Saturday, April 30, 2016

DIY Hand Soap - Chemical-free & Amazing

In the quest to de-chemicalize our house, I have turned to the power of the internet to get some tips and recipes for making my own hand soap, body wash and other cleaning products.

It's amazing what you can find out there in Pinterest-land and beyond.

After I used up the last bit of the Softsoap brand I purchased (yes I'm cheap frugal enough to finish up what I already have), I decided to try out a DIY recipe using castile soap since I had a huge bottle of Dr. Bronner's peppermint already on hand.

While it worked well and smelled fantastic, it was thinner than I was used to and so I decided to tweak it a bit to get more of that thickness I'm used to in my soaps.

I added in a trick I learned from another pinner about using raw, unfiltered honey to thicken up castile soap for body wash. I made this recipe for my husband for Christmas. He is a huge peppermint scented Dr. Bronner's soap fan, so I used the liquid castile soap and some peppermint and thieves essential oils to make it awesome.

I grabbed one of my jam jars, purchased a mason jar soap dispenser from Target, and got to work. Here is what I came up with:

  • 1 cup water (distilled or regular if you go through it as fast as we do)
  • 1 oz of castile soap (or 6 tsp)
  • 1/3 cup of raw unfiltered honey

Add the water to your jar, pour in the castile soap and then soften the honey in the microwave for about 20-25 seconds. Stir into jar. Put on the dispenser. Go.

It's that easy. And that affordable. Again, you can do it without the honey, but it not only thickens it up a bit, but it leaves my hands super soft.

There are a ton of different ways to use Dr. Bronner's castile soap and there are so many different scents to choose from. If not using peppermint, which I do because of the hubs and because my Costco sells it for $10, I usually go for the baby/unscented version so I can use my essential oils to scent it the way I want.

Dr. Bronner's daughter has a blog where she shared how she uses the various products around her house. There are also printable "cheat sheets" you can use that give dilution amounts and methods for using.

I've also fell in love with Dr. Bronner's Sal Suds, which is a step beyond castile soap for heavier duty cleaning. You can use it in the dishwasher, sink, washing machine and so much more. Since it's quite a bit more on Amazon, I would recommend buying it from the Dr. Bronner's site and spending the $35 required for free shipping.

For you Pine Sol lovers, you can feel good about putting down that chemical-laden bottle and using this. It smells of the most amazing pine forest -- the real kind! I feel like I'm walking in the woods every time I use it -- which is helpful with the drudgery of doing dishes.

All in all, I have been pleasantly surprised with the ease that I have been able to transition to more natural cleaning and beauty products. As I run out of each product, I have been able to find a DIY natural replacement. When I do it this way, it's a lot less work than trying to replace an entire cabinet full of stuff.

Not only has this emptied out my cabinets of cleaning products with chemicals, but it has joined my trusty arsenal of Norwex products. If you don't know about Norwex, you are missing out! These revolutionary cleaning products are non-toxic and mostly work with water to clean your entire house and more. Their microfiber clothes work like voodoo magic to clean the grossest messes completely, including chicken juice (you have to see their bacteria test) and even hard to pick up items like coffee grounds. I highly recommend adding them in to your arsenal. Even better, if you have littles in your home, they can use all the products without worry of them being exposed to harmful ingredients. My good friend, Launa, can sort you out and answer all of your questions.

So, basically, if you are thinking about making some changes in your household to natural products, you won't be sorry! Your skin, countertops, clothes, and dishes will thank you!


*I'm still learning, but if you'd like to follow my "Going Natural" board in Pinterest, come on over!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Living the (non)Enriched Life

One of the many things I enjoy about having a blog as a writing outlet is that I can write about whatever I want. Two posts ago, I wrote about politics and my opinion on the current situation in our country.

The post after that (the most recent) was something I felt like God revealed to me in my daily Bible reading time.

This post is going to be about nutrition.

I know...random, right?

However, this is an accurate representation of my life and the many parts that are moving at any given time. And I know that each of us is more than one thing....more than one focus.

So, today, here is what I am focusing on.


And not being super angry at our government for "protecting us" into terrible health issues because of their limited scope of understanding and sweeping legislation that if you are not paying attention, you may miss.

Which is what I did in 1998.

Granted, I was living overseas for part of that year. I was newly-engaged and planning a wedding and a move to another state in early 1999. So government mandates about food were not really on my radar. And to be honest, I don't know how much publicity it received back then. But this basically what happened:

"In 1947 scientists at Lederle Labs synthesized a compound called folic acid that had never previously existed on our planet. No human prior to 1947 had ever ingested this artificial substance. Exactly 51 years later in 1998, the Food and Drug Agency (FDA) manditorily legislated that the entire U.S. population would now be required to ingest this substance. 
As a democratic nation, we were never allowed to vote upon this decision. It simply happened overnight. One day folic acid was not part of our regular food supply, and the next day every man, woman and child in the U.S. (except celiac patients and Paleo dieters) were forced to ingest folic acid whether they wanted to or not." (Loren Cordain, "Flour Fortification with Folic Acid: Good Idea or Bad Idea?")

Here are some of the fall-out from that legislation:


Apparently it's taken me almost twenty years to find out this information. And it makes me really mad and sad, all at the same time.

Because my father was born in 1949. So basically, he has had folic acid in his life and body since before birth. He has some health issues that may or not be fully attributed to this folic acid folly. But I am convinced that this is likely one of the root issues. We cannot mess with our food supply, environment and bodies and not have issues.

His likely exposure and the continuation for me and my children...well, that's when you start talking about effecting epigenetics.

But back to me. In 1998, I was not a mother. Pregnancy and children were still four years down the road for me. I had more than a year's worth of taking folic acid supplements in my future to "help fetal development."

Fast-forward all of these years to links to autism, sensory-processing disorders, certain types of cancers and who know what else.

Having SPD children in our home, if I would have known this information and understand the effects of this legislation (and I suppose that it could argued that the fallout was unknown at this point), I would never have taken those supplements and I would have completely changed the way that I shopped and prepared our food.

I know I can't spend time beating myself up on the "what if's." That's a pointless road. But I can and WILL make changes armed with this knowledge for our future.

But this legislation makes my blood boil because research is starting to show that despite the reasoning behind the government's decision to compel companies to use enriched flour, it is having unforeseen and disastrous consequences. Dr. Cordain continues:

"At the time, this national mandate seemed like a pretty good idea because convincing data existed to show that low folate status caused neural tube birth defects such as spina bifida. (I have bolded and underlined the word folate to emphasis that it is an entirely different compound that folic acid.)
In our bodies, folate and folic acid are metabolized in different ways. Folate is a natural vitamin found in leafy green vegetables and organ meats. Folic acid is not a vitamin, but rather a man-made substance that can be converted to folate in the liver. The problem is that folic acid is not rapidly converted to folate, thereby causing as excess pool of both folic acid and folate to build up in our bodies. And herein lies the problem."

Yes, and the problematic fact that the American diet was so poor in green, leafy vegetables packed with folate that folic acid had to become a thing in the first place.

Green smoothie, anyone?


And it's not just folic acid.  In the quest to get white flour, the entire "enriching process" strips the original wheat berry of the bran and the germ -- which holds the majority of the nutrients. Then they bleach it because the hue that is leftover is not pleasing to the eye. (And don't even get me started on the evils of bleached flour....I'll let you read up on that one.) And then they add back in a bunch of manufactured "nutrients" and call it good.

But it's not good. As you can see in the table below, when we mess with nature, we can't add back in what we've taken out. At least not in the correct amounts. There is either too much or too little.

(*Note that the Folate mentioned is "Folic Acid in the first two columns and "Folate" in the last one.)

Total fat (grams)
Sodium (milligrams)
Carbs (grams)
Fiber (grams)
Sugars (grams)
Protein (grams)
Calcium (grams)
5.6 (1%)
4.2 (0%)
9.5 (1%)
Folate (micrograms)
47.6 (12%)
51.2 (13%)
12.3 (3%)
Iron (milligrams)
1.4 (8%)
1.3 (7%)
1.1 (6 %)
Magnesium (milligrams)
5.6 (1%)
6.2 (2%)
38.6 (10%)
Manganese (milligrams)
.2 (9%)
.2 (9%)
1.1 (53%)
Potassium (grams)
36.7 (1%)
30 (1%)
113 (3%)
Vitamin A (international units)
0 (0%)
.6 (0%)
2.5 (0%)
Vitamin B6 (milligrams)
0 (1%)
0 (1%)
.1 (5%)
Thiamin (milligrams)
.2 (14%)
.2 (14%)
.1 (8%)
Zinc (milligrams)
.3 (2%)
.2 (1%)
229 (286%)
Table Source: PopSugar

Admittedly, I'm not the best at eating healthy. I do try to cook and bake from scratch as much as possible. I have been trying to get my family to eat more organic and local produce, less refined sugar and processed foods and even have participated in a herd-share for chicken and beef so we have a better idea of where our food is coming from and how it's been treated.

But we still eat junk food. I worry about the eating habits of my youngest who loves carbs and hates almost anything else. McDonald's has received more of my money than I would like to admit.

So we are not perfect. Not even close. But we're aware of the problem and that's something to start with.


Another result of this enriching/stripping process is more sugar for our bodies to try to process. When you remove the germ from wheat berries it produces starch. So when I was pulling out the granulated white sugar and bleached white flour to bake, I was never considering the starchy concoction's impact on our poor bodies.  I think we can all agree that we have enough sugar added to our food already without adding in more.


So, here we are with 18 years of enriched flour products packed upon our grocery shelves. The next time you are in the cracker/cereal/snack/pasta/bread aisles, pick up random products and read the back of the label. It will look a lot like this.

And this is the tricky kind because on the front it will likely shout out about how you are eating a whole grain or a whole wheat product. However, when you look at the label closely, you will see the addition of "enriched wheat flour" and a parentheses of what that contains.

Now when I shop, I read labels on the crackers, cereal and breads I pick up. I recently discovered that both Wheat Thins and Triscuit crackers use non-enriched flour.

That's a big difference in the list of ingredients.

So, that's a win!

There is more good news. The Paleo diet movement and awareness of the MTHFR gene mutation, as well as a host of parents who have looked at food as a source of harm/healing for their children who have been diagnosed with sensory disorders has brought awareness to this issue.

And it's brought forth more options for people who want to eliminate enriched flour products from their lives.

I do have a friend who buys her own wheat berries and grinds them down into flour. This is a great way to ensure you are getting the most vital nutrients and minerals every time. But if that doesn't work for you, you can buy whole-grain, non-enriched flour from the bulk bins or even off the shelf. I picked a two-pack of organic unbleached wheat flour at Costco. Check out the label on this beaut:

Look at that beautiful, simple ingredient list! In contrast, check out this one from Gold Medal:

I think these Paleo folks are on to something. If we have been able to damage our bodies over generations with our eating habits and thereby messing with our epigenetics, shouldn't we be able to repair it by changing them? There is a compelling argument that getting our essential nutrients from their original source can even reverse many degenerative diseases like M.S. and many others.

So, here's to finding, buying and producing more food that is as close to its natural source as possible. Here's to food that spoils and doesn't have a "shelf-life" or man-made chemical compounds adding in to help us out.

Because the government can compel companies to enrich their flour, but they cannot compel me to eat it!


UPDATE: The day after I wrote this blog post, I saw this news article about the FDA approving the addition of folic acid into corn products (masa) that will effect our tortillas and tamales. 

Friday, April 8, 2016

God is Calling You to Be Brazen

Image credit: LG Designs

The other day, I read a blog post about a call for God's daughters to be brazen.


I literally stumbled over the word. And then circled back.


Hmmm...doesn't that equate to "hussy?" Or maybe "bold or brash?"

In my mind, I flashed upon a few current day celebrities who might seem to fit that bill.

But then I read further as the author of the post shared the word's definition:

without shame; unrestrained by convention or propriety; Nervy; Bold-faced; Audacious; Shameless

I had the shameless part right, but not much else. And not even in the correct context.

Somehow in my mind, the word brazen had taken on a negative connotation. It had become the anathema of the Proverbs 31 woman who was quiet, diligent and humble and had her stuff together.

It rattled around in my brain with another word that has been haunting me lately: Seditious. (But that is a post for another day.)

As I read further about how the author longed to add color to her "beige life," to embrace boldness and be unrestrained and walk in freedom, it made me think about a woman in the Bible I had recently studied.

Her name is Achsah (pronounced Ak-saw) and she was the daughter of Caleb, who is celebrated among the great men of valor in the Old Testament. Caleb was one of only two survivors from the original generation of Israelites who left Egypt to go to the land God has promised his people. The reason for his survival was that he had great faith in God's deliverance. (The other guys? Not so much.)

So, as a result I am really familiar with Caleb.

But, I had never heard of Achsah. Well, to be honest, I don't remember Achsah. I have read through the Bible many times and the book of Joshua as well. But I must have read right over her paragraph in the scripture and not registered how amazing she was.

Until a few weeks ago.

In Joshua 15, we find the Israelites at the end of their campaign to take over the Promised Land. After 40 years of wandering in the desert waiting for the unbelieving generation to die off, after the death of Moses, after likely several years of battle, it was time to settle into the land and start building a life and future. And so we find that Joshua has given Caleb the specific land he requested before all the warring began:

"...and Caleb said, 'I will give my daughter Achsah as a wife to the one who strikes down and captures Kiriath-sepher.' So Othniel son of Caleb's brother, Kenaz, captured it, and Caleb gave his daughter Achsah to him as a wife.
When she arrived, she persuaded Othniel to ask her father for a field. As she got off her donkey, Caleb asked her, 'What do you want?' 
She replied, 'Give me a blessing. Since you have given me land in the Negev, give me the springs of water also.' So he gave her the upper and lower springs." (Joshua 15:16-19)

A few things stand out here. First off, Achsah's cousin is the lucky winner of her hand. I am swallowing down the modern-day ick factor because I know that this was common practice in those days. It's likely that these two grew up together and perhaps even fell in love along the way.

In my mind, I like to temper the part of the story where Caleb offers up his daughter like pirate's booty to the man who captures the city with my own inner mental video of Othniel going all ninja-warrior in preparation to win the hand of his lady love.

And because Caleb is a pretty amazing guy in the Old Testament, I'd like to think that there was a wink-wink factor in this contest and he didn't just dangle his daughter like a prize to the biggest brute out there.

There is evidence to support this notion. The Hebrew definition for Achsah can be translated as "anklet" (connotation of bangle bracelets shaking or rattling), "adorned," or "bursting the veil." Since we know that it was common practice to choose a name that would describe the child, this tells me that Achsah was both treasured and a bit of a fire-cracker. So secondly, I think she was probably the apple of her daddy's eye.

This is also borne out in verse 19 when she asks her father to also give her the blessing of the springs of water (essentially water rights) -- "since you have given me land in the Negev."

It doesn't say that Caleb gave her husband land in the Negev. Othniel was given the prize of Achsah. Achsah was given land of her own -- which was a pretty big deal in this patriarchial society.

So we know she was favored and adored by her father. And we can also see that she likely knew that she had her father wrapped around her little ankle....I mean finger.

However, it wasn't the best land that Caleb owned. The Negev is a desert plain between the Mediterranean Sea and the Dead Sea. Without the ownership of these springs, this land would likely be unuseable or highly expensive to irrigate.

Hence Achsah's approach to her father and her brazen request:

"Please sir, I want some more." (in true Oliver Twist fashion)

And Caleb granted her request -- both the upper and lower springs. (vs 19)

That's what I would call unrestrained by convention or propriety; nervy; bold-faced; audacious and yes...even shameless.

But I believe that Achsah knew that Caleb was likely to grant her request. Because she knew her father. She knew what she meant to him.

And Caleb complies... not with just one spring, but two springs. And I'd like to think he did with a twinkle in his eye as he marveled over his gutsy, beautiful daughter.

These springs watered the land that would make Othniel and Achsah prosperous and likely helped seal the deal in the choice of Othniel as the first judge of Israel.

And it came to be because a daughter dared to ask her father for more, believing that it was his heart to give her what she requested.

W. Mackintosh MacKay penned an essay called, "The Discontented Bride" about this passage:

"There is, of course, a divine discontent all of us should foster. Dissastified with our growth in sanctity of life, we should constantly pray, 'more holiness give me,' and as the bride's father graciously granted his daughter's request, so our Heavenly Father will answer our yearning for the life more abundant."

First, I'd like to address the issue of "discontent." My first thoughts when I read this essay was, "of course a man would read through this story and slap the label of 'discontented bride' on Achsah. If it were Caleb's son, I doubt commentaries would label him as the 'discontented groom.' Why do women who boldy ask for things get labels with negative connotations?"

I do think it's an unfortunate common occurence. But, beyond that, I think MacKay is on to something. There is always more. And because of who we are and whose we are, we have access and dare I say, the authority to boldly make our requests known.

Personally, I think Achsah approached her father not out of a spirit of discontent, but out of the knowledge that she was favored and adored.

And that perspective changes everything.

Ephesians 3:12 explains:

"Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God's presence." (NLT)

And this is every woman's challenge, I believe. To not let people (Christian or otherwise) label us as discontented or pushy or conniving simple because we see the need for more "living water" in our lives.

However, there is one label I will proudly wear:  Shameless

Because not only has Jesus removed all of my shame; but He has called me to walk in freedom and set other captives free of theirs.

My fellow daughters....may we never be constrained by convention or propriety. But may we walk boldly and even audaciously into our destinies -- into our own "promised lands."

And yes...may we be brazen!


Post-script: There is so much more that I could pull out of this story. I have pages of notes from this one paragraph and a few others in later chapters. I feel like God opened up my mind to a revelation of His Father heart for His daughters. I'm not sure if it will become another blog post or even the book I've always dreamed of writing. But it's a BIG story that needs telling. Stay tuned...

Thursday, April 7, 2016

When Brashness Trumps Integrity

Photo credit:

Almost 18 years ago, the United States (and other parts of the world) were fixated on a blue dress, an intern and a president.

The president of one of the most powerful countries in the world was on public trial defending himself against accusations of an improper sexual relationship with a young woman who was not his wife.

At first, he denied that anything improper happened.

And then tapes were released, and fabric with DNA evidence was brought forth and tested.

And the media circus and feeding frenzy escalated.


To be honest, I didn't pay a lot of attention to the scandal. I was living overseas at the time.  Juicy details were published both in print and the television media of Greece. Truthfully, I was embarrassed on behalf of my country and for the dignity of the office of President.

Even worse, when President Clinton eventually confessed to what everyone knew he had done despite his repeated denials -- at that point, it was truly a low point in the history of our political system.

However, more than the disappointment I felt about the perception of the honor factor of my country and our leader, I was shocked to hear people back home arguing about how we shouldn't judge the president by his moral failings or successes. Rather, we should judge him by his political efficacy.

Of course, the Christian community in particular was outraged at this notion. They argued:

"How can you separate a man from his actions? 
"Can you remove morality from the equation of measuring success?" 
"Can you be a terrible human being, but still be a good president?"

And of course, the implied answer was no. You either are honest and trustworthy in your marriage, or you aren't. And if you are not honest or trustworthy in that arena, wouldn't that make you less inclined to be honest and trustworthy in your job as the leader of the free world when it suits you? Would you also lie and distort and cover up the truth if it served your purposes?

Does character really count?

The implied answer was a resounding yes.

And for the record, I think that is the correct assertion. I don't believe you can compartmentalize morality and character and operate in one way in one aspect of your life and then then switch that off and do something opposite in another. It's impossible for character to not bleed into every area of life. Because it is who we are.

As Americans, we wanted Bill Clinton to be better than he acted. We revere "Honest Abe," and the courage of George Washington. We don't like to talk as much about Richard Nixon or the less savory aspects of our Camelot president.

Because ultimately we want our leaders to rise above. Fair or not. Attainable or not. We want them to demonstrate that which we find so difficult.


Which is why it baffles me that Donald Trump is even a contender at this point. I won't go into the skimpiness of his political credentials, or how his fortune has bought him a seat at the table of a political party he has historically mocked and despised.

What baffles me is the support he is getting from Christians -- many who were the yelling the loudest about how character matters when Bill Clinton was falling from grace.

The double standard here boggles my mind.

How on earth can Christians support and condone behavior that would get any student in American expelled from school, or any employee suspended without pay (or even fired)?

The things that Donald Trump has said publicly and on record as he has campaigned have literally made my toes curl, blood boil and insides cringe.

He is mean. He is a bully. He mocks and belittles women and uses slurs that are not just politically-incorrect, they are in the worst possible taste.

And yet, he is still at the political table.


Because "he speaks his mind." "He's brash and bold and someone has to say it like it is -- even if it's offensive." "He's not afraid to say what everyone else is thinking."

Frankly and respectfully, I don't think this qualifies him to run for President of the United States, let alone president of anything.

He is making us look bad. All of us.

Because you can't have it both ways.

You can't scream about how character matters just as much in the privacy of an office as much as it does in the public arena of a press conference, and then turn around and applaud the next guy for doing the same thing under the guise of "being unpredictable."

I get that Americans are tired of the same old political crud that seems self-serving and not at all about "we the people."

I get that we are tired of paying so much of our money into a system that seems flawed, broken and unaccountable to anyone.

I get that the luster of democracy has worn off as special-interest groups and big money has taken away our voice and influence.

But this is not the way.

We cannot vote for rudeness, dishonor, contempt, ego and arrogance for president simply because we are sick and tired of the status quo.

We cannot rail about how integrity and honor should trump deceit and manipulation, yet turn around and applaud any political candidate that oozes contempt and vitrol simply because it is aimed at those we want to see defeated.

It doesn't work that way.

It shouldn't work that way.

Because our choices cast a shadow. And that shadow can provide a place of rest and respite from a harsh world, or it can create a place of darkness and confusion.

But make no mistake: everyone sees a shadow. In Bill Clinton's case, the blue dress scandal is forever memoralized in one artist's depiction of his presidential portrait for the Clinton Museum. The shadow of that dress is literally painted onto the canvas.

Photo credit:

I know that some will not agree that when we vote for a president of our country, we are not voting "for a good person."

I whole-heartedly disagree. When we vote for president, we are voting for the best person to represent the United States of America both abroad and the majority of her people -- someone who exemplifies the "best of us" and not the worst of our fears and anxieties.

Luke 6:43-45 says:

"A good tree doesn't produce bad fruit; on the other hand, a bad tree doesn't produce good fruit. For each tree is known by its own fruit. Figs aren't gathered from thornbushes, or grapes picked from a bramble bush. A good man produces good out of the good storeroom of his heart. An evil man produces evil out of the evil storeroom, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart."

History will judge us. It's judging us now. We cannot teach our school children the program, "Character Counts," and simultaneously behave and vote as if it does not.