I'm on a journey to find health and happiness through a more holistic and green lifestyle.

I find the world to be abrasive. =) That is to say, I feel the need to armor myself, physically and emotionally, in order to face life. Don't we all? Maybe. For whatever reason, it has become a priority in my life to rid my immediate environment of irritating things. And I'm sensitive! So there is much work to be done. But. I have thought for a long time that the things I come in contact with every day, and the stuff used to clean and maintain these things, need to be gentle and non-toxic. I have had eczema my entire life. For a long time I just dealt with it, and accepted that sometimes it's bad, and sometimes it's not, and that it will fluctuate a lot. Gradually over time I have come to find that certain things, fabrics, cleansers, materials, are more irritating to my skin than others. Stress can exacerbate it. In more recent times, I have realized that every aspect of my life improves when I improve conditions for my skin. Hah! What a concept! Thus my (long time) interest in going green, and my more recent desire to live a more holistic lifestyle. (I think I've felt a desire for a long time to live in a harmonious way with myself, my surroundings, and nature, but didn't have a name for it.) Anyhow, this blog is a journal of my trials and errors, and basic crooked path to find a balanced and peaceful existence for myself and my family. Thanks for your interest! I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas!

Friday, June 25, 2010

All-Natural Bug Spray

Recently I received a newsletter from Amara Wellness, LLC, a company founded by Amara Wagner, a holistic health counselor based out of Bergen County, New Jersey. (Read more about Amara here) In the newsletter, Amara shared the recipe for an all-natural bug spray. Yeah! I have been using a natural spray I bought from a health store which cost a fortune. I've also used Purification essential oil mixed with sweet almond, with some success. But I was thrilled to find this recipe, made from essential oils I have on hand! Here's the recipe:

4 oz. spray bottle (glass if possible)
10-15 drops Purification®
3 drops peppermint
3 drops Thieves®
3-4 drops rose (optional, best for ticks)
1 oz. vodka
3 oz. water

The Purification and Thieves essential oils blends are sold by Young Living. I had everything on hand except for the vodka and the rose oil. I am making my first batch without the rose oil, which is incredibly expensive if you purchase it from Young Living, which is what Amara recommends. She has generously offered to send me 4 drops of rose oil for my mix.

I will be giving the spray its first trial run today, as we head down to grandma's for a cookout. I will post back! The real test, however, will come next week as the kids and I head to the farm for our second day of volunteering in the fields. Boy was it buggy the first time we went!!! Anyhow, I look forward to putting this recipe through its paces, and I will report back!

If anyone is interested in obtaining some of the essential oils blends to try this spray, I can help you with that by either ordering them for you, hooking you up with joining Young Living using my member number, or maybe even mixing a batch for you. Leave me a comment...

By the way, it is not necessary to use expensive vodka!!! Hubby got in on the act and chose something he would enjoy using as well. LOL! ;)

UPDATE: We used this spray the other day before playing outside on a playground at my mother-in-law's house, which is surrounded by thick woods. Although my son and I received no bug bites, my daughter did receive a couple of bites, and I had a bug that would not stop buzzing around my head! Argh! Perhaps I did not use enough. I am not giving up yet....we will test the spray at the farm this coming week.

Another UPDATE: I have been using this bug spray for a couple of weeks, and it has done NOTHING to keep the bugs from biting my daughter. She still ends up covered. I am disappointed. =(

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Day 2 - Reduced Gluten and Dairy Diet

Failing failing failing. Ugh. Today is day 2 of my attempt to eat without gluten or dairy. Last night, after the kids went to bed, I felt hungry. The hunger that you feel when you remove things from your diet but don't adequately replace those things with satisfying alternatives. So I made myself some Triscuit and cheese "sandwiches." Several of them. So I decided that every day is a new day, and I would start again today. So I put out a bunch of things for the kids to munch on this morning, including cheese sticks. And of course I suddenly realized that once again I was failing my attempts without even thinking about it. AGH! Okok, so I stopped eating the cheese and ate other things. But darn it, this is hard! And so now I'm tired, itching, AND feeling guilty. Blak. But onward............... I shall try again.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Tired of Feeling Tired

I am tired all the time. All the time! And there are life reasons. I have 2 kids, and I am home with them all the time. In fact, I am rarely away from my children. That is reason enough to be tired all the time! But not really. I eat fairly well (I do eat junk, but both my husband and I cook, and make healthy meals) and I've been exercising more in recent weeks. And when I sleep, I sleep hard. Now granted, I don't sleep as much as my body would like. I compensate for a looooong day of parenting by staying up later than my body would prefer. So I sacrifice a little sleep for some down time. Some desperately needed and wanted down time! But there are nights I am SO tired that I can't make it through my kids bedtime, and I conk out with them. I am TIRED! And I would like to get some energy back.

I feel that while there are probably several things I could do right now that would help, the one I feel I can change right now is diet. I did some research tonight on fatigue, gluten and eczema.

In recent weeks I have had some long hoped for success with improving the condition of my skin. I have attributed this to my recent switch from steroid cream to Bergamot essential oil. And perhaps it deserves all of the credit. But I have also started taking fish oil (omega-3) supplements in recent weeks, and probiotics in recent months. These things could be making a difference too. And a brief reduction in gluten and dairy occurred as well, but I didn't stick with it for very long. So some part of this, or a combination of all of it, has helped me to improve my skin. But it plateaued again, and I want to see more improvement. So what of this am I not currently doing? The diet thing.

Oh, and after feeling fatigued and irritated for what seemed like forever I started this blog, and after working on a more holistic lifestyle, which included all of the above changes, I started feeling better. Less tired, and much less irritable! But it's coming back. It's coming back.

So I'm at it again. Now I am not going to go crazy over this and erase all gluten and dairy from my life and from the diets of my family members. But I'm going to try really hard to keep them both very low in my diet. And it's hard. I mean, in one sense, it's simple. Eat things that don't have gluten, right? But I'm a grazer, and many times throughout the day I grab a handful of this or that. I don't even think about it as I'm doing it. So today, day 1 of my renewed efforts with diet, I grabbed a handful of goldfish crackers that were out for my daughter. It was down the hatch before it even registered that I had done it. Shoot!! So that is hard for me. But I don't call the day a loss. I have not had much gluten or dairy overall.

I am less tired than I was yesterday. I had a short period of time after lunch when I felt really fatigued, but it was probably just a result of blood working on digestion rather than energy. Overall I feel better. But I am long way from feeling energized and wakeful. At the moment it's just degrees of fatigue! But I'm hopeful that I can make a difference through diet and exercise, and if my skin improves, well, this would become a life change!

But 1 step at a time. I will report back with an update in a while. So hopeful!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Essential Oils - Chamomile For Hives

Both of my kids have been fighting a virus. First my daughter, last week, and now my son. Both kids broke out in hives! (On different days, but in the same areas) My son went to the doctor yesterday for another condition, and was checked for allergic reaction at that time, so it is my belief the hives are due to the virus, and not an allergic reaction to something environmental. When my son broke out in hives this morning, I did a Google search on essential oils for hives, and three were recommended the most: chamomile, lavender and peppermint. I chose chamomile, as I've read before that it is ok for kids. I have chamomile German. There is also Chamomile Roman (I think it is.) It didn't specify, so I used what I have. I rubbed the oil right on the hives, and they immediately started to go down. The redness went out of my son's skin. He continued to get outbreaks after that, to which I also applied the oil, which then went down. After using the oil, I did give my son a little oral Benadryl, only because we had a long drive ahead of us and I wanted him to be comfortable. We ended up not going..... but I was and am pretty impressed with the results of Chamomile oil! I am carrying it around with me in case he has more patches of hives today.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Essential Oils - Peppermint For Migraines

This morning my neighbor and friend, L, came over to say hello. She informed me that she had a terrible migraine headache and didn't think she'd stay long, but wanted just to touch base. I asked her if she'd like to try peppermint essential oil for her headache, informing her that I use it often for headaches, sinus pressure, or anything related. She was willing. I suggested she rub it over her forehead, on her temples, and on the back of her neck. Within a very short amount of time, she informed me that she was feeling a little relief, and that she would take any relief at that point. Within about 20 minutes, she was feeling so much better she was hugging me and telling me she loved me! Now I don't experience migraine headaches (thank goodness!!) and have only heard about how debilitating they can be. And my poor friend says that she gets them on most days (she has a physical condition which results in frequent headaches and other physical discomforts.) I figured it wouldn't hurt to try the oil. Both of us were truly surprised at the results! Just now I did an online search (Google) on peppermint for migraine headaches, and found many references to the use of peppermint for headaches, including migraines. Who knew?!

It is evening now, and I have to add this. My friend returned a couple of hours later and asked for another "treatment." She informed me that the oil had not only reduced her headache, but had, in fact, gotten rid of it entirely. I am so excited. I am so hopeful it continues to work for her. It would be a nice break for her, from nearly chronic pain.

*As with any remedy, if you are pregnant, get more information before using peppermint essential oil. One link I looked at had a comment added by someone saying to avoid peppermint oil if you are pregnant. I don't know enough about that at this point....so please, do your research!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Discussion Board For Those With Skin Issues - Eczema, Psoriasis, Etc.

For those on Facebook, come chat with others who have a skin condition, or a family member with a skin condition. Share stories, ideas, what works, what doesn't, ask questions, and learn something! There is no selling or pressure of any kind. This is just a place to go chat with others about these topics.

Topics so far include: Eczema, soap nuts, stress, etc. Come add some more!

Link to Eczema Discussion Board

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Essential Oils

Well, it seems that I have really come to appreciate these tiny little bottles full of essential oils. I rather impulsively bought a bunch from Young Living some months ago. I did so out of curiosity and a need to do something a little goofy and risky, not out of any experience with the oils or much knowledge of what they do or what they are for. I am learning.

I just went to check how long I've had them. It's been four months. I would have guessed longer! I use them every day. Every day. Now I was a skeptic when I bought them. So why did I buy them? I wanted them to work. I wanted them to replace some of the chemical, artificial stuff we have become so dependent on. I didn't think they would.

Since that time, I have become dependent on Bergamot essential oil to manage my (life long) eczema. I use a blend of EOs as a bug spray on the kids and myself. I use peppermint oil very often for a whole slew of things, including headache, sinus pressure, energy, hives and room freshening. I use lavender oil very frequently, for diaper rash, in the bath for relaxation, for bruises, etc. And I dabble with several others as the need arises.

I just placed my second order with Young Living. Although the kit I ordered back in February came with quite a few "starter" oils, and I have purchased a couple other ones locally, I found the pull to order some more from YL.

I'm not sure why, because let's face it, Young Living is expensive! And their marketing direction is to really encourage shoppers to "earn" points towards "rewards." One way to really "earn" points is to sign up for the "essential rewards" program, which requires you to purchase a minimum of $100.00 worth of products each month, and to have them "auto-shipped" to your home. And if you sign up as an independent distributor, which I did, you receive a discount on future purchases. And if you convince other people to sign up using your member # as a referral, you receive benefits. And so forth. It seems like a lot of work, honestly. For me, anyhow. But I do like the oils they make. I've had good experiences with them.

Essential oils are certainly available other places. You can find them online easily, along with loads of information. I refer to the internet often to find uses for the oils I have that aren't listed in the literature that came with them. And I appeal to others who use them also. You can also purchase oils at local health stores. And the other day, I found the two "essential" essential oils, lavender and peppermint, in our local grocery store!! I was surprised, and happy. Of course this is not great news for distributors like YL (and there are others out there) who have to rely on their claim of having the purest EOs and so forth. But they seem to do ok....

Anyhow, I'm hooked. On the oils, not the company. But I do like the blends that YL sells (i.e. Purification, Peace and Calming, etc.) and am about to try the Thieves Household Cleaner concoction. I'll let ya know. =)

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Community Supported Agriculture

Today we picked up our first farm share of the season. It's got me wanting to talk about it. So here goes.

Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, is basically a weekly share of the food grown on participating farms in exchange for a contribution toward the costs of running the farm. Each year the farm announces when their CSA is open for membership. A person or family then fills out a form indicating whether they would like veggies, fruits, eggs, or whatever that particular farm offers. The prices are set by the farm owners. Payment is sent at this time, or over the course of the growing season. Each member chooses a pick-up location (if there is a choice) and receives notice of when the CSA will begin for that particular year.

I have belonged to a CSA for 3 years, and I'm now beginning my 4th. We belong to Denison Farm, in Schaghticoke, New York. (Skah-ti-coke) This particular farm offers quite a few pick-up locations, making it accessible to quite a geographical range of people. Every week, the owners of the farm, Brian and Justine, send out an email with some information about what has been going at the farm, what we are likely to receive that week in our box, and some recipes using items from the share. The food is fantastic. I had originally joined the CSA because I liked the idea of organic, farm fresh produce, but was amazed at the difference in the taste of the fresh picked veggies. Wow! I stayed because nothing quite compares.

Justine and Brian are very friendly also. They invite people to come to farm any time to see what's going on. They welcome volunteers with open arms. (My kids and I will be volunteering once a week this summer) They offer a work share: a person can work on the farm a set number of hours per week in exchange for a reduced rate on their share. And they have a great gathering during the summer. Every member is invited to the farm on a certain date. Everyone brings a dish to share. There is music, food, people and fun times abounding. They offer a hay ride around the fields as well. It's a really good time!

I love it. I love the food. I love the farm. I love the inviting ways of the farmers. =) Oh, and it's fun to chase the chickens around, too.

So what kinds of stuff do we get? Well, this week we have lettuce, garlic scapes, strawberries (which the kids got rid of fast), scallions, etc. Yumyumyum.....

If you ever think you might be into trying something like this, I say go for it. It supports local farmers, it cuts down on exhaust/pollution (your food is locally grown, not carried a million miles and picked way early,) you can see where and how your food is grown, and even help out if you want. And the difference in the taste of food that comes to you very shortly after it is picked/harvested vs. food that is picked a long time before it is ripe, and "ripened" while it travels to grocery stores is indescribable. You just have to taste it.