I shared a tasty recipe for slow cooked apple butter on Sofab Foods. This super simple recipe infuses classic apple pie spices into one of my very favorite homemade preserves. Visit Sofab Food for the recipe!
Believe it or not, these ethereal clusters of amethyst are actually made from soap! The first time I saw this technique being used was in a DIY video on Youtube. I was totally mesmerized, and knew that I was going to have to try it out.
By the way, these soaps have been a big hit with everyone I have gifted them to. They make excellent holiday or birthday presents, and making them in six bar batches makes them super easy to stock up on.
While this project can be a tad time consuming, the method is surprisingly easy, and very forgiving! The crystals actually look better when they are cut a little differently every time so you don't have to worry too much about keeping your technique consistent. You can just slice away - happily embracing any imperfections.
If you'd like to see this project in action, check out this video tutorial from mimi'z world on Youtube.
If you are able to work with a double-boiler instead of the microwave, that inexpensive piece of equipment will make this project a whole lot easier. Because this is a layered soap, the melted soap you are working with may harden between steps. The double boiler makes keeping the melted soap warm a breeze, and allows you to reheat it gently. Microwaves can also make soap feel dry and brittle - especially when the same base is melted over and over.
Amethyst Soap Gems
Shop the Project:
- 2 pounds Clear Melt & Pour Soap Base
- 4 teaspoons Lavender Essential Oil, divided
- up to 1/2 teaspoon Purple Mica
- 1 1/8 teaspoon Silver Mica
- Rubbing alcohol in Mini Sprayer Bottle
- Circle Soap Mold
- Heatproof Measuring Cups
- Double Boiler
- Cello Bags
- Dice 1 1/2 pounds soap base and melt in double boiler on stove top or in microwave using short, 30-second bursts.
- Remove soap from heat, let stand 30 seconds, then add essential oil. Stir slowly until oil has combined.
- Fill six soap molds about 1/3 of the way up with soap. Spritz soap with alcohol then let stand for 2-4 minutes, or until the top has formed a thick skin.
- Pour about 1/2 the remaining melted soap base in a heatproof measuring cup. Add small pinch of purple mica and small pinch silver mica. Stir well to blend. Pour the mixture between the soap molds - leaving about 1/3 of space. Spritz soap with alcohol then let stand for 2-4 minutes, or until the top has formed a thick skin.
- Add about 1/8 teaspoon purple mica and 1/8 teaspoon silver mica to remaining melted soap base. Stir well, then pour into molds - topping them off. Spritz soap with alcohol then let stand for 2-4 minutes, or until the top has formed a thick skin. Transfer to refrigerator and chill soap for 30 minutes or until completely hardened.
- Turn hardened soaps out onto a clean cutting board and use a sharp knife to slice the bars into 1/2 to 1 inch rectangles. Make sure to cut so that each rectangle shows 3 layers of color.
- Slice the tops of each rectangle at random angles to give them a faceted and pointed shape. This forms the crystals. Reserve the shreds of soap cut from the and mince them into gem dust.
- Clean out the double boiler, chop remaining soap base and add it to the pot to melt. Once melted, add the remaining essential oil and silver mica and stir well.
- Pour melted soap base into six soap molds. Spritz with alcohol, then immediately begin stuffing the molds with soap crystals and gem dust. Fill each mold as much as you can. The more crystals each soap contains the more sturdy the finished soap will be.
- Allow the soaps to cool and harden completely before removing them from their molds. After they are removed, wrap them in airtight cello bags or saran wrap to keep them from sweating.
This morning my 2 year old son insisted on wearing a frog costume to Target. I pick my battles with this fiercely individualistic soul. He wore the frog suit - but also wore shoes. That's a win in my book.
We had a little discussion on our way over about the importance of staying with Mama while in the store. We even made a deal that if he stayed with me the whole time he could pick out a small treat. There would be a bonus treat if he could manage to stay inside the cart the whole time.
"Ok Mommy.", he says.
I ask him to repeat the point of this talk back to me - just so I know he gets it. (Every now and then, this little exercise actually works.)
"No run away. I'll remember, Mommy."
About five minutes into our trip, C stands up in the cart's child seat, does his best Incredible Hulk impersonation, and snaps the silly little safety strap wide open. He quickly proceeds to pull up his legs and JUMP out.
I manage to catch his wiggling, wriggling, inexplicably heavy body about halfway to the ground before letting out a big sigh and reminding him of his promise not to bolt.
"Yes, Mommy", he says.
And so we shop. Me reminding and cajoling constantly in order to keep the child in my sight, him stopping to RIBBIT and hop at other children as they pass by. Strangers giggle. Kids shriek. C makes demands for random treats as we pass an endless parade of colorful end-cap displays.
When I stop to consult my various coupon apps before purchasing this week's giant tub of coffee he begins pulling things off of the shelf and dumping them into (and under) the cart.
"I need this. Need oatmeal. Need this one. I have this one, Mama."
I pause to appreciate the fact that he hasn't made any mad dashes yet when he spots a little girl at the other end of the aisle.
RIBBIT! HOP. HOP. HOP.
He hops up and rams into her shouting RIBBIT!!!!
The little girl bursts into tears. I apologize and stick C back in the cart. He complains. I explain. We keep shopping, but in minutes he out-muscles and escapes the cart once again, gives me one wicked grin, and bolts.
He's running at break-neck speed down the aisles, through the grocery section, and to my advantage, toward the checkout.
When I finally catch him he is giggling madly. I try to get him back in the cart but he turns his body into a big wet noodle, making it physically impossible to pick up.
Since I can't lift him up, I pin him down instead. I'm winded and frustrated and unsure of what to even do next but doing my best to keep it cool as we wrestle on the floor of the checkout section. I've learned that things like yelling and threatening have zero effect on this kid. I have to find a way to calm him down instead.
Meanwhile, I am pretty much dying of embarrassment. Everyone sees us. Everyone has an opinion. I grit my teeth and try not to look at anybody's face while my kid squeals and chatters on the linoleum.
A Target employee comes over and offers to help get my groceries from the cart to the belt. I thank her profusely and take advantage of the distraction to buckle C into the cart again. Ellen, this morning's grocery shopping angel, then proceeds to play peek-a-boo with him while I finish getting check-out. The fellow behind the register tells me stories of his own childhood and how he once ran away from his parents during a trip to Disneyworld.
Their kindness helped me laugh off the chaos and guide my little frog through the end of our trip without any tears. On our way out he, of course, gets out of the cart one last time to try and steal someone's handicapped shopping cart and then play with the job application computers in the customer service area.
When we get to the doors he lets me strap him in one last time - accepting that the parking lot was just too dangerous a place for kids to walk. As I load our bags into the trunk a couple with a smaller toddler walks over to us. They coo over C's frog costume and he treats them to a couple of shy RIBBITs. That's when the mother totally catches me off guard by saying how impressed she was at how well behaved he is. Apparently they had noticed him sitting there in the cart and watching me load the trunk as they were parking.
I nearly choke. "HA!", I said. "You should have seen him inside." I regale them with a quickly summarized version of his morning escapade. She laughs and thanks me for reassuring her that she isn't the only mother with a wild, bolting child.
I didn't say it at the time - mostly because it didn't sink in at that moment - but I'm thankful for her comment too. It was a reminder that we only see a slice of other people's lives, of other kid's behavior and their parent's reactions to it. Sadly, our trip this morning was pretty typical for C. He is a challenging shopper. With a food blogging mama he has no shortage of experience going to the store, yet he seems to get more wild with each passing day.
I often bribe him to stay in the cart by opening boxes of snacks, buying him balloons, or even pulling out a lollipop. Unfortunately, food never buys me much time, and balloons are prohibitively expensive. The worst thing, perhaps, about the bribery is that it earns me nearly as many dirty looks and snide comments as I get while chasing him through the store.
People look and see a child being spoiled. They don't see the exhaustion and desperation behind the box of cheese crackers. They don't understand what it's like to lose sight of their toddler in a crowded store - to abandon your purse, cell phone, and cart full of groceries to run screaming through Walmart after a runaway kid.
It can be maddening, mortifying, and worst of all, it can be discouraging. Lately I've been watching the other kids in the other carts and wondering why mine can't just ride in the seat like everybody else? I wonder if it's me. Am I just a crappy mother?
All those doubts are compounded by every nasty stare, every rude comment, every grouchy cashier or horrible old lady who encounters us during a trip to the grocery store. There have been times that I've sobbed in the car after leaving the checkout - feeling like a complete failure for not being able to control my own child.
This morning I remembered that while I may have limited control over my toddler, I do have control over my perspective. I can, and should, remember that my perception of other families only tells a tiny sliver of their story. In those instances when I torture myself over their apparent perfection I'm judging them and myself from an incomplete picture.
When strangers choose to be nasty instead of being kind they are doing the very same thing. They don't know me. They don't know my child or the unique challenges we face as a family. They are choosing to pass judgement on a situation they know nothing about.
That kind of judgement is crap. And it's not worth holding on to.
Let it go, mamas. Let it go.
If you're looking to kick sugary or gluten-heavy breakfasts to the curb I encourage you to consider the sweet potato bowl. Slightly starchy root veggies provide a deeply satisfying base for a morning meal that is both hearty and delicious - especially with the help of few flavorful accoutrements.
For me, breakfast has long been a challenging meal. I grew up reaching for bagels or bowls of cereal, and even after spending my adulthood surrounded by brilliant food people I still struggle with finding ways to get away from that morning carb habit. It wasn't until I started leaning on sweet potatoes that I really got into a healthier breakfast groove.
It isn't always easy to set aside the time to make (or even eat!) a hot breakfast, but I almost always feel better when I do. I've managed to streamline the process a bit by cheating with frozen veggies, but you can make this even better by throwing some fresh kale into the steamer or roasting your own sweet potatoes ahead of time. Try swapping out kale for any other green vegetable. Chard, spinach, or asparagus would be great.
The sweet potatoes could also be replaced with another root veggie. Beets, turnips, or red potatoes would all be delicious ways to mix this recipe up. If frying an egg in the morning turns out to be too big a hassle, try using hard-boiled eggs instead or swapping the egg for a quicker pre-cooked protein like tofu, black beans, or grilled chicken.
Sweet Potato Breakfast Bowl
Makes one big serving
- 1 cup sweet potato, peeled, diced, and roasted (recipe here)
- 1/2 cup spinach, steamed
- 1/2 cup avocado, diced
- 1 egg, fried
- Optional garnish: lime juice, sriracha sauce, soy sauce, or Japanese mayo
- Prepare the sweet potato and spinach ahead of time in large batches. You can roast your own sweet potatoes at 350F for about an hour and steam your own spinach over simmering water for about 2 minutes. If available, you can use frozen pre-cooked sweet potato and spinach instead.
- When you are ready to eat, quickly heat the sweet potato and spinach in a microwave or toaster oven.
- Meanwhile, fry up a fresh egg (directions here) and dice up half an avocado.
- Throw it all together in a bowl and top with whatever garnishes you like. My personal favorite combination is lime, soy sauce, and a splash of hot sauce.
Disclosure: This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #CreateWithCommand #CollectiveBias
The warm colors of autumn make it the perfect season for handmade decor. Natural materials, like leaves, branches, and acorns make for classic yet compelling subjects - especially with the addition of a little creativity.
This project uses gold and gray craft paint to embellish simple paper leaves. The result is a simple, but modern looking piece of artwork that adds a touch of wistful autumn spirit to its surroundings.
I used paper leaves because here in Austin we aren't blessed with much colorful foliage this time of year. Paper leaves are also a bit easier to work with and come in bright, predictable colors!
If you have them handy, I highly encourage the use of natural leaves for this project. They do tend to be a little more fragile, but their natural beauty is utterly magical and totally worth the extra effort.
If you are using natural leaves, try to pick ones that are thick, small, and sturdy as they will be the easiest to work with.
Autumn Leaf Mobile
- 1 10-inch wooden embroidery hoop
- 1 skein cream/gold yarn
- 1 spool cream colored embroidery thread
- Eight leaves (real or paper)
- Gold craft paint
- Gray craft paint
- 1 wooden bead
- 1 3m Command™ Small or Medium Wire Toggle Hook (or Command™ Ceiling Hook)
- Paint the tips of your leaves with gray and gold paint. I used gold on half of my leaves and gray on the others.
- Wrap embroidery hoop tightly with yarn. Start by fastening a tight knot to the hoop, then wrap the yarn tightly around the hoop, finishing with a second knot at the end.
- When the paint on your leaves has dried, use a mini hole punch to punch two holes in the top of each leaf. If you are using natural leaves (or fragile paper), place a tiny piece of clear tape over the area before punching your holes.
- Cut pieces from the spool of thread in the following lengths: 28", 25", 22", 19", 16", 13", 10", and 7". (8 total.) Tie one end of each thread to a leaf.
- Tie the other ends of the strings to the hoop at 3" intervals. Snip off any extra thread from the mobile.
- Cut 3 20" pieces of thread from the spool. Tie the threads to the hoop at 8" intervals, spacing them as evenly as you can. Thread the ends of these threads together through the wooden bead and tie a loose knot to bind them together.
I used 3m Command™ Brand Hooks to hang my mobile. This was a really perfect brand for me to partner with since I truly do use their products all the time.
I love how 3m Command™ Brand Hooks and Strips allow me to re-invent my decor without damaging my walls. This way, I can change up decor for every season, or whenever the mood strikes me.
If I'm feeling creative and I want to craft up a new piece of wall art, a seasonal garland, or feature a favorite photo, I can quickly re-position anything on the wall to make room. Using damage-free 3m Command™ Brand products makes switching up my home's look an easy and painless process.
The best part? No spackle, no touch-up paint, no damaged walls!
- Choose a spot to hang your mobile. I used the outer edge of a floating shelf to suspend my mobile over a dresser. Use a wall hook to hang it as I've shown here, or use a ceiling hook to suspend your mobile from the ceiling.
( Keep in mind that 3m Command™ Brand Hooks work best on smooth, finished indoor surfaces. )
- Clean the area you wish to place your 3m Command™ Brand Hook and adhere it to the surface using these instructions from 3m.
- You may need to wiggle the bead up and down a little in order to make sure your mobile is level. Adjust as needed, then enjoy!
I shopped for this project at my local Target. Truth be told, a good deal of our autumn decor was not made by hand, but in fact purchased at Target. Their seasonal stuff is dangerously cute. You can find a huge assortment of 3m Command™ Brand Hooks and Strips in the home improvement section at Target.
How are you decorating your home for autumn? I'd love to see what you are working on! Share your photos with me by email, or by tagging @MaryMakesGood on social media.
Need some ideas for dressing up your place? For more great content, please visit CreateWithCommand.com.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for helping support Mary Makes Good!
Decorating for fall is so much fun. Truth be told, it's my favorite season when it comes to decorations. I love the warm colors, the mellow spicy scents, and the natural themes of autumn. Leaves, feathers, turkeys - fall festivities really line up with everything I already adore. That makes working on seasonal art projects fun and easy.
Another thing that helps keep fall crafting simple is a good craft kit. I picked up this set of wooden garland and a package of foil transfers on my most recent Target run thinking they would be just right for a quick crafting session. The wooden feathers are already cut, sanded, and ready to go - all prepped and ready for color.
Shop the Project
I used sponge-tipped markers to color my feathers in a pretty sunset ombre pattern. This same technique could be achieved with watercolor paints as well. Colored pencil, crayon, or tempera paint could also be used to color this garland, but the effect would look very different.
To get the graduated tone you see here, just start with the lightest color (in this case that would be yellow) and color in about 2/3 of the feather. Apply the next deepest shade (orange) to the bottom half of the feather, overlapping some of the yellow. Use you fingertips or a cotton swap to blend the colors a little while the ink is still wet. Last, apply just a small touch of your darkest color (red) to the very bottom of your feather. Again, blend the color a little before it dries.
The last step in decorating the feathers is applying the foil transfer. This kit from Target is very easy to use. Just cut from the transfer sheet using a pair of scissors, remove the paper backing, then lay it (sticky side down) over the wooden feather. Rub the transfer with a popsicle stick, then gently peel away the plastic. You'll need to remove any excess foil from the edges or hollowed out portions of your feathers. You can do this by rubbing those spots gently with your fingers.
String the feathers onto one long piece of twine to create a garland. Or, you can make individual hanging ornaments by cutting the twine into 5-inch pieces and tying the pieces of string to individual feathers. That's a great way to make holiday gifts or gorgeous place cards for a holiday table.
Even little Charlie got in on the decorating fun. I think I might like his feathers best of all.
Disclosure: This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #FarFromOrdinaryMilk #CollectiveBias
At least that's what my 2-year old tells me. At first I thought my little one invented his own holiday, but after a little investigation I found out that Apples Day is a real thing! Or, to be more exact, Johnny Appleseed Day is a real thing. September 26 is celebrated as Johnny Appleseed's birthday and his preschool class has been learning about apples all month.
CC has demanded an Apples Day party to honor the occasion. Being the overly-indulgent parent that I am, I quickly agreed and have had apples on my mind ever since. We're planning to host a family potluck for Apples Day later this month. I can't wait to see what apple-themed recipes our friends and family bring to the table.
To tell you the truth, I haven't thought about Johnny Appleseed much since I was a kid. He was a famous pioneer during the early 1800's and was known for his generosity, dedication to conservation, and of course, his love of apples.
I love apples too, so old Mr. Appleseed and I have that in common. Apple-flavored dairy products were something I fell in love with while living in Beijing. Apple yogurt, smoothies, and ice creams had an unexpected, but extraordinary taste that I quickly fell in love with. I've been meaning to work on an apple ice cream ever since. Our Apples Day celebration inspired me to finally make it happen!
Apple Cinnamon Ice Cream is sort of like taking the best flavors from pie ala mode and concentrating them into one rich and creamy dessert. This ice cream has a dense texture that works wonderfully with crispy cones, crunchy granola, and salty caramel sauce. Don't forget to include a nice dollop of whipped cream too. That's an Apples Day sundae you won't forget.
I used homemade apple butter in this recipe but you can save some time by using store-bought apple butter instead. Look for something with a little cinnamon to give your ice cream plenty of warm spicy flavor.
The other key ingredient in this ice cream is, of course, the milk! I used Promised Land Dairy's Homogenized Milk to make my Apple Cinnamon Ice Cream. This unique brand of milk gets it's extra rich and creamy flavor from Jersey cows, a breed that hails from the British Isle of Jersey. (Not the state of New Jersey!) According to Promised Land, extraordinary flavor comes from extraordinary cows. I couldn't agree more!
These special brown cows only make up about 10% of the milk produced in the United States. The majority of our milk comes from the classic black and white Holstein breed. I was surprised to discover a noticeable difference in the texture and flavor of Promised Land's milk. Not only does it have an exceptional flavor, it is actually higher in protein and calcium than other varieties of milk.
When it comes to making ice cream, the flavor of the milk used can make a huge difference in the final product. Promised Land has turned out to be an excellent choice. I noticed a thicker and creamier ice cream custard as soon as I started experimenting with it.
Try using Promised Land milk in creamy cheese sauces, chowders, bisques, and custards to showcase it's extraordinary flavor. I've also found it to be an ideal drinking milk - if you should find yourself with some cookies to nibble. My hubby, Scott Bobleo, who is pretty much a chocolate milk expert is a huge fan of Promised Land's Midnight Chocolate flavored milk.
Apple Cinnamon Ice Cream
Makes about 2 pints
This dense and creamy ice cream tastes delicious over granola, graham crackers, or coffee cake. Serve with fresh whipped cream and caramel sauce to make a delicious apple cinnamon sundae!
- 1 3/4 cups whole milk
- 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2/3 cups sugar
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 3/4 cup apple butter, divided (recipe here)
- 4 tablespoons (2 ounces) cream cheese
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- In a small bowl, mix 3 tablespoons of milk with cornstarch and set aside.
- Combine the remaining milk, heavy cream, sugar, corn syrup, and cinnamon stick in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer and cook for 5 minutes.
- Remove the pan from heat, then whisk in the cornstarch and milk slurry. Return the pan to burner. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer and cook for 3 minutes.
- In a large heat-proof mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese and salt. Remove the cinnamon stick from the hot milk and cream mixture, then pour over the cream cheese. Whisk gently to combine the melted cheese with the hot custard. Add 1/2 cup apple butter and whisk to combine thoroughly.
- Pour the custard into a large ziplock bag, then submerge the sealed bag in a bowl filled with ice and water. Cool the custard completely.
- Churn the custard in your ice cream machine for 30-40 minutes, or until the ice cream thickens enough to pull away from the sides of the barrel.
- Scoop the soft ice cream into pint-sized containers, adding a spoonful of the reserved apple butter between every few scoops of soft ice cream.
- Freeze the ice cream for at least 2 hours before serving.
I purchased my Promised Land milk at my local Target. Right now you can save an extra $0.75 on your purchase of Promised Land products using Ibotta. Click here to learn how you can earn rebates on Promised Land products and many other everyday purchased using Ibotta.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Carter’s; however, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.
During the summer my little one spent quite a lot of time au naturale. That is to say - in the buff.
The baby buff.
I'm a big fan of baby buff. It's arguably the best look ever for people under one year old. It's comfortable, versatile, and really works well with their whole brand new human vibe.
Then autumn arrives and a chill hits the air. Rain starts to fall and the promise of colder weather looms ahead.
It's time to put some clothes on, baby.
The folks at Carter's asked me to put together a checklist of essential baby clothes for the Fall. I'm a fairly practical mama, so my list is short and sweet.
That doesn't mean that I don't indulge in the occasional pair of tiny suspenders or denim jackets. I am not immune to temptation - especially when it comes to tiny cute clothes.
But this list is all about the basics - six essential items for the autumn baby!
Carter's selection of baby clothes makes dressing even the most free-wheeling babe a breeze. Take my nephew here, a natural born nudist. Even he feels cozy in a soft cotton bodysuit.
Basic items like the classic bodysuit, tiny little socks, and soft stretchy baby pants keep little ones comfy and warm without a lot of fuss.
Bodysuits are probably to most essential item in the baby wardrobe. Available in short or long sleeve, with or without cutesy graphics, and complete with quick snaps and envelope shoulders you can get them on and off in moments. Wear them alone or under pants, skirts, or overalls. Anything goes with this baby wardrobe basic.
I start off almost every baby outfit with a bodysuit. They are easy to change into and out of in case of (ahem) diaper trouble. AND they match pretty much everything.
Socks are another key item in keeping the autumn baby properly outfitted. As many a random stranger has told me, "your baby needs socks." I have rolled my eyes at these people plenty of times, but keeping tiny feet warm during chilly weather is actually kind of important.
Baby Pants is not just an incredible nickname for your child, it's also a very important item for their autumn wardrobe. I like to keep my basic collection of baby pants soft, comfy, and stretchy.
These are even available with feet. Just think, you can readily avoid the nosy sock strangers by dressing your kid in pants with built-in socks.
Then there are the extras - those fun little items that help prepare baby for cool fall weather while also making him EVEN CUTER. (Not so sure cuter is a real word, but I'm just going to go with it. Ok?)
Hoodies, Vests, and Jumpsuits make it simple to add or remove layers as needed - keeping baby ready for cold snaps or outdoor adventuring.
Booties and itty bitty Crib Shoes are great for providing extra warmth while seriously upping your baby's style game.
I think my little CC wore booties all of one or two times during his babyhood but the cuteness factor was pretty intense. Sometimes I wish we'd lived in a cooler climate just so I could have taken more baby bootie pictures. Those of you with Northern babes had better take advantage!
Pajamas are one of those things that sometimes take the parents of Spring and Summer babies by surprise. During the hotter months you may not need baby jammies at all. But when the weather gets cooler babies love feeling snug in long sleeves and footy pajamas.
Save 25% at Carter's
Right now you can stock up on babyhood essentials at Carters by using this super special discount code: CARSEPB. This little lovely will score you a cool 25% off of your purchase of $40 or more. (Details below)
What are your must-have babyhood essentials for the fall season? Share your picks and photos in the comments below or by tagging your social media posts with #lovecarters.
Giveaway! Win a $50 Carter's Gift Card
From now until September 26 you can WIN FREE Carters goodies by participating in the Carter's Pin Baby Pin Contest. To enter, just upload a photo of your little one dressed up to the nines. When the contest ends 75 lucky winners will be picked to receive $50 Carter's gift cards.
When the spider bites. When the bee stings. When you're feeling bad.
The practice of using poultices to draw out toxins and cleanse wounds is age-old. This is pretty much medieval medicine we're talking about here.
While great advances have been made since people started slopping mud onto insect stings, there is still some virtue to be found in the original idea.
Bentonite Clay, most well known under the Aztec Clay brand, is extremely effective at pulling out nasties from deep under the skin. This makes it a great first-aid treatment for bug bites, bee stings, or spider bites.
You can mix this with plain water to make the most simple of treatments, but I like brewing a cup of chamomile tea instead. The soothing anti-inflamatory properties of the tea can help take the edge off any itchiness and discomfort you may be dealing with.
The addition of honey is totally optional as well. Manuka honey is the best choice. It is a bit pricey, but the only variety of honey that has been documented to have real medicinal and antibacterial properties. (You can geek out about that over here.) All honey, however, is known to have humectant properties. That means that it can help draw moisture and keep things well hydrated. That's a helpful quality to have in a poultice too. Also keep in mind that honey may not be safe for kids under one year old.
Reality Check: Just in case this doesn't go without saying, this is a home remedy - on par with gargling salt water to treat a sore throat. It's lovely and all, but no replacement for modern medicine. If you have a serious injury, an allergic reaction, or a gnarly festering wound, get thee to a doctor! Post. Haste.
Honey & Chamomile Clay Poultice
Makes about 1/2 cup
- Whisk together clay, tea, and honey.
- Refrigerate any unused portion in an airtight container for up to one week.
How to Use
- Apply a liberal dollop of the clay poultice to a piece of gauze.
- Using medical tape, adhere the gauze to the skin, covering the sting or bite with the poultice.
- Let the poultice set for 2-3 hours before removing. Cleanse the skin and dress the wound accordingly.
- Repeat 2-3 times per day as needed.
What are your favorite methods for treating bug bites and other minor injuries. Share your tips, recipes, and links in the comments below. I'll share my favorites on Twitter and Facebook.
Great idea, right? I mean, it's hard to be a sushi lover in a world where everyone seems to be avoiding carbs and grains. Sashimi is lovely and all but it just doesn't feel like a MEAL to me.
I need crunch. I need volume. I need a big pile of food to inhale when I'm feeling like a starving Ladyzilla. I need Salmon Poke Salad.
So let's give this a shot.
I loaded up my sushi-inspired salad with crispy veggies, creamy avocado, and aromatic scallions. You can absolutely make this recipe your own by playing with the main ingredients. Swap something out, or just add more more more.
Other things that would be delicious in this salad include: cashews, almonds, wasabi peas, sprouts of any kind, micro-greens, baby kale, snow peas, bell peppers, sweet pickles... you get the idea.
Oh, and don't be afraid to squirt a little sriracha on this either. Hot sauce on a salad is a thing. Or, if it's not. It should be.
A note on the fish: Be sure to use sushi-grade fish with this salad. It's the right thing to do. It is more pricey than regular salmon but the splurge is well worth it as buying sushi-grade fish protects you from some pretty terrifying stuff.
I used salmon in this recipe because it happened to be less expensive than the other types of sushi fish my grocery store offered. However, this salad would be 100% amazing with tuna, yellowtail, or even grilled unagi.
If you aren't into raw fish, try this with steamed shrimp or fish instead. Or, if you are vegetarian, go ahead and pile this up with tasty tofu.
Salmon Poke Salad
Makes one enormous serving
A sweet and salty salad inspired by my ever-present sushi craving.
For the Dressing
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) ginger syrup* (recipe here)
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) furikake or toasted sesame seeds (recipe here)
*If making or buying ginger syrup is too much of a pain, try using 2 tablespoons of maple syrup with 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger instead.
For the Salad
- 4 ounces sushi-grade salmon
- 1 cup chopped lettuce
- 1/4 cup shredded cabbage
- 1/4 cup shredded carrots
- 1/4 cup sliced cucumber
- 1/4 cup diced avocado (about 1/2 medium-large avocado)
- 1 tablespoons (30 ml) sliced scallion
- Combine the dressing ingredients in small mason jar fitted with tight lid. Shake vigorously.
- Combine salad ingredients in large bowl. Add dressing to taste.
It's really true what they say about not knowing what you've got till it's gone. This isn't always a bad thing, of course. Sometimes something you think you enjoy as-is can become even better when it loses something.
Take cold-brew coffee, for example. I've always been a coffee lover, but it wasn't until I started drinking cold brew that I realized how burnt and bitter the coffee from my electric coffee maker tasted. When my coffee lost that particular layer of flavor my eyes opened to a whole new world of deliciousness.
Cold brew coffee is incredibly smooth and mellow. It has the rich flavor of coffee that I love but it's missing a certain quality that I have since come to loathe. Some might call it "toasty", but personally I have come to love my coffee tasting less acidic and less, well, overheated. The smooth flavor of cold brew also makes skipping the sugar and sweeteners a little easier.
All I need is a splash of milk to fall in love with my hot morning cup of java or my afternoon treat over ice. It's a far cry from my previous Italian syrup habit which was definitely racking up my daily sugar intake.
Oh, and did I mention that cold brew typically has about 3x the caffeine of conventionally brewed coffee? Yowza. It's a good idea to treat your cold brew as concentrate and to dilute it accordingly but the truth is that I indulge in the occasional full-power cup.
It makes me feel alive.
So, if you have never tried cold brew coffee I would highly recommend checking it out. It's been my "new" favorite thing for a couple of years now. The only big drawback is that a cold brew habit can get a little expensive - that is if you buy your concentrate online or at the grocery store.
Luckily, making your own cold brew at home is really easy - like stupid easy.
The best part? Cold brew makes coffee taste so good that you can even use the cheapest, most generic, store-brandiest coffee and STILL have it taste good. Thrifty people rejoice!
All you need to get going is a quart-sized mason jar with a re-usable lid and something called a nut milk bag. This same method will work just fine with cheesecloth or another type of strainer - just make sure the mesh is very, very fine or you will wind up with cloudy (possibly even gritty) coffee. I've actually used this kind of metal mesh strainer with great results.
Tip: If you are grinding your own beans go with a coarse grind to help make the cold brew even easier to strain.
I hope you give this recipe a try! Trust me when I tell you that you won't miss the expense of fancy store-bought cold brew OR the burnt acidic flavor from your electric coffeemaker once those things are gone. For once, parting won't be such sweet sorrow.
Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate
Makes almost 1 quart
- 1/2 cup ground coffee (or 3/4 cup beans)
- 1 quart water
- Fill a nut milk bag with ground coffee and tuck it inside of a quart-sized mason jar. Fold the top edges over the rim of the bottle so that they remain dry.
- Add water to the jar until it is completely saturating the ground coffee and filling the jar.
- Screw a re-usable cap onto the jar - right over the edges of the nut milk bag. You should be able to see the very edges of the bag peeking out from beneath the tightened cap.
- Place the jar in your refrigerator for about 48 hours.
- Strain the coffee from the jar by pulling out the nut milk bag and squeezing the contents gently.*
- When you are ready to enjoy your concentrated cold brew make sure and dilute at a 1:3 ratio. That means 2/3 cup water for every 1/3 cup of cold brew. The remaining concentrate should last for at least one week in the refrigerator.
*Alternatively, you could add the grounds directly to the water (sans bag) and then strain the whole jar through the bag after the grounds have finished soaking. It doesn't really make much difference which order you do this in. It's a personal preference thing and if you try it both ways you will quickly discover which method you find less messy or troublesome.
Hubby and I were both endowed with very thick heads of hair. For the most part, I'd say that my dense tresses are a blessing. After working in the natural beauty industry for over a decade I have met enough people on the opposite end of the spectrum to know that having too much hair is a much easier problem to solve than having too little. So I'm grateful, and I know my husband is grateful, for all of this crazy hair we have between us.
But there are times when having thick hair is kind of a pain. Keeping a healthy and happy scalp beneath a head of long, dense hair can be challenging - especially for people like my husband who have over-productive scalps. He has a touch of psoriasis too - which complicates things even further. The battle against dandruff is constant. The danger of build-up and damaged hair is around every corner, and itchy, dry scalp conditions are constantly a problem.
A natural beauty author's husband with serious scalp problems? No, sir. It just won't do. My mission to help soothe his head is not only a labor of love but also a matter of pride. I can't have my loved ones walking around all flaky. What will people think?
So, I invented this recipe to help both of us get our irritated scalps back to their happy place. I started off with a big chunk of manuka honey, a unique variety of raw honey that is believed to contain antibacterial properties. Honey is also a natural moisturizer so it's perfect for soothing cranky scalps.
I blended that marvelous manna with half a banana, a squirt of apple cider vinegar, and a splash of moisturizing apricot oil. These ingredients are meant to soothe, balance, and moisturize. If you're scalp is troubled try giving this recipe a try for a few nights and see if it makes any difference. We both loved it and I hope you will too!
Manuka Honey Scalp Masque
Makes about 1/4 cup (enough for one use)
This sweet and sticky scalp masque calls for manuka honey - an exotic variety of honey that is prized in the health food community. If you don't have manuka honey available, just use any variety of honey you have on hand. Apricot oil is a favorite of mine for hair care - but jojoba, avocado oil, or sweet almond oil would also do very well in this recipe.
- Mash the banana as finely as possible - or use a food processor to blend it into a smooth paste. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the manuka honey and apple cider vinegar.
- Add the banana and whisk until smooth. If necessary, you can push the mixture through a fine mesh strainer or food mill to smooth its texture.
- Slowly pour the apricot oil into the mixture while whisking vigorously.
- Use right away or refrigerate for up to five days.
- Part dry hair into small sections using clips or hair-safe bands to keep them secured.
- Apply the mixture directly to the scalp - in between the parted sections.
- Remove the clips or bands and use your fingers to massage the masque onto your scalp.
- Cover your head with a scarf or cap (keep in mind that the masque may stain fabrics) and allow the masque to set for up to twenty minutes.
- Rinse with warm water and follow with hair wash and rinse as needed.
It's kind of funny that I ended up having my first baby while writing my first book. The feeling of holding the first print copy of your book and holding your newborn baby in your arms is strikingly similar.
Of course you don't usually gaze upon your first book after hours of physical trauma, so there's one big difference. And naturally the love you feel for a living, breathing human being is much different than anything you could feel toward a stiff rectangle of bound and printed paper.
But still, the sense of wonder and accomplishment is unmistakable. You worked so hard for so long and here it is, in your hands. You almost can't believe it's real! As the minutes, hours, days, and weeks tick on after your "baby" has arrived you feel a mixture of excitement and terror as you begin, very slowly, but then seemingly all at once, to expose your precious bundle to the world.
While babies are almost always met with coos, cuddles, and words of praise, books aren't guaranteed such tender treatment. I held my breath as I waited for my first Amazon reviews to appear. I trembled as I read magazine reviews and blog posts.
New parents are certainly familiar with a fear of scrutiny, but the criticism they receive isn't usually so... public. Nor is it often captured in print - there for you to stew over or all eternity.
So it was with great relief, delight, and gratitude that I share with you some of the truly wonderful feedback my book has received so far. Guys, I am one proud mama.
The following are few quotes from happy readers:
"... This is really a bible for the person looking not just to make but to understand natural beauty products. The reference material in it, such as tables of natural oils showing their properties in beauty products, elevate the book above the level of a typical DIY recipe collection...." - Kathy Ciuci
"...This book is so inspiring! It's the kind of book I love: friendly tone, lots of extra troubleshooting tips and advice in the sidebars, and well-designed for easy reading comprehension. ...." - Hilah Cooking
"...Several cuts above the hippy dippy natural beauty selections you come across in the health food store, The Natural Beauty Solution is a chic lifestyle book that matches Mary Helen Leonard's signature look and feel of approachable sophistication..." - Kristin Sheppard
The Natural Beauty Solution has also been mentioned in several online and print magazines!
Blog Tour Posts
You can find out even more about the book by checking out posts from The Natural Beauty Solution's Blog Tour! The following bloggers graciously shared their experiences creating recipes from the book. What fun!
Share Your Review
If you enjoyed my book and you'd like to help support it (and the next one!) please consider adding an honest review on Amazon or Goodreads. Or, if you are a blogger, please consider sharing the book on your platform. I can help by hooking you up with excerpts, photos, and sometimes even giveaway copies for your readers. Just shoot me an email and we can talk about the details.
Thanks again to everyone who has read The Natural Beauty Solution! Sharing the book with you has been an amazing experience.
Recently I've become sort of borderline addicted to those chopped salad kits at the grocery store. The thin-cut strips of hearty kale and crisp cabbage mixed with crunchy toppings make the whole salad for dinner thing surprisingly satisfying. As much as I enjoy the two whole flavors my local produce section offers I'm beginning to feel a little like Bill Murray in Groundhog's Day. Plus, the environmentalist in me suffers a small twinge of guilt every time I ripped open one of those plastic bags.
Salad, really? I can't make my own salad? How did we get here?
Sad to say after twenty months of motherhood I still have not gotten my groove back in the kitchen. My sweet little dumpling of a toddler continues to make putting together even the most simple of meals an act of culinary wizardry.
So, yeah, salad in bags is a pretty regular thing in our house - but ever since I tried (and loved) my first chopped salad I knew I had to try making some of my own. This week I finally got my chance. This colorful slaw of a salad starts off with a base of shredded cabbage and latacino (dinosaur) kale. I added shredded carrots, sliced scallion, and red bell pepper, then dressed the whole thing in a simple soy and sesame vinaigrette.
I must admit to being a little surprised at how much better this was than the bagged chopped salad I've been eating. I forgot how dry and bland the veggies in those bags are compared to something freshly chopped. It turns out making my own was totally worth the effort.
Mandarin Sesame Chopped Salad
Makes about two 2-cup servings
The real star of this salad is the fresh mandarin. This time of year we're spoiled for choice when it comes to citrus so I would encourage you to experiment with different types of oranges, mandarins, and grapefruits to use in your salads. I chose my family's favorite, the sumo mandarin for this salad. The segments were so huge that I actually had to chop them up before diving in!
I sprinkled a scoop of raw sprouted pumpkin seeds on top for crunch and salt. These can easily be replaced by any seed or nut you like. Try sesame, sunflower, or cashews for a little change of pace. This salad will begin to break down shortly after the dressing is added so if you'd like to pack it as a lunch or prepare it ahead of time just store the dressing separately.
For the dressing:
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey (or maple syrup)
- 2 teaspoons hot mustard (or horseradish sauce)
- 2 tablespoons avocado oil
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 pinch pepper
For the salad:
- 2 cups shredded cabbage
- 1 cup shredded latacino (dinosaur) kale
- 1 cup shredded carrot
- 1/2 red bell pepper, sliced into matchsticks
- 1 large mandarin orange, peeled and segmented
- 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
- Combine the soy sauce, vinegar, honey, and mustard in a small bowl and whisk together. While whisking rigorously, drizzle in the avocado and sesame oils followed by the salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Place the cabbage, kale, carrot, and red bell pepper in a large bowl.
- Drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss to combine.
- Top salad with mandarin orange segments and pumpkin seeds.
- Enjoy immediately!
A simple Japanese rice seasoning using healthy ingredients like flax seed meal, sesame seeds, and kelp powder.
I know some of you might be thinking "Furi-what now?". I'll admit, furikake is not the most mainstream condiment out there. It is, however, one of my personal favorites, and something that I've loved the heck out of since my Japanese restaurant days.
Furikake is basically a topping for rice (and also sometimes noodles or other dishes). It's often made from sesame seeds and seaweed but there are lots of different varieties and flavors using everything from garlic to dried egg to spice things up.
Depending on the selection of Japanese foods at your grocery store you may be able to find a jar during a normal grocery trip. Or, if your city has an Asian market (we have some GREAT ones in Austin) than you could even find several types of furikake to try out.
I've been meaning to make my own furikake for some time now, and was finally inspired to take the plunge while brainstorming ways to sneak more omega into my diet. Ground flaxseed blends into furikake quite well - giving the seasoning a mild nutty flavor that works really well with sesame and seaweed.
You can shake this lovely stuff all over rice, quinoa, noodles, or roasted vegetables to add a dash of salty, umami flavor.
My personal favorite way to enjoy furikake is simple. I start with a small bowl of freshly steamed rice, squirt a little soy sauce or liquid amino on top, then sprinkle the bowl liberally with furikake. This makes an amazing side or a wholesome snack - the perfect comfort food for anyone who loves rice as much as I do.
Flax Seed Furikake
Makes about 1/2 cup
- 1/4 cup white sesame seeds
- 2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon kelp granules
- 1 tablespoon ground flax seeds
- Combine the sesame seeds and flax seeds in a small skillet and toast over medium heat. Make sure to continuously move the ingredients in the skillet by gently shaking the pan as they toast. When you start to smell the sesame they are finished. Immediately remove the seeds from the pan into a small mixing bowl.
- Add the kelp granules and mix well.
- Allow the mixture to cool completely before transferring it to a small jar or shaker with an airtight lid.