Viewing entries tagged
clean living

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Hosting a DIY Beauty Party

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As readers of this blog know, I've been into making my own version of household cleaning and beauty products for a long time now. Making my own shower gels, shampoos and soaps helps me to save money and use less environmental resources. More important to me personally, making my own products means I know exactly what ingredients go into them, which helps me to avoid toxic ingredients that are unfortunately common in many store-bought brands. As a pregnant woman, this helps me to feel a lot better about things. When it comes to the foods I eat, the lotions I put on my body, and everything in between, I prefer to avoid long lists of unpronounceable ingredients. When it comes to DIY beauty products, I refuse to make anything that requires more than five ingredients. I also refuse to make anything that calls for a hard-to-find ingredient that requires a trip to a specialty store. DIY to me is all about simplification.

A small proxy of friends and I are part of a Ladies Night group, where we meet once a month for whatever activity that month's host chooses. In the past this has included dinners, Happy Hours, picnics, clothing swaps, croquet and more. A few months ago, some of my friends expressed interested in learning more about the homemade beauty products I make. I was thrilled to host a party showing them how to make their own. 

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Preparing for this party could not have been simpler. I already had many ingredients on hand but also went to the store to stock up on more. I wanted to show my friends how to make a simple shampoo, shower gel, hand soap and face wash (and at the last minute I remembered a two-ingredient recipe for an eye cream, too). The only ingredients I needed to make all these different products were coconut oil, honey, castile soap, almond oil, olive oil, vitamin E oil, and coconut milk. I also had a small bottle of tea tree oil on hand as an optional ingredient. My friends brought their own essential oils, which were also optional. My friends also brought money to cover the expense of buying ingredients, so nobody went broke in the making of this party. 

As far as supplies, we only needed a few things there too: measuring cups, measuring spoons, a can opener for the coconut milk, and something to stir with. Halfway through the process I also brought out a funnel for anyone who needed it. My friends all brought their own containers to fill. (P.S. I had a lightbulb moment when one of my friends brought a plastic water bottle. Genius! There's no need to buy fancy bottles or containers if you don't want to. Instead of recycling that water bottle, repurpose it yourself by filling it with shower gel or soap.)

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Often when we get together, my friends and I throw together potluck-style meals. Last night was no exception. I wanted to make a casserole-style dish that could feed a large group and didn't contain any dairy since one of my friends is lactose-intolerant. I found this Vegan Spinach & Artichoke Pasta Bake recipe online and I LOVE it. It has all the delicious creaminess of dairy without containing any actual dairy. (Cashews are a miracle ingredient.) My friends, meanwhile, brought delicious bread, crackers, dips, fruit, veggies, wine and macarons. We ate everything out on the patio and talked for hours after making our DIY goodies. It ended up being a fun and sweet night.

All of the recipes I used for the products we made can be found here: A Day in the DIY Life

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My Favorite Summer Ingredients

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I love summer because it means eating lots of fresh food. Whether it’s produce that came from the store, farmers market, CSA or berry farm, summertime produce is full of flavor and is generally super easy to prepare. If you want to get out of the kitchen, no problem — most summertime ingredients taste great either raw or grilled. Here are a few of my favorites. 

1. Berries

My family loves to go berry picking during the summer. Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries: any berry, anytime, anywhere, and I’m happy. We are lucky to live in Oregon, where there is an abundance of U-pick farms. I love to eat berries plain, add them to a Greek yogurt parfait, mix them into scone batter, or enjoy them with ice cream. 

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2. Corn

Corn on the cob is such a perfect food because it’s fresh, flavorful, and fun to eat. I love corn when it’s boiled but I LOVE corn when it’s grilled. We recently grilled ours in the husk and found that it came off pretty easily after cooking, which is great because peeling away those corn “hairs” is often the one thing that makes an otherwise easy food seem like a bit of a pain to prepare. I like corn with a little bit of olive oil or butter and salt and pepper, but I also like it with no seasoning at all. Especially when it comes to sweeter corn, I think it’s just as good naked. 

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3. Tomatoes

It’s difficult to beat a garden-fresh tomato (or a handful of garden-fresh cherry tomatoes). I love them raw or in salads and I LOVE them roasted. I think roasted tomatoes make the perfect addition to pasta, sandwiches, eggs and more. 

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4. Peaches and Nectarines

I love peaches and nectarines. I think they have the perfect amount of sweetness to seem decadent enough on their own, but they’re also delicious when combined with ice cream, cobblers, or other desserts (especially if they're grilled). Blend a peach in a blender and throw it in a popsicle mold, add a layer of coconut milk, and you have yourself an amazing peaches ‘n cream pop (I learned this trick from Fit Girls Guide). 

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5. Zucchini

Zucchini is one of those foods that everyone always seems to have an abundance of in their gardens, and I for one do not complain when asked to take on some of the overfill. I love to spiralize zucchini and use either in conjunction with or as a replacement for pasta. I also love the taste of grilled zucchini. In my mind there are few things more perfect than a big platter of grilled veggies. If for whatever reason you’re getting sick of grilling things this summer, you can always slice zucchini up thin and bake in the oven for some delicious homemade zucchini chips. 

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Worth Mentioning:

watermelon, green beans, summer squash, pineapple. Yum!

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DIY Day: Make Your Own Lotion

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It's been too long since I've posted a DIY tutorial. I've been wanting to make a new version of DIY lotion for a long time, but I kept getting tripped up by all the DIY recipes that called for beeswax. When making DIY beauty products, I really like to stick to recipes that only require basic ingredients that can easily be found at the store. Beeswax seemed to go beyond basic, so I kept looking for alternatives. 

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I finally stumbled across a few recipes that called for shea butter or cocoa butter and decided to try one of those instead. But then when I went to New Seasons, cruised the health and beauty aisle, and saw that not only did they sell beeswax, but that beeswax was significantly cheaper than both shea butter or cocoa butter. A big goal of mine when making my own products is to keep the costs low. So after all that time trying to avoid it, I ended up buying beeswax anyway. 

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I used this recipe from Wellness Mama to make my lotion. I love recipes like this that include optional ingredients because they can either be easily skipped or easily personalized. In my case, I skipped the vitamin E oil, shea butter, cocoa butter and essential oils. I added a teaspoon of vanilla extract. 

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If you skip the optional ingredients, this recipe only requires three ingredients: beeswax, coconut oil, and almond or olive oil. I found beeswax at New Seasons and I think it would also be available at a store like Whole Foods or maybe a farmers market where honey is sold. I thought it was going to be much trickier to find than it actually was. Also, I recently made a trip to Costco and stocked up on bulk-size honey (not needed for this recipe) and a gallon-size bucket of coconut oil, which have both come in handy when making my own beauty products.  

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Here's the full list of ingredients needed for this recipe:

1/2 c almond or olive oil
1/4 c coconut oil
1/4 c beeswax
Optional: 1 t vitamin E oil
Optional: 2 T shea butter or cocoa butter
Optional: essential oils, vanilla extract or other natural extracts to your preference
 

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Since the beeswax came in a big chunk, I cut it into small pieces before adding it to a mason jar. Then I added all the liquid ingredients to the same jar. 

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Add a few inches of water to a pot and turn it onto medium heat. Add the jar to the pot and let the water heat the oils. Shake the jar around from time to time until everything is melted. 

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Once melted, everything was completely liquified. I transferred the lotion to a small tupperware and let it set to room temperature. 

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Once it was all set, it had this perfect creamy consistency. I put a little on my skin and it felt smooth and soft. This three-ingredient recipe took all of about ten minutes to make and so far I'm loving the results. I definitely think this one is a keeper. 

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Banza Recipe #2: Mediterranean Pasta

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Today I made my second recipe using Banza chickpea pasta and just like last week, I tried to keep things super simple to show how easy it is to throw a few ingredients together and create a healthy pasta meal. If you missed my first post last week, here is a quick refresher: Banza does not sponsor me or pay me, but they did send me six complimentary boxes of their chickpea pasta. The ingredients in Banza are chickpeas, tapioca, pea protein and xantham gum. Banza is vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free and egg-free. Banza contains two times the protein, four times the fiber, and half the net carbs of regular pasta. To find out more, including where it's sold and how to order, visit eatbanza.com.

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This week I went for penne, which I thought would blend with the ingredients nicely. You may recall that last week I forgot to rinse the pasta after I drained it and it had some gumminess. This week I remembered and it was perfect. 

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Since getting pregnant, I've been using a lot of new resources for recipes. One of my favorite resources is the Ovuline pregnancy app, which is where I found this recipe for Healthy Mediterranean Pasta. It's a super simple recipe and easily adaptable (I used vegan butter instead of regular, kalamata olives instead of green, and I subbed in garlic powder since I ran out of garlic. I also used veggie broth instead of wine and added a little bit of the juice from the olives to up the flavor). 

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Fun fact: When I was a kid, I hated cooked mushrooms. The only way I ever ate mushrooms was raw and dipped in A-1 sauce. These days, cooked mushrooms are one of my favorite things. 

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I again cannot emphasize enough how much this chickpea pasta looks, tastes and feels like regular pasta. 

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Remembering to actually rinse the pasta this time made ALL The difference. 

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You'll notice there aren't any artichoke hearts in this picture. The artichoke heart jar turned out to be the bane of my existence. After trying to open it for what felt like hours, I finally had to throw up a white flag and wait for Mike to come home and help me. This was a low point for me as a feminist. 

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Damn you, artichoke hearts!

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All put together — rascally artichoke hearts and all — this dish is just as delicious as it is pretty. Minus the artichoke heart fiasco it took probably 20 minutes to make, tops. For a quick weeknight dinner that somehow tastes both decadent and light, this really hit the spot. 

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Cupcake in the Oven

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My darling husband Mike and I are so excited to be adding a new member to our family in November. We can't wait to meet our little cupcake and in the meantime, we've been learning a lot about pregnancy. If there's one thing I know for sure, it's that the way I envisioned my pregnancy and the way it's actually playing out are unbelievably different. If there's two things I know for sure, it's that this is okay.

I could not have anticipated how tired I would feel. I had this vision of pregnancy as this time when I would be motivated to sit down and write a book and attack my household chores and prep healthy meals and be full of endless excitement and energy all day, every day. It was like that, just like that, for a few weeks. But then the fatigue hit. Then the nausea followed. Then I realized there would be days when the single most productive thing I'd do all day was finish a writing assignment for work while reclined on the couch in between naps. I realized there would be days when I'd never change out of my robe. There would be days when I wouldn't make it out of the house. There would be days when I'd settle onto the couch to take "a 20-minute nap" only to wake up from a dead sleep five hours later. There would be days when I wouldn't write at all. There would be days when I would not work out. There would be days when I would not make it to the store or muster up the energy to fix a healthy meal. There would be days when I would eat chips and days when I would eat ice cream and days when I would go back to bed after my husband left for work and not wake up again until the afternoon. There would be days when a walk around the block was all I could handle. There would be days when I'd say, "Pizza? Absolutely. No way I'm cooking tonight." There would be days when I would throw up my breakfast and days when, no matter how exciting the prospect of our impending little one was, I simply could not work up the energy to feel joyful.

There were other days, too. Days when I did get dressed. When I did get more than just the bare minimum of work requirements done. Days when I ran half marathons. Days when I put together healthy feasts and cleaned the house and ran errands and felt like a productive member of society. I feel like what I've experienced in pregnancy is such a small preview of what's to come with my child: there are going to be such good days and such bad days and so, so many days in between. 

I'm not having a picture-perfect pregnancy, but I've seen enough turbulent and even life-threatening pregnancies to know I'm lucky. Am I enjoying every second of it? No, and anyone who says that didn't experience nausea or exhaustion. But I'm enjoying most of it. And though it's taken me awhile to get here, I'm finally to the point where I'm excited to share my experience. 

As a longtime vegetarian, one fear I had was that I'd crave meat during pregnancy. For the record, if this had happened, I would have eaten meat. I'm not depriving my baby of anything. Instead, the opposite happened. During most of my first trimester, my aversion to eggs and dairy products was so strong I had to avoid them almost entirely. This is how I found myself becoming a Mostly Vegan. On the rare days when the thought of eggs or cheese didn't make me want to throw up, I absolutely took advantage and got myself an omelette or grilled cheese. Most days, though, my body just wasn't having it. So I listened. 

The egg/dairy aversion lifted in my second trimester and I've been incorporating (small amounts of) eggs and dairy back into my diet. I've realized that I actually do like to limit my intake because the difference in how I feel when I eat a lot of it versus none is substantial. Most days I have either a small amount or none. Some days (I'm looking at you, Saturday) I have pizza AND nachos AND an ice cream sandwich. And then I wake up the next day and remember why Iife is more fun for me when I don't eat like that. In the end, it all balances out.

The first eight or so weeks of my pregnancy were somewhat breezy. I was tired but I didn't have any nausea and I had enough energy to more or less keep up with my regular workouts. Weeks 9 - 14 or so were more hellish. This was when I discovered that those cute late-night ice cream cravings pregnant women are always having in movies and commercials are B.S. A pregnancy craving is not "Oh my gosh, I just have to have some ice cream RIGHT NOW and I'll send my husband out to get some even though it's 3 a.m. because it just sounds SO GOOD!" A pregnancy craving is "There is literally one food and one food only that I can think about and not want to throw up, so I will do whatever it takes to get that food." For me that food was always something super salty like sour cream and onion chips or Wheat Thins, which was super bizarre for me because before pregnancy, I rarely used even a pinch of salt when cooking. Salt was just not my thing. In pregnancy, salt is SO my thing.

Before I was pregnant, I was running 150 miles a month, six days a week, at a sub-8-minute mile. Now I'm running about 55 miles a month, 2-3 days a week, and I'm creeping up on a 12-minute mile. I knew I'd be running slower and less, but I didn't expect things to decrease this much. What I discovered is that there were a lot of days when my energy level was simply too low to fathom going for a run. On those days I tried to walk instead, but even then there were some days I just had to skip and let myself nap instead. I've long been a proponent of listening to my body and giving it what it needs, but it is only in pregnancy that I've learned just how easy I need to go on myself sometimes. I am simply not willing to push myself for the sake of pushing myself when ever fiber of my being is telling me to rest, rest, rest. I know my body is responding to the needs of my baby — so if my baby needs me to rest, I'm going to rest.

I've been working very hard to supply my baby with an extremely nutritious and balanced diet. Once the nutrient quota for the day is hit, I allow myself treats. I do this often. Why? Because I'm HUNGRY and my baby is hungry and we already ate all the things we're supposed to eat, so now we're going to finish the day with an ice cream sandwich and not feel bad about it. Before I was pregnant, I so rarely ate the kinds of snacks I'm eating now. In the first trimester it was all about chips, crackers, toast, popcorn, and whatever salty morsels I could find. Lately I've been drifting back toward my natural sweet tooth, which means that first and foremost I've been eating a lot of fruit, and beyond that I've been having sweet treats of the ice cream and cookie variety. I try to make my own when I can and stick to cleaner brands when I can't — or occasionally I just go for it with the processed crap. I do. I thought I wouldn't get that stuff anywhere near my baby, but every once in awhile it sounds so good I incorporate a handful and move on with my life. Last night I had frosted animal cookies after eating a vegetable-heavy dinner. Balance, balance, balance.

So far the changes in my body have been both subtle and extraordinary. Pregnancy has a way of making you feel hideous by causing a slew of physical effects simultaneously. It's not just that you're gaining weight. It's that you're gaining weight at the same time your face is breaking out and the same time your hair is getting super dry and the same time your nose won't stop running and the same time your feet and legs are swelling up and the same time you have no energy to do anything, much less put on a cute outfit or do your hair or wear makeup. Huge kudos to the women who say they felt/ feel most beautiful when they're pregnant because that's been a difficult costume for me to wear. I'm not glowing; I'm sweating. My weight gain isn't going exclusively toward an adorable baby bump; my butt and legs and arms are getting bigger, too. I don't feel radiant; I feel tired.

That said, do I get what "they" say about being amazed by your body's capabilities during pregnancy? Yes. I've felt so much of my vanity float away during this process, partly because I'm too damn tired to give that much thought to how I look and partly because I recognize there's something truly magical about what's happening to my body. There is a human growing inside of me! Some nights I catch myself complaining to my husband about how big everything is getting and the fact that I keep breaking out along my jawline and the weird way a lot of clothes look on me right now. He always reminds me that underneath all that surface bullshit, our baby is living and growing inside of me. So maybe I don't feel my cutest right now, but maybe feeling cute is so beside the point anyway.

Would I trade this body for anything? No. There's a little cupcake baking in this oven and the bigger that cupcake gets, the less I care about the state of the kitchen. Let there be flour on the counters and batter on the floor. I can clean things up after this cupcake is born. Or I can not clean things up, and focus my energy elsewhere. Either way, there will be time. Right now I have more important things to worry about. 

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Banza Recipe #1: Creamy Avocado Pasta

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Over the next few weeks, I'm going to make six different pasta dishes — all using Banza chickpea pasta. Let me start by saying that I am in no way being paid by Banza. As previously discussed many times here, the only payment I receive from this blog comes from my generous patrons at Patreon. I do not receive ad revenue or sponsorship. All the money I receive comes from people like you who decided to donate $1-5 a week. In return they receive perks like access to patrons-only posts that go beyond what's here on the blog and have the opportunity to request blog content. If you're interested, please check out patreon.com/kristenforbes.

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Although Banza is not paying me, they did send me something nearly as good as payment: free samples of their product! I was more than happy to receive a case of six pastas from them. I again want to say, though, that I am not being paid and I do not feel obligated to say nice things about this pasta simply because it was provided to me free of charge. If I tried it and didn't like it, I would have quietly thanked them and said nothing about it on the blog. But here's the thing: I tried it and I really liked it. In part to say thanks for sending it to me but in bigger part to tell you all about something I thought was straight-up yummy, I'm going to share my experiences with Banza here.

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For my first foray into the world of chickpea pasta, I wanted to make a ridiculously simple dish to make sure I didn't confuse recipe frustration with pasta frustration. I turned to something I've made again and again over the years because I love the recipe's simplicity, flavor, and super short prep time. I've made this one so many times I consider it a classic. It's the 15-Minute Creamy Avocado Pasta from Oh She Glows. (By the way, I am definitely not affiliated with Oh She Glows, but I love the recipes.) This is one of those dishes that couldn't be simpler. All you need is pasta, avocado, lemon juice, basil, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. 

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It turned out I had all the ingredients on hand except the basil, which I bought fresh at a Farmers Market hours before making this dish. Just to reiterate how amazingly simple this recipe is: all you do is cook the pasta and throw all the other ingredients in a food processor. That's it.

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Look how creamy that sauce turns out. So as I mentioned, I've made this recipe many times before — but always with whole wheat pasta or a few times with zucchini noodles (sorry guys, I can't bring myself to call them "zoodles" like everyone else. They are zucchini noodles. While we're at it, a best friend is a best friend and not a "bestie" and "totally" does not need to be condensed to "totes" and I think we can all manage "adorable" over "adorbs." But I digress.) My original point is this: I've made this recipe enough times to know how it's supposed to taste. If the pasta made it taste different, I would have known right away. 

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The process of cooking chickpea pasta was the same as cooking any other kind of pasta. While it was boiling in the pot, the chickpea pasta looked exactly like ...  any other pasta.

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We can all agree that as appearances go, this pasta is distinguishable from any other, am I right?

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Here's where I messed up slightly. After draining the pasta, I neglected to rinse it as instructed on the box. We all already know I thought the overall result was delicious (hence an entire blog post about it), but I will say that I'm going to be sure to rinse the pasta next time I use it because it had a slight gummy starchiness to it — not enough to turn me off the dish by any means, but slightly there. I don't think this was the pasta's fault, though. I think this one can be chalked up to user error. 

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Look how creamy and green the final product is. The next time I make this, I think I'll add some peas for an even brighter pop of green throughout. 

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A little fresh basil on top and voila: dinner is served. You guys, this was really good. I know it looks just like pasta, but guess what? It also tastes just like pasta. If I was serving this to someone without mentioning what it was, I don't think there's any chance in the world they'd ask if it was made from chickpeas. It simply tastes like pasta. With this creamy avocado sauce, it was perfection. 

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Let's get into what this pasta actually is (Again remember I'm not at all paid for this — just sharing the info). Banza ingredients are chickpeas, tapioca, pea protein and xantham gum. Banza is vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free and egg-free. A 2-ounce serving contains 14 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber (as well as 30 percent of your daily iron, which is great news for someone with anemic tendencies like me). A 3.5-ounce serving (which is in line with what most Americans eat) contains 25 grams of protein, 13 grams of fiber, and 43 grams of net carbs (plus 50 percent of your daily iron, whoo hoo!). Average pasta per 3.5-ounce serving contains 13 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber and 71 grams of net carbs. So in the end, Banza pasta contains two times the protein, four times the fiber, and half the net carbs. This makes it a much more filling and light choice than regular pasta — and it tastes just as good.

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This would have worked perfectly well as a main dish, but we wanted to take advantage of the warm weather and do some grilling as well. We both had grilled artichokes, Mike had grilled steak, and I had grilled tofu. Combined with the avocado pasta, it ended up being an incredibly tasty and satisfying meal. I can't wait to try more recipes with my remaining five boxes of Banza. In the meantime, I'm eating the leftovers for lunch and still loving every bite. 

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From Krike's Kitchen: Avocado-Egg Salad

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Today I want to share the easiest, yummiest, healthiest egg salad recipe you could ever imagine. Egg salad has been weighing big on my brain lately because I've been craving it off and on for the last few weeks. Two weekends ago Mike and I finally made a special trip to Fred Meyer to get a grab-and-go egg salad sandwich, only to discover that our Fred Meyer doesn't make them anymore. Not only did they not have the sandwiches, they've apparently stopped making egg salad altogether. There were no tubs of egg salad to be found in the deli case. We picked up some potato salad instead. It was not the same. 

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A word about egg salad, and then a word about eggs in general: I don't crave egg salad very often. It is not a dish I could happily eat every week. But when I do get a hankering for egg salad, it is a craving so specific and so compelling, I will think about it for weeks. The worst part about egg salad is that it's a gamble. There is bad egg salad (which for me means the super mayonnaise-y kind) and good egg salad (the kind worthy of a fancy tea party). Bad or good, there is no substitution or replacement for an egg salad craving. 

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Eggs and I have developed an interesting relationship. I've discovered that I really love eggs — but only when I eat them rarely. They're not a daily treat for me. I generally feel healthier when the bulk of my meals are egg and dairy-free. However, going completely egg and dairy-free does not work for me. My body craves cheese. My body craves eggs. Certainly not every day, and sometimes not every week. But when I do crave dairy or eggs, I make sure to honor that craving. If you've followed my blog for awhile you know I'm a huge advocate of listening to your body. I am a longtime vegetarian, but I don't believe everyone was meant to be vegetarian. I'm a sometimes-vegan, and I definitely don't believe everyone was meant to be vegan. I think we're all meant to honor our bodies in whatever way that means for us as individuals. For me, eating eggs once a week or so works perfectly.

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This past weekend was hot in Portland. Temperatures reached up to 100 and the last thing either of us felt like doing was cooking. We still wanted to eat, though. I know there are people who are like, "It's so hot, I'm not even hungry!" but, uh, no. I can always eat. It was the perfect weekend to whip up some homemade egg salad. As I mentioned, I'm not a big mayonnaise fan. So we looked around the kitchen, threw a few things together and whipped up this amazingly easy and delicious avocado-egg salad. We are definitely not the first people to make egg salad using avocado, but we didn't use a recipe and just winged it. The results were delicious. 

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FROM KRIKE'S KITCHEN: AVOCADO-EGG SALAD

INGREDIENTS:
4 hard-boiled eggs
1 avocado
Lemon juice (I like things super lemon-y and used a whole lemon, but the amount is up to you)
Sprinkle of sea salt
Optional ingredients: parsley, basil, chives, dill or any other herbs (we kept things super simple and didn't use any)

DIRECTIONS: Once the eggs are cooled, peel them and smash them with a fork in a bowl. Add the avocado and smash together. Add the lemon juice and sea salt. Combine well. That's it! Serve with bread or crackers. This is probably enough for 4 servings, but we ate it all at once as a meal instead of a snack. 

The texture is creamy. The flavor is fresh. In my opinion, it tastes better than original egg salad. Using avocado instead of mayonnaise really lightens things up, so it's healthier than the original, too. The recipe is a win/win. Let me know if you try it!

 

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From Krike's Kitchen: Simple Watermelon Smoothie

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It's important to me to include some super simple recipes here because I think there are few things more annoying than looking at a recipe and realizing it requires a ton of ingredients and a lot of steps. When it comes to cooking (and life in general), I think simpler is better. A recipe with only a few ingredients costs less in both money and time. 

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My husband and I agree on many things, but I love watermelon and he is not a fan. I generally buy mini watermelons because they're small enough for me to eat on my own over the course of a week or so. I think watermelon is the quintessential summertime food but he doesn't like the flavor and texture.

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Imagine my surprise when Mike actually SUGGESTED we make watermelon smoothies for breakfast one morning. "But you don't like watermelon," I said, and he explained that a watermelon smoothie is not like eating a piece of watermelon. Excited to have him on Team Watermelon in any capacity, I didn't argue.

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We used frozen banana in the first batch of smoothies and found the banana flavor way too overpowering, so we switched it up and used strawberries the second time around. Much better.

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You know what else my husband doesn't like? Cucumbers. I'm married to a man who doesn't like watermelon OR cucumbers. But he's always full of surprises: just as he makes an exception for watermelon smoothies, he also happily tolerates cucumber-infused vodka. 

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Luckily, watermelon and cucumber nearly sums up ALL the foods Mike doesn't like. Having a partner who happily eats everything I make, no matter how kooky, is priceless. It makes it a lot more fun to experiment around the kitchen when I know he'll want to sink his teeth into whatever I end up making — and even more fun to collaborate together in the kitchen.  

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We got our Thai basil from an Asian grocer near our house, but any type of basil will work for this recipe. 

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FROM KRIKE'S KITCHEN: SIMPLE WATERMELON SMOOTHIE

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups watermelon
2 cups frozen strawberries
1/2 cup milk of your choice (I used an almond/ coconut combo)
Handful of mint
Handful of basil
Sprinkle of chili powder or cayenne

DIRECTIONS: Throw everything into a blender or food processor. Blend well. This makes enough for 2 servings. 

 

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Let's Talk About Tempeh

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I feel like I've been receiving a lot of questions about tempeh lately. Tempeh is a soy product in the same family as tofu with a firm texture and earthy, almost nutty flavor. It is a good source of both protein (31 grams per cup) and fiber (14 grams per cup) and works well as a meat replacement in vegetarian diets.

The problem with tempeh is that most people have no idea what to do with it. It's one of those foods that doesn't add a lot of flavor if you just throw it in with whatever else you're cooking. It can taste plain and feel dry when cooked and a lot of people get turned away from the weird, bumpy texture and even weirder brownish-gray color.

The first few times I made tempeh, I was not a fan. (This seems to be a very common story; I've heard it echoed in many blogs and cookbooks.) I sliced it up, cooked it in a pan with a little bit of oil and a sprinkling of spices, and thought: Oh, blah. The tempeh I made was probably the exact dish hardcore carnivores picture when wondering why anyone would ever give up meat for something so tasteless. 

Then I took a cue from Fried Green Tomatoes and realized that when it comes to tempeh, the secret is in the sauce. Tempeh that is either cooked in the right sauce or marinated in the right marinade tastes unbelievably good. I have a friend who works at a meaty BBQ joint that serves tempeh and he told me, in an almost conspiratorial whisper, "I never would have believed it, but the tempeh is REALLY good."

If you've have bad luck with tempeh or you just don't even know where to start, there is hope. Here are some of my favorite ways to prepare tempeh for the maximum amount of flavor.

 

Make tempeh bacon.

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The tempeh bacon I like most comes from the cookbook More Peas, Thank You. It's not available online, but many others are, like this one from Happy Healthy Life. Tempeh bacon is sweet, savory and crispy. Does it taste anything like "real" bacon? No. Do you really want it to? Tempeh bacon is its own thing. It's perfect as a protein-packed side for breakfast or thrown into a veggie BLT. You can also crumble it up and put it on top of salads a la bacon bits. 

Whole wheat bread + a little vegan mayo + tempeh bacon + sundried tomatoes + kale = my favorite BLT ever.

Whole wheat bread + a little vegan mayo + tempeh bacon + sundried tomatoes + kale = my favorite BLT ever.

Whole wheat English muffin + tofu + tempeh bacon + lettuce + tomato = a yummy breakfast sandwich.   

Whole wheat English muffin + tofu + tempeh bacon + lettuce + tomato = a yummy breakfast sandwich.

 

Make a tempeh marinade.

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I'm in love with the Marinated Balsamic, Maple and Garlic Tempeh recipe from the Oh She Glows cookbook. That recipe is not available online, but here is a similar Balsamic Maple Glazed Tempeh recipe from Meghan Telpher. I'm telling you guys: saucy recipes like these will make a tempeh lover out of anyone. It's delicious in the same way meat is delicious to meat lovers: it just tastes good.

 

Saute tempeh with bold flavors.

 

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The Simple Vegan Caesar Salad recipe from the cookbook Supercharged Foods: Eat Clean, Green and Vegetarian is one of my favorite things on this planet. It includes tempeh that's sauteed with olive oil, soy sauce and garlic, and it is to die for. Once again it seems that particular recipe is not available online, so instead I'll direct you to the Vegan Coach for your choice of gravy, peanut sauce or sesame sauce to saute with your tempeh. The thing about tempeh that I've discovered is that if you cook it plain, it tastes plain. If you toss it with bold flavors, it soaks them up. Tell your tempeh to go bold or go home.

 

Try these five tips for making amazing tempeh dishes. 

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Head over to One Green Planet for the step-by-step lowdown on making perfect tempeh. This includes everything you need to know about removing it from the package (trickier than you might think!), pre-steaming or simmering, choosing a shape, marinades and dry rubs, and cooking times. 

Get outside the tempeh box. 

 

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What else can you do with tempeh? You can do just about ANYTHING with tempeh. You can make tempeh lasagna with cashew cream sauce or kale avocado wraps with spicy miso-dipped tempeh or tempeh picatta. You can make barbeque tempeh sandwiches or General Tso's tempeh or tempeh tacos. You can make teriyaki tempeh or a BBQ tempeh bowl or vegan whole wheat pizza with roasted veggies and tempeh. Make a summer tempeh sammie. Make a blackened tempeh salad. Make a tempeh "bolognaise" spaghetti sauce. Make whatever your little heart desires. Just remember: no matter what you do, make it bold. 

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DIY Day: How to Make Sugar Cookie Foot Scrub

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As a runner, my feet are not in great shape. It turns out that pounding them on pavement day after day does not leave them soft and luxurious. My feet are dry, rough, hard, scaly — whatever horror you're picturing, that's what my feet look like. (As a runner I've also had my fair share of black toenails, but that's another story). The story today is that my feet are in rough shape and I wanted to whip up a foot scrub to help exfoliate them.

Since becoming a clean eater, it's been a long time since I've used straight-up sugar in a recipe. Today I'm getting out of the sugar-free zone by using not just one but two kinds of sugar. As sweet as the ingredients in this recipe are, remember this scrub is going on your FEET so you're not tempted to sample the goods. 

As usual, my goal was to keep things as simple as possible and find a recipe with five ingredients or less. I also wanted all the ingredients to be something I already had in my pantry so I didn't need to make a special trip to the store. The recipe I found comes from So ... Let's Hang Out. 

Here's what you'll need:
2/3 c granulated white sugar
1/3 c packed brown sugar
1/2 c olive oil
1 T vanilla extract

Here's what you do: 
Mix everything together with a fork or whisk.

That's it! This recipe couldn't be simpler. (Remember how simple it is next time you're tempted to buy one of those $8 sugar scrubs at the store). If you want to put the scrub in a mason jar and make it look all cute, definitely do that. If you want to keep things simple and throw it in a tupperware container, definitely do that. No matter how you package it, this is a project that takes under five minutes to make. 

And the result: a sweet, grainy scrub to exfoliate your feet. As a bonus, it smells delicious.

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5 Yummy, Healthy Ingredients To Throw in Tacos or Fajitas for Cinco de Mayo

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Happy Cinco de Mayo! I've always loved Mexican food, but I've drastically changed the way I prepare and consume it in recent years. Where there were once huge piles of cheese and sour cream you'll now find handfuls of fresh veggies and beans prepared with minimal oil. Mexican food can get really heavy when it's fried and drenched in meat and cheese, but it can also be prepared in a way that's super fresh and light. Focus on fresh veggies, skip the globs of cheese and get your healthy fat fix through avocado or homemade guacamole. Opt for baking, roasting or grilling over frying. To make things even healthier, skip the salty store-bought chips and bake your own by cutting up whole wheat or corn tortillas. If you're feeling ambitious, make your own salsa. There are so many swaps you can make to turn a Cinco de Mayo fiesta into a healthy event. Here are some ideas for taco and fajita fillings to get you started.

 

1. Walnut Taco “Meat”

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Note: I’m not including any real meat in this list because I don’t eat meat and haven’t eaten meat for over 20 years. I have nothing against people who do eat meat and encourage you to use whatever fixings you love, but I it would be a little ridiculous for me to recommend meat because I don’t even remember what it tastes like at this point. With that said, this is going to be a plant-based list.

I’m a fan of soyrizo and other types of veggie crumbles, but sometimes buying fake meat makes me feel like I’m getting something more processed than actual meat. I used to be a diehard Morningstar Farms lover, but familiarizing myself with the huge ingredients list on the back of the box made me wary. These days I prefer making my own not-meat products, whether it’s black bean patties or tempeh bacon. Walnut taco “meat” is one of my favorite things to make recently. It has the texture of regular taco meat but a flavor all its own.

I was first introduced to walnut taco “meat” when I made taco fiesta potato crisps from the Oh She Glows cookbook. She doesn’t have that basic walnut taco meat recipe on her site, but she does have this lentil-walnut taco meat recipe. For something more basic, here’s a walnut taco meat recipe from Food.com. Or for a fun twist, try this walnut taco meat with sundried tomatoes recipe from The Naked Avocado.

 

2. Grilled Portobello Mushrooms

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Portobello mushrooms are a magical vegetarian ingredient because they have a meaty texture without being meat. I'm sure a lot of omnivores associate summertime with grilling burgers and steaks, but when I think of summer I think of grilling corn, peppers, and portobello mushrooms. There's something in particular about mushrooms and tortillas that seem to go really well together. Try this grilled portobello mushroom fajitas recipe from The Scramble or try this garlicky grilled portobello mushrooms with smoky tomato-chile salsa recipe from The Splendid Table. 

 

3. Cauliflower

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Wait a minute, what? Why are we combining cauliflower and Mexican food? What's next, black beans in our brownies? First of all, do not knock black bean brownies until you try them. Secondly, cauliflower is an incredibly versatile ingredient that can take on the flavors of just about anything you combine with it. This is why cauliflower is widely known among parents as a secret ingredient to throw in meals to make healthy food undetected by kids. Cauliflower is now a popular ingredient in eggs and macaroni and cheese, and it's replacing starchier carbs in cauliflower pizza crust and cauliflower rice. Here are two delicious cauliflower variations to try out: a buffalo cauliflower tacos recipe from Buzzed and a roasted beer and lime cauliflower tacos recipe from Epicurious.

 

4. Chickpeas

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Chickpeas are another one of those miracle vegetarian ingredients that can be flavored in a lot of different ways and cooked to get a really crispy texture. Spicy roasted chickpeas are great as a snack on their own and delicious when thrown into a tortilla, too. Try this roasted chickpea & broccoli burrito recipe from Thug Kitchen or this chickpea tacos with guacamole recipe from Coffee and Quinoa. 

 

5. Sweet Potatoes

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As followers of Fit Girls Guide know, sweet potato street tacos can be life-changing. Sweet potatoes are super easy to make. For a really fast variation, cut into cubes (don't worry about the skin), microwave in a bowl with a splash of water for a few minutes, and transfer to a pan to cook with a little olive oil, spices, onions and garlic until done. Try this sweet potato and black beans fajita recipe from BakeSpace, this sweet potatoes and avocado tacos recipe from Love and Lemons, or this sweet potato and pinto beans taco recipe from Thug Kitchen. 

 

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For Those Who Don't DIY: A List of Resources

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I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about recipes for homemade versions of beauty and household products. I try to keep these recipes as easy and affordable as possible so they don't seem overly ambitious to the person who just wants to spend a few bucks and a few minutes whipping up her own soap.

Even at its easiest and cheapest, though, I recognize that there can be DIY obstacles. For one, a person may just not have the interest to make her own products. I get that. I'm a person who has no interest in sewing or fixing things around the house or trying to build something. Nine times out of ten, if there's something I need, I will buy it. Beauty and household products (and food) are my only exceptions. But DIY beauty and household products might not be your thing. You may have no desire to gather the ingredients together, find a container, and clean up afterward. I hear you.

Another obstacle: necessity. I recognize that for most people, that moment when they need something RIGHT NOW is not necessarily the moment they want to spend putting it together themselves. If you run out of makeup and  have a party to go to in a few hours, you're not necessarily going to want to take the time to blend arrowroot and cocoa powder, adding a teaspoon at the time until you get the perfect shade. I hear you again.

Also, there are some things that I wouldn't even know how to go about making on my own. How does one make sunscreen? Is there really a DIY way to make nail polish? With all this in mind, I wanted to make a list of resources I've used to help me make choices about the products I buy. Making my own products is great, but sometimes it's nice to know there are natural, safe store-bought options, too.

By the way, I just purchased the sunscreen in the photo above. I haven't tried it yet, so it's too early for me to give a review. All I know for now is that the ingredient list is minimal: zinc oxide, shea butter, coconut oil, sesame oil, jojoba oil, avocado oil, beeswax and vitamin E. None of this matters, of course, if it doesn't protect me from getting burned. I'll keep you updated after I try it out. 

Without further ado, here are resources I recommend using when you're looking for products with fewer unpronounceable ingredients and more skin-friendly, earth-friendly appeal.

THE BEST ALL-NATURAL (AND AFFORDABLE!) BEAUTY PRODUCT SWAPS TO HELP YOU QUIT YOUR DRUGSTORE HABIT
Source: WellAndGood.com
What It Is: This super-helpful article takes commonly loved beauty products (think Cetaphil face wash or Jergens body lotion) and suggests safe, effective, cheap products to try instead. We all want clean skin, right? But wouldn't it be nice to get that clean skin without a side of chemicals? If you agree, you'll love this list. 

7 SAFE + AFFORDABLE SKIN & HAIRCARE BRANDS
Source: KrisCarr.com
What It Is: Kris Carr is a natural living goddess who came back from cancer and now devotes herself to clean living. From green smoothie recipes to safer nail polish ideas, she's the go-to girl for knowing what's healthy and safe for the body. This list shows seven skincare and haircare lines committed to safer products. 

ENVIRONMENTAL WORKING GROUP'S 2015 GUIDE TO SUNSCREENS
Source: EGW.com
What It Is: The 2016 list is coming out soon, but for now the 2015 list is a good reference point. This site includes a list of the best sunscreens, the worst sunscreens, and lots of tips for staying safer in the sun. 

THE BEST NON-TOXIC NAIL POLISHES
Source: KrisCarr.com
What It Is: I love Kris Carr so much, I'm citing her twice. This time she went to work testing less toxic nail polishes and gave them a score based on their animal testing standards and hazard rankings. 

KIND CLASSICS: NATURAL MAKEUP
Source: TheKindLife.com
What It Is: Actress Alicia Silverstone has made another name for herself as an outspoken vegan activist who advocates for healthier living through nutrition and external products. This list is a few years old but is still relevant today and includes her recommendations for effective makeup with minimal ingredients.

THE 75 BEST NATURAL & NONTOXIC MAKEUP PRODUCTS
Source: TheBeautyProof.com
What It Is: With prices ranging from $5 to $85, this is a no-fuss list of safer makeup products with links to everything. This blog does not fail in its promise to be all about "finding exceptional non-toxic makeup and skincare products."

My biggest advice when it comes to both beauty and household products is this: Stop, drop, and look. Look at the ingredient list. If you don't recognize something, look it up. If you look up an ingredient and feel disturbed about it going onto your skin and into your bloodstream, ditch it. There are always safer alternatives. I understand there are so many causes bigger than makeup to fight for, but choosing more natural skincare products is something I know I can do. I can choose safer products for myself. People around me may be inspired to choose safer products for themselves, too. If enough people went this route, we could send a message to big makeup and beauty companies that we're tired of all the chemicals they're casually loading into their products. We're tired and we're ready for an alternative.  

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DIY Day: Make Your Own Laundry Detergent

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I've been waiting for the day when we run out of our store-bought laundry detergent. As a general rule, I like to replace commercial products with homemade ones whenever they run out. It's been my big project of 2016. Today we finally ran out of laundry detergent, so it can be added to my list of DIY products. 

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A lot of the recipes I found online called for Borax. There seems to be a divide in the DIY community about whether Borax is truly safe or not, though most have come to the conclusion that it is. Since the whole point of making my own products is to eliminate as many toxins as possible, I decided that I wanted to find a recipe that didn't use it. Not only did this prevent me from having to go out and buy a box of Borax, it also set my mind at ease. (But that's just my mind! A lot of people swear by Borax. Do your own research and make your own choices. I'm never here to tell people: Do these things this way. I'm here to tell you: Do things YOUR way.)

 

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The Borax-free recipe I found is from Mommypotamus. Here's what you'll need:

3 bars castile soap
6 cups washing soda
Optional: lemon essential oil

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Here's what you do. Cut the soap up into small cubes. (Notice how much it resembles cheese and offer some to your partner, but obviously tell him it's soap before he eats any.) Throw the soap into a food processor and add the washing soda. Blend. You may need to put a dish towel over the food processor in case a fine mist rises while you blend. I have an awesome food processor (thank you Mom and Dad!) so this was not a problem for me. 

Put the blended soap in a container. Use 2-3 tablespoons with each load of laundry. If using lemon essential oil, add about 5 drops separately with each load. I didn't get any lemon oil, but apparently it is a nice degreaser if you do. 

So I just finished my first load of laundry using the new detergent. My clothes seem as clean as ever. I'll keep you posted about how it holds up going forward. 

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No Thanks To "No Excuses"

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This piece from Women's Running by NYC Running Mama resonated with me. NYC Running Mama (real name: Michele Gonzalez) talks about how she used to live by the "No Excuses" mantra when it came to running and training.

This mantra gained traction several years ago when the self-proclaimed "No Excuse Mom" posted a picture of herself looking extremely toned and fit while three small children clung to her. The caption for the picture was "What's your excuse?" and the implication was that if a busy mom of three could find the time to work out and achieve that body, surely anyone could do it. 

This is a common refrain in the fitness community. We're often reminded that we all have the same number of hours in the day — it's a matter of how we choose to prioritize them. And for some people, workouts always win. No matter how busy a person gets. No matter what else is going on. No excuses.

In her piece, NYC Running Mama talks about an evolution that led to rethinking her "No Excuses" stance and opting instead to forgive herself for missing a run here or there. "The reality is that there are excuses," she says. She goes on to point out that "running is not our job or how we make our living. So sometimes priorities get in the way of training. That is okay. And not only is it okay — it's normal."

I love this. I'm typically the type of person who does prioritize working out, generally making space for it about six times a week. Lately, though, that's had to change. It's had to change because of a shift in my schedule. Due to the amount that's on my plate right now, there's simply no way I can work out six days a week and feel healthy. Other projects are requiring my attention right now. And like NYC Running Mama said, that's okay. 

Forcing yourself to work out on top of a crazy schedule can seem like the right thing to do, and some days it is. Some days, though, you just need to give yourself a break. Pushing through can have a detrimental impact not just on your happiness, but on the way you look at your training. "Constantly putting running first may make you physically strong, but you could be worn out or overtrained (mentally) or you may begin to view running as something you have to do. These can impact race performance, even more so than a few missed workouts," says NYC Running Mama. 

Indeed. Exercise is an outlet. It's a stress-reliever. It should be something that's looked forward to. If it's not, and if it's instead viewed as something that needs to be forced and squeezed into a jam-packed, stressful day, it becomes the enemy. Something to dread. And then even when you do squeeze it in, you don't enjoy yourself while doing it. 

Life is constantly shifting. Pressure ebbs and flows. An insurmountable schedule that presents itself one month eases up the following month. What you don't have time for on Tuesday you might have time for on Thursday. A project that's demanding so much of your attention right now will eventually be completed. 

Look at your life. Figure out what your present circumstances are. If you're presently able to take on daily workouts, go for it. That's wonderful. That daily sweat will likely make you a happier person. But if your present life is asking you to take it down a notch, that's okay too. If you become an every-other-day exerciser or if you have to trade some of your runs for walks or if you have to do whatever you need to do to avoid having the rest of your life crash and burn, it's okay. 

Don't make excuses every day because then they're just that — excuses. But if you need to take a day off here or there, allow yourself to do just that. If you encounter a "No Excuses" type who judges you for it, let her judge. Anytime someone judges someone, it's more a reflection of what's going on with them than the other person. And with that said, don't judge the "No Excuses" types either. Props to them. Props to anyone who makes exercise a priority despite a hectic schedule. When you encounter these types at the gym, tell them they're doing an awesome job. But you know who else is doing an awesome job? The person juggling her job/ kids/ whatever other responsibilities who makes it to the gym once a week because that's what she can handle right now. Props to her too.

We're all living our lives, making choices, and doing a fine job.

 

 

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It's (Almost) The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

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If you had asked me a few years ago for my stance on farmers markets, I would have categorized them as one of the most overrated experiences imaginable. This is how I would have described them: You fight through crowds to stand in lines to buy some weird vegetables you don't end up using, which then rot in your fridge. Oh, and that's if you don't forget to bring cash, which you always do, which means you fight through crowds and stand in lines for NOTHING because you can't buy anything anyway. Meanwhile you are guaranteed to encounter all of the following: barking dogs, big strollers you can't maneuver around, and aimless people who constantly stop right in front of you so you have to jump out of the way to avoid crashing into them. What a hoot.  

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But then I realized I was going about farmers markets all wrong. Not only was I going at the wrong time (the middle of the day on a weekend is asking for disaster), I was going in unprepared (seriously, just bring some cash and don't forget your own bags) and with the wrong attitude. Going to a farmers market is not like going to a grocery store, where you make a beeline for the aisles you need based on the list you've made ahead of time and avoid interacting with other shoppers as much as possible. Farmers markets are another experience entirely.

 

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Farmers markets are interesting because a.) you need a bit of a game plan to keep from getting trampled or completely unfocused, but b.) you don't want TOO much of a game plan or it ruins all the magic. This is what my problem used to be: I went into farmers markets with very specific expectations that could not logistically be met and then I left disappointed. Every time. This is one of those times when it's so much better to chuck expectations and just see what happens. 

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In my opinion, it zaps away the fun if you go to a farmers market with a specific list. Inevitably that one vegetable you need is either in a less-than-desirable state or completely unavailable, and then the grand idea you had for dinner that night is ruined. If instead you walk in and let yourself be surprised by what's available, you may end up creating a dish that's completely new to you.

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It's also good to have a general idea of what's in season so you're not disappointed when craving a wintertime vegetable in the middle of summer. AboutFood.com is a great resource for this because they have all kinds of lists: regional lists, state lists, seasonal lists. Since we're starting farmers market season in spring, here are some fruits and veggies that typically do well in spring: apricots, artichokes, arugula, asparagus, beets, carrots, chard, cherries, fava beans, fennel, grapefruit, green onions, kiwis, leeks, lemons, lettuce, mint, morels, navel oranges, new potatoes, parsley, peas, radishes, rhubarb, spinach, spring onions, strawberries, sweet onions and turnips. 

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If your schedule prohibits you from going to farmers markets any time other than the busiest times, godspeed as you fight the crowds. If you're lucky enough to have some control over when you go, choose wisely. The best time to go: right when it's opening. This is when the selection is best and the crowd is smallest.

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Do not be afraid to improvise. I know so many people who think the only way to cook is by using a recipe. This is not true! Some of the best meals are the ones thrown together last-minute using whatever ingredients you happen to have on hand. Here's an easy way to think about building a balanced meal. First, include a healthy complex carb. This could be brown rice, couscous, quinoa, whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, a tortilla or a gluten-free grain. Then, include a healthy protein. This could be chicken, fish, tofu, tempeh, seitan, edamame, eggs, whatever. Make sure to include a healthy fat. This could be a dressing made with olive oil, peanut butter, hummus, cheese, nuts, or avocado. Then go to town on fresh vegetables and fruits. These can be raw, roasted, grilled, baked — however you want them. Once you fill all these categories, you have a complete, balanced meal. It's that easy. Tortilla + chicken strips + cheese + grilled veggies = balanced meal. Whole wheat pasta + shrimp or edamame + pesto made with nuts and olive oil + roasted veggies  = balanced meal. Whole wheat toast + eggs + avocado + berries = balanced meal. 

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Another way to approach a farmers market is to use the expertise of the people who work there. Nobody's going to give you a blank look if you ask for suggestions for how to prepare a certain vegetable. Many vendors will be able to suggest either general cooking approaches or specific recipes. These people are experts. Trust them when they say something will taste good.

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Another tip to remember: it's not just about the produce. Farmers markets are a great place to discover local brands of hummus, dips, nuts, cheeses and more. You're also likely to find some amazing lemonade, coffee, baked goods, and ready-to-go food cart meals for lunch or dinner. And don't forget the flowers. Compare the prices of supermarket flowers versus farmers market flowers and in most cases, you'll be pleasantly surprised at the farmers market.

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Sample the products. Even when I wasn't on Team Farmers Market, I had to admit there are few things in life better than a free sample. Sample away, but don't be a jerk about it. If you like something enough to want to sneak another sample, buy it. Don't be that person who lurks around and pretends it's the first bite of cheese you've had all day when really it's your fifth. 

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Let yourself be inspired. I think there is something so fun about going in with the idea that somewhere in that market, you will find all the ingredients you need to make your next meal. You have no idea what those ingredients are, but you'll know them when you see them. This is intuitive eating at its best: letting the fresh smells, bright colors, and crisp textures guide your choices. We've all had those days when we open our packed lunch and think, "This doesn't even sound good anymore." Today is not going to be one of those days. Today you will literally go from farm(ers market) to table, leaving you no time to change your mind about what you want. 

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Aim for simplicity. The best farmers markets meals, in my opinion, are the most thrown together. Cook up some veggies, toss them in pasta with sauce and a little cheese, and call it a day. Make a big salad. Make a simple sandwich. It goes back to my earlier advice of just combining a complex carb with a lean protein with a healthy fat with as many veggies and fruits as you want. That's truly all there is to it. You don't need a lot of steps. You don't need heavy preparation. You just need a few simple, fresh ingredients. 

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Bringing your own cloth bags will save a lot of hassle. If you purchase more than one item, you'll want a place to carry things. Carrying seven different plastic bags from vendors is not fun. Bring your own bags. 

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If you're not a person who loves crowds, farmers markets can understandably be an uncomfortable experience. I'm definitely not a fan of crowds, but I've managed to do a little damage control by avoiding peak times, staying several paces behind people so I don't get frustrated when they stop suddenly, and scouting out the quiet corners and unoccupied benches that always exist at famers markets. There is no such thing as a private farmers market, unless maybe you go in the middle of a freak snowstorm when everyone else has stayed in. You're going to encounter other people, and likely lots of them. Prepare yourself for this fact ahead of time (and prepare yourself for the fact that you'll likely need to park at least several blocks away). Don't let yourself be surprised that so many other people are interested in doing the same thing you're doing on a beautiful sunny day. 

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For me, it was all about switching my mindset. Yes, there will be crowds and noise and chaos. Yes, you will wait in line and the person in front of you will get into a never-ending conversation with the vendor about kale. Yes, you'll get sweaty and slimy and have to walk ten blocks to get to your car. But guess what else will happen? You'll get out in the sunshine. You'll see beautiful, fresh produce. You'll talk to someone who has an idea for cooking asparagus you've never heard before. You'll sample someone's homemade pesto and it will rock your world. You'll witness human kindness. You'll order a sandwich or take home a cupcake and for weeks afterward, you'll tell anyone who will listen it was the best sandwich or cupcake you've had in years. You'll see families, partners, and friends enjoying each other's company. You'll eat a strawberry on the exact day when it's the freshest it could possibly be. You'll go home with a bag filled with fresh food and make a dinner that's so much better than any of the other meals you've made recently. You'll get hooked and discover why farmers market season is the most wonderful time of the year.

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Running 4 Half Marathons in 4 Months is a Lot Like ... Anything Else

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If you are interested in supporting my writing, please visit my Patreon page to find out how you can donate as little as $1 a month to help keep me afloat: patreon.com/kristenforbes.

This past weekend I ran my fourth half marathon of the year. 

I'm sure there are lots of people out there who race as often or run as much as I do (and there are of course people who run much more), but I don't know any of them personally. I'm the only person I know who has so far run four half marathons in the four months of 2016. I started thinking about what it means to run this much and what I go through to get to each race day. That's when I realized that running four half marathons in four months is exactly like ... anything else in life. It's challenging. Also, sometimes it's not challenging. Sometimes it's just routine. Running is extremely rewarding some days and borderline heartbreaking other days. Running is boring and exhilarating and everything in between. Running is a place where nothing happens and running is a place where everything happens. 

Sometimes running is easy. My legs start moving and I just go. The movement feels effortless. Some days in life feel easy and effortless, too. I move from one project to the next, tick things off my to-do list, and maneuver through my day like it's nothing. I'm thankful for these days but they're not always the most rewarding. 

Sometimes running is really, really hard. I never know when a hard day will strike. Some runs are circumstantially difficult: it's a big mileage day or the terrain is hilly or the weather is deplorable. Sometimes, though, a run that would otherwise seem easy and smooth just isn't. This could be a quick, flat, three-mile run around the neighborhood — the type of run that normally feels like nothing but on that day, for whatever reason, feels like the hardest thing ever. Each step seems painfully slow. Instead of feeling breathless toward the end, I start feeling breathless a few minutes in. Each minute that passes feels harder than the last and once I get into that mental space of thinking it's hard, it only gets harder.

Sometimes life is really, really hard. Again, sometimes this is circumstantial. Other times a rough day presents itself out of nowhere and all the tasks that normally seem doable suddenly seem insurmountable. These are the days when accomplishing anything at all, no matter how small, feels like a major victory. I hate these days but I think they're necessary, too.

Sometimes running feels so-so. It's neither easy nor hard. It's neither boring nor electrifying. It's just movement. Nothing inspiring is going to come from these runs but neither is any great defeat. This is a lot like life too. There are days that are just days. There's nothing deep about it. It's just doing one thing and then doing the next. Walking one step and then walking another. 

Sometimes running feels deeply demoralizing. I already touched upon the days when running feels difficult, but here I'm talking about the gut-wrenching, soul-shaking, truly difficult days when the only voice that's speaking is the most negative one that lives inside of you. These are the days when you feel like quitting. These are the days when you feel like eating french fries instead of even attempting a run. These are the days when you see the big hill ahead and automatically slow to a walk, no matter how many times you've conquered that hill running before. 

There are days like this in life too. These days are often tinged with feelings of grief or disappointment or loneliness. These days have been rare for me in the past several years, which I'm grateful for, but I recognize the similar feelings that come up on occasional runs. Maybe it is residual grief floating through me. Maybe it is life's way of reminding me not everything is sweet. 

Sometimes running feels like the only possible answer. There is simply no other way to get where I'm trying to go: both literally and physically getting from Point A to Point B but also getting to a place in my mind that I couldn't access otherwise. This is the place where I find myself solving problems. This is the place where I end up answering the questions that plague me. This is the place where I figure out myself and my life and there is absolutely no way I would get to that place if it weren't for running.

This is the way writing works for me, too. If I were to go through all my days without ever lacing up my running shoes or sitting down at my computer to type out my thoughts, I would be adrift. I know because I've been there. I've gone for periods of time without running or writing and it's quite simply my own personal version of hell. There are parts of my brain I cannot access through daily life. I can't access them through conversation. I can't access them no matter how long I sit, focus, and try to access them. I can access them when I'm writing and I can access them when I'm running. These are the only ways to get there for me. This is why I put up with all the challenging days and so-so days and truly demoralizing days. My release is on the other side of that mountain. I just have to be willing to do all the work of getting over the mountain first.

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A Day in the DIY Life

If you are interested in supporting my writing, please visit my Patreon page to find out how you can donate as little as $1 a month to help keep me afloat: patreon.com/kristenforbes.

I realized that what started as making a homemade soap here and a homemade shampoo there has morphed into a complete lifestyle and I now officially use more homemade products than store-bought. I've already shared some of the recipes for some of these products, but I thought it would be nice to have one easy-to-find post that includes everything in one place.

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DIY Shampoo

For a few months I went the "no-poo" baking soda and water route, but I missed having a shampoo that really suds up. Now I use this instead. It feels creamy and leaves my hair feeling clean and soft.

Ingredients: 1/4 c coconut milk
1/3 c liquid castile soap
1 t vitamin E, almond or olive oil
10-20 drops essential oil of your choice (optional)

Source: One Good Thing By Jillee

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DIY Conditioner

I have a serious problem with tangles and was highly skeptical that this concoction would be able to combat them, but for some reason it just works.

Ingredients: 1 T apple cider vinegar
1 c water

Source: DIY Natural

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DIY Shower Gel

I've been using this for months and it works as well as any store-bought body wash. It smells good, too.

Ingredients: 1/2 c liquid castile soap
1/2 c raw honey
1/2 c coconut oil, melted
10-20 drops of your favorite essential oil (optional)

Source: You Queen

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DIY Face Wash

Making my own face wash was another thing I was really skeptical about because I have super sensitive skin. I find this face wash to be super soothing but also a very effective cleaning agent.

Ingredients: 1/3 c liquid castile soap
1/3 c raw honey
3 T distilled or boiled water
2 T nourishing oil like jojoba, almond, olive, apricot or argan

Source: Live Simply

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DIY Hand Soap

To me this one is the biggest no-brainer because the soap I buy in stores seems unnecessarily expensive and this alternative is cheap, easy, and effective.

Ingredients: 1/2 c liquid castile soap
1/2 c distilled or boiled water
1 T vitamin E oil
1 T nourishing oil like sweet almond or jojoba
10-20 drops essential oil of your choice (optional)

Source: Live Simply

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DIY Whipped Body Lotion

You're supposed to whip this body lotion up with a mixer, but I used a food processor instead.

Ingredients: 1 c coconut oil
1 t vitamin E oil (optional)
A few drops essential oil of your choice (optional)

Source: Living The Nourished Life

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DIY Blemish Treatment

"Watch the honey!" is now a common phrase in my household, which I use to warn my husband when he leans in to kiss me after I've dabbed a little of this onto any blemishes on my face. If you can get used to the slight stickiness and wear it overnight, it works wonders. 

Ingredients: A few drops tea tree oil
2 t raw honey

Source: Home Remedies For Life

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DIY Eye Cream

I love how gentle this feels when I apply it around my eyes right before I go to bed. The directions for this one are SLIGHTLY more involved than most of the recipes I'm posting here, so I definitely recommend visiting the Redefined Mom site for the full directions.

Ingredients: 1/2 c coconut oil
6-8 vitamin E capsules

Source: Redefined Mom

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DIY Bronzer

I was originally going to use this as a foundation, but I got it too dark for my fair complexion.  I've found it works well as a bronzer instead. 

Ingredients: 1 T arrowroot powder or cornstarch for lighter skin, 1 t for darker
Small amount of cocoa powder, ground cinnamon and/or nutmeg until desired color is achieved
Optional jojoba, olive or almond oil if you want a more compact foundation

Source: Thank Your Body

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DIY Handwashing Dish Soap

For awhile I was making a much more complicated version of this, but finally I settled on this super simple concoction.

Ingredients: 1 part liquid castile soap
10 parts water

Source: Lisa Bronner

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DIY Dishwashing Soap

Look how clean those dishes are! This stuff really works.

Ingredients: 3 drops DIY handwashing dish soap
Fill cup 2/3 way with baking soda
Fill rest of cup with salt

Source: Huffington Post

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DIY Reusable Kitchen Wipes

Get yourself a jar and cut up an old t-shirt (or in our case, an old pair of jeans). Then head over to One Good Thing By Jillee for the full explanation. 

Ingredients: Cloth strips & jar
1 c warm water
1/8 c liquid castile soap
5-10 drops essential oil of your choice (optional)

Source: One Good Thing By Jillee

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DIY Toilet Bowl Cleaner

It's important to follow the instructions on this one because you'll create a volcanic explosion if you just willy-nilly throw all the ingredients together. Instead spray the vinegar mixture into the toilet, let set for a few minutes, and THEN add the baking soda. Go to DIY Natural for full instructions. 

Ingredients: 1/2 c baking soda
1 c distilled white vinegar
1/2 t tea tree oil (optional)

Source: DIY Natural

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DIY Glass Cleaner

I had to experiment with different recipes until I found one I thought was truly effective. It seems so simple, but a little water and vinegar is really all you need.

Ingredients: 2 c distilled or filtered water
2 T vinegar white vinegar
10 drops essential oil of your choice (optional)

Source: Wellness Mama
 

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DIY Face Mask

I don't actually use toilet bowl cleaner, glass cleaner and face masks EVERY day, but I use them often enough that I think they belong on this list. This face mask is something I swear by for those weeks when your skin is being problematic and you want to stop the breakouts. 

Ingredients: 5 strawberries
Juice of 1/4 lemon
1 T raw honey

Source: Heal With Food

A Few DIY Tips

As you can see, most DIY recipes require very few ingredients and a lot of them use the same ingredients over and over again. If you can get your hands on some coconut oil, liquid castile soap, and raw honey, you'll be able to make all kinds of homemade household and beauty products. Throw in some baking soda, lemon, and optional essential oils, and you're pretty much set. Try stocking up on these staples in bulk and you'll ultimately save money when you stop buying store-bought products. 

To not overwhelm myself, I have a few general DIY rules.

1.) I try to make my own version of something when I run out of the store-bought version. This way I don't feel like I'm wasting anything and I'm also not trying to make a lot of things at one time. Try it: next time your shampoo runs out, make your own. Next time your dish soap runs out, make your own. See how you like it. I love it. If it causes you stress, forget about it. The point of this is to make things easier and LESS stressful.

2.) I only use recipes that require approximately five ingredients or less. Again, the point of this is to make things simpler. I have no interest in running around town in search of unusual ingredients and I have no interest in following ten steps to get a final product. Look for recipes that are simple and that require minimal ingredients.

3.) Have fun. I mentioned this already, but seriously: if making your own products stresses you out, don't do it. I think a lot of people will be surprised to find just how easy and affordable it is to make your own versions of products you use every day. But if you don't think it's easy or you don't like the finished products, don't sweat it. I do this because I enjoy doing it. It makes me feel healthier because I feel like I have greater control over the toxins my body consumes. But if it's not your thing, it's not your thing. I'm happy it's become my thing and I'll continue sharing recipes as I experiment with them. Coming soon: DIY laundry detergent.

 

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