Mad Props, Yo.

So a while back, Meghan from Whole Natural Life selected me for a Liebster Blog Award! The Liebster is intended to draw attention to promising small blogs, with less than 200 followers.  Bloggers that are given a Liebster do a little happy dance, and then pass along the Liebster to five more deserving blogs!  It’s kind of like one of those chain email forwards… except that it’s exciting and fun, rather than annoying and terrible.

I was honored to be recognized so soon into my blogging career, and I really enjoyed checking out the other blogs that Meghan chose!  Good stuff.  Then came the task of picking out my own Liebster selections, which took a lot longer than I thought.  I had to hunt around a little bit to reach five (turns out I don’t read many small blogs).  But I struck gold in my treasure hunt, and I’m ready to share the love!  (Disclaimer:  I’m not poooositive about the exact number of followers on some of these; I usually went with any number that was displayed on their page; so Facebook likes and Google followers, etc.  Regardless, I’m pretty sure none of them are huge, and I like ’em!)

Without further ado, the five blogs that I’m passing the Liebster to:

  1. Off the Grid at -30 I adore the concept of homesteading, so I love reading OG30!  Lots of outdoorsy pictures and cute farm animals (goats, most recently. Adorable goats!), as well as Recipe Thursdays and Frugal Tuesdays, which are generally helpful.
  2. Mummy, I Can Cook:  This is one that I’ve been following for a while.  Every single time I check up on Shu Han, I come away wanting to cook something brand new and pretty and exciting!  Most of the posts are recipes, and all of them come with gorgeous pics.  I’ve also gotten some good tips on legit Asian cooking from MICC in the past, and my absolute favorite rundown of hard-boiling eggs (I like mine best at 15 minutes, too).
  3. Moss Grown Stone:  This mom of 3 lives on a farm in Maine (though I see they just moved to Vermont), so pretty, outdoorsy pictures abound!  Plus, she knits, so MGS fits into both the Real Food and Knitting categories of my Stuff I Like to Read About list!  Content is a nice mix of recipes, farmy sorts of updates, knitting projects, and family news.
  4. Our Nourishing Journey:  Linnae blogs about real food and the GAPS diet, which has helped her son Blake with his ADHD, Asperger’s Syndrome, Tourette’s Syndrome  and anxiety disorder.  Lots of recipes (generally GAPS-legal, obviously), and assorted healthy-living posts.
  5. Whole Intentions:  To paraphrase their mission statement a bit, this blog focuses on intentionally putting effort into whole foods, whole living, and whole faith.  If that isn’t a comprehensively healthy life motto, I don’t know what is!  Paula, Travis and their five kids (wow!) are on a Candida diet, and the many recipes on this blog reflect that.

If you’ve been given a Liebster, then here’s how to pay it forward:

  • Choose 5 up-and-coming blogs with less than 200 followers.
  • Post the award on your blog.
  • Link back to the blogs you are awarding so that everyone else can pay them a visit.
  • Show your appreciation to the blogger who awarded you by linking back to them.


Sad, Barren Farmpartment

The name of this blog is currently based more on an idealized goal of mine than actual fact.  We moved into this space pretty recently, so I haven’t had the time to establish many plants.  But I’ll show you the ones I have!

This is my faithful syngonium, which survived moving every semester for three years, and a lot of neglect during final exams. The veins in its leaves are pink! It would start getting viney if I didn’t prune it; I like it better this way.”

I salvaged this succulent from my bridal portrait bouquet (which was beautiful and awesome). I’m still not quite sure if it’s rooting, or if it’s just shriveling up veeeeerrrrry sloooowwwlyyyy… But I think I'm almost ready to call it a win.

Hopefully there will be papaya sprouts in this egg carton pretty soon… I brought back the seeds from our honeymoon in Hawaii! I'm becoming concerned about them; no signs of life yet. Cross your fingers.

I bought some fresh basil for a recipe and discovered that it included the roots & dirt, to be fresher. I didn’t use it up so I threw it in a pot and crossed my fingers. It’s got some black spots on the bottom leaves, because it was in the refrigerator for a day or two. But it's starting to look pretty healthy! (It's actually a lot bigger today than in the picture.)

…That’s it.
Yeah, I’m just living in a regular ol’ apartment right now.  But a girl can dream, right?  I’m planning to get at least some more herbs growing pretty quickly.  You know, for when we get tired of eating the hundreds of delicious papayas that will surely be harvested from those souvenier-seed plants 😉

A Greener Clean

I would love to go back in time like two or three years and read this post to Past-Farmer-Amy.  She would think I was crazy.  (Possibly even über cray-cray.)  I used to have dozens of bottles of shampoos and conditioners and shaving creams and lotions and face washes and lip balms and scrubs… I collected the stuff.  Nowadays I’ve pared that down quite a bit, with a focus on fewer, safer ingredients.  Some of my stuff is even homemade, and one of my beauty products only has one ingredient!  My switch was inspired by my eczema (which is vastly improved, by the way), but I think everyone can benefit from a more natural personal care routine.  Some options for you to consider:

Face Wash:  The Oil Cleansing Method (OCM)

My oil mixture, 40% castor oil and 60% olive oil.

Here’s a good explanation of the method (although it’s kind of woooo).  I use oil to clean my face every evening, and I love it!  I spent years when I was younger trying just about every face wash on the market, only to be disappointed every time.  My skin is pretty oily, but is also very sensitive and tends to get really peely when damaged… So I would always end up with this weird combination of shiny and flaky that was NOT attractive (and was only highlighted by makeup).  It sounds counter-intuitive, I know, but rubbing oil all over my face has actually made my skin less oily… and it removes makeup better than anything I’ve ever tried!  My blend is about 40% castor oil and 60% olive oil, but a key part of the method is to play around with different ratios and oils to see what works best for your skin.  I started out with only 30% castor oil and that wasn’t strong enough for my oily skin; 50/50 dries me out.

Body Wash:  Castille Soap

Credit: Amazon (linked)

I use Dr. Bronner’s, and it’s sold at Target, so you don’t even have to hit up Whole Foods for this one.  Not only is it super gentle on my eczema-prone skin, this soap is certified organic and has the type of recognizable ingredients list that makes me jump for joy!  It’s not very expensive… even less than you’d think, since a bottle will last you FOREVER – the stuff is super concentrated. (For real.  I just got a little travel-sized bottle the first time I bought it, to see if I liked it or not…  That 2 oz. bottle lasted me an entire semester!)  It takes a little bit of getting used to because it doesn’t lather up as much as your average body wash – no synthetic foaming agents (which is probably a good thing).  Now I wouldn’t use anything else!  Plus, it comes covered with the eccentric ramblings of Doc Bronner himself; have fun reading that while you rinse 😉

Hair Wash:  No (Sham)poo Method

Credit: Kitchen Stewardship (link)

The “No ‘poo Method” has a goofy-sounding name, but I love the concept.  Apparently there are people out there who can clean their hair with baking soda, then condition it with vinegar or lemon juice, then just rinse it without washing for another week or so… and it looks & feels great!  I can’t personally vouch for this method, because I just can’t get it to work with my long, straight, fine hair.  But oh, how my crunchy little heart longs to give it another go!  Maybe I’ll try it again someday.  Until then, you’ll have to let other people tell you about it… It seems to work best on hair that has some wave to it.  If you try it, let me know how it goes!  I just alternate between whichever natural-ish shampoos I can find for decent prices.  My most recent find is Nature’s Gate herbal shampoo… it’s made my hair super soft, and smells really good.

Deodorant:  Homemade… or None (Shh!)

Homemade deodorant!

Okay, this one’s kind of a tough one to accept; I’ve always been inclined to max out the strength of my deodorant.  But my underarms are one of my eczema spots, so after seeing recipe after recipe for homemade deodorant on the Internets, I finally caved and tried it out.  I used this recipe.  FYI, it stung like the dickens until I adjusted the proportions so that there was much less baking soda.  (I’d tell you how much, but I just played around with it so I don’t know.)  I also added a couple drops of tea tree oil later, because it’s antibacterial and smells nice.  Verdict:  it actually works great, odor-wise, but it’s not an antiperspirant (obviously), which took some getting used to.  Once I adjusted to a little bit of dampness, I was very happy with my homemade deodorant’s performance.  The only remaining downside is that it gets rock solid at low temperatures (because of the coconut oil), so it’s really hard to apply when it’s cold.  My solution to this problem may shock you… I kinda just stopped using deodorant this past winter.  I found that I develop a slight “human smell,” at most, that is much more pleasant than the combination of synthetic deodorant scent + sweat that I used to loathe.  As the Texas heat gets more intense, I’ll probably go back to homemade!  And for travel, I noticed some Tom’s of Maine deodorant on sale at Walmart recently…. A better option than normal deodorant, if I feel the need to bring anything with me.

Moisturizing:  Coconut Oil

Lotion and/or food. Yay!

This is my one-ingredient wonder!  I just scooped a bunch of virgin coconut oil into a jar and I keep it on my bathroom counter… You could use the more processed stuff too, but that doesn’t have a yummy tropical scent.  I use a little bit for body “lotion,” and I use it on my face at night (it makes my eye makeup run if I use it in the morning, but I find it soaks into my skin or rubs off or something overnight so it’s not a problem.  I don’t generally wash my face in the morning because I am lazy.)  And if you got super hungry while moisturizing for some reason, you could eat it right out of the jar!

…Don’t do that.  That would be weird.  But how many lotions can claim to be edible (and tasty, at that)?

*1/2014 Update: I stopped using coconut oil as a moisturizer, partially because I wasn’t satisfied with the “feel” on my face, but mostly because my husband didn’t like the smell. Odd duck, that one.

Lip Care:  Lanolin

Credit: Lanisoh (link)

This one is near and dear to my heart, because my eczema is worst on my lips.  So, no lipstick or lip gloss or even normal Chapstick for me; almost everything makes my lips itch, peel and crack!  For a while I put petroleum jelly on my lips before bed and that worked okay, but once I actually thought about how much petroleum processing byproduct I was probably ingesting overnight, I decided to look for alternatives.  Thankfully, I found a suggestion on a similar post to  use lanolin for chapped lips!  I had never heard of it, but apparently it is most commonly used to relieve sore nipples during nursing.  (Ow.)  It’s produced by sheep to moisturize their own skin and wool – but don’t worry, it doesn’t look weird or smell… sheepy or anything.  So I use that at night, and during the day I alternate between Burts Bees Medicated and Ultra Conditioning lip balms.  This is partially because they work pretty well, but mostly because I don’t really want to be whipping out a big purple tube of nipple ointment in public all the time.

*1/2014 Update: Still using & loving lanolin at night (and still working on the original tube!). But I’ve switched to eos lip balm for daytime (the cute little spherical-shaped ones). Those are AMAZING and have never irritated my lips at all, even when they’re really sensitive! Luckily my lips haven’t been too bad lately, so I can also use Baby Lips tinted lip balm when I want a little pretty in my life.

Do you use any of these products?  Got any alternate recommendations?  Think I’m a weirdo hippie?  Do share!

This post is shared at Fight Back Friday!

Blind Spots

Nothing rouses my road rage quite like Lurkers.  You know the ones, the cars that love to find your blind spot and then match your speed for miles and miles, just lurking in that one little spot where you can’t see them. You speed up, and they speed up; you slow down, and they slow down.  It’s completely infuriating.  (It shouldn’t even be possible for me to pick up a Lurker, because size-wise, my car is pretty much the next step up from a Smart Car.  And yet, it happens.  It makes me want to punch a squirrel.)

Just kidding, little dude!*

I’m usually really good about being aware what’s happening in my rearview mirror, so Lurkers rarely sneak up on me.  But every once in a while, when I’m distracted or sleepy or worn out, I am beset upon by a Lurker whilst changing lanes.  I swerve back into my lane in the nick of time; and, while I wait for my heart to restart, I kick myself for neglecting to glance over my shoulder.

My point?  Every driver is responsible for verifying that the coast is clear every single time they change lanes, even if they’re absolutely sure that nothing’s there.  Lapses of awareness will happen.  You can’t avoid dangers lurking in your blind spot unless you turn your head and look for them.

Lately I’ve been thinking about the blind spots I have in other areas of my life.  For example, I’m generally a pretty tidy person (at least one previous roommate would say “clean freak”).  Mind you, my home does get messy during busy seasons of my life, but that slowly drives me crazy until I finally snap and deep-clean every inch with furious intensity.  Right now, with the new marriage and the new apartment and the new job, lots of simple household chores have fallen by the wayside.  Food splatters are becoming one with the stovetop, Laundry Day has been redefined as The Day One of Us Runs Out of Underwear, and the bathroom is inching its way towards the college-guys’-dorm-room threshold of sanitary neglectfulness.

It's not quite this bad, I promise.

I am horrified by the mess that’s accumulating in every part of my home… except for the floors.  I don’t care one lick about the floors.  Our kitchen is a bare foot’s minefield, and our vacuum cleaner hasn’t been used since we got it as a gift – for Christmas.  I should be just as stressed out by the state of our floors as I am by the ring around the bathtub, but I just am not.

Clearly, the floor is my house-cleaning blind spot.  So if I want to keep my home clean, I have to be sure to check that blind spot occasionally and see if there’s anything lurking thereI need to set a recurring “CLEAN FLOORS” reminder on my computer, or maybe just put Husby in charge of the floors.  Otherwise our apartment will never be truly clean… and even though I might not see it, guests probably would.

Bizarre, right?

Being oblivious to the state of my floors is a pretty minor problem, but I’ve noticed a much more serious blind spot in how I go about improving my health.  I’ve embarked on a sort of quest to achieve vibrant health in the past year or so, after realizing how awful I felt on a day to day basis.  I’ve gotten really into researching the topic from pretty much every angle, and I’ve taken steps to apply what I’ve learned to my own life.  But I realized that there’s one massively important key to health that I’ve been reading about nonstop but ignoring, in action, as hard as I possibly can:  fitness.

I know that exercise is super, super important for maintaining health, both physical and mental.  I know that it would help regulate my hormones, and stabilize my moods, and increase my confidence, and just generally make my body function better.  I’ve researched the most efficient ways to exercise, and made fitness plans, and told Husby many times that “we should plan on going to the gym tomorrow.”  Somehow, throughout all my thinking about exercising, I’ve managed to ignore how little I’ve actually been doing it.  It would be completely obvious to anyone else.  Fitness is the dirty floor in the spotless apartment of my lifestyle:  my healthy-life blind spot.

Not pictured: Physical exertion of any kind.

I’ve put a lot of hard work into my health, lately.  The largest part of that hard work has been focused on cleaning up my diet; most of our meals are homemade now, although I’ve yet to settle on which diet philosophy (or combination of philosophies) will work for us in the long run.  I’m actively working towards goals like growing my spiritual life, and decreasing my stress, and getting more sleep, and building my relationships, and expressing my creativity… and I am a healthier person today than I was when I started my journey.  But it doesn’t matter if I have a full tank of gas, an up-to-date inspection sticker, and tires that are inflated to precisely the manufacturer’s specifications – if I’m not aware of the Hummer that’s hovering in my blind spot, I’m likely to crash and burn.  All those things I did to take care of my car are pointless once it’s totaled.

So I’m making a commitment to start looking over my shoulder at that inadequate-fitness-routine Hummer, and taking actions to try and shake him off.  I encourage you to examine your life for blind spots, too… Is there a goal that you’ve been working towards for a long time without making much progress?  There might be an obvious solution that you just can’t see.  Maybe ask your spouse or a close friend for their input (and then don’t shoot the messenger).  Or maybe you’re well aware of your blind spot, and just need to renew your efforts in checking it vigilantly.  Either way, I hope this post helps you lose those Lurkers!

Do you have any blind spots in your life that you were already aware of?  Have you discovered any new ones?

Shared on Simple Lives Thursday at GNOWFGLINS!

*Unless otherwise indicated, all of the doodles on this blog are my own original work.  Feel free to use them if you like them, but please give me credit!

Field Trip for the Farmers!

We went to the zoo the other day!  I hadn’t been in ages, and it was more fun than I remembered.  But I did have a different perspective about it as an adult than I did when I was a little kid.  When I looked at these animals it was obvious that they didn’t belong there.

In the Wild, this would not be pretty.

They weren’t in their natural environment; their enclosures, however painstakingly crafted, paled in comparison to the big wild world that should be their home.

The kookaburras laugh at your silly attempts to cage them (is that a gum tree?)

Modern humans are a little like that:  we’ve removed ourselves from the natural environment and built ourselves a fake one.

Historically, many zookeepers didn’t treat their animals very well.  They were kept in bare, too-small cages, where they were forced too close to curious onlookers and weren’t given toys to play with.  Those animals were sad, stressed out, and unhealthy.  They were living in an environment that was nothing like the one they were meant for, and their bodies and minds weren’t receiving the right stimuli to thrive.

These aren't happy lions.

I think some people are putting themselves in an old-timey zoo like that – staying indoors all the time, isolating themselves from other people, eating science experiments instead of food, remaining sedentary, and not allowing themselves to play.  Is it any wonder that this lifestyle is associated with stress and ill health?

But hey, if you look at the animals in a well-managed zoo like the one we visited, they’re fairly healthy.  They’re also pretty happy!

That's more like it!

Their enclosures are big enough for them to run, jump, climb and/or swim:

I love watching river otters! This one kept doing corkscrews.

They’re kept in an appropriately sized social group:

Lots of friends to play with!

They’re fed things that are at least similar to what they would eat in the wild:

Poor mouse.

And they’re given toys to play with and things to climb on, to exercise their minds and bodies:

It would be pretty funny to watch him use that swing...

The zookeepers put a lot of effort into mimicking their natural environment and level of stimuli as closely as possible, because that is what keeps animals healthy.

Would zoo animals be happier and healthier in the wild?  Sure.  But many of them have injuries or illnesses that make it impossible for them to be released, like the zoo’s bald eagle:

He was injured, so he can't be released.

They can’t go back to their natural environment… and neither can we.  It’s just not practical, and there are many, many things about the modern world that are wonderful (like the Internet)!  Luckily, humans are very adaptable creatures that can thrive in many environments.  But our flexibility does have limits.

The fact is, we are our own zookeepers in this modern-day world, and we’re responsible for designing our own enclosures. I should enlarge mine, to give myself more room to run around.  Maybe you should improve the food you eat, or give yourself some toys to play with, or expand your herd. 

"Whatcha lookin' at?"

How could you improve your inner zoo animal’s habitat?