No, America's twisted ideas about nursing have nothing to do with religion.  I believe it has everything to do with the way we view children.  We live in a culture that expects children to grow up WAY too soon.  We're pressured into teaching our kids to read before they can walk well.  Just browse the local Babies-R-Us and look at the amount of junk being marketed to us as necessary for proper brain development.  Everything is about education and preparing them to learn the facts necessary to become smart, successful adults.  Doctors even suggest to mothers that they put their child in daycare so that they learn how to stand on their own and become properly socialized as preschoolers (because obviously a mother can't teach their child that on her own).  True story - I know someone whose doctor said that.

Childhood in its natural sense is gone.

Sure, our culture supports providing our children with all of the toys, tools, and time necessary to have a great childhood, but none of that really has anything to do with being a kid.  The expectation is that our kids should act like mini-adults and be socialized into adult society as early as possible.  You need to learn to stand in line at age two, Jimmy, or else you'll never learn to do it on your own naturally.  Sit in that chair for five hours a day learning, Sally, or you won't be prepared for gainful employment one day.  Naps are for the weak, Buddy, it's time to start being a big boy.  And get rid of that blankie that gives you comfort or the kids will make fun of you at recess.  No more hugging or kissing Mommy on the lips, even if you want to, because that would be pervy.  It's time to start acting like adults, children.

When you have a culture that expects children to stand on their own at a young age, of course it seems disgusting and pornographic for them to be suckling their mother's breast at age three.  Three-year-olds aren't babies, after all.  They aren't SUPPOSED to be at home with their mothers learning about life through natural nurturing and family experiences.  They are SUPPOSED to be with their peers, learning structured play and socialization.  And since they are mini-adults, they obviously know that boobs are for sex and not food.  It's going to scar them for life if they nurse that long.

The most ironic thing about all of this (it would be really funny if it weren't so sad) is that our culture wants our children to grow up so fast in almost every way imaginable, except for when it comes to responsibility.  We've created this new stage of life called "adolescence" that never existed prior to the mid-20th century and that basically gives our "young adults" all of the freedom of adulthood without any of the responsibility.  Let's face it, our children in America are still children well into their twenties in many cases.  They're just trained to think that they aren't.

All of this is so opposite of the way life used to be or the way it naturally evolves in most of other cultures around the world (or even the way our bodies are naturally designed).  In most cultures children are viewed as children much longer.  A three year old nursing is no big deal because a three year old is still a child.  And then around puberty, when the body is mature, the child is expected to "put away childish things" and become an adult.  You see these rites of passage into man or womanhood around age 13-14 in most cultures around the world.  You're no longer a child, so you start acting like it.

In these cultures that grant adulthood during puberty, it seems like they actually hand over much earlier the one key to adulthood that we withhold.  Their kids have the responsibility of an adult BEFORE puberty, often having to care for smaller siblings, help work to support the family, or cook meals.  It's the complete opposite of what we do.

So I guess my point to all of this is that I feel we're approaching this wrong.  The reason why people think breastfeeding a toddler is gross isn't just because of our relationship with breasts as purely sex objects.  I think it has just as much to do with the idea that the natural evolution of childhood isn't being allowed to play out.  We're disrupting the flow.  Lactivists' efforts to change the way we view breasts are going to be in vain so long as we keep the same approach to childhood.

I co-sleep with my babies.  Actually, I bed-share.  Grace still wakes up next to me every morning.  I like to "wear" my babies in carriers and wraps.  I'll even throw my three or four year old in the Ergo when they are sick and want some snuggles.  I breastfeed my toddlers.  If they needed/wanted to and knew how to do it, I would breastfeed my older boys too.  I make a lot of choices that these AP moms make (selective vaccination, avoiding crying it out, nursing on demand, using the nipple as a pacifier, delaying solid foods, etc.).  I don't do them because some study shows me that it will help my child's brain development and make them smarter,  and I don't do it because some psychologist tells me it will keep them from being an axe murderer when they are older.  I do it because it feels right to me.  It's what my mothering instincts tell me to do.

I'll do what works for me and you do what works for you.

And as you can see, most other cultures aren't sexualizing the act.  So you tell me - who's the REAL pervert?


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Fish Safety

I believe that human beings were meant to consume large amounts of fish and other seafood, considering that it is one of the best sources of many of the essential vitamins and minerals.  Fish is one of the few foods on earth that requires little (if any) work on the part of humans to grow and is abundant pretty much anywhere (minus the desert, of course). 

The problem is that modern life has contaminated many of the world's bodies of water, leaving the fish living there unsafe for human consumption.  The main source of contamination that people are aware of in seafood is mercury, but that is only one concern.  Many other toxins are common, including: flame retardants, PCBs, chlorinated dioxins, pesticides, oil, arsenic and melamine, just to name a few.  These toxins are either present in the water in which the fish live, or in the food they are given.

Living in Ohio, there are many streams and lakes nearby for fishing, but after speaking with an ichthyologist at a local university who has tested toxicity, I don't feel safe eating anything that lives in them.*  Since I try very hard to only eat local and ethically-raised meat sources, this leaves me with very few options.

But as the mother of a dairy-allergic child, I realize how important the calcium and vitamin D that seafood provides is for my son.  His options for foods high in these two nutrients are more limited simply because he cannot drink milk.

I have found that the Environmental Defense Fund has some excellent resources for seafood safety.

Here is a complete list of Seafood Eco-Ratings.  According to this chart, you shouldn't consume any of the following items due to high mercury or PCB content:

All bluefish
Chilean sea bass
Blue crab
Summer flounder
All lingcod
All marlin
All opah
All orange roughy
Yellow Perch from Lakes Huron and Ontario
All rockfish
All salmon (except wild Alaskan)
Mutton snapper
Summer flounder
Atlantic sturgeon
Imported wild sturgeon
All swordfish
All tilefish
Canned white/albacore tuna
Bluefin tuna
All wahoo
All walleye

Some people choose to take a fish oil supplement in order to get their nutrients.  The Environmental Defense Fund also has a list of the safest supplements to take.  Never take the following brands of fish oil:

Kmart brand
Omega Protein
Rite Aid

To learn about the best sushi choices (both for your health and the environment) check out this list.

So it looks like for me and my family, with a very limited selection of seafood in the grocery store, our safest bet is to stick with wild Alaskan salmon, shrimp from Oregon, U.S. tilapia, and U.S. or Canada albacore tuna. 


* Except for the fish from one river about 45 minutes away that he said had been tested as clean.  This stream runs from a mountain at a high elevation and if you catch fish from higher up, they are less toxic.  This ichthyologist said that is a good rule of thumb for eating fish that you have caught - the higher the elevation (so long as it is upstream from any potential pollution sources), the safer the fish.

Source - Environmental Defense Fund.

I'm Back

Hello, everyone!  It has been a while since I've posted on this blog.  If you aren't a follower of my personal blog you're probably not aware of what has happened in my family since I was posting frequently over here.

Around the time that I stopped posting (May/June 2010) I became pregnant with our third child.  Between morning sickness, caring for two energetic little boys, and everything else, this blog sort of got put on the back burner.  I had a wonderful pregnancy with Gracie (our little girl born one year ago last Friday) under the care of some great midwives.  Gracie was my first homebirth and I learned a lot about my body and a more holistic, natural approach to pregnancy and childbirth during the process.  I followed a very strict diet, provided by my midwives, during the pregnancy that I hope to share with anyone interested.

Since I was posting here frequently my husband, Adam, also decided to have a back surgery to correct some of the sources of his chronic pain.  Over the last five to seven years he has tried everything - chiropractic care, stretching, diet, exercise, inversion tables, special shoes, etc. - to alleviate his pain, but in the spring of 2011 it became too much to handle and surgery was necessary.  I am happy to report that he is now about nine to ten months out from the surgery and many of the pain issues have since resolved.  He still isn't at one hundred percent, but we keep praying that relief will eventually come.

After everything that has happened in our lives over the last few years, I finally feel like I have a handle on life with three children and can prioritize my time to return to sharing what we are learning about our health and wellness.  I feel like we have grown a lot in the last two years and have a lot of information to share!