Tuesday, February 26, 2013

My No-Poo Experience

What is no-poo?
The name no-poo probably scares people away because it sounds as if we are constipated or that we don't use shampoo. But actually, no-poo is a method for washing your hair with a homemade shampoo (baking soda + water) and a homemade conditioner (apple cider vinegar + water) rather than using conventional products that you may purchase at the store.

Why no-poo:
Commercial products have several ingredients in them. I honestly don't have a clue what the purpose of most these ingredients are. So instead of telling you why blah blah blah is toxic or this specific thing MAY cause cancer in certain lab rats or whatever is bad for the environment, I will explain the main reason why I was interested in an alternative method to commercial hair products.

You've probably heard that it is better for your hair to wash it every other day rather than every day. This is because commercial products "strip" our hair of its natural oil. Therefore, causing our sebaceous glads on the scalp to produce more oil to bring our scalp back to its natural state. It is a constant battle between these glands and the hair products removing the oil. The sebaceous glands start to produce more oil due to the pattern of the oil being removed so quickly.
It seems to me that if this natural oil is supposed to be there, why are commercial hair products removing it? People say because they don't want their hair to feel greasy, but do we dislike a little grease because we are used to not having it - due to using conventional shampoos? Grease typically implies unkept and dirtiness so we are used to thinking it is bad. It seems silly to me that I have spent money on shampoo that furthers the production of more oils on my head, to of course, continue to create a need for their product! These products are catalysts in the problem they make you believe that they are trying to solve.

This was my recipe:
I made 1 bottle of shampoo and 1 bottle of conditioner.  I used the following breakdown:
1 tbsp baking soda/1 cup of water = shampoo
1 tbsp organic apple cider vinegar/1 cup of water = conditioner

-You can adjust either in various ways, but:
*When I added much more baking soda, it dried out my hair. It also kept clogging the spray bottle that I used because it did not dissolve (no matter how much I mixed/shook the bottle).
*When I used less baking soda, it did not feel "slippery"as it should and (maybe this is all psychologically) it did not seem to clean/deodorize as well.
*When I added more apple cider vinegar, my hair smelled like it. Several people will tell you that the smell goes away after showering, but when using more ACV, I smelled like a foot.

-Some people add essential oils to the conditioner because they do not like the smell of vinegar. This seems expensive to me. Also, I don't think the purpose of essential oils is primarily to make things smell better, so I try to limit my use.

The Transition Phase:
It is recommended to commit to doing this for about a month. Your hair will go through a transition period, where it is trying to figure out how much oil it really needs to produce since it is used to making so much to counteract the conventional shampoos from removing it. From all of the resources I've seen this period seems to last anywhere from 2-3 weeks. So if you are going to decide to do it, please please give it a month. You should begin to see less frizz, more volume, and less oily days in between washings. Many people give up because they hate how their hair feels during the transition time.

My issues with no-poo:
I have been going no-poo for about 5 months now. I know that it is not that long. But I swear I've tried everything except giving it more time.

The first week of it, I actually loved it. My hair felt clean. And then things changed. I went into the transition period, which wasn't awful, but then things didn't seem to get better. My favorite part of no-poo was that my hair grew quickly. I have been trying to grow it out for a few years now and it has only been noticeable in the few months that I was doing no-poo.

I read a blog on a hairdresser's take on the no-poo. I found it funny that she said no-poo'er's heads "smelled like head". It's true. I felt like my head picked up every smell - from taking a walk outside, to that Mexican restaurant we ate in....it is a minor thing but still unpleasant.

My hair was insanely dry. Putting my hands through it was a nightmare. It was tangly and felt like straw. I tried various no-poo recipes which left my hair feeling even less clean than normal.

I brushed my hair and my brush looked like I stuck it in a dirty vacuum cleaner. My hair had some sort of dusty residue on it. It was nasty to look at my brush, and even to try to clean it. I felt like my hair was getting dreads and I wasn't even trying.

My hair got really statically. Like more than I had ever seen. I'd never had this issue before and brushing my hair was a pain (literally because it was so tangled) and then dealing with the static -AHH.

And I missed the lather. With no-poo, it is difficult to tell whether or not the "shampoo" and "conditioner" actually is in your hair when the shower water is running. It is a petty thing, but I did miss it.

So...I really wanted this no-poo thing to work. I bought a 100% boar bristle brush to "spread my hair oils" from the top of my head to the ends. This made my hair softer. It was an adjustment to brush my hair for reasons other than detangling. And it was time consuming. The reviewers of the brush I bought  aimed for at least 100 strokes a day. I am not used to spending any time on my hair so this was hard for me to keep consistent.

I started using deionized water or boiling my tap water before using it to make my shampoo and conditioner. I thought I could tell a little bit of a difference. So then I thought I needed to do the next step...

I bought a shower filter. This was the most expensive part of my no-poo and probably offset the cost of my homemade shampoo and conditioner.  After reading information regarding the dangers of inhaling the fumes of chemicals in the water via shower, I decided it was a good idea to purchase a shower filter for health reasons (now I am not so sure) and not just for my hair. I hoped that I would be able to tell an immediate difference with my skin and my hair. Almost everyone who reviewed this particular filter said they coud tell a difference after one shower. I wasn't too keen on spending $60 bucks and then having to replace the filter every year for $20, but it seemed worthwhile. After using this filter for a month, I still cannot tell a difference. Maybe my water wasn't that "hard' to begin with but my hair is still completely dry. I have no idea what I am doing wrong.

With all of this, I am going to stop no-poo and actually try a shampoo/body bar instead. It was an interesting experience to try no-poo but there is too much troubleshooting in this for me. I don't like the smell of apple cider vinegar at all but especially carried around on me all day. I don't like the film on my hair that I can't seem to get rid of. And I get to take back my $60.00 water filter!

Also, the idea of having 1 bar of soap in the shower for my hair and body is extremely appealing to me. Plus, I don't have to spend time boiling the water or putting together my shampoo or conditioner. It will be MUCH EASIER to travel with 1 bar of soap rather than trying to deal with the trouble of ACV/BS in a carry-on. I wish the best for all you out there who are thinking of going no-poo.

Here are some great websites for going no-poo if you are interested:

http://www.crunchybetty.com/no-poo-to-you-too & http://www.crunchybetty.com/no-poo-it-gets-better

*This is a really helpful no-poo blog entry: http://ashleysgreenlife.blogspot.com/2012/12/how-to-wash-your-hair-with-no-poo.html

Monday, February 25, 2013

Make Your Own Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Making chocolate covered strawberries is so easy. I love to make them. Here's how I do it:

*Make sure that you are going to eat or gift the chocolate covered strawberries soon ater making them. If left too long, they begin to "sweat," where water droplets form on the outside of the chocolate and the strawberries can get soggy on the inside.
Gather your strawberries, chocolate, wax paper, and a spoon (to stir the chocolate). I use the Dolci Fruitta chocolate that is found around the produce in the grocery store. I'm not sure that it has the best ingredients but it tastes great.

1) Wash your strawberries but leave the green tops on them. These will help you dip the strawberries in the chocolate. Let your strawberries air dry (my preference) or pat dry if you are short on time. You want them as dry as possible so that the chocolate sticks. Also, the chocolate adheres better if the strawberries are room temperature -another good reason to let air dry.

 2) Next, heat up your chocolate. A double boiler is recommended if you are melting chocolate chips, unless you are extra careful. If you are not using a double boiler to melt chips, keep the heat fairly low and stir often. The worst feeling is burning a bunch of chocolate and having to throw it out. Trust me. :(

*With the Dolci Fruitta, microwave it in 30 second intervals (at half of your microwave's power) and stir in between.  Mine melted within about a minute and a half (remember stir in between). If you don't know how to adjust the power on your microwave, I would melt the chocolate in ~15 second intervals with stirring in between just in case.

3) Prepare the wax paper. I laid it out on a cookie sheet on the counter. The pick up each dry strawberry by it's green top and dip it in the chocolate. Place dipped strawberries on the wax paper.
 4) The chocolate on the strawberries dries fairly quickly. By the time I was done dipping the last one, the first chocolate dipped strawberries were hard enough to eat. I threw the rest in the fridge!

And I hate to waste, so I put some fruit in the mixing cup to eat up the rest of the chocolate. Mmm!

Making Cultured Buttermilk

A few months ago, I ordered a Cultures for Health Buttermilk Starter Kit to try to culture our own buttermilk. I had never really cultured anything (on purpose haha) before and I was weary of doing it. And actually, I don't often use buttermilk but I am into trying new things lately. Once you make cultured buttermilk, you need to continue to make it at least every seven days before the "mother" dies. I am assuming this is similar to the "mother" of apple cedar vinegar.

So what is buttermilk? Basically, if you have whipping cream and you shake it up, you will get butter and buttermilk (the liquid part). If you would like to know, the cream is what rises to the top of unpasturized milk

I have cultured buttermilk quite a bit now! It is fabulous in recipes!

All you do is add the "culture" packet (you get two) to 1 cup milk and leave it out at 70-78 degrees for 12-24 hours (I have found, even longer sometimes). The buttermilk cultures fight with the milk cultures. Apparently, if the milk cultures win, you end up with whey and curds. If the buttermilk cultures win, you get buttermilk.

What do you plan on using the buttermilk for?
I actually had no idea when I started culturing it. At this rate, we end up with about 2 cups a week.
Some people drink buttermilk straight (eek, maybe one day...) But most people use it in baking cakes, or waffles, or pancakes. Anyway, here are some recipes that I have enjoyed using my buttermilk in:

Whole wheat buttermilk biscuits - I actually used all whole wheat flour but would recommend whole wheat pastry flour!
Buttermilk Pancakes - These were so good!
Buttermilk Waffles - I have not used this recipe yet, but I have made one similar.

I have yet to make these recipes but they are on my to-do list.
Low-fat Buttermilk Ranch
Buttermilk Ranch Cheeseball
Buttermilk Syrup

The buttermilk looks like thin yogurt. It has a sour smell and taste to it. So one wouldn't typically think it is going to go well in recipes, but it makes a difference in cakes and pancakes.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Do It Yourself - Bath Fizzies!

My friend and I made bath fizzies today! They were super easy, very quick to make and turned out beautifully. I would love to do this again (and I promise I will take pictures)! 

This makes 12 large bath bombs. See molds used in recipes below.

2 cups baking soda (1 box)
1 cup of citric acid
1 cup of Epsom salt
A little less than 1 tsp of water
3 tsp olive oil
1-2 tsp of essential oils if you desire (I used 1.5 tsp lavender. I would be weary of minty oils - wouldn't they sting...certain places?)
A few drops of food coloring if you desire (You can use a natural dye like beet juice) 

1 small bowl & 1 large bowl
1 measuring cup, 1 tsp measuring spoon
1 large fork (or wisk to mix the ingredients together), 1 spoon
Bath bomb molds. You can really use anything with a nice shape (I used this one and this one)

1) Mix the 2 cups baking soda, 1 cup citric acid, and 1 cup Epsom salt together in the large bowl. Next, mix the 3 tsp olive oil, 1 tsp water, and the optional 1-2 tsp of essential oil and few drops of food coloring (may need to tweak this measurement based on how strong you want the scent) together in the small bowl.

2) Then, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients a spoonful at a time. This part was easier to do with two people. As soon as the liquid mixture touches the dry mixture, it will begin to fizz. You don't want it to fizz too much because then your bath fizzy will have nothing to show for later. To prevent this, quickly mix in the wet ingredients as soon as they touch the dry.

3) When you have combined the two mixtures of wet and dry ingredients, try to create a mold that will stay together in your hand when pressed. If this does not happen, add more wet/dry accordingly. Your finished mixture product should look pretty crumbly. This is normal. *If you add food coloring, your mix may need more dry ingredients. -If your recipe needs more dry: add baking soda -If your recipe needs more wet: add water, only a few drops at a time - you don't want to overdo the moisture!

4) Add a few drops of oil to create a non-stick barrier in your molds. Then add your mixture to them, packing down with a spoon. This was the key - pack it! Then let it sit about 1 - 2 hours depending on the size of your bath fizzies. We let ours sit probably 25 minutes and some of the corners were fragile and moldable.

5) Take out the bath fizzies/bath bombs. The silicone makes it SO easy to remove. Press lightly on the bottom part and push up - out they pop. I would place it on a paper towel or washcloth to help absorb moisture for a while before storing. I I threw mine in an airtight tupperware right away and they stuck together and didn't look as pretty for gift-giving. 6) I have read if you keep these fizzies in a dry place in an airtight container they can last up to 6 months but I have yet to try this out.

Be careful when using these bath fizzies because it will sting open cuts!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Extracting Rose Oil

A few days ago my sweet Hubby brought me home some roses. They did not last very long, even with me cutting the stems at an angle each day and feeding it that little packet of powder. :(

I was trying to think up ways to save them or things to do with them before or after they died. I don't really want to flip them upside down and hang them everywhere because I usually end up crushing them and the pieces get messy. I did some quick online searches before I came to the idea of trying to extract the rose oil from them.

I am currently in the process of my first batch so I am not sure that this will work since they are far from fresh. From my understanding, fresh work best because they have the strongest rose scent.

There are two ways to extract the rose oil:
1) Steam Distillation (1) - This method uses steam to extract the oil and it more effective.
2) Solvent Extraction (1) - This method uses another oil to extract the rose oil from the petals.

I went with the Solvent Extraction method because it is easiest to do at home. I am definitely interested in the other method and will try that next time.

What you'll need:
-bruised rose petals
-glass jar with lid
-a sunny place for the jar to sit
- jojoba oil, almond oil, or grapeseed oil. If you don't have any of these olive oil works too. You simply don't want the other oils to overpower the rose oil. (I used jojoba)


I bruised the rose petals but twisting them and rubbing them between my palms. You can also put them in a plastic bag and mash them around. Then, cover the rose petals with the oil. I used only as much as I needed to coat the petals and I mixed it around with my finger.
Let it sit in a sunny spot for 24 hours.

I plan on doing this again but instead of adding jojoba oil, I will use the DIY rose oil that I extracted from this experiment, hopefully to get a better smelling oil.

*Pure rose oil is expensive because it takes so long to extract it and even that yields little. I wanted to experiment with this for the fun of it so only making a little bit doesn't hinder me from the time and little effort required.

 I'll let you know the results!

Also I found this video if you are interested in the steam distillation. I don't have a stainless steel bowl or pot lid that fits like theirs so I didn't think I could do it.

More Resources:

Beeswax Candles

I came across this cute DIY blog which made making beeswax candles look incredibly easy - and even fun so I thought I would be able to do it with my own adjustments...

After a long days work of trying to make beeswax candles, I have learned solid dos and don'ts for my next attempt.

Remember that block of beeswax that I bought off of Amazon (right)

Never again! I will purchase my beeswax in the pellet form! (or already made candles if I am feeling really lazy) Grating this baby was a two-day process for me. My arms were sore, like lactic acid accumulation sore the next day.

It was extremely difficult to clean my cheese grater. Beeswax can be used to coat metal and waterproof certain things. I poured boiling water over it multiple times to get most of the coating off. I was grating with so much pressure (that block of wax is hard) that the bottom part of my grater broke off. However, it still works okay considering we hardly hand grate cheese.

Secondly, I thought I could make candles without the metal wick tabs to hold the wick in place at the bottom. Honestly, I was trying to save myself a trip to the store. After making my own candle wicks, I thought I could make the candle tabs...but that didn't go well. So I literally sat there after the wax cooled, holding the wick in place. That actually didn't work out as bad as you would think but the wick gets curled up towards the bottom and the candle gets ruined earlier.

I'm sorry I didn't take pictures of the beeswax candles that I made because they were so pitiful. I will surely take pictures of ones I make later down the road that turn out better. And whose wicks I won't have to manually hold while the candle dries...!

Borax Snowflakes

After making candle wicks with borax (where the borax seemed to crystallize around the cotton string/twine) we decided to make borax snowflakes using the same idea.

We dissolved 3-5 tbsp of borax in each container (depending on size) with slightly warm water.
Then we created our snowflakes out of white pipe cleaners which you can hang on the glasses with more pipe cleaner or with chopsticks/pens/whatever long skinny objects you may have.
Let them sit overnight and the next day you'll have borax snowflakes!
We hung them up to dry all December and they were very pretty. I expected the borax crystals to easily fall off when I was moving the snowflakes but they did not. We will definitely make these again!