‘Health & Beauty’ Category

Natural Beauty: Winter Routine + Why You Should Stop Eating High-Fructose Corn Syrup

Posted on December 20th, 2012 by Tonia 6 Comments

I can feel it happening–the itchy, tight feeling my skin gets as we enter winter and the air becomes dry and cold. I believe the not-so-scientific term for it is “winter skin”, and it can actually be painful. You know what I’m talking about–that feeling that you will die if you don’t scratch the itch immediately, only the problem is that everywhere itches!

Thankfully there are a number of ways to combat winter skin and keep yourself feeling and looking your best. Here is my recipe for success/winter beauty routine:


Olive Oil and Sugar Scrub: Follow the link and whip up a jar of this glorious scrub. Use it in the shower after your usual soap. It exfoliates dead skin and leaves you moisturized and protected. Hot water is very drying…But I love a good hot shower. The olive oil in the scrub will help keep the water from drying you out, and contains fatty acids that are great for your skin {You can also use it to make homemade hair conditioner!}

I also like this recipe. It’s more time consuming to make, but the ginger and coconut together smells amazing. I add a little bit of orange essential oil as well, which makes it smell like sherbet!

Coconut Oil: This oil improves skin firmness and elasticity, and conveniently hardens into a solid at any temp below 75 degrees. I keep it in the bathroom vanity and slather it on all over my body after showers. It’s very light and absorbs quickly. I even use it on my face and it does not make me break out, even though I have sensitive skin. I buy a tub of it {the organic kind} at the health food store, and it’s very economical.


Argan Oil: Rich in Vit. E and fatty acids, this oil gives your face a beautiful glow and smooth texture without sitting heavily on the skin. It’s perhaps a little too much for the summertime {unless you have dry skin}, but it’s perfect as a daily moisturizer in the winter. It’s pricey, so I use it only on my face.

I wear less make-up in the winter because it tends to dry my skin out {I use this in the summer. LOVE it.}. My daily winter make-up routine consists of a little eye-brow filler and some cheek color. Pretty easy!

I love the Argon Color Stick by Josie Maran because it is moisturizing, but recently I came across this blog post, showing how to make cheek stain from beet juice. I tried it, and I LOVE it! It works great and the color is really natural and pretty–like you just walked in from the cold. It also lasted all day without needing to be re-applied.

The only trick is to not cook the beets too long. The juice turns brown instead of staying that pretty purple-pink color if you do. I tried to make this cheek stain in large batches so I could give it to friends as a gift, and found that it was better done in small one-off batches. You don’t get much juice out of a couple beets, but since a tiny bit of it is enough to color your whole cheek, a little goes a long way.

Since I wear less makeup in the winter, I don’t feel the need to I wash my face every day. Sometimes I splash it with water in the morning to get the sleep out of my eyes, but I don’t wash my face with soap more than once every few days. Soap dries out my skin and the hot water expands my pores–two undesirable things. When I do wash it, I use a face soap with exfoliates in it to slough away dead skin. If I can feel a break-out coming on, I use a homemade mask like this one to draw out the impurities in my skin.

I used to have problem skin–zit break-outs happening on a regular basis with very little “clear” time in between–but I have seen a dramatic change in the past year and I believe it’s due to two things: Not washing my face more than a couple times a week, and avoiding high-fructose corn syrup like the plague. I discovered both by accident.

Mike and I went camping last fall with a couple friends, and I did not wash my face for a week. When we left home I had zits in the usual places: my chin and forehead. When we emerged from the woods, my face was dirty from hiking and camping but perfectly clear of acne! I decided to wash my face as infrequently as possible after that, leaving my skin alone to do its thing. It is, afterall, an organ. My skin is now capable of achieving a natural balance of oil because I’m no longer stripping it of its natural oil and then replacing it with different oil (from a moisturizer) all the time.

These days, when I get a zit here and there I know it’s because of keeping a poor diet that week (like around the holidays when I eat too many sweets). I’m especially sensitive to high-fructose corn syrup. Last summer Mike announced that he had read somewhere about how high-fructose corn syrup causes inflammation in the body and that we should purge our home of anything that contains it.

Into the trash went the katsup, the salad dressing, the crackers, the cookies, and more. I was shocked at how many things had it in it, especially because we try our best to keep whole, unprocessed, organic foods in the house. But it’s a sneaky ingredient and it really is in almost everything that comes in a package. Tossing out all that food was a great wake-up call.

Since then we haven’t eaten the stuff unless it’s completely unavoidable, like when you’re stuck on a plane and you’re super hungry and they bring you a packet of those little gingerbread cookies and so you eat them. Desperate moments of weakness aside, my skin thanks me for abstaining from high-fructose corn syrup. I’m sure there are many other health reasons you should not eat high-fructose corn syrup as well, but for me having clear skin for the first time since I was 13 is reason enough. I am so, so, so happy to have left the problem-skin era of my life behind me!

Homemade Holiday Gifts: Sugar Scrub

Posted on November 18th, 2011 by Tonia 5 Comments

It’s that time of year when we start thinking about what we’re going to give our loved ones for Christmas, Hanukkah, etc. Mike and I love to give and receive handmade gifts because the thought and time put into them make them so meaningful, they’re always one-of-a-kind, and usually it’s more economical than going to the store and buying something.

I’d love to hear what some of you are working on, and I’ll be sharing my gift ideas as well occasionally between now and Christmas.

First up, Jess asked me to share a recipe for homemade sugar scrub- a perfect gift for anyone! It’s all-natural, luxurious, and makes your body silky smooth by exfoliating and moisturizing.

It’s pretty inexpensive to make, but I would recommend splurging a little on a high-quality olive oil so you get the benefit of the most antioxidants possible. Cheap olive oil is more likely to be rancid, expired, or over-processed. I used Lucero Extra Virgin Olive Oil. They’re family-owned and operated and take the art of making olive oil very seriously.

Use equal parts brown sugar and white sugar {about 1/4 cup each for a 6 oz. jar} Fill to the top with olive oil, covering the sugars by an extra 1/2 inch.

Optional: Add 1-2 Tbs of vanilla extract for flavor, a couple drops of your favorite essential oil {something that you know your recipient is not allergic or sensitive to}, or 2-4 Tbs lemon juice for a scrub that lightens dark/age spots on skin.

Wrap it up pretty with a piece of scrap fabric and a ribbon. Done! Easiest gift ever! Thanks for the idea, Jess!

Natural Homemade Deodorant

Posted on November 8th, 2011 by Tonia 3 Comments

Image courtesy of bonzaiaphrodite.com

No one likes to be stinky, and around here being stinky is very easy when we’re working up a sweat doing farm chores. Enter, deodorant. I wear it every day because I have to.

I switched to the natural kind years ago to avoid all the nasty chemicals that the big brands are loaded with, but the problem is that the natural kind doesn’t work nearly as well, and it’s more expensive!

But what can you do? Surely making an effective deodorant yourself would be pretty hard to do, right? WRONG! Sayward figured it out and shared her recipe on her blog recently. WOOHOO! Girl, you rock.

Natural cold remedies

Posted on September 19th, 2011 by Tonia 7 Comments

Images left to right: Thayer Photo, Martha Stewart

Mike and I are both fighting a cold right now. It’s no fun to feel icky, especially during one of the nicest times of year. The leaves are starting to change colors, the days are cool and sunny- perfect for being active outside. But here we are on the couch instead.

Mike almost never gets fully sick- his body naturally fights off most flues and colds before they have a chance to really take hold. He’ll feel bad for a day and then spring right back to life.

I also don’t get sick often, but when I do, it seems to last and last. I’ve kind of become a pro at helping my body recover and fight the good fight against whatever is attacking my immune system. Today I’m sharing some of my home remedies {and I bet you all have your own favorite ways of making yourselves more comfortable or heal more quickly during a cold, so please share your methods in the comments!}

1. Sleep. The number one thing that supports our immune systems is sleep. The more sleep you get on a nightly basis, the stronger your immune system is. The more sleep you get during a cold, the faster your body will be able to heal.

2. Garlic. This delicious little bulb has incredible healing powers. When we feel a cold coming on, we make a super garlicky soup {chicken soup lends itself perfectly to an extra garlicky broth} for dinner. And then we go to bed right away and let the hot broth in our bellies work its magic. Nine times out of ten we wake up feeling completely healthy again, illness averted.

3. Ginger. This spicy root, when grated fresh into teas or broths, gets your circulation going and fights inflammation throughout our bodies. One of my favorite sore-throat remedies is lemon-ginger-honey tea. I usually just heat up water and lemon juice, grate some ginger in, and then stir in honey right before drinking {add each ingredient to taste, since everyone’s comfort level with spiciness is different.} You could also just start with a packaged ginger tea and then add lemon juice and honey {I like the Yogi brand the best.} Either way, your throat will be soothed almost instantly. Ginger is also great for your digestive system- calming any issues going on there.

4. Cayenne pepper. This spice has been used for thousands of years as a medicine for almost every ailment imaginable {people even rubbed it into open wounds because it disinfects and accelerates the healing process.} Much like ginger, it increases circulation and decreases inflammation wherever it is applied. Adding it to your stew or broth will help keep you from getting that “achy” feeling that comes with many colds, and will get your sinuses flowing {no more stuffed-up nose!}

5. Echinacea extract. This healing liquid can be found in the health-food or vitamin aisles at most markets. It’s made from a pretty flower called the purple coneflower. You can add a few droplets of the extract to your tea or juice and it will help support your immune system. There has been some warning against using echinacea long-term. I only use it during a cold, and I believe it helps me to recover quicker. But, as with any supplements, you should research it yourself and decide if it’s right for you or speak with your doctor before taking it.

6. Zinc. Another supplement that speeds recovery. I take one 500 mil capsule daily when I have a cold. It’s a wonderful immune system supporter, but this supplement makes me really nauseous if I take it on an empty stomach. Be careful to take your vitamins and supplements right before or after a meal.

7. Vitamin C. Take 1000 mil of it daily throughout your cold. You literally can’t take too much {it is water-solvable, so your body will just release what it doesn’t need through your pee} and it is probably the #2 best thing you can do to help your body heal after getting lots of sleep.

8. Hot packs. A lot of colds cause us to feel achy all over, which gets in the way of sleep because it’s so uncomfortable. These homemade hot packs help to relax muscles. Put one under your lower back or at the base of your neck and breathe deeply. You’ll be conked out in a deep, healing sleep in no time.

9. Neti-pot. Netis are little pots, usually made of ceramic, that are filled with a saline solution {usually salt and water} which gets poured through the nasal passages, flushing out the sinuses. This is a great remedy for sinus infections, allergies, and general stuffiness. It’s pretty weird at first and counter-intuitive to pour liquid into your nose, but you feel so much better afterward, so it’s worth the momentary weirdness. Neti-pot use dates back to ancient Italy. It’s tried and true.

10. Get active. I know, it seems weird. The last thing you usually feel like doing when you’re sick is moving! However, I have fought off colds simply by refusing to give in to them. When we’re active, our lungs fill with fresh air and our hearts pump oxygenated blood through our bodies. Sometimes that’s all it takes for a cold to back off- it realizes this is a very alive and healthy body. However, it’s important to listen to our bodies. If you’re truly feeling like nothing would be better than a 10 hour nap, do it. The body tells us what it needs if we listen.

Hope you all stay happy and healthy out there!